THE VATICAN--Sources closer to my God than thee
have confirmed that the Pope of Rome, Francis the Only, will acknowledge
that Father Juniper Serra, up to now only Blessed, is a saint.
"Cleansing is next to Godliness," said the Vicar of God.
"He will be the patron saint of settlers and we will open the
first church of Saint Junipero in Palestine."
Most run of the mill saints require at least two
verified miracles before they can be canonised.
But Father Serra was instrumental in sending so many of God's
Native Californians to their maker, and that's miracle enough for this
California govenor Jerry Brown is setting forth
steps to ensure the state is in full compliance with canonical law. The
Department of Caltrans is instituting a fuel surtithe to fund new
roadsigns for what will now be called the Saint Junipero Serra Boulevard
With San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone,
a huge fan of Serra's missionary position, the clause are in. The newly
appointed people Nuncio for the Junipero Serra Holy Freeway and Boulevard
is to ensure compliance with church teachings for all who use the roadway.
"You shall pay for your sins- at all onramps and offramps.
All people who use the Holy Boulevard will be required to swear to
not have gay sex unless they are in a traditional marriage and then only
if they are trying to have a child."
INTERNATIONAL WORKING WOMEN’S DAY
Sunday, MARCH 8, 2015
Lake Merritt Amphitheater, Oakland
12 PM Rally & Speak Out for Justice
12:30 PM March to Rise & Resist
1:30 PM Celebration
All the activism around #BlackLivesMatter has
brought more attention to the killings of African Americans and Latinos by
police, but none of that seems to have translated into police feeling more
pressure not to kill people. Killedbypolice.net has documented 172
killings of civilians by police in the first two months of 2015. Of those,
42% are identified as Black or Latino and the race of the victim is
unknown in another 24%.
These first few months have been bloody here in the
Bay Area. San Francisco police have killed at least two people. One, a
white man, committed suicide by cop, pointing a BB or pellet gun at
officers at the Mission Station. He left suicide notes on his cell phone.
The other, Amilcar Perez Lopez, was killed on the night of February 26 at
24th and Folsom in the heart of the Mission, allegedly for
stealing a bicycle.
Oakland police shot 28-year-old Corey Pollard in
East Oakland on February 13, after someone flagged down a patrol car and
said Pollard was acting “erratically.” The police said he had a knife.
Pollard was injured but survived. On February 7, Oakland police shot at
another young man in East Oakland who they said swung golf clubs at them,
but they didn’t hit him. The man's family called to report he was
mentally unstable and threatening to hit family members with a weapon.
On February 3, Emeryville police killed 38-year-old
Yuvette Henderson, a Black single mother, after she allegedly tried to
steal some knives at Home Depot. Henderson had had some kind of encounter
with Home Depot security guards which left her bleeding from her head. The
guard called an ambulance and the police. On the 911 tape, he is heard
saying that she is not cooperating, while she says, “I am cooperating.
I’m right here.” The guard said that Henderson then pulled a gun and
ran away. She ran by police and fire units and attempted to get on a bus
but the driver wouldn’t stop for her. The police killed her with at
least seven bullets in front of a storage facility in Oakland. The cops
were wearing body cameras but did not turn them on until after the
The Anti-Police Terror Project (APTP), a
multiracial, multigenerational coalition led by ONYX Organizing Committee,
has been organizing along with Black Lives Matter and the BlackOut
Collective, to demand answers as to what happened to Yuvette Henderson and
why. APTP has organized several vigils and demonstrations in Emeryville.
On Saturday, February 21, three affinity groups comprising people
affiliated with Black Lives Matter, BlackOut Collective, Xicana
Moratorium, APTP, Asians 4 Black Lives, Third World for Black Power and
Bay Area Solidarity Action Team (including a representative from QAGMIRE)
locked down three of the four entrances to Home Depot while a march was
heading over from the Emeryville Police Station. Our goal was to disrupt
business as usual for five hours, marking the time that Yuvette
Henderson’s body was left in the street (eerily like what happened to
Michael Brown in Ferguson). Home Depot immediately closed the store when
we arrived, although the blockade didn’t allow them to close the main
entrance, meaning that four women from Asians 4 Black Lives had a line of
cops literally breathing down their necks for five hours. Reportedly some
Zionist men who have been seen trying to provoke confrontations at
Palestine solidarity actions showed up and tried to ram their way through
the blockade, but the women held strong and no one rose to the bait.
A derrick replica built to blockade the Federal
Building at a climate justice protest in early February was transformed
into a tower at the great new Greenpeace warehouse in West Oakland. Huge
signs containing the demands of the campaign were hung on the tower. The
Tapes. Both Home Depot and the storage facility where Yuvette was
killed have surveillance cameras. Home Depot last week released the audio
of the 911 tape their security guard made but not the videotape that would
show her interactions with security and how she was injured. The
surveillance video from the storage facility would likely show how she was
killed and whether cops did anything to try to resolve the situation
without killing her. We want the tapes released.
Leave When Cops Kill. The officers who killed Yuvette are on paid
administrative leave while the department investigates the shooting.
Essentially, you kill someone and get a paid vacation.
Style Policing. The cops who killed Yuvette were armed with a pistol,
a shotgun and an AR-15 military assault rifle. We want all those weapons
destroyed or sent back to whatever federal government agency they came
and poet Cat Brooks of ONYX climbed the two-story tower and stayed up
there for the full five hours, providing the lead voice for a stirring
theater piece that brought to life Yuvette’s last day on earth and the
horrible choices put on her by poverty, sexism and racism. Black people
built an altar and adorned it with pictures of Yuvette and her kids. An
enormous banner demanding “RELEASE THE TAPES” floated above the crowd,
held aloft by a giant stationary balloon.
APTP is also working to demand accountability for
the killing of Amilcar Perez Lopez and the shooting of Corey Pollard as
well as two women shot by San Leandro police in Oakland late last year.
They are also working with the families of Idriss Stelley, who was killed
by San Francisco police in 2001 in a movie theater, and Alex Nieto, who
was killed by SFPD on March 14 last year, to commemorate their lives and
stop the terror.
APTP stands out from some “police
accountability” projects because of its thorough-going critique of not
only police procedures but the social system that those procedures uphold.
They reject the “politics of respectability,” that says we need to
focus only on the most blameless, the unarmed, the children victims of
violence. This movement makes connections between gentrification,
displacement, poverty, lack of affordable housing, sexism, criminalization
of sex workers and trans people, and what happens to people like Yuvette
Henderson. A chant heard a lot at the marches last year after Eric Garner
was killed goes, “Indict! Convict! Send Those Killer Cops to Jail/The
Whole Damn System Is Guilty As Hell” but at the Home Depot protest, we
chanted, “Rise Up! Resist! We Don’t Need No Cops or Jails,”
reflecting an understanding that the jails and cops themselves are the
problem, not just the individuals who fire the shots.
Hundreds of people were arrested in Oakland and San
Francisco last year during the months of marches following the Michael
Brown and Eric Garner non-indictments. Nearly all of the charges have been
dropped, but the big exception is the Black Friday 14, the group of Black
people, most of them women, who shut down West Oakland BART with a bold,
theatrical action on the day after Thanksgiving. BART initially demanded
that the activists pay them $70,000 to reimburse their estimated lost
revenue for the day, but after a massive campaign of protests and
tweetathons, they were shamed into dropping that demand and finally even
joined the call for the district attorney to drop the charges. Evil d.a.
nancy o’malley, however, is determined to make an example of these
defendants, understanding that many of them are core to the movement which
continues to grow and solidify. She might hope that they’ll be
intimidated into pulling back from activism, but that’s not happening!
Over 100 people attended a demonstration outside their most recent court
appearance, and no doubt there will be even more at the next ones. APTP is
vigorously organizing to demand that o’malley DROP THE CHARGES AGAINST
THE BLACK FRIDAY 14!
APTP has open monthly meetings on the third
Wednesday of every month. Normally the meetings are at Eastside Arts
Alliance in East Oakland, but if you plan to go, check their Facebook page
to be sure.
Tell Hewlitt Packard
Divest from Occupation & Apartheid
March 18, 10:30 am
Page Mill Road, Palo Alto
Hewlitt Packard provides ongoing
support and maintenance to a biometric ID system installed in Israeli
checkpoints in the occupied West Bank, and provides the Israeli military
with other equipment and services to help it maintain the illegal
occupation. A coalition of organizations for Palestinian rights will take
their protest of HP complicity in Israel’s occupation directly to HP
headquarters on March 18. That was the day that HP should have had its
annual in-person shareholder meeting, but recently changed it to an online
meeting only, prompting much criticism. Come join the people’s virtual
HP shareholder’s meeting – join in protests and street theater and a
chance to voice your feelings to a virtual Meg Whitman!
