Sunday, December 17, 2006

Estación Libre (Part 1: Karl Jagbandhansingh)

Founded in 1997, Estación Libre (EL) works to strengthen the connections between communities of color (in the U.S.) with each other and the Zapatista movement. I've already included here at Zapagringo an interview with EL member Ashanti Alston and I hope to continue highlighting the amazing work of Estación Libre's chapters and members as time goes on...Here's an interview with Karl Jagbandhansingh, co-founder of EL...special thanks to the folks at Matrix Magazine in Humboldt, California for allowing us to republish this interview...

Karl Singh
Interviewed by Dina Rodriguez & Victoria Gutierrez
Originally appeared in print in The Matrix Magazine (Spring 2006)

Karl Jagbandhansingh is a longtime activist and organizer inspired by the Zapatistas. He recently moved out to Oakland in the bay area of California, after years of work in the East Coast. His main efforts are focused around and with Estación Libre (EL), a collective created by and for people of color. EL, which means “Freedom Station”, operates a physical space in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, where folks of color from the U.S. can engage in struggle with the Zapatistas; with the intention that EL folks apply their developed skills and connect their experiences in Chiapas to their various communities in struggle within the U.S. This past February, Karl accompanied former Black Panther Party member and Zapatista–inspired anarchist Ashanti Alston to Arcata as part of Black Liberation Month at HSU. During this visit, they participated in a series of spaces that included a film screening and discussion of Lee Lew Lee’s documentary “All Power to the People,” a mitote, and some intimate spaces for dialogue and community building. What follows is a tidbit of our cherished conversation with Karl, where he shares his past and present struggles, inspirations, frustrations and hopes around the Zapatista movement and beyond.

The Matrix: Could you tell us a little bit about some of the organizing spaces you are currently involved with?

Karl Jagbandhansingh: Well basically, I’ve only been working with one group, EL, since ‘97. It’s been my primary focus, and I just moved out to the bay area. We used to have an EL chapter here a number of years ago but it since kind of disintegrated ... I’m sure eventually we’ll start up a chapter here out in the bay area but I’m still working with EL–even though it’s not a geographical space where we’re all together, it’s a liberated territory of minds. At the same time, Estación Libre is a network/organization of local collectives of Zapatista inspired people of color. There are now Estación Libre collectives in Durham, North Carolina; Los Angeles and New York City.

Could you elaborate a little on what EL is exactly and what you all do?

EL is a people of color organization which focuses on building ties between struggles of communities of color in the United States with the Zapatista struggle, with the goal of learning from the living model of the Zapatistas and trying to figure out how we can apply the lessons learned back here in what Ashanti calls “the brain of the empire.” So what do we do?

I guess a lot of the tangible work that we do is host delegations of folks of color, get a chance to network and work with folks of color, activists from different parts of the country, from different ethnic backgrounds and try to work some stuff out amongst ourselves; but then also get a chance to see how the Zapatistas are practicing and building autonomy in their own communities. And then there’s folks in EL who are involved in a lot of different kinds of work up here. So in Durham they’ll actually be opening up a physical space, a community space. It’s a great space they they’ve been building with their own hands. Putting up walls as well as painting them. It’s a space where they can show films as well as have meetings. One of their first classes will be ESL classes for the quickly growing Mexican immigrant community. They’re opening on May 1st. In Los Angeles folks have been ignited by La Otra Campaña and have been busy organizing around that. They’ve also been working with the Autonomous People’s Collective, and people are involved with great projects around environmental racism or projects like Homeboy Industries and La Causa Youth Build. In New York we’ve had an inspired and inspiring infusion of fresh blood and I’m excited to see what happens. A lot of the New York OGs have been involved with Critical Resistance and Casa Atabex Aché.

Could you tell us a little bit about your background, with regards to how you got involved in political activism and organizing?

I was fortunate enough to have parents who were at least peripherally involved with some movement stuff. My dad, whose side of the family originally comes from India, was down south in the ‘50s and so a lot of his consciousness came into being by being a person of color in racist white America. I got a lot of racial politic stuff from him, just from being around him. But it wasn’t really until I got to college I was fortunate – I guess in some ways – because of a pivotal experience in my life, to be able to experience the brutal nature of racist America up close. I had been a little bit naïve [until then] and I had heard my dad ranting and raving about the racist white power structure but never really understood it.

