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“Utopian demands are for some the last and only hope.”

May 3, 2016

screenshot of http://newhive.com/escraaatch/blackdivasseries1

Alice Walker told me that the right to be a self-builder and a space-maker, to create spaces outside of the colonial gaze from which to view myself and others like me, is a Utopian demand that I must live out through my art/perform thoroughly, in a way that has blood and bone-marrow. I am not the first person to feel this way, the current only one, and I will not be the last. I look up to the work of artists like Adrian Piper, Lorraine O’Grady, Lorna Simpson, Kara Walker, Ebony G. Patterson, Hannah Black, Sondra Perry, and of many others.

I feel that we are entering an age where many Utopian demands should and will be met (in and outside of the field of art) soon or demanded with such vigor that the plates of certain foundations may shift. The future will be different from the present, because for some the present reality is simply too brutal and too overwhelming to be accepted/endured. This is a time where Utopian demands are for some the last and only hope. My art is for these people and the communities of other artists who are also making for us.

Read more | PennMFA 2016 Thesis Statement | E. Jane

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“Free the land!”

April 27, 2016

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Cooperatives have a long history in black American life. There were co-ops for sharecroppers seeking better markets for their produce, co-ops for townspeople who wanted better prices for basic commodities, and cooperative communes that tried to create a new world apart from white supremacy.

Twenty years ago, Jessica Gordon Nembhard, a political economist at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, began to notice a hidden economy at work in African American life. Again and again, people were organizing themselves in creative forms of cooperative enterprise, democratically owned and managed by those who took part. Starting with the co-ops listed in W. E. B. Du Bois’s 1907 book Economic Cooperation Among Negro Americans, she began reconstructing a history, eventually published in her 2014 book Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice, that, before, had only been told in bits and pieces, passed down through families but rarely seen as significant. There were co-ops for sharecroppers seeking better markets for their produce, co-ops for townspeople who wanted better prices for basic commodities, and cooperative communes that tried to create a new world apart from white supremacy. Where white banks wouldn’t lend money, credit unions arose. These efforts faced sabotage and repression. But they were always around. “There’s really no time in US history when African Americans were not doing cooperative projects,” Nembhard told me.

Read more | “The Revolutionary Life and Strange Death of a Radical Black Mayor” | Nathan Schneider | VICE magazine

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“At its white heart trans is a regime of gender legibility”

April 20, 2016

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Internal and external to the digital trans community, there exist two general tendencies for defining trans, both of which reify different performances of legibility: a medicalization orientation and an identitarian orientation. Both paradigms agree that the psychological pathologization of trans is harmful to our community. Briefly: the removal of homosexuality from the DSM co-occured with the introduction of gender dysphoria to its pages. By presenting dysphoria as purely psychological, the DSM entry allows for the argument that trans people don’t need any more medical access than therapy. Thus, in spite of the split among the trans community, both paradigms agree on two things: that trans people, however defined, require medical access, and that trans is not a psychological disorder.

What is it, then? For the medicalization group, trans is a neurological condition. This group privileges medical evidence about brain structure above all else. Because there is no medical evidence of nonbinary brains, medicalizationists may often consider nonbinary, genderfluid, and genderqueer trans people, as well as trans people who don’t experience dysphoria, “not really trans.” The identitarians, on the other hand, see trans as an inherently political position with respect to categories of difference within capitalism, and privileges personal accounts about oppression above all else. The argument is that trans as political identity challenges capitalism’s regime of binary gender assignment, its relegation of reproductive labor to the unwaged “feminine” sphere. Instead, as we’ve known since John Money’s controversial work and his creation of the term “gender identity,” there are more than two sexes, potentially infinite actual genders, and a multitude of invasive cross-cultural procedures for making people fit capitalism’s two “genders.”

As a Dominican nonbinary trans person of color not currently interested in transitioning, I don’t see any particular advantage to either position. Medicalizationists have no room for me, since, as Toby Beauchamp puts it, medical “surveillance focuses first on individuals’ legibility as transgender, and then, following medical interventions, on their ability to conceal any trans status or gender deviance.” (Beauchamp 2009: 357). On the other hand, identitarians overdetermine my life circumstances, particularly my gender, as inherently political. Further, the politicization of dysphoria, “coming-out” narratives and queer-nationalist oppression olympics draw their pathological power from the subsumption of trans of color narratives: just as white “Men’s Rights activists” leech off statistics about men of color to give import to their cause, the mainstream, whitewashed image of the suffering trans person gains much of its traction from sociological statistics about trans of color circumstances. However, from the vantage point of my dysphoria, I do find myself more drawn to the identitarian position. Medicalizationists are sometimes called “truscum” for advocating that you need dysphoria to be trans. Conversely, the term “transtrender” often denotes someone who identifies as trans and does not (ever or often) experience dysphoria.

An identitarian understanding of trans is more agnostic and fluid about dysphoria, and I’m drawn to this because I don’t think hatred, disgust, fear, and other negative feelings about one’s genitalia and gender role are trans-specific. Neither do I think that all trans people “should” feel these feelings and others characteristic of dysphoria. It would be bad science to argue that whatever neurological conditions result in trans also deterministically result in dysphoric feelings. However, I also find the identitarian focus on anticapitalist, “binary-smashing” performativity to be a metaphysical limit on what trans can be, as though our value as living people is entirely reducible to the metaphorical value of our circumstances in the struggle against capitalism. As such, both sides of the ideological divide are regimes of legibility originating in race, whether it’s the reification of medical evidence and trans-exclusivity of dysphoria of one faction, or the emphasis on performativity, “identity-exploration,” and “coming-out” stories of the other faction.

