Archive for May, 2013

Indigenous Settler? Decolonization and the Politics of Exile

interesting piece on the responsibility of those participating in an ongoing occupation, even as a dispossessed indigenous person.

Earth First! Newswire

by Nuunja Kahina / Intercontinental Cry


“Only Hawaiians are Native to Hawai’i. Everyone else is a settler.”
– Haunani-Kay Trask1

What are the obligations of Indigenous people living as settlers on another Indigenous people’s stolen land? I have been wrestling with this question as an Amazigh (Indigenous North African) activist living and working in a settler colony, the United States, on land belonging to other Indigenous nations. Based on the conceptions of colonialism, liberation, and sovereignty that I utilize to understand my own experience, I also understand that I am a settler on occupied Native land. Being a person of color, a Muslim, or an immigrant does not negate one’s settler status in the Americas, as other womenof color and Indigenous women have described. But what if you’re an Indigenous activist yourself, living in exile and unable to return to your own land base? What does that entail…

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The Gentrifying Monkey that ate Oakland

revolutionary stoplightby Zappa Montag

Ever since it popped up out of the blue on San Pablo Avenue a couple of years back, East Bay activists have been steady talkin about the Holdout. I originally wrote this piece after a passionate debate about the  subject amongst some local radical POC activists, because I wanted to bring in another perspective regarding the waning influence of black people in Oakland, and how this social trend colors my feelings about new “projects” and  ideas being brought in to “save” Oakland. I was initially turned off, and pretty annoyed by the Holdout after I went to a small meeting there  very early on in Occupy Oakland,.  I want to say that I have mostly gotten over the more negative feelings around the Holdout’s presence and function, but that I have felt the need to discuss  gentrification and my experiences and observations as to it’s effect on black Oaklanders.

*a qualifier:  Gentrification is a complex subject, and no single article or perspective can ever get to all of the angles and nuances of the issue.  Even since I wrote the first draft of this piece a couple of months ago, things have changed in regards to this specific issue, and my feelings regarding it..As  mentioned above, I wanted to express some things about gentrification in Oakland, and black folks, by using the Holdout as a case study so to speak.     I am not saying that I am the representative of all things black, or Oakland. I am mixed, I grew up mostly in Mendocino, and I have probably actually lived in Oakland for 12-15 years of my existence.  Nor is the Holdout a particularly egregious example of gentrification in Oakland, but it is representative when you look at the larger patterns and trends.

       The first time I moved to Oakland, in late 1969, I was a small baby. My teenaged, hippie parents, decided to leave NYC for California, and we hitchhiked our way West.  The Bay Area was a beacon for many social refugees, and  on my mom’s side, the black side, many  of my relatives had already relocated from the East Coast and the South, to Oakland.  At that time Oakland was an important West Coast black cultural center, and gathering place for blacks looking for a new and brighter day.   The  Black Panthers were a product of the aspirations of black Oakland.  There was a positive , hopeful, vibe in the air amongst  our folks, despite the many challenges we faced.  A  “black is beautiful” feeling that lingers, one that I can still feel,  but one that has been mostly displaced by a lot of negativity and despair.  I don’t think that my memory is just a product of youthful naiveté, but a true reflection of a period when the possibilities seemed pretty wide open, and black folks were generally feeling better about the future. I am thankful that I  got to spend the first three years of my life  in Oakland amongst my black family and community during that Black Power era.  When my mom and dad divorced I moved to Mendocino County with my dad, and that was, of course, a whole different scene (a cool one, but different)

         Although I moved back to the Bay Area in the 1980’s, I didn’t live in Oakland again until about 1990, around my 3rd year at UC Berkeley. After the closing of  the infamous student Co Op, Barrington Hall, a rag-tag group of us, some of whom had been squatting at Barrington, consisting of whites, blacks, arab,  lesbians, straights, various addicts, and so on, decided to move out of Berkeley. We found a large house in Oakland on the corner of 45th and Market  whose owner was willing to rent to us. Rent was cheap, as at that time 45th and Market was pretty deep hood. Grandmas cooked crack in the next door apartments, gun fights occasionally erupted outside, the corner store sold dusty meat and lots of Malt Liquor; the buses arrived when they pleased.

