HRC, Inc. president and CEO Joe Solmonese announced this week that he is taking his company into the manufacturing arena. The sassy yet traditional company has purchased a plant in China from Nike, Inc. “We are a family company. We know how important children are to gay family values. By engaging in this vertical reorganization we saw that our acquisition of this asset would make the perfect marriage. By providing after school activities to our subcontractors we are acting with a social conscience.
The HRC is best known for its EqualityTM line of products, the official brand of the LGBTTM market. The suave Solmonese appeared confident in the lobby of his company’s new $27 million corporate headquarters. Former Senator Larry Craig is to head up the firm’s lobbying effort to the International Manufacturing Association For American Generators (I.M.A.F.A.G.). “Larry will lend the perfect hand to this job,” Salmonese said.
IRAQ MORATORIUM - Third Friday of the
September 21, October 19, November 16, 2007
JOIN THE IRAQ MORATORIUM TO END THIS WAR
1. Wear a Black Ribbon - Be Visible
2. Call Congress "Bring Home Our Troops"
3. Join Together Every 3rd Friday
For full schedule of local Moratorium events
Act Against Torture Presents
“Ghosts of Abu Ghraib”, a powerful film by Rory Kennedy
plus discussion of the case of the San Francisco 8 and
the fight to close Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and end secret detention and torture
Featuring Richard Brown of the SF8, recently released on bail
Thursday, October 18, 7:00 p.m.
Mudraker’s Café, 2801 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley
Free, donations requested to benefit the SF8
Great salads and fair trade coffee available cheap
For information: ActAgainstTorture@riseup.net
Ferd Eggan, queer left radical activist, died in Los Angeles on July 7 from liver cancer. He had been HIV/Hepatitis C co-infected for many years. He was an odd sort of life long friend, one who came and went in my life with the ebb and flow of political times and our chaotic lives. I first knew Ferd in Chicago circa 1967-69, when he lived in a gay liberation collective. He of course was always on the cutting edge. I was in flux with my own sexual identity and can safely say that his radical gay liberation ideas were instrumental in my own coming out experience. He lived in an exciting vibrant queer collective exploring new found sexual, political and social ideas and freedoms. We all participated in small scary gay liberation demonstrations. Most vivid in my memory is a same sex kiss-in in downtown Chicago, with a brazen twenty or thirty people kissing in front of hostile Chicago good citizens. We moved around in those days and Ferd showed up periodically, memories of him speckle my past. One such memory was a big summer celebration of queerness in an old house in Maine. He was there with Duncan, whom he loved and who died early on from AIDS. I saw Ferd again in New York, working on a strange cinema vérité video chronicling his relationship with the chic porno star Carel in the “ The Continuing story of Carel and Ferd”. I remember the event when the intimate film played at some ever-so avant-garde East Village venue. We entered a cave-like place with TV screens covering the walls with Carel and Ferd going through the various stages of their relationship.
Ferd, Paul and I moved across country together to San Francisco and moved into a house in Noe Valley. I moved out to a lesbian household. I saw Ferd many times over the following years, for a drink or coffee to touch base, catch up, keep tabs, paralleling as we moved through our lives. The last time I saw Ferd was at goodbye/life celebration party in San Francisco July 1, 2007 less than a week before he died. He flew up from LA in his decrepit state, dilaudid drip and all to see friends in the Bay Area. A fabulous party with delightful food was hosted by Jane from Out of Control. Ferd was cutting edge even in death!
Ferd grew up in Alpena Michigan with two brothers and interestingly stayed caring and true to his Midwestern roots in a time often prone towards pretension. He went to the University of Chicago and became involved in the Vietnam Anti-War movement, dropped out of school and burned his draft card. He was involved in the civil rights movement working on voter registration in South Carolina. He was part of the Gay Liberation Front linking gay liberation to all liberation struggles early on. He lived and worked as a teacher in Chicago from 1979-1990, teaching history to primary, middle school and high school students. He was also the principal at Escuela Superior Puertorriqueña Pedro Albizu Campos (Pedro Albizu Campos High School), part of the Alternative Schools Network For some years he was in, a revolutionary anti-imperialist organization, Prairie Fire and did support work for the Puerto Rican Independence movement.
In 1987 he helped start DAGMAR (Dykes and Gay Men Against Racism/Repression/the Right Wing/Reagan etc) Chicago’s first AIDS Activist group. He later co-founded ACT UP Chicago and PISD ( People with Immune System disorders) a national caucus within ACT UP. He was involved in numerous actions and demonstrations targeting pharmaceutical companies. He participated in civil disobedience protests at the National Actions for Healthcare in Chicago which precipitated the opening of an AIDS ward at Cook County Hospital specifically for women.
LAGAI worked in ACT UP during those AIDS activist years and knew Ferd. In 2000 LAGAI went to the democratic national convention demonstrations in Los Angeles and worked with Ferd in the Queers and Allies affinity group which organized a big successful queer march and kiss-in.
