Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Butch Caucus

intro to the butch caucus

Between work, some different celebrations, all the other stuff we do, and getting ready for THE CLASS, I haven't had a second to write (much less sleep)... on top of all that, a good friend and fellow blogger found her way back in to town for a few weeks - and just as i'm getting ready to be in and out for a minute :-(

In honor of her triumphant return to NYC, check out the butch caucus and her first vlog above. We have a pending zine collaboration that just may come to fruition one of these days, but in the meantime...

Class begins in a week, so rest up and I'll see you next Wednesday at the Brecht Forum!

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wednesdays in June

Even if you have read everything on this website, I strongly encourage you to BE A PART OF THIS CLASS! It's gonna be a totally different, engaging, exciting experience...

Zapatismo in the US and the World

Wednesdays in June
from 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
at the Brecht Forum


Since their January 1st, 1994 armed uprising in Southeastern Mexico, the zapatistas have consistently reached out to people from around the world to join them in building a global network “for humanity and against neoliberalism." This network is sometimes referred to as the "Intergalactic"...

Whether you feel like you know a lot or just a little about the zapatistas, this class is designed to meet each participants needs AND ENGAGE ALL in a meaningful exploration of what it means to fight for a better world in these times.

These are some of the questions we will explore:

I) What is the Fourth World War and what does it mean for how we struggle today?

II) What is the zapatistas' Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle?

  • What has happened since its release in the summer of 2005?
  • How do its initiatives for transnational (Other Campaign) and global (Zezta Internazional) coordination compare to other processes, such as the World Social Forum?
III) What are OUR analyses of the zapatistas' Fourth World War framework, their Sixth Declaration and the initiatives that have followed... and how do we relate to them?

Tuition is a sliding scale $45-$65... with all proceeds going to sustaining the Brecht Forum. And it's FREE for Brecht Forum Subscribers!

The class will be facilitated by RJ Maccani, an organizer with Regeneración Childcare NYC and author of the blog Zapagringo.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Simón Sedillo on Solidarity

Billboard in Mexico. This image is seen from one of the main roads in Oaxaca.

Here's another piece on solidarity (and check out the just updated Zapatismo and Solidarity from two weeks ago)...

Standing With Those Who Fight for Themselves
by Simón Sedillo
Originally published in the Summer 2008 issue of ¡Presente! - newspaper of SOA Watch

Neoliberals believe that somehow they have finally discovered a socially responsible, or socially democratic, way of taking people’s land, labor, and resources by force, for profit.

It’s not possible. This is the myth of neoliberalism. This imposed political economy reduces human beings and natural resources into variables in an economic equation. Every day the human variable in this equation is considered more expendable. Indigenous people, farm workers, women, youth, and poor people everywhere are reduced to variables in this equation. When no longer considered economically viable by the powers that be, communities become economically expendable. If a group of people can be treated as disposable for “not fitting in,” imagine how that group is treated when they organize or resist this imposition. Historically they have been treated as a virus which must be eliminated.

This is the same kind of genocide upon which the United States of America was founded. Somehow most U.S. citizens have managed to detach themselves from their nation’s history to the point of ignoring its present. Native children were still being put in “boarding schools” by the U.S. Army just over 70 years ago. The School of the Americas has made a science out of terrorizing communities in resistance throughout Latin America. The most conservative estimate provided by the Iraqi Health Ministry, claims a total of 151,000 violent deaths from March 2003 through June 2006.

When we think about military occupation, we think about Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine. Military occupation is the most blatant form of imposing a political economy, but neoliberalism includes much more than military occupation. Neoliberal occupation is imposed politically, economically, socially, culturally, psychologically, and spiritually. It is the imposition of a global consumer monoculture, where in places like Mexico, it is primarily white people who are the protagonists of every billboard, commercial, soap opera, or news report. Indigenous-ness is devalued to the point of being shamed into a deathly silence.

