“There are only two responses to freedom. One is trying to control everything. The other is to be creative and take risks.” Alix Dobkin, 1994
Alix Dobkin, a lesbian singer and songwriter died on May 19th from a brain aneurysm and stroke. She was 80 years old.
Alix was born in 1940 into a radical Jewish family in Philadelphia. She was named after her uncle, Cecil Alexander Kunstlich, who had been executed by a firing squad while he was fighting against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War. According to her ex-lover Liza Cowan, she “spent her early years listening to the music of Paul Robeson – who once visited her family – Pete and Peggy Seeger, Leadbelly, The Red Army Chorus, and her much- loved songs from Broadway musical theater. Alix’s parents were members of the American Communist Party until they quit in the 1950s [because there were too many FBI informants in the Party]. From them she gained a passion for civil rights and social justice.”
Alix graduated from the Tyler School of Fine Arts / Temple University, and after graduation performed in folk clubs in New York and Philadelphia. She met Sam Hood, who she married and in 1970 had a daughter, Adrian Hood. Later that year Alix got involved with the women’s movement. According to Liza, as Alix listened to a radio interview with Germaine Greer on WBAI, “she realized that this would be the cause of her lifetime. She joined a Consciousness Raising Group, separated from her husband, and struck out on her own. She picked up the guitar once more, and wrote a letter to the producer who had done the interview which had so inspired her, asking if she could perform on her program. The night they did the live on-air broadcast, Alix and the producer, Liza Cowan, fell in love, and soon moved in together, along with 11 month old baby Adrian. Alix was now a capital L Lesbian.”
Alix formed Lavender Jane with musician Kay Gardner. Because commercial record producers weren’t interested, they produced on their own label, the first known album of “lesbian music” Lavender Jane Loves Women in 1973. Their songs, such as View from Gay Head, had radical feminist, dyke-affirming lyrics such as:
Carol is tired of being nice A sweet smile, a pretty face, submissive device To pacify the people for they won’t defend A woman who’s indifferent to men She’s my friend, she’s a lesbian And women’s anger Louise explains A million second places in the master’s games It’s real as a mountain, it’s strong as the sea Besides, an angry woman is a beauty She’s chosen to be a dyke like me She’s a lesbian, lesbian Lesbian in no man’s land Lesbian, lesbian Any woman can be a lesbian
Alix produced several more albums and toured the US and many other countries.
According to Liza, “as the women’s movement changed, and as Alix aged, she continued to perform, but devoted much of her time as a steering committee member and co-director of Old Lesbians Organizing For Change (OLOC), an advocacy group. In 2009 Alyson Books published her memoir, My Red Blood, recounting her early years growing up as a Red Diaper Baby in a communist family, and the early days of her folk music career.” During the controversy about inclusion of transwomen in OLOC, Alix supported that OLOC was open to all who identify as lesbians.
“Alix spent the last half of her life living in Woodstock, New York, raising her daughter along with former husband Sam, leaving only to tour. In her later years, she spent her days working for OLOC, performing rarely, and helping care for her three beloved grandchildren.”
Chaya and I met Liza and Alix in the 1970s in Seattle. During that time, the identity of lesbian was very big – for many of us big enough to include people who are gender queer, male-identified or butch, as well as people who identified as women or femme or fem. Alix Dobkin was a part of that time – lesbian love, lesbian sex, lesbian revolution! Thanks Alix.
March 7, 2021, San Francisco–Late tonight, UltraViolet editor Golden Chalice received an urgent call on their cellphone.
“Hi, Chal, this is Meg,” said the breathy voice. “I need your help. Meet me at the coops at dawn.”
Initially, Chalice was confused, thinking that Princess Meghan was referring to the Coops in the Bronx, officially known as the United Workers Cooperative Colony, built by Jewish Communists in the twenties.
“How will I get there in just four hours?” Chalice moaned. “The Concorde is not running any more.”
However, Meghan qualified that she was referring to the chicken coops at her home in Montecito, California, a mere one-hour ride, though Chalice had to take a B number on Southwest. At the rendezvous, amidst the squawking of waking roosters, Meghan revealed that Oprah Winfrey had reneged on a promise to air the full interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, omitting the most explosive portion for fear of being permanently shunned by the royal family.
“Harry is now Harriet,” Meghan announced. “She’s no longer a prince, but wants to be a Queen.” She clarified that there is no connection to Freddy Mercury but mentioned that the former royal son has been getting some makeup tips from Laverne Cox.
“I thought Oprah was the one person in this country we could trust,” Meghan said, sobbing on Chalice’s flannel shoulder. “But I see I was wrong. I’ve lost Obi Wan’s phone number. You’re my only hope.”
She explained that she landed on UltraViolet after visiting the Santa Barbara County library, which happens to have a complete archive of UltraViolet, going back to the 1997 cover exclusive, “Diana Not Dead, Caught in Love Nest with Riot Grrrrl.”
