Category Archives: Summer 2002 (5/30/02)

Gay Shame – A Radical Alternative

Gay Pride has become little more than a giant opportunity for multi-national corporations to target-market products to gay consumers. Major companies focus on Pride-oriented ad campaigns, from beer and liquor companies like Budweiser, Coors, Miller, Cuervo, Smirnoff, Skyy and Bailey’s to clothing companies like Polo, Banana Republic, Reebok, and Macy’s, car companies like Saab and BMW, and drug companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoWellcome, and Abbott Laboratories. In San Francisco and many large U.S. cities, Gay Pride is a fenced-off event, where an endless parade of floats, from the vapid to the downright scary, marches by: gay AT&T employees, gay Genentech employees, “gay-friendly” politicians like racist Mayor Giuliani of New York or pro-gentrification Mayor Brown of San Francisco, gay stockbrokers, gay realtors, gay cops…

Many of the companies in attendance at Pride mask reactionary agendas in order to court the gay dollar: right-wing Coors and Philip Morris, union-busting Budweiser, and the old standbys—drug companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb and GlaxoWellcome, who always choose profits over people’s lives (especially people with AIDS). If the organizers of the Pride Parade offer any agenda at all (sometimes they do not—last year’s San Francisco theme was “Queerific”), it is usually organized along an assimilationist axis: gay marriage and gays-in-the-military are common preoccupations. This year, though, SF Pride has gone off the deep end by adapting Budweiser’s advertising motto for the official theme. “Be Yourself—Make It a Bud” has become “Be Yourself—Change the World.”

Queers appalled by “Budweiser Pride” are organizing to confront the corporate beast with Gay Shame actions at the June 30 SF Pride Parade. These actions will encourage people to celebrate queer identities in ways other than buying a bunch of crap. So many people are alienated by the consumerism and the assimilationist agenda of “pride,” and we call on everyone to resist this tyranny.

Gay Pride has not always been such a spectacle of consumption; it’s roots lie in the famous and everyday acts of queer resistance to police brutality (Stonewall Riots, Compton Cafeteria Riots, etc). Furthermore, since the beginning of corporate-sponsored “pride,” queers have resisted by various means, from physically attacking the organizers, to blocking elected officials from marching, to breaking into the march with anti-consumerist messages. The first Gay Shame event took place in 1998 in New York, organized by a collective of queers who challenged the limiting agenda of of a gay movement that refuses to address racism, misogyny, heterosexism, and classism as an intrinsic part of organizing. The free event took place at dumba, a queer household and performance space in Brooklyn, and consisted of drag, spoken word, and dance performances; speakers and tabling on issues of welfare “reform,” poverty and homelessness, the crackdown on public sex and queer visibility, personal queer histories, and needle exchange; vegan food; dancing and community-building.

1Since then, Gay Shame festivals of resistance have occurred in numerous cities in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, including San Francisco, Toronto, Stockholm, and Barcelona. These events have taken various forms—in Barcelona, for example, organizers blocked the parade with shopping carts.

In San Francisco, the first Gay Shame event occurred last year, when we took over Tire Beach, a rotting industrial park on the San Francisco Bay. We turned Tire Beach into our queer autonomous space for the day, which included free food, t-shirts, and various other gifts, bands, spoken word, djs and dancing, a kidspace for children, and speakers on issues including gentrification, U.S. colonization of Vieques, and prison, youth, and trans activism. We encouraged people to participate in creating their own radical queer space, and people argued about political issues, created visual art, poured concrete and made a mosaic, dyed hair, mudwrestled naked, and had sex. We organized the event in less than a month, and over four hundred people trekked out to Tire Beach to join in the festivities.

As organizers of Gay Shame in San Francisco last year, however, one of our main critiques was that, in spite of our efforts to create a politicized space, many participants were rude to the speakers and seemed uninteresting in anything beyond partying and socializing with their friends. This year we resolved to be more confrontational, to ensure that our political agenda would remain clear.

Gay Shame presented the Gay Shame Awards on May 25, in the center of the whitewashed gayborhood of the Castro. We rewarded the most hypocritical gays for their service to the “community,” in order to expose these evil-doers who use the sham of “pride” as a cover-up for their greed and misdeeds. Hundreds of queers dressed to excess and jammed Harvey Milk Plaza and blocked Castro Street for several hours of dangerous glamour. Award categories included “Making More Queers Homeless,” “Helping Right-Wingers Cope,” “Best Target Marketing,” “Best Gender Segregation,” “Best Racist-Ass Whites-Only Space,” “Exploiting Our Youth,” “The IN Award” (For Celebrities Who Should Never Have Come Out in the First Place), and “Legends” (Straight Allies for Reactionary Gays). We presented a radical queer extravaganza, a fun and biting critique of the reactionary gay mainstream– in the belly of the beast.

Gay Shame is committed to fighting the rabid assimilationist monster of corporate gay “pride” with a devastating mobilization of queer brilliance. If you’d like to get involved, call (415) 540-2947 or email gayshamesf@yahoo.com.

The Ultimate Act of Solidarity

When we publish an issue of Slingshot, we sit back and try to think of something exciting, action oriented and hopeful to put on the front page. Something to indicate that there are opportunities for struggle, social change and liberation — that the movement is still moving. This issue, we considered publicizing Freedom Summer in Palestine, which is modeled after freedom summer in Mississippi in 1963 during the civil rights movement. We ended up getting into a huge discussion and writing this, instead.

Freedom summer in Palestine, from June 20 – August 11, seeks to bring internationals from many countries to Palestine to engage in direct action against the Israeli occupation. Internationals will live with Palestinian families in the occupied territories to witness, and hopefully limit, Israeli human rights abuses. The idea is that the Israelis will be less willing to kill or brutalize foreigners than Palestinians, and that the Israelis will be less likely to commit atrocities if they know the outside world may learn about them. (See contact information at end of article.)

While the campaign is important and being literally on the front lines will require immense courage and dedication, we felt troubled.