During this attack, it was me and a friend, an Asian guy, who were attacked by three drunk white guys and we actually sent someone to get the campus security and when the campus security – and it was a racial incident, they started off calling us racial epithets: chink, etc. – when the campus security, who later became cops that year ... when they finally arrived at the scene, they jumped us and held us down and the three white attackers ran out never to be found. And so that was a big wake up for me that this stuff was going on; and then as we tried to address the situation we came up against the administration which talked all kinds of pretty words at us ... but on the bottom line, dollars were more important to them then all the good words that they were talking about. And so they never followed through on all the things that they had promised us ...

We had an unresponsive university administration; when we would talk with them [they] would agree with all the stuff we were saying ... would agree that racism was bad, would agree that there needed to be racism awareness classes ... but when push came to shove they would always drop our stuff because it cost them money. There was an example of that, [that] we had learned that the university ... (that) had happened earlier – and I forget the exact dates – but I think it had happened in the late ‘60s ... there was this tradition that they had at the university called ‘Cakewalk’, and what it would be would be a group of white students, frat students, who would dress up with black face and dance around as slaves were made to do back during slavery days for the white master and as a reward for this dance they would get a cake, so it’s called ‘cakewalk’. And this was part of the tradition. Now, there was a movement started by the few black students who were at the University of Vermont at that time to stop this racist thing from taking place. It was a movement that the student body managed to get behind and the student government at the time actually voted it down and asked them to change this cakewalk from taking place. What ended up happening though ... so the university administration decided to take away this tradition called cakewalk – they decided that it was racist and bad to be doing this racist dance thing – and then donors came out and said, ‘If you take away this tradition, we’re not going to give you any money.’ And so, even though the university, the administration, the student body, the faculty, and all them think that this is a racist tradition that they were taking part of, when it came down to the money versus doing what’s right, they went for the money. And this is the same thing that happened to us, and it was really eye opening for us because a lot of us were really naïve in thinking, ‘Okay this is an institution that’s supposed to be about higher education’ and really it’s a big business. And we were lucky enough to be able to go back in history and look for a solution to our dilemma.

So we looked at what happened with the issue of Cakewalk; we saw white folks in power selling out their morals, their principles, their ethics, their humanity for a dollar. And there are two versions to the story that I have heard. One is that there was a group of black Saint Michael’s students (a neighboring university), and the other is that it was a group of Black Panthers. Anyway the story goes that after this political stuggle which managed to win public opinion to it’s side... which managed to secure student and faculty support... and after folks buckled under the heavy weight of the dollar... a group of young black folks threatened to come by and help them live up to their own principles... and they promised that they would be very convincing. This effective counter-pressure helped shift the campaign back on track and Cakewalk was ended at the University of Vermont.

I guess part of what was also fortunate for our development in our dealings with this unresponsive administration is that after they would talk all kinds of good stuff to us and then not be willing to do any of it [is] then we had to decide, Well, what are we going to do about it and then we thought – if they’re not going to provide this kind of stuff for us – then we’re going to do it for ourselves. And so we began organizing amongst ourselves to try and address what was going on ... and again, fortunately, our numbers were so small, unlike in other big cities and a lot of other institutions where you have larger numbers of folks of color ... our numbers were so small that we were forced to work together just to have some strength and alliances. So the Black Student Union, the Asian Student Union, the Latino Alliance, which were all started up after we got there, by the same group of students who didn’t even have those clubs in existence before we got there, we were all forced to work together and get to know each other and deal with some of our issues that normally folks don’t get a chance to deal with. And even beyond that, our numbers were still very small, so along with having these alliances amongst folks of color, there were also alliances with women’s organizations, gay and lesbian, bisexual alliance, with the Disabled Students Union ... so we began to have a broader perspective of what it meant to be engaged in struggle.

We know that it’s easy for a space, focused on the empowerment of people of color, like EL, to be labeled as being divisive or perpetuating factionalism. How do you respond to these types of claims when made against EL?

Well, first of all, it’s not like we don’t interact with white folks. We have alliances with white folks, which allows us to do our work better. We’ve even done delegations, we’ve had delegations, hosted delegations where white folks were a part of it, but our focus is people of color. For better or for worse, we all are victims of this dehumanizing system and some of us experience that victimization differently than others. For example, would it be factionalizing or...what was the word you used?