      As scruffy a crew as we were, the neighborhood was way rougher, and we became a little Island of pre hipsterism, surrounded by a culture of black hustler survivalism. I soon dropped out of school due to, among other reasons,  a lack of desire to wait for the bus to Berkeley, which came randomly and infrequently, and cost money that I often didn’t have. With no job, no cash, and no love, I was in a miserable state. The cockroaches began to take over the house. The lesbian couple turned abusive on each other. Outside our house felt like hostile territory. My nice, good-looking, rich , white female , housemate and friend , with funky dreadlocks, used to walk to MacArthur BART alone, and she told us that she got called every name in the book, and was often threatened by black folks …She was  not that bothered by it though..Part of the experience I guess.

      Because, of course, we didn’t have to be down in that hood.   We all had options, from family money, to educational opportunities.   Having had enough despair  for the time being, I took advantage of my privileges and enrolled in an Ecology Field Study class through Santa Cruz UC Extension, which found me studying nature in the Sierra Mountains for two months,  and  which got me re enrolled back in school at UC Berkeley.

         It would be a couple of years till the next time I lived in Oakland.  Again I found myself in North Oakland, which seems to be the epicenter of the ongoing waves of gentrification.  I moved to Aileen Street near 56th. Back then that was hood as well. Black teenagers hustled rocks to burnt out elders on the corners, and the meat was still dusty at the corner store.  Punk rockers, such as the original  folks at the Purple House, when Mo was still the owner, were the only visible white people on the streets. The old school blues club, Your Place too, on MLK, that is now Loony’s BBQ, was owned by a cool, older black couple, and they started have Punk night on Sundays nights.. That was a scene. Short lived, as was my stay foray into Oakland which was cut short when my house burnt down  (and I went to jail for a few days story..)  I also discovered an interesting thing  about gentrification as my house was burning down at 2 in the morning, and all the neighbors came outside, to watch…. which was that there were way more white people in the neighborhood than I realized, they just stayed inside all of the time.

    I moved back to Berkeley for a while but Oakland was becoming more like home , and upon graduation I found a 2 bedroom apartment on Webster at 38th, for 450 bucks. Living large! I began to settle into Oakland reality but rght around then, the last of my family members moved from Oakland, and ever since then I have been the only black family member here. Some folks moved to the projects in Alameda, the lower middle class folks moved to San Jose, my mom found a cottage in San Leandro.

            Fast forward a few years  and many moves later, and I had just become a father for the first time. Booted out of our , $600 2 bedroom, rent controlled spot in Berkeley, due to a new owner move in, my girlfriend and I, with the baby only months old, needed to find a spot  to reside, and our income was derived only from my “job” collecting signatures for ballot initiatives.  The only place we could find was on Telegraph at 25th, where Art Murmur later sprang from quite a few years later. We moved into the tall, weird shaped building, which also housed a gay bar called Cabel’s Reef on the ground floor. It was pretty much the only business around besides the gas stations, fast food, and street hustle.   On the weekends a lot of marginalized, gay ,black youngsters ,would come to hang out on the corner since they couldn’t get in the bar. Inevitably they would start some really over the top yelling and  screaming matches, that often led to physical  fights.  Then the cops would show up  eventually and clear everyone out, leaving us on the third floor with only the sounds of the bus (was it the 40 back then?) as it screeched down Telegraph all night long. It was a miserable spot, but had it not been for the massive mouse community that seemed poised to take over our entire apartment, we would have stayed, because it was hella cheap rent.