In 1990 Ferd became the director of Being Alive: The People with HIV/AIDS Action Coalition based in Los Angeles. In 1993 he became the AIDS Coordinator for the city of Los Angeles. He helped many harm reduction programs get funding, including needle exchange, and housing for people with AIDS who might still be using drugs. He got funding for a study and intervention program for gay men using crystal methamphetamine.
Ferd was a writer, becoming particularly prolific after he retired in 2001. He created a video art website, Ferdeggan.net, which included an on-line science fiction political e-novel called The Continuing Story which presented weekly email chapters, as well as many interviews with activists. He was a conduit and creator of political theory and attempted to shed light on the age old question “ what is to be done”. He wrote the blog, Communiques from a Cranky PWA. He wrote poetry, essays and fiction, including two books Your Life Story by someone else and Pornography.
When it was time, surrounded by close friends in L.A., Ferd chose the time of his death. The next day July 8 at the intersection of Santa Monica and San Vincente Boulevards in West Hollywood, there was a spontaneous vigil in honor of Ferd in the tradition of ACT UP political funeral marches. In the end Ferd was a revolutionary who was always an out, flamboyantly open gay liberationist!
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
Mass March & Rally to
End the War NOW!
San Francisco Civic Center
Saturday, October 27, 11 a.m.
Sponsored by ANSWER, http://www.answersf.org/
by Ryan Conrad, firstname.lastname@example.org
Homotopia (2006, Directed by Eric Stanley and Chris Vargas) is 27 fast paced minutes of funny, sexy, queer chaos. This film is tenacious from the scathing manifesto decrying gay marriage delivered in the opening scene to the chaotic and violent climax of busting up a steel and teal gay wedding just before the closing credits.
Set in San Francisco, this short feature film follows a rag tag group of queer radicals and tells the story of what happens when their slapdash sexual exploits clash with another couple’s gay wedding. Hilarity ensues…
Subtle references to radical feminist and people of color predecessors are dabbled throughout the film, but are no doubt intentional. Think Born in Flames or The Battle of Algiers and then through in some Franz Fanon. At times though, the academic language can feel a little alienating to those not well versed in theory, but the on screen action carries us along quite simply. After the film I felt excited to learn more about the things I didn’t fully get from some of the references, but now I have some homework to do and more things to learn rather than to simply consume another piece of queer film.
This film is notably relentless and uncompromising in its critique of gay marriage, gaystream culture, and the current state of queer cinema, but not without humor. The film’s ability to make us laugh while tackling tough topics like colonialism, masculinity, violence, and AIDS is quite an accomplishment.
Homotopia and its two directors, Eric Stanley and Chris Vargas, toured new england this past fall with a number of other trans and queer short films arranged thematically around issues of queer life and violence. At their screenings is where I learned the film was made in true shoot and run style as early queer film often did. The film operated with zero budget and they never got permission to shoot where they were. They simply stole all the supplies they needed to stage a realistic fake wedding and shot where and when they could with what they had. The directors and their program continue their tour down the east coast this spring, but one place you won’t see Homotopia is at MIX NYC.
MIX has been a top showcase of queer experimental film on the east coast since 1987. Apparently Homotopia’s messaging is too radical for MIX and its pro-gay marriage board of directors, most notably James Cameron Mitchell of wedROCK benefit/Freedom to Marry fame. However, its rejection only underlines the necessity and timeliness of such films that dare to be queer, political and self-critical. At a time when more and more energy is going into national gay marriage campaigns and displacing funds and human energy from AIDS service organization, queer youth organizing, and anti-oppression work. As said in the opening scene of Homotopia, “the rainbow flags will not slow the bleeding” nor will marriage papers.
More info about the film, to see the trailer, or to check out when this cabal or queer terrorists will be blowing up a gay wedding near you, you can visit the official website at http://www.homotopiafilm.net.
Save the Date -
Stop Gentrification in the Polk
Tuesday, November 6, 6:30 p.m.
O’Reilly’s Holy Grail, 1233 Polk St.
Check the Gay Shame website to confirm, and for more info
Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has nothing to do with human rights, of course. The name is doublespeak. It’s a marketing term that tries to obscure the organization’s efforts to secure privilege for a few at the cost of rights for many.
HRC has published its annual guide to companies, capitalist organizations, that consumers should or should not support. These companies have more or less support for some of their LGBT employees. Capitalism is predicated on oppression. Some companies might do less harm than others. Working Assets has given money to worthy causes, and to HRC. HRC is functioning as a cheering squad for the chamber of commerce and is rewarded handsomely for its efforts. It plunked down $27 million for a new headquarters in Washington, DC at a time when the number of queer people living in poverty is increasing.
It doesn’t matter what your views are of gay civil marriage. It doesn’t matter that every company listed on the “good therefore buy from” list could be doing good works. (And they’re not. Sears-anti-union; Coors-really; Estee Lauder supports Israel; Nike-sweatshops; and the list goes on.) HRC is sponsored by Shell Oil. HRC is encouraging LGBT people to support Shell Oil. Shell Oil is engaged in and profiting from the destruction of the Niger Delta and the people who live there. The people who profit from Shell Oil are guilty of murder. Whether or not you support or like an inherent queer diversity or think that our people are reducible to a monochromatic dollar figure or that we all want to wear our wedding bands in our uniform, HRC has crossed the line.
