Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Calendar of Resistance

2007: From Below and to the Left
“We learned a long time ago that we should never subject ourselves to the schedules of the powerful. We had to follow our own calendar and impose it on those above.” - Subcomandante Marcos

Here is a chronological list of mobilizations, events, and gatherings this year that somehow relate to the Zapatistas' Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, the Other Campaign, and the Zezta Internazional.

Most of the entries below include some information about how you can become personally involved and, for most of them, you could begin organizing today. There are many ways to struggle from below and to the left for a better world, here are just a few of them...

The Cucapá Camp in Defense of Life, Culture, and Nature
-February 26 through May in El Mayor, near Mexicali, Baja California-

Building off of agreements made during his tour of Mexico last year building the Other Campaign, Subcomandante Marcos issued an invitation on behalf of the Zapatista, Cucapá and Quilihua indigenous people, as well as various elements of the Other Campaign, for people from around the world to join them in a camp on Cucapá territory during this year's fishing season. National and international press have also been invited to report and broadcast, first hand, the life conditions and history of the Cucapá and Quilihua whose indigenous identities and rights are neither recognized nor respected by the Mexican government.

This is already underway and there are many aspects to the initiative. Check out the Nomadic Sound System's Cucapá site as well as this post at Intercontinental Cry for more info on how to get involved and to read the regulations the Cucapá have established for the camp.

The Huitepec Camp in Defense of Life, Culture, and Nature
-March 13 and onward in Huitepec, near San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas-

A Zapatista camp and a national/international camp have been established alongside each other in Huitepec, a Zapatista Community Ecological Reserve. This camp is crucial in defending the reserve from multinational corporations seeking to exploit its natural resources and from government and paramilitary forces attempting to kick the Zapatistas off of the land.

The Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas is coordinating trainings for the encampment. Alternative and free media workers are specifically invited to help link this encampment to the aforementioned Cucapá camp...and, if you will be joining, just remember to follow the rules.

Zapatistas Launch Second Stage of Participation in the Other Campaign
-March 25 in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas-

According to a major communique released earlier this week, 15 members ("seven comandantas, eight comandantes and a subcomandante" there might be 16 with one more comandante) of the Zapatistas' Sixth Commission and NGO adherents to the Other Campaign in Chiapas will gather in the city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas today to launch an international solidarity campaign with the Zapatista indigenous communities and in defense of indigenous autonomy (see Chiapas Indymedia for today's coverage).

From here, the Zapatista delegates will travel to join Other Campaign organizing in the Northern Zone of Mexico and also to join the work of the National Indigenous Congress. These delegations will remain until the beginning of June and then, in the second half of the year, Zapatista delegations will be installed in the Central and Southern Zones of Mexico.

The Zapatistas' Sixth Commission has also signalled that it will be participating in mobilizations marking the first anniversary (May 3-5) of the repression against the people of Atenco, the Peoples Front in Defense of the Land, and the Other Campaign and for the freedom of those compañer@s who remain behind bars in the prisons of Texcoco, Santiaguito, and La Palma (more info below).

Movement for Justice in El Barrio's Other Campaign Events
-April 5 onward in New York City, New Haven, Connecticut, and beyond-

East Harlem's Movement for Justice in El Barrio is hosting a series of events as part of their adherence to the Other Campaign. These are a great way for people to learn more about, support, and connect to participants in the Other Campaign here in northeastearn USA! Check out my post in the Narcosphere for details...

Coalition of Immokalee Workers vs McDonald's
-April 13-14 in Chicago, Illinois-

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a community-based worker organization made up of largely Latino, Haitian, and Mayan Indian immigrants working in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida, are taking on McDonald's! They are also adherents to the Sixth Declaration and you can check out their poetic message of adherence at the bottom of this post.

Join them this April 13 and 14 for two historic days of action at and around McD's headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. Whether or not you can make it, check out their site and the site of the Student/Farmworker Alliance for ideas on how you can support this inspiring struggle for "Fair Food, Real Rights, And Dignity!"

