Children Should Not Have to Lead a Movement About Gun Violence

By Irami Osei-Frimprong (March 26, 2018)

I see a lot of adults lauding the children for their leadership.

These kids shouldn’t have to parent their adults.

I like children participating, but if they have to lead, that means the adults aren’t doing their jobs. You shouldn’t have to use them to say things to their uncles and aunts that you are too afraid to say to your cousins. Kids should be participating, but they shouldn’t have to lead this. That they are thrust into leadership is a failure of the adults.

America needs a better class of adults.


It’s Too Early to Say We Won Against the Alt-Right

By Alexander Reid Ross (March 21, 2018)

While I’m happy that Richard Spencer is miserable and Heimbach may be going to jail, I think it’s too early to say “we won.” We succeeded—for now—in pushing the Alt Right and its bedfellows off the streets. That may mean our methods have been successful, among other things, but it doesn’t mean that fascists won’t adapt.

If they can’t spread propaganda with Brooks Brothers suits, they’ll spread it with bombs—and they’ve always asserted this. There are bomb blasts in Austin targeting prominent black folks, and the White House response is to deny any “nexus” with terrorism, whatever that means. How do we recalibrate our methods to confront these kinds of militant forces that have always been in the DNA of US settler colonialism?

Perhaps we can look to the South African resistance to the forces of Apartheid—especially the AWB during the early transition to self-rule. We might also look at the Civil Rights movement in the US amid the terror of “Bombingham.” Perhaps that means maintaining an open discussion on opposition to anti-equalitarian forces and the methods of using intimidation attacks to oppress society. Perhaps it means coming together to advance freedom in everyday practice, and refusing to be cowed or manipulated by the futile rage of a dying movement.

This isn’t necessarily a question for Facebook (nervously lolz) but it’s really something we need to think through if we are going to radically assess and overcome white supremacism in the US today, tomorrow and forever.


Using Visionary Science Fiction to Teach Community Organizing

By Joseph Orosco (March 20, 2018)

Every year, I teach a class which is an introduction to the discipline of peace studies. About five years ago, after teaching a successful seminar on community organizing and praxis with Anarres Project co-founder, Tony Vogt, I started to include theories of community organizing into the class. We start the term by looking at a variety of global issues—violence against women, global poverty, environmental degradation, war—and then go into how to organize ordinary people into agents that can shift power relationships to make social change.

The community organizing authors we’ve looked at include Saul Alinsky, Francis Fox Piven, Kathe Sarachild, and Staughton Lynd. But this year, I added a new component. I incorporated the work of Walidah Imarisha, Morrigan Phillips, and adrienne maree brown; more specifically, I had my students think about organizing through visionary science fiction.

For several years now, since the publication of Octavia’s Brood, Imarisha, Phillips, and Brown have been utilizing a workshop to teach people organizing skills that relies on people’s love and fascination with fantasy and science fiction worlds. The workshops involve asking people to visit their favorite universes and investigate the power relationships within them. Once the forces of oppression are revealed, then the participants are asked to imagine what steps the most marginalized members of that universe can do to liberate themselves.

I wanted my students to experience this form of envisioning liberation, but I’m not trained in this facilitation. I also wasn’t completely sure my students were all that nerdy and have their favorite fandom.

But that’s when I found FutureStates.

FutureStates was a television series that ran on public television from about 2011 to 2014. It highlighted new and emerging filmmakers who would engage with future trends in technology and social issues. Most of the episodes are about 15-20 minutes long and they vary in quality—the production values were usually low, but some of the story telling is superb. Most importantly, unlike more current series that deal with tech trends, such as Black Mirror, Future States deals with explicit social justice issues, such as racism, sexism, discrimination, etc.

So I modified the Octavia’s Brood model slighty.

I had all my students watch an episode of Future States entitled “White”. It takes place in the near future, in which global warming has increased and summer temperatures in the US are excessive. In the show, rich white individuals are purchasing melanin from brown and black individuals in order to protect themselves from the sun. Poor folk of color bleach their bodies as some might sell blood plasma today.