Grassroots action works. Grassroots action is more democratic. It stopped racial apartheid in South Africa. It forced the Gap to modify its sweatshop activity. It has forced the world to begin dealing with AIDS. And HRC is attempting to quash the grassroots nature of a movement that at the very least allows its leader Joe Solmonese to get his cock sucked legally.
On August 18, 2006, seven young African American lesbians traveled to the West Village from their homes in Newark for a regular night out. When walking down the street, a male bystander assaulted them with sexist and homophobic comments. The women tried to defend themselves, and a fight broke out. Thus began the women’s nightmare for almost a year. Three of the women accepted plea offers. On June 14th, 2007 Venice Brown (19), Terrain Dandridge (20), Patreese Johnson (20), and Renata Hill (24) received sentences ranging from 3 ½ to 11 years in prison.
The women and their families now call on our communities for support. Their emotional and financial burdens have already been immense. These hardships will only continue as the women begin their prison terms and the process of appeal.
See http://www.fiercenyc.org/updates_events/index.html for how to support the New Jersey 4.
When I joined LAGAI twenty-one years ago, I was one of two or three members who were under thirty. At 26, I would have been highly offended if anyone had referred to me as a “youth,” and I was not particularly conscious that most of the people I was working with were ten to fifteen years older than I. In fact, LAGAI was the first organization (rather than an affinity group) I had been in where everyone was so close to the same age. The straight left groups I had come from, Livermore Action Group, the Pledge of Resistance and the loosely constructed Bay Area Anarchist community, all had members in their teens and their seventies.
Today I look around and find that in most of the varied political groups I participate in, nearly everyone is between forty and sixty or so. When we started Act Against Torture in 2005, I was excited because it was a melding of two groups of activists, one in their twenties and one in our forties and fifties. Two years later, only one of the twenty-somethings is still with us, while most of the middle-agers have stuck around and we’ve picked up a few sixty-somethings. The younger generation has been swallowed up by more-than-full-time organizing jobs which leave them little time or energy for unpaid activism. KPFA Women’s Magazine has generally been a revolving door for younger women, as students and recent graduates have come in with a lot of enthusiasm, only to move on after a few months to pursue journalism careers or go back to school. On the other hand, in Break the Siege, which formed last summer (in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon) with a broad participation in terms of age, race and political affiliations, I am one of the few remaining middle-agers (and my participation has been pretty spotty in the last six months).
I get why people are most comfortable working with people who watch the same TV shows or go to see the same bands as they do. Certainly LAGAI meetings go more smoothly because we all have Star Trek as a frame of reference. But I miss working with people a lot younger or a lot older than myself. In ACT UP, which included people from early 20s to early 60s or so, people of all ages gained from political perspectives that were shaped by different experiences from theirs.
Multigenerational organizing is our primary way of preserving accurate movement history. Everyone knows history is written by the victors, and we also know that’s not any of the groups we’re in, young, old or mixed. But it’s not just the big history that is being written by the empire. Even the history of the left is rewritten to bring it into line with the empire’s mythology, so whichever big groups come out on top of sectarian struggles are given credit for everything that small groups did, activist history is streamlined for easy consumption in the form of made-for-TV movies. Actions that are too “off-beat” or use a style of confrontation that doesn’t sell t-shirts are written out all together.
A while ago, in preparation for a talk I was giving on direct action, I happened to pick up a book about the civil rights movement. It was an academic and not so interesting book, but it did have a story in it that I had never heard. When Martin Luther King, Jr., with organizers from SNCC and CORE, went to Selma in January 1965, the story goes, their goal was to provoke a confrontation with local law enforcement over voting rights. They needed a campaign that would draw big media, and chose Selma precisely because its racist sheriff, Jim Clark, was “well-known for his lack of self-control.” However, according to the book, in almost a month of daily actions, Clark refused to be provoked. “Campaign leaders, surmising that nothing succeeds as planned, contemplated packing their bags and resuming the registration drive elsewhere.” Good fortune smiled on the Selma protesters, however, and “in a striking act of deus ex machina” Clark reacted with massive violence just in time to save the campaign. (Dennis Chong, Collective Action and the Civil Rights Movement, Univ. of Chicago Press, 1991.) Now this is Selma we’re talking about, a campaign which is covered quite a bit in histories of the civil rights movement, unlike many other cities and towns where voter registration drives were conducted that we’ve never heard of. Yet even so, I never knew the campaign nearly died aborning, and it cheered me to learn it, having been part of so many fruitless efforts to stir public awareness and create media events.
Like many people my age and younger, I got most of my history of the civil rights movement from television, movies and the occasional book. And without any malice intended, but simply because few people are going to watch a twelve-hour movie, those media tend to go from one dramatic confrontation to another, ending inexorably with assassination followed by victory, leaving out the mundane and depressing stories of campaigns that didn’t work. You get points for that compression if you’re a budding screenwriter, but I think it’s part of what has created the “quick fix” attitude that’s made long-term campaigns hard to sustain in recent years.
