The Liberation of Creativity: Making a Better World at the Corvallis Solidarity Fair

By Joseph Orosco (July 2, 2019)

This year marked the 8th anniversary of the Solidarity Fair in Corvallis, Oregon. Started as a project by members of the Corvallis Industrial Workers of the World and Occupy Corvallis, the Solidarity Fair is a once a year event that brings together groups and individuals from the Willamette Valley that are interested in grassroots social transformation through social, economic, and environmental justice struggles.


One of the hallmarks of the Fair have been what is called ‘movement conversations’: facilitated discussions dealing with issues such as community organizing, labor struggles, envisioning more just futures, etc. This year, the Fair sponsored two discussions for Fair-goers: Stop Making Capitalism and Make a Better World.

Stop Making Capitalism was a particularly well-attended conversation focused around some of the following questions:


  • How do we resist power-over dynamics by building power-with each other?
  • In our workplaces, neighborhoods, communities, schools: What are examples of resistance right now? (i.e. walkouts, strikes)
  • What leverage do we already have and what leverage can we create?
  • How can we encourage the conversation to go beyond the local to broader connections?

solidarity 2

As co-directors of the Anarres Project, Tony Vogt and I were tasked as being the facilitators for the second discussion about imagining a better world. We met beforehand and drew up a few questions to help structure the dialogue. Our conversations was built around these ideas:


  • Are there examples of people coming together to form a better world in your community, region, union, movement, neighborhood? (Examples of not just resistance but alternative building)


  • In building a better world, what sort of continuity with the current world would you want to keep and build on, improve, reform? Does a better world have to be built by rejecting the status quo or can it be built within the shell of the old?


  • Who are the allies in building the better world you imagine and why are they allies?


Our conversation was a bit smaller than Stop Making Capitalism: there were about 10 individuals, ranging from Boomers to Generation Z (many of them members of Democratic Socialists of America).


Examples of Alternative Building

Someone started by bringing up the example here of the movement in Oregon to legislate universal health care. The idea behind this struggle, it was explained, was to create social programs that would take care of residents, freeing up money from other programs devoted to incarceration, for instance. A result of this would be to renew trust in the state as an institution that works for the people.


Other individuals immediately questioned whether building trust in the state was something to spend time and energy on. They offered examples of creating worker and housing cooperatives, instead.


When we asked the group to think of any projects in existence that inspired them in alternative building the Rojava Revolution immediately came to the mind of several. It seems clear that this example is to younger folk what the Zapatistas were to previous generations. Several mentioned they were inspired by the idea of municipal democracy and working at local city levels (Bookchin libertarian muncipalism ideals filtered through the news of Rojava)


Continuity with the Old

When asked whether building a better world had to be premised on the idea of something like a slate cleaning revolution that would wipe away all vestiges of the old world, or on reform that would improve on the deficiencies of the old world, the discussion participants turned right away to the question of the market. How would a new and better world distribute goods and services?


Most seemed to agree that an economy driven by profit had to be eliminated, but were not sure that a market economy had to be profit motivated. Was it possible to have a social welfare capitalism as a goal for a better world?


Participants quickly realized that any projects for envisioning a better world had to deal with the limit of ecological crisis. No economy was going to work that did not factor in resource depletion and climate change. The conversation quickly changed to the realization that there were going to be many lifestyle sacrifices—there was long discussion about what it was going to be like to not be able to get certain produce and food items any longer.


Privatization of creativity

I noted that it seemed like the question of lifestyle sacrifice always seemed to haunt leftist discussions about building alternatives.  I suggested that this was a turn we should think about avoiding because it seems demobilizing and creates a politics of fear or desperation. Instead, I said we should think about what we might gain by building alternative worlds.


Participants agreed that thinking about what luxuries we might lose in leaving behind the status quo was a deception. Someone pointed out that the idea of a luxury in today’s world is usually something valuable or pleasurable that we want because of the hollowness that capitalism produces in our lives. People started to imagine that in a world without capitalism we might have more free time to spend with family and friends. Tony reminded everyone that a central feature of the US labor movement had been taking control over leisure time—the eight hour work day and the weekend. We pondered what kind of abilities and capacities might be unleashed if people did not have to work so much just in order to survive. One young person pointed out that there is a widespread view that someone capitalism is the economic system that drives innovation and progress, “What it really does is privatize creativity into the minds of a few”.

We wrapped up our 45 minute conversation on that point and left everyone to ponder what sorts of allies were out there for the kind of struggle we imagined.






Laughter in the Face of White Mediocrity – and other strategies for anti-oppression excellence


By Christian Matheis (June 21, 2019)

“What do I tell my kids?” a student asked me last spring in an intro class on community problem solving. She, African-American and one of the few (4, she tells me) on the municipal police force of around 450 officers, caught my words.


