This summer I went to a picnic in support of Bassel Khartabil, an open source software developer and volunteer who was detained in 2012 in Syria. Over the past years people have done all sorts of activism to keep his case public, holding Wikipedia editing parties, tweeting with #FreeBassel hashtag, writing letters, publishing books, and doing slightly weirder things like passing out masks of his face and bringing life size cardboard cutouts of him to tech conferences.
No one knows if he’s alive or dead and of course many other people are not only in prison in Syria but are surviving or dying in a horrifying war. I felt a bit odd about going to a picnic in Bassel’s honor. It comes down on some level to wanting to assert that we are part of the same cultural and political movement; Free/Libre Open Source Software, open culture, hackerspaces, access to technology and the means to speak and publish and share information.
So there we are in Dolores Park, feeling surreal, next to a big cardboard cutout of Bassel. We’re lying in the sun on a picnic blanket and lawn chairs watching people play frisbee and catching Pokémon, sharing delicious fruit and cookies, passing around a copy of The Cost of Freedom, an anthology by people working to help free Bassel. We ended up talking about our own work and our beliefs. I took notes as we all had neat ideas, but can’t find them now as I’m several notebooks past the summer by now. I do remember really enjoying talking with Mahmoud about his HatNote projects, like Weeklypedia and the strangely hypnotic Listen to Wikipedia.
Afterwards Niki sent round a play: A Picnic for Bassel in Three Acts. It gets a little bit of the flavor of that day, the intensity of our conversations, and the cognitive dissonance of being at a lovely picnic with friends while thinking to the horrors of repression, imprisonment, and war. It is really lovely to read and heartens me today.
DAKE: I see what you’re saying, but there is a human side to it too that you seem to be forgetting. Cause besides tweets that are headlines for articles that one might not read, there is also the tweet by itself as a piece of evidence, a storytelling tool, in journalism itself. And of course the author of the tweet, a person, with a life. And when someone becomes the person who is relied on for tweets about a certain topic, or about a current event, it can take quite a toll on them. Sometimes these people are located outside the geographic space in which a story, usually a conflict, is occurring, yet they become central information conduits regarding it. But they are less “on the ground” in it than they are adept in collecting, aggregating, and sharing information that is found online about it. Not only does erode the quality of stories, as journalists look to tweets about something rather than directly investigating the story by talking to the people involved in it, but it can also cause some trauma to the person who is “the conduit,” as people come to rely on them to provide information which they are themselves quite removed from.
ENBE: And then there are the “conduits” like Bassel who were actually on the ground and sharing information about what was actually happening, and who put themselves at great risk to share it. How can we better protect these people, both now and going forward, to help people not be arrested, and help those who, like Bassel, unfortunately have been?
DAKE: That is a tricky question because at least as far as the traditional ethics in journalism go, you only need to protect your sources if they ask you to, if they only agree to disclose what they do on condition of anonymity. But if the source is public there is no need to protect them.
LIRA: But that is based on older systems of sharing information, where the idea of a source being public, the very idea of a public, was very different. Fewer people could be public, in the sense of having access to an audience of strangers.
. . .
SAKI: Not so fast, buddy! A platform like this cannot be too easy to use so that people don’t consider the risks they are taking by using it. Think about situations like Bassel’s, before he was arrested, and in many ways why he was arrested. People who appoint themselves to a story that their country does not want to be told. And not just the story, but the tools to follow and tell a story, any story, and participate in the global, storytelling knowledge machine that shapes much of the Internet.
And that made him a threat to and target for his government. Because it is one thing to have a lot of followers, and be threatening because of your access to an eager audience, in a large scale, whose collective actions could be too easily choreographed in way that the ruling powers do not like. But it is another to also be an advocate for learning and open discussion, and well respected within international organizations dedicated to the same. Cause it is not just about stopping the flow of information that is transmitted through a person, it is about stopping the machinery that they are helping to build, the influence a person has on the way that people think, the infectious freedom of curiosity, debate, and optimistic discussion.
I recommend the entire strategy for activists. Have a picnic, have tea, invite people to discussions on a small scale and then go deep. Please, also enjoy yourselves and celebrate life while doing so. It is important to appreciate these moments of peace and happiness without closing our eyes to harsher realities.
A couple of years ago I wrote a little zine called Heterodoxy to Marie. Not even sure how I got onto the subject, but in looking up Marie Jenney Howe I got pissed off that she didn’t even rate a Wikipedia article but had a paragraph in her husband’s article. She was part of a group of radical women in New York City who called themselves Heterodoxy. I want to touch on that but in order to lead to the Alpha Suffrage Club in Chicago, and another group, the Delta Sigma Theta sorority from Howard, along with Ida B. Wells.
You can download Heterodoxy to Marie here, it’s a fairly small PDF. Print it double sided, & cut and fold, for a tiny 8 page book.
In one sprawling tentacle of my reading I ended up with descriptions of the 1913 Suffrage Parade (or Procession, or March) in Washington, D.C. with Inez Mulholland at the head on a white horse and hundreds of women marching behind in fancy sashes and amazing hats. There were contingents of representatives from many U.S. states. The atmosphere in DC at their near daily protests was brutal. People would crowd around and assault the picketers and marchers. My impression is that there was an attempt to create a spectacle of dignity and legitimacy in this march.
Anyway, part of the story of the march is that Ida B. Wells was there from Chicago, and was told not to march with the delegates from Illinois, but to go to the back of the march. Wells then sprung out from the crowd and joined the Illinois delegation anyway, flanked by two of her (white) comrades. This is the photo that shows up to illustrate the story, showing Wells with a starry sash, turban-like starry hat, and flag and one that says “Illinois” in front of a banner that reads Women’s Party, Cook County.
That story varies from source to source, and even varies when told by the same people at different times. I found it a worthy subject of investigation. One telling is that Alice Paul (or “her organization”) found out about Wells’ participation at the last minute, and that some of the southern state delegates objected, saying they’d pull out from the march if Wells was allowed to appear with the Illinois women. Other stories spin it differently, naming various other women in NAWSA who put the black women at the back of the march flanked by white Quaker men for their protection. There are a lot of small variants, and it would take serious work to straighten them out. That’s why I haven’t written about this yet: I was making a small zine about Wells to follow up on the one about Marie Jenney.
It is in some ways lovely to picture Wells bursting into the Illinois delegates and in other ways so perturbing. She would have had to struggle through an extremely hostile crowd just to get to the edge of the march. At least a hundred women were hospitalized after the DC march. How did she fight her way through that crowd? How would it feel, I have some inklings of how it would feel, to proudly march with her sash on, in her elegant hat, amidst the banners, knowing the extra armor you would have to wear inside your soul. She is a compelling hero.
I think of how bad ass Wells-Barnett was in general. If you have not read her 1895 book The Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynching in the United States, you should really give it a try. It’s very grim and horrifying. She also tears into Frances Willard’s racist poisonous remarks on lynching and “dark-faced mobs”… So you can see right in Wells’ work that it’s not like feminist activists in Britain weren’t aware of what was up. You can be all like “oh they were just ‘of their time’…” since we know there were awesome anti racist activists among the super gross white supremacist feminist ones like Willard.