Divisive.

...divisive, to say to a woman’s organization, “Oh, you have to have men in there,” when some of these women have suffered some brutal abuse by men in their lives, have been victims of rape ... ? There are traumas that we experience that sometimes we need to have a safe space where we can be amongst ourselves and heal our wounds. During that phase, you need to keep the other element out, whether that’s men in the group, well intentioned as we might be, sometimes exhibit the sexist behavior that we’ve learned from the system. And the same way with white folks. Whether they like it or not, they’ve been socialized by this racist system. When we have these delegations and a white person wants to participate, if there’s one person of color in the group who doesn’t feel comfortable with that, then that white person isn’t allowed. So it’s not that we’re not allowing folks, but were putting our needs first, and there is no other organization out there that does that for us.

For better or for worse, again, it’s just the way that it ends up happening, you have a lot of groups out there that end up being white groups. So there are other folks doing this kind of work and their delegations and nobody’s picking on them and I’m not even picking on them ... maybe I’m picking on them ... I should pick on them a little for being exclusively white groups ... Why don’t they focus on, ‘Why did we need to come into existence as EL?’ Because of the fact that there was a need – because everybody that was down there was white, pretty much. It wasn’t until we started doing our work that some of these organizations began to become conscious of the fact that they were white and then began to start reaching out to other folks of color.

We were just curious if you, being in EL, do you get those types of comments your way, or does the group in itself?

We get that a lot actually. When Miguel and myself first started working on EL...

Who’s Miguel again?

Miguel Rodriguez. Miguel was down in Chiapas in ‘97 as part of an advanced team that was sent by a number of Chicano organizations in Los Angeles to help set up for the Chicano Indigenous Cultural Encuentro, which took place in Oventik in the summer of ’97 – I believe it was August but I’m not positive. And during the course of that organizing of that conference for the Encuentro, the Chicano folks from these organizations realized the need – that they wanted to have a more permanent space in Chiapas, so that folks can continually be coming through and being in alliance with the Zapatista struggle. Of those folks, only Miguel was able to stay down there at that time. It was through the organizing of this conference that I met Miguel ... and me, not being Chicano myself, wanted us to broaden up the concept a little bit of what they were talking about, to have a people of color space; instead of it [being] just a purely Chicano-focused space. So that Miguel ... what was I saying?

When we first met, when we first started talking our about future plans – in our discussions about race and racism ... we were starting to meet college professors in Mexico who wanted us to come talk to them about race, because a lot of the general knowledge that we have about race as folks of color within the United States ... it’s like part of our culture in a lot of different ways in [the] understanding of race. Even though we may not be as articulate as other folks; we have an understanding of race; we have an understanding of white skin privilege, that ... I think in general, the folks in Mexico don’t have – the same kind of analysis on race. I think there’s probably a lot of reasons for that – the fact that there were slaves here is a big difference. So that they don’t have the same type of articulations about race, but they do have in general, a much deeper class analysis in general than we think folks in the United States have. So in the very beginning, even folks down there ... other folks who are involved – like Mexicans – who are involved in different kinds of struggle in different levels, have the same kinds of questions for us, that white folks were questioning us with, like, ‘Hey, you guys are being exclusionary, you guys are being divisive’, and we would have to take the time to go and explain this again and again. People eventually got it, and I think you do see a different kind of articulation about race in general that you find out there. Uh, I think I’m gonna have a cigarette – I’m losing my words...

You can smoke and talk at the same time, right? Speaking about Chiapas ... what inspires you most about what’s going on within Chiapas and the Zapatista movement, and what frustrates you the most?

Okay, I guess we’ll start with what inspires me most – I think there’s lots of things about the Zapatista struggle that inspires me a whole heck of a lot. I think it’s because they bring together a lot of different pieces of what we need to see in struggle. So they have, for example, effectively, creatively used the media to help spread their word. They put women at the forefront of the struggle; they have been able to make bridges across ethnic lines, across barriers of language. They have created institutions that are needed in the community that meet the needs of folks in their own communities. So they have these women’s cooperatives, or coffee cooperatives. They have created their own educational system; their own junior high school–and I guess the high school is in the process of being created– but their own junior high school with their own curriculum ... With their own teachers – which they don’t call teachers, they call them promotores – because a teacher kind of represents ... the notion of teacher has somebody up above and somebody below, and somebody trying to teach something to somebody else ... but it’s just folks who promote education. They have created their own clinic, and then trained their own folks to learn how to do different kinds of basic medicine that were lacking in these communities. They’ve been able to focus upon very local stuff, but recognize how that plays out on the global scheme of things. And um, uh... let me take another puff...