LAGAI-Queer Insurrection, publisher of UltraViolet, is pleased to welcome Meghan and Harriet as junior members, subsequent to their successful completion of our line study (the only correct lines are bent!). Look for their column, “The Royal Whee!” debuting in our next issue.
As UltraViolet goes to press, 5000 workers around Bessemer, Alabama, are voting (or not voting) on whether to establish the first union at an amazon facility in the u.s. (amazon workers in Europe are represented, casting doubt on the company’s claim that unions prevent that warm fuzzy company-employee relationship). The fulfilment warehouse is being organized by the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which was founded in the 1930s and has a long history as a progressive and civil-rights oriented union. In 2008, the RWDSU won the Islamic holiday, Eid-Al-Fitr as a paid holiday at a Tyson Foods plant in Tennessee, where hundreds of the workers are Somali refugees; right-wing organizations falsely reported that Labor Day had been sacrificed as a paid holiday in return.
The Bessemer warehouse opened in March 2020, just five months before the organizing drive began. The 855,000 square foot fulfillment center was the product of a failed bid to lure amazon’s second headquarters to Birmingham in 2017. For those who have forgotten, the company announced plans to build its HQ2 in Long Island City, but a community campaign joined by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez killed it; it’s now set to “transform the skyline” of Arlington, Virginia. Though Birmingham’s “Bring A to B” campaign failed to win the heart of the company’s soon-to-be-erstwhile CEO jeff bezos, it did catch the attention of those looking for a new site where all those brown boxes can be filled by humans and robots working side by side. In late 2019, an article on the website AL.com invited potential jobseekers to “watch a video on how to work with Amazon robots.” The company promised that employees would be paid $15 an hour, receive good benefits including 401(k) with 50% matching and “Amazon’s Career Choice program, which pre-pays 95% of tuition for courses in high-demand fields.”
In case you were wondering, 855,000 square feet is about 15 football fields or just under a mile. Depending where in those 15 football fields you work, getting to the bathroom or the cafeteria within the allotted 30 minute or 10-minute break time can be impossible. Workers found themselves bringing bottles to pee in so they didn’t have to run. They say their movements are heavily monitored and they can get written up or fired for being late back from a break or not packing enough products in an hour. In 2018, the company patented “designs for a wristband that can precisely track where warehouse employees are placing their hands and use vibrations to nudge them in a different direction,” according to an article in The Guardian. Even without the wristband, reports The Verge (Vox’s tech hub), amazon fires about 10% of its warehouse workers annually for failing to “make rate,” i.e., touch enough products in an hour, or for too much “TOT – time off task.”
The opening of the Bessemer warehouse also coincided with the pandemic, a huge surge in demand for amazon’s products and in the risk associated with doing the work. Workers reported increased pressure, no reliable access to protective equipment or ability to maintain social distance. By October 2020, 20,000 amazon workers had tested positive for COVID (about 1.44% of its 1.37 million frontline workers, including at Whole Foods (booo, hiss), which it bought four years ago). An amazon warehouse in Brampton, Ontario was ordered to close for two weeks just yesterday, due to a COVID spike in an area where cases are otherwise decreasing.
The Bessemer organizers filed authorization cards signed by over 2000 workers at the end of November, meeting the thirty percent threshold needed for an election. The NLRB scheduled the election to be conducted by mail; the company tried to insist that it be done in person, claiming it was to “protect the workers from intimidation” (shades of djt) but the National Labor Relations Board denied their motion and the court upheld that ruling. The company did subject the workers to nonstop harassment, including mandatory meetings of the type favored by nearly all employers facing unionization campaigns, where they lied to the workers about pretty much everything, including falsely claiming they would be required to pay union dues. When Jennifer Bates, a trainer in the warehouse and one of the key union organizers, asked at one of the meetings whether union dues are mandatory, the supervisor conducting the meeting admitted that they aren’t, but then she reported that he tried to photograph her ID badge, which she took as a threat. For good reason –Cornell’s Kate Bronfenbrenner found that union supporters were fired in 34% of the organizing drives she studied (57% of employers threatened to close operations if workers unionized). In April, amazon fired Christian Smalls, a Black warehouse worker on Staten Island who led a lunch-time walkout to protest the company’s failure to take appropriate safety precautions.
Mainstream media has been highly skeptical of the Bessemer workers’ chances of winning, citing the company’s high pressure tactics and the South’s very low union density. Astute observers, however, point out that the South is a big area and not every southern town is the same. Bessemer and Birmingham were historically centers of steel, coal and oil production – the land where the amazon warehouse sits was previously owned by U.S. Steel – and has a tradition of radical Black labor organizing, documented in Robin D.G. Kelley’s Hammer and Hoe, among other histories. Among the main organizers talking to workers as they get off shift at the warehouse are Black workers from a nearby poultry plant, which was organized by RWDSU in 2012. Some of the others, including Jennifer Bates, were members of other unions before coming to work at amazon. An estimated 85% of the warehouse workers are Black, as are 72% of the residents of Bessemer. The amazon consultants, reportedly being paid $3,200 a day for their union-busting advice, probably aren’t. (And I know for a fact that the law firm representing amazon isn’t.) Black Lives Matter sent a caravan to Bessemer as part of the February 20 national day of solidarity, when there were dozens of actions all over the country in support.