One had better die fighting against injustice than die like a dog or a rat in a trap.” — Ida B. Wells-Barnett
Another dimension to the miniscule zine on Jenney is that I read some of her propaganda, including a play called Telling the Truth at the White House (1917) in which two white suffragists go to jail and then to court. Their adventure with the law is framed by two drunk black women providing comic relief, and then having the vote consdescendingly explained to them. They are presented as incapable of understanding anything about suffrage movement, but agreeing that surely they would trust these nice white ladies to go ahead and vote. This little play is truly, truly vile. And it isn’t alone, if you poke around in the propaganda fiction, plays, and speeches of white suffragists there are many examples where white women point out, mock, and revile the ignorance of black men and women, as a deliberate counterpoint to white women being denied the vote. It was part of many white suffragists’ strategy to appeal to racism. This filled me with cold fury as I thought of the many African American women who were their contemporaries who were fighting for their rights. It is such a blatant disrepect, that they rhetorically make the black women and men disappear from the public debate except as unworthy of participating in political life. If you think to Frederick Douglass’s deep involvement and the entire abolition movement’s years of being intertwined with suffrage movement across the U.S. and England (look it up… I can’t write a dissertation here… ) it is such a cruel and repeated slap in the face by the white women, I can’t even. It’s not even just stupid and ignorant like those tshirts; it looks very deliberate. They are trading on the currency of white supremacy to scrabble for a scrap of power. Like I said, vile.
Have a look at the books “Treasonous Texts” and “On to Victory: Propaganda Plays of the Women Suffrage Movement” for some interesting food for thought.
Back to Wells and the 1913 March and the complicated story. Some stories say Wells fundraised with her black women’s club in Chicago, the Alpha Suffrage Club. Some say that 35 or so members of the Alpha Suffrage Club went to DC and marched. (But where? At the back?) I’ve seen descriptions that say Wells was the only black woman at the march, a lone hero bursting in…. Refusing to stay (or go at all) to the back of the march, supported and protected by white women friends from her home town. Then, I read that the National Association of Colored Women sent several delegations to the march, joining the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. I’ve also seen claims that the Delta Sigma Thetans were the only black women at the march, or that Wells was part of their sorority group. IN short, history is confusing, and people write terrible little summaries of “what happened”. Another tantalizing detail: the staging area for the black women was separate from the main march’s staging area. I can find no description of them marching or their position, and no photos.
If you think of demonstrations or marches you have been part of, try to imagine reconstructing how it was planned, what actually happened, and so on! Very difficult! A big event happens in many dimensions. Alice Paul didn’t “plan” the 1913 march, it was organized by
There is very good stuff in the book “African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850–1920”. You can get it used online very cheap.
Both the ASC and Delta Sigma Theta are said to be formed just before the march, in order to support sending its members as a group.
I feel sure that there is more info out there about the Alpha Suffrage Club and its members, and their participation in the 1913 march. The ASC held regular meetings in Bridewell Prison and I believe it included some white women, or at least had some local white suffrage activists as allies.
There is more readily available information on the sorority from Howard though. They formed in January 1913, with 22 founding members; going to the march together was their first public act. I enjoyed looking at the photos of the founders. Their names are listed here and there is an awesome photo of them at http://www.sopalmbeachdst.com/spbcac/national-history/
Here are their names: (First Row): Winona Cargile Alexander, Madree Penn White, Wertie Blackwell Weaver, Vashti Turley Murphy, Ethel Cuff Black, Frederica Chase Dodd; (Second Row): Osceola Macarthy Adams, Pauline Oberdorfer Minor, Edna Brown Coleman, Edith Mott Young, Marguerite Young Alexander, Naomi Sewell Richardson, Eliza P. Shippen; (Third Row): Zephyr Chisom Carter, Myra Davis Hemmings, Mamie Reddy Rose, Bertha Pitts Campbell, Florence Letcher Toms, Olive Jones, Jessie McGuire Dent, Jimmie Bugg Middleton, Ethel Carr Watson.
Anyway, I have a point besides throwing a little perspective on some small specific ways the U.S. white women’s suffrage movement expressed white supremacy and racism. That point is that white women suffragists’ oppression by the police and state didn’t stop quite a few of them from being horrible racists. So let’s not forget that.
But my other point is that in the story telling and history making about Wells as hero we should not lose sight of the 22 young women from Howard who also marched, and Mary Church Terrell along with all the women from the National Association of Colored Women and their different delegations, who also marched.
People came from many countries to march in DC for women’s suffrage, and I don’t know the details there but it would be neat to find out more. I don’t like when a complicated story, even of one incident in one day a hundred years ago, is simplified beyond all possibility.
This week I read Elaine Brown’s autobiography, A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story. What an excellent read! It is very dramatic and full of situations that had me screaming with surprise or outrage or sadness, and sometimes with celebration of Brown’s fierceness or laughing with affection for her when she would start describing some guy’s cheekbones and you know she was about to fall into bed with him. A book that led me to look up many events and many different people and to line up more reading. I have so many questions! I’m not going to summarize the events though. I am in the middle of Revolutionary Suicide by Huey P. Newton now, enjoying it more than I thought I would based on how mad I got at him from Elaine Brown’s book. Also I have lined up Liberation, Imagination, and the Black Panther Party: A New Look at the Panthers and Their Legacy edited by Kathleen Cleaver and George Katsiaficas as well as Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson.
One thing that struck me was the moment when Brown describes her anger at Gwen Fontaine (who has just gotten married to Newton while they were in Cuba) and then how she sees Gwen suddenly as a sister, resolving to respect her mind and work. I noticed this alongside how she describes Kathleen Cleaver — never getting to that point of respecting anything about her but seeing her in that same way she saw Gwen, as a patsy or a sucker following her man and taking abuse unquestioningly. I had to roll my eyes since Brown also is in love with various men in the Party and takes abuse from them too. It just shouldn’t delegitimize any of the women’s work or their politics that they are in a relationship with … anyone. But I also got very curious about Kathleen Cleaver (because Brown disses her so badly – mostly by passing over her). Naturally as soon as I looked it was clear that Cleaver was super legit, was intensely politically active and known as an effective writer and great speaker. As Brown describes her she was just hanging out looking pretty, getting pregnant and smacked around by Eldridge. More than anything else this undermined my desire to trust Brown even halfway.
Now let’s not even go into the level of what the fuck, as Bobby Seale orders her to get actually whipped on her back in a basement of the party headquarters for not putting more of his articles into the newspaper. Seriously what the fuck, all around.
Another thing that left me with a million questions was the book’s ending. What about those other women from the Central Committee? What happened next? After they broke Regina Davis’ jaw in the name of party discipline. It is very ominous. When I look them up (only casually so far) they’re mostly mentioned in paraphrases from this very book. I want to know more about their work together.
And then even more questions about Elaine Brown’s amazing strategic politics in Oakland and plans with the mayor, governor (Jerry Brown) and others and her thoughts on what could happen if she and the Party controlled 10,000 jobs in downtown Oakland. And then the Port of Oakland itself and then having some momentum to get Jerry Brown the Democratic presidental nomination. Super fascinating! What if that had happened? An excellent alternate history to write. I can’t help but admire her grab for political power. Maybe her socialist approach to distributing those jobs would have worked a little better than whatever else was going on.