Many of the most creative, fun and effective actions I’ve been part of are ones no one knows about. Older people have forgotten and younger people never heard about ACT UP’s auction at the State Building to protest the AIDS budget, LAGAI’s Habitat for Homonity conversion of Castro Street bus shelters into mini- apartments, Women Against Imperialism’s International Women’s Day marches that meandered from diet centers to recruiting stations, and even Stop AIDS Now Or Else’s Golden Gate Bridge blockade. Even the massive blockades of government targets in the 1980s and early 1990s have mostly faded from a history that has the antiglobalization Puppeteers materializing out of thin air in Seattle.
When I joined the movement, guerilla theater (or street theater) was stock in trade of the grassroots direct action left, as opposed to the more established, big groups that did marches-and-rallies or petition drives. Nowadays, young activists often look confused when we talk about street theater. It’s not that they’re not interested, but the Organizing Institutes where they were trained don’t teach that. They know all about butcher paper and power brainstorms, but they never heard of Ladies Against Women or the blood-soaked “peasants” who died-in at the finish line of the Run for the Navy. I understand why that is. Groups like Youth Uprising and Youth Making a Change are busy creating summer jobs and social services for “at-risk” kids. City agencies and the Soros Foundation aren’t going to cough up money for them to go out and do street theater. That kind of activism is not going to produce any measurable achievements to put on grant reports. But it’s fun – and it might keep people involved when they can’t look at another piece of butcher paper.
Multigenerational organizing provides a place for activist youth to graduate to. The alternative is that a few young people are trained for and satisfied with organizing careers, others go into social service, and the rest disappear. Or, the definition of “youth” keeps expanding to include the people who started programs or groups for which they no longer fit the category. Most of the youth organizing projects in this area say they are for people up to 24 or 25, Youth Outlook! media project caps it at 26, 3rd Wave Foundation defines young women as 15-30. At least a few such organizations have staff who are well into their thirties. I’m not saying that no former youth who were trained by the plethora of youth media/youth organizing/youth outreach/revolutionary youth groups in this area are floating around the broader social change community, but I can say for sure that most are not, because if they were, the antiwar movement(s), the antimilitarism movement(s), the police accountability movement(s), the prison activist movement(s), the queer left(s), the Palestine solidarity movement(s), the feminist movement(s) would be a lot bigger than they are.
We in LAGAI and our affiliates are brushing up against our own mortality. Several of us have had major illnesses in the last few years, most of us have aches and pains, and we’re facing the fact that we’re going to be dealing with more of the same, not less. Some of us are counting the minutes until we can join OLOC (Old Lesbians Organizing for Change), while others of us are counting the pennies in our retirement accounts and trying to work out just how we are going to keep working for another 40 years. Accepting our own mortality doesn’t have to mean accepting the mortality of what we have struggled for and achieved and created. Some day (not any time soon), we will have to stop publishing UltraViolet because we won’t be able to read the screen any more and our hands will be too gnarled to control the mouse (unless by then they have voice recognition software that actually works). And with us will die our unique approach to sssspelling and kapitalization – just as well, you say?
I don’t want to do workshops or trainings. I want to work cooperatively with people who can help carry the vision and stories of all the groups I’m in now and all my bygone groups into the future, and I want to get new vision and new stories from them.
by Arla E. (who attended the rally in Jena on July 31)
“I would like to thank everyone who has come from far and near in support of our kids, because at the end of the day, we are just crying for justice for our kids.” These words from Tina Jones, mother of Bryant Purvis, one of the half-dozen African-American youths now known as the Jena Six, rang out to the crowd gathered in front of the LaSalle Parish Courthouse on July 31, 2007. Over 300 supporters from around the country had traveled to Jena, Louisiana, to stand with the families of the Jena Six on this day that was to have seen the sentencing of the first of the youths to be tried and convicted, Mychal Bell. But just days before this rally for civil rights, for human rights, and for justice, Bell’s sentencing was postponed until September 20. (ED.’S NOTE: On Friday, September 14, Bell’s conviction was overturned by an appeals court, which ruled he could not be charged as an adult because he was 16 at the time of the incident. However, he could now be retried in juvenile court. The other four who were charged as adults were 17 at the time and therefore, their convictions will stand.)
Rather than dampening the spirits of those who had come as allies in this struggle against racism evocative of the ‘50s and ‘60s, the postponement fueled a sense of hope that the power of unity could eventually free the Jena Six.
During a barbecue at a local ball field following the rally, supporters had the opportunity to sit down with parents of the Jena Six and listen as they shared their anguish and their hopes. It became painfully clear that they are still stunned by what is happening to their loved ones and to their family lives. At the same time, their continuing commitment to organize as much support as possible to continue to advocate for their sons’ freedom was inspiring.