Mobilizations for Atenco!
-May 3-5, Worldwide-

The people of Atenco rose up and blocked the theft of their land in 2001, joined the Other Campaign in 2005, and were brutally repressed by Mexican government forces during the visit of the Zapatista Sixth Commissions' Delegate Zero (Subcomandante Marcos) to Mexico City in May of 2006.

The government attack on Atenco was seen as both an act of revenge and an attack on the Other Campaign. A truly inspiring national and international solidarity movement joined the self-activity of the people of Atenco in seeking redress for the brutal attack. The hundreds of political prisoners were whittled down to thirty and the government cover-up was exposed.

There is much to say about the beauty and success of the movement that rose up to defend Atenco, and yet some of their most powerful voices remain behind bars. Some members of the Other Campaign failed to sustain their commitment to the people of Atenco in light of the electoral crisis and, in other cases, there were initiatives that lost steam.

The one year anniversary of the repression will be a moment to commemorate this resistance and to strengthen the ongoing struggle to free Atenco's remaining prisoners. Get creative and find a way to build or join a mobilization in solidarity with Atenco this May 3-5!

Allied Media Conference
-June 22-24 in Detroit, Michigan-

The Allied Media Conference (AMC) moves to Detroit! I'm working with a few people to have 10,000 bi-lingual (Spanish/English) copies of the Zapatistas' Sixth Declaration published newspaper-style to give away at the conference. Okay, okay...actually about half of them will go directly to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Movement for Justice in El Barrio. I'll be distributing bundles from the other half to attendees of the workshop I'm co-organizing at the AMC entitled "Zapatismo and Allied Media." See you there?!

United States Social Forum
-June 27 to July 1 in Atlanta, Georgia-

The United States Social Forum (USSF) process may just be our best opportunity in decades to build a broad movement "from below and to the left" in this country. It could also be a space for education and analysis around the Sixth Declaration, for networking and strategizing amongst Mexicans and Chicanos in the US who are a part of the Other Campaign, and for those of us who are building the Zezta Internazional...and it will be up to us to make this happen!

The window for submission of workshop and activity proposals is open until April 27 so there is still a month left to get them in.

On a personal note, I'm not yet sure exactly what I'll be doing at the USSF although it looks like I may be involved in some childcare support for parents that we partner with through Regeneración and I am definitely working with the Men's Collaborative of Generation Five and others to create a series of workshops that will, in the words of G5's Alan Greig, "...address men's violence across the spectrum from interpersonal to institutional violence...understanding this work in terms of challenging male supremacy and other, inter-linked systems of oppression." Building up to this, we're also mobilizing a caravan from here in NYC down to Durham, North Carolina to support the National Day of Truthtelling.

With respect to my zapagringo duties, bare minimum I'll be coordinating another Sixth Declaration giveaway like the AMC one described come get copies for you, your crews, and your communities!

Encuentro of the Zapatista Communities with the Peoples of the World
-July 21-31 in the Zapatista Caracoles of Chiapas-

The Five Caracoles of the Zapatista communities of Chiapas will be hosting an expanded gathering with people from throughout Mexico and the world on the last ten days of July. I indexed, in a prior post, coverage of the first such Encuentro that was attended by a registered 2,156 individuals and collectives from 48 countries of four continents over the new year.

This gathering is an excellent opportunity for people to learn about the alternative structures of the Zapatista communities, to build direct relationships between your work/community and theirs, and to share your own insights and experience with the Zapatistas and people from throughout the world. This will also be one more opportunity for face-to-face discussions around building an actual Intergalactic gathering to build the Zezta Internazional initiative of the Sixth Declaration.

Continental Indigenous Encuentro
-October 11-14 in Vicam, a pueblo in Yaqui Territory in the Municipality of Guaymas in Sonora, México-

The Indigenous National Congress, the Zapatistas, and the Kumiai of Baja California invited indigenous people from throughout the Americas to meet with them and declare "that after 515 years, they neither conquered nor discovered us. We still continue to exist here."