Frustrations?

Wait a second, wait a second, I’m not done.

You have more inspirations then.

Yeah yeah ... and they’ve managed to put out this long-term political vision which doesn’t get caught up in some kind of dogmatic close-minded expression. Their language is very human and very simple – at some times – I mean then sometimes they talk about very complex ideas as well, which is harder to read through sometimes, but their langage in general is accessible to a lot of different folks. And they put humanity, life, dignity, at the very center of their struggle. They’re rooted in their indigenous traditions even while they’re accepting things from outside, uh, they recognized the need for armed struggle, but very uniquely – in comparison to other Latin American struggles –they very uniquely placed their military structure clearly subservient to their democratic community structures.

And I think perhaps, most importantly ... most inspiring of all is that the Zapatistas are not gods and goddesses. The Zapatistas are not supermen and superwomen; the Zapatistas are human beings, just like you and I. And what the Zapatistas have done, as very ordinary, down to earth human beings, is decided to say, “Okay, enough. No more begging from the government. No more pleading for them not attack us or harass us. No more scraping for these crumbs. We’re not even going to ask the government for anything; we’re going to create for our own. As ordinary human beings.” And as ordinary human beings, some of them without even shoes, [they’ve] managed to organize like this. I think we can too. This is part of what inspired me and Miguel when we first started talking about this [EL] informally; we were like, ‘Well, who are we to start this big organization with these lofty goals that we want to see take place? Who are we to try to create this?’ – and sometimes the system makes you feel so powerless, so little, that the efforts that you have to give are nowhere near enough. And this is what we thought to ourselves: ‘Okay, we haven’t even graduated from college, we’re not articulate enough, we’re not well-read enough.’

But, like the Zapatistas, who put out that model – that as an ordinary human being, you must organize and do what you can ... your small piece in the struggle to be able to help change this world. And in being engaged in that process, you realize that, Hey, this really might just work. If we can learn to recognize our own power that we’ve always had, that the people have always had, and that the masters of this global empire have tried to disguise from us with the illusion of their power.

Well what about the frustrations?

(Laughs) The frustrations... (laughs again) Am I being too long-winded?

No not all, we have hours for this...

So, um, frustrations. I just have a lot of frustrations. I don’t know how much I want to talk about them in public. But I guess some of the big ones – which is part of why we created this organization – the frustrations with “well-intentioned” white folks who haven’t really grappled with their own racism. Which is something you need to deal with on a daily level if you’re really gonna deal with this internalized crap that we all carry with us. I mean, I don’t mean to downplay the beneficial roles that lots of really good white folks have played – I don’t mean to undercut that at all –but I do have a lot of frustrations with folks who haven’t dealt with their own stuff, going into a foreign country to help ‘exotic, third-world peoples’, in a way that makes them feel like the messiah. The same folks who, when they come back here (or to Europe, or wherever they come from), manage to ignore the very same problems, or similar problems, different manifestations of the same problems, that are taking place in their own communities.

So I have a problem with somebody who goes to Chiapas to help these ‘exotic’ folks because they’re talking about humanity and they make you feel good ... but you can’t help folks who are struggling against the prison industrial complex, which is locking up Black and Brown folks up like it’s going out of style!? I have a problem with that. I have a problem with the fact that they’re cutting education here; they’re doing terrible stuff to our environment here, and folks can’t get on board with that, but they can go somewhere else. One of the things that the Zapatistas had talked about, and this impressed us from the very beginning; every single time when we had a delegation that went to meet with the Zapatistas, the question would arise: ‘What can we do to help you in your struggle?’ And the Zapatistas – once in a while they would ask us for help; monetary help with their clinic; or they would need medicines for their clinic; or sometimes they would ask for help selling the coffee at the cooperatives – but inevitably, and every single time, they would say, ‘Most important of all is you go back to where you come from, and organize there. If you want to help us in our struggle, go back to where you come from and organize there.’ And we feel this very strongly as Estación Libre; the best way that we could help the Zapatistas is to build movement here in the United States, within the brain of the empire.