It may not be possible to define with precision the moment that sparked the chain of events resulting in the arrest of these six Jena High School students. But many point to the day last September that one of them asked a school administrator if he could sit under a tree on the school’s campus that has come to be known as “the white tree,” not because it bore white blossoms or bark, but because it provided shade to white students, who sat under it during breaks in the school day. The school administrator responded to the African-American student that he could sit where he likes. The next day three nooses appeared in the tree, hung there by some of the white students.
The following week, African-American students collectively gathered under the tree as a nonviolent expression, a way of standing up for themselves, as they described it. Soon after, the local district attorney, Reed Walters, appeared with local police officers at a school assembly and stated, “I can make your lives disappear with a stroke of my pen.”
Ensuing weeks and months saw tension rise in the community, bringing with it a series of incidents and clashes. The students who hung the nooses were identified, but not expelled, and their action was dismissed by officials and most of the white community as nothing more than a youthful prank. White community members criticized African-American community members as overly sensitive for considering this a racial issue. In one incident a white graduate of the high school threatened African-American students with a shotgun at a local gas station, in others African-American students were called racist names, a number of fights broke out amongst students, and an African-American student was beaten at a party held by white students.
Then in early December, in a schoolyard fight that erupted when an African-American student was taunted by white students, a white student was injured, taken to the hospital emergency room, treated, and released in time to attend a social event that evening. That’s when six African-American students were arrested for causing his injuries. All six were charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit attempted murder, each facing a possible hundred years in prison.
By the time the first youth, Mychal Bell, went to trial, organizations including the NAACP and ACLU had become involved, and their pressure led to a reduction in his charges to aggravated assault and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault. Since the aggravated assault charge requires use of a weapon, and since no weapon was used, it was thought Bell would not be convicted. However, during the trial before an all-white jury, in which Bell’s court appointed public defender presented no evidence and called no witnesses, the district attorney characterized the youth’s sneakers as the weapon, and Bell was convicted on both counts. He has been facing the prospect of a possible 22 years in prison—until September 4, when the judge threw out the conspiracy conviction at the end of a 5-hour hearing on Bell’s new lawyer’s motion to overturn the convictions. He now faces the possibility of almost 15 years in prison. The remaining five youths still must stand trial, with the next trial set for January 28, when Carwin Jones will face charges reduced on September 4 to aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery. Charges against Theo Shaw and Robert Bailey, Jr., have since been similarly reduced.
Meanwhile, a movement to free the Jena Six has been growing. The 300 allies who rallied on July 31 represent many more supporters. During the rally, family members of the Jena Six held tall stacks of petitions calling for the district attorney to drop the charges against the remaining five youths, carried the petitions bearing over 43,000 signatures into the courthouse, and delivered them into the hands of the assistant district attorney. Since then, thousands more signatures have been collected, as well as 150,000 letters to Louisiana’s governor, calling for Bell to be pardoned. After delivering the petitions inside the courthouse, the Jena Six family members led a rousing march through downtown Jena, a town of only 3,000, the largest in this rural Louisiana parish. Marchers shouted out, “Free Mychal Bell!” and “Free the Jena Six!” as townspeople looked on, speechless at a sight they had never seen before. One Jena Six mom declared that this was her first march ever, and it felt good. Another told the group that delivering the petitions felt much different from her previous experiences of walking into the courthouse, and that she feels empowered by this experience and grateful for all the support the defense committee is receiving.
Another large rally of supporters from around the country has been organized for Bell’s new sentencing date, September 20, which the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, who have met with Jena residents, are expected to attend. This is not simply an issue of crime and punishment, but a time to stand up and turn the tide of a potentially destructive course of injustice—by attending the rally, and by taking action. Nor is this a lone incident, but part of a pattern in a social climate that allows racism, classism, and injustice to exist and to affect the lives of people of color and poor people, as examples from Katrina to the San Francisco 8 to numerous other cases in the South, the Bay Area, and elsewhere show. Only days before the July 31 rally the school board in Jena had the “white tree” chopped down, but the real problems of racism, poverty, and injustice remain, and the Jena Six continue to need support.
Mychal Bell was 16 years old when he was arrested and charged. He was a high school student and football player with hopes of attending college. With a felony conviction, he will never be able to get a student loan, so his dream of college will be dashed. The families of the Jena Six are asking supporters to appeal to Gov. Kathleen Blanco to pardon Bell and to urge the district attorney to dismiss charges against the youths who have yet to go on trial. As King Downing, National Coordinator for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Campaign Against Racial Profiling, put the call to supporters at the July 31 rally, “Nobody has made the sacrifices that these young men and their families who are going through this have. Because of that, we recognize that the families are number one and primary. We take their direction. They tell us what they need, and we do it.” Don’t let the families and these six youths down—use the following contact information to act for justice.
Now all six youths have obtained legal representation, and will need funds to pay the expenses of their defense. You can send donations to:
Jena 6 Defense Committee, P.O. Box 2798, Jena, LA 71342 or ACLU of Louisiana, P.O. Box 56157, New Orleans, LA 70156, www.laaclu.org, or donate online at: https://secure.colorofchange.org/jena_fund/.