Details for the Encuentro were released in Spanish on April 22 and the list of convenors has grown. Check out Encuentro Indígena for more information. If you are not indigenous, perhaps you will find a way to get this information to indigenous folks you are connected to and to support them if they are interested in responding to the call...

No Borders Camp
-second week of November, Calexico/Mexicali-

"From Oaxaca to the Otra Campaña, a movement is rising that will end with nothing less than the fall of this border." -No Borders Camp 2007

An informal network of groups and individuals on both sides of the border are planning this camp and are adapting the Hallmarks of the Zapatista-inspired Peoples' Global Action network as the basis of unity for this mobilization:
[This] is a process…Before, during and after the camp itself, we envision a series of caravans, a variety of forums for dialogue and planning, coordinated actions and propaganda campaigns.....and whatever else you can think of.

During the camp, we hope to see actions against the border, detention and migration controls. We envision the creation of an independent media center with community radio, television and Internet. We look forward to a wide variety of artistic interventions and collaborations.

Several regional encuentros have already happened or are currently being planned. You can check out this zine and visit for more information.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Defend the Zapatistas

Gringo President George "Dubya" Bush receives a hug from Brazilian President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva during his recent trip through Latin America

I found myself running around a park with two sweet little kids last Sunday playing a game called "Days of the Dragon Riders." This game apparently doesn't require much more than a dragon (yours truly) and some dragon riders (the sweet little kids).

Although "Days..." was exhausting (only for me of course), it was unseasonably warm in Manhattan and the three of us had a lot of fun. I was doing childcare for some radical parents who were attending Left Forum 2007 and they relieved me just before the closing plenary...just in time to hear Boaventura de Sousa Santos intone these words:

"We live in an age when the revolutionaries look like reformists (the Zapatistas), the reformists look like revolutionaries (Chavez), and some reformists aren't even reformists (Lula)."

I glanced around the room at this moment to see the reactions of those in attendance. Judging from their laughter, I could tell that a large swath of the audience agreed with Santos' view of Lula.

I wondered, however, what they thought of his characterization of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Mexico's Zapatistas. What I I'd like to emphasize here from Santos' speech, though, is the truly revolutionary character of the Zapatistas and the importance of defending them in light of the dangers they are facing today.

In 2005 the Zapatistas found Mexico faced with the rise of a presidential candidate, Andres Manuel López Obrador, who could succeed in capturing the imagination of much of the Left while serving the interests of the Right. They had watched closely for over two years the effects of a very similar figure, Lula, in Brazil and were growing quite concerned. Obrador had already played this game as mayor of Mexico City and was now poised to successfully move the model to the national stage. With elections on the horizon, the Zapatistas broke their silence to launch both a new revolutionary project and a stinging critique of the entire Mexican political class, including Obrador and the "center-left" Party of the Democratic Revolution. This is what is proposed and articulated in the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, which they released in June of that year.

More than anything else, the Sixth Declaration is an invitation to build a national and international anticapitalist movement from below. In spite of their principled stances in support of the national sovereignty of Venezuela and Cuba, and even in support of Obrador's right to run for president, the Zapatistas have still managed to raise the ire of previous bases of support. Internationally this has come from those who object to their analysis that seizing state power is not the centerpiece of changing the world and nationally from those who believe an Obrador presidency was not a threat to the Mexican people and the Mexican left.

Knowing these risks even before launching the Sixth Declaration, the Zapatistas did so anyway. They prepared for harsh repression and proceeded to build, with many others, what are today referred to as the Other Campaign and the Zezta Internazional. Obrador failed to secure the Mexican presidency, however, and even though the Zapatistas' analysis of him and the Party of the Democratic Revolution continue to ring true, they remain abandoned by some of their previous bases of support even as they face new threats.

Paramilitaries are building their strength in Chiapas and threatening the survival of Zapatista communities and the land they've gained since 1994. So concerned are the Zapatistas about these developments that they sent only a letter to an important meeting of Mexico's National Indigenous Congress earlier this month whilst the Zapatista Good Government Councils have been sending out a stream of denunciations and communiques.