This kind of action follows typical patterns: The activists are folks who can afford to take the whole summer off work (or who weren’t working to start with), pay for a flight half way around the world, so they can use their first-world privilege to help the under-privileged. It targets a problem that is far away, rather than addressing liberation here at home.

No doubt the idea of confronting tanks in Israel appears a lot more immediate and important than anything at home. No doubt its more sexy. Here at home, things don’t seem so black and white. There appear to be few stark opportunities to put your body on the line, stand up to power, and feel like you really accomplished something.

But step back a bit: Its quite clear that if the US government demanded that Israel end the occupation, they would have to comply. The US government funds Israel, and Israel knows it. And this relationship of the US to the rest of the world isn’t limited to Israel — in area after area, the most important way to help folks around the world (and the environment) would be to confront and destabilize the United States. The ultimate act of international solidarity is not going abroad, but stopping the problem where it starts, here at home. No one is as well positioned to do this as people in the United States. Are we waiting for activists from the rest of the world to come and help us? If the US was destabilized, you wouldn’t have to travel far away to live your daily life for liberation.

And more importantly, rather than activism always being directed outwards only towards someone else’s liberation far away, we could fight for our own liberation while helping others, too. Ultimately, using one’s own first-world privilege to help the “other” is just the activist version of missionary work. For anarchists, its fraught with problems.

Freedom Summer in our own lives would mean following our desires. If everyone in their own communities started living like we wanted to live — refusing to participate in the 40-hour-a-week, industrialized, computerized, toxic, corporate, mediated, managed “life” shoved down our throats — this system would stop. If not everyone, but a lot of people, started living life like it mattered, the system would be knocked of balance, called into question, weakened. Armies would have to be recalled from overseas for service here. The US power to enforce capitalist hegemony world-wide and here at home would be shattered.

The idea of destabilizing life at home — of bringing the war home — is scary. It’s a lot easier to go into an intense, violent, dangerous situation in someone else’s land when you know that it’s temporary, and that at the end of the summer, or sooner if you decide, you can go back to the US where life will be safe and peaceful. But the stability and comfort here at home are paid for with lives and safety around the world. Until people in the US take responsibility for stopping the regime here, which exports terror everywhere else, there won’t be safety or freedom in the rest of the world, nor real safety or freedom here.

Its a huge mistake to allow our agenda to be set in reaction to events elsewhere, losing sight of the big picture — the struggle for total liberation. Rather than reaction and defense, its time for offense. As the storm clouds of war against Iraq build, should we wait until the first tank crosses the boarder so that we can have a rowdy protest at the federal building the day afterwards? With reports daily confirming the precarious environmental situation resulting from unrestrained global corporate capitalism, should we wait for the announcement of each new timber harvest plan so that we may lay down before the bulldozers?

Its time to move beyond activism as a hobby, something separate from one’s life that must be balanced against the rest of our lives — free time, relationships, enjoyment, creative work — something that is best applied to others rather than one’s self, something that seeks out excitement and travel. What we seek is liberation, in which living rich, whole lives is the struggle for freedom for ourselves, the planet and all its inhabitants. Liberation eclipses and renders obsolete the single issues. Let the freedom summer in our own lives and everywhere begin soon, and never end.

For information on participating in Freedom Summer in Palestine, which we encourage notwithstanding the foregoing, please contact www. palsolidarity.org.

International Solidarity Movement in Palestine

In early May 2002, after months of observing the Palestinian struggle, 24 internationals made a food run into Bethlehem’s besieged Church of the Nativity. Eleven internationals made it inside. The other thirteen were arrested and detained in an illegal Israeli prison in Hebron, Palestine. To protest their impending deportation, some of the activists went on a hunger strike, demanding that they be allowed to freely return instead of being barred from the state of Israel for 10 years.

Here, a friend of one of the activists reflects on the broader implications of their hunger strike. .

Massacre, so easily mind-numbing, takes on a whole new meaning when it involves people you know. Which is probably why the US government was in no hurry for the US prisoners of the Israeli Occupational Forces (IOF) to come home. These internationals were there when young Israeli soldiers rolled through Jenin, showering everyone with a wall of lead and blood. They were there to watch the desperate rummaging through rubble for belongings and family, intact or not. They were there on April 2 when, seeking refuge, around 200 Palestinians ran to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and they were there to watch them slowly starve and suffer as their food and water dwindled and expired. Exactly one month later, as supporters in the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), 24 internationals made a food run into the church, using their unjust but real higher status of foreign citizenship to protect the trapped Palestinians. It was their second attempt, and it succeeded. Eleven internationals made it inside. The other thirteen were arrested and detained in an illegal Israeli prison in Hebron, Palestine.

The thirteen broke no law. They were delivering humanitarian relief. Furthermore, their captors had (and have) no legal jurisdiction over Bethlehem, nor anywhere else in the West Bank. It was illegal for them to arrest internationals, it was illegal for them to fire on the Church of the Nativity, it was illegal for them to be armed, murdering, occupying. It has been illegal since they first set foot in the West Bank. This is the reason internationals are in Palestine.

And this is why a number of them refused to be deported. Having broken no laws, and having not been charged with any crime, they wanted free return to Palestine. They wanted to continue the work that not enough people are doing, support of a people under attack by the one of the most powerful military and political forces in the world. But they cannot simply say “please”. The Israeli government and US embassy will not listen to them; they are prisoners.

In prison, power takes completely different form. Thirteen internationals do not have the power to walk away, to act on their convictions by bringing material aid and vigilant eyes to the centers of massacre and devastation. They cannot directly help, so a new power emerges.

They stop eating, and then, as the US embassy and media and Israel’s Minister of the Interior do nothing, they stop drinking water. They can’t send their stories through email anymore, so they speak with the fragility of their personal, particular bodies.

