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(en) US, Detroit, Another take on the Anarchist People of Color Conference - APOC Rocks Motown - by M. Mayuran Tiruchelvam

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 4 Nov 2003 14:27:05 +0100 (CET)

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Descending on Detroit from all parts of the nation and the globe,
nearly 150 people attended the Anarchist People of Color Conference
from Oct. 3 to 5. Anarchists and anti-authoritarians drove over 20
hours from Texas, flew in from Seattle and rode the rails from the
Northeast. Over a dozen activists from Canada made their way across
the border, while others hailed from Brazil, Colombia, Bhutan, Jamaica
and Korea.
Puck who hails from Tucson expressed satisfaction at gathering with
so many kindred spirits. “I’ve been an anarchist for a few
years now and never had the experience of having more than one or
two other people of color in the same room as me at the same

It was repeatedly noted that this was the first conference bringing
together anarchist people of color. When one thinks of anarchism, the
image is of a predominantly white movement.

Joe, who arrived from Montreal, explained the importance of the event.
“You go to places in Canada, any major city… you don’t see
conferences with people of color like this, and it’s so important.
You can’t necessarily depend on the fairly Euro-centric stances
that are present all across Canada.”

Beyond the geographic representation of the conference attendees,
there was a variety in the movements and struggles they came from.
Anarchist people of color also brought together experiences of
multiple generations – former Black Panther Party members
alongside queer youth - gender identities, sexualities, class
backgrounds and ethnicities.

The APOC Conference was advertised as a people of color only event.
While white activists provided off-site support, conference attendees
worked to create a community of support and trust. Attendees also
volunteered to provide security in the face of violent, but ultimately
empty threats, by white supremacists.

Representing movements in popular education, Palestine solidarity,
punk rock, queer youth activism, transgender housing rights and
mental-health advocacy, among dozens of other causes, conference
goers expressed a desire to connect and build a new vision of people
of color activism and understanding. Many people spoke of unsavory
experiences in white anarchist spaces or in authoritarian people of
color organizations, fueling camaraderie among attendees.

“Any other time that it’s been initiated that we should have a
people of color only space… it’s gotten really unhealthy
reactions from other activists… that’s divisive, it’s
separatist,” said Darcy of Portland Oregon. “People of color
are very much interested in having their own space where we can
space about issues and racism in organizing, on our own terms
without interruptions or presumptions. This is really healthy, and
we’ll be having it again.”

Workshops were delivered on women of color and feminism in the
movement, spoken word, organizing against the criminal justice
system, the police and cruising, white nationalist movements, sexism,
cop-watch groups, community alternatives to police and karate.

Several plenaries allowed attendees to explore the significance of
what it means to be an anarchist person of color and how to move
forward as a movement or support network. In Detroit, people of color
explored anarchism as a movement towards self-sustainability and
self-determination that is rooted in a knowledge and acknowledgement
of relationships and internalized oppression and challenges traditional
white modes or organizing. Rafael, from New York City, explained
that as anarchist people of color “we have to give up the idea that
we are organizing people.”

The Conference was called for by the Black Autonomy Network of
Community Organizers, based in Michigan. However, disputes in the
final weeks of the planning stages led to BANCO members boycotting
the event a day before the conference began. At the same time,
BANCO member Lorenzo Komboa Erwin sent a letter addressing
disputes with other conference organizers and threw out such terms
as “character assassination” and “sectarianism” in
reference to the organizers. Though the presence of these sisters and
brothers was missed, the conference itself went on as planned.

Yet the dispute, as well as problems of machismo and posturing
within anti-authoritarian movements, hung over the conference for
some time. While many anarchist people of color are willing to engage
in self-criticism and change, others were fueled by the desire to move
forward – as though the simple act of gathering in Detroit prepared
us to take action against a myriad of issues.

Over three dozen anarchist people of color from the tri-state area
were in attendance, and say they returned with energy to work
together to create a more just world. “I went to a workshop
discussing alternatives to the police state that we live in. People have
really good ideas about how to organize autonomous communities to
really work together against violence,” said Alana from Queens.
“That’s something I’m really going to think a lot about and
try to take home and start working on.”

As for the future of Anarchist People of Color gatherings, plans are in
motion to create regional, local, and national meetings, and to bring in
potential allies who couldn’t make it to Detroit.
See also:

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