What once was easily-identifiable militarism in Central America has devolved into the para-militarization of indigenous communities through out southern Mexico. In Oaxaca, many of the atrocities committed against indigenous communities are disguised as agrarian land disputes between neighboring communities. Some are orchestrated well enough to confuse the very paramilitaries of their role in this systematic form of state-sponsored repression. The disputes can be between different tribes, the same tribe, and mestizos. These strategies are not new, just a continuation of dividing then conquering.

The greatest threat to the national security of the United States has always been grassroots, community-based organizing for self-determination, people sharing the idea that they are capable of taking care of themselves. That is the threat Native Americans posed, and the threat that the people of Oaxaca, like many others, continue to pose. In 2005-2006 the Department of Geography at Kansas University in Lawrence, Kansas received a $500,000 grant from the Department of Defense to map communally-held indigenous lands in Oaxaca, Mexico. The Foreign Military Service Office (FMSO) at Fort Leavenworth is providing the grant money. Fort Leavenworth was the epicenter of westward expansion by the U.S. into Native territory. Today the FMSO assesses “asymmetric” and “emerging” threats to the national security of the U.S. Asymmetric threats are defined as guerrilla armies and terrorist organizations, while emerging threats are clearly being defined as social movements.

The first step in standing in solidarity with people who fight for themselves is understanding that their fights are considered threats to the powers that be.

Today we face “Imperial activism,” the idea that activists know better than the communities with whom they stand in solidarity. U.S. citizens have, in particular, harnessed this notion of “empowerment” of women, people of color, the indigenous, workers, youth or other groups. This notion of empowerment places power in the hands of the activist and negates the power of the people who are resisting for themselves.

This dynamic validates charity and not solidarity. Real solidarity is more about sharing, collaborating, and contributing to self-empowerment, as opposed to feeling good about handing out some aid. It is important to learn first, before teaching anything. Many indigenous communities have centuries of resistance to share and teach. The best way to walk or move forward in solidarity is by asking first about what may be needed or what may be a problem. Walking by asking, then teaching by learning.

To this end, I can only testify to my experience as a Chicano community-based organizer who chose to stand in solidarity with the people of Oaxaca. In 2005, in collaboration with Austin Indymedia, I finished an Oaxaca solidarity film called “El Enemigo Común.” After production the compas in Oaxaca made it clear that they wanted to learn how to shoot and edit video themselves. I had to learn what I could and should teach, and why I should teach that. In my case I had to learn how to edit video, then how to teach this skill.

I started as a solidarity activist but ended up a teacher and, most importantly, a student. I learned a lot about my privilege to learn and my responsibility to teach. In the United States I could learn video and audio to teach in Oaxaca. There, in turn, I could learn about methods of community-based organizing and teach about them in my community here.

Residents of the U.S. have more to learn than teach. The peace in which many U.S. residents believe is a lie. There can be no peace without dignity, justice, and liberty for everyone, everywhere. The more that people in the U.S. believe in this false peace, the more they validate its means: terror.

In 2002, at a farmworker sit-in at the state capitol in Oaxaca City, a compa leaned over to me and said, “Do Americans not realize that their peace is our terror? And if they did, would they care?” This peace has been and continues to be built on the back, sweat, and blood of others. To truly stand in solidarity with the many others fighting for themselves everywhere, people in the U.S. who care about justice have to challenge their ideas about peace. What are you willing to sacrifice for others to have peace as well? True solidarity comes from sacrifice, the recognition of privilege and the responsibility that comes with that privilege. We must be accountable to the whole of humanity at all times, not just to those we choose when it is convenient to do so.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Stop Plan Mexico - TODAY!

UPDATE Jun 14 '08: the fate of Plan Mexico is still in play...

UPDATE Mar 22 '08: Plan Mexico Passed in the US House of Representatives... bad news, REALLY bad news. In other news, SOA Watch has won a victory in the House and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers have brought another fast food giant, Burger King, to the table.