The NFL player’s association has endorsed the union, as have 30 writers and actors at amazon studios, including Tina Fey and Seth Meyers. The president of the united states sent a video message saying, “Unions give you a stronger voice for your health, your safety, higher wages, protections from racial discrimination and sexual harassment. Unions lift up workers, both union and non-union, and especially Black and brown workers.” Even florida senator marco rubio, architect of the coup in Venezuela and generally supporter of every awful thing, came out in favor of the union.
Win or lose, the Bessemer workers have helped to turn a page in u.s. labor history. In a nearly 180-degree pivot from 2014, when Time magazine reported on the sad conclusion of a failed attempt at organizing by 30 maintenance workers at an amazon facility in Delaware under the banner headline “How Amazon Crushed the Union Movement,” media like PBS NewsHour are now musing over the fact that only 10.7 percent of all Americans belong to unions, but nearly half say they want one. Harold Meyerson, writing in the American Prospect, calls Biden’s speech the most pro-union by any u.s. president ever, pointing out that “the height of FDR’s pro-labor activity was his decision to say and do nothing during the defining labor battles of the ’30s…Roosevelt’s silence signaled a new direction in public policy, but he didn’t want his fingerprints on or even near that new direction.”
As a candidate, Obama promised to push for the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have made organizing easier. But once he was elected, with strong union support, he didn’t lift a finger to pass EFCA, prompting a 2009 headline in Forbes magazine, “Obama’s Welcome Silence On The Employee Free Choice Act.” There was every reason to think that Biden would be no better. But things are different now, and the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which passed the House 225-206, with five republikkkans joining all the demokrats in favor, appears to be among Joe from Scranton’s priorities. The PRO Act would make a lot of the tactics amazon has used to try to kill the workers’ organizing drive illegal, including mandatory meetings, retaliatory firings and using immigration status to intimidate workers into opposing the union. It would impose actual penalties for labor law violations, prevent employers from permanently replacing striking workers, and allow “secondary strikes,” whereby members of one union can honor the picket lines of another. The national retail federation calls it “the worst bill in Congress,” and the u.s. chamber of commerce says it’s violating workers’ rights. There’s a good enough reason to support it, if you needed one. The PRO Act would also provide an arbitration process if unions can’t win a contract, which is important, since 52% of workers who won a union election don’t have a contract after a year.
The PRO Act may even be a catalyst for ending the senate filibuster, which stands in the way of Everything Good and makes an overempowered minority even more powerful. Right-wing democrat joe manchin, who vowed never to allow the filibuster to be revoked, has softened his tone recently. manchin represents West Virginia, which sees itself as highly pro-union (witness the historic 2018 teachers’ union victory) though it’s #24 on the list of states by percentage of union participation with the fourth largest decrease between 2008 and 2018 (in case you were wondering, the top five states are Hawaii, New York, Washington, Alaska and Rhode Island).
Some other good news on the labor front: Workers at Google, YouTube and other members of the “Alphabet” family of businesses recently formed the Alphabet Workers Union, the first of its kind in the tech industry. Launched publicly in January with 230 members, the union’s website (alphabetworkersunion.org) now says it has over 800 members. The pictures of sixty or so members featured along with short statements on the site suggest it’s unsurprisingly mainly white and young, and its values statement reads in part:
“Our union strives to protect Alphabet workers, our global society, and our world. We recognize our power as Alphabet workers—full-time employees, temporary employees, vendors, and contractors—comes from our solidarity with one another and our ability to collectively act to ensure that our workplace is equitable and Alphabet acts ethically.
We will use our reclaimed power to control what we work on and how it is used. We will ensure our working conditions are inclusive and fair. There is no place for harassment, bigotry, discrimination, or retaliation. We prioritize the needs and concerns of the marginalized and vulnerable. Workers are essential to the business. The diversity of our voices makes us stronger.”
A “minority union” affiliated with the Communication Workers of America, the union cannot and does not want to enter into contracts, but will use other tactics, including some not allowed to traditional unions such as corporate campaigns, boycotts and walkouts, to pressure the company to meet specific demands on behalf of its members, other workers and the public. The fact that contractors and temps are included is an excellent step, since one way that employers kill organizing drives is through the use of more precarious groups of workers. At Bessemer, contract workers hired through a staffing agency, including formerly incarcerated workers, have been told to wear “Vote No” buttons and hats. Some have said they don’t feel they can say no, given how badly they need the jobs and how difficult it would be the get another one.
The Alphabet workers union claims a number of victories already won by its members and other worker organizers over the last four years. These include promoting salary transparency by publicly sharing their compensation, giving each other more leverage to negotiate and revealing gender and racial bias in pay; pressuring Alphabet not to renew defense department contracts or participate in military projects; and a commitment to a better process for responding to accusations of sexual harassment (several workers experienced retaliation during that process).
