BYP100 DC

What to do if white supremacists hold a rally in your hood

By Jordan DeLoach, Darya Nicol and Samantha Master

 

Black people: we love and we see you.

Black organizers and our accomplices are fighting back against the white supremacist, pro-fascist “alt-right, ” including those who descended on Charlottesville, VA this past weekend. Their intent was to violently intimidate those seeking to tear down, once and for all, the state’s monuments to the old (and defeated) Confederacy and white supremacy. In the aftermath of white nationalists’ state-sanctioned intimidation tactics, Heather Heyer is dead and dozens of Charlottesville residents and anti-fascists are injured.

This ain’t new. White supremacists have been publically provoking violence against Black people since we’ve been here. But we have a right to fight back.

As we rise up, like the people of Charlottesville, to fight for our freedom, we must prepare ourselves to confront the rising threat of neo-Nazism and neo-confederates. We must remember: the goal of any counteraction is still to build Black power long-term. The fight doesn’t stop in the fightback. We must keep going ‘til we all get free.

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Image from the BYP100 New Orleans chapter’s June 2015 letter to the mayor to fight for Black lives.

If white supremacists are planning a rally in your area, organizing a counteraction like the anti-racist and anti-fascist demonstration protesters in Charlottesville put on can be a powerful way to stand against racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia. Below, we’ve listed a few direct action tips you can consider if you learn that a white supremacist rally is coming to your town and you want to do something about it.

1. Get a little help from your friends. Once you hear that a white supremacist rally is in the works, reach out to like-minded friends to provide one another with emotional support and to imagine what expressing resistance towards the rally could look like to y’all. Reach out to local anti-oppression organizations and coalitions to see if they’re planning anything and to learn how you can get plugged in. For more information on what it’s like to participate in a direct action, the Direct Action Survival Guide zine by Sprout Distro is a good crash-course!

2. Know the risks. Counteractions are incredibly powerful tools in the fight against white supremacy, and fighting for what’s right involves risk by nature. Some risks are unavoidable, but some risks can be mitigated with careful planning. It’s crucial for you and your team to do risk assessments before, during, and after your counteraction to keep yourselves as safe as possible. White supremacists often stage these events to instigate and engage in violence and intimidation; and, police brutality and intimidation targeted at anti-racist and anti-fascist protestors is common. This risk is higher for protesters who are Black, brown, queer, trans, and/or gender nonconforming. Know what risks each member of your team is comfortable with and develop your counteraction plan accordingly. The website Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution has a good overview on developing a risk assessment for an action here.

3. Know your rights (and don’t forget the risks). Counterprotesting can sometimes put you at risk of being arrested. Because police can act as a tool for racism, homophobia, and transphobia, this risk is greater for people who are Black, brown, queer, trans, and/or gender nonconforming. It’s necessary for you to know your rights when interacting with police; and, since police officers often disregard protesters’ rights, you must understand the weight of the risk involved. The National Center on Transgender Equality has an incredible guide titled Participating in Direct Actions: A Guide for Transgender People (available in English and Spanish) that describes relevant rights and risks for trans people. It’s also a great resource for anyone interested in counterprotest.

BYP 100 DC

BYP100 DC activists at the #StopFOP action in July 2016, to protest a Fraternal Order of Police conference in Baltimore (photo from BYP100)

4. How will you take it to the press? Look into developing a media strategy with local organizations and coalitions involved in the counterprotest. White supremacists are notorious for minimizing the violence they inflict, scapegoating, and telling “alternative facts.”  A strong media strategy can help uplift the narratives of the people targeted by white supremacist violence and can strengthen the impact of your counteraction.

5. Squad up. Use a buddy system with your crew at the counteraction to ensure that no one is left alone. Before the counteraction, your team should think about what roles people on the team should play during the event. Will you need someone with first aid skills? Someone familiar with the law? Someone to talk to the media?