Hey Friends - Call your Congressional Representatives and Howard Berman, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs committee ASAP to Stop Plan Mexico. All the information you'll need is below.

Also, I've got a whole lot of good stuff coming soon, including some original pieces and an update on the post below, but I'm just waiting for the final drafts to come thru... stay tuned! And if you are in NYC: Sign up now for the "class" I'll be leading every Wednesday in June from 6:30 to 8:30p at the Brecht Forum entitled "Enter the Intergalactic! Zapatismo in the US and the World" - it'll be mind-blowing and explorational, but only if you sign-up!

Urgent: Stop "Plan Mexico"

from Witness for Peace

Congress to vote this week on Merida Initiative

As early as tomorrow,
Congress will vote on a bill
to continue funding two failed wars:
Iraq and the "war on drugs."

This week Congress will likely vote on a supplemental appropriations
bill dominated by Iraq war funding. The bill, in addition to pouring
billions more into the devastating occupation of Iraq, would include
the notorious Merida Initiative. This security assistance package,
popularly dubbed "Plan Mexico," would provide hundreds of millions of
taxpayers' dollars to Mexican and Central American security forces in
the name of combating drug trafficking and crime. Proposals thus far
would spend the bulk of the money on military equipment for Mexican
forces known for consistent human rights violations.

We at Witness for Peace know that arming foreign militaries will not
solve our drug problem, a fact now painfully obvious in Colombia.
After eight years and over five billion dollars of Plan Colombia, the
massive anti-drug experiment has failed remarkably. The single goal of
U.S. drug policy in Colombia was to see a 50 percent reduction in the
production of coca, the raw material for cocaine. Today there is as
much coca growing in Colombia as there was the year Plan Colombia
began. There is no reason to believe that sending helicopters to stop
drug traffic in Mexico will work any better than sending helicopters
to stop drug production in Colombia. Let's learn from our mistakes
instead of repeating them. (For further background and analysis
please see the talking points below.)

TAKE ACTION: The Time is Now!
To prevent passage of this senseless military package, we need to
pressure our Congressional representatives NOW. With the vote just
days away, this may be our last opportunity to stop it.

Call the offices of your representatives and ask that the Merida
Initiative funding be eliminated from the supplemental appropriations
bill. Use the talking points below. To reach your representatives'
offices, call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Ask to be
connected to your House or Senate member (give your state and zip code if you're not sure who it is).

Call the office of Howard Berman, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs
committee, to say you oppose authorization of the Merida Initiative:
202-225-4695. If your representative is on the committee, also ask
them to oppose Berman's steps towards authorization. Click here to
find out if your rep is a member.

Talking Points for Opposing the Merida Initiative

A. The initiative would not effectively combat drug-trafficking

The Merida Initiative would fail to have a lasting impact on drug
trafficking for three key reasons:

1. Military interdiction efforts have a "balloon" effect. In
Colombia, U.S. military efforts to stop coca production and
trafficking in key locations have simply shifted production and
trafficking to new locations. The resulting proliferation is evident:
the number of coca-producing states in Colombia has jumped from 8 to
24 over the course of Plan Colombia. The Merida Initiative would
likely have a parallel effect on drug trafficking. As stated by the
Centro Pro, a national human rights organization in Mexico City,
"History has proven time and time again that such law enforcement
efforts merely divert trafficking routes, creating a geographic
shuffle of social and criminal problems."

2. The Merida Initiative ignores a root cause of the problem: U.S.
demand. Widespread drug use in the U.S. makes drug trafficking a
lucrative business. Colombia has taught us that so long as demand
remains high, even a multi-billion dollar military solution will
fail. Even the right-wing RAND Corporation has concluded that far-
flung attempts to stop drugs at their source is 23 times less cost
effective than domestic drug treatment at home. Yet, according to the
current budget, the Merida Initiative destines not a single penny of
its funds to state-side drug demand reduction programs.

