Labor in Iran
Yes We Camp
Gabriel matthew Schivone
FROM THE WEB
Net Briefs - 09-09
WAR & PEACE
Afghan Drug War
WEALTH & HEALTH
Zaps - 09-09
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Voices of the Other New York
On the evening of June 7, 2009, the Second Encuentro for Dignity and Against Displacement brought 38 organizations and scores of people—tenants, organizers, families with children, all gathered in the basement of an East 116th Street community center—to converse with each other, with international movements, and with presenters from East Harlem, West Harlem, Chinatown, and Sunset Park.
East Harlem marks a fitting backdrop for this gathering. Its struggles mirror those of low-income and immigrant communities all across New York City, facing skyrocketing rents they cannot afford, landlords who will not maintain their buildings, and companies that have not hesitated to harass, overcharge, evict, and target tenants for replacement with those at a higher income bracket.
This Second Encuentro (encounter) was hosted by the Movement for Justice in El Barrio (MJB), an organization based in the immigrant communities of East Harlem. It is also internationally allied with the Other Campaign of Mexico's Zapatista movement and, like the Zapatistas, a movement "from below and to the left." (MJB also organized the First Encuentro held here in October 2007.)
"We are humble people. The majority of us are mothers who are fighting for a better future for our children," explained Ana Laura Merino of MJB at the opening of the encuentro. "MJB awakens the desire to struggle in our community," added Sonia Guzman in the closing speech.
"The tenants who live in the buildings, who organize, are the ones who make decisions in their own struggle," said Oscar Dominguez. "We all together decide to see what is the path that we're going to take as an organization and to develop a struggle against the enemy, which is capitalism and the bad governments. We practice autonomy and democracy. We go to the streets to consult the community."
Speaking of each of these struggles were members of not only MJB, but also:
- CAAAV (Organizing Asian Communities) which is fighting the gentrification of Chinatown
- Harlem Tenants Council and the Coalition to Preserve Community, which is resisting the expansion of Columbia University and the rezoning of 125th Street
- Sunset Park Alliance of Neighbors, building power in south Brooklyn
- Thomas Jefferson Tenants Association, taking on police violence in public housing
- A troupe from Make the Road New York, the low-income community organization from Bushwick, Brooklyn, which expressed its own community's struggles in bits of theater pitting prowling loan sharks and cigar-chomping landlords against the good people of New York, who ultimately overpowered the powerful to the sound of maracas, guitars, and accordions
"This truly is neoliberalism at its worst," said Nellie Hester Bailey, director of the Harlem Tenants Council. "We are its victims." She should know. Her husband was murdered by a brutal landlord 20 years ago this month. "What we are fighting," she declared, "is the ruling class. This is the epicenter of international finance capital. What we are talking about is whether poor people can live on expensive real estate. As rich people come into the city, Bloomberg is pushing us out of the city."
The presentations from Bailey and other speakers were periodically punctuated by chants of "Harlem's Not For Sale! Harlem's Not For Sale! ¡Harlem No Se Vende! ¡Harlem No Se Vende!"
Tom Demot, of the Coalition to Preserve Community, has been working to that end for 30 years. "I like to talk about enemies," he told the crowd. "Our enemies don't want to hear the word, they want us all to be friends as they screw us." In addition to developers, Demot called out the elected officials at City Hall, most of whom have supported the rezoning and gentrification of Harlem, along with the local development corporations, the land use laws, and "the elitist class system in the United States."
Other organizers pointed out the alignment of the city's policies and the landlords' interests. "The city is working with the landlords in kicking people out of their homes," said Bin Liang of CAAAV, who's been organizing in Chinatown for years. "Tenants are essentially being punished for landlords' failure to do what they're supposed to," she said, citing city evictions of families from tenements with only two hours' notice. "One of the root causes is profit-driven incentives for landlords to do this."
Pearl Barkley, of the Thomas Jefferson Houses Tenants Association and Mothers Against Abusive Policing, suggested another way that the city implemented policies of "planned shrinkage" of "troubled neighborhoods": aggressive policing of people who live in public housing. "We see the practices of NYPD," said Barkley, "in concert with NYCHA [NYC Housing Authority], as a way of eliminating all low-income people who live in NYCHA. It's a very insidious thing. People cannot walk out of their building or empty the garbage without police asking them for ID. That's the plan for eventually getting us out. Through criminalization of its tenants."
Javier Genao, an organizer with the Sunset Park Alliance of Neighbors, offered a warning to those assembled: "We know that there's a history of divide-and-conquer. This is something we've seen in the past that the city has done and developers have done, because they don't want us to unite and struggle against our same enemy." Yet there are Latino and Asian neighbors organizing together, he reported, on issues from tenants' rights to toxic developments.
"The new villain on the block," Bailey went on to say, is what she calls "predatory equity investment"—the influx of private equity firms that once aimed to evict 20 to 30 percent of the tenants in their properties and quietly convert thousands of rent-regulated apartments into luxury units meant for a different kind of city.
On some blocks, the financial crisis has put such hostile takeovers on hold. The payday never dawned for Dawnay Day, the London-based investment bank that once sought to build a U.S. real estate empire starting with East Harlem. The finance group overleveraged its assets and ran into global resistance from an MJB-led International Campaign in Defense of El Barrio.
"Something strange happened on the way to the bank," Bailey explained. "You know what? They're all in foreclosure. All of those projects, including the East 125th Street project, are on hold. Columbia University is in major trouble. It is inconceivable that the university can pursue its original plans for a $6 billion expansion.... The chickens have come home to roost for these developers."
The speeches were accompanied by documentaries and dispatches from other fronts, including New Orleans, where footage showed the demolition of public housing and the cleansing of half the city's poor; and Atenco, Mexico, where the People's Front in Defense of the Land was brutally repressed by security forces in 2006. The crowd also watched footage of the recent MJB takeover of the Mexican Consulate to demand freedom for political prisoners.
Each of the presenters went on to share a piece of their dream for their neighborhood and their world, just as they had shared a piece of their struggle.
- "Our dream," said Liang, "is for every tenant to live peacefully, whether they have money or not, and not to be harassed."
- "That housing is not a privilege," said Bailey. "That housing is a basic human right. It doesn't matter if you have a job, if you're old, if you're infirm, it is your right. That has to become a reality."
- "We dream of a world," said Guzman, "in which we can exercise our rights to justice...where we can advance together hand in hand...where the powerful stop trying to manipulate the humble at their economic convenience... where our children can have a shining future."
- "For our children to stop being killed. That's very real for my community," said Barkley. "We dream of the day when we are related to as full human beings, and not a cash crop to provide...for the police and prison-industrial complex."
- "We dream of a victory," said Genao. "We dream of having community control of our communities.... We dream of the day when people don't respect the authority of police officers or of elected officials, but that people respect the authority of what people decide together as a community. Those are the dreams that carry us through this very difficult struggle."
Meanwhile, younger participants flitted back and forth next door ahead of the anticipated game of Gentrification Piñata/Neoliberal Piñata that was to be the final event of the evening. The piñata, a mean, greedy-looking thing, hung by a single thread from the ceiling of the East Harlem community center. The children of El Barrio prepared to take it down once and for all.
Michael Gould-Wartofsky is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Nation, Jewish Currents, Monthly Review, and Poets Against the War. He took the photographs for this article.
Michael Gould-Wartofsky is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Nation, Jewish Currents, Monthly Review, and Poets Against the War. He took the photographs for this article.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.