   Down but not out, somehow I managed to get a full-time  OUSD teaching gig at Westlake Middle School.  Thus we were able to find a 2 bedroom house for about $900  a month, on Linden St. in West Oakland across from the EBMUD station.  Now the baby could have some decent shelter. To get to work everyday I would drive past the park at San Pablo and Grand, near where the Holdout now is, and there would always be tons of street folks out kickin’ it, even at 8 in the morning. It was their spot. Given the roughness of the area, which included the infamous Mead Street murder corridor, street folks, and addicts, and hustlers owned that territory. The only time I ever used to even hang down there was when I would go to parties at some friend’s apartment which was near the St Vincent building. It was a spot called the Boogie Shack.. Mostly  it was a bunch of black stoners, like me,  and we would have jam sessions, talk a lot of stuff,  and smoke hella blunts… often. Otherwise, that area was rough even for our Oakland Black Bohemian subset, and generally that area of San Pablo avenue was avoided when possible..Did I ever see a white person who was not a subsisting as a hooker or an addict  on the streets down there? Hell no.!! White people were still not out on the streets anywhere within 30 blocks of that area.

         And you know what? ….As funky, and dangerous as those streets appeared to be, it was kind of cool that white people stayed far away. If society abandons a whole community and if all some folks have is a sidewalk and a park to kick it, let ’em have it. That area was for the street folks, and on some level everybody knew it.   Elsewhere nearby that slowly started to change though.  Especially further up towards where I now live , in what is known as the Temescal. White people, and white businesses began to pop up, occasionally at first, but the pace accelerated over time as we passed the turn of the century.  Eventually we began to see white folks walking in areas of North and West Oakland that they never were before. And not seeming scared!! …this didn’t really sit well with me or a lot of black folks I knew,. We liked having the streets as our territory,  as a brokedown black/Afro Palace where white folks were scared to roam.  Maybe deep down we knew that once the floodgates opened, it was going to be a river of whiteness in what was once a chocolate city.  Oakland is just to damn beautiful,. and too conveniently located, to avoid adulation from those who once shunned her.

        And sure enough, look now. The black population and with it black influence has steadily dropped, and the white population and influence has steadily increased. Whole areas are being converted to white friendly, and thus black unfriendly areas.  Of course this is not only an issue that concerns black people and white people, but the race and class tensions are most heightened in the context of that social dynamic.

        The great recession of recent years sped up the turnover process, and deepened the wealth inequality that racism has nurtured between blacks and whites.  So when occupy hit, town folks like me, and my home girl Alison were already not doing well financially at all. Given that rents were going up, we were both having trouble keeping a roof over our heads. I was a single dad now with two kids, and had been unemployed for most of two years. Alison had been dealing with the after effects of a bad accident and couldn’t work much. So when I heard about a meeting to discuss housing issues, I grabbed her to come with me. We were thinking that maybe we could help folks, and get some help ourselves.

         The meeting was at the Holdout, then in its infancy.  I knew nothing of this new space that has now become such a central location for radical activism in Oakland.  Of course I had been past the building a million times before and was a little shocked at the seeming audacity that folks had to plop down there.   Not sure what was up, I thought it was a fancy squat at first. While I am sure it wasn’t intentional, both of us felt uncomfortable, and felt like folks didn’t know what to make of us, a couple of black folks who had not come dressed as occupiers. When we had introductions, and the folks found out that we had both been in RAW, Roots Against War, a powerful  radical POC anti-war group from the early 90’s, they perked up a bit. The one other POC at the meeting, although younger, seemed to have known a lot about RAW, which was cool. Still, the meeting wasn’t feeling very welcoming, or pertinent. It was a lot of earnest, well-meaning white people who were experts in different areas of housing issues, mostly around foreclosure defense, and they talked with an air of authority. Meantime me and Alison were both thinking, “I can’t pay my rent, let alone dream of buying a house that would get foreclosed”.  I sensed a disconnect, and I think both of us then began to look around at the Holdout, which suddenly seemed like a giant playhouse for folks, and I think we both felt some intense class envy. We wanted our own playhouse!  In fact this was a playhouse that wouldn’t be a bad real house for many folks.