With the Sixth Declaration and the Zezta Internazional, the Zapatistas have opened up a space for us internationals to join them and the rest of the Other Campaign in building a global movement based on the understanding that "the simple and humble people who struggle" can and must claim power directly.

With the Other Campaign, the Zapatistas have attempted to chart a path in Mexico beyond "the ballot and the bullet". But, if paramilitary aggression becomes too great and solidarity grows too silent, they could be forced into armed confrontation.

If you are able, consider joining the international peace encampment they have established in Huitepec. And if not, this is a time to be vigilant and ready to mobilize, in our many different and creative ways, to defend the Zapatistas and the truly revolutionary movement they champion.

Read More!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Love & Struggle

A Special Message from the Lacandon Jungle

Ha, Ha! Thanks to Max from the Left Turn Magazine editorial collective for putting that little video together for the Ora & RJ 10th Anniversary/Purim/Birthday Par-Tay we threw last weekend with the help of many, many friends (big ups to my lil' sis, Shalva). It was a personal is political moment with our unorthodox relationship on the chopping block and some money raised for the Panther 8 Defense Fund and the US/Palestine Youth Solidarity Network.

The relationship slideshow from LT co-editor, Francesca, is back up in a new, safe-for-the-whole family version and *of course* here's my special drag performance for Ora! Shout outs to my co-conspirators Ayden & Naomi (and Kelli on wardrobe!)

Pictures from the party are up at Frankie's Flicks and what would the night have been without some words of wisdom from Ashanti, care of a pseudonymously-released pamphlet from 1985!

All party, no wedding...thanks for the good times, ya'll! Read More!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Revolutionary Childcare Story...

Once Upon a Time in Brooklyn
(created for the upcoming issue of Left Turn Magazine)

[Out of Brooklyn have sprung two inspiring models of community-based radical childcare. The organizers of Regeneración Childcare NYC weave their own experiences and those of Pachamama: the Bushwick Childcare Cooperative into an enchanting tale of communities taking care of each other in their own ways in the shadow of the Architects of Despair.]

Once upon a time... in a land called Argentina, there lived hundreds of thousands of people who found themselves with no work. In spite of this, they struggled and found ways to survive. Some formed Unemployed Workers Movements and, over time, were overcome by three beautiful feelings. Listening and speaking with each other, they felt “rage.” Rage was the feeling they felt when they learned that it wasn’t just by chance, but rather by design, that so many of them were out of work.

The unemployed workers called the designers of their most unfortunate situation the “Architects of Despair.” The Architects of Despair practiced a devastating magic—capitalism—that they had been casting intensely over the past decades, taking over all of Argentina’s industries and resources. The unemployed workers organized their rage and they forced the Architects of Despair to give them the things they needed to survive. In this way, the unemployed workers discovered a second feeling, “hope.”

But, even when “giving” the unemployed workers what they needed to survive, the Architects of Despair still found ways to take more things away from them. So the unemployed workers began creating their own ways to feed, teach and heal themselves. In taking care of each other in their own way, they discovered the third beautiful feeling, “dignity.”

Dignity, hope, and rage

With dignity, hope, and rage, the unemployed workers soon went from feeling invisible to having the eyes of the world upon them. In the final weeks of 2001, Argentina erupted in protest against all the damage the Architects of Despair had wrought upon the country. Some of the unemployed workers to reach out and connect with people struggling against the Architects of Despair in other parts of the world.

In 2004, Marcella and Xiomara, two unemployed women workers from movements in Argentina, traveled to the faraway land of Brooklyn. They exchanged stories and ideas with women from Critical Resistance, Sista II Sista, the Center for Immigrant Families, and Estación Libre. Moved by their exchanges, Xiomara and Marcella invited some women to visit them in Argentina during "Autonomous January.” The women returned to New York with much inspiration.