They say, “If the U.S. government won’t look at Camp Jenin, at the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) as the IOF, won’t even take sides with UN observers trying to see what the hell has happened here during the media blackout in the last six weeks, then look at us, your family, friends, lovers, mentors, neighbors. Look at us and then once you’re looking, listen to what we’re saying, what we did, and then open your eyes a little wider and see why we came here in the first place. We’re starving ourselves not to be martyrs, but because it’s the only thing we can do to make you look.”

Their power is literally the sum of our empathy. The power of personal connection, of friends, family, acquaintances-this is the power that brought these individuals to Palestine, and filled them with love and determination to sustain their solidarity. Of course this power already existed. Close friends and family of ISM internationals thought about them every day as they made their way through the occupied zones of Ramallah, Bethlehem, Camp Jenin. But the friends of friends, the extended family, those who know of them, the friends of their mothers; for them perhaps the hunger strike put Palestine on the map.

If you called the embassy in mid-May, you know that the hunger strikers “are fine,” in fact, “only one of them is hunger striking.” Also it is a “rumor” that one of them passed out after 9 days without food and a few days without water. You know too that the US Embassy “can’t tell the Israeli government what to do,” even though the US has been financing them to do what they do since 1949. Members of the embassy have no interest in the political reason for the imprisonment, because they are “diplomats,” not politicians.

“But you are in a land where people are committing genocide,” I say to the faceless voice in Tel Aviv, “genocide. Is this not of personal concern to you?” The agitated, rapid-speaking man at the other end of the line does not answer this question. Because this genocide does not involve anyone that the embassy officials know.

We who know these individuals are caught between the Free __________ (first name of prisoner here) Campaign and the other reason for this hunger strike. The acts of these people are tethered to us by our knowledge of their smiles, their poetry, their fierce convictions. They hover in our hearts as we eat breakfast, as we wake at the first light of day wondering if they can feel our love and worry across the time zones and the convoluted versions of truth we struggle to navigate through.

But we also realize that our friends have refused to eat because, as Trevor Baumgartner, one of the detainees, writes from Israeli prison in Ramle on May 9, “we know that this struggle is more than about individual fates.” It is a struggle against decades of human rights violations, and a struggle for international attention to those atrocities. In Palestine, the Zionist entity (Israel) is engaged in a calculated and systematic demolition of the Palestinian people that is both material and psychological. IOF soldiers call this a “purification”. They are not interested only in occupying this land. They wage a battle of cultural annihilation, in which soldiers enter apartments, sweep the room with their eyes, select the photo of a loved one, smash it out of its frame, tear it to bits, and flush it down the toilet (Ramallah- March 2002).

This is not only about land. This is about people and how they weave their humanity together into survival. A people who hold freedom and justice and love as carefully and hopefully and determinedly in their hands as you do. They send their stories to their friends on the outside, who are our mothers and friends and teachers and lovers, who are you and me. They are talking to us. Our friends on hunger strike in Israel are using their delicate bodies and strong spirits as megaphones for the voices of their Palestinian friends, who are eleven years old, sixty years old, thirty-five years old and who are as varied as the personalities and dreams in your neighborhood. Listen to us, listen to our friends, they say.

Hunger strikes seem to be heroic acts. They set up their strikers as martyrs. But this is only because so often we who are moved by humans inflicting suffering upon themselves for a deep conviction, don’t look beyond the individual to the context of the strike. In the case of the ISM prisoners, many of them planned to return to their home countries to speak and write about what they’d witnessed and experienced. They wanted to inspire others to actively join the struggle for Palestinian human rights and autonomy.

It was not in their interest to just shut up and get out of prison to safety ASAP, because their interests are not only individual. Fighting the fact of their arrest and imprisonment is in their own interests and simultaneously in the interest of “the greater cause” they are engaged in. For this reason, after several days on hunger strike, the US detainees decided to go home, whether freely or by deportation (which would ban them from entering Israel for at least 10 years). There is work to be done outside Palestine. Their words need to be heard. The stories of their friends in Palestine need to be known in the world. We need them here to cut through the media blackout and government lies.

We are living in a time of intense and righteous dissent. As the despots of the US create more insidious foreign and domestic policy disasters, I struggle, as many do, to develop a sense of power and action that feels effective. I try not to get paralyzed with overwhelming dread while watching imbeciles blunder at the helm of this country.

As humans struggling to live meaningful lives in whatever circumstances, our most powerful tool is human connection. The people we ally ourselves with, whom we teach, learn from, and love are our sources of strength and growth. Real and personal connection is how we lend strength to people across the world.

At the time of this writing, at least 5 of the internationals from the Church of the Nativity action remain imprisoned in Israel. If and when they do all go home, will the massive personal support people gave them in phone calls, faxes, media campaigns, and conversations fade? That support transferred through those internationals to their Palestinian friends who haven’t gone home, who are home, and whose fact of homeland is the source of their torture and massacre by the Israeli government. Their struggle and need is not fading.

Our friends may cease to provide the easy, urgent connection to the Palestinian struggle, but the power of our empathy remains. There are things to do for those friends of your friends in Palestine. Those who’ve been there will not hesitate to make suggestions.

I don’t personally know somebody everywhere. Do you? Do you know somebody who knows somebody? Maybe you make it your business to make some new friends. So that when atrocities fill the news and flood our minds to the point of tempting paralysis and ambivalence, we are able to defy the attack on our power and actively support Palestinians and people all over who need support.

The media can inundate our minds with lies. But if we insist on opening ourselves to people who bring stories direct from the source, then the strength of human solidarity can challenge and even halt massacre, in Palestine and everywhere.

Act-Up SF Slams Slingshot

In Slingshot #74 we printed a letter deriding ACT-UP SF for their stance on HIV-AIDS. Boy, did we step in it! Slingshot was flooded with email and letters critical of us for printing the letter and our response to it; way too many to print in our little paper. We are going to print excerpts from some of the correspondences we received, for the full text please go to our web site. Also please note our policy on listing groups in the organizer in the organizer update on this page.

