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(en) US, APOC'alypse Now! - an APOC analysis by Dwight D. Cacho

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 21 May 2004 07:34:22 +0200 (CEST)


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It Is Our Duty To Fight! It Is Our Duty To Win!
It Is Our Duty To Love Each Other And Protect Each other!
Because We Have Nothing To Lose But Our Chains! - Assata Shakur
I am a persyn of color who has been involved in
anti-authoritarian/anarchist activism and organizing in New York City for
about a year. In this article, rather than being an author, in the
traditional western sense, and offering forth a monologue of my own
necessarily narrow ideas and impressions of what Anarchist People of Color
(APOC) is, or playing the role of what is too often the fallaciously
¨objective¨ scholar, which at its worst begs us to assume that the subject
writing the piece is not present within it, I have set out to synthesize
my own thoughts with the thoughts of other APOC folks in order to offer
what will hopefully be a more varied, horizontal and anarchistic
impression of what APOC is.

A Caveat

“Charlie don’t surf!” —Colonel Kilgore “Apocalypse Now”

I chose the motif of “Apocalypse Now” in part because it offers a chance
for a play on words and also because it adds a backdrop of U.S.
imperialism, French colonialism and, if one looks back further still, it
hearkens back to Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”, of which the movie was
loosely based upon, and, hence, it summons up images of Belgian
colonialism in Africa and along with them the construction of the modern
capitalist/imperialist world that many people of color still fight against
today. “Apocalypse Now” is Orientalist in that it is a discourse about the
colonized or rather the situation of colonization/imperialism by the
colonizer/imperialist, a kind of speaking by proxy, and it leads to what
may be an interesting juxtaposition between the ways dominant white
culture tries to speak for people of color and the way that this article
will try to act as a platform for myself and others in APOC to speak.

We Are Not New

“I came to understand how organized governments used their concentrated
power to retard progress by their ever-ready means of silencing the voice
of discontent…” —Lucy Parsons

If there is one thing that deserves our immediate attention it is the
notion that although APOC may be something somewhat new in name, anarchist
people of color are actually nothing new at all. As Not4Prophet from the
Puerto Punk/hardcore/hip-hop group known as “RICANSTRUCTION” aptly states,
“APOC didn't start with the first APOC Conference in Detroit on October of
last year, although that conference was extremely important because it
brought APOC’s together as a (inter)national "movement", which is
unprecedented. But APOC is something that we can trace back to folks like
Lucy Parsons and Martin Sostre of the U.S., Luisa Capetillo of Puerto
Rico, Ricardo Magon and Praxedis Guerero of Mexico, Bhagat Singh of India,
and others, and later on to Black Panthers like former POW’s Kuwazi
Balagoon, Lorenzo Komboa Ervin and Ashanti Alston. If we go even further
back, we see that indigenous people from Africa and the Americas, as well
as Asia, also practiced "anarchist" lifestyles long before someone decided
to name it.”

Do not be surprised if you have not heard of many of these names, in fact,
if you haven’t heard of these people it makes perfect sense. Perhaps this
is partly because if anarchism, as a libratory ideology/praxis, is a
threat to western hegemony, then people of color who are anarchists are
even more unnerving to the webs of power that envelope our lives. Such
structures, networks and, yes, people are all too aware of the abuse that
has been perpetuated and are all too conscious of their own illegitimacy
and perhaps this fear is more discernable in what is left unwritten in the
“official” texts of history than what can be easily found within them.

In many ways, it may have been easier for the powers that be to deal with
the waves of statist nationalisms and statist leftward ideologies when
they erupted than it would have been to challenge non-statist formations
and modes of praxis. Perhaps a simple glance to the legers of the World
Bank or the IMF or a careful study of what has happened to many of these
states and ideologies would only serve to further elucidate this point.
Hence, the idea of a people who’s primary aim is to smash unequal power
relationships, not to “take” power and who want to push for a more
widespread understanding of the fact that the power to be an author or
“protagonist”, as they say in the social movements of Argentina at
present, in ones own life, is one that lies equally in all of us and is at
once something totally foreign to global Empire and completely libratory
to those who may feel the pressure of the boot upon our necks the
strongest.