In 2019, hundreds of Alphabet workers demanded that the company stop providing infrastructure to US government agencies responsible for separating children from parents and harming asylum seekers. Alphabet responded by firing some of the organizers.
The Alphabet workers and the Bessemer workers represent two ends of the work force spectrum and two very different approaches to organizing. The Black workers in Bessemer are in the tradition of the sanitation workers in Memphis, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life was ended, demanding dignity and respect through a traditional labor union and contracts. The Alphabet workers are using the language of privilege, social justice and “prioritizing the most marginalized,” and working with flexible segments of traditional labor to explore new strategies for pressuring companies. But both are doing something that is long overdue: asserting the right of all workers to a good life.
For too long, the labor movement has been using language that buries worker-management relations to get support from the public. When nurses strike, it’s about “patient care.” When teachers strike, it’s for “quality education for our children.” Health care and education are rights, which are denied most u.s. americans, and it’s absolutely true that better conditions for the people who provide them is essential to winning those rights. But workers should not have to prove that their working conditions are mainly problems for others, in order to bargain collectively to improve them. For sure, the pandemic has shown middle class people how much we rely on warehouse and grocery store workers. The fact that “Google” is a verb speaks for itself. But the workers are not saying, support us so you can keep getting the stuff you want. They are saying, no one should have to poop in a bag to keep their job, and it turns out most people get that. Which is good news for those of us who have what the late great David Graeber named “Bullshit Jobs” (40% of us, by one count).
Hosted by California Coalition for Women Prisoners & Parable of the Sower Intentional Community Cooperative; Endorsed by: The National Jericho Movement, New York City Jericho Movement, Release Aging People in Prison, Aging People in Prison – Human Rights Campaign, Oakland Jericho Movement, Freedom Archives, and Grassroots Global Justice, Critical Resistance
-Free City! The Fight for San Francisco’s City College and Education for All
In 2012, the accreditor sanctioned City College of San Francisco, one of the biggest and best community colleges in the country, and a year later proposed terminating its accreditation, leading to a state takeover. Free City! follows the multipronged strategies of the campaign and the diverse characters that carried them out. Teachers, students, labor unions, community groups, public officials, and concerned individuals saved a treasured public institution as San Francisco’s working-class communities of color battled the gentrification that was forcing them out of the city. And they pushed back against the national “reform” agenda of corporate workforce training that drives students towards debt and sidelines lifelong learning and community service programs. Combining analysis with narrative, Free City! offers a case study in the power of positive vision and solution-oriented organizing and a reflection on what education can and should be.
Tryfan Morys Eibhlyn Llwyd, a long-time radical queer activist, died on March 3 in Louisville Kentucky. They were 70. Tryfan, who was known as Arawn when they lived in the Bay Area, was a person with AIDS, an AIDS activist, and an anti-racist and anti-imperialist.
Tryfan was born in 1951 in Paris Kentucky, and after the death of their mother, was raised by an aunt and uncle. They studied English literature at the University of Kentucky, and then moved first to San Diego and then to San Francisco, where they got involved in the gay liberation movement in the 1970s. They also studied Romance Languages, art and design at City College of San Francisco. After a few years teaching English as a second language in SF and Japan, they moved to Chicago in the mid-1980s where they joined the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee, supporting Puerto Rican political prisoners, and doing anti-racist and anti-imperialist organizing, including the Central America Pledge of Resistance.
In 1987 they moved back to San Francisco, where they became involved in the AIDS Action Pledge, which became ACT-UP San Francisco. Tryfan was very active in the AIDS movement, becoming the third coordinator of the national AIDS activist coalition ACT NOW. Tryfan was part of Stop AIDS Now or Else, and participated in planning the Golden Gate Bridge Blockade, Stop the Opera, and the actions at the immigration and naturalization service (now ICE) and San Francisco Center. Tryfan was a member of the state and federal issues committee of ACT-UP SF and People with Immune System Disorders (PISD). Tryfan was also a member of Dykes and Gay Guys Emergency Response (DAGGER) which formed to oppose the first war on Iraq.
Tryfan worked and spoke out against all forms of oppression, including based on class, race, age, and ableism. In recent years, they were very involved in building the Palestine solidarity movement.
In 2000 Tryfan moved back to Kentucky to help take care of their aunt. They remained passionate about social justice and as they dealt with many health challenges, remained engaged with friends in the Bay and beyond through frequent and incisive Facebook posts. Last year, Tryfan announced their change in name and gender pronouns as a non-binary gender queer person.
Many in our overlapping communities have remembered Tryfan. Waiyde Palmer posted, “But beyond their activist acumen they were a loyal, kind, and unwavering friend to any and all. They lived fiercely and completely with all their being. Their passion for helping others and making this world better was unflagging even as they aged and the body refused to cooperate. They never hid from a fight – living out and proud as a Queer Person With AIDS from the beginning.”
We in LAGAI remember Tryfan from endless ACT-UP meetings, where they often facilitated as we tried to navigate some major disagreements through the consensus process. They were a good person to be with whether blockading the federal building, planning a complicated action, or attending yet another memorial. Tryfan was creative, snarky and sarcastic, and a dedicated and true radical. We missed them when ACT-UP split, and when they moved back to Kentucky, and we will continue to miss them from our world.