I don’t agree with everything that ACTUP-SF stands for and think that they have some of their facts wrong, but people have a right to know that they exist. You’re not doing the people who buy the organizer a favor by censoring ACTUP-SF. Shouldn’t your readers be intelligent enough to make up their own minds on the matter? Rupert Murdoch would be proud of your decision. It should at least be clear that ACT-UP is sincere. They have a number of HIV positive people in their group — These people aren’t suicidal; they think that AIDS drugs aren’t the answer and their survival rates would indicate that they might be on to something.

I think it reflects negatively on Slingshot that when you approach a complex and controversial issue like AIDS treatment/prevention, you ask “what is the acknowledged politically correct position on this?” rather than “What’s actually going on here? Perhaps I should try to find out for myself instead listening to PR flacks and other establishment lackeys.” What if Greenpeace thought that biotechnology and genetic engineering was the solution to world hunger? Would you go along with that too? So much for independent thinking, eh? Who needs it anyway when the “left” (whatever that is) already has a pre-packaged opinion for you to pick up off the shelf and take home. Let’s hope for better judgment in the future.

Dear Folks at slingshot.

I was just informed that you have decided to remove ACTUP SF from your listing of radical community groups on the whim that someone has decided that because they don’t like them the easiest way to get rid of them is by slander. It is a common practice in radical left/ anti-authoritarian circles that if someone or their ideas are disliked we can purge them by using slanderous language. We’ve all heard it done before… “He’s a misogynist”… “she’s really classist”… “They’re racist”… “Homophobes”…etc. Even when there is no supportive evidence proving their heinous guilt we all jump on the shunning band wagon because the language appeals to our lefty sensibility of defending the perceived victims. This is a self destructive practice we all need to think about and try to avoid. Before the accusation is made–be right!

A better way for the radical left to deal with the AIDS debate instead of slandering it would be to simply acknowledge that the debate exists and that people be encouraged to learn as much as possible about both sides of the debate before deciding where they stand. I’m sure there are people of many political persuasions who are challenging the HIV=AIDS=death paradigm, just like there are people from every political persuasion who believe that HIV does cause AIDS. The AIDS debate is not a left or right issue it’s a scientific debate and a public health issue, and it’s the general public who will ultimately decide the outcome.

Organizer Update

We’ve already started work on the 2003 Slingshot Organizer which will be out around October 15. If you know of an Infoshop, community space or radical contact that should be listed in the radical contact list, please let us know by August 1. Only contacts that have a physical location or a phone number will be listed — no internet only entries. We usually want both an address and a phone number to list a contact. Please let us know any corrections you have to the 2002 version.

If you have historical dates we should include, please send ‘em to us by June 30. Keep in mind that we now have so many that only a fraction of the historical dates for any particular day get used in any particular edition of the Organizer. We don’t publish death dates unless the death was interesting in some way. We like birthdays and especially dates for uprisings, protests, rebellions, strikes, etc.

2002 Organizer Round-up

The 2002 Organizer was the first edition to reach all continents on earth other than Antarctica. We received orders from Australia, Asia, Africa, South America, Europe and North America. As we now have a large distribution in Canada, we’re looking for Canadian contacts and relevant Canadian info.

The biggest controversy about the 2002 Organizer was our inclusion of ACT-UP San Francisco in the contact list. They were included in the 2000 version, were dropped in the 2001 version, and were added back in to the 2002 version at their request.

ACT-UP SF questions the mainstream Western medical understanding of the causes and appropriate treatments for AIDS. We got a ton of letters, calls and emails criticizing us for including ACT-UP SF in the 2002 version, including a large Infoshop on the East Coast which almost returned 300 Organizers over the issue, before they decided to go through each copy with a magic marker to cross out ACT-UP SF. In response, in the last issue of Slingshot Newspaper, we ran one of the critical letters with a notation that we would not include ACT-UP SF in the 2003 version.

In response to that note, we have received a huge number of critical emails and letters from supporters of ACT-UP SF.

At this point, our tentative feeling is that its our job to publish an Organizer with a wide range of radical contacts. We may not agree with each contact listed — its up to our readers to decide. We want to avoid having a “Slingshot party line” about who gets included. Passions on both sides of the ACT-UP SF debate are strong, and both sides are convinced that if people either do mainstream AIDS drugs or don’t do mainstream AIDS drugs, premature death will result. We’re confident that anyone facing these difficult decisions will thoroughly investigate the matter and make their own choice, regardless of the contacts that may be printed in the Slingshot Organizer.

Ordering Information

Prices for the 2003 Organizer will be the same as for 2002: $5 for one copy, $16 for 4 copies and $30 for 8 copies (postage included) ordered direct from Slingshot. Please don’t send orders until October. Infoshops, bookstores and distributors should contact us for wholesale rates for orders of 20 or more copies. We still have copies of the 2002 edition ($4 each includes postage or seconds (slightly damaged) for $3 each.) Send checks, money orders or well concealed cash to:

Slingshot Collective

3124 Shattuck Avenue

Berkeley, CA 94705

510 540-0751 ex. 3

Letters

Endless Fire

Everyone @ Slingshot

Thanks so much for what you’re doing. You have no idea what hope you bring to a 17-year-old anarchist living in a small town who often feels completely alone and is constantly encouraged NOT to share his ideas. You have made an impact on my life, and that’s what will change the world. Thank you all. Love hope and endless fire,

–Chris P, Washington State

Down with Conformist Flag-Waving Lemmings

Greetings:

Thanks for the latest Slingshot. We desperately need this kind of info out here in the cornfields of the midwest. Nothing like what you describe happening around here I can tell you. Particularly in the wake of 9-11 you never beheld such a bunch of anal, pathetic, mindless, conformist flag waving, lemmings. Best wishes for the revolution,

–Zack

Trashed and Toxic

West Oakland Community Fights Back

The gorging gut of capitalism necessitates excessive production and consumption as well as devastating unsustainable environmental damage. Industry proliferates, millions are spent to convince a gullible public to consume, and the profits line the bulging pockets of the rich. Many Industries — oil, automobiles biotechnology — are detrimental to the environment while providing scant comfort or enjoyment for the humans they supposedly serve.