Again, Not4Prophet sums it up when he states, “I believe that APOC is a
growing movement that makes sense. POC’s have always been the ones to
suffer the downpression, injustice, racism, white supremacy/privilege,
brutality, and the other vestiges of capitalism… we are the ones that have
always had to search for new and effective ways to combat Babylon. So it
would make perfect sense that people of color would embrace a concept that
is anti-authoritarian, counter culture and devoted to
dismantling/destroying the state that seeks to destroy us.”

What is APOC?

“For many, APOC has been a collective primal scream or a network of sighs
of relief.” —Xan

What is Anarchist/Anti-Authoritarian People of Color (APOC)? APOC is a
term that contains a multiplicity of meanings for the many people who
identify with it. In fact, the notion of what APOC is is still very much a
work in progress. This very idea of fluidity and freedom is something that
is just as deeply embedded in APOC as the notion that it is comprised
solely of people of color. APOC, in short, is what people may make of it.
For some, APOC is a way of coming together with people in a community, for
others it is a group with which to work on activist work/organizing in a
safe space for people of color of many different sexualities and ways of
identifying, to others APOC is a study group with which to share and
create radical visions of the future, for yet more still it is simply the
articulation of a feeling that they have had their whole lives. For me,
APOC is an idea of radical community with which I am focusing much of my
life and work on at this point.

In my understanding, the notion of “anarchism” itself holds within it the
idea that strong autonomous communities can and should function without
the need for a state or institutionalized leadership and, to me-APOC is
and can be such a community. This notion of autonomy is particularly
important to the rainbow of peoples that fall under the rubric of “people
of color”. From Chicana\o’s to blacks to Southeast Asians and the
innumerable “Others” who have felt the genocide and manifold violence of
western imperialism and who have had the sense that their communities were
and are being controlled by an occupying force, this notion of autonomy is
at once intimate, complex and key.

When asked what APOC means to her, Xan from the “Belly of the Beast
Collective” in Washington DC states, “ APOC speaks volumes to the need for
anti-authoritarian organizing among people of color. Most of us,
autonomists of some category, are struggling to find a space to
deconstruct oppression in the company of others with shared experience.
APOC validates that life experiences are the most important influence in
the development of critical race theory. We believe that we, people of
color, must be on the frontlines of determining our own liberation. For
many that liberation has come in the form of fusing punk and hip-hop,
indigenous and contemporary styles, visual mediums and general empowerment
through art, something many of us miss in other movements.” She goes on to
state that, “It has been amazing to many of us involved that many
“anarchist perspectives” have been questioned when they are interrogated
through the lens of race. From dumpster diving to voting to actually
organizing people of color, APOC has allowed people the safe space to talk
about what it means to be an anti-authoritarian of color in a mostly white
movement, what it means to be a sub-culture of a sub-culture and how to
resist “tokenization”.”

1st Conference

“The gathering was empowering and inspiring on a personal level, the level
that seeks affinity, solidarity, identity, history.” —Kat Lo

I had first heard of APOC’s existence over the summer of 2003 and had
desperately wanted to plug in to it in some way. A friend told me about a
national conference that was to be held in Detroit in October but, much to
my regret, I was unable to attend what has been conveyed to me by all who
were there as a wholly life altering experience. As Kat Lo of New Haven
APOC puts it, “My decision to go to the first APOC conference was
arbitrary, but as a result my life and outlook have changed immensely.
What I find from conferences are that they are bodily convergences of
people who half know, on an abstract level, that others like them exist,
somewhere out there. Nothing can replace face-to-face interactions, and it
is those unplanned moments – walking together from workshop to workshop,
the impromptu discussions, the road trip to the conference - which are the
real substance of such a gathering. Oftentimes some of us have felt spoken
for by literature or theories on what it is like to be a persyn and
especially womyn of color, and there was a very real sense of (re)claiming
our very existences, because we are womyn of color and we don't need books
or other people to tell us what it is like. There is also the need to know
our (subaltern) histories, to un-silence them, chip off at the very layers
of slavery, imperialism, and colonialism, and bring them into our
organizing. This sense of recognition carried over into our personal
interactions - there were about 130 of us there, all from different
cultures and backgrounds, and the sense of recognition, respect, and
affinity among us was visibly present. I left Detroit realizing that I had
felt the safest, most respected, and most at home among people I had only
known for a day.”

