Thursday, September 30, 2010

Spring Breakers Sin Miedo

A dark and humorous window into the truth behind the War on Drugs in Mexico... Just the latest from some of my dear friends from the 2010 School of Authentic Journalism.

With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Greg Berger has been building the Revolutionary Tourist Project since 2003, and if my instincts (and eyes) serve me well, he may have had something to do with a crew called Los Detonadores whose recent intervention around the Mexican Bicentennial went viral throughout the country (here's the version with English translation).

In other zapagringo news, there are going to be a number of events in October here in NYC related to the Other Campaign. On Wednesday, October 6 an event The Struggle for Autonomy in Oaxaca: State Repression against San Juan Copala will be held at Bluestockings. On Wednesday, October 13 Movement for Justice in El Barrio is hosting a Victory Celebration for Atenco at Judson Memorial Church. And the most exciting Other Campaign news of October is yet to be released... so stay tuned!

Further south, news surrounding the "attempted coup" in Ecuador continues to flow. Here is an interesting, if informal, update that arrived in my inbox a few hours ago:

The situation in Ecuador today is further complicated by the disillusion that the very social forces that elected President Correa have with his actions in office. The CONAIE (Federation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador), the leading national indigenous movement with strong alliances with labor and other social forces, held a press conference today to say that it is neither with the police forces nor with President Correa. The CONAIE and its hundreds of thousands of participants is not only responsible for Correa's election, but its mobilizations caused the rapid-fire resignations of previous presidents of Ecuador in this century.

The situation thus also shines a light on the growing rift in the hemisphere between the statist left and the indigenous left and related autonomy and labor movements. The CONAIE is basically saying to Correa, "You want our support, then enact the agenda you were elected on." Whether one sees this as a dangerous game of brinkmanship or something that actually strengthens Correa's hand by placing him in the middle zone ideologically, it is worth seeing this at face value and beware of getting led astray by some of the usual suspect conspiracy theorists of the statist left who are predictably out there barking that the CONAIE is somehow an agent of imperialism, dropping rumors of US AID funding but never seeming to exhibit the hard evidence. Sigh. What Johnny-One-Notes! They wouldn't know nuance if it slapped them in the face. For them, you either line up lock-step with THE STATE (if it is "their" state) or you're a running dog of capitalism. That kind of Stalinist purge mentality should have died with the previous century.

The CONAIE's grievances happen to be very legitimate. Of course, they do not justify a coup d'etat, but the CONAIE is not participating in or supporting the coup d'etat. It is saying to Correa; we'll have your back, when you have ours.

In a brief piece for the Guardian UK last month, Raúl Zibechi provides some context for the tension described above. A tension that is growing between the "governments of change" and the socio-political movements of the region. Here is the statement directly from CONAIE. And the future is still unwritten...

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Healing Justice

Third Root Community Health Center is a worker-owned cooperative business providing accessible, empowering, and collaborative healthcare in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. We want holistic medicine, the oldest form of healthcare, to be available to everyone, as it has been for millenia. Our Center is shaped by our very own clients, community, and students, who inform us about their needs and what would help them feel the most at home at Third Root.

If you are in the NYC-area, come on out Tuesday to support a powerful new outpost for Healing Justice here in Flatbush. I've just started a 12-week herbal education program with them and I already love it - the combination of history, politics, knowledge and care that they are bringing to this work is truly exciting.

Third Root participated in the second US Social Forum this past summer in Detroit and wrote this reportback. A little closer to home, they've worked as an accountability and support partner for the Challenging Male Supremacy Project, for which I'm so very grateful. They also participated in a recent event at the Brecht Forum dubbed Healing Organizers. It's the words of a co-presenter at that event, Cara Page, a friend and compa in the struggle for transformative justice, that I want to share with you now to really ground us in what this healing justice is about...

Reflections from Detroit: Transforming Wellness & Wholeness
by Cara Page
originally posted on the INCITE! blog

She had learned to read the auras of the trees and stones and plants and neighbors. Had studied the sun’s corona, the jagged petals of magnetic colors and then the threads that shimmered between wooden tables and flowers and children and candles and birds…She knew each way of being in the world and could welcome them home again, open to wholeness… -Toni Cade Bambara, The Salt Eaters

I come by way of Black Seminole, African American and Austrian ancestry a mixed creed despite eugenic laws that would render me dead or expendable. I write this piece in memory of my ancestors and allies. We will find our way home again and again despite bloodshed and oil spills; despite the misplaced and displaced; despite the forgotten memories we will always find our way home … and make a way out of no way.