Read more | “Transtrender: a meditation on gender as a racial construct” | Manuel Arturo Abreu | NewHive Blog

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“All we have to do is invite ourselves to his place to have a drink. The revolution is now.”

April 12, 2016

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The crowd sets off and the movement hits of the day link up: “Everyone hates the police!,” “Paris, on your feet, rise up!”, etc. The demonstrators, this time, have a dynamism, a vigor, a plebeian joy that has not been seen for quite some time. At the rear, the vans of the unions are feverish. It’s either the clutch or the brake, support the youth or dissociate from them and isolate them. The choice is hard to make since the youth seem to make a mockery of any kind of support they gain. The youth invite themselves and will not even say thank you.

Read more | “And the party has just begun…(April 9th, Paris)” | Lundi Matin, trans. ediciones chafa

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“This is a Call to Action Against Slavery in America”

April 4, 2016

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In one voice, rising from the cells of long term solitary confinement, echoed in the dormitories and cell blocks from Virginia to Oregon, we prisoners across the United States vow to finally end slavery in 2016.

On September 9th of 1971 prisoners took over and shut down Attica, New York State’s most notorious prison. On September 9th of 2016, we will begin an action to shut down prisons all across this country. We will not only demand the end to prison slavery, we will end it ourselves by ceasing to be slaves.

In the 1970s the US prison system was crumbling. In Walpole, San Quentin, Soledad, Angola and many other prisons, people were standing up, fighting and taking ownership of their lives and bodies back from the plantation prisons. For the last six years we have remembered and renewed that struggle. In the interim, the prisoner population has ballooned and technologies of control and confinement have developed into the most sophisticated and repressive in world history. The prisons have become more dependent on slavery and torture to maintain their stability.

Prisoners are forced to work for little or no pay. That is slavery. The 13th amendment to the US constitution maintains a legal exception for continued slavery in US prisons. It states “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” Overseers watch over our every move, and if we do not perform our appointed tasks to their liking, we are punished. They may have replaced the whip with pepper spray, but many of the other torments remain: isolation, restraint positions, stripping off our clothes and investigating our bodies as though we are animals.

Slavery is alive and well in the prison system, but by the end of this year, it won’t be anymore. This is a call to end slavery in America. This call goes directly to the slaves themselves. We are not making demands or requests of our captors, we are calling ourselves to action. To every prisoner in every state and federal institution across this land, we call on you to stop being a slave, to let the crops rot in the plantation fields, to go on strike and cease reproducing the institutions of your confinement.

This is a call for a nation-wide prisoner work stoppage to end prison slavery, starting on September 9th, 2016. They cannot run these facilities without us.

Non-violent protests, work stoppages, hunger strikes and other refusals to participate in prison routines and needs have increased in recent years. The 2010 Georgia prison strike, the massive rolling California hunger strikes, the Free Alabama Movement’s 2014 work stoppage, have gathered the most attention, but they are far from the only demonstrations of prisoner power. Large, sometimes effective hunger strikes have broken out at Ohio State Penitentiary, at Menard Correctional in Illinois, at Red Onion in Virginia as well as many other prisons. The burgeoning resistance movement is diverse and interconnected, including immigrant detention centers, women’s prisons and juvenile facilities. Last fall, women prisoners at Yuba County Jail in California joined a hunger strike initiated by women held in immigrant detention centers in California, Colorado and Texas.

Prisoners all across the country regularly engage in myriad demonstrations of power on the inside. They have most often done so with convict solidarity, building coalitions across race lines and gang lines to confront the common oppressor.

Forty-five years after Attica, the waves of change are returning to America’s prisons. This September we hope to coordinate and generalize these protests, to build them into a single tidal shift that the American prison system cannot ignore or withstand. We hope to end prison slavery by making it impossible, by refusing to be slaves any longer.

To achieve this goal, we need support from people on the outside. A prison is an easy-lockdown environment, a place of control and confinement where repression is built into every stone wall and chain link, every gesture and routine. When we stand up to these authorities, they come down on us, and the only protection we have is solidarity from the outside. Mass incarceration, whether in private or state-run facilities is a scheme where slave catchers patrol our neighborhoods and monitor our lives. It requires mass criminalization. Our tribulations on the inside are a tool used to control our families and communities on the outside. Certain Americans live every day under not only the threat of extra-judicial execution—as protests surrounding the deaths of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland and so many others have drawn long overdue attention to—but also under the threat of capture, of being thrown into these plantations, shackled and forced to work.

Our protest against prison slavery is a protest against the school to prison pipeline, a protest against police terror, a protest against post-release controls. When we abolish slavery, they’ll lose much of their incentive to lock up our children, they’ll stop building traps to pull back those who they’ve released. When we remove the economic motive and grease of our forced labor from the US prison system, the entire structure of courts and police, of control and slave-catching must shift to accommodate us as humans, rather than slaves.

Prison impacts everyone, when we stand up and refuse on September 9th, 2016, we need to know our friends, families and allies on the outside will have our backs. This spring and summer will be seasons of organizing, of spreading the word, building the networks of solidarity and showing that we’re serious and what we’re capable of.

Step up, stand up, and join us.
Against prison slavery.
For liberation of all.

Find more information, updates and organizing materials and opportunities at the following websites:

 

Original post | “Announcement of Nationally Coordinated Prisoner Workstoppage for Sept 9, 2016” | Support Prisoner Resistance

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