For more info about carpools and
HP = Harming People
SAVE THE DATE – JUNE
19-21 – San Francisco
A Film Festival for the Rest of Us
As members of queer communities
we are creating Outside the Frame, a film festival that challenges
Frameline’s complicity with Israeli apartheid. This festival will
feature the work of filmmakers who have withdrawn their work from
Frameline or did not submit because of Frameline’s continued partnership
with the Israeli government. OTF will include films from others who
believe in, and whose work supports, LGBTQI visual culture’s role in the
Join us for an exciting
Queers, by Eric Stanley and Chris Vargas
Pinkwashing: A new film by Dean Spade
The Path to Coming Out: Queer Lebanese Speak Up by Bassam Kassab
Fuck My Life, the short film, by Xandra Ibarra
Sins Invalid: An Unshamed Claim to Beauty, by Patty Berne
and lots more
by: Queers Undermining Israeli
Terrorism (QUIT!), Mythiliyeen, Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project;
Gay Shame; SWANABAQ ISouth West Asian and North Aftrican Bay Area Queers);
Arab Resource & Organizing Center; Critical Resistance; International
Jewish Anti-Zionist Network; Jewish Voice for Peace – San Francisco/East
Bay Chapter; Middle East Children’s Alliance; US Campaign to End the
We are grateful for support from
Resist! Foundation, People's Life Fund and Sisters of Perpetual
Indulgence, but we still need your help to make this happen.
Please donate if you can. Go to
www.outsidetheframefest.org to donate, help, sponsor, or see the final
Jinnat Ali, known to us as the father of Trikone
and QUIT! cofounder Tinku Ishtiaq, died January 26th, 2015 in Dhaka,
Mr. Ali was born 90 years ago in a small trading
village on the banks of a major river in East Bengal. He was a dedicated
student and became the first in his extended family to move away from the
business of trading and join the ranks of educated professionals as an
economist. The turmoil of the second world war, during which India was
trying to wrest itself free from the dominion of the British empire,
helped to politicize him during his student years. He saw the extremely
painful partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 and then the genocide in
Bangladesh a generation later as the country tried to wrest itself away
from Pakistan. Each successful struggle was followed by rapid
disillusionment but Mr. Ali’s general optimistic outlook helped him take
each development in stride.
Tinku says, “I
believe that my father was very instrumental in my personal political
formation and whatever sense of justice I have was acquired from him and
my mother. Even though my
father was not particularly happy when I came out to him long time ago he
readily embraced my boyfriend, who accepted my invitation to live with me
and my parents in Dhaka 9 years ago. He valued reason and rationality over
faith. Though he was a Muslim he was not angry with me when, fresh from
having read Russell's ‘Why I am not a Christian,’ I boldly renounced
religion to him while in high school; since he could not come up with
enough reasons to convince me otherwise he accepted my decision. He was
also against the sacrifice of animals as part of Islamic religious rituals
but only voiced this to us after my mother had passed away.”
Mr. Ali will be missed dearly by those who were
close to him, who knew him and loved him. Tinku was fortunate enough to be
by his bedside when he breathed his last. Mr. Ali is survived by his four
children and their spouses, and six grandchildren.
On February 1, Taja Gabrielle de Jesus, a Latina
transwoman, was found stabbed to death in a stairwell in the Bayview. She
was 36. Taja worked with TRANS: THRIVE which provides a drop-in center,
other services, and political organizing for trans people in San
TAJA's Coalition, the Trans* Activists for Justice
and Accountability Coalition, called a demonstration in response to her
murder, and the murders of other trans women of color. Over two hundred
people marched on city hall, and about a dozen trans people of color
participated in a die-in. Under the slogan, “Rest in Power Taja,” they
Affordable, accessible housing for trans people
Cisgender people step up to prevent anti-trans violence
No new jail in SF. Resources and Safety for Trans People.
According to the Advocate, seven transwomen were
killed in the u.s. in the first two months of 2015. Six were women of
After seven years of Palestine solidarity work in
LGBTQ communities, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (Toronto) will
officially retire at the end of the month.
QuAIA was formed in 2008, after a public forum during
Israeli Apartheid Week at the University of Toronto where concerns were
raised about “pinkwashing”: Israel’s use of gay rights to divert
international attention away from the state’s violation of Palestinian
human rights. The small activist group was propelled into international
celebrity after the pro-Israel lobby attempted to have Pride Toronto’s
funding revoked in order to silence Palestine solidarity voices at the
Over the last seven years, QuAIA’s accomplishments
Educating Canadians about the conditions of
occupation and apartheid policies in Israel and the occupied
Winning rulings under the City of Toronto’s
anti-discrimination Policy, Pride Toronto’s Dispute Resolution
Process (under Ontario Arbitration Act), and at an Ontario Human
Rights Tribunal, that the term Israeli apartheid is a legitimate form
of political expression, despite aggressive attempts by the Israel
lobby to brand criticism of Israeli government policy and actions as
Making the terms “Israeli apartheid” and
“pinkwashing” household words in queer communities in Toronto and
around the globe.
Fighting attacks by several city politicians and
lobbyists on Pride funding.
Sparking a community discussion about freedom of
expression, censorship and politics at Pride, which led to a major
rejuvenation of the festival and challenged the move to turn Pride
into a corporate-driven spectacle geared to tourists.
Hosting forums, screenings and educational events
that built connections and coalitions with other movements for social
justice (feminists, anti-Tar Sands activists, First Nations, etc.)
Inspiring the formation of other QuAIA groups in
queer communities around the world, and promoting dialogue and action
on transnational queer politics.
Over the past year, however, the deteriorating
situation in the Middle East, Canada’s involvement in attempts to
suppress the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel
and other pressing issues have pulled activist energies in many
directions. Most of the original members who came together during
QuAIA’s formative years are now working within a variety of fields and
organizations within Toronto and internationally, stretching the small
group’s resources to continue in its current form.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to make,” explained
group member, Tim McCaskell. “But we decided that retiring QuAIA allows
us all to develop new strategies for supporting the Palestine solidarity
movement and to make new links across oppressions in our communities.”
“QuAIA did exactly what an activist group should
do,” said early spokesperson Elle Flanders. “We organized, we shifted
public opinion, we raised awareness, we stood in solidarity and created a
space for people to talk about Palestine. We did so through targeted
campaigns and endless hours of research and outreach.”
“QuAIA has been a trailblazer in building solidarity
with Palestine in Canada,” said Ali Abunimah, author of The Battle for
Justice in Palestine. “As Israel launched its effort to ‘pinkwash’
its oppression of the Palestinians and falsely market itself as an LGBTQ
haven, QuAIA’s work provided an important political analysis that has
educated me and many others about what principled solidarity looks
We in QUIT! were partners with QuAIA in shining a
spotlight on israeli and Zionist efforts to coopt the queer movement. We
were so inspired by their humongous map banner that we made a version of
it to use in demonstrations during last year’s assault on Gaza. One of
their last acts as a group was to agree to cosponsor Outside The
Frame-Queers for Palestine Film Festival. We’re sorry to lose them but
know that the work they did will live on.
California’s prisons are still so overcrowded that
in February 2014, the courts again granted state government an additional
two years to reduce the population to 137.5% of design capacity.
California has made some progress, and the main tool
has been the 2011 “prison realignment.” From 2011 through June 2014,
the state prison population fell by 25,000, largely by sending people
convicted of new non-violent, non-serious, non-sexual, felony
offenses from state prisons to
county jails. As of February 2014, total daily county jail populations in
California had increased by 12 percent, or over 9,000 people. A 2013
survey of county sheriffs found that there were 1,109 prisoners in county
jails serving 5- to 10-year sentences, and 44 serving terms of more than
10 years. Even if you supported the prison industrial complex, doesn’t
that seem like a lot of time for a non-violent, non-serious, non-sexual
offense? Some prisoners who have qualified for parole from state prisons
have been placed on “post-release community supervision” instead of
state supervised parole. Sanctions for most parole or PRCS violations
would not result in a return to state prison, but could result in up to 90
days in a county jail. This has also shifted the prison population to
Of course, most of the jails were already
over-crowded, and lacked medical, dental, and mental health services, and
lacked training, education and re-entry programs. The state jail
commission estimated, for example, that 13, 500 people were released early
in October 2013 from jails across the state due to overcrowding.
Built into prison realignment was a mechanism for
providing additional resources to counties, which could be used to build
additional jail space, or to support prevention programs and alternatives
to incarceration. Counties
compete for funding each year.
Since 2013, sheriff ross mirkarimi has been pushing a
plan which would rebuild SF’s main jail, with a net loss of 100 jail
beds. The plan would cost about $465 million, to come from a combination
of realignment funds from the state, and the rest from the city.
