four years. from below. to the left.
Inspired by the Zapatistas' Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle (or simply "the Sexta"), which they released five years ago, you find documented here some of the collective labor of international affiliates (the Zezta Internazional) as well as of the national movement of Mexican adherents known as the Other Campaign. You'll find many Zapatista-inspired intersections with other people and movements in the US and around the world, and the occasional piece coming from Oaxaca where I reported on the Other Campaign in early '06.
2006 was the year Subcomandante Marcos toured Mexico as part of the Zapatistas' participation in building the Other Campaign... with so many organizations, indigenous peoples, communities, families and individuals beginning to build the movement from throughout the country and beyond. It was the year that the autonomous municipality of San Salvador Atenco, on the outskirts of Mexico City, and the six month long commune in Oaxaca City were attacked by the government with more violence than anyone had seen in recent memory. The year that the US-backed candidate for president won the elections through fraud. The year Mexicans played a crucial role in the massive demonstrations of immigrant workers on this side of the border wall.
Here we are four years later... with a ramped up and murderous war on the poor and working people within Mexico funded to the tune of $1.4 billion by the US government under the guise of a War on Drugs, and the proliferation of laws such Arizona's SB 1070 on this side. But, in the words of FORMER political prisoner Nacho del Valle, "Who can imprison the fury of a volcano?"
A Run Down of Zapagringo's Fourth Season
This year many initiatives and struggles begun in the past five years reached new stages. Last October Movement for Justice in El Barrio saw the fall of Dawnay, Day Group, the second mega-landlord trying to gentrify East Harlem who they've played a pivotal role in taking down.
An International Seminar of Reflection and Analysis was held in the days before and following New Years at CIDECI-Unitierra in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas where a book documenting the First International Colloquium in Memory of Andres Aubry, held their two years prior, was presented.
In February the Winter Olympics faced a resistance whose early whispers were first heard in Sonora, Mexico in October of 2007 at the Gathering of Indigenous Peoples of the Americas, which was co-convened by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.
In April a national and international solidarity caravan that was attempting to break the paramilitary blockade of the Other Campaign affiliated autonomous municipality of San Juan Copala in Oaxaca was attacked. Paramilitary gunfire killed Bety Cariño (a powerful Mixtec organizer) and Jyri Jakkola (a solidarity activist from Finland). In the ongoing assault against the autonomous Triqui municipality San Juan Copala we can hear the clear echo of 2006, including the murder of an international solidarity activist. Following the attack, more solidarity organizing was born but the blockade continues and San Juan Copala continues suffering under low intensity warfare.
Another quite large wound from 2006, however, moved much closer to healing and transformation at the end of June. The mighty autonomous municipality of San Salvador Atenco won freedom for its 12 remaining political prisoners with support from compañer@s around the world. This is a truly historic victory on the path to justice for Atenco and beyond.
Looking beyond Mexico we can also remember that in 2006 Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos made what was a controversial decision at the time when he declined an invitation to attend the inauguration of Bolivia's first indigenous president, Evo Morales. Marcos had his reasons and they are appearing more and more reasonable four years down the road as the indigenous movements who put Morales into office are revolting against what continues to be a "colonial and oligarchic" state. For a very fair analysis of the situation, if you read Spanish, check out Raúl Zibechi's article in La Jornada from earlier this month. Otherwise this later article of his in English will do. The Mesa 18 Declaration, which came out of the World People's Conference on Climate Change, is also relevant here.
A place all too familiar with the dangers of placing hope in state power that has made its way into the posts of this season is South Africa, where the Poor People's Alliance has been shaking things up for the political class. In September of last year, the ruling African National Congress brutally attacked one of the core member organizations of the Alliance, Abahlali baseMjondolo (the South African Shackdwellers Movement). Having just been visited by them in August, Movement for Justice in El Barrio spoke out against the attack and in support of their compas across the Atlantic. The attack was believed to also be connected to the crackdowns and displacements taking place in the country in advance of June and July's FIFA World Cup. A broad description of the situation of these struggles in South Africa was written by Toussaint Losier for Left Turn, and published online here. Picture the Homeless, Domestic Workers United and The Poverty Initiative are another set of groups from NYC who have been mobilizing support of the Poor People's Alliance, including this creative and educational message of solidarity from the US Social Forum. These struggles have been generating some very powerful analysis alongside their action, such as this critique of some of the ways the idea of Right to the City has been mobilized... even as Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape launches a Right to the City campaign of its own in Capetown!
The Palestinian freedom struggle returned again this year, and appropriately as ever, with the ongoing development of the US-Palestine Youth Solidarity Network and the successful struggle to free Jamal Juma'.
Perhaps most powerfully embodying the expansive vision of zapatismo this year was Movement for Justice in El Barrio's Third Encuentro for Dignity and Against Displacement, which included fellow organizers from across the Harlems as well as San Salvador Atenco, South Africa and Haiti. In the lead-up to the second US Social Forum this June in Detroit, I co-organized a rooftop fundraiser for Movement where we screened Sleep Dealer, heard from filmmaker Alex Rivera and raised over $1,250 for their delegation!
At the first US Social Forum in 2007, I attended as part of the Another Politics is Possible delegation from NYC. In the time since then, our study group of the same name participated in a roundtable for Upping the Anti and collaborated with LA COiL (Los Angeles Communities Organizing in Liberation) to create a pamphlet further exploring our principles and practices, which was distributed at this year's USSF. Hopefully we'll find an online home for the pamphlet, "So That We May Soar: Horizontalism, Intersectionality and Prefigurative Politics," soon... in the meantime here is a post from a fan featuring a few snippets of the text.
It was also this year that our childcare collective, Regeneración, launched a new website and began organizing in a network with six other collectives from around the country in advance of the Forum. If only they would've let us organize the Children's Forum! But that's a story for a later date...
What has come into much sharper focus this year, and I believe will continue to be at the center of my work, is organizing toward Transformative Justice. Our Challenging Male Supremacy Project has really grown into itself this past season, holding work in NYC as well as across the country and world as part of generationFIVE's Transformative Justice Collaboratives and a Partner in the StoryTelling and Organizing Project.
This focus on transformative justice grows out of my years of commitment and work around penal abolition, engagement with liberatory social/political movements such as the Zapatistas, and my own experiences of child sexual abuse. This was also a year for surfacing in a big way around this last part; especially participation in the creation and cast of Secret Survivors, an oral history theatre work in Ping Chong and Company's Undesirable Elements series.
Somatics has been crucial to building my capacity to hold transformative justice work and work around my experiences of sexual abuse and it is for this reason that I'll continue training as a practitioner in the months and years ahead.
All of this work collided, somewhat brutally for me, this year at the Allied Media Conference and US Social Forum, which were held back-to-back last month in Detroit. It is SO NICE to be on the other side of that.
Looking forward, a lot of this work will heat back up as the summer winds down, and we've got a big fundraising event near the end of the year in celebration of the Brecht Forum's 35th Anniversary. I'm also stepping away from (paid) domestic work after several years as a dear friend passes the baton to me after two powerful years at The Foundry Theatre. I'm coming on as their Community Programs Producer and you can be sure that we've got some exciting stuff in the works for the year ahead :-)
Who knows what else this fifth season will bring? In the words of Octavia Butler, "Whether you're a human being, an insect, a microbe, or a stone, this verse is true. All that you touch, you change. All that you change, changes you. The only lasting truth is change. God is change."