Carmen Vasquez, a Puerto Rican lesbian and one of the founders of the San Francisco Women’s Building died of COVID-19 related complications on January 27 in New York City. She was 72.
Carmen was born in Puerto Rico in 1949. Her family moved to New York when she was a child. She had relationships with women as a young butch (and for the rest of her life) and attended City College of New York, where she participated in the movement against the Vietnam War and to create Black and Puerto Rican studies departments. She graduated with a master’s degree in education and moved to San Francisco in 1975. She became involved with the San Francisco Women’s Centers which had formed in 1971 and worked out of an office on Brady Street. The group worked to purchase Dovre Hall on 18th Street, which became the San Francisco Women’s Building, in 1979. Carmen was involved in a number of lesbian of color and women of color organizations including the Third World Women’s Alliance. She participated in the Somos Hermanas delegation to Nicaragua. In 1985 she joined a delegation to the international women’s conference in Nairobi.
Carmen participated in the Marxist-Leninist Education Project which was associated with Line of March, a communist party organization, but she said the party dissolved before she formally joined. She was part of the early 1980s transition and split when the Third World Women’s Alliance, with the leadership of some of the women of color in Line of March, decided to include white women and become the Alliance Against Women’s Oppression. In a 2005 oral history interview [link for online: https://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/vof/transcripts/Vazquez.pdf] , Carmen credited her experiences with Line of March, the Third World Women’s Alliance, and the experience in Nairobi with her developing a deeper analysis. “And so, there came into my analysis an international and very rich, I think, class perspective that has informed my thinking ever since, really. I mean, my formal political training, truly, was begun at the Women’s Building and with the Alliance Against Women’s Oppression, who then also invited me to participate in the World Women’s Conference in Nairobi in 1985. And that — I mean, that was huge, because then I got to meet feminists from all over the world and take that thinking into account…
“Over the years, you know, I really think that the people that have most deeply impacted me have been lesbians of color. There’s no question about that. You know, Barbara Smith and Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherríe [Moraga] have really been the people that fed my thinking about feminism in a way that I could understand, could live with, could take in.”
In 1986 Carmen was hired by Community United Against Violence, which was her first formal involvement in LGBT organizations. She helped to start the Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center (LYRIC) and the LGBT Health & Human Services Network. In 1988 she became the coordinator of Lesbian/Gay Health Services for the SF Department of Public Health.
Carmen moved back to New York in 1994, where she became the director of policy for the city’s LGBT Community Center and helped found the New York State LGBT Health & Human Services Network. She was a founder and principal author of Causes in Common (a national coalition of Reproductive Justice and LGBT Liberation activists). She was on the board of directors of the National LGBTQ Task Force, which honored her with the SAGE award for leadership in aging issues at the Creating Change conference in 2020.
Carmen was a totally out Puerto Rican butch, a lesbian who in the Bay Area was often engaged in tough decisions and debates. She was a strong advocate for queer people of color, for oppressed people everywhere, and for radical change. Her death is a great loss.
Demonstrations, my favorite form of activism, can be annoyingly difficult to navigate during COVID, what with avoiding the bug, long slow car caravans, and looking for bathrooms now all indefinitely closed. So I was especially pleased to participate in a #Facebook We Need to Talk About Palestine demonstration on February 24th. This action was part of an International day to call out facebook’s proposed revision of their hate speech policy to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism which conflates the opposition to zionism with antisemitism, creating a narrative which says that any criticism of the occupation of Palestine and support for the Boycott Sanction and Divestment (BDS) movement would be considered antisemitic and would fall under facebook’s hate speech policy. Petitions were delivered to facebook in fifty-five cities around the world!
Facebook we need to talk— and you’re not letting us
The Israeli government and some of its supporters are asking Facebook to add “Zionist” as a protected category in its hate speech policy—that is to treat ”Zionist” as a proxy for”Jew” or Jewish”
And ended with:
Do Not add “Zionist” to your hate speech policies.
Thirty people or so from the co-sponsoring groups assembled at a starbucks in Menlo Park and marched a few blocks to a deserted facebook campus with its giant emblematic thumb at its entrance. A videographer chronicled the action, so it could be added to the international social media presence. In spite of covid there was a gaggle of laughing tourists taking photo ops in front of the thumb. We walked up the driveway and were met by security who predictably wouldn’t take the petition and declared that nobody was in the administrative building and said “Come back after covid.” Finding no joy in this exchange we moved back to the aforementioned thumb and heard short speeches from each organization. Tinku representing QUIT! gave an excellent speech highlighting that meaningful Queer Liberation requires a Free Palestine. Tinku said:
Tinku representing QUIT! said:
For the last 20 years, we’ve been working to support Palestinian liberation as part of the queer community and the Palestine solidarity movement. People who are against Palestine constantly try to silence the voices that demand justice for Palestinians. As queer people, our experience of facing persecution throughout history allow us to easily recognize these pretexts and we strongly denounce these attempts by Facebook and others to silence criticism of Israel or Zionism.
