A - I n f o s

a multi-lingual news service by, for, and about anarchists **
News in all languages
Last 40 posts (Homepage) Last two weeks' posts Our archives of old posts

The last 100 posts, according to language
中文 Chinese_ Castellano_ Deutsch_ Nederlands_ English_ Français_ Italiano_ Polski_ Português_ Russkyi_ Suomi_ Svenska_ Türkçe_ _The.Supplement

The First Few Lines of The Last 10 posts in:
Castellano_ Deutsch_ Nederlands_ English_ Français_ Italiano_ Polski_ Português_ Russkyi_ Suomi_ Svenska_ Türkçe_
First few lines of all posts of last 24 hours | of past 30 days | of 2002 | of 2003 | of 2004 | of 2005 | of 2006 | of 2007 | of 2008 | of 2009 | of 2010 | of 2011 | of 2012

Syndication Of A-Infos - including RDF - How to Syndicate A-Infos
Subscribe to the a-infos newsgroups

(en) US, Racism At The North American Anarchist Black Cross Conference By: Lorenzo and JoNina Ervin AND a responce by The NA ABC Conference Organizing Crew & Denver ABC

Date Tue, 23 Sep 2014 09:35:25 +0300

Dear Comrades: ---- An ugly, racist incident happened at the September 11-14, 2014, conference of the North American Anarchist Black Cross (NA-ABC) which disrupted the meeting and created conflict among activists there, after a young activist read a letter from a white racist prison guard who opposed the parole of black political prisoner, Jalil Muntaqim. The letter was read at the instruction of Brother Jalil to show the racist and entrenched opposition to his parole by white cops and their fraternal and police associations. We do not blame Brother Jalil, who has been in prison for decades and had no way of knowing that black people would be sitting in the room when the letter was read, nor the young activist who read the letter, not knowing how it would impact the black people who heard it, and who later apologized for his error. We blame other activists on the panel and other listeners who sat by or said nothing. We also criticize the NA-ABC, which created a climate where this or another racist outrage was bound to occur because the organization has never dealt with its own internal racism.

We especially blame the National Jericho Movement, which put on the workshop where the letter was read and the Jericho representative at the conference, Paulette D'Auteuil. She not only refused to apologize or correct the young activist, but made racially inflammatory comments of her own, saying that blacks and other POC should “just leave the room,” rather than not reading such a letter in the first place, or even giving any warning of its contents. She thus encouraged other racist letters to be read to a room full of whites in the future, thereby advocating white radical racial segregation at NA-ABC annual meetings, which already have few black or POC participants. This is an absolute and utter outrage, and everyone should find this unacceptable. Then, Paulette took the posture that it was “all Jalil's fault,”and that we should take the matter up with him if we didn't like it. As we have pointed out already, we hold Brother Jalil blameless, and we do not believe he would intentionally attempt to embarrass or demean other black people by forcing them to listen to such a racist and inflammatory letter. The other Jericho representative at the conference, Kazi Toure, who is black, was not present in the room when the letter was read. But after learning what happened, he expressed embarrassment, chagrin, if not outright anger over the incident because he is black.

We therefore believe that Paulette should make a full public apology to the NAABC and to us as participants in the conference for her misbehavior, or she should not be allowed to attend further meetings of the NA-ABC. In addition, the entire panel where the racist letter was read should make a full public apology for not stopping the letter from being read, or failing in any way to rebuke the activist who read the letter. The panelists' silence just enabled the activist to repeat all this racist guard's drivel, in what the activist felt was a supportive environment of white people who “saw no problem” with the comments being repeated at a radical gathering, which included black people. Finally, the leadership of Jericho should make an apology for this entire matter: for allowing the racist letter to be read, failure to exercise control of the panelists, and the racist misbehavior of Paulette as Jericho representative to the event.

And yet, all of this is just a reflection of internal racism within the North American Anarchist Black Cross, and its organizational culture that is too white, too middle class, and closed off from urban communities of color. It has never been healthy to have privileged white people doling out support to black prisoners, while not building a support base in the black community from which those prisoners come, and not recruiting black and other activists of color. The fact that NAABC holds meetings on the side of a mountain removed from the city, instead of in an urban space in Denver, speaks volumes about your lack of black participation and community outreach. You are not making a welcoming environment for blacks to attend. So this incident is to be expected in this type of white environment, and it also explains how the majority of white people who heard the racist comments thought it was “no big deal,” that the speaker “meant no harm,” that black people who heard the racially offensive comment should not be disturbed, or were being “too thin-skinned,“ or that this was all just “racial agitation from Lorenzo and people he brought.” The fact is that this racist climate was already there inside the NA-ABC as a movement for a long time, and this was just the trigger for the latest incident. The ABC in North America is a Political Plantation, a white-led movement with serious internal racism, which it refuses to deal with, or even listen to peoples of color when we point it out. Some of you even blame us for raising it in the first place, and then refuse to make any changes. As one white person who did speak out from the audience said: listening to the letter from the prison guard was like listening to a “bragging letter” from a rapist. If you do not want women to apologize for their own rapes by demented men, why do you want black people to accept racist insults and then be faulted for speaking out?