It took me a bit of background reading to wrap my mind around the split in the Black Panther Party(s) Between Huey P. Newton and Elaine Brown and their faction vs. Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver. OK so in a nutshell, Newton and Brown don’t like the “revolution right now” style talk of the Cleaver faction or at least of Eldridge himself. The Cleaver bunch were super pissed off that the Oakland BPP had turned reformist. Well, meanwhile Brown along with the women (and men) she appointed to powerful postions were gathering people and power, then Newton rolled back into town and fucked everything up with his macho trip and drug addiction. (& his support for patriarchal power in general despite what he writes… which I want to believe as I read it even now…) Brown accuses Newton of destroying the organization and trust that she built.
And, according to at least the beginning of Kathleen Cleaver’s book, the BPP basically ended in 71 before Brown even was leading. Now that’s a dismissal right back…. how harsh!
Everybody is complicated!
Anyway, Elaine Brown wrote a great book very useful for getting into the mind set of people forming and coming into the BPP but is somewhat unreliable as a narrator and since so many others involved wrote about it all, it’s good to read them too.
The bits of Cleaver’s work that I’ve read so far, she speaks to me pretty strongly,
In fact, according to a survey Bobby Seale did in 1969, two-thirds of the members of the Black Panther Party were women. I am sure you are wondering, why isn’t this the image that you have of the Black Panther Party? Well, ask yourself, where did the image of the Black Panthers that you have in your head come from? Did you read those articles planted by the FBI in the newspaper? Did you listen to the newscasters who announced what they decided was significant, usually, how many Panthers got arrested or killed? How many photographs of women Panthers have you seen? Think about this: how many newspaper photographers were women? How many newspaper editors were women? How many newscasters were women? How many television producers were women? How many magazine, book, newspaper publishers? Who was making the decisions about what information gets circulated, and when that decision gets made, who do you think they decide to present? Is it possible, and this is just a question, is it possible that the reality of what was actually going on day to day in the Black Panther Party was far less newsworthy, and provided no justification for the campaign of destruction that the intelligence agencies and the police were waging against us? Could it be that the images and stories of the Black Panthers that you’ve seen and heard were geared to something other than conveying what was actually going on?
Yes!!! That’s true of just about everything. You look beyond the surface and there are women doing the work (too) and the processes of history formation start to leave them out until there’s just a couple left and then maybe just one —
Meanwhile, thinking of this from an epigraph in Newton’s book —
Ho Chi Minh’s “Wordplay”:
A man, once freed from jail, will build his country.
Misfortune is the test of loyalty.
He earns great merit who feels great concern.
Unlock the cage – the true dragon will fly.
or translated another way,
People who come out of prison can build up a country.
Misfortune is a test of people’s fidelity.
Those who protest at injustice are people of true merit.
When the prison doors are opened, the real dragon will fly out.
Good to have a little grounding as #BlackLivesMatter protests continue and deepen. People try to watch the cops with cameras and report on them more closely, rejecting the bullet for the …. camera and I guess, the ballot. I don’t have any faith in either bullet or ballot. Our images and words will move people or at least speak to the future. This isn’t anyone’s first go-round and it won’t be the last and when it heats up the backlash is horrible. Though the horror is already unspeakable with our daily acceptance of our lives within the prison industrial complex — vile complicity.
Looking back over this weekend it seems so quiet and low-key yet packed full of action on another level. I stayed at home after a very active week.
Tuesday was our Double Union Tea and Lightning Talks at the Mozilla community room. Over 60 people showed up. We had about 10 talks. The food was all devoured (next time I know to ask for more of it.) People all seemed super happy to be there and I had a great time MC-ing with Amelia! Wednesday I took half the day off and road tripped with Len and Rose up to Novato to see our friend Ron from Ophoenix who I love and admire. He is cool, mathy, wise, funny, good hacker, and a great activist. Ron is one of the people I co-exist with on ambient IM. I likewhen people are kind and compassionate yet can have a sharp edge; we seem to share that. Driving to Novato for me and Len is actually a road trip since neither of us drive. We hung out and just rambled nerdily all afternoon long. It was fabulous! It was also the first time I’d met Len in person and I want to go hang out with him in Santa Cruz. Especially as he described how he bakes bread all the time.
Thursday I spent an intense evening at the Pioneer Awards with Danny. Still extremely sad about Aaron; it seems surreal that he is gone. (Whatever I feel is nothing to Taren’s and to Danny’s daughter who was close to Aaron for years; but I’m still really stunned.) I developed an instant activists’ crush on Laura Poitras for being the sort of modest documentarian and doing things that are of use. It was good to hear what she had to say and see her huge grin on the screen! I had a brief but good conversation with Jamie Love and I wonder if I can kick the WEEE repair manual access idea to them. I have so much admiration for what they did with WIPO! Hugged and talked with a lot of other people there who I really love to see and don’t get to see enough.
It feels like cheating my blog to sum up the week this way. But oddly… or not… I want to dwell on my more private, homebody, intellectual life.
Friday I came down with a cold, maybe not surprising after all that running around and working on top of it. I usually don’t leave the house two days in a row even to go up the street to the corner store.
So this weekend I nursed my cold, drank a bunch of nyquil and took naps, flung kleenexes around (till saturday afternoon when i cleaned up) but also did a lot of reading. I ripped through a few more books I’m reading for the 2011 Carl Brandon Awards (the award is a little bit behind and doing 2 years simultaneously to catch up.) It is a joy to be on book award reading juries, not just to have a giant stream of books coming at me, but to have so many *new* books I can recommend to people! And I can’t wait to have some discussions and hear what the other jurors think. All of which we will be doing scarily soon.
I also read Looking for Transwonderland by Noo Saro-Wiwa and enjoyed it, though I gave it the side eye a few times I am also a fan of order with liveliness, showers, reliable electricity, people not bugging me about religion, museums, ecology, and less corruption in government so I don’t have much of a place to eye from. I did a fair amount of looking things up on Wikipedia and found a good candidate for developing a new article — on the Esie soapstone sculptures. Here is a museum for the GLAM wikipedia project! The stuff about Susanne Wenger mystical white lady priestess of Oshun also sent me on a wide eyed rampage of horror and wonderment as I fell deeply down yet another internet rathole. O M G. Talked in the language of the trees, yeah…. ok….. Then to adopt 12 local kids and deliberately raise them illiterate? I can’t even!!!!!!
Meanwhile this was going down in our communities: https://twitter.com/ashedryden/status/381465338443202560 and that’s all I want to say about that in public though the private conversations have been going on all weekend. A whole bunch of us can’t talk about it, but had to at least mention it. Ashe wrote a good post: http://ashedryden.com/blog/we-deserve-better-than-this Yes. That is the place we are coming from. You know nothing, Jon Snow. http://twitter.com/shanley also laid down the knowledge and righteous anger.