         It also felt like there was some guilty feelings, or something, on the part of the folks there that day, because they didn’t really explain who they were, or how they got there, and who owned the place.  So it felt like me and Alison being there was not comfortable for anyone because we didn’t fit the demographic, or expectations they had.   I think it may have really been more a situation of social awkwardness and cultural differences when I look back at it now.  At the time, however, it was a painful moment that spoke to some deep seeded wounds,  and we left there in a foul mood, and talked bad about white gentrifiers as we went apartment searching for her. (a search that during which our fears of displacement due to gentrification were only exacerbated by the people, places, and prices that we encountered)

            Over time I have gotten over most of that. I have been to some good events at the Holdout, such as the Radical Family mixer, and my daughter thinks it is the coolest place ever. I still feel like it is weird though, that the Holdout obviously fuels gentrification to some degree. I know folks work hard, and are doing stuff that they feel benefits the original community, and in some ways one can argue that it has made the area better. But I also am unsure if folks are aware of the steady displacement of black Oaklanders that I have witnessed and described. From the street folks, to the marginalized black gay kids, to the working poor, and the non-working poor, black folks are disappearing from Oakland, and for a long time I felt that the Holdout was symbolic of that trend.  Yes it is true that many black folks leave to seek something better for themselves and their families.  Gentrification and social shifts are not simple matters. Oakland is still a wonderful, and often heartbreaking place, and I am proud to be part of tha Town.  I, however, do mourn the ongoing loss of an Oakland that was a black sanctuary and an oasis of black power, and black positivity. It was a beautiful dream that will manifest somewhere again no doubt.


(an early wave Oakland Hipster/Blipster family…me, mom, and dad)

by Zappa Montag

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BREAKING: Occupy the Pipeline Disrupts NYC Gala

this is good..action is good…but now what is our short and long term strategy to defeat these corporations?

Earth First! Newswire


Cross Posted from OccupythePipeline

BREAKING! OtP took to the high seas today to interrupt the New York League of Conservation Voters’ Spring Gala, which was funded by the hydro fracking industry and thrown in honor of Michael Bloomberg.

The New York League of Conservation Voters is hosting a Spring Gala tonight, May 20, 2013, honoring New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg for being environmentally friendly. While Bloomberg has some green policies, there is a big non-green blot on his record. Bloomberg’s push for NYC buildings to convert from #4 or #6 oil to fracked natural gas and the attendant plethora of gas pipelines (built while waiting for permission to be built) including Spectra’s on the Gansevoort Peninsula, all touted as Eco-friendly while actually bad for the environment and potentially very dangerous.

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Humans…Our goal, and mission, here in this current slice of reality, is Co-operation and Unity

This portion of the Community Collective Movement concept that is being worked out is a call to action, and a call to social revolt, and seeks to waste few words, and instead seeks extreme, but simple, clarity in laying out a framework for immediate action on our part. I had been wrestling with long, deep explanations of an ever-growing number of issues, and realized that I was violating one of my own guiding principles, which is to attempt to be accessible, and engaging to as many folks as possible when writing about mass movement strategy. So let me jump right in with a very quick explanation and justification for the need for action, and the nature of the events that we would like to set in motion.

I believe that Capitalism as it is practiced today, in most or all parts of the world, is a force for moral corruption and human illness of all types. We accept poverty and suffering of our fellow humans because, to help them would violate capitalist principles, and would promote socialism, and reward inter dependency. We who are “lucky” enough to have a place to sleep, and a job to go to, will literally step over ,and around ,destitute, ill, and suffering people who live on the streets, so that we may go about our business of generating wealth for the already insanely wealthy. Perhaps my background is part of why I find this situation so abhorrent. I am ethnically half American black, and half Hungarian Jewish. I come from two groups that have a long history of oppression, slavery, and social scorn that shape our worldview. As far as I am concerned blacks, and jews do have a special duty to stand up for all oppressed people, and to maintain vigilance against the forces of racism, bigotry, poverty, and fascism. From that perspective I see a society that violates the moral codes that I know to be correct, and one that maintains deeply embedded, and oppressive, hierarchical social orders, and allows, and even enforces, inequality and dependency on a rigged system. I see a society that exhibits elements of fascism and slavery conditions, and benefits only a few.