Do not expect us to passively accept such racist indignities, even from our own white allies. On a personal level, the reading of the letter was the worst form of racist insult to Lorenzo. He was raised in the segregated South in the 1950's; had white racist vigilantes and cops put a gun to his head, then spit in his face and call him a nigger; tell him he had no right to speak up; that “niggers don't deserve civil rights,” and that only the rights of white people mattered. In those days, Lorenzo was restrained from speaking out because of the violent racism of the KKK and other white racists. Later, Lorenzo spoke out as a young civil rights protester. He also heard plenty of vile insults from racist prison guards during his 15 years as a political prisoner, including insults from guards who opposed his release on parole. What would make you think that Lorenzo wanted to hear these insults at an ABC meeting? He will never passively accept white supremacy or its insults, even if it comes from from the mouths of white radical socialists or anarchists, who feel that they are “sincerely motivated” and thus blameless in their own eyes.

We do not personally hold the Denver Anarchist Black Cross, which hosted the North America ABC conference, responsible for this incident, or think the Denver ABC had any intention for this incident to occur. However, we feel that the annual NA-ABC meeting is no longer a safe space for us as black activists, and we will not attend any future events. Nevertheless, because we care enough about ABC as a radical prison movement, and feel that positive changes should come out of this incident, we are proposing these solutions:

12 Point Racist Recovery Program for North American ABC:

1. The NA-ABC must create a permanent anti-racist/anti-oppression committee, which will be a semi-autonomous group able to challenge internal racism and call people out for offensive behavior. However, it must also train all ABC activists in anti-racist ideology, set new policies, and call for institutional change. This committee should also be in control of all anti-racist communications of the group.

2. Every year at the annual NA-ABC gatherings, there must be workshops to talk extensively about the dangers of internal racism within the ABC. Besides anti-racist workshops for white participants, black/POC conference attendees should have their own workshops to deal with the effects of white racism, and differences among ourselves. [For instance, at least two Hispanics made two anti-black comments at the conference. One said that he was not offended by the racist letter because he saw himself as a “white Mexican,” and another called Lorenzo a “token who should not be allowed to speak for all peoples of color”].

3. We are asking the Denver ABC and NA-ABC to join with the Ida B. Wells Coalition Against Racism and Police Brutality to create an online discussion list, “ABC-Anti-Racist” to discuss internal racism all during the period between ABC conferences.

4. We call upon the NA-ABC to provide a written disclaimer at the beginning of each workshop forbidding panel members to use racist or oppressive language against any racial group, nationality, or oppressed peoples. [NOTE: this rule cannot ever be used to stifle discussions of internal racism and white supremacy.]

5. We call upon the NA-ABC to use the book, “The Progressive Plantation: Racism Inside Radical Social Change Groups,” as a study guide for ABC chapters and activists. We ask P & L Press to print the book at no cost, and provide it to everyone, then hold consciousness raising study groups. We will provide the manuscript for you.

6. Join with us as we create a “Progressive Plantation” discussion page for activists on Facebook, inside and outside of the ABC.

7. We call upon you to create a permanent POC standing committee within NA-ABC to propose anti-racist internal politics for the entire group, challenge acts of racism, and involve more POC inside the ABC. Even though we will not attend any more NA-ABC meetings, we expect you to continue to work with us through this POC committee and other contacts.

8.There needs to be a process created and made part of the standing rules to expel persons or groups engaging in racist or oppressive behavior. This should come after giving them a warning.
9. When racist behavior takes place, the entire conference should shut down its workshops, and deal with it immediately, and the ABC should never cover up or ignore such incidents.

10. The ABC must make anti-fascist ideology and internal anti-racist training a central part of its politics.

11. We are not asking the North American ABC to completely divest itself` of political prisoner support work for black/POC political prisoners and POW's from the 1960's or 1970's, or those contemporary campaigns they have started in the animal liberation, radical environmental, and other such white radical campaigns. The NA-ABC, however, must change its white privilege model of selective support of black political prisoners to one of dealing with mass imprisonment of African/POC's, and the new generation of prisoners since the 1980's. Jericho is fully capable of dealing with its New African prisoners, and even those prisoners want the 20/50 plan applied to an overall campaign against mass imprisonment in this period. The NA-ABC must have its own politics on this, not just adopt Jericho's program. This will allow the NA-ABC to help build a new mass movement, work with black/communities of color, and build coalitions with activists of color, both inside and outside the prisons. [We had sent our mass imprisonment proposal prior to the conference, which was adopted by the Mass Imprisonment workshop].