Sign the petitions to Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters at: http://www.colorofchange.org/jena/
For more information or to offer support: email@example.com.
Write to Mychal Bell, who has been behind bars since December 2006: Mychal Bell, Inmate, A-Dorm, LaSalle Correctional Center, 15976 Highway 165, Olla, LA 71465-4801.
For updates see: http://www.friendsofjustice.wordpress.com or http://www.colorofchange.org. Congressional Black Caucus resolution: http://www.congressionalblackcaucus.net/.
YouTube videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpOBKTwkIoo; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebGY2XONJVM; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuoiZnr4jLY
Local newspaper coverage in nearby Alexandria, LA: http://www.thetowntalk.com; New Orleans http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/frontpage/index.ssf?/base/news-9/1189839542326110.xml&coll=1.
By Chaya and Deni with waggles from Sparky
Once (reviewed by
Chaya and Deni)
This is a sweet, likeable movie about an Irish singer/songwriter in Dublin who meets a pianist from the Czech Republic and starts to play music with her. The characters connect musically and emotionally through compelling acting, humor, and character portrayals. The music is fun, though not traditionally Irish, and the movie is a good one, but it’s a mystery to us why it’s considered such a jewel.
Hairspray deals with issues of segregation/integration in 1960s Baltimore. Nikki Blonski was good; it made the transfer well from Broadway stage to the big screen. The songs are fun but not memorable. John Travolta was cloying, with a real “Look at Me, I’m John Travolta in Drag” attitude, and we’ll be very annoyed if he gets an Oscar for this. The film does present issues of fat oppression/looks/racism in some interesting ways. We haven’t seen the original John Waters 1988 movie in a while, but want to see it again for comparison. We couldn’t remember if the theme of racial equality came across any differently in the original – but we think not, because it is still being told from the white folks’ perspective.
Live-in Maid: Mindy said it was a great Argentinean comedy with an interesting look at class. It’s gotten very good reviews, we want to see it.
Simpsons Movie: Naomi said it was fun, funny, satirical, and had a political edge -- below the surface of the theme of environmental issues are a struggle against authority, a corrupt government and scapegoating.
BITS AND PIECES
Break the Bubble: We tried last June to spare you the distress of seeing the abominable Israeli film “The Bubble” when it played at the Frameline LGBT film festival, but much to our horror the film has recently been released both in SF and Berkeley. AVOID IT or download the review from the June UltraViolet at www.lagai.org and hand it out at the film (or leave a stack inside the theater). The movie leaves viewers with the old tired myth that “it’s just such a mess over there – what can anyone do?” and that if only those Palestinians weren’t so violent, things might work out ok. It’s full of queer drivel that denies the real solution of ending the Israeli occupation and supporting the Palestinian right of return. It didn’t get such great reviews; we’re wondering how and why it got released. AIPAC anyone?
Penguin Liberation Update: The award-winning children’s book about two gay male penguin daddies, And Tango Makes Three, now tops the American Library Association’s annual list of works that got the most complaints from parents. You’d think these right-WING parents (get it?) could find something more to squawk about, especially since one of the penguin daddies subsequently went straight and is rumored to be seeking film opportunities (marching, dancing, etc.).
The L.A. Movie We Can’t Wait To See: Following the immigration-rights protests in LA last May, when the LAPD beat journalists and protesters, the LAPD announced it will have a camera crew follow officers through major incidents. [The AP story is a little fuzzy on this: how exactly does the LAPD know what will be a major incident before it happens? Is an “incident” something big and newsworthy or is it just a regular case of police brutality?] “Every 15 or 30 minutes, the incident commander will narrate what is occurring at the event,” says Dep. Chief Hillman, who came up with the idea (obviously a frustrated filmmaker.) If it’s one of those ANSWER marches, it could be a lonnnnngggg, slooooowww movie.
The Twinkie Defense:
The upcoming biopic of Harvey Milk, directed by Gus Van Sant, stars Sean Penn,
whose acting and politics we generally like, and Matt Damon as Dan White.
We’ll be curious to see how they frame the times and whether they can avoid
historical and political/cultural distortions. Hey, at least the part of Harvey
didn’t go to Robin Williams, at one point considered for the role. Will we see
John Travolta playing DiFi (Dianne Feinstein) as President of the Board of Supes?
WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF SPARKY WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF
by Susan Saxaphone
Jamie Babbit’s new film, the Itty Bitty Titty Committee, is fast paced, and at times painfully funny. A plastic surgery clinic clerk fresh out of high school gets mixed up with an underground feminist group after a chance encounter. The tensions between a well-funded massive organization and an embryonic direct action cell are fought out both politically and personally on the screen. Babbit was inspired by Lizzie Borden’s “Born in Flames” and the work of the Guerrilla Girls, and this comes across in the attempt to portray the culture of rebel young feminist queers and the absurdity of patriarchy. The polished movie doesn’t quite live up to the task of sparking the feminist imagination.