Then I had my students analyze the episode in the following ways:

  1. They had to identify the groups or individuals who seemed to be in control or have power in this world and explain what kind of power they wielded. We had used Steven Lukes’ theory of the three faces of power as a basis: coercion, agenda setting power, and preference setting power.
  2. They had to identity the groups or individuals who seemed to be oppressed by the exercise of power and explain what kind of oppression was present. We had studied several theories of oppression, including Paulo Freire, Martin Buber, Phillip Hallie, and Iris Marion Young.
  3. They then had to imagine what kind of liberatory strategy the oppressed ought to take to free themselves from the oppression. Since it was a class emphasizing nonviolence, we didn’t talk about armed struggle as an option; instead I asked them to think about what kind of community organizing model might work in the situation: Alinksy style organization building, disruption theory, consciousness-raising, or accompaniment.


I think this experiment with visionary science fiction was successful. Students were emotionally impacted by the episodes of Future States we viewed together and their analyses of “White” were incisive and imaginative. Several of them suggested creating a supply crisis, through Fox Piven’s notion of disruption, to highlight the unfairness of having to objectify one’s body in this particular way. A few noticed how the episode seemed to speak to issues of cultural appropriation and exploitation today.

I would love to continue this experiment using Future States and would welcome any comments or thoughts or discussion of how people have used visionary science fiction/fantasy to imagine liberation.  What has worked or not, in your experience?


We Need to Teach People How to Share Power

By Irami Osei-Frimpong (March 19, 2018)

I think that a whole lot of political problems come from an inability to share power with genuine people you may not necessarily like. This barrier is baked into our political culture, though I will say that there are marked differences between subordinate and dominant groups, for a variety of reasons.

Well-ordered democracies concern how we share power with strangers across competing interests. Political power is one of these strange spirits that grows if you share it– but not in an obvious way, and there is an ethic to it, and if we don’t take that ethic seriously, it’s really easy (and popular) to abuse power, but if we embrace the vulnerability entailed in sharing power with due humility and a good sense of humor, you can get this right and win freedom for everyone involved. (Though some people are going to sorely miss their privileges.)

We don’t institutionalize teaching the importance of sharing power– which means that we don’t institutionalize the principles of wielding it justly– but we have a very rich discourse concerning property rights, so it’s not surprising that are bad at wielding power justly. People think of their share of political power as merely their property to use to seek their private interest, then everything gets confused.

To be clear, I think the blocks to, and conditions for, sharing power account for all sorts of structural racism. (This is one reason why integration fell flat. We let white people think they could integrate without sharing power with people they don’t like.) In general, this inability to take the work of shared power across difference seriously also accounts for screwed up relationships: intimate, working, and academic.

For example, I read a LOT of people who think that black people are idiots. I read a lot of people who think that black men are apes. Folks ask me, “How can your read them!” To which I answer, “Those people are very smart on OTHER, more basic issues, and I think I can separate out their bigotry and misandry.” Taking time to read them is a form of sharing power with people I don’t particularly like. I didn’t realize how much it habituated me to sharing power.

I get a lot of flack for being such an integrationist. But yeah, I think the only way we will be free is when we take the principles of shared power seriously, institutionalize teaching people how to share power the same way we institutionalize teaching people Geometry, and we realize that freedom is more important than the comfort shared power compromises or the vulnerability shared power entails.

What’s fascinating is that there very little that leads me to believe that victims of abuse of power are necessarily much better at sharing it, unless there is more to the story in the form of a political or structural or intellectual intervention. (To be honest, this is what worries me about safe space discourse in politics, but that’s fodder for another post.) This growth does happen, so that not all victims are necessarily potential abusers, but enough of them are that I always ask my students, “So, who taught you how to wield power?”

If the answer is “nobody,” then we consider why that may be a problem. If the answer is “My parents”, then we consider whether they think their parents wield power justly.


Silvia Federici: Wages for Housework and #MeToo

Silvia Federici is a leading Marxist-feminist scholar. Her work exposes how capitalism maintains itself by refusing to pay for the cost of its own reproduction (such as the emotional and care work that goes into producing human beings).  This talk was co sponsored by the Coalition of Graduate Employees, Anarres Project, and the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at OSU.

My Lai is the Essence of US American Foreign Policy

By S. Brian Willson (March 16, 2018)

March 16, 1968, My Lai Massacre, Viet Nam

Today, March 16, 2018, is the 50th painful anniversary of the US Army massacre that, in effect, represented the essence of US American policy of scorched earth from the air and on the ground in the US war. 504 completely unarmed Vietnamese were murdered in cold blood: 60 very elderly men, 182 women (of whom 17 were pregnant), and 173 children (with 56 being under one year of age). Not a single bullet was fired by the Vietnamese (they had no arms). Attrition – Murder more of them, as many as possible, call them enemy “VC”, even though the vast majority were mothers, children, and the elderly. A dead Vietnamese was a “dirty VC” ! Body counts. Body counts: The US measure of determining US success in a grotesque, barbaric, criminal invasion and occupation of an innocent people.