Okay, on the frustrations ... I guess another frustration that I’ve had, and this was kind of interesting and eye-opening ... I had a chance to have some discussions with some folks about this with some Zapatistas in some of the communities –is that change is slow. (chuckles) Sometimes we want change to happen overnight, and so, for example, you have this kind of very harsh critique, and I think it’s a critique which just comes out of a different cultural background, a different viewpoint on life; but you have this critique that has come down by white feminists who will point out the fact that there’s inequalities in Zapatista communities. And, you know, I can’t argue with that – and this is even after the Zapatistas, they’ll talk about the first revolution, the first rebellion that they had, was the rebellion of the woman within the organizations, and they came up with the Women’s Revolutionary Laws. So that was like pretty basic for them; and to become a Zapatista community member, you have to take on the Women’s Revolutionary Laws – which was a big struggle for some folks! But even after that time, you still see inequality taking place; you will have meetings where men will talk more than women. But I think if you open your eyes you can notice that there have been incredible changes – that there is this incredible path of progress that they’ve embarked upon. And so, the change hasn’t happened overnight. But what the – we were talking with these folks up in Oventik one time – they were talking about the rate of change that they’re engaging is a very real rate of change; it’s a real human rate of change. And some of these things do take time. Uh, and so I guess that’s another frustration, is I always want – I mean like a lot of us – we want change to happen much more quickly. But sometimes building community is a long process.

This is kind of related to the last question: how do you think the Zapatistas have influenced change in the ways organizing is done in the U.S.?

‘How has the Zapatista struggle influenced the struggles within the United States?’ I guess what I want to say is... I don’t know what I want to say, I’m getting tired I guess, from talking so much. Let me see ... well, it gives us a lot of cool t-shirts to wear...

(Laughs) This is true, this is true.

And uh, people could talk all kinds of smack about, ‘Oh yeah, well, I’m doing this autonomous project’ and it’s really not autonomous (mocking tone). We have like cool language that we can use...

Ahh... (Laughs) Whoa...

‘I want to have a mitote...’ (laughs) Oh shit, no, okay, I’m just talking smack, I’m just talking smack. Sorry, sorry.

People could also go around on speaking tours on behalf of the Zapatistas ...

Yeah, right? ‘Zapapimpin.’

And have a lot of white hipsters show up...

Yeah, so I guess [the question was] ‘How it’s changed ...?’

We’re gonna call you ‘Tangent man’...

Uh, I think the Zapatistas in one of their earlier communiqués called ‘The Southeast and Two Winds’ – they talk about the wind from above and the wind from below. The wind from above from above would be the wind that these greed-driven maniacal vampires utilized – and the wind from below is our wind – you know, is the wind of the oppressed; is the wind of us organized together in unity against that oppression. The Zapatista wind, the wind from below, sets ablaze once again our inner fire. The Zapatista wind gives us hope in a world where we’re told that it’s hopeless. The Zapatista wind gives us a fresh breath of wind for our tired wings. The Zapatista wind not only helped to revitalize and spark a movement within all of Mexico, but within the United States – and really, around the world.

So, above and beyond anything else, the Zapatista wind, the Zapatista struggle, gave us all again hope; the feeling that we could do this. A lot of us were feeling tired and crushed and burnt out and that the power mongers were just gonna be winning, winning, winning. Because they were folks who come from such dire circumstances, with very few material resources at their disposal, without the same kind of access to education that we had. And yet these folks were able to organize themselves and confront the onslaught of this capitalist empire against them, withstand that, and then sustain themselves in face of considerable repression.

So I think it’s given us all hope, above and beyond anything else. So, there are lots of folks ... who were involved in Seattle ... they claim the Zapatistas as their inspiration. The oil workers who struck in Tabasco – claim the Zapatistas as their inspiration. You have groups in Europe who claim the Zapatistas as their inspiration. Claiming the Zapatistas as your inspiration, then, holds you into account in some way. So when you claim the Zapatistas as your inspiration you also then have to look at their model of leadership and say, ‘Okay, well then, we have to deal with these hierarchies within our organization, so we’re gonna try and organize in a non-hierarchal way. Okay, if we look at the model then we’re gonna really have to make sure we put women in the forefront of our struggle – that it’s not us men taking over all the time.’ If we’re really focused on the Zapatistas it’s gotta be about people – it’s gotta be about theory and practice.