There is a power in those words that I have heard echoed by all who have
participated in APOC. It is the power of unity, individuality and a
certain kind of agency employed in the making and shaping of identities
that have been heaped upon us for far to long. As Not4Prophet rightly
states, “ this new @ is ours, we are defining anarchy and ourselves, not
someone else. We are (in proud anarchist style) molding and shaping
anarchism into a
powerful/inclusive/safe/colorful/volatile/raging/rebellious/raw sub and
counter culture "movement".

Attack

"I was stunned at the severity of the attack, and I am genuinely concerned
for the safety and well-being of those who were unfairly detained and
arrested.” —Eyewitness

The next time I would hear about APOC it would be on a note that was at
once galvanizing, mobilizing and also highly enraging and cautionary. It
was one of those wake-up calls that remind us that even when we are at
play we are indeed engaged in a serious business, the business of
liberation. Since the Detroit conference, APOC-NYC had mostly been meeting
as a radical study group. It was and actually is still working diligently
and slowly, not skipping any steps, to carve out what its identity is and
is working to build a strong face-to-face living, breathing community.
Just prior to the FTAA demonstrations in November, APOC had a benefit
show/party to help cover the expenses of the costly trips to Detroit and
to help fund the upcoming mobilization in Miami. Many at the party said
that the vibe was almost ideal. People felt a real sense of strength,
unity and joy being amongst one another. What happened next would shock
many of us and would show not only the determination of the state to
silence Anarchist/Anti-Authoritarian People of Color but also the
tremendous organizing strength, ferocity and sophistication that lie
nascent in the still building APOC community. Early in the morning on
November 16 th 2003 the NYPD senselessly attacked what had been a private
gathering held at a space in Brooklyn rented by “Critical Resistance”, a
group that does work against the Prison Industrial Complex. I remember
that night that I had just gotten out of a long planning meeting for my
upcoming trip to Miami for the FTAA and had decided to go home and go to
sleep early, exhausted. At about two in the morning I received a phone
call from a friend who had gone on to the benefit only to hear that “ up
to 100 people had been indiscriminately sprayed with chemical agents,
beaten with nightsticks, and harassed by a throng of police officers.”

The details are truly shocking. The official press release states, “Over
25 police vehicles arrived at 968 Atlantic Avenue, the location of the
fundraising event, at around 2 AM, to investigate an officer’s report of
someone standing outside the party allegedly holding an "open container".
Within minutes, the police unleashed their wave of violence onto the
crowd, provoking onlookers and beating down attendees who were not
resisting their orders. Over 20 people were experiencing effects of the
pepper spray that was erratically sprayed into the air by the officers.”
It goes further to say, “All tenants of the private, residential building
were present at the event, did not request police assistance, and no one
in the building placed a complaint with the precinct or the emergency
response system. Witnesses report that no warrant was presented upon
police entrance. Organizers responded peacefully to police threats and
physical provocation, yielding to their disrespectful demands. Legal
council at the scene confirmed that at least 8 arrests were made.
Preliminary allegations include violation of disorderly conduct, resisting
arrest and inciting a riot, all of which are classified as
misdemeanors…EMS visited the precinct to attend to those who sustained
serious injuries, which include bruised ribs, a spinal injury, and severe
blows to the head.”

In an interview with Amy Goodman of WBAI, Mayuran of APOC-NYC stated,
“First they were throwing around and beating the first young person that
they had arrested. Then when we tried to ask questions, when we tried to
prevent that person from being arrested, they began pepper-spraying people
pretty much indiscriminately, hitting people with night sticks, dragging
them on the ground, throwing them. A man was punched in the face right
next to me. I was thrown to the ground and I was pepper-sprayed. A lot of
things were going on at the same time to a bunch of different people
because there were so many police officers, 50 police officers or more.”

In the following weeks and to this day APOC has proved itself to be strong
and organized in many ways such as immediately putting together a media
team, issuing out press releases, contacting legal aid and doing enormous
jail support and court room solidarity. Charges are still pending for
many, however, perhaps we should take note that the situation might look
brighter than it did for the many other countless scores of young people
of color who were doubtlessly arrested on that very same night all over
the country and all over the world. If nothing else, this incident proves
the need for people of color to be highly organized against a state that
is certainly actively organizing against them.