As you can see, we are a very enlightened people.

This model in the “Americas” was established by Eurocentric settlers acting as paramilitary as early as the 1600, conquering lands of North America from the Indigenous with virtual impunity. By 1776, Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence described the native residents as “merciless Indian Savages.” It is clear, however, from examining US history, who the most ruthless savages have been. In Viet Nam I discovered I was one of them.

The reason My Lai was not able to be ignored and hidden under the rug forever, is that US Army photographer Ron Haeberle documented the massacre, including the “ditch” scene in Viet Nam (see cover photo)



Performing for White People

By Teka Lark (March 13, 2018)

“We did not feel that the cops were protecting us, for we knew too much about the reasons for the kinds of crimes committed in the ghetto; but we feared black cops even more than white cops, because the black cop had to work so much harder–on your head–to prove to himself and his colleagues that he was not like all the other n%gge&s.” –James Baldwin 1967

The system of oppression is complicated. It is not one that can be solved by simply changing the color of the tools of oppression. Today at a meeting in a predominantly white room a Latina from Brooklyn used the term “illegal.”

A Latina from LA corrected her and said, “The term is UNDOCUMENTED.”

And then Brooklyn said, “It is the same.”

And then LA said, “No, it is not stop dehumanizing people, it is UNDOCUMENTED.”

LA leaned over to me and said, “WTF is wrong these people out here?” And I said, “I don’t know, I’m scared. It’s a horror movie out here. We better be-quiet before we get sold down the river to Mississippi.”

And the use of that word by Brooklyn, wasn’t because this very educated Latina did not know. She knew, but she was performing for the white people. She purposely used “illegal” that’s the part I thought was interesting. She knew exactly what she was doing when she used the word “illegal” in a room full of white people.

There was no reason for her to do it, she did that as an extra.

I think that is why me and LA were so very unhappy with her, because we knew, she knew AND she knew, we knew, she knew.

But she didn’t care she was was letting white people know that she wasn’t an “unreasonable” “person of color (POC)” and she was completely willing to dehumanize people who looked like her to do it.

Brooklyn actually would prefer we not use race at all or labels, yet she didn’t have a problem using the label “illegal.” Weird how that worked…anyways….

Every person of color with a degree and a job with retirement has to perform for white people. Well, everyone has to perform to keep their job, but Black people and other POC generally, we have to be very triple threat about it: you know dance, sing, and act.

Things like letting your white boss know, “OJ definitely did it and he is satan and should burn in hell.”

Letting them know that you definitely do not think they (they is inclusive of their company, department, kid, car, dog…) are racist and they will always ask, “Of course not, you’re a super awesome white person.”

That lie, excuse me line, that line has been keeping Black people employed for over 100 years.

Entertain hair/national origin/name questions. I know what you see online, in reality we just smile, because not smiling…and making people feel uncomfortable will result in unemployment.

But you know if you perform the role of the reasonable POC, the Black cop who beats people harder –when your existence is dependent on drawing the real blood, silencing, and the breaking of people who look like you, you are no longer performing. It is no longer about you just eating.


Interview: Elle Stanger


Elle Stanger has been a nude internet model for over a decade and an Oregon stripper for almost a decade, and she occasionally sells homemade porn and does webcam work. She has a B.A in Criminology from Portland State University, and has written about sex and relationships and parenting for various outlets like Men’s Health, Romper, Thrillist. She is currently finishing her training as a Certified Sex Educator with the Institute of Sexuality Education and Enlightenment. She also co-hosts a podcast called UnzippedPDX, which was nominated by the Willamette Week as Portland’s “Best Local Podcast”.

How would you describe your work?

My secret power is that I’m able to find teachable moments with my clients, especially around boundaries and communication. I’m basically a femme queer tattooed-Barbie that blends into the mainstream when she wants to, in order to make money or to educate. I’ve been so informed by my work with people, and I’ve learned that most mainstream Americans are looking for permission to be vulnerable, kinky, and intentional with their sexuality.


What are the sorts of experiences that led you to organize for better protections for sex workers in Oregon?

