Meeting Mumia Abu-Jamal: The most well known political prisoner in the US

He was Mumia Abu-Jamal, an award winning journalist, a former member of the Black Panther Party and the most well-known political prisoner in the U.S. We were two Black women, who were members of the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home (CBMH), a grassroots organization formed by scholar-activist Johanna Fernandez in 2012 to bridge Mumia’s long standing support base in the movement to free political prisoners with a new generation of young people fighting to end mass incarceration. CBMH members had been placed on Mumia’s list of authorized visitors and serendipitously, me and Sophia’s names had been the first two to be cleared. For years we had occasionally written to Mumia and spoken to him on the phone when he called into conference calls, meetings or events. The opportunity to meet him in the flesh had pushed us out of our beds at 5am that chilly fall morning and jump started an unforgettable journey.

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(re)Thinking Sex Positivity, Abolition Feminism, and the #MeToo Movement: Opportunity for a New Synthesis

by Brooke Lober

Sexism, gendered harassment, and sexual assault are so common in our culture that they constitute norms; the phrase “rape culture” puts a name to this phenomenon. While assault and harassment remain rampant, a renewed sexual conservatism—consonant with the current right-wing power-grab and evacuation of the already ravaged social safety net—reproduces systematic inequity through an overt culture of misogyny, along with the privileging of marriage and monogamous partnership, heterosexuality, and sex/gender normativity. This hierarchy is produced at the expense of sexual outsiders including survivors of rape, abuse, and harassment, who lead the current public outcry on gender-based violence.

For the last forty years and more, feminist and queer movements have arisen to identify and resist the conditions of social subordination that are created through sex and gender hierarchy, while at the same time, these movements propose expansions of sexual freedom and gender self-determination. The current wave of protest and public speech against sexual violence, under the sign of #MeToo, while extraordinary, is not without precedent. But it offers a renewed chance to synthesize a popular framework for freedom through which we can work toward two longstanding feminist goals: freedom from sexual violence, and freedom to enact and celebrate all forms of consensual sexuality. Two feminist actions demonstrate these two aspects of sexual liberty. Since 1975, Take Back the Night marches and rallies have provided space for the outpouring of stories of sexual assault; and since 2011, Slutwalk has offered a site for the reclamation of self-determined sexuality as a public, political, and participatory act. While often emerging as opposed interests, freedom from violence and the struggle for sexual liberation are linked. As Adrienne Marie Brown writes, “Your strong and solid no makes way for your deep, authentic yes.” Feminist movements including women of color feminism, abolition feminism, and the sex-workers’ rights movement all offer possibilities for the integration of freedom from sexual coercion, and the freedom to engage in all consensual forms of sex. The radical imaginaries offered by these movements are crucial for activists who are now considering the next steps for countering omnipresent sexual harassment, abuse, and assault.

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Beyond revanchism? Gentrification, prisons and anti-colonial revenge

Max Haiven is Canada Research Chair in Culture, Media and Social Justice at Lakehead University in Northwest Ontario and director of the ReImagining Value Action Lab (RiVAL). He writes articles for both academic and general audiences and is the author of the books Crises of Imagination, Crises of Power: Capitalism, Creativity and the Commons, The Radical Imagination: Social […]

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Caption This: Police in Pussyhats, White Ladies, and Carceral Psychology Under Trump

Caption this: white ladies hugging Black cops in pussyhats. It goes deeper than the multiculturalist perfection of absorbing a racialized threat as justification for the continued exploitation of those deemed unassimilable. A Black man donning a uniform and a pussyhat at once obscures and reveals the historical relation of the symbols he now sports. This is what an analysis of heteropatriarchal white supremacy must account for, and what carceral psychology cannot. Literally embracing cops illustrates the ongoing investment in police as “benevolent” masters over an abstract notion of safety that criminalizes people of color. A system rooted in racialized social control cannot get an antiracist makeover through a few public dialogues between cops and community members. As Tariq Khan writes, “Heartwarming Barbecues and Hugging Cops Ain’t the Solution.” This obsession with individual acts of peace-making with cops is the liberal face of carceral psychology.

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UC Democracy: A Manifesto – Demilitarize! Deprivatize! Democratize!

This manifesto is a demand to finally have our voices heard, as well as a call to action to resist the neoliberal forces encroaching on our university that are increasingly present in higher education systems worldwide.

On May 17, 2017, I traveled with a group of students to the University of California Regents meeting in San Francisco. Originally, we had planned to speak in the “public comment” portion of the meeting, in protest against the Board of Regents and the UC Office of the President (UCOP). However, because of strict security measures, few of us spoke at all. Our experiences being silenced and policed are not unusual and reflect a decades-long struggle against corruption in the UC system, alongside worsening conditions of inequity, social injustice, and a lack of transparency.

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Notes from a Finalist: On the cancelled Edward Said Professorship search at Cal State Fresno

by ANONYMOUS

Steven Salaita recently stated, “If an entire nationality/ethnic group/political concern is going to be systematically excluded from Western universities, then the sources of that exclusion need to be vigorously identified and condemned.” For those groups that have historically been the targets of systemic forms of discrimination, the burden of proof is often beyond reach in the public court of appeal.  While there is evidence of denial of life opportunities, how the denial was effected remains obscure and not readily traceable.