12. Although we do not believe than any organization can deal with internal racism in isolation, we encourage the NA-ABC to try to deal with your problems internally if you can do so, but caution you not to cover up or defend yourself from charges of internal racism, but to implement or come up with viable plans to heal the group, rebuild unity, and show respect to all who attend your events in the future. We believe that this is the moment of truth for the North American-Anarchist Black Cross.

So this is our proposal dealing with anti-racist institutional change for the NA-ABC. We are open to discussing this matter further by a series of online conferences with the Denver ABC and others. This letter/proposal is not meant to be totally hostile or accusatory, and is made in good faith.

Love and struggle,
JoNina and Lorenzo Ervin, (on behalf of the Black Autonomy Prison Federation and the Ida B. Wells Coalition Against Racism and Police Brutality).

======================= RESPONCE ===================

Collective response to "Racism at North American ABC Conference" by JoNina & Lorenzo Ervin

We are writing as the crew that organized the North American ABC Conference, in response to JoNina and Lorenzo's public letter "Racism at the NA ABC Conference.” We are nine people spread across the country, from New York to Sacramento, in conjunction with Denver ABC, and as such have a range of views on their open letter. This response is not a full statement of all of those views, or even a consensus of what things we all agree on, but rather a response required to urgently address the letter and to clarify information within it. This statement is NOT to discredit, disqualify, disregard, or fault JoNina and Lorenzo for their experience(s). The information provided is correct to the best of our account, and is provided for the purpose of transparency.

We also note that our public response to this matter is made against our preference for dealing with conflicts internal to anarchist movements. We are troubled by JoNina and Lorenzo's decision to publish their letter on the Internet (including Facebook) in addition to sending it out over our closed listserv. We find it inappropriate to publicly handle internal matters, where anyone and everyone is privy to internal conflict, that typically makes it difficult to move forward and lends itself more to internet flame wars than revolutionary efforts to deal with oppression within our movements. We do not wish to hide these issues or sweep them under the rug, yet we do value resolving internal conflicts present in anarchist movements and our ABC organizing amongst ourselves—autonomously, collectively, internally. Our preference for handling this situation and the issues it raises includes dialogue between JoNina and Lorenzo, us as conference organizers, members of the panel during which the letter was read, and all other conference attendees and their associates. Thus, we would like to make it clear that this response is being made public only in response to JoNina and Lorenzo's open letter. We do not make any promises to address this matter in public forums in the future.

Before we respond, we are providing some context, especially for international readers who expressed confusion about the situation. At the 2014 North American ABC conference, held outside of Denver, Colorado, there were a variety of panels, workshops, and discussions covering an array of issues around prisoner support. The panel in question was one on “Playing Lawyer,” and featured speakers who talked about working on parole cases, working on their personal and other legal cases, and finally, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests on behalf of Jalil Muntaqim's parole campaign. Jaili's parole was recently denied, largely due to a letter-writing campaign conducted by prison guards and fraternal police organizations. Racist cops and guards sent dozens of letters to the parole board, and Jalil requested that a white activist, who is involved in his support and was a member of the panel, read the letters to the panel attendees. The letters, most of which were read aloud or had sections of them read aloud, became progressively more racist and disturbing. There was tension in the air, some nervous laughter, and groans accompanied by outbursts of “What the fuck?” and other such exclamations. The final letter read was comprised almost entirely of racial epithets and slurs directed at people of color in general, and displayed a disgusting level of racism leveled against Jalil and all people of color in the name of keeping him from parole. It is this letter, and the reaction or lack of reaction to it, which prompted the open letter from JoNina and Lorenzo.

We acknowledge that internal oppression and privilege exist at the NA ABC conference, within the NA ABC network, and within NA anarchist movements. At the conference, we have experimented with various ways of addressing internal oppression (including, but not limited to, racism) as a group. Last year, we held three fishbowl discussions: one on race, one on class, one on sexism/patriarchy/gender. This year, we held two group exercises exploring privilege and oppression within our groups and at the conference. While these efforts are clearly not sufficient for countering our internal privilege and oppression or from preventing incidents such as this one, we feel it is important to acknowledge the work we have been doing in this area and are committed to do in the future.