3. The Merida Initiative model also fails to recognize poverty as
another root cause of drug trafficking. Fifty million people in
Mexico live in poverty, creating conditions for intense migration and
powerful black markets. Minimum wage is barely five dollars per DAY,
which is by all standards unlivable, and many people don't even make
that. The U.S. has played a role in shaping this desperate reality
through structural adjustment and trade policies that have exacerbated
unemployment and added to the cost of living for many. So long as
such poverty persists in Mexico, some Mexicans will continue to choose
drug-running as a lucrative alternative to migration or unemployment.
So long as the U.S. implements policies that perpetuate Mexico's
poverty, it will be working at odds with its own counter-narcotics

B. The initiative further threatens human rights

Numerous Mexican and international human rights organizations
have expressed concern that counter-narcotics aid for Mexico's
military and police constitutes a recipe for unchecked human rights
violations. According to Centro Pro, "Past experience has shown
policies like the Merida Initiative to be financially costly and to
broaden the mandate of military operations, violating the human rights
of civilians, all the while failing to achieve sustainable gains in
human security." At root is the fact that counter-narcotics
operations in Mexico have a recorded history of human rights abuses.
Amnesty International reports that over the last decade it has
documented "abuses committed by military personnel in counter-
narcotics operations in Chiapas, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Tamaulipas and
Coahuila." Espacio Civil, a civil society coalition comprised of 52
Oaxacan organizations, adds that in 2007 "the army committed severe
human rights violations in their supposed counter-drug operations. We
are concerned that the funding from the U.S. government will
ultimately make this situation worse."

C. The initiative could likely be used to suppress
legitimate political expression

Many Mexican groups fear, with good reason, that the US military
hardware and training in the Merida Initiative would be used directly
against citizens participating in acts of legitimate political
expression. Mexican military and public security forces have
consistently been deployed to stop and often brutally repress popular
protest. Perhaps the most alarming example of late is the crackdown
of the Oaxacan social movement that began with a teacher's strike in
2006. Both federal and state security forces brought an iron fist
down on the demonstrations, leaving a wake of human rights violations
that include over 20 assassinations (including U.S. journalist Brad
Will), hundreds of arbitrary detentions, and torture. The cases
against the security forces, which have been well documented by
Amnesty International and the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights, remain unresolved in Mexico. A sizeable portion of the money
from the Merida Initiative would support the very security forces
responsible for these violations. Many in Oaxaca fear that with this
support, legitimate protest in Mexico will continue to be answered
with repression.

Our representatives urgently need to know what you now know. Please
do not delay in contacting them. Thank you for calling for a more
just U.S. policy towards Mexico. Feel free to contact the Mexico team
with questions (

WFP Mexico
Witness for Peace

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Zapatismo and Solidarity

“Be A Zapatista Wherever You Are”
Learning Solidarity in the 4th World War
By RJ Maccani
for the upcoming issue of the RESIST Newsletter

Behind our black mask, behind our armed voice, behind our unnameable name, behind what you see of us, behind this, we are you. – Major Ana Maria of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) at the First Intercontinental Encuentro for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism. Chiapas, Mexico. 1996.

In their words and in their actions, Mexico’s zapatista rebels have developed and propagated a powerful conception of solidarity. Through exploring a bit of their history, as well as the work of several of their supporters and allies within the USA, I seek to share here some of my understandings of what solidarity means to the zapatistas and, thus, what it might mean for those of us who seek to act in solidarity with them.

Everything for Everyone, Nothing for Ourselves

Perhaps the EZLN got lucky when they picked January 1st, 1994 to be the day they would rise up in arms. As the prominent Mexican intellectual Gustavo Esteva describes it, there wasn’t much else happening at the time:

Not a plane crashed. No tsunami came. No princess died. No president had any sexual escapade. Nothing happened on earth. The media was empty. They had nothing to present us. So, on January 2, we had a thousand journalists in San Cristobal. CNN was projecting Zapatistas. We had beautiful images with the ski masks and all the emotion. It was perfect for the news. Six hours a day, CNN was presenting Zapatistas.