Currently, about 1/3 to ½ of the beds in San Francisco’s 4 jails are
empty. Most of the beds are occupied by pre-trial detentions – people
who are not released on their own recognizance or who can’t make bail.
Mirkarimi’s plan would include jails with special “pods” for
different populations, such as a “trans-friendly” pod. Mirkarimi also
would increase mental health services and other programs.
Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB)
has been leading a statewide fight to stop prison and jail construction.
In SF, CURB is working with a coalition of groups, including the
Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), the
Coalition on Homelessness, Critical Resistance, and the Trans* Activists
for Justice and Accountability Coalition (“TAJA”), formed after the
murder of Taja de Jesus in San Francisco February 1.
These groups have been demanding that rather than rebuild the jail
space, the money be used for true community alternatives to incarceration,
such as community based mental health programs, youth and job training
programs and housing. They note that while it is necessary to have
services for people in jail, people should not have to go to jail to get
services. According to CURB African Americans are four percent of San
Francisco’s population, but 56 percent of its jail population.
On March 2, the SF Jail Fight Coalition will be
rallying outside the Hall of Justice, 850 Bryant St., beginning at 5:30
p.m. The rally will then march to a public meeting hosted by SF Public
Works and the SF Sheriff’s Department about the jail project’s
environmental review process, to take place at the Community Assessment
& Service Center, 564 6th St., from 6pm to 8pm.
For more information on the campaign go to:
When U.S. engineer Avijit Roy arrived in Bangladesh
about 10 days ago, it was for a three week visit with friends and
relatives and to launch his two recent books at a popular national book
fair. His visit was abruptly
cut short by religious fanatics who attacked him when he was returning
from the last day of the fair - in front of a crowd of people, with knives
and cleavers. The vicious attack killed Avijit, 42, on the spot while his
wife, Banna, suffered serious injuries and is currently being treated at
the ICU of a hospital in Dhaka.
Avijit’s offense was that he was an atheist who
had been very vocal about spreading scientific knowledge and debunking
religion through his published writings and a popular online blog in
Bangla, Mukto-mona (Free Mind), which he had started more than a decade
ago. His last two books Obisshahser Dorshon (The Philosophy of
Atheists) and Biswasher Virus (The Virus of Faith) focused on
science, religion and rationalism. Because of his writings against
religion, and Islam in particular, Avijit had received many death threats
last year, one of which ominously warned him that while he couldn’t be
attacked because he lives in the US, he will be dealt with when he visits
to about 150 million Muslims, Bangladesh is considered a ‘moderate’
Islamic country with a tradition of secularism. However, that tradition
has slowly been in decline over the last fifteen years primarily as a
result of the influx of Saudi money funding Madrasas. There, impoverished
school children have a place to live and are fed meals along with the
Saudi version of strict Islamic doctrine, Wahabism. In addition,
Bangladeshi migrant labor returning from Arab nations brought with them
the conservative traditions of foreign lands where girls’ education is
frowned upon, women are expected to wear veils in public and there is
increasing level of Islamic orthodoxy. Islamist student groups are now
more popular than secular groups even among the elite universities in
Bangladesh. Consequently, the country is becoming increasingly polarized
between the Islamists and the secularists who are trying to stop the
inexorable rise of radical Islam.
Politicians of every color are trying to take
advantage of this struggle. When the Islamic party, Jamaat, was in decline
and in danger of extinction, the Awami League, the most secular party of
the country, allied with Jamaat many years ago in order to bring down the
government of the day. The successful outcome of that struggle legitimized
the Islamists and in time they became so big (helped by Saudi money, of
course) that they are now one of the biggest threats to their erstwhile
ally, the Awami League. The Awami League recently came into power through
sham elections boycotted by the main opposition parties and has embarked
on a massive campaign to eradicate Jamaat along with all other dissent.
The attacks against the Islamic party have given rise to the
fundamentalists among them, some of whom banded together to form their own
In this political milieu the democratic secularists
are in a particularly vulnerable position. If they oppose the
government’s autocratic methods they risk arrest or even death. If they
oppose Islamic fundamentalism they also risk death, though that is rare
and primarily focused on high-profile vocal activists like Avijit. Over
the last two months 56 people have been killed by random petrol bomb
attacks, i.e. burned alive, by opposition activists focused on creating a
chaotic situation in order to bring down the unpopular government, while
40 people have been murdered by the government’s para-military force or
the police. The government’s authoritarian methods have successfully
sealed the fate of the opposition non-Islamist and Islamist forces
together – both are fighting for their political survival. In this chaos
the fundamentalists look for any opportunity to highlight their own
position and raise their profile.
Avajit Roy has not been sitting on the sidelines
watching this struggle unfolding in his homeland. Always active, he jumped
in the fray lending his voice in support of a secular and democratic
society that is based on reason and rationality. So much was his faith in
rationality that he brushed aside the death threats saying that he could
use reasoning to prevail against those opposed to his writings. In the
end, his faith in the humanity of extremist fundamentalists was proven to
have been misplaced.
note: Avijit was a close family friend, his wife is my sister’s best
friend from their high school days. I last saw him when he came to attend
my sister’s wedding in Berkeley this past July. He was the first - and
so far the only - Bangladeshi to write a book on homosexuality (Samakamita),
an issue that he sympathized with very strongly regardless of his own
sexual orientation. You can find out more about this amazing person
through online searches of his name.
Good news for Kelly Savage
A California court of
appeal recently granted Kelly a hearing at the trial court level. In doing
so, the court of appeal effectively overruled the Attorney General’s
arguments against Kelly’s legal claims. The Superior Court in Tulare
County will hold a hearing on Kelly’s right to a new trial, this time
with the testimony of expert witnesses in the field of intimate partner
battering and its effects. Kelly’s pro-bono lawyers have again reached
out to Attorney General Kamala Harris to try to settle this case without
further court involvement, but she continues to be unresponsive.
Check www.womenprisoners.org for future
It is still important to petition Kamala Harris, CA Attorney
General: Kelly is a domestic violence
survivor serving her 19th year in prison for a crime she did not commit. In
1995, Kelly’s abusive husband killed her son Justin after she put her
children to sleep and left the house to run errands in preparation to
leave with her children the next day. Her ex-husband has since confessed
his responsibility for Justin’s death, telling Kelly in a letter he
wrote from prison last year that “I should of let you all get away from
Kelly’s trial and conviction rested on the
prosecution exploiting myths and misconceptions of survivors of abuse.
Even Kelly’s own defense attorney told the jury that she was negligent
for not leaving her abusive husband, a damaging and inaccurate argument
that hurt her case. Kelly’s history of abuse began when she was less
than four years old. She sustained a lifetime of rapes, beatings and other
abuse by a succession of family members, acquaintances and two husbands,
including the husband who killed Justin.
Kelly was not present for her son’s killing, but the
DA blamed her for not escaping and saving her children sooner, ignoring
the very real and documented dangers associated with attempting to leave
an abusive partner. The DA also exploited Kelly’s history of abuse to
suggest that she didn’t run because she enjoyed the beatings, and
sacrificed her son to “please” her abusive husband. Kelly was
convicted of first-degree murder for “aiding and abetting” her abusive
husband, and sentenced to Life Without Possibility of Parole.
California’s Intimate Partner Battering legislation
allows Kelly to petition for a review of her conviction by introducing
expert testimony about her abuse that was not allowed in her trial.
Kelly’s defense was severely harmed by the absence of expert testimony
to explain how prolonged intimate partner battering was relevant to her
case. Kelly’s lawyer and trial judge fought her request for an expert in
domestic violence who could have testified on her behalf.
In prison, Kelly has the respect of prisoners and
prison staff alike. She keeps her heart and spirit strong by focusing on
helping other prisoners. Since learning more about domestic violence and
the cycle of abuse, Kelly leads support groups for others. Kelly also
works hard to raise money within the prison. She helps raise more than
$9000 a year to send to a low-income school in Madera, paying for basic
school supplies and computers for local kids. Kelly is also one of few
approved caregivers in a Comfort Care program, where she gives needed
support to dying and incapacitated prisoners.
Through the California Habeas Project and Free
Battered Women, now the California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP),
Kelly secured legal help from pro-bono attorneys at Morgan, Lewis &
Bockius LLP. Kelly’s petition is currently held up in the appeals court
process and the Attorney General is opposing her chance at a fair hearing.