Um, uh... and so I think a lot of the types of models of organizing that you see out there are ... there’s a lot of them that are really inspired and trying to draw from those lessons, in different ways. I think you see it manifest differently in different organizations. But I think there’s a general kind of understanding then, about the need for these autonomous institutions, about the need for us to deal with our local issues. And I think, my sense, is that we also see a new strengthened attempt – that’s not even the word I want to use – a new step that we’re taking again, to form the alliances that we need to form, so that we can actually build movements. I see a lot of folks in a lot of different areas, independently of each other, who have been struggling for a long time – and they’ve made us feel isolated and weak – because we’ve been so separated. And I see now more and more folks trying to bridge the differences in out many different struggles.

Alright.

(Sigh of relief)

This kind segways into our last question – can you talk about the importance of allied behavior within organizing spaces, with regards to racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of oppression and domination?

‘Allied behavior’ you said?

Uh-huh, you know, Ashanti was talking about the importance of white folks standing up and telling other white folks, putting them in check – and the same thing with men checking other men on their sexism, etc.

(Sighs again, pause)

...or do you not think that’s important?

Yeah, it’s not really that important.

Okay, let’s just skip over it...

No, no, no ... I’m just talking shit. I think that ‘allied behavior’ – I’ve never used that term – allied behavior I think is intensely important. I mean again it goes back to what the Zapatistas have said about ... ‘the best way that you can help us is to organize where you are’. So organize with your people. And I know it’s really tough for like, white folks who live in suburbia, for example, who might be activists, who attempt to organize some of those white activists. But really, they’re uniquely situated to be able to reach those other white folks in their area; much better situated then we are, for example. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to listen to this guy Tim Wise..?

Yeah, he came up here ... we didn’t attend but we’ve read some of his stuff.

He does a great speech that he gives, where it’s basically Racism 101. And I think what’s so great about it is because he’s this white guy, who acknowledges his own privilege – he’s able to speak in a way that it’s much harder for white folks to ignore – and to just dismiss his anger, his indignation at the state of affairs ... it makes it much more difficult for them to just dismiss that. And then it forces them to confront their own stuff a lot more directly.

Uh, where was I going with this? (laughs) Oh shit. It’s hard to do so much talking like this. I don’t know how Ashanti does it. I guess it’s that – white folks have to organize white folks because nobody else can really do it for white folks – to organize themselves against racism. I’m not really sure how to talk about this so I can give you this little story one time when ... well I’ll give a couple stories I guess ...

Are they just about white folks?

Mm-mm, no. For example, when I’m talking to Ashanti, and we’ll talk about the Panthers, and the Counter-Intelligence programs of the sixties that the federal government engaged upon in their attack upon what they called ‘Public Enemy #1.’ They used, as we all know, really underhanded and illegal tactics to kill, frame, set up, destroy, movement and people’s lives. One of the things in talking with Ashanti, that he makes clear, is that it wasn’t just an attack from outside. What makes the Counter-Intelligence Program so successful is not just that they would just kill folks outright, which the police had no qualms about doing; the federal government had no qualms about doing a just straight-up frontal military assault, against people who were organizing to feed their communities and stop police brutality. And the government had no qualms in destroying them ... because they were providing this ray of hope; they were providing an alternative to the system. They were providing folks with a way out. They were giving folks another alternative to hustling on the street, or just buying into the system. So what the Counter-Intelligence Program did is not just kill folks, because when you kill folks then that helps to organize folks against the brutality of the system. It gives you a very clear understanding of the fact that these guys are enemies, that they have declared war on us; and our humanity; and our life – and it helps to galvanize communities against that attack. So a much more effective strategy for them was to prey upon the weaknesses that we have within our own movements; and so they would prey upon the ‘natural’ kind of tendencies that we all carry around – that haven’t been effectively dealt with. And so, maybe as a man, I have a difficult time struggling with my sexism, but in order for us to win – and we must win, we will win – but in order for us to win, if we’re not gonna get be torn down from inside, I have to confront my own sexism. And the only way I can do that is by engaging in anti-sexist practice, in being an ally, a real ally, to my women comrades. There is no other way. If we have all these weaknesses that this society tries to teach us to have, like sexism ... that makes it very easy for somebody else to come in, prey upon that weakness, and split the divide between us, to pit us one against another.