BYP 100 Chicago

Image from BYP100’s action protesting the Chicago Police Department in August 2016 (Image courtesy of labornotes.org)

6. Record everything (within reason). Getting video footage of the counteraction (especially of interactions with white supremacist protesters and police) can provide an important historical record of events. Recording during an action can also be protective. However, some counterprotesters may not want to be filmed, filming can distract you from your surroundings, and, sometimes, openly recording police officers and white supremacists acting a fool can agitate them, which could put you at greater risk for more harassment and brutality. It’s a balance, and careful planning can help you and your crew determine the best way to use this tool for your counteraction.

7. Take it to social media. Speaking of recording, Periscope the counterprotest. Start a thread about it on Twitter to share a first-hand account. Use hashtags on all your social media posts to track their reach. You and your crew should develop a social media strategy before the counteraction to determine the most effective way to uplift your message.

8. Security, security! Maintaining security over sensitive information is essential when coordinating a counterprotest. Consider what kinds of communication should occur in person or over encrypted message.

BYP100

BYP100 activists and accomplices at the Decriminalizing Black action protesting the CPD (photo taken by Kelly Hayes on August 26, 2014)

There are ways to help a counteraction without being present at the action, too. Many roles are needed for effective and safe counteractions and that includes remote roles. If you don’t feel comfortable being at the action in person (or if you’re unable to attend), you can connect with local coalitions and organizations to see what resources they need and to learn how you can support. Counterprotesters might need remote help with circulating information on social media, fundraising, preparing food, making flyers or banners, and more.

If you learn that a white supremacist rally is happening outside of your area and you want to help, reach out to relevant coalitions and organizations in the town to see if they are planning to respond to the action and ask them what resources they need. Do your best to review and share reliable primary accounts of the counteraction (like tweets, posts, articles, and news stories from the folks on the ground).

BYP100 DC

BYP100 DC activists at the #StopFOP action in July 2016, to protest the FOP conference in Baltimore (photo from BYP100)

White supremacy is terrifying, but it is not unfamiliar. As Black people, we must continually mobilize the legacies of the deceased and join with the realities of the living to counter such terrorism. America has never been a safe space for us, but we can always find refuge in one another.

To truly be free, we must continue to strive toward our liberation. What does it look like? What does it sound like? What does it feel like? None of this can be answered by ourselves, so we do this in collaboration and community.

Processing these events and putting our bodies on the line for the liberation we believe can take its toll. This is why it is vital to practice self care. To learn some ways on how to practice healing, check out MelaNation issue 2’s section on healing, starting on page 29. Remember that there is freedom in self care and healing, and always know that we’re here with you. Together we’ll forge a path.

 

BYP 100

BYP100 activists at an action. (photo from BYP100)

 

It is our duty to fight for our freedom,

It is our duty to win,

We must love and protect one another,

We have nothing to lose but our chains.

– variation of a passage by Assata Shakur

 

This article is cross-posted in partnership with MelaNation and BYP100

‘Detroit’ and 10 other films about race that completely fail by centering the white gaze

By Law Ware

It should have worked.

In theory, a film about a city on edge that erupts into violence because of police brutality should inspire conversations and think pieces about how little things have changed in the 50 years since the incident being represented.

We could be discussing how the film shows the historical seeds of contemporary Detroit’s faltering public school system and city infrastructure. We should be discussing black victims of police violence. Instead, we have a film that caters to white viewers while it treats black pain as if it were torture porn, which some are calling the most irresponsible and dangerous movie of the year.

Nah, son.

We can’t talk about Black Greek hazing without talking about slavery

By George Johnson

It’s been a few months since Netflix aired the controversial movie Burning Sands, written and directed by Omega Psi Phi member Gerard McMurray about the underground pledge process of Black Greek Letter Organizations (BLGOs). The violence displayed in the movie was at times over-the-top and in many scenes hard to watch, as a narrow lens focused on some of the worst parts of our illustrious Divine Nine organizations, erasing any hope of full context and comprehension around the needed discussion around hazing.

On being left for white men

By Myles E. Johnson

“What man wants to lay down and watch the world burn in his bedroom?” – Warsan Shire

Often I gaze at myself in the mirror to ensure that I am present, that I recognize the face looking back at me, that I haven’t acquired any new scars, and my face hasn’t gotten any wider. I feel at risk of being a ghost, working and yelling while believing I am resisting, when I am just haunting.