Other things, I tended my little garden of potted plants, cooked chicken-corn-pasilla pepper soup and curtido, grocery shopped, spent most of Saturday and Sunday with my sister and her 6 year old son. Laura worked on fabrics for her NASA planetary map dresses. Jack played Plants vs. Zombies 2 and other games. We played King of the Beasts with him (a great quick card/board game) and later when Laura went to a meeting Jack and I played a longer cooperative board game called Castle Panic. He was the Master Slayer (fortunately). I read Danny’s emails and twitters from the xoxo conference in Portland and thought fondly of people there.
At some point late Saturday night I went searching for a quote I was thinking of earlier in the week, by June Arnold who has been on my mind lately because The Cook and the Carpenter is so relevant to my life what with the hackerspaces and all. Realized June Arnold does not have a Wikipedia page. Oh!!!!! Like a stab in the heart. Most feminist press stuff is just missing from there. This would be a nice thing I could do, gradually and I certainly have or can scare up some decent source material. I found the quote which is from the 2nd issue of Sinister Wisdom.
I think the novel — art, the presentation of women in purity (also I would include poetry, short stories) — will lead to, or is, revolution. I’m not talking about an alternate culture at all, where we leave the politics to the men. Women’s art is politics, the means to change women’s minds. And the women’s presses are not alternate either but are the mainstream and the thrust of the revolution. And there’s no tenure in the revolution.
That panel of her, Sandy Boucher, Susan Griffin, Melanie Kay and Judith McDaniel was pretty great. I read it over again and was especially happy just holding Melanie’s thoughts about Wittig, Russ, and Arnold in my mind. I realized I have not read Flying by Kate Millet and probably should. Well, I felt happy to connect a bit with this strain of thought. I thought Amelia and others would like the art is politics quote.
Today I read halfway through Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disabliity in American Culture and Literature by Rosemarie Garland Thomson. I got cold-emailed by Rosemarie a while back (I get awesome, awesome, emails at random, every week a few more, more than I can handle) and we finally met up at Noisebridge. I felt a weird Instant ability to partially mind meld, or, trust, or, as some people would put it boringly, I made a new friend! In like an hour hanging out we had gone pretty deep into hand waving and assuming the other person knew what we meant (and we did.) I am greatly enjoying the book. It is nicely built academic literary and cultural criticism, flows well.
Here are some bits I specially dog-eared: I did NOT know this about Aristotle. from Generation of Animals . . . “Anyone who does not take after his parents… is really in a way a monstrosity, since in these cases Nature has in a way strayed from the generic type. The first beginning of this deviation is when a female is formed instead of a male. ” Being born female is to be born disabled. “The female is as it were a deformed male…” Then on into stigma theory which we now less bludgeon-ish-ly refer to as being marked and unmarked. OK. Onwards.
Motherfucking Emerson. (I always like to think of earnest Louisa May Alcott characters falling in love over discussions of Emerson. ) Emerson goes on about conservatives and how they are “effeminated by nature, born halt and blind.” They are also like invalids. He lines up men (who are awesome and ethical citizens) opposed to children and disabled people (and women since I doubt he means “humans”) This sentence of Rosemarie’s wrapped it up nicely for me, “Emerson’s juxtaposition of an unrestricted cultural self with a muted other thwarted by physical limits exposes the problem of the body within the ideology of liberal individualism.” OK, maybe you had to be there. IT made me happy. I’m not typing out pages and pages of this and I want to press onwards. Deep into the next section I felt she was laying out out a lot of good knowledge about ways that racism and US-ian concepts of white and black (or non-white) are entangled with gender and disability. good stuff here.
Then like a full on body slam I hit the chapter “Benevolent Maternalism and the Disabled Woman in Stowe, Davis, and Phelps”. (Which god knows I will scavenge off Project Gutenberg and read this week, but I get the idea from her descriptions). Again blackness and disabilty and gender entwine. Check this out. Here is where I get my typing fingers out and smear on the arthritis knuckle cream.
As Stowe deplores slavery’s inhumane separation of families, as Davis reveals the iron mill’s callous victimization of workers, and as Phelps censures the textile industry’s abuse of mill girls, each writer highlights nondisabled heroines or narrators who prevail or even triumph. Their disabled sisters, however, stay on the narrative margins, degraded by oppressive institutions and ultimately sacrified to the social problems the novels assail. . . . While the various maternal benefactresses radiate a transcendent virtue, agency, and power, the disabled women become increasingly subjugated, despairing, and impotent.
Crushed by capitalism’s laissez-faire morality, Prue, Hagar, Deb, and Catty are icons of vulnerability who help generate a rhetoric of sympathy and scandal meant to propel readers from complacency to convictions. Despite their secondary or even minor parts in the actual narratives these disabled women fulfill major rhetorical roles by arousing the sympathetic indignation that activates benevolent maternalism. This impulse was the springboard from which white, middle class women could launch themselves into a prestigious, more influential public role that captured some of the elements of liberal selfhood. . . . . At the same time, however, these novels diminish the very figures for whom they plead by casting them outside the exclusive program of feminine liberal selfhood the narratives map. (emphasis mine)
I had to pause and let that resonate for a bit. Damn! SO TRUE. SO STILL TRUE. I mean in real life not in a novel.
Make me want to go read Arrogant Beggar by Anzia Yezierska all over again like a sort of brain-wash, just thinking what that mill girl novel is going to be like.
So, also, I spent some pleasant hours participating in CSAW Capture the Flag with Seattle Attic’s team. I would love to make it pan-feminist-hackerspace (as it more or less was with me and some others in it). It was super fun, I love puzzles, and felt stimulating! The team was 303rd out of 1300 entrants. Would do this again. I feel the impulse to go over all the puzzles to learn things.
I also fooled around putting the Hubble Deep Field onto online fabric designer stores (I am getting a swatch from Spoonflower and one from ArtofWhere, to compare) so that I can make space pillowcases for my friend Ron. (And maybe for me and everyone I know?) I did not color correct, figuring, try a swatch, if it is good enough, I don’t have to learn how. If it isn’t then it seems learnable. I would also like this nail polish as it is the best space toenail possibility I’ve seen yet!
Then I thought a little bit about RAID arrays and MPD and setting up a feminist media server and book scanner at the new hackerspace.
I thought of my friend Timmi and wished to convey all this to her and thought of writing her a giant letter but instead it is a blog post for anyone and everyone. I will write her a giant letter too at some other point.
I riffled through this feminist online library and thought about what I could do with a hopefully ethical as possible but not quite so limited by copyright law approach to documenting our history.
I had a nice conversation with Skud about Growstuff and development processes. Thought a bit about collective authorship, patterns and antipatterns. It would be neat to take Selena’s git story flash cards and make them into different orders for patterns and antipatterns like we were talking about.
I thought a bit more about sassaman but wanted to write this post instead of working on it.