Tell the Attorney General, Kamala Harris, to withdraw
her opposition to Kelly’s habeas petition and tell the court to grant
her a fair hearing. Domestic violence survivors need care and support, not
prison! Add your signature to the petition at www.change.org. Type Kelly
Savage in the search box. Or
write to Attorney General Kamala Harris, PO Box 944255, Sacramento, CA
94244. Facebook: please join the group “FreeKelly!” Twitter:
I have never wanted to visit alcatraz, the decaying
prison ruin which sits on a tiny island in the San Francisco bay. An
infamous prison, the subject of movies and scary imagination, has long
been a focal tourist attraction; a place where crowds of family fun
seekers make a day of it, visiting the crumbling concrete cell blocks,
laughing nervously at incarceration, remarking on the extreme isolation,
the impossibility of escape from the “rock,” playing with miniature
handcuff trinkets bought at the gift shop. The island should have remained
in the hands of the radical Native American Occupation of 1971, not become
a national park complete with tour guide rangers and explanatory movies.
However friends had said that the exhibit called @Large, by the Chinese
dissent artist Ai Wei Wei, was worth seeing. My sister asked me to go with
Ai Wei Wei, no stranger to state subjugation, is
not allowed to leave china. His office and studio are under surveillance
at all times, because of his varied resistance to the chinese government
about issues of corruption and repression of individual expression. Among
other things, he took on his government by leading a citizens’
investigation of a collapse of a school during an earthquake because of
poor construction. He displayed the names of 5000 children who died in
this collapse on the wall of his office. He suffered a cerebral hemorrhage
as a result of a police attack and had emergency surgery in germany. The
government demolished his studio, claiming lack of construction permits.
He was arrested and jailed for 81 days in 2011, called a deviant and a
plagiarist by the state. He supervised the installation of the exhibit
from china but he has never been allowed to see it.
we arrived at alcatraz on the ferry with the throngs of tourists, the
first searingly striking impression, is the large dilapidated sign reading
united states penitentiary, redecorated with red political graffiti which
reads INDIANS WELCOME and once was altered to read UNITED INDIAN PROPERTY,
moving reminders of the Native American occupation. In fact all through
the prison ruins, a parallel history of that occupation is revealed with
graffiti and murals. One particularly poignant is a tribute to Yvonne
Oakes, the 13-year-old daughter of Richard Oakes one of the leaders of the
occupation, who tragically fell from the guard tower. It is titled
“First Casualty.” A huge water tower looms at the top of the fortress
island which still reads in red graffiti, WELCOME HOME OF THE FREE INDIAN
After disembarking the crowd is given annoyingly
inspirational speeches by national park guides and led to watch movies
about the history. We quickly broke ranks made our way up the hill to the
new industries building, home of the alcatraz prison labor, which holds
the first room of the @large Ai Wei Wei exhibit, called “With Wind.”
Inside the barren crumbling grey concrete work room, suspended from the
ceiling, is a huge long segmented colorful paper dragon kite with a big
head with twitter bird eyes. The contrast of the brilliant colors of the
flying paper against the stone walls of the prison brings to mind the
exuberance of the push for freedom from confinement. As you examine the
kite you find sayings from people and words woven in and out of the
floating dragon. One said PLOTTING, and another UNDERMINING (which brings
to mind Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism!). There were quotes from
famous dissidents such as Nelson Mandela and one from Ai Wei Wei saying
EVERYONE IS A POTENTIAL CONVICT.
From there we went into a massive hall to an
exhibit called “Trace,” with the floors covered with a mosaic carpet
made of LEGO portraits of people all over the world imprisoned for
speaking out against injustice. At first it is hard to comprehend so many
portraits spread out on the floor from so many countries, but after a
while they come alive. Along the sides there are books with a key to who
each portrait is. Ai Wei Wei and Amnesty International, as well as other
human rights organizations, picked the dissidents. There are many women
and journalists including Reeyot Alemu, an Ethiopian journalist and editor
of the magazine Fetch, which covers issues of social justice poverty and gender. She
is serving five years in prison. Another women, Sharmila Chanu, from india
is in the 14th year of a hunger strike begun in 2000 to protest the
killing of 10 civilians by indian paramilitary forces. She is currently
being force fed while incarcerated. Chelsea Manning is included. There
were some notable omissions. There are no Palestinians held in Israeli
prisons. Mumia Abu Jamal, Leonard Peltier and many other u.s. political
prisoners are also omitted.
Perhaps the most unnerving exhibit is called
“Refraction,” an installation made of metal tibetan solar cooking
panels sprinkled with metal pots and pans, that one looks down on through
shattered windows from what was formerly the guards’ gun alley, used to
observe the prison workers below. The sculpture looks like a giant wing of
bird in flight. Because one stands in this narrow gun alley with the
ghosts of prison guards harassing prison laborers, looking down on
incarcerated flight, a sense of desperate unease quickly sets in. A young
African American woman docent began to talk to us. I said, “I wish I
could go down below and touch the metal panels.” She said that part of
the piece was to feel the distance and the constriction from the gun
alley. Then she went on to say that this very day hillary clinton had been
allowed to see the sculpture close up as had other politicians and
celebrities. I remarked something about power imbalance, to which she
responded in a low quiet voice “it is a cold sculpture.”
The rest of @Large takes place in cell block A and
the old prison hospital. The exhibit “Illumination” is two psychiatric
observation cells in the hospital, completely tiled in shiny cream and
green ceramic tiles, hard and barren of all warmth, still evoking an
antiseptic smell, solitary cells for prisoners believed to have
psychiatric problems. In one cell Hopi chants are played, a reminder of 19
Hopis incarcerated at alcatraz in 1895 for opposing forced education of
Native American children in government boarding schools. In the other cell
tibeten monks are chanting. It is eerie and frightening causing a sense of
rage and nausea.
Another of the most haunting parts of the exhibit
was called is called “Stay Tuned” and takes place inside the cells in
cell block A. You walk into minuscule cells with open bars and drab,
decayed, broken porcelain sinks. An odd brilliantly silver stainless steel
three-legged stool sits in the exact center of each tiny space. One sits
on the stool and is surrounded by music from poets and dissidents, people
who have been incarcerated. The first cell is a song by Nigerian political
musician Fela Kuti, written after the Soweto Uprising against apartheid in
1976 . One cell screams the raucous sacrilegious sounds of Pussy Riot, the
russian punk band who was incarcerated for performing inside an orthodox
church. In another is a song by Victor Jara the chilean singer, a
communist supporter of Salvadore Allende who was tortured and murdered
during the military coup. There is music by a Jewish czech composer killed
at auschwitz, and in another a song by the Robben Island Singers who were
detained for fighting south african apartheid. In yet another cell is
Martin Luther King’s speech calling out the us government about the
vietnam war. Each cells takes hold and brings the listener a different
experience of resistance and rebellion at times so sad and still so
hopeful presenting the vast extent of peoples vigorous opposition to the
I was entranced by the whole exhibit, especially
how it was entwined with the history of alcatraz itself, a place that had
its share of political prisoners. For example, a World War I anarchist and
conscientious objector was kept in the dark in solitary confinement.
Jackson Leonard was incarcerated in 1919 for handing out Industrial
Workers of the World literature. It is also important to note that all
incarcerated people are political prisoners in this corrupt unequal
repressive system. An attempt is being made to transform alcatraz into a
place for good, with bird sanctuaries and gardens and now this very
interesting art exhibit about the nature of incarceration and resistance.
All that being said, the island should have remained in the hands of the
Native Americans who occupied it for 19 months in 1969-71. That was an
uncompromised act of resistance and community. The state always steals the
peoples’ spaces, replacing them with national parks paving over peoples
art evicting tearing down encampments. Remember the recent eviction of
homeless people and artists off the Albany Bulb, an abandoned construction
dumpsite in the East Bay. Like the alcatraz Native American occupation,
people had made a free creative community. Like Alcatraz, it is being
turned into a regulated park no longer for the people originally involved
in the political resistance.
FREE THEM ALL
When the Oakland-based Anti-Police Terror Project (APTP),
in coordination with Ferguson Action and other direct action groups around
the country, called for 96 hours of decentralized affinity-group organized
actions to Reclaim MLK Day, it seemed like maybe too much too soon.
The organizing didn’t really start til early January, and people
were still slowly making their way back from the void called “The
Holidays.” But somehow, come
the weekend of January 16-19, the Bay Area was a kaleidoscope of
resistance, with actions big and small, confrontational and contemplative,
all brilliantly amplified by a sophisticated media team sending out
old-fashioned press releases, Twitter feeds and memes and emails.
In all, 47 actions were documented in Oakland
alone, adding to hundreds around the country.
Tens of thousands participated in die-ins, blockades, street
marches, interventions, interruptions, disruptions, stall-ins, wake-ups,
rallies, street art, projections, feed-ins, lie-ins, and no doubt other
kinds of things I never even heard about.
The weekend got underway early Friday morning with
the much-publicized spoon protest at Montgomery BART station.
Despite ample warning and hundreds of cops and security guards in
every shade of neon vest, the protest, which drew a couple hundred people
at its peak, managed to shut down four San Francisco stations during the
busiest morning commute hours. Well,
actually, the police shut the stations down while we just stood there,
banging metal spoons on metal poles to get everyone’s attention.