“What do I tell my kids???” she repeated as I searched for an answer worthy of the question.


Here is what had prompted the question. In response to a class discussion about the covert and persistent versions of authority, white supremacy, and white privilege in institutions, I made a casual remark about mediocrity. Paraphrasing something Lani Roberts told me many years ago I said, “Remember, bureaucracy tends to select for mediocrity. And mediocrity tends to bolster bureaucracy. Act excellent, show brilliance and you’re a threat to the mediocre who have careers built on mediocrity. Stay mediocre, get promoted.” I voiced it matter-of-factly.


Her question, “what do I tell my kids???” was not casual. It was urgent.


In the moment I didn’t have the kinds of liberation-informed response I wish I had. So, I’ve given it some thought and reflection over the past few weeks and I at least found some of my voice to try again. In other words, through the cruel irony of white mediocrity itself I had casually named white mediocrity while a Black mother in a class I taught lived it, felt it like a ton of bricks and instantly had to wonder how to parent in spite of it.
More and more recently, a growing number of people have written about and re-emphasized Black excellence — a term by Black people, for Black people, about Black people that highlights the successes of Blacks who thrive despite and in resistance to global white supremacy. Or perhaps irrespective of white supremacy. I do not know.
I think it is not for me to say much at all about Black excellence, except that I think it stands in critical, liberatory opposition to white supremacy, white privilege, and white mediocrity by making these latter systems wholly irrelevant (or as much as possible) to how African Americans treat one another. Or to paraphrase Toni Morrison, “When I started writing I found that all the stories by Black men about Black people were about someone locked in a fight with their oppressor. Once I decided to kick the oppressor out of my stories I could write the realities of Black women, for us and about us” (my recollection of her remark at the Sheer Good Fortune event at Virginia Tech in 2013).
I want to reiterate that the mediocrity here is not just any mediocrity, not just any bureaucracy. It is *white* mediocrity. And it helps maintain and fuel white bureaucracy, white privilege, and white supremacy by any and all names we might call these systems.
Intersectionally, white mediocrity as the paradigm inside of white bureaucracies depends on the entire system of capitalist imperialist cisheteropatriarchal mediocrity (riffing on bell hooks).
(As much as I admire Bonnie Mann’s work on “sovereign masculinity” (2013), we have to read our Marx and Engels closely enough to notice that an elite class struggles with sovereign masculinity, while the vast majority of people exploited, abused, and murdered by patriarchy suffer in systems of “bureaucratic masculinity”)
White mediocrity plays out its favors and punishments through a system that at least includes:

– Aesthetic white mediocrity: collapsing and controlling beauty, awe, wonder, ineffability, the sublime, etc. in ways that protect and further entrench the role of whites as the paradigm of aesthetics, the benchmarks of all beauty, pure and magnificent. All others, ugly, impure, and mundane.
– Moral white mediocrity: assessing right, wrong, good, bad, and any complex value determinations in ways that protect and further entrench the role of whites as the best evaluators, the best at making judgments.


– Political white mediocrity: adjudicating claims of injustice, distributing resources and opportunities, distribution of social benefits and burdens, and ranking individual and group interests in ways that protect and further entrench whites as the best deciders.
– Economic white mediocrity: conceiving of quality of life, social welfare, distribution of resources and opportunities, etc. in ways that protect and further entrench whites as the best owners and controllers — to say little or nothing of interrogating and dismantling ownership paradigms in themselves.
Let’s get a few things on the table.
White mediocrity has promoted me.


My refusal to collude in white mediocrity, when I have mustered the strength and strategy, has also cost me. But it has never cost me as much as it has promoted me. The cost is optional for whites.


I both have and can still give talks titled, “Anti-Racism for White People: Or How to Stop Worrying and Become a White Race Traitor” knowing that it is a luxury, an option. White mediocrity allows me to do so, but with as much or as little efficacy as I choose.


The social positionality allows me to write about it, in this moment, with relatively limited consequences.


We know all too well that whites can count on cashing in the white mediocrity chip at any time, anywhere, and that it benefits us to remain unaware of this particular form of corrupting privilege (Peggy McIntosh).


White mediocrity may take familiar forms. Though because systematic oppression operates to conceal itself it may not always appear obvious when one has come face to face with white mediocrity. For that reason, I want to try to help expose the anatomy of white mediocrity by naming what seem like common aspects:


– Assume authority is yours for the taking, that as white you deserve it if you put enough loyal years into an organization.

– Speak with the tone and cadence that always, flawlessly implies the threat, “I decide, or must I remind you.”

– Seek managerial promotion in white-dominated bureaucracies as an inherent good.

– Treat others as if they want managerial promotion in a white-dominated bureaucracy.

– Reward/encourage others as if they want promotion in a white-dominated bureaucracy.