Bedtime now! “There are some days when I think i’m going to die from an overdose of satisfaction.” Amelia mentioned this quote. We seem similar in temperament. I also write little quotes in the front of my notebooks! And I feel this way. Though I was unsettled, upset, in my usual level of pain (though, enbrel rush on Saturday, yay) and had a cold much of the weekend, I feel so grateful for my inner intellectual life and for all the fantastic people I have to talk with more or less any time. What amazing luck. Hypatia says it is funny that I describe mindfulness as “being smug”. I think of mindfullness as involving more meditation-like sitting still, which I’m incapable of without morphine. Some days I work, eat, clean up, hug everyone, read a little escapist fiction and go to bed. Those are good days even if I end up in tears (from pain usually). Danny and I have great conversations, I feel understood and he always has some new thought or source of interesting knowledge like a fabulous fountain of ideas. More than half of my days I think are like this last week and weekend, flitting from idea to idea, happy to be a dilettante, so happy to read quickly, and sure from past experience that my efforts will combine to make something good, a book, a group, a conversation or a chain of ideas that people remember and value, so that I feel like my time and effort doesn’t just slip away. (At best I accept and believe this; at worst I beat myself up for not being productive enough.)
I hug you all and leave you with this calming manatee. We can’t fix things quickly. What we have done and built, especially our friendships, social ties, and institutions, stand and have affected things. What we’re going to do will make change as well. It is happening, trust it and be comforted.
People ask me all the time what they can do to help change our culture. How to get more women in F/LOSS, in tech, get more women coding and working with us? I have a suggestion! Please donate to The Ada Initiative! I realy believe that it’s helping, and wil continue to help!
Earlier this summer I had an amazing experience at AdaCamp in San Francisco. The Melbourne and DC AdaCamps bore fruit too, as they connected so many women in open tech and culture with the communities I’m already part of, and made us visible to each other.
The synergy from the feminist hackerspace discussions at AdaCamp SF led to the first meeting for a new feminist hacker and maker space in San Francisco. After a whole weekend of talking at AdaCamp, it was like we couldn’t stop! I ended up with a dozen or so fierce activist women in my living room describing their vision for how we could make actual physical room for our projects and ourselves, a space we would invent, define, and maintain. It was really a dream come true.
As an long-time feminist activist, I have felt tremendous relief from the amount of peer support I’ve gained from working with The Ada Initiative. The people who are part of TAI have a tremendously sophisticated view of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, and what we need to make it happen. I deeply appreciate the professional commitment of everyone at TAI and everyone I met at AdaCamp! That’s part of why I’m posting to ask you to donate. It’s important to make support for women in free and open source tech and culture truly part of our infrastructure. We can do that by funding that work! Here’s some ways to donate!
The Brennan Center just published a huge report, Voting Law Changes in 2012. The description of the report says that these laws will affect disabled people as well as young, minority, and low-income voters. Here is the lowdown on how these laws may affect people with disabilities.
Seven states have changed the law on voter registration and on absentee ballots to require government-issued photo ID. If you’re disabled, and you don’t have a current state or federal government issued photo ID, you may need to do quite a lot of planning to get one. Transportation, and the process itself of waiting in lines and going to various offices may be a barrier for many people.
If you have an elderly relative whose ID may be expired or who may not have a photo ID, and you’re in one of these states, you might want to help them prepare to vote. Let them know the law has changed and ask them to check their ID expiration dates now!
Unexpired driver’s license, non-driver’s ID issued by a motor vehicle department, U.S. passport, or U.S. military photo ID will be accepted by all seven states: Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Student IDs: Alabama, Kansas, and Rhode Island.
U.S. naturalization documents bearing a photo: Alabama, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Tribal ID card with a photo: Alabama and Wisconsin.
Concealed handgun licenses: Kansas and Texas. (Okay….)
Any old ID with your name and photo on it: Rhode Island. Woo hoo, print your own!
Here’s an excerpt from the Voting Law Changes in 2012 report that describes the situation in detail:
In general, the photo ID bills that were introduced this session are more restrictive than those in prior sessions, including fewer forms of acceptable IDs, fewer exemptions, or fewer alternative mechanisms for eligible voters without the specified IDs to vote.
Those laws that have passed this session vary in several respects, including: (1) the types of photo ID that voters are permitted to show for voting; (2) whether the requirement to provide ID applies only to in-person voters or to those who vote by mail as well; (3) whether there are any exemptions from the requirement to provide ID; and, most importantly, (4) whether there is an alternative way for a voter who does not have an accepted form of photo ID to cast a ballot that counts. Detailed descriptions of each bill are included in the appendix to this report.
The types of ID permitted
With the exception of Rhode Island, each of the states that passed voter ID bills require voters to show government-issued photo IDs, though the list of acceptable IDs differs from state to state. All seven states accept an unexpired driver’s license, non-driver’s ID issued by a motor vehicle department, U.S. passport, or U.S. military photo ID. All states except for Kansas and South Carolina also accept U.S. naturalization documents bearing a photo. Alabama, Rhode Island, and Tennessee broadly accept any photo ID issued by state and federal governments, though Tennessee expressly excludes student IDs from consideration. Only Alabama, Kansas, and Rhode Island accept student photo IDs issued by state institutions of higher education. Wisconsin purports to accept certain state-issued student IDs, but the state’s new law imposes criteria for such IDs that few if any state schools’ IDs meet. Kansas and Texas expressly allow concealed handgun licenses, and Alabama, Rhode Island and Tennessee accept such IDs as well. Only Alabama and Wisconsin accept a tribal ID card with a photo. Rhode Island is the only state that accepts non-governmental photo IDs for voting; indeed, any current ID with a voter’s name and photograph suffices.
Who must show photo ID
All seven states require individuals appearing to vote in person at a polling place to show photo ID. Only Alabama and Kansas require all persons who vote absentee to submit a copy of their photo IDs with their mail-in ballots. Those states are now the first two states in the nation ever to require photo ID with absentee ballots. Wisconsin requires permanent absentee voters to submit a copy of their photo IDs, but only the first time they vote absentee. As a practical matter, all absentee voters in Wisconsin will have to provide a copy of their photo IDs when the law first goes into full effect in 2012.
Several states exclude certain categories of voters from the requirement to show photo ID for voting. Alabama exempts individuals who are entitled to vote absentee under federal laws protecting certain military and overseas voters and certain elderly and disabled voters. Wisconsin also exempts military and overseas voters, as well as voters designated as “confidential,” such as police officers or domestic violence victims. It does not exempt elderly or disabled voters other than those indefinitely confined to certain care facilities. Tennessee exempts voters who are either hospitalized or in nursing homes. Texas exempts certain voters with disabilities who can produce a statement that they have been determined to be disabled by specified government agencies and do not have the required ID. And Kansas exempts only permanently disabled and absent military voters from its law, but allows persons over sixty-five to show expired photo IDs.
I’m not in any of those states but thought I’d help get the word out.
Thursday, Dec. 16th, I’m going to be on a radio show on Feminism Online, hosted by Ananda Leeke as part of her month long Digital Sisterhood project. The show will air on Dec. 16, Digital Sisterhood Radio, from 9:00 pm EST to 10:00 pm EST on Talkshoe.com: http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/42015.
Eight amazing fierce feminist panelists have confirmed their participation. They include:
8) Brandann Ouyang Dan, Native American blogger, invisibly disabled, U.S. Navy Veteran, social justice activist, and contributing writer for FWD, Feminist with Disabilities – http://disabledfeminists.com.