One guy was arrested for using his spoon to bang on a train car.
The affinity group Q(u)AGMIRE, Queer Affinity Group Militantly
Interrupting (or Muttering Incantations against) Racist Empire, in which
most LAGAI members participate, became briefly a media magnet on account
of having some of the only visual messaging, with our purple WE’RE HERE,
WE’RE QUEER, WE’RE OVERTHROWING WHITE SUPREMACY banner.
the same time, Third World For Black Power, a coalition of organizations
including Bayan-USA, Arab Resource & Organizing Center, International
Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and Haiti Action Committee, locked down the
two main entrances to the federal building in Oakland.
The group managed to hold that space for four hours and 28 minutes
– symbolizing the four hours Michael Brown’s body lay in the street
and the murder of a Black person by an agent of authority (police,
vigilante or security guard) every 28 hours.
Friday night, a group of about 80 queers invaded
hipster dining havens on Valencia Street to make connections between
gentrification and state violence. In
several establishments, staff and patrons responded very aggressively.
In at least one case, a guy ran out on his date and followed us
down the street, demanding that someone stop and argue with him about his
right not to have his dinner interrupted for a few minutes.
Saturday night, a hundred or more queers of many
races gathered for an action called by queer people of color.
We occupied the intersection of 18th and Castro, while
Black queers staged interventions in some of the gay bars.
Queers of color built an altar, and two Latino guys drummed, danced
and smudged with sage. People
spoke out and read the names of people killed by police.
Some of the women involved in the bar takeovers came back and
reported on their experiences. Some
had chairs and trash cans thrown at them.
Others reported that people applauded and marched out to join the
rally. The crowd in the
intersection swelled to several hundred.
We linked arms and calmly moved to extricate ourselves from
potentially volatile situations caused by hostile white men insisting on
their right to be the center of everything.
We held the intersection for an hour while the police kept their
distance and rerouted traffic. The
mood was solemn, intense, unified and loving.
Sunday we joined a large group of almost all white
folks from Bay Area Solidarity Action Team for an action at Bay Street
Mall in Emeryville. We marched
past the former Woodfin union-busting hotel which is now the Hyatt House
and blocked the street leading into the parking lot for four minutes and
28 seconds. Then we marched
into the center of the mall and blocked the main street for 28 minutes,
while the Brass Liberation Orchestra played.
Shoppers mostly seemed bemused.
Amanda gave the activists a little education about the shellmounds
(Native American burial sites) the mall is built on.
Monday morning activists from the BlackOut
Collective, which organized the fabulous BART shutdown on Black Friday,
along with people from Black Brunch and Black Lives Matter, paid a
pre-dawn visit to new Oakland mayor Libby Schaff, who spent her first day
in office with the police, most of whom do not live in the city.
“You chose to prioritize blue, but today you will hear black,”
they called out. The
demonstrators arrived in pitch darkness and set up big blue-light signs
and projections saying, “#WakeUpYourMayor” and “If We Can’t
Breathe, You Can’t Dream.” They
chanted and sang and did call and response.
Libby refused to come out and meet them.
Annoyed neighbors stumbled out with their laptops, called the
police and tried to show them the ordinances regarding noise in
neighborhoods. The cops said
that the law says you can’t have ten minutes of continuous noise, so
every 9 minutes, everyone would get quiet.
They would die-in and chalk around the outlines.
Then they would rise and start chanting and calling out for Libby
to come out. Libby never
appeared but finally around 7:30, her husband showed up at the kitchen
window making coffee, so the protesters know they were heard.
Dozens more actions took place throughout the Bay
during the weekend. The
People’s Grocery held a meditation-in at West Oakland BART on Monday
morning, putting up a big tent. The
San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness and other groups served coffee to
people sleeping out at Powell Street BART station on Sunday night, to
protest the infamous sit-lie law forbidding people from getting rest if
they don’t have houses. Fuck
The Police marchers ran through Oakland.
Temescal neighbors projected liberatory films and images at an
empty lot in the fast-gentrifying neighborhood.
Another group descended on Trader Joes in Rockridge.
Some actions were organized with lots of security,
others were put out very publicly. A
friend and I decided spontaneously to project images onto the Scottish
Rite Center while people were going into the big MLK Day Concert on Sunday
night, and had some good conversations.
On MLK Day, Monday, an estimated 10,000 people converged at
Fruitvale BART, where Oscar Grant III was killed by BART police six years
ago, for a long rally (that most of us couldn’t hear, unfortunately)
followed by a march to the Coliseum to protest a development project being
planned without community input or benefit.
The protest demanded that the three-stadium project intended to
keep the Oakland Raiders include: 1) Decision-making
by residents of East Oakland on the plans for Coliseum City and
surrounding areas; 2) A hiring policy ensuring that jobs go to Blacks
and Latinos in proportion to the percentages of these groups living in
East Oakland and including jobs for the disenfranchised who are on
probation and parole; 3) No displacement of local small businesses
and expanded opportunities for minority businesses; and 4) All
housing developed with city funds should be affordable to Oakland families
at the median income.
APTP, echoing Ferguson Action, requested that all
actions use the hash tags #MLKAlsoSaid and #ReclaimMLK to call attention
to the undercommemorated parts of Dr. King’s legacy.
While the media plays “I have a dream” and “People will be
judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their
character,” nonstop in January (and seldom else), they seldom play, “A
riot is the language of the unheard,” or “There comes a time when
silence is betrayal.”
In recent years, the government has encouraged
people to engage in “service” on MLK Day, serving at soup kitchens or
volunteering at churches. One
young blogger reported that while in college, he was assigned to paint
football uprights for his MLK Day service.
But King, the organizers pointed out, while he no doubt sometimes
served food (though mostly, it was probably the women who did it) is not a
legend because of that kind of service.
The reason we celebrate MLK Day is because of his role in designing
and carrying out dramatic, confrontational actions to force social change.
That’s what APTP and the other groups participating in this
national weekend of actions wanted to do.
And that’s what we all did.
Thank you for the Winter issue of UltraViolet. One
story in there by Ronald Lane really reached out and grabbed me.
Reason is because just like him, I’m also a “closet” Bi-Male,
but for the same reason as him, I fear coming out.
It’s very scary when everyone knows you as a Bone-Fide Gangster,
then out of no-where, you come out and show another side of you, that no
one you run with, will accept. It
makes me wonder if it’s safe to come out or not.
And it’s not that I’m ashamed of it but rather I’m afraid of
becoming a victim. Ronald’s
story has given me mild courage to try to work on how I could come out
without fear. I can’t get prison to prison mail though.
G. Hernandez #H-07444, CSP-SAC/B5-130-Low, PO Box
290066, Represa CA 95671
To all of the family of the LGBT community, I wanted
to write just a short thank you. After my short story, “Fear of Being
Caught” was in the winter UV, the overwhelming support from so many of
you was wonderful. I so feel
accepted and have a whole new family. There are so many others like me out
there. But with the amount of
letters I received from coast to coast reaching out, I wish I could
respond to all…However due to a few reasons that is impossible for me to
do. For one, a lot of the
places people have written from have returned my letters saying not
allowed [ed. Note: prison to prison mail is often forbidden] and second,
due to my own financial situation, I can’t afford to respond.
I just want you all to know I have gotten all your letters of
support. From Ohio, Colorado,
Wisconsin, California, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Illinois,
Louisiana and North Dakota. I
want to thank so many for showing me how much the LGBT community cares for
another of the family.
But I want my LGBT family to know I’m never going
to feel ashamed fo the real me anymore…Before I close, I would like to
thank UV for their support of me and by their publishing my short story,
they have given me the best gift of all… I am Bi and I am Gay, I love
both men and women and I’m so proud of who I am…There will always be
people, “others”, who hate me and want to hurt me, but I’m me and
I’m no longer ashamed of me or ashamed of loving another man.
Love is love. I did
want to say thank you so much to Angel.
Ronald Lane #469085, W.C.I. PO Box 351, Waupun WI
The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), meant to
protect prisoners from rape, from being soldomized by force, by use of
threat or intimidation to coerce compliance, is actually being used in
Washington State DOC to punish gay inmates for their gayness, to segregate
and isolate gay inmates for being gay, to harass and intimidate gay
inmates who are openly out and about advocating a loud and proud gay
lifestyle and to separate gay lovers who would dare to fall in love and be
close or intimate, even enjoying a non-sexual relationship. I am Raeve, my
true love and alpha life mate is D____, and we are now victims of an abuse
of the PREA system. I am in
the Hole, being transferred to Coyote Ridge [prison], to be separated from
my dearest pet (who is to be my future husband), whom I love and who also
loves me. We are promised.