– Sanction/discourage others who resist promotion in a white-dominated bureaucracy, especially anyone who doesn’t “play ball.”

– Defend your mediocre decisions as best for the white-dominated bureaucracy.

– Offer to mentor, coach, or advise people from underrepresented groups in how to obtain the fruits of white mediocrity by assimilating.

– Avoid people from underrepresented groups who question and challenge the mediocrity of white rule over white-dominated bureaucracies.

– Pat on the back anyone from any group who validates your fragile, white mediocre ego.

– …what else? This must be an open list.


These and many other normalized traits of administrative leadership and managerial authority depend on and bolster white mediocrity. We whites dare not admit to it. What would become of our claims to authority, force, power, rule? All so flimsy.


One salient insight into white mediocrity I can now recall was with a supervisor during an annual performance evaluation meeting. At the time I served in an advocacy role in a university, my salary paid for by student fees. During the conversation while I listened to “recommendations for professional growth” I had a sudden and inexplicable need to explain, “I think you think I someday want your job. Or the vice-provost’s job.” She looked shocked. I went on, “I took this job because I want this job, this work right now. I’ll hopefully take the next one for similar reasons. But I have zero aspirations about promotion, about climbing the status ladder.”


She, a cis heterosexual woman of color, confided in me several months later that that remark had seriously upset her. Not because it wasn’t fair or relevant, but because she realized that she had never once in her career questioned her desire to climb the administrative hierarchy. It was a given.


Given by whom? By mediocre whites.


White mediocrity can co-opt, tokenize, and assimilate people from underrepresented and marginalized backgrounds.
Various scholars of liberation such as Jane Nardal, Frantz Fanon, Angela Davis, Audre Lord, Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Herbert Marcuse, Karl Marx, etc. have shown that oppression plants in the oppressed the seeds of their own liberation, while at the same time it (oppression) also masks that fact.


This is probably why Black excellence is so crucial to undermining white mediocrity. Black excellence exposes and at the same time treats as irrelevant the scheme of white mediocrity, or so I suspect.


In “Shooting an Elephant” (1936) George Orwell tells about the time in his young adulthood when he served as part of the brutal, colonial British military force occupying India. Many years later, reflecting on the depth of his acculturation into white imperialist rule he remarks, “Theoretically – and secretly, of course – I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British. As for the job I was doing, I hated it more bitterly than I can perhaps make clear. In a job like that you see the dirty work of Empire at close quarters. …I was young and ill-educated and I had had to think out my problems in the utter silence that is imposed on every Englishman in the East.”
What catches my attention is not that Orwell merely notices and confesses to his acculturation into British imperialism, doing the job while hating the job. It is the pattern of events that Orwell says most frustrated and upset him at the time, and what helped to expose to him the mediocrity of British bureaucratic oppression over India and Burma. In the opening of the essay he writes,


“As a police officer I was an obvious target and was baited whenever it seemed safe to do so. When a nimble Burman tripped me up on the football field and the referee (another Burman) looked the other way, the crowd yelled with hideous laughter. This happened more than once. In the end the sneering yellow [sic] faces of young men that met me everywhere, the insults hooted after me when I was at a safe distance, got badly on my nerves.


Then later, in closing, “The crowd would laugh at me. And my whole life, every white man’s life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at.”


What if white mediocrity has no immunity to laughter?


Perhaps what white mediocrity fears most is that the oppressed will realize how preposterous and mediocre white rule has always been. How laughable, unimaginative, and incoherent white supremacy actually is, and how it appears maybe most laughable in its bureaucratic administrative formations. Moreover, laughable in that so much of the scheme and scam of white mediocrity is about whites coercing whites to remain ignorant of it, and to use white bureaucracy to eradicate spaces in which people of color can create overt language – a language in which to talk about white mediocrity in institutional settings (e.g. in the workplace, classroom, research conference, annual performance evaluation, etc.).


Where and when can we talk about white mediocrity? Cisgender mediocrity? The mediocrity of the temporarily able-bodied? Masculine mediocrity? Heterosexual mediocrity? And so on.
“What do I tell my kids?” she asked.


I do not know.


At least for today, I hope she tells them to consider laughter and Black excellence — Tell your children to laugh and love their Black excellence.

Lessons on the Acquittal of the J20?

By Teka Lark and Arun Gupta (December 22, 2017)


Teka Lark:

We are celebrating people being acquitted of being charged with a crime for exercising their First Amendment rights against Trump?! We are celebrating that?! I am pissed! They should not have been charged in the first place.

If anyone on the left think this is a win for us, I hope to god you aren’t leading anything.

This is what it has come to please let me protest, please allow me sleep on the street, please let me work 20 hours a day with no health insurance….