Thank you all for your contributions! All through October, they buoyed me up and gave me food for thought. I felt intense pride to be part of this very loosely knit online community of thinkers and writers.
Wheelchair Dancer contributed two posts. In Becoming Disabled On the Job she writes about how even in a supportive workplace there were many obstacles to overcome as her physical capabilities changed over several years.
Ultimately, I was successful at my job; I wrote my heart out, presented, won awards, grants, and funding; I got myself published. Technically, however, I didn’t get my work done on schedule; in fact, it took me approximately two extra years to approximate a body of work like the ones that my peers had on their resumes. I felt like that broken and imposter racehorse, uselessly gimping around behind its pure blood, beautiful, swift sisters.
Her other post, Disability at Work, focuses on her current job as a dancer, where she is not the only person with a disability! “You know that disability is an important factor in your work environment when . . . ” Ha! I love it! I’m printing out her 10 reasons why list and putting it up at my office!
Sophia from ‘sprokenword has an otherwise excellent post which does contain some hatred expressed towards people riding airport motor transport carts who are fat. If you can read around that or bracket it, read on because the post explores some other important issues. In Disability Employment Awareness Month, Sophia describes her job working for a non-profit open source software company while dealing with gait problems, chronic pain, trouble standing, and difficulty walking. Her situation requires quite a lot of travel. I enjoyed this post and have a lot of respect for the difficulties of travel and Sophia’s determination to do it. Sophia’s post and Wheelchair Dancer’s first post spoke to many of the issues that people with disabilities and chronic pain face in professional careers.
Alison Bergblom Johnson, from the blog Writing Mental Illness, posted about poetry as work. Anne Sexton: Patient or Poet. Anne Sexton was a brilliant and hard working poet. She won many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. But in the psychiatric professions she is a patient and her work is considered as pathology – as evidence of her illness.
Deborah Kaplan wants to recognize the ways that her job is awesome in working while disabled: it’s really just fine. “I could do most of those infamous “activities of daily living” without help if I had too (since I don’t think that Congress defines “open-source coding and checking my feeds” as an activity of daily living). But without adaptive technology, I would not have been able to hold a job for the last 10 years, full stop.” Her co-workers and employers are supportive. She has some complicated stuff to say about the tradeoff between working through pain and difficulty vs. taking time off and trying to heal and avoid stress. In all that complexity, though, her day to day experience of work is “pretty damn good”.
Tlönista’s post Work/Ability writees about some of the negative aspects of her experiences working and being a mentally ill person. She wonders how much longer she can go on. “Don’t think about the long term, don’t think about the future, treat your life like a sub-prime loan. For now I am a “good” mentally ill person. Not a menace, not a burden. I am functional. I’m so tired.”
Sashafeather’s post, “Disability and Work: What I do” centers on Ursula K. Le Guin’s science fiction book about an anarchist planet, The Dispossessed, where the word for work is the same as the word for play. Sashafeather describes work/play as “what occupies a person’s time, and what one does with the people in one’s community”. She does emotional work, self care and pain management, volunteer work for the WisCon feminist science fiction convention, and disability/anti-oppression activism. She moderates several online communities and does creative work in media fandom.
Her post made me think about self-care and pain management as an important part of community work. It’s something I have to remind myself of: If I don’t deal with my physical pain levels, I will be less useful to the people around me and my community. You might think the motivation of “not being in so much pain” would be enough. Often it’s not.
And she moves into very interesting territory in writing about work, disability, and feminism:
I have personally benefitted from the feminist idea of work being a socially constructed idea, and “women’s work” such as housework, childcare, and care of the elderly and ill being often unpaid or underpaid and devalued by society. The reason women are paid less than men is because women’s work is undervalued. Women often provide emotional support for others, they build friendships, they build communities, they build homes. All of this takes time and effort.
The categories of women and disabled people intersect hugely. The work of disabled people is also devalued, and disabled people face huge barriers such as pain, exhaustion, mobility and cognitive impairments, communication differences, discrimination in the work place and the wider world, and a lack of basic access to buildings, services, and transportation.
Eva from The Deal with Disability wrote and posted a video of herself at her dogwalking job. Sometimes accessibility is more than meets the eye. She posts flyers for her business at veterinarians’ offices and was showing how though she found out she couldn’t get into the office there, the staff’s attitude was polite and helpful. Eva goes on to point out factors other than steps or ramps that affect accessibility.
The spaces in my résumé by codeman38 talks about some of the practical difficulties in getting a job by traditional means. Interviews, transport, and phone calls are not completely impossible for him as an autistic person but they are definitely obstacles. He finds jobs through friends and family.
Tera from Sweet Perdition writes about her job at a local game store: I am Lord Voldemort. She works for store credit at a job that her college professors would consider below her capacity – but she loves her work and their appreciation of her.
Sometimes you think about getting a proper job, one that pays you money or, at the very least, requires you to leave the house, but you don’t want one. You realize that you don’t really want a lot of things that you’ve grown up hearing independent adults must have . . . But all this guilt is just society’s poison coursing through your brain; it isn’t you. The things you want–really want, not just think you should want in order to be a real person–are not the things your culture wants for you. Popular culture doesn’t have many models for the kind of person you are.
I posted on BlogHer.com on Working Women With Disabilities. I was feeling exhausted and disheartened, and wanted to see other people’s thoughts on working and being disabled. My own thoughts on the subject are going to take me a while to put together. When I post about my personal experiences with losing jobs, struggling to get SSI, working part time, passing as able, going back to school, and access issues on the job now that I’m working again. I’ll link to it from the comments on this post.
Wheelie Catholic posted many times in October with Disability Awareness Month in mind. Her posts are great!
[ETA: warning on fat hatred on a link.] [ETA again: I phrased that badly and i think misinterpreted sophia’s words to be about scooter users. By carts she meant people who are riding the electric carts that airport employees drive around to pick people up. See comments on this post for my thoughts. – Liz 10/28/09]
Thank you all again for clueing me in to your amazing writing. And thanks for reading!
Please stay tuned to FWD/Forward for the next Disability Blog Carnival call for contributions for Carnival #60!
This weekend I went right from the Blogalicious conference in Atlanta to the end of a march and start of a rally that kicked off a week of activism by ADAPT.
Their goals are, free people from being incarcerated in nursing homes, and kept in there against their will. They back the Money Follows the Person program, which means a person’s benefits are under their control rather than under the control of doctors, social workers, and assisted living facilities (who are a powerful medical-industrial complex much like the prison-industrial complex: powerful lobbyists with a lot of money at stake.) Right now ADAPT also supports the Community Choice Act, a bill which you can see and follow directly with OpenCongress.org.
I hopped out of a taxi with two backpacks hanging off the back of my wheelchair, tired enough to cry but feeling jet setty, determined and super excited, as if going to the crip activist prom. As I rolled up an exhausting hill to the Martin Luther King historic site and rose garden. Hundreds and hundreds of disabled people and others were there. There were some songs and short speeches. There seemed to be three or four main organizer dudes, 70s looking older white guys. I gradually realized everyone was in groups based on the color of their tshirts.