So this reminds me of my second story, which was, when the O.J. Simpson trial came out, it was amazing to me the kind of rhetoric that was coming out in the mainstream media. Because what you had was, a lot of times – and this is one of the more extreme examples – but you would have white feminists who would get on the television, and say, ‘We should lynch the nigger.’! And then you had Black men, who, when they would come out, would say, ‘That bitch deserved it.’ They utilized the weaknesses that we have to pit us one against another. So, in order for us to win – in order for us to accomplish what we want to accomplish – we have to deal with these different issues that don’t just exist in society, but exist amongst ourselves in our organizations.

Any closing statements or questions?

Yeah hold on ... um, uh, um, uh ... My closing statement would be this: We live in volatile times. We must never forget that, whether we like it or not, there is a war going on. There is a war going on against life itself. Not only are they cutting down trees to make way for grass so that McDonald’s can have hamburgers. Not only are they dumping mercury into our environment from these energy producing coal plants, when they have the technology to reduce this toxic dumping of mercury. Not only are they building more prisons and closing down schools. And not only do they have economic policies in place which produce or maintain a system where there are millions of people dying of preventable illnesses, but there are millions of people who are literally starving to death. Every single year, there are six million children –according to the United Nations, which is not the most radical of organizations–but according to the United Nations there are six million children who starve to death every single year, in a world where there are some of us who have, who live, in a heap of abundance. Six million children die of starvation every year – and this is not counting the millions of other children who die from diarrhea because they don’t have clean drinking water, or people who die of AIDS, or people who die of pneumonia–but six million children who starve to death every single year.

During WWII, the Nazis engaged in a brutal genocidal attack on the Jews. And during the course of WWII, over the course of several years, four-and-a-half million Jews died in the Holocaust. So, there’s a holocaust going on today; we must never forget this fact. It is a battle for the very life of the planet; for our own lives; for our own humanity. And in every war, there are victims; some of those victims are starving children in Ethiopia – and some of those victims are us. We are the psychological victims of a psychological war that they have been engaged in for many decades now. So in our embracing of the struggle, in our learning to organize and confront the system, in our attempt to build alternatives to this system that has no way out, in our participation in our own lives ... we first end up having to liberate ourselves. So, engaged in the process of struggle, we not only provide the possibility of a future, of a new tomorrow, but we free ourselves in the process.

We can’t give up until we win. We will win. We must win. ¡La Luche Sigue! ¡Que Vivan los Zapatistas!

Well, thank you very much ... we don’t really have a smooth transition to conclude, but that’s pretty much it. Thanks for your time and your words.

2 comments:

vegankid said...

hey zapagringo, i know this isn't directly related to this post, but i didn't know how else to get a hold of you. wanted to make sure you knew about the Day of Internet Solidarity with Oaxaca. i'm sure there's something already happening in NYC, but i figured since you're one of the more consistent and conscious bloggers when it comes to mexico, you might want to take a few minutes on the 22nd and help educate others on what's happening in oaxaca. well, that's it for now. thanks for all your great writing!

RJ Maccani said...

Cool...thanks vegankid. You can get ahold of me thru my profile...there's an e-mail address there.

We've got an action planned for tomorrow here in NYC...I've generally liked BrownFemiPower's "Women of Color" Blog the times I've checked it out but am a bit skeptical about the proposal there to "blog in solidarity with Oaxaca"...while I think it is important to use these new technologies to share information/knowledge (obviously), I'm not sure I can justify it as an action within itself...but rather a link in the chain of thought/action...I'm interested in being convinced otherwise but until then, I'm gonna find a way to be in the streets on the 22nd.

Not intending to write off the real work it takes to blog and create on-line media...and the importance that this media plays in my own development...another interesting internet action that has been used in recent mexico solidarity is the electronic blockade, has anyone set up something for tomorrow?