Collectively, industry and the acceptance of an industrialized society has created a standard of living that is destroying the planet. Destroying it quietly for those who reap the benefits of this unsustainable lifestyle and destroying it glaringly for those who do not.

Zip code 94607, West Oakland, is the ultimate example of a local community that does not benefit from the luxuries afforded by industry, but suffers from its waste products. Its the ultimate example of environmental racism.

The oldest district in Oakland, West Oakland is home to 23,475 residents. It began as a vibrant and diverse working class community based around what served as the final stop on the TransContinental Railroad. By the mid-1900’s the population consisted of mostly African American residents and West Oakland became known as a center of black cultural and social activism — it was called the Harlem of the West.

After World War II and the subsequent economy boom, the government implemented “Federal Renewal Projects” for West Oakland. This meant freeways and additional industry that was to be the beginning of a physical fragmentation of the community that would continue to the present day.

By the 1980’s, residents of West Oakland had to live with numerous toxic brown-fields, high lead concentrations, illegal dumping and massive industrial activity. Their home contained the Port of Oakland and the Oakland Army Base, with massive railway yards, freeways and constant truck traffic to serve the port and base. Neighborhoods were broken up by freeways and factories, with housing contaminated by lead built right next to industrial facilities. The neighborhood had a higher rate of exposure to toxic materials than in the almost any other community in Alameda County.

There are many negative environmental crises currently afflicting the area. Between January and June of 2000, the City of Oakland removed 263 tons of illegally dumped garbage from the streets. This was three times more per capita for West Oakland residents than for residents in the rest of Oakland. Nearly 82% of area residents live near an industrial area. In 1998 West Oakland generated six times more toxic chemicals than the rest of Oakland combined. There are higher incidences of asthma within the zip code area 94607 than in the rest of Alameda County. (See graph).

In 1998, 34,103 pounds of toxic air releases were reported by the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) (See graph) Keep in mind that TRIs only account for half of the toxins and pollutants discussed. Point sources such as automobiles, local business (Laundromats), and residences are not included in these numbers.

In response to these and other economic and social problems (a lack of civic engagement, the lack of sufficient public transportation, etc.) the community formed a partnership to address the crisis. 7th St/McClymonds (a local community activist group) and Pacific Institute (a local research organization) joined forces to developed the Environmental Indicators Project (EIP). The project aims to answer questions raised by disadvantaged communities by conducting research to promote revitalization.

Aman Bloom, a West Oakland resident and EIP Neighborhood Committee member note, “The impact on me came from the overall sum of the indicators. This project proves that there is a socially-responsible community of researchers whose interests coincide with the grassroots and who can take part in the process of improvement without taking control.”

This community driven project functions democratically with the residents deciding what needs to be measured or reported to further their own community goals. In the beginning the most important part of this process was choosing the indicators. As it is used in this research project, an indicator (like rates of asthma) is a measurable result of pollution. The community then can organize to reduce the indicator by going after its causes.

West Oakland residents defined quality of life in their community as “the economic vitality, the strength of the social institutions, the well being of its members and the state of its environment.” Most similar projects focus on environmental threats on a larger scale, such as asthma rates for entire cities or states rather than asthma rates within a city’s zip-code. This project is one of the few neighborhood projects that show such glaring environmental racism on a neighborhood scale. A scale that often goes unnoticed.

The work that has been done has made information available and understandable for the general public. The Environmental Indicators Project is the beginning of a strong local community movement against environmental racism. It has engaged and activated its residents and is providing them with the means to improve their community.

Out of the project, the Clean Air festival was born, with over 600 attending a demonstration in front of Red Star Yeast (a major West Oakland polluter) in 2001. Countless community groups are working on all of the indicator projects. They are providing an inspirational example as well as a working model of community activism that often goes unnoticed in a time when globalized struggles are at the forefront of our vision.

Beware: Nosy Neighbors

Attorney General John Ashcroft and television sleazeball Ed MacMahon, renowned for his Publisher’s Clearinghouse and Budweiser beer advertisements, announced in a news conference March 6 that the middle-class Neighborhood Watch organization would no longer be monitoring suspected car thieves and burglars. Instead they will be focusing on “Domestic Terrorists”, (e.g. us). During this press conference, they also released a 24 page “Citizen Preparedness Guide” which offers guidelines to snooping and informing on your neighbors.

My first thought was that this new Neighborhood Watch could be used for some excellent monkey-wrenching. I could report that police car that is constantly patrolling my neighborhood to the Neighborhood Watch.

But seriously, this shit is scary. Like a modern witch hunt, we will soon be one telephone call away from being shoved into camps like the hundreds of other suspected terrorists the federal government is currently holding in detention throughout this country.

To make matters worse, the government announced it will be initiating Operation TIPS this summer. Operation TIPS trains delivery men, taxi drivers, mailmen, and other public service employees to snitch on the public they serve.

The FBI, CIA, INS, ATF, and the Secret Service all already have toll free numbers used to report any suspicious activities. Now, not only do we have to be afraid of being investigated by this alphabet soup of government agencies, we have to watch out for our mailmen, garbage collectors, and next door neighbors as well. Welcome to the Land of the Free.

Another World Is Possible

But What Kind, and Shaped by Whom?

During the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting and related demonstrations in New York from Jan. 31 to Feb. 4, the Village Voice put its finger to the shifting political winds. That week’s cover headline read, “Passing the Torch: Anarchists Pick Up Where Progressives Left Off,” and the corresponding image depicted a middle-aged white male running in a business suit while handing off a Molotov cocktail to the young white male in “anarchistic” attire sprinting along behind him. While this front page could be critiqued for its damaging stereotype ”that all anarchists are youthful, violent Caucasian guys” the article inside sympathetically acknowledged that “the anarchist fringe is fast becoming the movement’s center.” Anarchists are indeed outstripping progressives because they offer a form of contestation and transformation that speaks to the times — a form in explicit opposition to the world’s powerful elites, but one that also acts as a thorn in the side of many social justice activists.