This past year I took a deeper dive into the notion of wellness for our movements and the role of well being for organizers. I sat with my dreams and wondered, ‘How far have we been able to come despite noxious toxic waste dumps near our homes, and oil spills and sterilization abuse, population control and genocide…just a few things on our map of oppression. How have we survived?” I’ve been asking these questions to the ‘salt eaters’ and the ‘dreamers’ and the ‘shapeshifters’ among us; what is wholeness? Not an ableist notion of wholeness that implies one specific body or blood type, but a shape of wholeness that intrinsically knows what each individual and collective notion of feeling whole and safe and well can look like. Not the bought ‘wholeness’ you can find only in supreme retreat packages at sunset salons but the kind of ‘wholeness’ that calls on whole communities and whole movements to be well, sustainable and resilient. Who will answer the call to our hurts, our wounds, our double/triple/quadruple pains of oppression and desperation? How will we answer our own calls to wellness and safety?

I’ve been sitting with southern and national healers to remember the role of healing inside of liberation. I am leading a storytelling gathering project with the KINDRED southern healing justice collective to tell the stories of southern healers in the U.S. to map our sites of transformative practice as conduits of social change. Call it a quest for what the role of healing is and how healers move us to and through liberation. What keeps us resilient in our hearts, our blood, our bones? What helps us to rebuild a home? How do we reclaim and re-imagine safety in our homes and movements?

The role of healer as a Black queer woman in the South for me has been to demystify the notion that we are not wrong to use our imaginations and dreams for action? That we are not odd to believe in plants and herbs as integral parts to our paths of liberation? The role of healer as women of color teaches us we can heal ourselves and our own; that we can live, and birth and bury outside of institutional notions of wellness. Yet what is the role of women of color healers inside of liberation? While it has been our legacy it seems to have come undone, uprooted and unnoticed in our collective memories and notions of justice. As a poet, healer, organizer I helped to envision the role of the ‘healer’ and ‘healing’ inside of liberation at the US Social Forum in Detroit (June 2010); a four day convergence of ritual, rallies, workshops etc. pulling together our movements to rebuild, and regenerate new alliances and vision towards strategy and of what is just.

The role of healing at this convergence took the shape and presence of many things. We created two spaces of political and practical application of what we have named ‘healing justice’; a framework that identifies how we can holistically respond to and intervene on generational trauma and violence and to bring collective practices that can impact and transform the consequences of oppression on our bodies, hearts and minds. Through this framework we built two political and philosophical convergences of healing inside of liberation. One was the US Social Forum Healing Justice Practice Space which created a free multimodal practice space to respond to trauma and triggers for organizers; to accept that many of us are tired and burnt out and have not fared well on responding to conditions of our movements and communities by putting our literal bodies on the line. We provided practices such as reiki, acupressure, acupuncture, sound and somatic therapy with practitioners from across different regions in the U.S.. We used energy, body and earth based traditions alongside doulas and midwives to provide knowledge on birth, breath, resiliency and balance. The Healing Justice Practice Space at the US Social Forum was a large room sectioned off for different practices simultaneously that gave us ample space to respond to the conditions of Detroit including; acute asthma, diabetes, and nutrition while also responding to the conditions of our lives and movements (eg. depression, burn out, and survivors of emotional, physical, sexual and psychological abuse and trauma). As we so poignantly stated in our outreach materials, ‘We are responding to a lack of quality of life and conditions, a pattern of systemic abuse and oppression that reinforces the controlling of our bodies/wellness/systems/cultures and our capacity to remember and transform our conditions. We stand in solidarity as a national collective of grassroots healers, medical practitioners and health justice organizers who seek to create systems of wellness outside of state and corporate models that profit from these conditions.’

In our political and practical application of healing justice we also created a People’s Movement Assembly: a four hour interactive session to imagine new strategies and unlikely alliances towards building action. The People’s Movement Assembly (PMA) we held was for Health, Healing Justice & Liberation’ to politicize the role of healing inside of liberation from the perspective of health justice organizers, grassroots healers and integrative medical practitioners. Our vision in the creation of this PMA was to dream for organizing that uplifted the role of healing inside of liberation that will transform our conditions from generational trauma and violence.