From Mexico’s southeastern state of Chiapas, the zapatista cry of “¡Ya Basta!” (“Enough is Enough!”) quickly traveled around the globe not only through the corporate media but, unfiltered and direct, over the Internet as well. A virtual army of volunteer translators and web-junkies ensured that anyone who wanted to could engage directly with the communiqués, stories and letters of the zapatistas. In the same moment that the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect, the EZLN –in image and word- and the poverty of southern Mexico were catapulted into the consciousness of people around the world.

Although they succeeded in liberating over a million acres of land from plantation owners in the first days of the uprising, the zapatistas’ rag tag army of poorly equipped peasant soldiers could never have dreamed of matching the violence of the Mexican military. Demanding “work, land, housing, food, health care, education, independence, freedom, democracy, justice and peace,” they called on their fellow Mexicans to join them by rising up in arms to depose the one-party rule of the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party). In response to this call, the zapatistas instead found themselves confronted by a global “civil society” that echoed their demands but sought to achieve them through nonviolent means. That the zapatistas were not annihilated by the Mexican Army has less to do with their military prowess and more to do with the hundreds of thousands of people who flooded the streets of Mexico City and other cities around the world in support of peace.

Taking a cue from the people they had hoped to lead into battle, the Zapatistas decided to stop speaking with “the fire” in order to strengthen the path of “the word”. And so in the 14 years since the uprising, the zapatistas have hosted countless consultas (mass consultations), encuentros (gatherings for listening and speaking), and other engagements with various segments of a national and international “civil society” that was attracted to them and who the zapatistas recognized as their peers. As Subcomandante Marcos, the spokesperson of the zapatistas, remarked in a recent interview,

…it so happened that we, the EZLN, were almost all indigenous from here in Chiapas, but we did not want to struggle just for our own good, or just for the good of the indigenous of Chiapas, or just for the good of the Indian peoples of Mexico. We wanted to fight along with everyone who was humble and simple like ourselves and who was in great need and who suffered from exploitation and thievery by the rich and their bad governments here, in our Mexico, and in other countries in the world. [emphasis added]

Since their public emergence, the zapatistas have sought to sustain an open and non-vanguardist style, communicated through the aphorisms “Walking, we ask questions” and “Lead by obeying.” Their commitment to struggling not just for themselves, but for all of humanity, is expressed powerfully and clearly in their “Everything for everyone, nothing for ourselves.”

Breaking the “Cinderella Syndrome”

Seeking dignity in their struggle, the zapatistas have sought allies in the form of compañeros. "Compañeros" is a word for which I’ve found no equivalent in English that, taken literally, suggests “people with whom you share bread.” The zapatistas have found, however, that some supporters have been unable to break with their own solidarity frameworks based on pity and charity. With playful style, Subcomandante Marcos described this as the “Cinderella Syndrome”:

We are not reproaching you for anything (to those from civil society who came to the communities), we know that you are risking much to come and see us and to bring aid to the civilians on this side. It is not our needs that bring us pain, it's seeing in others what others don't see, the same abandonment of liberty and democracy, the same lack of justice. From what our people received in benefit in this war, I saved an example of "humanitarian aid" for the Chiapaneco indigenous, which arrived a few weeks ago: a pink stiletto heel, imported, size 6 1/2 without its mate. I always carry it in my backpack in order to remind myself, in the midst of interviews, photo reports and attractive sexual propositions, what we are to the country after the first of January: a Cinderella. These good people who, sincerely, send us a pink stiletto heel, size 6 1/2, imported, without its mate, thinking that, poor as we are, we'll accept anything, charity and alms.