Get off your damn knees and stop begging for your humanity, it is embarrassing.



Arun Gupta:

The first six defendants in the Trumped-up inauguration mass arrests have been found not guilty of all charges. This is a great relief, but at best it’s a highly qualified victory, and until the Left learns some basic lessons it will never progress beyond its impotent isolation.

This case was a blatant instance of not just prosecutorial overreach, but naked state repression.
For a year, about 200 defendants have been charged with bogus crimes that would put them in jail for 70 years. It was highly unlikely they would ever be found guilty because the arrestees were kettled and the state admitted there was no evidence they participated in the window smashing and limousine burning. But it was that level of property destruction enabled the prosecutors to file the felony riot charges.

In other words, it was the nihilistic smashy-smashy brigade that gave the state the hammer to use against the left. If there was no property destruction, those charges could not have been filed.

If you’ve never faced criminal charges, even false ones, you don’t know what it’s like to live under that fear and anxiety. Activists say this show trial has undermined organizing in the Washington-Baltimore region, where many of the arrestees live. In New Orleans, one young man charged with felonies related to J20 actions there committed suicide earlier this year.

These trials suck up resources. They require enormous fundraising and support networks

All of this is vital and necessary. But for the Left it’s a no-win situation. If convicted, people’s lives are destroyed. Even if everyone is found innocent, the state still wins because all that energy that could have gone into organizing is instead redirected into a purely reactive, defensive struggle. And for those who are acquitted, it doesn’t matter how much money they may get. This type of experience stays with you for the rest of your life, and colors all your future political activity. For the state, any settlement is just the cost of doing business.

The worst part is this didn’t have to happen.

Talking with other journalists and longtime organizers, there is evidence this may have been a state set-up from the beginning. I am not ready to name names, but given statements that were made before the protest by some involved, alarm bells should have ringing that J20 might be entrapment. (Please don’t speculate openly as to who or what I am referring to.)

Remember that J20 is the same demonstration where so many leftists were giddy that Richard Spencer got punched in the face. I hope half as much attention is paid to learning organizing lessons and how to confront state power in these dangerous times as was given to chuckling over Nazi-punching memes.



Letter to White Progressive America: The Design of Modern Imperialism

By Caroline Randall (March 30, 2017)


In the fear and loathing that followed Trump’s election, my frustration and contempt for my fellow progressive white Americans has transcended a level I ever thought possible.  I can’t physically stomach their attempts to be consoling, blaming the victory of hate and violence on the uneducated and conservative voters. This false assertion conveniently absolves us, the progressive white population, for the state of our nation, and allows us to continue preening ourselves on a pedestal of privilege- actively engaging in and greatly benefiting from the modern colonization we philosophically oppose. While conservative populations openly advocate for the unconstitutional policies we are seeing pass, the state of our nation isn’t completely their fault; it can largely be attributed to us. Most progressive white Americans are unaware that we support through action the colonial paradigm, and are often indifferent to the behaviors we engage in that hold the weight of systemic oppression, hatred, and violence. We are beneficiaries of over 400 years of white supremacy, whether we understand it or not. If we are going to actually penetrate this supremacy, those of us that benefit from privilege or occupy positions of institutional and systemic power have a moral obligation to publically and actively dismantle our oppressive foundations.


Upon examination of the power structures in every single institution in the United States, be it the criminal justice system, congress, public education, religious institutions, media, or business, we see that the membership of these institutions are at minimum 80% white. Since Eugenics is no longer a viable theory, it is clear that racism is supported systemically and runs our nation. Many of us progressive white American’s have the self-righteous and misguided view that we are the “good” ones, the ones that aren’t racist, and that aren’t a part of the problem. While in general, as a group, we don’t harbor active and overt racist, classist, or homophobic ideologies, we do as a group lack an active or authentic engagement with systemic oppression, making us complicit. To remain neutral, or choose to not actively fight an oppressive force is to side with the oppressor. Having anti-racist ideals without acting on them is supportive of systemic racism.  This letter is a call to action inviting the progressive white to mobilize as a group and use our privilege to bring meaningful and systemic change.


When a white person looks at me and says, “don’t worry, we will get through Trump’s America” I want to scream. This statement demonstrates absolute ignorance in regards to power and privilege, and the institutionalization of racism in our nation. Marginalized populations face systemic barriers that are very real despite their “invisibility” to those that benefit from dominant culture privileges.  To ignore these structural inequities is to support them and to encourage their thriving. Of course we will make it. We are white. This world was created for us to thrive. How can we look at our friends of color, and into their children’s eyes, knowing the oppression they have and will face will increase; knowing that the threat of violence both literally and metaphorically will increase? How can we look into a young girls eyes, knowing that she is growing up in a nation that positively reinforces racist violence and rape culture? How can we live with ourselves being secure in this reality knowing that her psyche is going to be shaped in ways that can and will permanently damage her? It’s superfluous that I am going to make it through safe, and I refuse to be complicit in a force that darkens her reality.