Anna (Melonie Diaz) tries to sway the wavering organizer Sadie (Nicole Vicius) away from her hot and cold relationship with the bourgeois Courtney (Melanie Mayron). Clits in Action uses nonviolent direct action straight out of the Lesbian Avengers manual, and the feminists are equipped with web sites, paper mache, inner city warehouse lofts, and an analysis of patriarchy. Carly Pope’s character, who takes an alias after Shulamith Firestone, starts pushing the group in a heavier direction with gut checks, criticism, street scuffles with Christians, and flirtation with terrorism. Terrorism comes along in the form of a mildly crazy Iraq war veteran expelled for flagrantly violating the army’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and hungry for militant thrills, Calvin (Daniela Sea). The bay area’s favorite young female actor, Daniela adds some depth to the butch in twenty-first century independent queer film with this mysterious hitchhiking demolitions expert that sweeps the straight girl off her feet. Lauren Mollica’s Aggie, the smooth silent trans guy, works with Clits in Action, and shows off a tender romantic side that is spurned in the shrill meat-grinder of young dyke love. Meat (Deak Evegnikos) rounds out the group with a level-headed, bitter, under appreciated feminist artists. A forgettable apathetic hipster slinks around the collective dwelling going to work, paying rent, and scoffing, contrasting the group’s commitment to the broader realities of young urban professionals.
The lesbians I was seated with were contentedly discussing their world-changing nonprofit work before the gala showing at the Castro Theater. It was entertaining to watch them squirm a little when the C(i)A culture of spray paint, squalor, and grrrl music clashed with the cold comfortable patronizing world of Courtney’s Feminists for Change. These baby dykes gave no quarter. The older crowd was really turned on by the brief sex scenes and moved by the twists and turns of the relationships, and sympathized with the straightforward feminist slogans.
The shallow connection between women and female-to-male trannies, based explicitly on genitals, lacked any transgender politics or experience beyond what titillates lesbians. Perhaps this is addressed by the trans guy finding love with a male-to-female trannie and forming a separate group in the wrap-up. The group’s strong stance against monogamy and gay marriage was made somewhat comical by their total inability to cope, but after all Anna is a teenager on the rebound from her first breakup. Go ahead and try not to feel for her.
The overly cinematic political developments somewhat fulfill the manic imaginative fantasies of rebel girls old and young. Babbit quickly sketches some of the traditional conflicts of the left, thrown into the present nuclear collision of overloaded media. But I don’t understand why the casting wasn’t conducted in accordance with the principles laid out in the groups’ propaganda. It undermined the movie’s sincerity. Are we supposed to kiss the sky because these women are out and queer and leave it at that? The film didn’t live up to the idealistic expectations of riot-grrrl inspired feminism and came close to mocking these expectations.
At least direct action gets the goods and the girl.
Thanks to Susan Saxaphone for sending UV this fun
review of a movie a lot of us wanted to see but missed at the SF LGBT Film
Festival this year. Itty Bitty
Titty Committee, produced by Andrea Sperling and Lisa Thrasher and directed by
Jamie Babbit, is currently having a theatrical release in L.A., so look for it
to show up in the Bay Area in a few months.
The San Diego Women's Film Festival jury selection committee and festival director, Jennifer Hsu, have fallen under attack for deciding to observe the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. The Jewish American Association and General Consulate of Israel, contacted the highest levels of the festival's corporate sponsors to apply pressure on the board and staff to rescind the boycott statement and to fire the festival director. The San Diego Women Film Foundation Board of Directors panicked and buckled to the crushing and antagonistic outcry by posting a public apology and declaration of being "embarrassed and horrified" of the festival director and jury's position (sdwff.org/home.html). They then issued an ultimatum to the Festival Director demanding humiliating stipulations of apology and inclusion of an Israeli film, or termination of contract.
Director Jennifer Hsu & Bassemah Darwish, issued the following statement:
“We join the global community of artists and cultural leaders who act in the wake of the Anti-Apartheid boycott movement of South Africa 20 years ago. Although that pioneering boycott was against an apartheid of racism, this boycott is against the forced separation of two peoples for the acquisition of land. We firmly believe that we are standing in the Peace camp with other people of conscience.
“As judges of artistic films serving a festival that provides a platform for women's films to be screened, it was a difficult decision to exclude some artists based on their nationalist affiliations and source of funding. However, as conscientious members of the world, we found this festival to be an opportunity to bring awareness to an issue too easily hidden from the public. Jennifer, more than anyone on the judging committee, has risked her name, professional career, and even a sense of safety by confronting these extremists who continue to harass her. These risks have been taken to serve justice on behalf of the Palestinian people living under occupation and in exile.
“Jennifer continues to be attacked on all fronts. Besides the Board's statement on the festival website, there are already several articles on blogs and in publications (mostly Jewish) that attack her and continue to criticize the board for not having fired her immediately. These articles will continue to flood the internet and possibly mainstream media. There is already a strong campaign against us and we realize that this is the time to stand as a community or allow our already faint voices to be drowned out in false accusations and blatant lies.
“We are prepared to stand by our convictions, rather than cower, knowing that our silence would be the greatest risk. But, we cannot do this alone.”