Miami

“While from diverse backgrounds as anarchist/ anti-authoritarians and
anti-capitalists there was a feeling of solidarity, trust, and
responsibility for one another in the streets.” —Jonathan

I went to Miami with APOC weighing heavily on my mind, yet, still with
only a vague affinity for it but no personal connection to it. In Miami,
my own experience was very different from the APOC-BLOC that had chosen to
form. Perhaps I didn’t join because many of my companions were not of
color and I didn’t want to abandon them, however, it is yet another choice
I have come to regret in the history of APOC. In Miami, the APOC-BLOC
decided to change its name it “Autonomia” so as not to bring more heat to
the already heated situation fermenting back in New York. As per usual,
people of color faced a disproportionate amount of what turned out to be a
very severe “police riot”.

“Autonomia’s” official press release of the week’s events reads as such,
“During the past week of demonstrations against the Free Trade Area of the
Americas (FTAA), protesters have been met with a massive show of state
repression, backed by $8.5 million in US Government funding. Miami Police
Commissioner John Timoney oversaw a massive, paramilitary assault on our
constitutional and human rights. Police wielding batons, tear gas, pepper
spray, rubber, wooden, and plastic bullets and other chemical agents
attacked demonstrators, specifically POC and anarchists. Over 100
demonstrators were treated for injuries; 12 were hospitalized (these
numbers have since risen). Police dispersed large groups of peaceful
protestors with tear gas, pepper spray, and open fire, once broken into
smaller groups the treatment became harsher. This campaign of fear and
intimidation culminated in the closure and militarization of downtown
Miami. There were confirmed reports of military tanks patrolling the
streets after dark on Thursday night. There are estimates of more than 250
arrests with specific targets of anarchists and POC. People have become
political prisoners and are being held in jail. More than 50 of them were
arrested while holding a peaceful vigil outside the jail in solidarity
with those inside. They were surrounded by riot police and ordered to
disperse. As they did, police opened fire and blocked the streets
preventing many from leaving. We are now receiving reports from people
being released or calling from jail that there is excessive brutality,
sexual assault and torture going on inside. Reports from released
prisoners’ claims that POC, Queer and transgender prisoners are
particularly being targeted. There is a confirmed report of one Latino man
arrested along with 62 others outside Miami-Dade County Jail Friday, who
is currently hospitalized in the Intensive Care Unit for an injury he
received after being beaten in the head with nightstick by an arresting
officer. Those practicing jail solidarity by not stating names or
nationalities are even further targeted for torture from police by hours
of beatings and soaking with water in the extremely cold jail cells. There
are still some people who are under disappeared status. People have also
been denied access to attorneys, visitation rights, vegetarian or vegan
food, and access to essential medication and medical attention.”

Once again, people of color received the brunt of poor treatment while
protesting the economic, moral, physical and cultural assault of
globalization on people of color at home and in the global south and the
so-called third-world. However, the picture was not entirely grim thanks
to the solidarity that APOC was able to provide. As Jonathan of APOC from
Tallahassee states, “I did not really realize the role APOC would play in
my life when I first became interested and self-aware of this new
identity. While in Miami at the mobilizations against the FTAA, I met and
networked with people from all over. For obvious reasons, it was a
stressful environment, though the feeling of being an APOC around others
who can relate to you in more than just a
social/cultural/national/linguistic way was one that is hard to put into
words in any language.”

Home

“I am moved when I am asked the phenomenological question ‘Are you at home
in the world?’ At certain places and at certain times, I am.” —Madan Sarup

After Miami, I finally went to my first APOC meeting and everything that I
thought it might be was instantly confirmed for me. I at once felt this
strange sense of connection, warmth and “home” that is practically beyond
words. It was unlike any other feeling I had ever felt working with any
other merely “activist” group. It was a feeling of community building; it
was a feeling that we were engaged in more than just an oppositional
politics but that what we were engaging in was the “politics of creation”.
Since that initial meeting I have been building with APOC ever since. I
attended a Conference in Washington DC which was an amazing chance to
learn about and engage in movement building with folks from all over.
There were people there from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States as well
as Seattle and some crazy kids even drove all the way up from Florida!
Jonathan, one of those crazy kids, while reflecting on the DC conference
states, “In DC the vibe of being with these people was even greater. Being
that we were not dodging rubber bullets in DC, the spaces that were opened
of acceptance, dialogue, growing, healing, learning, and meeting new
people was an empowering opportunity. I speak for my self but I echo what
others there have said to me. These spaces help empower us as APOC’s to
function and deal with the environments and movements we regularly are in
that are not as comforting. Through the conference we gained a
self-assurance that has helped many of us question the intentions of our
white allies and start to see issues of race, class, anarchism,
nationalism, queer/trans, etc. in a different light. Probably one of the
most important things I have gained from APOC circles, especially this
past Eastern regional conference in DC, is a sense of community.” I too
echo Jonathan’s sentiments. The conference was an amazing opportunity to
build with other Anarchist People of Color.

