Volume 21, Number 3
Tiffany Ten eyck
Worst Places To Be Black
Mass Destruction U.
Global Recession I
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Turning Words Into Actions
I spent most of the weekend of January 11, 2008 in jail. It was easily the most important thing I’ve done in my life. As part of the group Witness Against Torture, and in solidarity with numerous groups performing similar acts around the world on that day, 37 of us marched up the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC wearing orange jumpsuits and black hoods to protest the torture and indefinite detainment of the captives at Guantanamo prison.
Another 45 of us waited inside the Court, disguised as tourists, until the right moment arrived to spring into action with outrage, protest songs, and demands for justice. The Supreme Court was evacuated and then closed for several hours. We were detained, processed, and held in jail until the following afternoon. Each of us used the name of a Guantanamo prisoner, refusing to reveal our true identities until the final moment of our release because we were determined to get those names into the U.S. court system.
Our action was timed to coincide with the six-year anniversary of the first prisoners arriving at Guantanamo. Nearly 300 persons are still imprisoned there. The United States government officially considers them to be unlawful combatants, and therefore unworthy of humane treatment. They face horrible living conditions and brutal treatment by their U.S. captors and are being held without any charges filed against them and without any access to legal recourse.
While such injustices are abhorrent wherever they occur, it became increasingly important to me that these crimes at Guantanamo are not only carried out by Americans, but are funded by American taxpayers. This includes me (though not for long). I felt that I had a responsibility to act.
But turning words and an increasing sense of personal responsibility into action has not been easy for me. I don’t come from a family of activists and I’d never been arrested before. In fact, my family has always attempted to be so apolitical that I’m not sure if any of them have ever even voted for a president. While I have little doubt that my closest friends would gladly denounce the treatment of the prisoners at Guantanamo as repugnant and shameful, I didn’t personally know anyone who had ever tried to do anything about it.
I’m still trying to figure out why that is. Is it that my generation is afraid to stand up to the government? Are we out of ideas? Or is it that my generation is too self-consciously cool and ironic to do something as sincere as putting our own freedom on the line for the justice and freedom of others? I struggled with this myself.
There is a feeling of inevitability among many people I know—that the world and its problems are too big for us and that there’s no way to stop what has been set in motion, whether it be the war in Iraq or the environmental destruction of our planet. One of my friends summed it up best when he recently told me, “You know, I basically feel the same way you do about everything, the only difference being that I don’t think there’s anything we can do about it.”
And who can blame him? It seems like an eternity now since a majority of Americans became opposed to the continuation of the war in Iraq, and yet it continues with no end in sight.
From a young age we are told to equate democracy with voting. We are told that we have the opportunity to participate in our government only once a year, on election day, when we cast a vote for our representative leaders. But last January, by acting against the will of my government, and in disobeying its laws that attempt to curb our freedom and demands for justice, I experienced firsthand the true nature and power of democracy.
Democracy is not about voting, democracy is about acting. Democracy is not about waiting for representative leaders to act, it’s about taking direct action ourselves, often in opposition to the will of such leaders.
On January 11, we failed to close Guantanamo and end torture. At best, I can only hope that the actions of our group, and those of the other groups around the globe, may have aided in some small way towards eventually alleviating the pain and suffering of those unjustly abused at Guantanamo.
But sitting in jail and experiencing the unjust criminal process, I got a glimpse of something else. They’re scared of us. They’re terrified of us disobeying en masse. The DC Metropolitan jail system was practically bursting at the seams with 80 extra occupants. What will they do with 1,000? What about 10,000? How will they ignore us then?
As long as we limit our dissent to permitted demonstrations and confine our protests and outrage to the confines of the metal barriers set up for us, then our unjust government has little to fear. As long as we limit our political participation to the electoral process, they point to us as a glowing endorsement of democracy, a sign that all is well and just in democratic, free America.
But when we disobey, they tremble. We must stop the war in Iraq ourselves. We must shut down Guantanamo ourselves. We have waited patiently for too long. We may have failed to close Guantanamo this time, but we’ll be back and next time we’ll bring greater numbers. The world is waiting.
Jason Laning is an artist, writer, and activist living in Brooklyn, New York.
Z Magazine Archive
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; firstname.lastname@example.org; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; email@example.com; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.