Please contact the San Diego Women Film Foundation Board of Directors to express your support for the principled positions of Jennifer Hsu and the selection committee in favor of human rights: Yvonne Silva, (619) 293-2605, firstname.lastname@example.org; Renee Herrell, (619) 688-9498, email@example.com; copy to: JenniferHsu@sdwff.org
It’s been a long time since UltraViolet had an article about intrigue and diabolical machinations – real or imagined – at listener-supported radio station KPFA. But rest assured, we’re still on the case.
Volunteer workers at Berkeley’s venerable KPFA radio received an unhappy surprise on August 13, when a memo went out declaring that the unpaid workers’ organization was no longer recognized by station management.
The Unpaid Staff Organization (“UPSO”) has existed for seventeen years to represent the interests of the more than 200 volunteers who produce the majority of the program hours at KPFA. Unpaid staff make up 80% of KPFA staff, producing nearly all of the music shows and a substantial portion of its news and public affairs programs.
The August 13 memo, signed by interim General Manager Lemlem Rijio, declares, “Currently, there is no management-recognized ‘unpaid staff organization.’“ Rijio’s memo says that station management acted because the UPSO had not functioned for nearly two years. Not mentioned was the fact that an election committee was in the process of conducting a vote to refill the posts of incumbents who had ceased to serve the UPSO. Rijio’s memo was issued only four days before the ballot due date of the UPSO election.
The management memo “pulls the rug out from under people who get very little for their dedication and hard work,” said Shahram Aghamir, a producer on KPFA’s “Voices of the Middle East” program. KPFA’s Local Station Board had an emergency meeting and passed a resolution calling on management to rescind the memo and continue the long-standing policy of recognizing UPSO as the representative of the station’s unpaid workers; the Board vote was 13 yes, 0 no, and five abstaining.
The immediate effect of the Rijio memo is to complicate the upcoming election for Local Station Board members, possibly preventing some unpaid staff from voting in that election. The management action may also hamper the possibility of UPSO working to gain new benefits for unpaid staff, such as a formal grievance procedure, or the option to buy health insurance at the station’s group rate. More difficult to assess will be the impact of the disrespect management showed the station’s unpaid workers by withdrawing recognition of their organization. Unpaid workers fear the loss of the UPSO may affect their ability to keep their shows on the air or have access to needed equipment such as CDs.
Coincidentally, the Rijio memo went out the same day as management at another media institution attacked a union: the Media News Group newspaper chain declared its “derecognition” of the Northern California Media Guild as the representative of employees at Media News Group’s ANG newspapers. But many KPFA listeners will surely be surprised and dismayed that KPFA management engages in the same behavior as the managers of a profit-driven media conglomerate.
A number of long-term and popular volunteer programmers
at KPFA are likely to leave the station if the UPSO is not recognized.
The new UPSO is meeting on Thursday, September 20 and hopes to
demonstrate to management that the staff want to be represented by an
If you’re a KPFA member and/or listener, you might want to contact General Manager Lemlem Rijio at 510-848-6767 X255 or their listener comment line X622, or you can email them using the feedback form on their website, http://www.kpfa.org/contactus/. In October, KPFA will be having its fall fund drive; before you make a pledge, ask if they have recognized the UPSO, especially since your favorite shows are likely produced by unpaid staff.
After a year of struggle, housekeepers at the Woodfin Hotel have won a huge victory in their fight to enforce Emeryville's living wage law. On August 27, the Emeryville City Council made a final ruling that the hotel must pay about $250,000 in back wages to its housekeepers.
But the fight isn't over. The Woodfin is still refusing to obey the law and pay its workers the money they have earned. A Woodfin lawyer has vowed to take the case to the Supreme Court before paying up!
Help keep the heat on the Woodfin. See www.workingeastbay.org for upcoming actions.
Zionist organizations are demanding that the City of San Francisco censor a mural on 24th and Capp St in San Francisco. The mural depicts related images of struggle by indigenous communities against forces of imperialism, racism, and economic oppression. Its major theme is breaking down walls—those in Mexico, Palestine, Iraq—and the physical and social walls in our own communities here.
The Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Community Relations Council have asked the youth artists from HOMEY (Homies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth) to remove or alter the portion of the mural depicting Palestinian resistance. Please act to defend the artists’ right to their creativity and conviction, and insist that Palestine hold its place on this mural amongst other struggles for liberation.
Arts Commission expressing your support for this mural and the freedom of
expression of the artists.
Ellen Shershow firstname.lastname@example.org
Jill Manton email@example.com
Public Art Program, SF Arts Commission
25 Van Ness Ave, Suite 240
San Francisco, CA 94103
See http://www.araborganizing.org/mural for a letter you can sign onto or use as a sample. Please send a copy of all letters of support to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nine workers died in a Utah mine in August, including 3 rescuers. The Mine Safety and Health Administration had approved a dangerous plan for retreat mining for Murray Energy, who had received over 300 citations at the mine since 2004. The owner, Robert Murray, is a major contributor to republican candidates.