Proceduralism—the idea that established criteria govern the validity of a procedure’s outcome—has been the rule in enacting institutional discrimination. As Salaita is painfully aware, proceduralism is the loophole for backdoor politics.

California State University Fresno using the pretext of procedural errors to terminate the Edward Said Chair in Middle East Studies (MES) search, at the very last hour, is a case in point. The search had been underway for many months: a large pool of applicants was reduced to a long-list of candidates. The long-list were vetted via video interviews and then reduced further to a final four candidates. The four candidates were each invited for a complex series of campus interviews. At the point when the Search Committee had submitted a rank ordered list of the finalists to the Dean for an offer to be made, the administration terminated the entire search, citing procedural errors as to how the Search Committee was formed.

As one of the finalists, I find the appeal to procedural details flagrantly disingenuous. Once the administration claimed ‘procedural errors’, it closed off any questioning of the validity of their decree. The burden of proof has, instead, been cast elsewhere, onto the Director of the Middle East Studies program and founder of the Said Chair, Vida Samiian. Professor Samiian resigned in objection to the abrupt cancellation, on grounds that it was not procedural errors but discrimination at play against the four finalists’ ethnic backgrounds and focus of scholarship. The finalists are all Palestinian and/or Arab-Americans. The context and grounds of her resignation are detailed in her publicly available resignation letter.

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Looking Historically at the White Working Class in the U.S. | David Gilbert

by David Gilbert, political prisoner

The bizarre and dangerous rise of Donald Trump did not just pop up out of the thin air. The very foundation of the U.S. is white supremacy. This country is, at its core, imperialist, patriarchal and based in a range of ways human beings are delimited and demeaned. Nor are the specific and terribly virulent politics of racial scapegoating brand new. Always a part of U.S. culture, that approach became more central in mainstream politics, with various ups and downs in the rhetoric, since the end of the 1960s. A stable imperialism prefers to rule by keeping the population passive, with large sectors at home placated by relative prosperity. But when the system is in crisis, those running the economy often resort to diverting anger by scapegoating the racial “other.” The sectors of the population who buy into that get the “satisfaction” of stomping on their “inferiors,” which is a lot easier than confronting the mega-powerful ruling class.

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Zionism and Native American Studies | Steven Salaita

It was only a matter of time before Zionism and Native American Studies [NAS] came into conflict—or, to be more precise, before Zionists began targeting the field for acrimony and recrimination, as they have long done to various humanities and social science disciplines. With an increasingly global focus (in concert with emphasis on local concerns), a commitment to material transformation, a disdain for US imperialism and militarism, a rejection of state power in nearly all its manifestations, and a plethora of young artists and scholar-activists interested in Palestine, it’s little surprise that Israeli colonization would become a topic in the field. And because most people in the field don’t have nice things to say about Israel, some of the state’s apologists have forced themselves into Indigenous spaces with a singular purpose: to intimidate its practitioners into obedience. As usual, those undertaking the intimidation know nothing about the people they endeavor to subdue. Over five centuries of history prove that Indigenous peoples are not given to submission.

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Crafting the Perfect Woman: How Gynecology, Obstetrics and American Prisons Operate to Construct and Control Women

by Anastazia Schmid (artist/activist/scholar, currently incarcerated at the Indiana Women’s Prison)

Captive women were the prime candidates for experimental gynecological surgeries due to their invisibility, and due to the voicelessness of their social position. …
The violence, sexual abuse, medical experimentation, sterilization and death of a few hundred captive women in the 19th century laid the foundation for the field of gynecology to expand into evolving eugenics practices (albeit in more clandestine forms) across time. Our nation’s first women’s prison housed only 17 women when it opened in 1873, today there are over 115,000 women incarcerated nationwide. One out of every three women incarcerated in the world is incarcerated in the U.S. Numbers fail to illustrate the sobering reality of incarcerated women’s lived experience and loss of humanity.

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Revolution and Restorative Justice: An Anarchist Perspective

Increasingly critics of mass incarceration are confident that restorative justice is an alternative that will slowly replace or reform the state’s monopoly on “justice.” It is particularly of restorative justice as an “alternative” to state retribution that I remain skeptical. To my eyes, restorative justice has within it no revolutionary power remotely sufficient to undo the embedded ideology of retribution, nor does it bear any promise of truly challenging the material power of the state and the prison industrial complex. Restorative justice is a powerful, therapeutic practice that creates healing for individuals and exposes the stark failure of the state’s rehabilitative enterprise. However, we must cease to see it as a structural alternative that will take the place of incarceration. Though it is a useful tool for undermining the retributive narrative of the state, it is insufficient to meet the challenges of ever-encroaching state legality and mass incarceration.

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All of Durham is a Checkpoint for Black and Brown People

by Durham Beyond Policing

We have been told over and over again that there are “good cops”. Everyday Black people in Durham are targeted by police. Nearly 80% of people held at the Durham County Jail are Black while Durham is only 40% Black. Is that the role of “good cops”? To fill our jails with Black people? Is the role of a “good cop” to disproportionately stop and search Black drivers in Durham? Is the role of a “good cop” to detain and deport family members? Is the role of a “good cop” to murder Black people in Durham without any consequences? Kenny Bailey, Levante Biggs, Frank Clark, these people are not disposable. None of us are disposable.

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