This is especially apparent when comparing the WEF to its critics: the simultaneous gathering in Porto Alegre, Brazil of the World Social Forum (WSF) and the anti-capitalist convergence on NYC’s streets.

The WSF maintains in its slogan that “another world is possible.” It is in fact not only possible but certainly probable, given that the process known as globalization, among numerous other remappings, is fundamentally reconfiguring power relations. And far from settled, the ability to (re)shape the world is being both openly and surreptitiously fought over by nation-states as well as transnational corporations, nonprofit organizations as well as the millions ravaged by the globalizing process, and many others. Some potential worlds could, of course, be more dystopian than today’s — say, those asserted to be the divine word of a god or prophet by fundamentalists of all creeds. Yet even the more humane visions, like that of the WSF’s, beg the questions, Whose world will it ultimately be? Who will make social, economic, political, and cultural decisions, and how? While there are multiple answers, they all emanate from one of two distinct poles of governance: centralist vs. decentralist, or to put it more starkly, authoritarian vs. anti-authoritarian.

Of all the new authoritarian models, the WEF’s can be said to be the most avant-garde. The WEF is ahead of its day in forging an organizational culture and structure capable of stylish world dominance in the age of globalization. It is certainly not alone in its quest to “further economic growth and social progress” for a limited few — social progress being measured by economic growth. Institutions from the World Bank to the European Union to the U.S. government share the same pursuit. What sets the WEF apart is its innovative means, potentially making it all the more dangerous. To borrow its own language, the WEF’s membership meets in “a unique club atmosphere,” always luxurious, “to shape the global agenda,” “to mold solutions,” with the aim of controlling sociopolitico-economic processes to its own advantage.

Such maneuverings have been militantly challenged at the WEF’s past couple annual meetings in Davos, Switzerland. Part of the alleged reason the WEF ventured from its secluded retreat for the first time was to avoid this mounting resistance. The social costs, especially for the Swiss authorities, had gotten too high. WEF leaders also likely hoped to discredit such opposition altogether by meeting in New York City so soon after Sept. 11. They could claim to be both mourning the dead and doing their bit to rebuild NYC by convening at the opulent Waldorf-Astoria hotel. In contrast, so the WEF probably assumed, the protesters would be seen as funeral crashers, dishonoring the dead by running wildly through the streets of a still- grieving city without regard for property or propriety. Resistance would be irrevocably tainted, thereby allowing institutions like the WEF to go about the lofty mission of governing capitalist society without any pesky interference from “anti-globalist marginals,” to cite one WEF member.

To extend these speculations further, though, the best reason for trooping to Manhattan was to highlight the growing global influence of this relatively small, young organization. As 9-11 and the subsequent anthrax scare revealed, fixed and visible centers of power can be targeted and attacked. The physical homes of those institutions that have played such a large role in determining the postwar world economy (like the New York Stock Exchange) and geopolitics (like D.C.’s Capitol building) are at risk of being shutdown. The U.S. government, complacent with overconfidence in its own preeminence, still has the might to lash out violently at home and abroad, yet like all bloated empires, it tries to preserve its authority in the same tired ways, even as its leaner adversaries dream up new strategies to assume the mantle of global power broker. It could thus be argued that the WEF came to NYC precisely because Sept. 11 exposed America-the-superpower’s vulnerability, thereby allowing the WEF to flaunt itself as heir to institutions like Wall Street and nation-states. Or at least hold itself up as a potentially more resilient form of domination ”flexible, savvy, and placeless.

The WEF boasts of being a trendsetter, and indeed it is. Started as a nongovernmental organization (NGO) in 1971, it brings together the best and brightest of the global power elites: 1,000 business leaders, 250 political leaders, 250 academic leaders, 250 media leaders, along with a sprinkling of labor, social justice, and entertainment leaders. They are leaders not because an electorate or the public says so but by virtue of their wealth, influence, and power, and their farsightedness in being able to maintain all three. This ensures that those most adept at foreseeing where the globalizing world might go, and hence most able to engage in steering its course, will constitute the WEF’s fluid and, if needed, easily rearranged membership (witness the summary disinvitation of Enron’s Ken Lay). These privileged few are bound to neither space nor place, geography nor nation-state. They are accountable only to themselves, and when it serves their self-interests, each other. In the WEF’s own words, this NGO “is tied to no political, partisan or national interests” ”although “beholden to” would be more descriptive. It is as transnational and elastic as the form of capitalism it promotes. And in its extremely exclusive, private global clubhouse, glamorous hobnobbing among WEF members legislates real-world economic and social policy.

Take just one iconic participant: Bill Gates. Money can’t be his only goal; for eight years, he’s been the world’s richest individual. More pointedly, having achieved the near-monopolistic power to determine how humanity communicates electronically, Gates has now taken a philanthropic turn. He is busily deciding health care policies for whole countries and even continents by funding his version of wellness. This grand gesture includes creating mass dependency on a healthy dose of his corporate buddies’ designer pharmaceuticals, particularly after Bill’s donations run out. Even if he had only benevolent motivations, can one person know what’s best for billions of peoples’ bodies? As radical feminists have long contended, control over one’s body relates to self-determination and social freedom as well as health.

The “representative” democracy of many nation-states almost begins to look good by comparison, at least as a way to keep the WEF in check. But these same allegedly democratic countries, along with a host of blatantly undemocratic ones, are partners in and frequently under the sway of the WEF itself. Even at the tender age of three, the WEF could already claim in 1973 to have “grown from humble beginnings” to be “the leading interface for global business/government interaction.” Now in its yuppie prime, this NGO has developed its muscle by integrating countries ”from those in Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa, to Eastern and Central Europe, Asia, and even North America ”into its institutional frame, often well ahead of the so-called international community. As the “premiere gathering of world leaders in business, government, and civil society,” an autonomous supranational body such as the WEF looks to limit the power of nation-states, not vice versa, and increasingly has the clout to do so. This is the hazy yet ever-sharper organizational outline for a potential form of one-world, nongovernmental governance, where a handful of individuals judge right and wrong by the bottom line of buy-sell relationships, unimpeded by constituents, much less ethical considerations, cultural constraints, or even anti-capitalist convergences.