One woman, Sora of Sista II Sista, saw the unemployed workers’ dignity in their self-organization and was especially motivated. Sora had a two-year-old daughter named Sele, and she wanted to join with other mamas so they could organize themselves and care for each other and their children in a better way. Sora spoke to mamas in Sista II Sista and in her neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn. She talked with Celia, who had two young children named Costanzeana and Gabriel. She also met Olivia, who was stuck in her home all day with her daughter Chantelle, feeling trapped, with no other mamas to support her.

Bushwick Childcare Cooperative

Organizing themselves and imagining strategies to defeat the Architects of Despair was not an easy task for these mamas. They came from different places and spoke different languages. Sora was from Chile; Olivia was a black woman whose family lived in Bushwick for as long as she could remember; Celia was from Ecuador, and there were other mamas who came from around the world. Despite their differences, they created a new organization called Pachamama: the Bushwick Childcare Cooperative.

Pachamama means something like “Mother Earth” in Aymara, an Incan language. It was a good name because it reflected the Latin American roots of many of the mothers, yet still had the word “mama” in it, so people who spoke English could understand the name too. With a room full of toys and games in the Sista II Sista office, and with lots of determination, they invited more mamas to join them in raising their children together…

Some of the mamas had grown up in Brooklyn all their lives, and told stories about how the neighborhood had changed, and where they used to go to school, and who they used to play with. Some of the mamas came to Brooklyn from Ecuador, Colombia, Brasil, Chile, Tibet, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Liberia, Trinidad, Jamaica and Guyana, and told stories about how the Architects of Despair made it seem easier to live in Brooklyn than in the neighborhoods, villages and towns that they were from. They told Ramona about raising chickens on their farms, about building huts out of clay, about the tricks their mamas had whispered to them to rock a baby to sleep, on a crowded bus, to tie a knot in a long cloth and use it as a sling to carry a baby on a long walk, to blend grains and cut vegetables so that babies would eat without fussing.

“These kids are a handful!” Celia exclaimed one day, as Gabriel jammed his scooter into Chantelle’s bicycle, “We need some help!” “I’m sure there are people out there who would love to help us do childcare,” Olivia mused, “But how will we find them?” Sora quickly offered a solution, “We can ask our friends, and they can ask their friends… and someone will surely come!”

A few days later, a young woman knocked on the door. “Hi,” she said, “I’m Ramona, and I heard that you are looking for someone to help out with childcare. I just finished college—I’m new to the neighborhood. I would love to hang out with your kids!” On a sunny afternoon, Ramona went to the park with Costanzeana, Gabriel, Sele, and Chantelle. What fun they had! By the end of the day, Ramona was exhausted, but smiling. “When can I come again?” she asked. “As often as you like!” Olivia told her. And so Ramona did. She played with the kids, and talked with the mamas.

At Pachamama, Ramona felt part of a family. Yet she realized that the mamas worried about things that she, and her aunts, sisters, and cousins didn’t have to worry about—like not being able to speak English, or not being able to find work, or not having enough money to travel to see their mamas, or even to travel to Manhattan.

“Ramona!” Sora said one day. “What are you doing on Friday night? Some people are coming over so we can talk about how to fight the Architects of Despair. A lot of the people are mamas and papas. Could you come over and play with the kids?” Ramona was worried. With so many kids, she would not be able to play with them all at the same time, and they would all start fighting and running into the room where the adults were talking and disturb their conversation.

“We don’t want a space where kids feel that only adults can imagine ways to strengthen our communities and protect ourselves against the Architects of Despair,” Sora said, “and we don’t want adults to feel that either. We want to create a space where all of our imaginations help each other grow; but we realize that kids might get bored from sitting still the way that adults tend to do, so we set up the play room with toys and games.”