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Reflections on my thirty-four years as a Black man with mental illness

By Kelvin Easiley, Jr

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. This is the time when a laser focus is trained on the various complexities people of color encounter while facing mental health stigma and a shoddy healthcare system.The same healthcare system many people of color approach with grave skepticism.

There are many people who suffer from depression, anxiety, or both but are high-functioning individuals. These folks get dressed, go to work, attend social gatherings and have mental health concerns that are untreated, undiagnosed, and unaddressed. In some cases the pressure of keeping up a veneer of wellness eventually drives these high-functioning people to seek care.Others fall into a cycle of being asymptomatic, which means that an individual is  “presenting no symptoms of disease (depending on the absence of triggers and stressors), to experiencing a deluge of symptoms that run the gamut of mental health disorders.

I turn thirty-four in a few days. I am excited about it.

I realized this morning how hard I fight for my fucking life. I am a Black man with schizoaffective disorder. Nine years have passed since my twenty-fifth birthday and I’m still alive. I don’t take this lightly, because growing up, it was common knowledge that many young Black men did not make it to their twenty-fifth birthday.

I woke this morning unable to get out of bed. Thus, I couldn’t make it to work on time, again. I had to alert my supervisor to my belated arrival. It wasn’t the usual, “not feeling like going to work today, so I’m staying in bed”, it was “my medication has me so drowsy, that the six hours of sleep I got last night hasn’t sufficed to have had the half life of the side effects wear off.” kind of staying in bed.  

We are in a queer media movement, but is increased visibility the answer to violence?

By George Johnson

This June marked the 17th celebration of “Pride Month,” a designation declared by Bill Clinton to recognize and observe the heritage and culture of LGBTQ people. As LGBTQ rights continue to be attacked politically, growth in pop culture and media is simultaneously surging in areas of journalism, television, Broadway, and the big screen, creating new narratives and shifting the conversation from a hetero focused lens to one more inclusive of what life actually looks like.

However, these two opposing trends lead one to question whether increased visibility and representation is only doing the beneficial work we presume it to be doing in the fight for LGBTQ existence.

We need to talk about anti-vaxxing in Black communities

By Zoé Samudzi

Chances are, our engagement with “vaccine skeptics” has been limited to white anti-vaxxers. They often cite scientific empirics claiming causal relationships between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR) sequences and autism diagnosis, even using the now retracted study published by British physician Andrew Wakefield in 1998 as a basis for their argument. Wakefield’s results weren’t just found to be fabricated, but he also failed to disclose that his research was funded by lawyers representing parents who had sued vaccine companies. He was subsequently barred from practicing medicine in the United Kingdom.

From Black Brazil to the Black America: The Importance of Transnational Solidarity

By Kristian Davis Bailey

 

Last December, I visited Brazil for the first time to attend the Transregional Summit: The Arab Spring Meets Black Lives Matter conference at the Federal Fluminense University  (UFF) outside Rio de Janeiro. It was designed to put Black Lives Matter in conversation with Arab activists from Egypt and Palestine, and social movements in Rio de Janeiro.

During the conference, I met Black students who were in the middle of a three-month occupation of a university building that they wanted to establish as a Black community center.

We were all in awe of each other: to meet people who had been stolen from the same land and forced through similar experiences of slavery and modern-day discrimination was like having a reunion with long-lost family. Even without speaking the same language, we immediately knew and understood each other.

At first, we sat together for an hour talking in English and Portuguese about the state of Black people in Brazil and the US. I wound up spending almost a week living with the students inside their occupation, called Quilombo. (Quilombos were historically a refuge for runaway slaves in Brazil.)

During that time, the students recorded short greetings to their Black family in the US.  They were stories of solidarity, struggle, and diasporic connection. They were stories much like those we tell here in the United States.

 

 

“We came from the same place, our ancestors went through many of the same things in every place where the African diaspora exists,” said Luiza, one of the students.  “Unfortunately what unites us is racism, that’s what happens, and our struggles connect us in some way.”

