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(en) US, APOC* Report Back NW & NE Convergences By Marlena Gangi

Date Tue, 02 Sep 2008 11:44:55 +0300

APOCs build it from below --- Anarchist people of color host regional gatherings
Philadelphia and Portland, Oregon were the sites of the NE and NW Regional
Conference and Gathering for anarchist people of color (APOC) that occurred this
August. ---- The Philadelphia Conference took place at the Rotunda on August 8
and 9. Portland's Gathering was held on August 16 and 17 at Liberty Hall in
North Portland. Other APOC gatherings are scheduled to take place later this
fall in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. A national conference is scheduled to take
place sometime next year. ---- The NE shout-out called on APOC activists to
"build a new vision for the future, and a new plan of action for today. We want
to expand our understanding of race, class, gender, autonomy, and freedom -
while attacking white supremacy, imperialism, colonialism, and ALL borders,
boundaries, and barriers."

Northwest APOCs narrowed their goal to focus on building connections in the
region and to begin conversations towards building a national anti-authoritarian
/ autonomous movement of people of color. The Portland gathering fluctuated
between 20 to 30 people for the weekend while the NE fluctuated between 30 to 50.

APOC roots run deep

What is now known as APOC began in 2001 as an anarchist-poc email list and
website created by Ernesto Aguilar. Now defunct, the www.illegalvoices.org site
was the first broad collection of writings and dialogue by anarchists of color
and pivotal in increasing focus on issues of race in the anarchist movement as
well as increasing political space for people of color. At present
http://illvox.org is the only active APOC website. The first national APOC
conference was held in Detroit in 2003. Thereafter, collectives sprout up all
over the country. After Detroit came regional conferences in Washington DC in
2004 and Asheville North Carolina, Berkley and Houston in 2005. The Second
National conference was called for in New Orleans in 2005 but was cancelled
because of Hurricane Katrina.

APOC is not a centrally organized organization, but a loosely organized network
of groups and individuals. While the current APOC movement is relatively new,
it's roots can be traced from Mexican anarchist Ricardo Flores Magon and the
Baja Magonista Revolt of 1911, the revolutionary Chicana/Native/Black American
Lucy Parsons Gonzalez (1853-1942) and later to Afro Rican anarchist/activist
Martin Sostre (framed on drug possession charges and unjustly imprisoned for
nearly a decade in the early sixties), the late anarchist and former member of
the Black Liberation Army Kuwasi Balagoon, and former Black Panthers Ashanti
Alston and Lorenzo Komboa Ervin.

Alston was on hand at the NE Regional to deliver the workshop The Ballot is a
Bullet, with a focus on discussion of utilizing grassroots energy during the
2008 election to counter white supremacist Republican and Democratic politics as
usual. Some other workshops included APOC-Alypse Now And Later, At War - taking
stock on the 500-year war on Blackness, Class Barriers, The City is Killing Me -
strategies for the revolutionary act of keeping ourselves healthy and Buy Black,
economic freedom and controlling the conditions of our labor.

The Portland gathering proceeded with workshops that addressed the questions:
*What is APOC? How do we define it?
*What should an APOC politic encompass?
*What might an APOC organization look like? Strategy? Structure? Politics?
*What workshops/discussions would we want to see happen at the 2009 National
APOC Conference?

Both gatherings concluded with resolutions to put talk into action in respective
communities. Specifically, a NE resolution called for stronger support of APOC
prisoners. Out of the NW regional came a resolution for a twice-yearly
publication that will include interviews, essays, art work and calendar section
with a focus on APOC activism, ideology and culture.

APOC ideology not monolithic

Dialog occurred at both gatherings regarding ethnic and political identity,
working with white allies and accountability within APOC.

In attendance at the NE conference was an older Black woman active in prisoner
support who had never heard the word anarchist applied to people of color.
Concerned by mainstream media images of white, anarchist black clad youth
rioting in the streets, she was surprised and somewhat relieved to learn that
not all APOCs mirror the ideology or actions of white anarchists. She later
spoke of finding it enlightening to see in attendance APOCs ranging in age from
late teens to late adulthood who were also quite eloquent and impassioned when
speaking of their personal experiences and how those experiences led to self
identify as anarchists.

Voices at both the NE and NW gatherings spoke to Native and Indigenous identity
and how this intertwines with anarchist ideology, as original Native culture is
a culture of sovereignty, autonomy, self determination, land based economy
rather than capitalist economy and non-hierarchal with no exploitation of the
earth or the human or animal life that walk the earth.

Native tribalism also carries warrior societies, and this conversation included
observations drawing from these societies in ways manifested by APOCs today.
With this, observations were made to conclude that anarchist warrior activism
could range from militant direct action to lifestyle anarchism, with these and
areas in between qualifying as revolutionary acts simply because the very nature
of these acts by APOCs counter white supremacist ideology.

There was much to say when touching on the subject of working with white allies
and the failures and successes contained therein. Much criticism has been
leveled at APOC because much of its organization calls for POCs only. With the
conversation about white allies sliding into opinions about ethnic identity and
use of the term "people of color" the variety of statements made included:

"[We] have to build up a thick skin when entering into their [white majority]
spaces in trying to get your voice out and educate white allies at the same time."

"Part of what draws me to APOC is not having to do Racism 101 with white folks,
having a place to do work that does not involve that task."

"I have encountered so much cultural and racist assumption in the radical white
community. To be honest, I am just tired of having to deal with it and mostly
have no interest in organizing with white people. It can be exhausting."

"We have to find connections with other folks, and white people, because we can
do things in our community but to deal with larger issues we have to unite with

"We all probably have different ideas of what the "A" in APOC is. Saying people
of color also generalizes and erases differences and individual identities."

"Its interesting that some POCs see the "A" as a symbol for autonomy or

"I don't like the term "people of color" and think we should move away from
that. I don't think we should identify as POC only because of our relationship
to white supremacy. We should find strategic alliances, find issues to unite

"Another difference is the issue of national liberation struggles and the
history with that. White anarchism dismisses and turns their back on this."

"We can try to change the "APOC" term, but it has been a flashpoint, people are
drawn to it, and we can have the discussions trying to change it, but it is
drawing folks to it. Its not just about folks coming from the white movement or
punk movement, people come into it from the community."

This discussion closed with the commitment that, while points of view vary on
building solidarity with white comrades and also vary with the use of the term
"APOC," these varying opinions are to be respected and should never be allowed
as a tool for the oppressor to use in creating splits or fractures within the
APOC movement.

Other conversations at the gatherings addressed accountability within APOC in
relation to calling out negative behaviors such as homophobia, male body
privilege, and sexism as well as classist and elitist behavior. All told, both
gatherings have created a new energy in a time when it is most needed in regard
to the creeping fascism and police state that we exist in here in the U.S. Other
regional conferences scheduled to take place throughout the country before the
2009 National APOC Conference are sure to throw a monkey wrench in the works
where and when it is most needed; right here, right now.

Marlena Gangi is an APOC activist, educator and photojournalist. She is
currently the editor of The Portland Alliance in Portland, Oregon.

homepage: http://www.theportlandalliance.org
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