Seeds of Regeneración

Ramona was relieved to hear this, and even more relieved to meet Mitch. Mitch also came to play with kids whose parents were at the gathering. “Here in America, it seems like kids are hidden away while their parents work and organize,” Ramona said, “but many people we know do things differently.” Contemplating this, Mitch turned to Ramona, “Ramona, we both know so many mamas working to protect our communities against the Architects of Despair. I’m sure mamas are doing the same thing all over this city. And if there are mamas, there are kids…”

“Yes!” Ramona exclaimed, “and there are surely people all over this city who would love to play with kids while their mamas are organizing!” Mitch asked, “But how will we find people who will want to do childcare?” “If we ask our friends, and they ask their friends,” said Ramona, “Surely someone will come…”

And so they did. One day, Mitch and Ramona opened the doors of an unused office space and the room filled with people. Sora joined them; and together they told the story of the unemployed workers in Argentina, and Pachamama, and their hopes and dreams of dignity. The people felt inspired, and excited to do childcare. But after the people left the meeting, Mitch, Ramona and Sora all felt a little bit unsettled. “Everyone at the meeting was white!” complained Ramona.

“I wonder why…” pondered Mitch, “we did tell our friends to tell their friends that the kids and mamas we hang out with are mostly immigrants, or Spanish-speaking, or Black, or other folks of color…” Ramona suggested, “It seems like many of the people at our meeting are able to wander from place to place, and be involved with different projects, and are looking to feel connected to something, and feel that connecting to awesome mamas and awesome kids would be powerful.”

Excited, hopeful, and confused

“On the one hand it is exciting to flip the script on who serves who, by having white people take care of kids of color,” mused Sora, “but on the other hand, I really think it would be the wrong message to send to our kids that we can’t take care of our own, and that we need white people to come in and take care of our kids for us.” So Mitch, Ramona and Sora left their meeting hopeful, because so many people were excited about doing childcare, and confused because the people were so different than who they had imagined.

Pachamama was growing. The mamas were creating a space of love and holistic care for themselves and their families. They also organized other families and friends into “Imperialism is Bad for Children” contingents for the anti-war marches. Things went on like this at Pachamama for some time—families grew, babies were born and folks were listening and learning from each other every day.

But when the winter came, it started to feel too cold for the mamas to bring their kids all the way to Pachamama, and they decided to stay home instead. Back in Bushwick, Sora, Olivia and Celia were the only mamas still coming to Pachamama every day and caring for Sele, Chantelle, Gabriel and Costanzeana.

“You know what I think?” said Sora one day, “I think we should close Pachamama for a little bit, and just build within ourselves. Let’s figure out what we need to do to be strong within us before trying to organize the rest of the neighborhood, and the rest of the city.” Celia asked, “Could we teach ourselves about child development so that we know what games we should be playing with the kids to encourage their curiosity and growth?”

“Can we also learn how to take care of ourselves and each other better?” asked Olivia, “I feel sad a lot, and I would like to know if other mamas feel sad too, and I would like to know how they take care of themselves when they feel sad.” And so the mamas did just this. They met twice a week to learn about their kids, and to learn about themselves, and while they sat around the table and read books and drew diagrams and talked with each other, Ramona played with their kids.

In these months, many groups had asked Mitch and Ramona if they could play with their kids. Mitch and Ramona were always looking for more volunteers. Some of the volunteers spoke Spanish and were white. Some were people of color, and were looking to support other communities in struggle. Some did not grow up in the city, and were looking for communities to whom they could be accountable. Some had traveled to faraway places like Argentina and Chiapas and brought back visions of another world.

Over the months, they built a network of childcare volunteers and called it Regeneración. They work with kids and mothers to regenerate communities, relationships, and resistance. They would also honor their ancestors, elders, prisoners, and friends from all over the world.

Happily ever after?

And so the childcare crew in New York City had found its vision and name; and Pachamama reopened its doors in Brooklyn with renewed enthusiasm…and there was even word of other childcare collectives and childcare cooperatives popping up in other cities and towns. But something still didn’t feel right.

These groups and their friends, family and all the people they cared about around the world, were still suffering. And this was because the Architects of Despair were still very powerful. And so it was good that they were getting to know and trust each other more, and that they were building their power to organize themselves, to fight, and to take care of each other. And there was still much work (and play) to be done…

Written and illustrated by members of Regeneración Childcare NYC: Radhika Singh, M. Mayuran Tiruchelvam, RJ Maccani, Ileana Dulce Méndez-Peñate and Canek Peña-Vargas.

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