She then spoke of the need for places like the Quilombo. “Being together in a place where Black people can speak openly and discuss our issues is very important for us to stay strong in this fight.”

Matheus, another student, said that it’s important for Black people to organize and connect locally and across borders.

“We need to unite, fight nationally in each place, and try to build something together for our ancestry and for us.”

The students said they know a lot about what happens to Black people in the US, but feel that we don’t know much about what’s happening to them — or that they even exist.

Contrary to the image Brazil puts out about itself, the majority of Brazilians are lighter-skinned Black or Afro-descendant (there are issues of internalized anti-Blackness with many Brazilians claiming to be ‘mixed’ rather than Black or denying Afro-heritage at all).

Yet, history shows that Brazil imported the highest number of Africans during the transatlantic slave trade and today has the largest Afro-descendant population outside of Africa.

The students also said they’re disconnected from what’s happening to Black and Afro-descendant people in the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean.

We are trying to get rid of the hegemonic belief that we can only have conversations with American people or Europeans—we want to talk with other people who are around us,” the students said. “We know so many things about the US and we don’t know anything about the situation in Africa or the Global South in general.”

Black people and nations are among the poorest across the Americas.  And our demands look very similar across borders, whether in Brazil, Colombia or the US. They include struggling against police murder and violence, fighting for better living conditions and health environments, and petitioning governments and community leaders for resources for our collective education and empowerment.

These transnational similarities  are the direct result of centuries of enslavement, discrimination, exploitation, and colonialism.

Therefore, as we organize towards our liberation at home, it’s always important to know that our struggle is not just a domestic one or one about “civil rights.” The nature of our oppression already unites us globally, but it’s time for our movements to return to the internationalism and Pan-Africanism of the 60s and intentionally connect.

 

Kristian Davis Bailey is a freelance writer and organizer based in Detroit, where he is a member of BYP100 and Black4Palestine. His work focuses on building internationalist consciousness and connections between social movements.

Sofia Coppola erased Black women from ‘The Beguiled’ because white women always have to be victims

By Sherronda Brown

*This essay includes spoilers and discussion of sexual violence.

At some point in the midst of filming The Beguiled on the same plantation where Beyoncé’s Lemonade was filmed, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning attempted to pay homage to the singer through a gesture they no doubt assumed would garner celebration and envy from onlookers rather than ire.

Feminist triumph in action thrillers has always been for and about white women

By Sherronda J. Brown

*This post contains Wonder Woman spoilers*

The last time there was this much buzz about feminism in a popular action thriller, it was following the release of George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road. With a story about women fleeing sex slavery, it was not difficult to find the feminist themes in it.

That same year, Star Wars: The Force Awakens broke records with Daisy Ridley as the female lead. The conversations about her character largely mirrored what was said about leading women in action films who came before her, and also acknowledged the progress made.

Here we are now, in the wake of Wonder Woman, and we find ourselves amidst these familiar conversations once again, and once again we are reminded that feminist realizations in major U.S. action films thus far have largely been for and about white women.

Wonder Women set box office records last week as the first major superhero film with both a female hero at the center and a female director at the helm. It’s a well-made film. It certainly surpasses what the DC Universe has done so far with Man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad. People are rightfully excited about it.

Many are also critical of it, especially given that its star is an unrepentant Zionist and that the plot affords compulsory significance to an unnecessary and distracting heteronormative romance in a film that has so much opportunity to be expressly queer. The love story––although barely there––is so integral to the overall narrative that Diana is only able to realize the true magnitude of her power after she suddenly loses her lover, harnessing her pain and channeling it to land a mighty god-like blow against her enemy. It’s a narrative that largely revolves around men and just barely passes the precious Bechdel Test.

Moreover, the film lacks intersectionality in terms of representation for women of color. This is another missed opportunity, and a familiar one.