As organizers, we are certainly accountable for what happens at the NA ABC conference. With that understanding and with our commitment to addressing all forms of oppression within our organizing, we have organized these conferences under this statement of purpose and these points of unity:

“The Annual North American ABC Conference exists to provide an inter-generational forum for anarchist, autonomous and anti-authoritarian people engaged in anti-repression work with an emphasis on PP / POW support. It is a unique convergence of peers with an expectation of dynamic participation in mutual aid. Moving in a direction of international organizing, we aim to build and sustain working relationships, ultimately existing as a much greater weapon against state repression. This event utilizes group discussions and working groups where everyone is encouraged to participate equitably and where their unique experiences and knowledge are valued. We facilitate a space that is 100% sober from beginning to end out of respect to the boundaries set by the indigenous principles of the event center. An added benefit is the creation of a focused working environment in which to heal, learn, strategize and hopefully emerge with greater strength and resources to better do our work. We seek to dismantle hierarchies, challenge privileges and break down sectarian barriers within ourselves. Engaging in any oppressive behaviors will not be tolerated and will be addressed immediately. We warmly invite the participation of those willing to co-create this space in which we will further strengthen anti-repression work and PP/POW support.”

We included this statement in our registration forms that went out to everyone invited to the conference. We take this statement seriously and worked hard to adhere to it throughout our organizing and during the conference. As conference organizers, we clearly fell short of living up to all the aspirations in this statement, and for that we take responsibility. We deeply regret that our failure to immediately address the harmful effects of the letter being read in the moment hurt some of our comrades and made them feel so unsafe that they are no longer willing to join us at future conferences.

Accordingly, we cannot stand by while blame is unjustifiably directed at people. JoNina and Lorenzo directly called out Paulette D’Auteuil, the National Secretary of the Jericho Movement, for comments she made during the panel discussion. We believe that the statements made about Paulette mischaracterize the content and intent of what she said at that time. Paulette, who neither organized nor was a participant on the panel, proposed a hypothetical in which people of color attending the panel would have been warned of the contents of the letter and would have had full control over how to handle it, whether to read it or not, or indeed, to leave the room during its reading if they chose to do so. We understand that the suggestion that people of color should simply leave during the reading of a racist letter would have been a racist and inappropriate suggestion. Certainly we, as the organizing crew (which is not all white), do not advocate or condone “white radical racial segregation” at this or any conference. To characterize a small part of Paulette's hypothetical as an actual proposal, however, is unfair.

Paulette has worked to support Black political prisoners and prisoners of war for decades. She was invited to this year's conference because of her dedicated organizing and will be invited in the future for the same reasons. She can speak for herself as to her motives and intentions for her comments and suggestions, if she so chooses, and we certainly do not hold her or the Jericho Movement responsible for the panel or its content, as neither she nor Jericho had any involvement in organizing it.

Yet there is responsibility to be taken for what happened and that responsibility was taken during the conference, however imperfectly and inadequately in the eyes of JoNina, Lorenzo, and others at the conference. The reader is responsible for reading the letter in an insensitive way. He immediately accepted that responsibility during the panel and engaged in discussions about the issues afterwards. Additionally, all attendees within earshot are responsible for inadequately addressing the situation in the moment. We are upset that the people in the room (many of us were in the room) collectively failed in those responsibilities, and we are glad that most people engaged in difficult and productive conversations about it during the panel, during the anti-oppression group exercise immediately after the panel, and during the rest of the conference. Despite these efforts, JoNina and Lorenzo are right that such inaction and failures reveal internalized oppression that needs to be addressed.

Finally, we would like to address the other quotations included in the open letter from JoNina and Lorenzo. None of the quotes included in the letter were spoken by anyone at the conference to the best of our collective knowledge and it is problematic to present statements as quotes when they were not actually spoken. No one vocalized that the panelist who read the letter “meant no harm,” the person who made the analogy about a letter being from a misogynist never used the term “bragging letter” even though what she did say was not far off from that idea, no one said that JoNina and Lorenzo or any other people of color attending the conference were “too thin-skinned,” and no one said that the protests of the letter being read were “racial agitation from Lorenzo and people he brought.” Additionally, the two attendees insensitively identified as “Hispanic” (a colonizer's term for colonized peoples) did not make the statements attributed to them in the open letter. To put forth these fragments as direct quotes from anyone attending the conference is simply untrue.

We are in full agreement that North American ABC chapters and our comrades should develop in-depth, comprehensive, and continuous anti-oppression programs, including workshops, readings, discussions, and continued support for political prisoners, prisoners of war, and mass prison movements.

Further thoughts will be forthcoming, privately and individually if not publicly and collectively.

With respect,

The NA ABC Conference Organizing Crew & Denver ABC
A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
By, For, and About Anarchists
Send news reports to A-infos-en mailing list
Subscribe/Unsubscribe http://lists.ainfos.ca/mailman/listinfo/a-infos-en
Archive: http://ainfos.ca/en

A-Infos Information Center