While this letter is asking white allies to step up, it by no means supports the idea that marginalized populations need white people to fight for them. Every marginalized population has incredible strength, resilience and power, and by no means needs a savior, white or otherwise. Successful resistance movements are largely absent in our nations popular history because white supremacist culture benefits from a socially accepted view that these groups are weaker. Whether it is stories of successful slave revolts, or the fact that WIC was created by the Black Panther party to support families of color, the omissions are oppressive.Every thread that weaves our dominant culture ignores and silences a lifetime of history that points to the purposeful and well executed oppression of marginalized peoples. To point out in any room that we are standing on stolen ground, benefiting from stolen labor generally shocks people, as the genocide of North American indigenous populations has been overshadowed by stories of heroic Europeans that brought democracy and freedom to the new world. If I bring up the history of bank loans or redlining, and the racist intentions that excluded American’s of color in the flight from crime infested cities and the construction of white utopias known as the suburbs people think I am paranoid or radical. We cannot separate our current reality from our history, and it is our duty to reeducate ourselves, so we can more effectively combat modern colonization alongside our brothers and sisters that have spent 400 years actively engaged in the fight.


It is vital that we relearn our history because supporting change without urgency has historically resulted in a lack of change. It is easy for somebody who knows their body is safe from harm, whose job is safe from harm, and whose ability to navigate the imperial state we live in safely to say, “Change takes time.” The great Reverend Dr. King lived this struggle every day of his life, and in all of his sagacity he writes, “wait has almost always meant never.” in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” he said,

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly I have never yet engaged in a direct action movement that was ‘well timed.’…For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This ‘wait’ has almost always meant “never” We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that “justice too long delayed is justice denied”

To ask people to wait for justice, is to deny justice. White progressives must fight for justice with an urgency reflecting this understanding. If we truly care about justice and our brothers and sisters we will refuse to wait any longer.


To truly be an ally, and a warrior of social justice, we have to resist the stigma that comes with being labeled radical, and ask ourselves hard questions about the choices we make. If we are truly anti-racist, and against segregation, we must be ready to ask how our own life choices relate to historical structures. Many of my fellow progressive white Americans oppose segregation philosophically, but systematically choose to segregate themselves and live in predominantly white neighborhoods and send their kids to predominantly white schools, because they understand this is a “better” environment and education. This is also choosing to segregate and accept less opportunity for children of color and otherwise marginalized children. We cannot leave our anti-racist ideals in the office. We must bring them home, and live in authentic accordance of our values. Our current racist structures hold the weight of history, and all the trauma that comes in the untold history. The ubiquity and force of this oppression is suffocating.  It is the duty of all allies to utilize our privilege to leverage progress. We have a responsibility to actively engage in the dismantling of our racist social structures. The conservative white population that directly and openly support this racism is not going to enact any change in the system. The vast amount of systemic power and privilege we hold as a group is enormous, and we need to be agitated by the injustices our brothers and sisters’ face daily. We have a moral obligation to use our power and privilege to take on white supremacy as our highest and most urgent priority.


In the modern world, Media is the largest influence on the general population, and who controls the media, controls America’s consciousness. The current media paradigm is highly conservative, even when it is seen as moderate. Every time there is a story about a “marginal” or “radical” group like the Black Lives Matter movement covered on mainstream media, it is subject to discrediting attacks from conservative rhetoric. There are often very well-articulated arguments put forward by journalists of color, or otherwise marginalized voices, but we do not see nearly enough dominant culture allies stand up and say these attacks are wrong. White intellectuals with platforms of power have a responsibility to more visibly and openly dismantle these attacks and act in solidarity with any human rights movement. We need to change the narrative that demanding human rights is radical. The current narrative renders white supremacy as “a natural order” when it in fact is the radical paradigm. Equality is not radical. I do not give liberal white people a pass for not participating in change as they would if our own lives and comfort were at stake. I have watched liberal white Americans too often remain silent and allow white supremacy to prevail despite their intellectual understanding that it is wrong. If you are white, you benefit from white supremacy every day. If you do not fight this supremacy, you are part of it, progressive or not.