Through their paternalistic behavior, some international aid agencies and NGOs were also diagnosed with this “Cinderella Syndrome.” So in the Summer of 2003, the Zapatistas officially announced the creation of the "Caracoles" and Good Government Councils, structures through which their over 40 autonomous municipalities, grouped into five regions, could, amongst other things, filter and coordinate collaboration with supporters in a more organized, dignified way.

The Fourth World War

The Zapatistas’ desire to build dignified relationships of mutual aid and collaboration with their supporters is reinforced by their analysis of the current conditions that we all face in the struggle for a better world. The struggle today is referred to by the zapatistas as the Fourth World War. In this analysis, the Third World War was the Cold War, in which a group of nation-states (the United States and NATO) defeated another group of nation-states (the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact) for control of discrete territories (Central Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central America). As El Kilombo Intergaláctico, a people of color collective in Durham, North Carolina explains it in their book, "Beyond Resistance: Everything":

…the Fourth World War is a war between what the EZLN has termed the “Empire of Money” and humanity. The main objectives of this war are: first, the capture of territory and labor for the expansion and construction of new markets; second, the extortion of profit; and third, the globalization of exploitation. Significantly then, for the first time, we are in the midst of a World War that is not fought between nations or even between a nation and an externally identifiable enemy. It is instead a war for the imposition of a logic and a practice, the logic and practice of capital, and therefore everything that is human and opposes capital is the enemy; we are all at all times potentially the enemy, thus requiring an omniscient and omnipotent social policing. As the EZLN explains, this qualifies the Fourth World War as the first truly TOTAL war because, unlike even the Third World War, this is not a war on all fronts; it is the first world war with NO front.

This understanding of the threat we are facing today means that none of us have the privilege of standing “outside” of the conflict, content to lend our charitable solidarity to those struggling within the trenches.

The Sixth Declaration

Building off the strength of their Caracoles and Good Governance Councils, formally established in the summer of 2003, the zapatistas released their Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle two years later. The Sixth Declaration, like the five that have preceded it since their 1994 uprising, announced the major steps the zapatistas would be taking in their next phase of struggle. In the case of the Sixth, they announced that they were seeking to actively build a national movement to liberate Mexico “from below and to the left” and to build more relationships of mutual support and respect with people and movements around the world “fighting against neoliberalism and for humankind.”

Groups from around the world responded to the zapatistas’ Sixth Declaration, amongst them were many groups from within the USA whose practices highlight many of the different ways that their supporters have taken to heart the old zapatista suggestion to “Be a Zapatista wherever you are":

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), made up of over 2,500 largely Latino, Haitian, and Mayan Indian immigrants working in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida, are perhaps one of the best known adherents to the Sixth Declaration. The connection may not seem clear at first because the CIW is not anti-capitalist, for example, or pursuing an autonomous path to change. Something they do share with the zapatistas, however, is an openness and respect for their supporters that stimulates active engagement and innovation. An even deeper connection is the fact that the CIW and the zapatistas may, in fact, share overlapping membership. When Melody Gonzalez of the Student/Farmworker Alliance (SFA) traveled to Chiapas, Mexico in September 2005 to represent the CIW at an early meeting of Sixth Declaration adherents, she encountered a zapatista who had been working in Immokalee’s fields until 1992 when he returned to Chiapas to participate in the uprising! Currently wrestling with fast food giant Burger King, the CIW continues to win major victories in the struggle for “fair food, dignity, and real rights” for farm workers thanks to their capacity to mobilize themselves and inspire a vast range of supporters.