Race, White-Allies Etc.

“White folks need to deal with being ANTI-RACIST ALLIES to folks of color
communities and activists, activists in particular because we are usually
whites' entry point into any possible relationship with our communities.”
—Ashanti Alston

One final area I would like to touch upon is the question of APOC and the
way it relates to race and white allies. This topic, much like the
identity of APOC itself, is still an active part of APOC dialogue. We have
no one solidified stance. Many in APOC are happy to work with
“white-allies” on our own terms, i.e. in ways that are not oppressive or
replications of the dominant white-supremacist structure. Others in APOC,
for reasons that I feel are wholly understandable, want to work with
whites less so because of the enormous amount of pain that they have
experienced at the hands of the dominant culture. Again, in my mind, this
is completely valid. But perhaps Xan states it best when she says, “APOC
is not a separatist nor exclusionary network of people. We are an
autonomous group of people working to organize anti-authoritarians of
color in a context relevant to their own lives, in the interest of an
entire movement. Most of us feel that it is imperative that we asses the
internal issues of the movement, not just race, but also class and gender,
such that we may be able to shape or own struggle.” Hence, APOC is not a
separatist movement nor does it want merely to focus on the issue of race
to the neglect of class, gender and sexuality.

APOC tries to recognize the multiplicity of oppressions that we all must
face in the world and seeks to dismantle, disempower and smash all forms
of oppression and build a world that is free for all. We are not truly
free until we are ALL free! We recognize that these oppressions, though
different, are inherently linked and connected to similar, if not the
same, webs of power that affect each one of us. APOC merely notes the
necessity for many people of color, especially anarchist people of color,
to work on these issues with one another in a safe, healing and nurturing
space, a space molded on our own terms.

In my own view, I know that race, as a scientific category does not exist.
Thus, as Richard Wright author of “Native Son” deftly states, “it is clear
that the term Negro refers to a social category”. Yet, are social
categories no less real for the people who experience them? I realize that
race is a social and thus also a political category that has been
constructed without my consent; however, in so realizing that does it make
my daily lived experience as a black male any different? The answer is no
and this is the question that I would pose to all those who try, often
with good intentions but sometimes without, to put forth a kind of
“color-blind” politics.

The option of being color-blind is, in fact, an option of privilege that,
if the socio-political structures that oppress us are still left in place,
leaves the category of white as the privileged default; all else merely
remains in the periphery. Thus, APOC is neither separatist nor focused
solely on race, however, it also does not ignore our racialized realities
like so many other so-called “progressive” groups that I have had
experienced with. The truth is, even amongst activist circles, issues of
race are often not adequately or even appropriately addressed in a way
that avoids tokenization, white privilege and other such plagues of the
dominant discourse.

The Future is Open-Ended

“Someday this war is gonna end....” —Colonel Kilgore “Apocalypse Now”

I have found that while writing this story there was still so much left to
say and yet still so much that must be left unsaid. I hope that my voice
has not monopolized this piece but merely added to the multiplicity of
voices that are contained herein. APOC is still strong, vibrant, growing
and wholly necessary. APOC offers a window of hope and solidarity for
people of color around the world as well as our genuine white allies who
know how to interrogate race honestly and I am positive that it will play
a significant role in what is bound to be a truly revolutionary future. As
a fellow APOC’er states, “…as Anarchist People of Color, we're just
starting to build and organize in the city. They know that we're starting
to build and organize and they're trying to stop it before it gets
started. Much like they've been doing to other events and organizations in
preparation for things that might be happening next year with the
Republican National Convention and other direct actions.” Hence, the
future is truly open-ended and the power to change it lies within each of
us. Some day this war is going to end. Until then, I’ll see you in the
streets.

“Empowerment will remain powerless until we change power relations.”
Angela Y. Davis
===================================
From Institute for Anarchist Studies
73 Canterbury, D.D.O., Quebec, Canada, H9B 2G5
Tel / Fax.: 1 (514) 421-0470
info@anarchist-studies.org






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