To make the jump from philosophically believing in justice to actively seeking it is an uncomfortable transition, but it is in this discomfort we have a choice. We can choose to seek comfort and find refuge in our fragility, (perpetuating racism) or we can choose to engage meaningfully with this discomfort, and examine what this fragility means. Resisting fragility and growing into an ally will teach us to use our privilege meaningfully rather than harmfully. To choose to engage despite our discomfort we are putting ourselves in danger as there are consequences to naming power.  However, it is also important to see nobody has an inherent right to the safety created and sustained on the oppression of another group. Naming the power that permeates our every breath triggers the majority of any institution we are a part of to silence us by any means necessary, and as quickly as possible. Naming power puts at risk of losing our jobs, opportunities for future jobs, and we can even face physical dangers such as rape and murder- more extreme versions of silencing tactics. However, we have to remind ourselves that the safety allotted to us due to our whiteness is unearned, and we don’t have a right to it. It is more important to do what is right than what is safe. Why do my children get to keep their mother more than another child? If I lose my job, my skin allows me to find a replacement job at a higher rate than that of my friends of color. My psyche developed within the ideals of white racial superiority, and I grew up seeing myself reflected positively in the power structures of our world. Web DuBois, “how does it feel to be the problem?”- white liberals can go home and forget about this. Our right to comfort is directly tied to the socialized collective and unconscious idea that white people are racially superior. I cannot separate my emotional and economic stability from the history and legacy of colonization.


Our nation needs to change the narrative that being an ally is radical. When this happens modern colonization will be exposed as the actually radical existence and not a natural phenomenon. If we are authentically committed to racial equity, we won’t censure our voices or actions no matter how precarious of a position it leaves us in professionally or personally. Hesitation for the sake of self-preservation evokes racial privilege, and holding onto the security many populations have never had. Let’s align our actions with our ideologies and make some of the healthiest and healing revolutions this earth has seen.

Notes to Activists on Demonstrations in These Mass Movement Times

By Chris Crass (January 31, 2017)

There are demonstrations taking place all over the country today and remember 10 people demonstrating in a rural community, small town or the suburbs, where I grew up, can have a powerful impact, like the hundreds and thousands in cities. When we act as movement, like Black Lives Matter, like Standing Rock, like the protests this weekend, all of our actions, donations, joining of organizations, rising as congregations, speaking up for justice with family and friends, all of it converges and builds the overall momentum and amplifies all of what we do.

Now is the time to invite people in our lives to take action, bring people with us! Each of us has examples of a time when someone invited us in, made a direct ask to get involved, and it powerfully impacted our lives.

Now is the time for radicals and socialists to further rise as leaders who love our people and deserve to lead our people, to radicalize liberals, to move Dem elected officials left and into the streets, to turn the centrists into liberals, make moderate Republicans ambivalent and begin questioning, and take the wind out of the GOP’s sails…

Let us invite people from our different communities into the work, provide resources, and play an active role to helping ourselves and others embrace and understand intersectional analysis, through action and reflection in these times. Key to this is connecting people to the leadership, vision, stories and analysis of women of color leaders moving our movement forward. People learn much faster when they are in motion, with others, for justice.

Learning experientially in our/their hearts, minds and bodies what solidarity, multiracial democracy, collective liberation means and feels like and the challenges we must overcome (from anti-Black racism in all of white society, to sexism undermining women’s leadership in the movement, to the right wing in power crushing our communities).

For liberatory people power! Let’s build y’all!

To the liberals complaining about anarchist violence: Please Stop

By Paul Messersmith-Glavin (January 24, 2017)

To the well-meaning liberals complaining about “anarchist violence” and broken windows: please stop. Instead, come out to the next protest and look around and see what’s actually going on.

For instance, if you had come out to the streets of Portland on January 20th, you would have seen literally thousands of people, most of them wearing masks to guard against state surveillance and chemical attacks, many with goggles, extra water and food, many trained as medics to care for anyone who is injured, but all willing to put their bodies on the line to resist Trump’s authoritarianism and the emergent fascism he emboldens. 

You would have seen people of many races and ethnicities, people of all genders, and people of all ages. If you would talk to any of the thousands of folks in masks yes, you would have found a lot of anarchists, but you would also have found several other political philosophies represented, or no philosophy at all, but rather a simple anger at what is going on. You would have seen these people repeatedly attacked by the police, using chemical weapons dispensed by fire-extinguisher size sprayers, concussion grenades, and tear gas. That’s real violence against real people. That’s what you should be focused on.

Your outrage over a few (insured) broken windows, whether in D.C. or wherever, emboldens the further escalation of police violence and puts you implicitly on the side of the oppressor because you help justify and rationalize violence against people standing up. If you had come out on J20, you would have seen love, and laughter, and fierce defiance. You would have seen the best of humanity.

Notes to White Anti-Racists the Day After Trump’s Election

By Chris Crass (November 9, 2016)

1. The need for Left liberation organizing in white communities, of all kinds, screams out with each stat from the exit polls. The need for tens of thousands of white anti-racists to dedicate themselves to not only active solidarity with people of color-led struggles, but also to rising up with anti-racist/collective liberation leadership in white communities, is profound.