Despite these truths, Wonder Woman has been and continues to be heralded as a feminist masterpiece and a triumph for women––all women being implied. Bloggers and writers are citing reasons from the jiggle of her thigh to the importance of seeing female representation in a major film. There are lines obviously meant to be interpreted as feminist (and perhaps misandrist) messages, like “Men are easily corrupted” and “Be careful in the world of men, Diana. They do not deserve you.”

It is clear why some audiences are identifying these moments as feminist, but for others this is simply not enough. And the ease with which Wonder Woman fans are able to ignore healthy critiques of the film and its star reflects how mainstream feminism and feminist solidarity have always been for and about white women.

This tunnel vision translates very easily to the reception of action narratives because filmmakers can easily place “strong women” within them. This was demonstrated exceptionally well with the response to Mad Max: Fury Road. It was declared an accidental “feminist manifesto” due to its narrative about Immortan Joe’s “prized breeders” escaping from his clutches, led by Imperator Furiosa. It’s a damn good action flick, maybe one of the best made in recent years.

But, like most others of its genre, it is overwhelmingly white, with Zoe Kravitz being the only person of color present. The film also treats fat characters and people with disabilities as grotesque and immoral clichés (aside from Furiosa’s cool-looking metal prosthetic), but the “sex slavery is very bad” theme was enough to proclaim it as a feminist victory for all, and anyone who disagreed was quickly dismissed.

It seems that all an action thriller needs in order to be considered “feminist” is for a white woman to be present, self-sufficient, physically strong and capable, able to hold her own in a fight without the help of a man, or able to dominate men in a way that is considered traditionally masculine.

Aside from Fury Road, Edge of Tomorrow, Hanna, Lucy, and Star Wars: Rogue One all feature “strong female characters” who have been declared feminist role models in film, as well as the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, Terminator, The Hunger Games, and Divergent franchises. This list is in no way complete, and what each of these films and others like them continue to leave out is representation for women of color on par with the representation for white women. When women of color cannot find ourselves in the same types of roles in these narratives, then the “feminism” within them feels hollow.

This issue surrounding women in action films may seem inconsequential, but it is indicative of a much larger problem that is evident in mainstream feminism. Every year we celebrate the 19th Amendment and “women’s right to vote” in the U.S., citing 1920 as the year that solidified the position of women as enfranchised citizens. We do this annually even though the amendment only applies to white women, and it took many years before women of other races were legally able to exercise that right.

The problem is also apparent in how the Gender Wage Gap is discussed, with the claim that women make “77¢ to the male dollar,” despite the fact that this figure only applies to white women and men. It’s in the way that white women encourage us to “lean in,” ignoring that Black women have been doing so for ages. It’s in white women wearing their Pink Pussy hats at the Women’s Marches to protest Trump, but never showing up for Black Lives Matter.

It’s in how mainstream feminism often gets constructed as women being allowed to freely perform “masculinity” through icons like Rosie the Riveter, because while white women have historically been forced into the role of delicate and infantile femininity, Black women have been combating narratives which see us as being nearly always-already too masculine and indecorous. We are constantly left out of the narratives of mainstream feminism, just as we are too often left out of the narratives of mainstream action films.

White women have been starring in these films for years, and while there have been issues with character depth and forms of representation––namely being conceived of as sexualized subjects for the male gaze/consumption and the kind of compulsory heteronormativity which we see present in Wonder Woman––women of color are still mostly starved for any representation at all.

To be frank, we are exasperated with the homogeneity of whiteness, on the screen and off.

When women of color speak about our lack of representation and the inability to see ourselves in spaces where white women have been seen for a long time, we are always met with accusations of divisiveness. Because white women supposedly open the door for all other women, we should be grateful to lap up the crumbs that they leave behind while they feast on their “feminist” achievements. This is how white supremacy operates, by normalizing whiteness and demanding that the rest of us see it as the standard, while simultaneously denying us access to it as a property that affords social privileges. White women winning is simply not enough, and it is past time for white feminists to acknowledge this.


Sherronda J. Brown is a native North Carolinian with an academic background in Media Studies, Women’s & Gender Studies, and African American & African Diaspora Studies. She is passionate about social justice, black feminisms, and zombies. You can support her work at https://www.paypal.me/SherrondaJBrown