Our goals at this convergence were to:

  • Map the frequencies of where we are in our movements to ground us in our vision towards strategies of sustaining and resourcing our collective wellness
  • To create spaces that value and honor equal exchange of resources/energies/economics towards obtaining new models for wellness that restore the earth and are adaptable to the current state of our emotional/spiritual/physical/psychic and environmental conditions
  • To locate the bridges and paths that connect us to memories, dreams and our ancestral legacy of healing traditions towards new models of healing and justice inside of our communities and movements
The questions we began grappling with at the PMA included: How do we redefine what it means to be healthy that is not profit driven or derived from one type of body, and one type of wellness? What are our shared understandings and memories of healing practices as tools of resistance and organizing? How will we sustain, renew and uplift healers and traditions that are being co-opted, displaced, replaced and criminalized?

These questions are large and the next steps many but there was a sense of belonging and visibility amplified for healers, and the participants who came to both of these spaces. As organizers and healers we mapped a way home to well being that did not isolate nor stigmatize our individual and collective bodies nor underestimated our need for wellness.

As a Black queer woman survivor of family and state violence, uninsured in the South I am often coming up against the notions of wellness, who is worthy of wellness and who is deserving of well being based on who can afford it. At the Social Forum I was able to measure a different landscape. What does it mean to be well in our collective bodies and in our collective memories inside of traumatic incidences of state/familial and communal abuse? What does it mean to take care of one another as Women of Color, Queer and Trans People of Color, as communities in the South escaping unethical and horrific practices on our bodies to test our mental and physical capacity for labor and slavery? Is the question really ‘Are we well?’ or is it ‘How can we be well with the overwhelming idea that we are less than human in the first place?

How can one be well if we are not well together? And how will we get well when our sense of wellness often does not include the whole? As Toni Cade pondered in her book The Salt Eaters we have to open ourselves up again to wellness and wholeness, because what is in our memory and intrinsically a part of us has been separated and often taken away from us. It is something we will need to find again as part of understanding our role as organizers who once were healers, or healers who once were organizers.

Cara Page is a Black queer organizer, artist, healer, poet living in the state of things in Atlanta, GA. She comes by way of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts to her home. She is inspired by and works with the KINDRED southern healing justice collective, INCITE!, Project South, Southerners on New Ground, UBUNTU, the Young Women’s Empowerment Project & the Atlanta Transformative Justice Collaborative. She is committed to remembering our memories of resilience and resistance to transform continued slavery & genocide.

Healing & Health Justice Collective Organizing Principles
US Social Forum Detroit 2010

We are committed to People of Color & Indigenous leadership, in partnership with our allies, on building healing justice* work at the USSF.

We will lift up the leadership and conditions of Detroit to define the healing justice practice space and other programming for healing justice inside of a national context.

We enter this work through an anti-oppression framework that seeks to transform and politicize the role of healing inside of our movements and communities.

We are learning and creating this political framework about a legacy of healing and liberation that is meeting a particular moment in history inside of our movements that seeks to: regenerate traditions that have been lost; to mindfully hold contradictions in our practices; and to be conscious of the conditions we are living and working inside of as healers and organizers in our communities and movements.

We are building national relationships and dialogues to cultivate knowledge and to build reflection and exchange of our healing, transformative and resiliency practices in our regions and movements.

We believe in transparency on all levels so that we can have a foundation of trust, openness and honesty in our vision and action together.

We believe in open source knowledge; which means that all information and knowledge is to be shared and transferred to create deeper collaboration and cross-movement building strategy.

As we continue to create spaces for healing and sustainability throughout the US Social Forum and beyond; we will keep ourselves in mind as well as conscious of our own capacity and well being.

We believe in movement building and organizing within an anti-racist and anti-hierarchical framework that builds collective decision making, strategies, vision and action and does not seek to support only one model or one approach over others.

We believe that there is no such thing as joining this process too late; as we move forward, anyone who comes in when they come in are welcomed; and we will always remember that we are interconnected with many communities, struggles and legacies who have joined healing and resiliency practices with liberation in their work for centuries.
June 2010

*Healing justice is being used as a framework that seeks to lift up resiliency and wellness practices as a transformative response to generational violence and trauma in our communities.

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