In 2014, I had worked in six different clubs, and been stripping in total for about seven years, and I had been horrified by some clubs, and impressed by others. Adult environments are like any other type of industry; there’s going to be a spectrum of minutiae that to wade through. Management and staffing is the biggest part of what determines a safe working environment, and infrastructure maintenance is important. If the venue owners don’t’ give a shit about their dancers, it is more likely that things like dancer abuse or injury will go undealt with. I and dozens of other strippers were contacted in September of 2014 by lobbyists and social workers from NASW and PacWest; they wanted to know if any strippers in Portland had workplace concerns.

About forty live entertainers gathered in a room at PSU, and we told them some of our needs: “The bouncers don’t kick out people who assault me”, “Our roof leaks water on to the stage when it rains”, or “I have a hard time finding housing that will rent to me”, “I pay $50 a shift to work and I leave with $20”. Everyone in the room eventually realized that the concerns were so wide-ranging, that it would make sense to create a hotline where live entertainers could find resources for their needs.

TL;DR is that we created one with bi-partisan support, Gov. Kate Brown signed HB 1359 in June of 2015, and a hotline was created, but within two years it was dismantled due to Oregon’s $1.8billion debt. The hotline only required $50k annually for staffing, but they killed it anyway.

 The only reason that I’m not saddened by this is because I heard from many people that the hotline wasn’t being managed well. But I figure that it was worth the fight just to prove that things like this can be built.


Who would you consider your organizing/social justice heroes and what did you learn from them that inspires you?

I’m inspired by every single social worker I’ve met. They don’t get paid enough, deal with highly sensitive and charged situations, and juggle so many clients. These humans truly must have an altruistic souls if they’re consistently carrying with that much emotional labor.


What gives you hope for the future in the work that your do?

I’m only 31, and whores have existed for at least a few thousand years, so it gives me comfort to know that bodywork and sex work is a constant and that workers can adapt to changing times. I have hope for the future of sex work because the proliferation of social media has made our voices impossible to ignore. And things ARE getting better, especially as more young radicals do their work to influence young moderates.


What do you think are the most significant obstacles to social justice in your field in the future?  Do you think that any of those obstacles are due to some people’s denial of sex work as work?

The most significant obstacle to social justice and equality is the continuing whorephobic attitudes that we hold for women who work sex. Stigma kills: we raise our children to think that violence against sex workers is funny and acceptable. Family Guy, 30 Rock, many shows and movies reinforce these ideas.

Then there are abstinence-”educators” that travel throughout the country, telling children that sex stretches our vaginas, or that multiple penises inside of a woman is like “multiple feet in a shoe”, and bad, inaccurate information like this reinforces the idea that sex is dirty or unhealthy.

Additionally, politicians and actresses make laws and films about sex trafficking, which is not the same as sex work. These people are not experts in these fields, and often do greater harm by confusing people between the issues of choice and consent. These things need to be addressed, and that’s partly what I’m here for.


What books or movies would you recommend people study to learn about social justice or organizing for sex workers?

That’s a great question, and can someone please email me when you find some answers to it! I haven’t yet found any books or movies about this particular intersection of topics. I would look for the writings of Audacia Ray and all things, she’s been a vocal and longtime organizer of sex worker rights.

Please don’t organize for sex workers unless you are one. If sex workers have concerns, please do ask how you can help facilitate their fight, if they want to make one.


We sometimes ask people to think about what things would be like “after the revolution”, meaning a really big change in which all the obstacles to social justice are demolished and social oppression is eliminated (obviously, an imaginary world!) After the revolution, do you think there would be sex work?

After the revolution there certainly wouldn’t be capitalism or commercialism in the way that it exists now, but people would still be working and making in order to live. There will always be activities that some people will be eager or willing to engage in, whether or not your rent depends on it.

I think it would be more of a “sex barter”. If someone wants to do my dishes in exchange for a handjob or a neckrub, let’s talk.


(Interview with Joseph Orosco, March 2018)


Interview: Lani Roberts


After twenty two years of award-winning teaching of moral theory, feminism, and ethics of diversity at Oregon State University, Dr. Lani Roberts retired and eventually moved to eastern Oregon. Soon after she moved there, she began teaching again, but this time, she taught citizenship classes as a volunteer for the largely Mexican immigrant community of Hood River, Oregon. She also helped to create a local chapter of the international group, Women In Black.