Not five minutes into the speechmaking, the Menlo Park police arrived, the facebook security having wasted no time. They began demanding a leader, and muttering ominously about trespassing on private property, tourist picture taking notwithstanding. As is demonstration pro forma we dilly dallied around, made a few more speeches and walked very slowly towards the property line. The police left.
It was then decided to have another go at petition delivery and three designated people walked back on to the facebook property and tried to convince the security people to take the book of petitions. The box was opened and the paper petitions made clearly visible. The security people demurred. The box of petitions was then left on the facebook hallowed ground, and we all returned to the starbucks. Shortly thereafter the police arrived again, this time threatening mass arrest for littering (really). The police seemed to be oddly anxious about the whole thing and it quickly came out that facebook was demanding the bomb squad for the unattended cardboard box. Then a strange negotiation ensued with the police all but begging us to retrieve the offending box of paper petitions so that their day wouldn’t be inconvenienced with bomb squad activities, and at least one activist being prepared to get arrested rather than do this. After much discussion the activists decided it wasn’t worth it to make this point, that the message of the international demonstration against facebook had already been made. So with agreement that the police would not arrest anyone we walked back to the edge of the facebook property and two people walked onto the property and retrieved the box.
There was a worldwide social media presence and Deni was able to get the QUIT! logo included for queer representation. This set of actions was particularly important in resisting the spurious and pervasive idea that to condemn the racist policies of zionism and the state of israel is to be antisemitic. The alliance between zionism and christian right wing white supremacy completely detracts and obscures the venal threat of rising antisemitism and white nationalism.
MPower has set up an easy “email action” interface to send to your email lists and group of participants!
4DalyCity Educate to Liberate!
On February 27th Deeg and I agreed to be National Lawyers Guild legal observers for a demonstration in Daly City called by the grassroots community group 4DalyCity and held outside the Daly City Hall. The demonstration was a call to end racism and police violence. The organizers wrote in their leaflet:
How can residents of Daly City support the call to action to end racial violence and racial police responses? Along with other Black, Brown, and Asians grassroots coalitions, we are organizing and developing community-based resources and responses to police brutality, racial violence, mental health crises, and support for the houseless. We believe in community care, safety, and accountability rather than depending on the systems of oppression that uphold white supremacy and anti-blackness. Though it may not be talked or heard about, there is violence against BIPOC communities in Daly City, perpetuated by the police and ICE. This year there were ICE raids here and all over SMC [San Mateo County]. We demand that the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and Sheriff end cooperation with ICE and stop transfers. ICE must be abolished and all children freed and reunited with their families. There is no end to racial violence without abolition and there is no liberation without Black liberation and indigenous sovereignty.
The demonstration was about seventy people strong, almost entirely young people of color and was impeccably organized, complete with security with yellow vests and walkie talkies, police liaisons legal observers and the Queer medic van. The speeches given by high school students called for an end to criminalizing youth and an end to police in the schools, but rather increased school resources for mental health services. They also demanded real liberation ethnic studies. They called for an end to capitalism.
The demonstration took to the streets and marched through the nearby community of large rental apartment buildings. They chanted “Give me B, I got a B, Give me an L, I got an L, Give me an M I got an M , Black Lives Matter” and “This is what community looks like” and “Our best defense is us”. The carried a beautiful rainbow banner that said “ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER”. People in the surrounding apartments came out to two watch and cheer. It was militant and defiant and the community loved it. We the legal observers kept an eye on the police who did obnoxious wheelies on motorcycles to remind us of their aggression, but otherwise kept back. The march returned to the Daly City city hall and more people spoke, including some young people new to activism, and the action finished with a birthday cake for a high school activist. This action was community based, radical, abolitionist and unpretentious and specifically called out all the most excruciating issues of our time. There was a glimmer of hope.
PEOPLE OF THE WORLD UNITE. WE HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT OUR CHAINS
The california board of education (cbe) is attempting to finalize the model curriculum for ethnic studies in public schools. The possibly final meeting will be on March 18, and people have been urged to call in once again to make public comments, which the board will ignore.
In 2016 the legislature passed AB 2016 requiring the state board of education to adopt a model ethnic studies curriculum. An advisory board was set up to review curriculum proposed by several experts in ethnic studies. The draft curriculum published in the summer of 2019 was attacked as being far too radical. Zionists took the lead in the attack, claiming the curriculum was anti-Semitic. So it has gone through several rounds of drafts, each getting further from the concept that ethnic studies needs to address the work, culture, oppression, and resistance of people of color in California. In February all of the writers and advisory committee members involved in the original draft of the curriculum wrote to the board of education demanding their names be removed from the revised draft.
Meanwhile in September AB 331, which would have required an ethnic studies course for high school graduation was vetoed by gov. newsom, who called it not sufficiently inclusive. By the time the bill had passed the legislature, it included “guardrails” which would have established a basis for suing a school or school district if the parent considered the curriculum to be “biased” in any way. Some advocates for ethnic studies are now promoting development of “liberated ethnic studies.” For more information, see http://www.liberatedethnicstudies.org.