This is a call to act based on morality, and the belief in humanity and the possibility of a better world. We can not afford to accept the framework of legal/and illegal action as our guiding principle. Capitalism’s profit motive pollutes and undermines any real system to attain a just and fair society based on laws. Our legal system is rotten from profit based strategies and incentives. Justice is to precious, and essential to humanity, to be a “for-profit” endeavor. We need an approach based on morality, and one that is strategic in improving the material conditions and environment. Letting people die in the streets is not a moral approach……if it is illegal to help people, or if certain laws make helping folks not feasible, those laws need to be ignored. Our actions should be conducted in a moral, upfront, and thoughtful manner, but what we need to do won’t always be legal…I mean with the amount of new laws they keep passing, almost everything might be illegal soon..which is one reason why we should act now.

This is not a call to violent insurrection, or hastily organized protests, but a call to build, organize, a strategic and formidable force for human evolutionary change, and global social transformation. This means creating a holistic, and hopefully horizontal, framework, for meaningful activity to take place in a cohesive, and expanding nature.

It is my position that given the immoral nature of our capitalist system, and the obvious inability for it to make any meaningful self correction, and the urgent need for a morality based process to create sustainable justice, we are being subjected to social imprisonment under an unjust system. We are not being allowed to save ourselves from the system.

Capitalism was never written into the Constitution as the one and only economic system allowed in the US, yet we are forced to live under it’s destructive chaos. I believe that I can not be forced to be a capitalist, and I can not be forced to follow an immoral social code. I believe that we have a right to build our own economy, and I believe we have a right, and duty, to dismantle all incorrigible elements of the machinery of consumer capitalism…. and to investigate, question, and expose the people who make the key decisions, and accumulate the vast wealth that reaches a select few.

Many of the people I speak of keep their activities and dealings well hidden from public view or scrutiny, as they amass fortunes and power that allow them to make decisions that could have profound negative effects for many generations to come (if we even make it that far the way things are). Many of the things that these people do violate the basic codes of morality that most people would agree upon, yet their money and power shields them from punishment, or even negative publicity. Many of us have begun to wonder who these people are, and why they appear to have so little regard for the people or the planet. We have a right to know and discuss all aspects of these people’s beliefs, and actions. The capitalists have proven time and again to make reckless and destructive choices that cause major problems. And yet who benefits from the problems created? The very same capitalists who caused the problem, as they have created system in which only they know how to fix their major fuck ups: like nuclear meltdowns, major oil spills, chemical weapon proliferation etc… They are reckless and destructive. We need to be watching and opposing them at all times. but, We also need to create our own way of meeting people’s needs in a manner that is based on justice, and morality, and respect for all life. We need to do both at the same time..fight them, build ours, fight them..and we need strategy and massive participation.

This may appear to be a struggle over money, but the currency we really need to value and use is our own time. Even as we see the destructive banality of our way of life, we continue to support it with our time, and energy. We buy their crap, we absorb their plastic culture hours on end, we invest in institutions that we know are the enemy, we pay taxes to fund our own oppression and stupidity, and seldom do we truly look to create our own new world. We spend much more time complaining about this system, or dulling the pain of our existence through consumption and packaged experiences. We have much more time than we realize. Time that could be given to helping build a co-op movement, or fight against corporate power in a truly strategic, long-term struggle, rather than a symbolic, or reform driven display. Our time, and the skills we can share and learn when we use the time well, needs to be our building block towards self-sufficiency. We have a lot of people with time on their hands that are not being given anything meaningful to do. We have a lot of people who have a lot of love and positivity to spread if they can be given a chance to flourish..