The Staff claims that they saw us holding hands and sitting close
to each other, giving the appearance of intimacy. There is no rule
violation, no interaction, our relationship was not “sexual’ and
completely consensual and mutual so could not be a PREA concern.
This is purely harassment and punishment.
My chest feels crushed, I cannot breathe.
My heart feels pierced. I cannot scream.
I am a feral wolf in a box, in a cage, on a bus gone far away…
I will not be here to share anything with my lover for months, and
I am afraid I might lose him…
Raevehn, Monroe, WA
This directive [for Arkansas] states that any and all
publications may be rejected due to homosexuality as well as many other
restrictions. This same
directive also lists homosexuality in the same category as violence,
sexual or verbal abuse and illegal discrimination.
It is also stated that “publications may be rejected if they are
believed” to contain this type of information. In this same reasoning
would it not be logical to stop accepting inmates who are or who are
believed to be homosexual?
With their own reasoning and logic there should be NO
homosexuals in any prison lin the state of Arkansas. It has gotten to the
point that [it is impossible]even to get some religious materials because
of the Pentagram, as they say it is a STTG symbol (a gang symbol).
The worst is that it has gotten to the point that we
have had to go to court for them to allow RPG (Role Playing Game) books
because of the symbols allowed for the fantasy religions and the fact that
in their words, “It promotes witchcraft and other Satanic religious
practices”. Yes, I’m
homosexual, no I don’t play fantasy games but yes, I am a long-time
practicing pagan, and such statements and comparisons are extremely
offensive, very detrimental and let’s not leave out repulsive.
I would like to get the opinion of others on this matter.
Jason D. Stump #147483, PO Box 970, Marianna AR 72360
-- Thank you for all the work that you do and for the
avenue in which you provide to us to let our stories of Pain, Love, hurt
and injustice be heard. Charlie S. AKA Calley, Marienville PA
-- I continue to read and enjoy LAGAI very much.
It’s so informative and I do pass it on to others.
I think I have it bad, but not really when I read about some of the
stories in the LAGAI! So I’m blessed even though I’ve been in prison
23 [years] doing a life sentence and I’m in my 70’s!
I go to the Parole Board again in May, 2015.
Jan La Rosa, Marysville OH
-- Please accept my request for info on our
insurrection and what I may do to help.
Mark T. Raiford, FL
-- This LAGAI-Queer Insurrection Newsletter was a
godsend and I don’t mean that in any religious sense because I identify
myself as a Bi-ethnic Jamaican-American Multi-Racial who is African East
Indian East Asian and Caucasian by heritage, Queer AndroHomophile Non
Conformist Godless Atheist Agnostic Nondenominational Unchurch Unchristian
Irreligious Man Person. Robert Lee P. Wewahitchka, FL
-- Stay fierce, stay fab and fight the power.
S.H. Pontiac IL
Hello all, Lennea here, I would like to discuss out internal needs for
validation who we are as transwomen and transmen.
I, for one knew from when I was 4 years old that I was a girl, but
yet my parents made sure I was a boy and would not embarrass them by being
“A Queer”. By the
time I was 13 I was dating men in their 20’s.
Even as an adult I was always looking for validation in myself as a
transwoman in the arms of men…When I wasn’t doing this I would watch
pornography on my VCR. Then
the worst invention in history was introduced to me, the Internet.
I was hooked, I would search and watch scenes with women that I wished
I looked like, the more I watched the more insecure I got in my body.
I hated everything about my body; too male, too big, too tall, too
everything. Why was I made
this way? Why did my parents
fail me? Why did god fail me?
…Then one day the FBI and ICE units served a warrant on my house in
Dallas and Las Vegas and out of 31,536 images, they found 9 videos of
minors. Even tho they were inadvertently downloaded and deleted as soon as
I saw what they were, I received 87 months in a Federal Prison (a male
prison) and am considered a sex offender and must register as one.
My entire life searching for the validation which I never found was
lost. Even tho my journey in
life prior to incarceration was full of lies, adultery, unsafe sexual
encounters and time waste, it was the life I choose. I cannot blame my
ex-wife who tried so hard to help me, my parents, my sister or even the
guys that used me, I have only myself to blame for I was searching for
something that I had all along and as a result lost everything in the
pursuit. The validation I
sought and needed so much was my own, I needed to accept me for the woman
During this 5 years of incarceration being the only transwoman on the
compound in the deep south taught me a very important lesson, life is
yours to live, live it for yourself, give yourself the validation which
you need, no one else can validate you unless you have embraced yourself
for who you are, for that is true validation.
I came to prison thinking of suicide, thinking my life was over,
though what happened was just the opposite.
I learned to live. I
learned to love myself. I
learned that if you embrace yourself truthfully and respectfully, others,
even in this environment, will return in kind.
…I release in 2015, I have a new life, I cannot change my past but I
can advocate and hopefully help our brothers and sisters to learn by my
mistakes. We see role models
like Laverne Cox and Janet Mock and I only wish I had a role model like
them in the ‘70s…I will be a 53 year old, 5’10” transwoman
starting a new life when I get out with no place to live, no job, no car,
no person to hold me on those hard nights, but I have something better,
something stronger, I have myself. My
validation is with me…
As usual, feel free to contact me at: Lennea Elizabeth Stevens
#16786-078, PO Box 7007 Marianna FL 32447
I’m perceived as strong, confident and real but in
all essence I’m scared, lonely and lost.
I fear being judged, ostracized, hated, misunderstood.
Most of all I fear accepting reality and the real truth is I am a
bi-sexual and I love both genders. This is hard for me and I need to do
this to prove to myself that I am not a coward.
Prove that I both love and accept myself.
Most importantly, prove that I can stop living a lie.
I have no support and it’s hard. There’s no LGBTQ
group to seek counseling from…I endure every millisecond of the long
dreary days in my maximum security cell…I know community is good.
Community is love. Community
is support. Community is
knowing you’re not alone. Community
is family. You have 2 families; the one you’re related to and the most
important is the one you’re created to. I need help from my
community, my family. I have
taken claim to being a 25 year old bi-man and I’m proud but scared.
Could somebody reach out and help a Brotha when he’s down? I need to
hear supportive criticism and feel a part of our community.
One day I may her from you soon.
Tracy Greer #1153032, S.C.C.C. 255 W. Hwy 32, Licking MO 65542
This week the SF Chronicle reported that video visits
were being introduced into some California prisons and jails. This
technology is in prisons and jails across the country and has replaced
contact visits in many facilities. Prison Policy Initiative a
non-profit advocacy group reports that 74% of facilities that use video
visits have discontinued in-person visits altogether. Securus Technologies
of Dallas, Texas, one of the provider companies, requires the eliminating
of face-to-face visits as part of their installation contract.
According to Securus’ website, they have video
phone systems in 2200 correctional facilities in the US. Prisons may
benefit from this technology but prisoners and their friends and families
definitely do not. The video calls are expensive and inmates and/or their
visitors must bear the costs. While the FCC has imposed a limit on what
can be charged for phone calls, nothing regulates the video visit company
from charging the person who is not in prison for using the technology as
well as the person in prison.. Securus makes money at both ends. Also, the
technology does not always work and depends on owning a webcam, computer
and internet service with a fast connection when used from the visitor’s
Video visits are also being used in the jails and not
just for long-distance visiting. So when you go to see a person in prison
you may only see each other by video, not in person, not through glass or
wire. Video visits are not private. They are recorded and reviewed. This
impersonal form of visiting “sucks,” as one visitor aptly expressed.
Prison officials and video companies claim that video visits reduce
contraband getting into prisons. But most contraband is brought in by the
prison guards not by friends and family of inmates.
It is well known that prisoners who have regular
visits and contact with people on the outside are less likely to go back
to prison and are better off on the outside when they are released. A
consultant hired by the Department of Justice last year reported that
relying solely on video technology for inmate visits is a bad idea.
“Traditional, in-person visiting is a best practice that should continue
in all correctional settings when possible.”
Bottom line: The only one truly benefiting from video
visitations are the companies selling the technology to the prison
November, a federal jury in Michigan found Rasmea guilty
of immigration and naturalization fraud for failing to disclose her
conviction by an israeli military court in 1969 for helping to organize a
series of bombings in Jerusalem. Rasmea
has always said that she was forced to make a false confession in
spite of her innocence after weeks of torture and sexual assault by
When Rasmea returns to Judge Gershwin
Drain’s Detroit courtroom on March 12, 2015 for sentencing,
the prosecution will ask that her sentence to be based on the acts which
the israeli occupation authorities accused her of 45 years ago. The
defense has asked the judge not to sentence Rasmea, who spent a month
in jail after her conviction and is now free on bail, to any further
prison time before she is deported. Sentencing guidelines put together by
an officer of the court say Rasmea’s conviction falls within
the 10 to 18 month range.