In this context, the WSF is held up as a promising candidate to stand against the WEF and campaign for a better world. Pulled together by eight NGOs as the socially oriented counterweight to the WEF, the WSF first convened last year in Porto Alegre during the WEF’s Davos session. This year, the Brazilian meeting again purposefully coincided with the WEF’s. As a “forum for debate” for all who seek an “alternative to [the] neoliberal model,” the WSF “brings together and interlinks . . . organizations and movements of civil society from all the countries of the world” along with “those in positions of political responsibility, mandated by their peoples, who decide to enter into the commitments resulting from those debates.” Certainly, the WSF and those who participate in this alternate forum place “special value on all that society is building to centre economic activity and political action on meeting the needs of people and respecting nature,” to again cite the WSF. And much-needed social justice work has and will come out of the WSF’s relatively (in comparison to other global gatherings) open meetings.

But wittingly or not, in trying to parallel the WEF’s meetings as its alternative, the WSF ends up mimicking its hierarchical structure: a supranational, nongovernmental body that seeks to shape the global agenda, with no accountability to and far removed from those whose daily lives are affected. Like the WEF, the WSF offers an informal, fluid, and centralized networking environment for the globally influential ”in this case, those in the “nonprofit” and “movement” sectors. Such influence on the world stage, as the WEF wells knows, can soon translate into a power that rivals or exceeds that of nation-states.

Once the WSF’s annual meeting is seen as the premiere gathering of socially concerned leaders, which in two short years is already becoming apparent, its statements will carry extraordinary political weight and its “debates” will soon map out public policy. Big, bureaucratic NGOs will continue to flock to the WSF in ever- greater numbers; and unlike activists and community-based organizations operating on a shoestring, they will be able to attend meetings annually and serve as members of the organizing council in between. These NGOs, then, will largely set the themes and strategies discussed at the WSF, limiting from the start the concerns of grassroots groups and radical movements. Moreover, these NGOs have the financial and organizational resources to, at a minimum, lobby governments and corporations ”who are often involved with or monetarily supportive of these NGOs ”to implement their notions of social change, thereby assuring that any “change” accords nicely with the status quo. Or a la Gates, the NGOs can attempt to directly implement the ideas they themselves have developed at the WSF’s annual gathering through global social service projects. Since these NGOs have their own agendas, such projects will always carry political, social, and/or cultural price tags. This might not be a problem were it not for the fact that as private, nongovernmental bodies, NGOs don’t have to worry about participatory processes, accountability, or transparency. So much for representative democracy, much less community control or even public scrutiny.

As the WSF gains in global influence it will even be courted, as it already was this year, by the very entity it set out to challenge, the WEF, which is perhaps able to recognize a kindred spirit well before the rest of us. This may have something to do with the WSF’s mission itself, in that it neatly inverts that of the WEF’s. Whereas the WEF views everything through an economic lens, and is thus concerned with social issues insofar as they hinder economic growth, the WSF views everything through a social lens, and is thus concerned with economic issues insofar as they hinder social justice. The WEF, for instance, troubles itself over a lack of water, education, or transport in countries because these basic necessities serve as vital infrastructure for economic expansion. (Besides, the utterly destitute don’t make particularly robust markets and can even get unruly.) Conversely, the WSF strives to reduce economic exploitation because it limits peoples’ access to essentials like jobs, food, or housing. Socioeconomics, or more precisely capitalism, can therefore be utilized for opposite ends: in the WEF’s eyes, it is good for business; in the WSF’s, it can instead help bring about social justice. The WSF displays the best of aims: to meet human needs in a just manner. But because it accepts only those possibilities obtainable within a capitalist society (say, higher wages) rather than those that may be generated by but also dismantle present-day social relations (like the end of the wage system altogether), the other world that is possible is already circumscribed, already damaged.

If unaccountable, free-floating supranational bodies like the WEF and WSF prove themselves better able to determine “public” policy than so-called public servants elected in democratic republics, participation becomes even more meaningless (leading some to the regressive demand to strengthen nation-states). An influential few will have set themselves up as untouchable “leaders” more capable of knowing what’s good for humanity than the vast majority of the world’s peoples, who will be completely shut out of shaping the societies they want to live in. Indeed, eerily similar to the WEF ™s notion of a “corporate citizenship” voting on the allegedly better society, the WSF proposes a “planetary citizenship.” Who, pray tell, would govern this global citizenry?

Lost in the WSF ™s mission to bring about social justice, no matter how noble, is the very notion of freedom itself, of self-determination and self-governance, without which there can be no social justice. Surely the possible world of the WSF would be far preferable to the WEF’s. Yet in attempting to oppose the WEF, the WSF only succeeds in offering a kinder, gentler version of top-down decision making, and hence offers no real alternative at all.

Which brings us back to the anti-authoritarian “keepers of the flame” explored in the Voice article mentioned above, where writer Esther Kaplan observes that anarchists don’t oppose “the WEF just because their policies exploit the poor, but because their power is illegitimate. [Anarchists] envision an egalitarian society without nation states, where wealth and power have been redistributed, and they take great pains to model their institutions in this vein.” David Graeber echoes this in his recent In These Times piece: the anti-capitalist convergence during the WEF meeting held out “new forms of radically decentralized direct democracy [as] its ideology. If nothing else, the ‘bad’ protesters have managed to prove that they can do anything the (hierarchical) NGOs or unions can, probably much better.”