When our focus is solidarity with people of color led struggles, white communities are often flattened into just being white with white privilege in a white supremacist society who need to work for racial justice and align with people of color leadership. This is critical, but to really be in solidarity with people of color and to really build anti-racist/racial justice work in white communities, leadership is needed.

Anti-racist/collective liberation leadership calls on us to see the nuances, the complexities, the many different kinds of people racialized as white and asks us “how has white supremacy devastated these communities politically, economically, spiritually, emotionally, and/or culturally” alongside an understanding of differentiated access to institutional white privilege as part of the larger structure of white supremacy. Leadership asks us to see the pain, the heartbreak, the struggles, the tenderness, the brokenness, the ugliness of white America and pushes us to develop and express Left vision, values, and strategy that meets the genuine needs of our white communities, while actively aligning our people to racial justice and multiracial movements as central to all living in a better world. Leadership calls on us to see and try to act on the possibilities and opportunities to support our white people to come alive for racial justice, rather then just seeing the failings of white people and the barriers to this work. To see the heartbreaking realities of white supremacy in white communities, while knowing that our work isn’t driven by hating white people, but hating white supremacy and wanting to organize it out of our people and communities.

2. For far too long the white Left has too often either ignored or mocked rural America and white working class and poor America, while the Right has recruited, cultivated, and resourced leadership and organization in these/our communities.

For those of us who are white anti-racists, we much not only reject the narrative of blaming rural and poor and working class white people, and do more to lift up and support the existing organizing led by rural and working class and poor white people, while also doing the emotional/spiritual/political work of building up our understanding of the liberatory potential of white America, so that rather then it always being about “what’s wrong with them”, we can ask questions that lead to pro-active efforts to win: “what can we learn from the people doing this work already”, “how can the work already happening be supported and resourced”, “what can we do better to build movement that recruits, cultivates and resources anti-racist/collective liberation rural and white working class and poor leadership and organization that works simultaneously on issues relevant to their/our communities and racial justice”.

The work is happening and people like Zoë WilliamsRahula S. JanowskiRebecca FrederickJessica CampbellJames TracyAmy SonnieJardana Peacock,  Justin SteinAllyn Maxfield-SteeleMeredith Martin-Moats, and Anne Phillips are bringing public leadership to this crucial work.

3. If you aren’t already involved with or connected with the national network SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice), which is organizing in white communities, do so. Here is just a sampling of the resources that SURJ provides. They do national phone calls to help people develop as anti-racist activists and leaders, to build their local organizations and efforts, and be more effective. Here are the calls coming up for the rest of Nov. If you are interested, go to the SURJ Facebook page, get connected, and get involved (which might mean joining or starting SURJ chapters, or utilizing their resources for the work you’re already doing):

November SURJ Calls:

These calls are designed to meet the wide range of needs and diverse interests within the SURJ network.

November 15th: Poor and Working Class Call: Support for Organizers. This is a call for folks who identify as poor and working class to explore challenges in their organizing work and chapter and hear from others who are organizing in working class and poor white communities.

November 16th: The Elections is Over: Now What? Join Mab Segrest, Suzanne Pharr and Tarso Ramos us for a discussion on how our organizing will be impacted by the election and learn how to continue to grow your group given the new political landscape.

November 17th: Indigenous Solidarity and White Settler Responsibility. Registration is here and Facebook Event is here. This is a political ed call – join us to discuss the work of non-Native white people in decolonialization work and receive resources to bring this back to your chapter.

November 21: Fail Fest – Next Accountability Call. Facebook event here and registration is here. Real talk from white racial justice organizer about the mistakes we’ve made, how to be accountable and how to love ourselves/each other through it.

November 28th: Urban Solidarity with Rural Communities. This call is designed for urban chapters to join and learn more about why rural organizing is essential to our strategy for undermining white supremacy, what we can learn from rural organizing and how we can act in solidarity with rural leadership.

November 30th: Class Privilege Call: Support for building a cross-class movement. This call will be for people who identify as middle and owning class who are wanting to explore how to build cross-class organizations and movements that center and support the leadership of poor and working class folks.

4. Even with this election, I believe in us and our ability to win. I close my eyes and think about all the white people, all over this country, in every kind of community, that support a wide range of justice struggles, that voted for Bernie Sanders, who have come into consciousness during these Black Lives Matter times, as well as the white anti-racist veterans of decades of doing this work, I think of the thousands of white anti-racist leaders I’ve met over the years, and I think about all the leaders of color who have done so much to provide leadership, mentorship, encouragement, and love to white anti-racist efforts and their commitment to collective liberation.

I’m still struggling to believe that Trump really won the election, but I’m clear in believing in what we can do.

White People, Save Yourself: Election 2016

By Teka Lark (November 8, 2016)

Thousands of poor Black families were hurt owing to Bill Clinton’s welfare reform, which also criminalized poverty. 2.5 million people were deported under Obama.