I have not been involved on any level other than donating money to ADAPT and though I write about disability online a lot I don’t get to hang out with anyone really and I miss that enormously and need some solidarity. So I was so grateful just to be there for a while with everyone. I wanted to stay and support the goals of the organization to get government officials to change policies, get people out of forced institutional living, and embody our political power with direct action.
But I’m also going to frankly tell the story of my afternoon and my thoughts.
First, here is an ADAPT logo and a link to their donation page.
Here’s a short speech by Lois who says “Free our brothers and sisters, free our people.”
I enjoyed the small bits of chanting we did. How do you spell power? A-D-A-P-T! However I have been in enough rallies in life that I never want to yell “The People united will never be defeated” again. Did it anyway in the heat of the moment. But I draw the line at “Hey Hey Ho Ho.” A person has to have some boundaries. Hah!
Andrew Jones speaks about getting out of an institution with the MFP program which has now been denied funding. I missed videoing the second bit of his talk, which was fantastic (my camera ran out of batteries just then.)
Later that afternoon I went to shake Andrew’s hand and tell him I’d upload the video of part of his speech, and he raffishly explained to me that I was a rather attractive and curvaceous young lady. Thanks, Andrew, but LOL that was some quick work, how about making friends first, also, actually I am 40 and prideful of my mature charms and middle aged wisdom. You are certainly silver tongued though and should get on email. It would work for you.
Thank you ASL interpreters. Y’all worked so hard. And thanks ADAPT for structuring that constant side by side translation.
So then, there was a sort of extra staged bit which I had mixed feelings about, keep in mind I am a total outsider to ADAPT so take it all with a grain of salt. Delores Bates and Kathy and Bodie came up to the front of the rally and did not speak but the main organizer guy told Delores’ story of being in an institution for “seizures” for the last 43 years. She just got out, I guess with ADAPT’s help, this September, to live in her own place. IT was her 57th birthday on the day of the rally and they presented her with a birthday cake and a giant card with lots of signatures. We all sang her Happy Birthday. It was her first birthday on the outside in 43 years.
So, okay, I cried like a baby, but I also was like “So, fucking give her a piece of her own cake then? Also, what she have to say about it if anything?” And felt it was a bit stagey and poster-childy. I talked with Delores a bit afterwards and asked her if I could take a picture, she smiled and nodded and I showed her the photos in my camera for a bit. I wished she could talk with me. Thank you Delores for contributing your story and your birthday moment to ADAPT and all of us in the crowd. Congratulations on getting out.
I wondered what happened next and I imagined again her having email and showing her Eva’s The Deal with Disability blog entries so she could totally crack up laughing. And that she could have a Facebook page and people could donate directly to her if they wanted and if they cried while singing her Happy Birthday rather than it being sort of showcase for ADAPT, though I also felt like ADAPT probably does right by her and she might be happy to donate that publicity about her life for the good of others. Basically I had my little social media empowerment fantasies and started making real life plots to go to nursing homes in my area and implement my idea to get them online with wireless and take it from there. More about this later on Hack Ability.
Here are some scenes of the people and the crowd.
I saw my friend Bethany and was very excited! We were on a panel together at the Sex:Tech conference. Then wandering around for a while I introduced myself to some women named Naomi and Joanne. They were very persuasive trying to get me to stay. I thought about calling work and begging for time off without pay, and trying to find child care, and seeing if I could change my plane ticket instead of leaving that night. Would it be possible? I considered just “accidentally” missing my plane and finding a place to stay overnight. But I’d have to accomplish all that in something like 2 hours and I didn’t want to let my employers down or my family. If only I had planned to stay.
Then people took off up the big ramp out of the park and up another hill to Park Manor nursing home, right next to the Rose Garden. I asked a guy to hold my hand and pull me up the hill. (Thanks!) We all marched and rolled past and waved. The Older People for Community Choice stayed outside the windows with a big banner, waving, till the end of the parade.
Now here is the “Stay on the Sidewalk” bit, where I rant at length!
As I rolled down hill at the tail end of the march I made friends with a guy named Tali and soon we were deep in discussion about disability rights politics. Over the next few blocks we kept getting yelled at to get into single file. The march went on and on and Tali started to give me a lift – I hung onto the side of his power chair so he could pull me (and my giant backpack) up the hills (which no one who isn’t in a manual chair would even think of as “hills”). We were all in the middle of the right lane of the road. Basically I don’t react well to senseless orders and I’m proud of my capability to land in a strange city and get around. Also, i know how to cross the street but at every intersection another person usually one on 2 legs was screaming at me through a megaphone to keep up. This one older lady behind us in a power chair was very, very upset that Tali and I were not following the rules. I was half a lane away from the part of the street that was open to traffic and at no time was in any danger. What I think happened was a vicious cycle of this lady’s instant judgement of me as a spoiled bratty child of privilege who needed to be controlled. And this kicked in all her officiousness, which in turn pushed my buttons big time so I refused to do what she said. As disabled people (or people in general) we are not served well by doing what we’re told without using our own judgement. By the end of the march I was not only so mad I could spit, I was ready to go get hit by a car just out of spite. If not rolling up huge, horrible hills, being yelled at every inch while I was deep in talk with Tali, I would have liked to have a good heart to heart talk with that lady about authority, privilege, hierarchies, rules, race, disability, internalized oppression, and so on, and I mean that sincerely. Instead I lost my temper and just kept yelling No, leave me alone. The worst moment was when she decided I was too far back at the end of the line of the parade and she started yelling for someone to come and push me. “We’ve got a manual wheelchair here who needs a pusher” And that sent me over the edge of rage to be referred to like that. I also fight very hard to be independent in big and small ways. So it pisses me off that someone else thinks they get to decide when I need “help” which in this case would not have been help. Tali and I were cussing everyone out loudly and yelling No sorry don’t need help we’re anarchists. I also had some commentary from walking organizers in orange shirts about “how well I was doing”… thanks but shut up, that was a patronizing and unnecessary thing to say.
The thing is, i’ve been an activist and organizer for years and I know how to organize a march or parade, I know you have to get permits for it and work with the city and the police, I know how to block traffic as safely as possible, and I’ve been to many rallies where there are guys barking orders through megaphones at people who don’t need to be ordered around at that moment, because they panic a little at being responsible and in a position of authority, and so they have to go around displaying it, because they’re worried and need the feedback and reassurance that their authority is *working*. I would like to tell those guys to take a chill pill. Unless it is an actual crisis situation, you are not helping, you are just training people not to think for themselves, and causing a reaction of confusion and resentment. And in an actual crisis situation, it may very well NOT BE YOU with the megaphone and orange vest who keeps a cool head and exhibits leadership. To be overly generous, there is the opposite kind of asshole in rallies with a black bandana who is just there to fuck shit up and set a newspaper vending machine on fire and they can also kiss my ass. And I’m not that kind of asshole, i’m the *journalist kind of asshole* and also one of those rogue computer people. In any situation I look to whoever is sane and making sense and being effective. If the most sensible person there is me, then I lead. In a situation where I have information that shows that it is best for another person to lead and coordinate and there are rules that make sense, then it is best for me to go with that. That, for people fighting for “empowerment” should not be hard to understand.