As NGOs and social justice activists bailed out of the WEF demonstrations from fear in the post “Sept. 11 climate and/or the desire to be part of the more high-profile, safe WSF in Brazil, a variety of anti-authoritarians were handed the reigns of the U.S. direct action movement (re)birthed in Seattle. They became the main organizers and spokespeople for the pivotal NYC convergence. Thus, even the mainstream media were forced to cover anarchist beliefs and visions ”which, of course, have been there all along ”if they wanted to report on the convergence at all. So despite the usual demonizations in the corporate press (as in the case of another Voice article, titled “Law of the Fist,” that basically labeled anarchists “Al Qaeda-like”), it became a fairly universal assertion that anarchism was openly opposed to capitalism and just as openly for direct democracy. This was especially so among the participants themselves. While for anti-authoritarians direct democracy can include everything from collectives and affinity groups to worker and/or neighborhood councils, acting in networks or confederations that keep power at the grass roots, most concur that self-governance must be part and parcel of present as well as future forms of social organization. Nowhere at the North American convergences of the past few years has this been more palpable, more public.

Instead of signaling the death knell for resistance and reconstruction, New York’s demonstration may just have “normalized” anti-authoritarians’ notions of social and political contestation, whether one is an anarchist or not. The use of substantively participatory decision-making processes before and during the WEF convergence, while not perfect, were nonetheless able to settle on street tactics that were sensitive to the feelings generated by Sept. 11, especially in NYC, and hence thoughtfully somber and restrained. Though comparatively dull for the marchers, not to mention the media and police, this explicitly anti-capitalist event not only reasserted that resistance is permissible again after 9-11′s tragedy but that it is increasingly necessary and courageous in light of new, rapidly consolidating forms of global authoritarianism. More important, it helped to vindicate and validate liberatory alternatives.

Such alternatives have of late flickered momentarily though brightly at anti-capitalist convergences and in localized anarchist projects, but also in everything from the spontaneous gatherings of diverse New Yorkers in Union Square right after Sept. 11 to the banging of pots and pans during protests in Argentina by the middle class.

This article was shortened from the original, which can be read at www.social-ecology.org/learn/library/milstein/wsf.html. Cindy is a faculty member at the Institute for Social Ecology (www.social-ecology.org), a board member for the Institute for Anarchist Studies (flag.blackened.net/ias), and a columnist for Arsenal: A Magazine of Anarchist Strategy & Culture (www.azone.org/ arsenalmag). She can be reached at cbmilstein@aol.com.

Infoshop Update

Here’s information on a bunch of new Infoshops and community spaces that have opened within the past few months. Within the last year, we’ve seen the largest number of new spaces opened since the early mid-1990s. Good luck to everyone opening a space! Please let us know so we can list any future openings here and in our Organizer.

Center for Creative Autonomy opens in Houston

CCA is a DIY art/music space with a coffee bar, lending library, meeting place free skool and radical community resource. They host concerts, workshops, art teach-ins, puppet shows, benefits and skill sharing to promote education, mutual aid and solidarity. Open Sunday – Thursday 6 p.m. – midnight, Friday and Saturday 6 p.m. – 2 a.m. 2014 Washington Ave. Houston, TX 77007. 713 864-0972, creative_autonomy@hotmail.com.

Monkey Wrench Books opens in Austin

MonkeyWrench Books is an all-volunteer, collectively operated radical bookstore and community space. We host meetings, video screenings, book signings, and a myriad of other types of events. The store stocks a slew of anarchist books and periodicals and a selection of broader radical literature. Open Mon-Fri 11 am – 8 pm, Sat-Sun 10 am – 9 pm 110 E. North Loop, Austin, TX 78751 (512)-407-MWBK collective@monkeywrenchbooks.org

Boiling Point Infoshop And Resource Center

An infoshop, radical book library, educational space. arts/music venue with space for art galleries, bands, creative events, etc. Also free store with clothes, books and food. Open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday-Sunday from 2-8pm. 2109B N. Graham Street, Charlotte NC 28206, 704-517-0501 boilingpoint@ hotmail.com, www.boilingpointinfoshop.com

Breakdown Book Collective and Community Space

Breakdown is a community space and book store in Denver, Colorado dedicated to building a non-capitalist participatory institution that will provide alternative forms of information and a space for community, political and artistic events. Featuring new and used books, lending library, video library, meeting space and free high speed internet access. Open 12-9 everyday but Monday. 1630 Platte St. Denver. 303 433-5836 Breakdowncollective@hypocrisy.org

Civic Media Center – Harrisonburg Opens and then gets Shut Down!

Folks opened a media center and infoshop at 360 N. High St. in downtown Harrisonburgh, VA early this spring, operating Food Not Bombs, having shows, etc. We just got word that they were suddenly shut down April 26 by the city and their landlord on bogus grounds (alleged fire code violations, etc.). The shut down was without warning, and appeared to be politically motivated. They’re trying to find another space and re-open. Wish ‘em luck.

Solidarity Books opens in Indianapolis

860 Virginia Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46203-1705, 317-822-8004, solidaritybooks@ yahoo.com

Bookshop INFO and Kafé in Stockholm, Sweden

An Infoshop open everyday except Saturdays noon-8 p.m . Tjärhovsgatan 46, 116 28 Stockholm Sverige Tel +46 (0)8- 6445312. Metro: Medborgarplatsen

And here’s some more addresses we got for which we lack phone numbers, hours, or what, precisely, they do. If you’re in the area, check ‘em out. We hope we’ll have more information about them for next issue:

Stonewall Library

1717 North Andrews Ave.

Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33311

Durland Alternative Library

127 Anabel Taylor Hall

Ithaca, NY 14853

Alternative Reading Room

40 Wall St.

Asheville, NC 28801

Spaces that have shut down

We’ve been told that the following spaces have shut down since publication of the 2002 Slingshot Organizer. Let us know if you have information like this..

Liberation Collective, Portland, Oregon

Secret Sailor Books, Bloomington, IN

Hungry Head Books, Eugene, OR