In a letter this month supporting a return to the original curriculum as the basis for ethnic studies in California, QUIT! (Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism) wrote:
QUIT!, Queers for Palestine, a community-based activist group, strongly opposes the current version of the CA Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) We support an Ethnic Studies curriculum that centers the voices and experiences of communities of color. The original version of the ESMC, written by experts in the fields of education and Ethnic Studies, provided guiding principles to ground the Ethnic Studies course in anti-racist, de-colonial and liberatory pedagogy. Students taking the original Ethnic Studies course would have been empowered with critical thinking skills to analyze current systemic injustices.
QUIT! as an LGBTQ organization, recognizes that the struggle for Queer liberation cannot be achieved without a clear intersectional anti-racist and de-colonial focus that was woven into the original Ethnic Studies. We stand in solidarity with communities of color in the struggle for a genuine Ethnic Studies that provides empowering representational models of people of color. We recognize that LGBTQ students faced a similar struggle, in which we were frequently told that our need for accurate curriculum was impossible to achieve.
In particular, we demand that the Arab American lessons, including Palestine, that were written by Arab American educators, be reinstated under the Asian American rubric. We find intolerable the use of a racist definition of anti-Semitism as criticism of Israel and the inclusion of Ashkenazi Jews in Asian American Studies, which have no basis in foundational scholarship.
We also demand the restoration of the original key Ethnic Studies concepts, guiding principles and pedagogy that defines the foundations of an Ethnic Studies course compared to a general course in history. This will entail reinserting the key terms and definitions aligned with Ethnic Studies scholarship and the correction of erroneous information about Ethnic Studies.
Finally, as one of many groups who spoke at the Instructional Quality Committee, addressed public comments to the California Department of Education, and showed up in support of principle based Ethnic Studies that included Arab American Studies and Palestine, we are appalled that tens of thousands of comments and letters could be ignored in forming the revisions of the original Ethnic Studies Curriculum. The resulting revision has led to the silencing of all those who are struggling to create a public education system that is formed by and serves our students of color and their families, who make up the majority of California’s public schools.
As California works to educate all students from kindergarten to community colleges to expand educational possibilities, and as California strives to address systemic racism through transformational policies, it is urgent that the State Board of Education sends a message of support for an anti-racist, de-colonial and liberatory Ethnic Studies in the spirit of the 1968 Third World Liberation Front and Black Student Union strikes. It is not too late to call for the reinstatement of curriculum to reflect the current anti-racist struggles for liberation.
Hello! Happy Valentine’s Day to all of LGBTQ+ Community of UltraViolet newspaper. Today is Feb. 4th 2021 and I am writing you in my second language – Ingles. I am just learning and writing Ingles because I speak Spanish only. I [am trying] to communicate with you in Ingles. “Greetings to all of You.” So, the reason for my letter is to let you know that soon I will be deported to Mexico and I do not want to leave without saying “Muchos Gracias portado El Apoyo (support) that I had received from you all of these years. I have been reading your newsletter UltraViolet and it brought me a lot of comfort, wisdom and knowledge. I didn’t feel so alone. I knew that there were people like me (bisexual) out there. When I read the stories of UltraViolet, it opened my eyes to see all the effort that you guys [are] doing for us in prison. The literature, newspaper, letters and support gave me courage to continue growing with all of you. This is my last weeks in prison. Thank you very much. I love you all. You are a great value for me, a great support, someone who loves me. I never felt alone because of the stories in UltraViolet, they are a mirror of my own image. Sincerely, Juan Suares Folsom Prison [ed. Note. Juan is no longer in prison in CA. He was on the UV mailing list for 3 ½ years. We are angry and disgusted by his deportation and wish him the very best]
Prison Journalism Project
Our mission is to help incarcerated writers and those in communities affected by incarceration tell stories about their world using the tools of journalism: gathering and testing facts, writing with nuance, texture and insight and reaching a thoughtful audience.
We provide incarcerated writers with the tools and training to establish themselves as credible writers and journalists, so they can meaningfully participate in the decision making processes that impact them and their communities. We are developing a correspondence-based curriculum, a journalism textbook that incorporates comics and a framework for in-prison classes. We also support journalism teachers and professors who teach classes that touch on mass incarceration.
Writers who are incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, family members, corrections officers, prison educators and others involved in the criminal justice system or affected by the experience of prison or jail. We welcome submissions by first-time writers, experienced writers and artists. We publish full name bylines unless you specify otherwise. You may publish under your first name or a pen name, but please provide a reason that can be published as part of your bio. We do not use titles (Mr., Ms., Dr. etc.) in bylines.
As a Black transman I have a bull’s eye on my back. An automatic three strikes against me. Number 1, I’m incarcerated; number 2, I’m Black; number 3, I’m trangender, Being in prison is already an ordeal to face both mentally and emotionally. How do we deal with the prejudiced environment pertaining to race, gender and religion? Is there a difference between racism and prejudicial behavior?