Here’s how I felt about it at the time and Tali too….
Tali especially since he was put into a different “color group” as Bethany who he had specifically come there to meet as his one friend at the march and then a bunch of organizers wouldn’t “let” him sit with her since he had the wrong color tshirt on or something. Um. !!?? What possible purpose could this serve. We were told over and over again that people were trying to PROTECT US. What’s wrong with that statement should be a bit obvious.
Now if it is directly going to contribute to saving someone’s live or helping us not be harmed in some way I can shut up about my personal dislike of orders and my special snowflake self and rights, and be dutiful for common good, but this was NOT THAT MOMENT.
Near the end of the march back I ran into my blog friend PhilosopherCrip,
I adore him!
We spoke super briefly and he sized up my state of mind and I think, in a post later, actually partly answered it by explaining ADAPT’s organizational philosophy and how it goes into military organization mode during Actions.
Now, when folks refer to ADAPT as the “militant” wing of the disability rights movement, they are more accurate than they may realize. To some degree, ADAPT’s organizational structure is a representative democracy as actions are being deliberated and planned. However, when the wheelchair tire rubber meets the road, we turn into a highly authoritarian, quasi-militaristic structure, complete with chain of command and an expectation to follow orders exactly. This has all been a matter of reflection for me (particularly how trust relationships operate within a direct action activism structure), some of which will hopefully find its way into a future blog entry.
I appreciate that explanation very much and it goes a fairly long way to quench my irritation. However I have a meta irritation which is that a lot of the people at the rally might not have the luxury of being irritated or going off like I could to do their own thing. There was not good information passed out to people. A lot of people don’t have independent means as far as money. The pace of activities was brutally fast. I was increaasingly conscious of my own extreme privilege relative to others there. I could at any point just call a taxi and go wherever I damn pleased. So I could criticize the leadership all I wanted. That is not a good feeling, it’s not right or fair, and to me is a sign something is not right in a power structure. I was like, damn, I’m even more happy for my job because it means i’m not subject to being grateful to these officious do gooders to boss me around while they’re “helping me” “for my own protection”.
When I’m getting arrested or facing some pepper spray then I appreciate organization but being “protected” from the simple act of wheeling down the street next to my friend … no thanks.
As an amateur leader myself in some situations I would advise other “organizers” to cope with loose cannons like me by valuing their capabilities and not trying too hard to rule over them in the small stuff. It backfires. Just let them do their thing and then when the time is ripe, co-opt them. (LOL AGAIN) (I say this mostly to make Joe/PhilosopherCrip crack up laughing)
And as I bitched about this to my friends a lot of them said “Yeah, that’s why I don’t really hang with ADAPT, that stuff turns me off.”
That is too bad and it’s feedback that should not be dismissed.
On another level of meta I would question whether the organization has a fair amount of military veterans in it who perpetuate their drill sergeant style and somewhat out of date organizational tactics. We should be empowering each other with information and two way access to public discourse in ALL WAYS so that we can act collectively in a swarm-like fashion. What y’all need is flash mobs, not paramilitary squads and cells.
I really do respect all that ADAPT has achieved and does!!!!
But check what you’re doing and listen up. Many aspects of the rally and march reminded me of my dealings in the Houston Astrodome during Katrina with the Red Cross officials vs. the rogue anarchist computer people. And I want to tell you that what on some level what got people the hell out of that refugee camp was information and connectivity: phones and email, myspace and facebook and search engines and the web. Not Professional Organizers and charity and hierarchical leadership that hugs information and power tight to its chest. A flow of information means that people can make decisions and act together. You all need some wing of your organization that works to those ends too.
Anyway, at the hotel, I actually used my privilege to take our asses to the hotel bar and have a much needed beer and sandwich in the 20 minutes before I had to catch a taxi and plane out of town. The bar waitress was SO nice and saw I was looking for a power outlet to plug in my laptop, and she brought me my sandwich to go so I could eat some of it and take the rest. She was completely unfazed by our wheelchairs. Omni Hotel, you rock. Bethany and Sara and Tali it was the highlight of my trip to get to hang out with you.
So I flew off literally sobbing with my desire to stay there and be in the week’s actions despite my rant about power structures and being yelled at, so ready to go for it.
Would anyone out there like to match my donation? Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment here.
The next day I woke up at 5am and began following what was happening in Atlanta. All day throughout work I could not stop thinking of all of y’all in Atlanta, cheering you on over Twitter, I worked to post and tag all my photos and videos as fast as possible as the only contribution I could make remotely.
What you all achieved and are doing today is so beautiful. Congratulations on getting into the Governor’s office, HUD and HHS and making top officials agree to meet right then and there and begin negotiations. So smart and so effective. You got a response and got the politicians to listen and take our power seriously. YEAH. (And direct action and the threat of an endless sit in or hundreds of us dragged out in handcuffs, ie, PR disaster, IS WHAT IT TAKES. RIGHT ON.) Good job with the talk of timelines and scheduling a series of committee meetings. Please, report on this in as much detail as you can on the net. And to report on it ASAP so we know what’s going down. A lot of us are watching and putting our trust in you right now to represent our interests.
Thanks for listening. Also, thanks to Nick Dupree for letting me know about the rally and actions in the first place (last week on his blog). Now, anyone who read this who can afford it go and donate. Consider trying to get your employers or family or friends to donate as well. And, go read up on the other posts in Nick Dupree’s ADAPT Blogswarm !
Flying while disabled often tries my patience. Today’s experience on Delta was actually decent. I’m so surprised. Though I missed my flight the ticket agents got me on another one a few hours later. The guy in the pink tie was especially nice. At the gate, no one hassled me, but one of the agents came out, crouched down next to my wheelchair at my level, and discreetly talked to me in a way that was just like two human beings talking. That’s rare. She asked about an aisle chair, if I needed anything, if I wanted to board first, and gave me a gate tag, without lecturing me what was going to happen and what I did wrong or acting freaked out or being condescending or hostile. Nobody talked about me in front of me like I wasn’t there. No one grabbed or pushed me. Yay!
I noticed the people working for the airline were mostly dressed in jeans and tshirts and sweaters, which I also kind of appreciated and which maybe contributed to their acting decent.
I got on the plane, one of the agents carried my bag on, and no one fussed or acted like I had two heads. (If you actually do have two heads, I apologize for my mono-headular-centric language…)
They also put me 2 rows from the plane entrance and bathroom. There is wifi on the plane (though it’s only free the first flight.)
Thanks for not sucking. Meanwhile, I got some work done with the free wi-fi, and I’m excited about being in Atlanta for Blogalicious Weekend, for women bloggers celebrating their diversity and so on (representing BlogHer, where I work as a web producer and developer). I’m also really excited that I’m going to get to participate in some of ADAPT’s actions on Sunday and for that I’ll be participating in Nick Dupree’s ADAPT Blogswarm and will, I hope, interview some folks about the Community Choice Act to end institutionalization for people with disabilities.