Movement for Justice in El Barrio (MJB), an organization of approximately 400 immigrant and low-income families of color, fights gentrification in Manhattan’s East Harlem drawing inspiration from the zapatistas’ consultas, encuentros, and other methods of building strength through popular engagement. In the summer of 2006, MJB began their “Consulta del Barrio” in which they consulted over 1,500 residents of their neighborhood to guide them in their next steps. Last fall, MJB hosted the first NYC Encuentro for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism to build horizontal relationships with other people struggling against gentrification. The Encuentro attracted representatives from 27 groups, some coming to East Harlem from as far as Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New Jersey. This spring MJB launched their International Campaign in Defense of El Barrio, an initiative that will connect them with supporters around the world to stand with them in facing down any “global, national or local threat to [their] right to dignified housing, autonomy and self-determination.”

El Kilombo Intergaláctico (El Kilombo), a people of color collective made up of students, migrants, and other community members in Durham, North Carolina have emphasized creating a social center with which “to strengthen [their] collective political struggles while simultaneously connecting these struggles with the larger global anti-capitalist movement.” Drawing on the example set by the zapatista communities, El Kilombo’s strength is rooted in its community assembly and autonomous institutions created to meet educational, health, cultural, and other needs of the community. Made up of people from the communities who use and maintain the center, the community assembly is a collective decision-making body that “directs the center’s programs, discusses community needs, makes decisions about program changes and innovation, and designates tasks.”

The CIW, MJB and El Kilombo have all made trips to meet
with the zapatistas and other participants in the national movement coming out of the Sixth Declaration, referred to as the Other Campaign, and the global movement, called the Zezta Internazional.


As someone who has been inspired by the zapatistas for over eight years now, I’ve been wrestling for some time with what the zapatista conception of solidarity means for my own life. I first learned about the zapatistas through a workshop facilitated by the Cincinnati Zapatista Coalition (CZC), and soon became an active member. Part of what we did as the CZC was typical solidarity work: educational video and literature distribution, fundraising through sales of zapatista coffee and artisanry, and workshops. Much of our work, however, involved participating in struggles much closer to home such as protests against police brutality and the racist representation of indigenous people through sports mascots, campaigning for the liberation of political prisoners Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal, and building the global justice movement in Cincinnati. We recognized all of these activities as necessary components of our solidarity and identification with the zapatistas. This was also the case for me when mobilizing as a student in support of striking workers on Ohio State University’s campus and when working as a union organizing the year following college.

After moving to Brooklyn, New York to stay with my long-time partner, I became an active member of Critical Resistance NYC (CR). Having spent my early years growing up in poor neighborhoods and as a white boy attending primarily black schools, I found CR’s identification of a “prison-industrial complex,” with roots in this countries legacy of African enslavement, to be very compelling. CR’s positing of “abolition” as the necessary response to this problem continued a legacy of struggle in this country that felt as powerfully rooted to me as the zapatistas’ struggle did in Mexico.

A couple of us who found ourselves doing a lot of childcare at CR meetings and with other groups, in order to facilitate the participation of low-income mothers of color in the organizing, eventually decided to devote our organizing energy primarily to this work. Our founding of Regeneración Childcare NYC two-and-a-half years ago was for me not only a way to create these powerful partnerships between radical parents and caregivers, their children, and us childcare volunteers, but also a way for me to draw from my own experience of growing up as the child of a young, single, low-income mother in the city. Adding transformative justice work around child sexual abuse, something I have also experienced directly, to this organizing has been perhaps the most personally transformative work I’ve engaged in yet.

I am still very active in consciousness-raising activities and in mobilizations in defense of the zapatistas. I believe these forms of solidarity are effective and necessary. That being said, what I’ve learned from the zapatistas about solidarity is that we must also find and struggle from those places that most directly intersect with our own lived experiences of oppression and privilege. In other words, we are all in this Fourth World War together.

Behind Us, We Are You

I don’t believe the quote with which I began this article is to be taken metaphorically. If we in some way identify with the zapatistas, then we must ask ourselves what it truly means for us, and for the communities of which we are a part, to be rebellious. As El Kilombo puts it, “We face the question, as if the zapatistas have asked us, do you believe that, behind our masks, we are you, or do you believe that, behind your masks, there is nothing?”

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