Posts Tagged Socialism

Statement from the Intergalactic Black Hippie Alliance, and affiliated, and unaffiliated groups and individuals of like minds regarding The Black May Day Movement

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Given that May Day is traditionally a day to celebrate the struggles of the workers of the world, and to renew efforts to dismantle the oppressive structures enacted by the bosses of the world, and given that the black people of the world are without doubt a most exploited class of worker in any society that we are found, we find it timely and appropriate to kick off a movement on May Day that will seek to redress all historical injustice formed to subjugate the black people of this planet.

Our demands are as follows:

1) We want our stolen wages. Our wealth as a people should be commensurate with our population. That it is not is proof of thievery, and fraud. We demand our stolen pay, and the stolen resources.

2) We demand land, and housing of equal amount and value to the percentage of our population.

3) All black prisoners must be released from jails and prisons, and from the confines of the Justice System. The unequal punishment and incarceration of our black brothers and sisters is proof of a flawed anti black system that can not continue to have control over the lives and freedoms of black people. We demand exemption from the barbaric rule of law that passes for justice in this society.

4) All underperforming schools with black students must immediately have it’s budget doubled, with community control of spending decisions. All disciplinary system must be reviewed for anti black bias.

5) All jobless black adults must be given immediate employment at a rate of no lower than $20 an hour. Furthermore these jobs must be designed based on the desires and interest of the individuals, in conjunction with the community the jobs will be based in and serve.

6) We demand that it be recognized that black people were robbed of something invaluable, when we were removed from our land, culture, community, and language. We do not see this culture that we have been forced into as superior, and we have the right to pursue our own ways of resolving and reclaiming our past, broken and glorious that they be. All efforts and displays of black cultural reclamation of innovation shall be respected and not be hindered in any way. All false, misleading, and biased historical information regarding our history must be corrected.

7) We demand debt cancellation for all African nations, and black 
Diaspora nations. The extortion of the colonizing societies must end.
These demands must be met by May 1, 2015, or a Global General Strike will begin.

In preparation for the acceptance or denial of our demands, we are beginning to organize a black economic boycott, and solidarity movement effective immediately. All efforts will be made to promote the withdrawl of funds and support from all anti black institutions, and the corresponding support of black owned, and black friendly institutions. We will begin to organize our own infrastructure and develop our own frameworks for an emancipated black society. All efforts will be made to follow a path of high ethical standards in our pursuits, and to conduct our communication in a respectful manner, as we do not want the seriousness of our resolve to be underestimated. The Black May Day movement is for real. We want off the sinking ship. We welcome all supporters, and fellow liberation movements to discuss ways of joining efforts, or work in support of common goals. We do not seek recompense from anyone but the super wealthy, and do not seek to disempower any other groups, but we must act in black solidarity, and put our survival at the forefront of our efforts. Any black groups or individuals who wish to join in any way please let us know. Black Businesses that want to be part of the network, holla!

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Oakland Responds to the Trayvon Martin murder trial verdict

by Zappa Montag

The acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida, while hardly surprising, has understandably provoked lot of outrage, protest, soul-searching, and may in fact turn out to be a catalyzing moment for a new round of heightened social activism, and upheaval. I certainly hope so. Oakland is a place that is an epicenter of forces of social liberation, and repression, and a mass of contradictions that reflect these confused and difficult times we live in. There are many angles from which to write about this place, and these times, but I like to keep it pretty personal most of the time, so in that spirit, here is a little slice of the personal and political as it manifested amidst the recent street protests in reaction to the verdict here in Oakland.

July 16, 2013

As the protest march last night headed around Lake Merritt, after the stand-off at the 580 (i think we should have gone up Macarthur along the freeway personally, but anyhow..), my friend and I left the march and headed back along the lake. After walking for a few minutes we hear a commotion behind us and turn to see a group of 4 young brothas running/jogging..as they get closer, I can hear them kind of laughing, and telling eachother ..”run n@#$a, run”…not sure what’s up, we keep walking as they pass us on the opposite side of the street heading towards Lakeshore… and then soon hear another commotion behind us, and we turn to see two folks, white male and female, running and yelling..”call the police…call 9-1-1″…”they took our stuff, ….thieves…..”….aaahh…scenario explained….now the weird or funny thing was that we had just come from the Trayvon Martin protest, and it kind of seemed like both the robbers, and the robbed were also at the march…the yells to call the cops, kind of confused and amused us, as 1) the cops were all down the street at the protest and they don’t show up much even when they aren’t tied up at demo..2) where we all had been giving them hell and telling the fuck off…and I was of no mind, and really never am, to call the police and have them hunt down, arrest, and possibly maim or kill some black kids over some dumb stuff..and it is ironic that it at least appeared that protesters were calling for the cops to help when their stuff got jacked…I had already heard of a similar incident that took place at yesterday’s protest…Protesters calling cops for help is not a good look…

BUT…Had they yelled “help, stop those guys, they took our stuff”, I probably would have gone after them..probably could have helped get their stuff back too..them yelling to “call the cops” confused and deactivated me.I generally don’t like bullyish, rudeboy type behavior, and have, and am willing to, confront some kids even if I understand the anger or resentment that leads to such behavior…I have worked in many schools where I had to de escalate rowdy youth behavior, without using or gun, and rarely ever having to hurt anyone…I actually believe that wise adults, who can read social cues, and have methods and knowledge, can and should be the peace keepers, instead of armed outsiders of low intelligence (cops)..

….and the main reason that I intervene when I see kids, especially black kids, act out, is not because I am just worried for the victim, but because adults need to let these kids know that we have higher expectations out of them.. I know they might actually, and sometimes do, listen to me, partially due to my blackness and maleness. And what I try to convey is that, attacking some white person because you have the numbers, or stealing some shit, and running off laughing about it, etc…is not acceptable, and expected, and it is nothing to be proud of, and it is not revolutionary…I can respect some righteous, and brave resistance, even if it is foolish, or ineffective…You want to be tough, go use that anger against the real enemy..

Lately I hear about muggings, and strong armed robberies happening all over Oakland..It seems like it is getting even more common…I feel lucky to have never been mugged, or been the target of a violent crime (except at the hands of the police), and despite my strong feeling regarding gentrification, and institutionalized racism, and despite the fact that part of me feels like folks get what’s coming when they move into an area that is essentially a battleground in the war of containment that is being waged against black people, I do not feel that petty crime, and individual acts of anti social retaliation against white people, or attacks against people who you perceive to vulnerable or weak is something that should be ignored or encouraged. Generally obnoxious, and somewhat cowardly, behavior that goes unchecked can lead to worse actions down the road imo..Nor do I think that getting the criminal justice system involved helps either..So my questions..Can we fight loutish behavior, gentrification, racism, the prison industrial complex, and teach righteous resistance and respectful behavior all at once?, or do we continue to compartmentalize all of the issues?

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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 downtown.l..ong 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.

babyjm

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

by Zappa Montag

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