This is not a “pie in the sky”, “let’s sing kumbaya around the fire” post..this is a call to action..We all know what’s coming, and what we need to do..Generally at least. What about specifics? We should begin to lay out some ideas over the next days that get into ways we could organize, quickly, efficiently, and effectively. I believe that the three basic principles that we should build from are the following. 1) We should think cooperatively in all ventures, be they efforts to fight the powers that be, or efforts to build the new world we see on our shared horizon. 2) We must have an unwavering eye on morality that shapes our way of doing things. As I stated earlier, Capitalism as it is practiced is immoral, and we must find a way that is moral and just. 3) We should acknowledge, and embrace differences and contradictions within our movement, and find ways to use these con traditions as a strength, not as a means to fuel division, and competition. Unity and Cooperation is what they fear, and what we should strive for…


I am going to begin to just throw some ideas out there in a less edited and structured manner just to put some things on the table for discussion or internal pondering at least.

intergalactic Cooperation as a reality game featuring the People VS. The Corporation..with the goal being the defeat of the corporate slime ball that oozes its toxic reality over all that is good

I don’t think it has to be as difficult, confrontational, or complicated as it sounds.

….what if we made a game out of it?…..but instead of a game with one winner and many losers, we make it a mutual game of global cooperation towards a goal of global liberation, basically phase one might be some kind of corporate detox , just use May 1 as a starting point.. we make it a global game of co-operation, and even appropriate their consumer culture and use our still underutilized advantages in certain aspects of social technology to make it a like global reality show…when our target corporations lose money, everybody in the game gains.

we could have reports from different regions and countries every day, reporting ways in which people were able to decrease corporate profits, and benefit co-operative ventures, feed people, increase peace and justice without use of violent coercion..etc..we celebrate victories across man-made national borders as our own, just as our corporate enemies seek to profit not just nationally, but globally..

from there we just aim to get more people involved each month or whatever the time frame we set is..stop using their calendars and their linear mindset..we set our own goals and just try to increase our growth/strength many ways we mirror the corporate growth model, but in key ways we shift our mindset so as to avoid the traps and limitations that the model set for us..

for instance as I alluded to in my original post, even significant movement centered days like May Day can limit us because we don't look beyond the one day to take any type of action. To me this is a mirror of the corporate Hallmark card, holiday mindset, in which we celebrate cool concepts; things like sharing (Thanksgiving), or love (Valentine’s Day), or fertility (Easter) for one day a year, and then we wait another whole year before we focus on the cool concept again….May Day is a big day for economic justice, but fighting for economic justice one day a year is not enough…
There needs to be strategy and goals’

Another thing we can do play psychological mind games by using their tools of oppression against them to erode confidence in their economic model. Like we could mimic their capitalistic, predatory mindset and instead of going after the hugest evil corporations like Monsanto first, we could target weak links in the corporate chain and aim to cut their profits and put them out of business. This would way to build our confidence and effectiveness, and to show our power as we advance towards taking on the big drones in the corporate food chain. We could have celebrations when corporations we are targeting lose money, and stock market value, and hopefully go out of business..

time fora break but More soon..all ideas about cooperative economics, anti corporate strategy, or whatever is appreciated

by Zappa Montag

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How I Became Known as a Nutjob


My African family and old friends have spent years worrying about me, praying to God to release whatever hold made me suddenly passionate about black revolutionary thought.  Asking among themselves whether and how to send me to a mental hospital, asking me if I was “okay.”


I was 21 years old when my boyfriend gave me the book Thomas Sankara Speaks. In my one year after finishing college, I had done enough Internet digging to come to the conclusion that Africa’s problem was the brain drain. I’m not sure if I yet knew about the blood diamond trade, but I was founding a website called Mama Afrique to sell African food to Africans all over the country. By then I was questioning everything, and looking for a solution that would allow me to go home to a country that was no longer a death sentence. That would make…

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