What are the sorts of experiences in life that led you to become an activist?

I would say the underlying principle that guides my (political) activism is “silence is consent” and I do not want to be seen by anyone as a consenting to the wrongs I am able to address. This, I believe, explains my continued activism even in retirement. My politics is who I am and I have not ceased being that woman in retirement. One of the highest values I hold is integrity.

I was raised in a home where no racist language was permitted whatsoever.  That doesn’t mean my parents weren’t racist in some sense because they did not see the treatment of the local Indigenous folks for what it was even given the “No Dogs No Indians” signs in local stores. The utter degrading harm done by the isms has always been in the forefront of my awareness thanks to my parents, thus my focus on the philosophy of oppression through my career.

During high school, I hung out with a group of friends (some are still friends to this day) who were in a borderland between the Beat generation and before the Hippies. We talked politics all the time. This was in the early 60s, and our awareness included the civil rights movement.

My political activism began in fall 1964 when an instructor in Writing 121 assigned this question:   What do you think about what’s going on in Viet Nam?  I went to the library at the University of Oregon and did research and came to the conclusion that it was a civil war and we (the US) had no business being involved there.  It was mostly young men in my age group who were being drafted.  So, I became an antiwar protestor, marched in the streets, often taking my older son along with me, from the time he could first walk.  Since then, it’s been a matter of moral integrity to me to resist wars.

For a while, I did research for the San Francisco Mime Troupe in 1970.  It was a cooperative where everyone earned the same, and it was a small amount. Part of our obligations was to attend a Mao meeting every Sunday afternoon.   Mostly, I researched the life of Che Guevara at the Cal Berkeley library for one of the playwrights.  It was all done on microfilm in those days.

My Hippie/Counterculture years introduced me to, and made me a believer in, growing our own food, communal living, cooperative stores, home birthing, taking care of the natural world, etc.  It amazes me sometimes how much the Hippie culture is widely embraced today.

I went back to school in my mid-30s after my mother’s death when I fully realized or groked (Heinlein – Stranger in a Strange Land) that life was finite and I’d better get busy. I began my Ph.D. program at age 40, as a single mom to my younger son. Even though Epistemology was my first love in Philosophy, I consciously decided to focus on Ethics, as a sort of counter balance to what I saw around me.  Studying moral theory only heightened my desire to act against wrongs and for the good, as well as giving me good reasons for doing so.


Since you retired, you started teaching citizenship classes and started standing with a group of women called the  Gorge Women in Black, in Hood River, Oregon. What motivated you to get involved in this work?

I started standing as part of the international Women in Black at OSU within one week of the United States bombing in Afghanistan just after the 9-11 event in NYC. I was distraught that we were destroying peoples who had nothing whatsoever to do with 9-11.   A friend asked me if I knew about Women in Black. I looked it up and it was a perfect fit. We stood once a week for 10 years at OSU until I retired.   Standing with Women in Black is me using my own body to interrupt the unconsciousness of passersby, to call attention to the wrongs and pains done to other folks.  It is also a focused meditation for me. A friend here in Hood River and I were agonizing over the world wide war the US was waging and I mentioned Women in Black to her. We began standing weekly on the main street downtown in February of 2015 and continue today with others joining us. For me, it is entirely voluntary with no obligation for anyone, including me. It is one of the best things I do for myself and others on a regular basis.

women in black gorge

Teaching the citizenship classes here (just finished the twelfth one) is one way I can use my skills as a teacher, do something I love, and make a concrete, real difference in peoples’ lives.   It does not suit me to attend meetings and talk about things.   But, when there is something real and concrete I can do to make a difference, that’s when I get involved.  I have also been tutoring English learners at the community college here, twice a week when classes are in session for the past six years.  It’s another concrete action that makes a difference.  I also get to use some of the linguistics I studied as an undergrad.


What gives you hope for the future?

I have been struggling with this given the state of affairs in the US today, but it is young people who have compassion and a consciousness of the harms we (United States) do both here and abroad.


What do you think are the most significant obstacles to social justice in the future?

Lack of awareness and compassion for others.


Are there any lessons you think you have learned from all these years of sustained activism?

I think the thread throughout my now 50 plus years of political activism is concreteness– embodied action that makes a difference, whether helping folks become citizens or interrupting the thoughtlessness of most people’s lives.


Interview by Joseph Orosco March 2018