Totally cool with your support for Hillary. I get it, but please don’t think your vote is helping me as a Black woman. The Democratic Party does not care about my Blackness except during Presidential elections and even then the most the Democratic Party will pay for my vote is a chicken dinner.

Your vote for the Democratic Party isn’t stopping institutional racism or nationalism.

If you are white and middle class I advise you to vote to save yourself, because the only thing that will happen with a Trump presidency is a speeding up of the freefall of the petite bourgeoisie , creative class etc…whatever is known as the middle class. The few of the non-one percent left in fantasyland will get to see the reality that the rest of us live right now.

Vote to give your class another 50 years, because I don’t see this lasting beyond that.

I will be fine regardless of who wins.  My family has been here since the 1700s. We survived slavery, Jim Crow and Reagan. My Blackness will be fine.

You are not going to stop economic oppression of the lower classes by voting for Hillary. You do know that Latinos, Native Americans and Black people are being oppressed right now?

Native Americans, Latinos and Black people are being murdered right now. We are being denied housing right now. We’re being rounded up and jailed right now, so this doomsday scenario for you is already real for us right now.

If social justice is your point with your Democratic Party vote then there are a few more effective things you might want to do rather than continue marching along with the neoliberals.

Now if you want to save your gallery hopping, late model car driving and can afford a root canal a year lifestyle then vote for Hillary. By all means do that, but that isn’t being radical, that is self preservation and that is cool.

I am pro me too.

Since I am pro-me I am saying that Hillary isn’t going to help my institutional racism situation, she may help my creative class situation,  but institutional racism, nationalism, brutal capitalism, cops stopping me and other Black people for fun? No, Hillary won’t stop that…so if that is why you are voting for her, well…you should come up with a better reason like you like preserving your present day lifestyle.

Social justice has nothing to do with your Hillary vote or the Hillary campaign and that is OK, but you are not radical or groundbreaking.

Your Hillary vote doesn’t make you the bigger person. You get no cookies or thanks from me for not voting for Trump.

What you can do if you really want to make change is support building institutions that are making economic and social change and support them year around not just during the Presidential elections.

A new world is possible, but corporate America isn’t going to pay for it or help elect it.

Teka Lark is a journalist, poet and satirist based in the Metropolitan New York area. She is the founder of the Blk Grrrl Book Fair, Feminist Preschool and the author of the upcoming book, Queen of Inglewood, to be published on Word Palace Press

On Orlando: A Letter from a Gay Friend

By Mark Naison (June 14, 2016)

I just received this letter from a former student living in Brazil who came out shortly after he graduated.. I needed to share it here because of its powerful message:

Hey Doc, I wanted to reach out to you about what happened in Orlando. I’ve been shaken by this in a way that I’m having a hard time putting to words.

As someone who has always known the dangers of living in a world that is often hostile to gay people, I’ve always tried to tell myself that the best of people will inevitably prevail. Yesterday, I was wrong.

Gay bars and gay clubs are where men and women who are rejected from every other place in society go to. They have always been a place where no matter how bad someone felt about themselves, there were others who probably felt the same way. When most institutions turn their back, gay clubs are often the one place that, with all their shortcomings, accept gay people explicitly for who they are. The one place where you can express that purest of emotion without the fear of harm or judgment. Something as simple as a hug or a kiss.

This was an attack on a vulnerable community and if I’m drawing any strength from this, it’s been from the outpouring of support from around the world. From Muslim brothers and sisters who have denounced this act and have lined up to donate blood. From our President who affirmed the dignity of the LGBTQ community and from my friends near and far.

The gay community will not be broken by this because perhaps more than most communities, gay people know full well what hate can lead to. I believe that the best of America will emerge in the aftermath of what happened not because I think so but because I must.

Thanks for listening Doc. I just needed to share that with someone and I know you’ll take my words to heart as you do for all those you stand up for and defend.

Unrelenting love,


(Feature image by Jere Keys under Creative Commons)

Black History Month Nourishes the Starved White Imagination


By Chris Crass ( February 24, 2016)

One of the ways that white supremacy hurts white people is that it teaches white people they have nothing to learn from the histories of people of color. Continue reading “Black History Month Nourishes the Starved White Imagination”

To the Donald Trump-led GOP: We Will Fight you and We Will Win


By Chris Crass (December 11, 2015)


One of my closest friends was a white supremacist skinhead when we first met as teenagers in high school. He would have cheered at Donald Trump rallies with each call to deport Mexicans and ban Muslims from entering the country. He would have agreed with Trump that the African American Black Lives Matter activist in Alabama deserved getting roughed up. Continue reading “To the Donald Trump-led GOP: We Will Fight you and We Will Win”