Let’s speak biblically. One of the greatest commandments is to “love one another”. Speaking of love unites us all. We’re all God’s children, right? We need to act as such. Love conquers all! So why so much division? Within these prison walls, we must learn to love one another. Be at peace with each other. Be emphatic to one another. Be cheerful to one another. If you’re not a part of the solution to disperse the negativity which evolves from our biased environment, then you’re obviously a part of the problem. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. It’s not their actions but your reactions that matter. True enough, we are in control. In our confined circumstances, how we react in certain situations can dictate the outcome. We can’t change nobody else but we can change ourselves. Solving a problem starts from within. Coming from someone with anger issues and psychotic outbursts, I myself struggle with this too. I’m not racist but I’ve witnessed and experienced the prejudicial manners and biased antics of others.
We need to acknowledge the problems that consist between color lines and solve it by being color blind. United we stand, divided we fall. Ignorance is disliking someone because of their skin color, gender preference or religious beliefs. In order for us to eliminate the hate in the world, today we must first stand with cleansing our won heart. Share the love, spread the joy. Britney Gulley #1601283, Skyview Unit, 379 FM 2972, Rusk TX 75785
Shorts from Inside
Enclosed is a tithe of my IRS/EIP cheque to assist with your work. I am sharing the 10% tithe evenly with four organizations. [I’m honoring] those in California who fought our exclusion by the IRS from filing for and being given stimulus money. I hope it is helpful, though small. Be well. AS, SCI Forest PA [ed. Note. Thank you very much, Andrew]
Dear UltraViolet family. I’m in FCI Waseca and the ACLU is suing the prison and warden Starr. I was on a ventilator and in coma due to Covid. I still struggle with the after effects. There is no social distancing here. No good medical. Staff keep bringing in buses. But rest assured, us inmates are sticking together. I want to thank all of the UltraViolet family for always giving me strength. AM, FCI Waseca MN
Thank you sooooo much for sending me [resource lists]. I can’t wait to receive them so I can do my part as an activist to change the social structure of the united states. There must be LOVE, not war! There must be peace, not hate! I can’t wait to hear from you! Bye! DT, Utah S.P. UT
I hope all of you at LAGAI are doing well and I also hope you remain safe in the midst of this potpourri of madness. Even with the whole world losing its collective mind, you managed to put out issues of your UltraViolet newsletter. No small feat in a year when many were just trying to survive. I always look forward to that opening satire, political and cultural commentary and, of course, the Inside Shorts. Also, you printed an article I wrote about the victory of one Florida girl and the transgender policy she changed. Thank you! Until this is over, my writing is the only way I know to make a difference and that’s only possible if others can read it. Once I’m out, I’d like to do a whole lot more. Rayne Violet, New River Work Camp FL
Hello to all my UV Family across the nation and everyone providing us this magnificent platform at LAGAI. I’m so grateful that we’re able to share experiences and let each other know we are not alone. We are able to unite and feel comfortable with our authentic self. I encourage y’all to write down the names you see and introduce yourselves. Reach out and offer letters of support to build upon this powerful network and create an unbreakable bond and united force. Love y’all. “Boogie”, your new bro. RT, Mule Creek S.P. CA
Started off this year with my first ever UV issue. Definitely gave me life and brought some light into this corona-infected facility. Lockdown finally ended after a long 30 days and I’m now fully recovered from the bug! Even tho my physical freedom had been taken from me 3 years ago, I actually feel free as can be after hiding my true identity for 26 years and beginning hormone therapy. I send my love and best wishes full blast to my LGBTQ fam. Thank you to all who contributed to the Jan. 2021 issue. I’m stoked to officially be a subscriber and I look forward to the future issues to come! Take care. XO. NS, Orange CA
Hello inside and outside world. I am a man who loves, loves our transwomen and Queers. I have been standing in between them and dangers of other inmates and staff since 2006 (when my incarceration began) and even before I was arrested. I’m not in a relationship at this time (unfortunately) but this is my mission to call all of the gay men who love our Queens (queers and transgender women) to stand up and join me in protecting our community. If the haters see more strong men stand in protecting our Queens of our LGBTQ community, there would be less attempts on their lives. If you are interested in joining my mission (man or woman) please write me, Earl Holeman #1055830 30420 Revells Neck Rd. Westover MD 21890
Currently at SCI Albion, over 90 inmates plus about half the correctional officers have gotten sick, along with some administration non-uniforms and service workers. Also a couple of inmates have died. Governor Tom Wolfe refuses to allow those seriously ill to go home. He should allow inmates with a year of less to get out, release the over 20 inmates on Administrative Custody waiting to get out of the BHU because of lack of bed space and the 40 people on AC waiting to get transferred to a program. Cells ain’t clean and showers ain’t clean. In population, they are letting 1 cell at a time, switching top tier and bottom tier every other day, only giving them 25 minutes for showers. Food is being served cold and that’s only the half of it. Juicy Queen Bee SCI Albion PA