Even tho at the trial the judge insisted that the
focus be only on the truth of her immigration and naturalization forms,
not on the acts of which she was accused in 1969 or the
circumstance under which she was convicted, the prosecution will try to
make the sentencing hearing all about Israel. But needless to say, the
prosecution will not bring up, as Rasmea’s lawyer wrote in a letter to
the judge, “… the illegal
1967 massacres and occupation — let alone the military ethnic
cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians from the land and their homes when
Palestine was partitioned in 1948 — not the midnight sweeps and
kidnapping by the invading army after the 1967 war, not the torture, not
the kangaroo court and false confessions, not the prison time.”
Rasmea's case is only one of a larger campaign in this
country against Palestinian leaders, institutions, community members and
There is still time to take action and try to affect
the sentencing hearing on March 12th.
Go to http://uspcn.org/ for examples of letters to
write to the judge and to local papers.
There’s more info at www.justice4Rasmea.org;
how to donate to the defense and buy Shero
or Justice for Rasmea T-Shirts; write op-eds, hold House Parties, use her
picture as your own profile picture.
We can’t let the fbi and the government win this
case. Or any other case either!
On March 12, the judge sentenced Rasmea to 18 months in prison.
However, she is out on bail pending appeal.
We can still turn this around!
Go to justice4rasmea.org to
find out how to help.
By Chaya and Deni
Boring, pretentious, shallow, self-important,
politically dishonest, homophobic, racist, phony, sexist, misogynist,
trite piffle! Endless and vapid. And did we mention we didn’t like it?
The few decent lines didn’t make up for much in two hours and forty
minutes of eternity (who cares if it took them 12 years to achieve this),
especially with so much bad acting.
Directed by Ava DuVernay,
this film tells the story about the 1965 struggle for voting rights in
Selma, Alabama as led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The acting by David
Oyelowo as Dr. King was quite strong, as were some of the supporting
roles. Deni particularly liked Wendell Pierce in the role of Dr. Josea
Williams (he was great in Treme and The Wire). The story is about a
time in history that still inspires people in their work for justice in
this country, and clearly connects to the ongoing work of groups like
Black Lives Matter in illustrating the historical roots of racism. The
film can serve to educate generations who aren’t taught this history in
school, but we found it disappointing for several reasons. Despite this
dramatic historical event, the film seemed flat and didn’t really grab
us. The writing was sometimes contrived and inauthentic; there were too
many “talky” scenes without dramatic tension; and Coretta Scott King
was portrayed in a standard female role, her strength exhibited mostly by
her willingness to overlook her husband’s affairs and support his work.
The important roles of women in the Civil Rights Movement were seriously
under-represented. Diane Nash – a key organizer and strategist – was
included almost as window dressing, given just about 1 meaningful line in
the movie. Too bad they left out Sheyann Webb, who at 8 years old, snuck
out of her house to attend civil rights meetings at the church, led the
congregation in freedom songs, and began skipping school to attend
demonstrations. She was on that March 7, 1965 march from Selma to
Montgomery, the youngest one there. When the marchers crossed the bridge
and were attacked by police, Sheyann ran back across the bridge, helped by
Dr. Josea Williams. Surely some of the talky stuff in the movie could have
been left out to inspire us with Sheyann’s story.
All this said, it was
clearly unacceptable for the Oscars to so ignore Selma in its nominations.
Twitter boycotts were called of the Oscars (#boycottoscars, #OscarsSoWhite)
and we did observe that boycott (ok, not such a hardship even for us
filmies, the Oscars being so generally annoying and offensive.) But online
we were able to watch John Legend after he and Common accepted the award
for Best Song for “Glory” from Selma when he said: “We know that
right now the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the
most incarcerated country in the world,” Legend said. “There are more
black men under correctional control today than there were under slavery
THE IMITATION GAME
Benedict Cumberbatch is terrific in the true story of
Alan Turing, the brilliant British mathematician and logician recruited by the British government
during World War II to crack the Enigma code that encrypted the Nazi’s
messages. The “thriller” part of the movie is watching Turing
figure out how to do it. Credited with helping to end World War II sooner,
Turing is considered the father of modern computer science. The movie
somewhat downplayed but did not eliminate Turing’s identity as a gay
man. Homosexuality was illegal in Britain until 1967. During the
investigation of a burglary that took place at Turing’s home after the
war, he told the police that he was homosexual. He was charged with gross
indecency and pled guilty.
In lieu of prison, he chose probation with chemical castration by estrogen
treatments for a year. Turing lost his security clearance and was
stigmatized by homophobia. Fourteen months later, in 1954, Turing was
found dead at his home, apparently from cyanide poisoning, although a
controversy remains as to whether the exposure to the cyanide was
accidental. He was 41. The movie was quite engaging, well written
and well acted with an excellent supporting cast including Keira Knightly
and Alan Leech. The British government issued a posthumous apology to
Turing in 2009, but it wasn’t until a petition in 2013, signed by more
than 37,000 people and led by Stephen Hawking and other eminent
scientists, that Queen Elizabeth II granted a rare “mercy” pardon to
Turing. Hawking considers Turing one of the most important mathematicians
Deni: I thought Birdman was excellent, I really
enjoyed it. Great acting all around, especially Michael Keaton’s tour de
force performance, stunning cinematography, great mix of humor, pathos,
insightful reflection, and of course definitely great directing by
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Inarritu
is an eloquent speaker. When accepting his Best Director Oscar he said,
"I just want to take the opportunity, I want to dedicate this award
for my fellow Mexicans, the ones who live in Mexico. I pray that we can
find and build the government that we deserve.” Interpreted as a direct
criticism of Mexican President Nieto, his comments sparked a top-trending
hashtag in Mexico, #ElGobiernoQueMerecemos, with witty comments and
the movie in a theater if you can – this one deserves a big screen.
Nothing I read about Birdman mentioned that the cinematography was all
fast moving, hand-held camera work. We saw it in a very small (4 row)
theater, and my motion sickness kicked in big time, so it was not a
pleasant experience for me. I do appreciate some of the things Inarritu
did (fantasy/reality interplay, exploring what defines someone’s world
and their perspective on it). I thought some of the acting and writing was
unnecessarily overdone. But it was very creative.
Wild is based on the true story of a woman (Reese
Witherspoon) hiking the Pacific Crest Trail to deal with a divorce,
previous bad life choices, and most importantly, the death of her mother
(Laura Dern). Both Witherspoon and Dern are strong actors, and the
performances felt authentic. Cheryl Strayed, author of the memoir (Wild:
From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail), was
involved in the production and Reese took Strayed to the Golden Globe
Awards as her date. The film was done well, including the numerous
flashbacks into the past as she hikes over 1,000 miles alone. But we felt
the film was a little flat compared to the book, not just because of the
depth that books can have in relation to a movie. It needed a little more
oomph. Reese recently formed a production company and was one of the
film’s producers, and we’re glad to see her taking more control of her
films. Wild is that rare film that passes the Bechdel movie test (2 women
talking to each other about something other than men). In a recent
interview, Witherspoon said she’s often asked why she never plays weak
characters. Her response was, “I don’t know any weak women.”
GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
We watched 20 minutes of it and turned it off. We
liked Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom (2012), and his quirky approaches
in other films have worked. But despite the high-powered cast, we found
Budapest boring and annoying and couldn’t get into it.
OSCAR NOMINATED SHORT FILMS: LIVE ACTION (review by Deni)
Some wonderful short films, moving and funny, which
can be streamed on Vimeo. “Parvaneh” is a Swiss film about a young
Afghan immigrant woman named Parvaneh who works in a remote area in the
Swiss Alps. When she travels to Zurich to try to send her mother money for
her sick father, she develops a relationship with a hip young Swiss woman.
The difficulties of being an immigrant and the connection between the two
women create a story that challenges stereotypes and renews hope. In the
Irish film “Boogaloo and Graham,” set in Belfast during The Troubles,
two young brothers are given baby chicks by their dad, and their
attachment to the growing chicks plays out amidst the hardships of daily
life. Good acting and writing, a charming and funny film despite the armed
British troops on patrol. “Butter Lamp,” a film from France and China,
portrays groups of Tibetan nomadic families posing for a traveling
photographer in front of a series of oddly contrasting backgrounds. A
moving and insightful film that delivers a strong visual impression with
low-key cinematic action. Very offbeat and inventive. “The Phone Call”
from Great Britain stars Sally Hawkins in an excellently acted role as a
worker at a crisis center, handling a call from a man who has given up on
life and just wants someone to talk to at his life’s end. It’s an
emotional and gripping film, though in a more traditional format than the
others films. Last and least was the annoying and boring Israeli film “Aya,”
which I feel sure I would’ve disliked even if it wasn’t from Israel
and didn’t show endless miles of highways that constantly made me think
about the Israeli roads that are “for Jews only.”
BITS AND PIECES
GENERAL HOSPITAL AND TRAUMA CENTER FOR TREATMENT OF FACEBOOK BUS INJURIES
TO PROTESTERS Facebook CEO
Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla are giving $75 million to the San
Francisco General Hospital Foundation. In exchange, the new hospital
building and the soon-to-be renovated existing SFGH will be called The
Priscilla and Mark Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma
Center. The cockles of our hearts are getting warmed (and we don’t even
know what they are) just thinking about a county hospital that treats poor
and uninsured people, named after a tech billionaire. But, just for fun,
we thought we’d calculate what percentage of the Zuckerberg fortune this
$75 million gift represents. The Zuckerbergs have an estimated $33.3
billion, so $75 million is a paltry .2% ! You read that right – it’s
less than half a percent of their money. But, just as a reference point,
if a family had an income of $50,000 and gave away .2%, it would be $100!
Go Zuckerbergs! But who’s counting? Surely not Priscilla, who is more
concerned with the non-monetary things in life. According to the
Zuckerberg-Chan relationship contract, Priscilla is guaranteed one
non-virtual date per week with Mark,
for a minimum of a hundred minutes of alone time, and it can’t be at
Facebook’s offices. Awwww.
DISLIKING TAYLOR SWIFT ENOUGH? This
should do it: she’s planning a concert in Israel this summer netting her
$2.5 million. On her website she says: “Let’s
try to avoid topics and conversations that lean towards political or
religious topics. In the end, someone will inevitably get offended and
this just isn’t the place for that.” Guess what, Taylor.
Not honoring the cultural boycott with a performance in Israel is
political. And we’re offended.
NEWS/BAD NEWS Taking
a lead from the HuffPost’s new feature of “good news” stories, the
Mocha Column is going to indulge in a little of same, but with a twist:
the good news, followed by the bad.
GN/BN: Good news: In early February, the
federal government pledged $3.2 million to help save the monarch
butterfly. Bad news: The species has experienced a 90% population drop due
to capitalist habitat destruction, the rise of genetically modified crops,
and Monsanto’s herbicides which kill the milkweed the monarch’s larvae
need. So, the feds are throwing a pittance at a major capitalist-created
environmental nightmare. Monarchs yes, Monsanto no!
news: Due to strong community organizing, civil liberties lawsuits, and
public investigations, NYC has taken steps to end solitary confinement in
2016 for incarcerated people under 21 years old. (We know, the fact that
this has existed all these years is so awful that ending it hardly seems
like good news, not to mention waiting a whole year, but…) Bad news: The
Board of Correction (BOC) only agreed to go along with the youth solitary
ban if NYC meets the following bad conditions: hiring more guards and
prison staff, putting in a new $15 million “security” camera network,
and building a new 250-bed housing unit known
as “enhanced supervision housing” (ESHU), in which
“violent” prisoners will be locked in their cells for 17 hours a day,
rather than the standard 10 hours. Mayor de Blasio’s proposed budget
includes the funding for these conditions, a position he was forced into
by the BOC to get the solitary ban. Tear down the walls, don’t give them
MONEY In a
revelation worthy of a great heist film, it was announced in February that
up to $1 billion has been taken from banks worldwide by a sophisticated
group of hackers. The NY Times says that “the scope of this attack on
more than 100 banks and other financial institutions in 30 nations could
make it one of the largest bank thefts ever — and one conducted without
the usual signs of robbery.” This “redistribution” of funds has been
going on for over two years, according to a Russian cybersecurity firm,
Kaspersky Lab. Really, to get the full impact of the story, check out the
online NY Times article with its great graphic illustrations of how the
hackers are doing it. We at the Mocha Column are hoping that these hackers
are a Robin Hood band, and will be funding queer anti-capitalist
insurrection projects around the world any minute now. Those so-called
“banks made of marble with a guard at every door” seem awfully
vulnerable to cyberattacks. Perhaps Kaspersky Lab would like to work more
closely with the FBI in cybersecurity. See next item.
FBI SEEKS ETHICAL
HACKERS TO JOIN CYBERBRANCH According
to a spokesperson for the bureau’s criminal, cyber, response and
services branch, “The FBI is seeking highly talented, technically
trained individuals who are motivated by the FBI’s mission to protect
our nation and the American people from the rapidly evolving cyberthreat.
Experience in ethical hacking is a plus.” (Lest you think we made this
up, it was reported in the mainstream media in late December.) To sign up,
get 3 references and send them to the Mocha Column. We’ll shred them.
YOU DON’T OWN
ME/LIVE LONG AND PROSPER A
fond farewell to 2 icons of the 1960s, who were both beamed up last week
– Leslie Gore (a lesbian) and Leonard Nimoy (a Vulcan).
WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF
WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF
We Can Save CCSF
When the Accreditation Commission for Community and
Junior Colleges (ACCJC) acted to revoke the accreditation of City College
of San Francisco in 2013, the un-elected Board of Governors (BOG)
indefinitely suspended the democratically elected seven-member Board of
Trustees, and handed over unilateral power to an appointed Special Trustee
with Extraordinary Powers (STWEP).
That decision was found to be unlawful by CA Superior
Court Judge Curtis Karnow. Both Chancellor Harris and former BOG President
Manuel Baca have stated they would not have suspended the elected Board,
except for the ACCJC's assurances that such a move would save the college
from dis-accreditation—assurances that proved to be patently untrue. But
in February 2015, Harris announced that the board will not be given back
their powers until July. He appointed a new STWEP.
Save CCSF has a petition demanding the immediate
return of the City College of San Francisco democratically elected Board
of Trustees! No STWEP! To sign the petiion and for more info:
We’re Gonna Roll
the Union On
There’s so much money swirling around Silicon Valley
and the tech companies that thrive there.
But the service workers who cook and clean and do security for
those companies do not share in that wealth.
The companies shout about how environmentally friendly they are by
providing shuttle bus service for their high paid workers but they don’t
pay the drivers of those shuttle buses a living wage.
Instead they contract out that work to some other company so they
can claim it’s not their fault. On Feb 27th, drivers for
workers at Yahoo, Google, Apple, Genentech, eBay and Zynga voted 104 to 38
to join the Teamsters union in an election overseen by the National Labor
November, drivers for Facebook, employed by Loop Transportation, voted to
unionize, also with the Teamsters, and just signed their first contract
which provides for higher wages, full health insurance and paid sick and
The Teamsters plan to use that contract as the new
standard for all the shuttle bus drivers who ferry high-tech workers from
their homes in San Francisco, the East Bay and elsewhere to their offices
in the valley. I still hate all those huge and ugly shuttle buses that
clog up city streets and park in MUNI bus stops but, as a former bus
driver for MUNI, We are very glad that the drivers of those buses now have
a union that can guarantee them decent working conditions.
The Cuban Five (Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero,
Ramon Labañino, Fernando González, and René González) were arrested in
the late 1990s on espionage charges here in the U.S., but they weren't
spying on the U.S. government. The 5 were in Miami infiltrating
Cuban-American paramilitary groups that were based in Miami and dedicated
to the violent overthrow of the Cuban government. René González was
released in 2011, Fernando González was released in early 2014, and the
remaining three were released on Decemeber 17, 2014 as part of the Obama
administration’s thawing of political relations with Cuba. There has
been growing support in the US to end the embargo against Cuba and
normalize diplomatic relations. Upon the return to Cuba of the last three
of the Cuban 5, there were huge demonstrations in Cuba celebrating their
Assata Shakur is a freedom fighter, living in
political exile in Cuba since 1979. In the 1970’s she was a member of
the Black Panther Party, the Black Liberation Army, and the Republic of
New Afrika. Targeted and vilified by COINTELPRO, Assata was subjected to a
series of trials and was imprisoned in the 1970’s. In 1979, she escaped
a New Jersey prison and lived in the US as a fugitive for several years.
In 1984, Assata fled to Cuba and was granted political asylum there, where
she continues to live. After the recent thawing of US/Cuba relations, New
Jersey pressured Cuba to return Assata to the US. Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s
foreign ministry head of North American affairs has said that Cuba would
not return Assata. “We’ve explained to the U.S. government in the past
that there are some people living in Cuba to whom Cuba has legitimately
granted political asylum,” Vidal said. “There’s no extradition
treaty in effect between Cuba and the U.S.” So, you can go from the US
to Cuba now and bring back cigars, but hands off Assata!
Black Women’s Lives Matter
Oakland Film Premiere
Tales of the Grim Sleeper
A new film by Nick Broomfield that highlights the devaluation of Black
women’s lives and the lives of sex workers.
Wednesday, March 18th, 7pm
Omni Commons Ballroom
4799 Shattuck Ave (nr 48th St.)
Organized by US Prostitutes Collective, firstname.lastname@example.org