CR10: Breaking The Chains
I woke up with a pounding migraine to the latest news story that the House of Representatives voted down the $700 BIllion Bailout Plan. I’m not sure what to make of it (shocking) and my headache is preventing me from thinking clearly so bear with me. I’m sure I’ll hit y’all with some rant later in the week about all this financial Ra Ra. Anyway, this weekend was hectic and exhausting. It kicked off at The Intersection (dope space in the Mission!) for my friend Evan’s art opening where I enjoyed the company of good folks and compulsively checked incoming twitter messages from ?uestlove, Jay Smooth and Miss Info to piece together how the debate was playing out. I knew it got off to a rough start when Jay twittered “this really is like a group therapy session, with all the “say that directly to him” and “I wish Obama would say “wrong” instead of “objectionable”, and “stop” instead of “cessation”, etc.” and after Miss Info sent a series of messages likening McCain to The Game (“MCCAIN is the GAME of the political world….such a name dropper”) I knew something was really wrong. After watching the debate late Friday night, I understood exactly what they were talking about. It was an awkward passive aggressive therapy session and it did absolutely nothing for me. Boo to politics. Rewind: Ana and I hit up the CR10 (Critical Resistance’s 10th anniversary) open plenary at Laney after Evan’s opening where I reunited with old friends (shout out to Spiritchild and Khalil). The highlights were definitely Suheir Hammad’s reading and Destiny Arts (they killed it to MIA’s “Bamboo Banga“). Given that most folks were still jet-lagged and hungry from jumping coasts, we all retired early (only after Ana and I walked around the lake to a Burrito spot for an impromptu Wesleyan reunion, shocking). I got a late start Saturday and didn’t make it back to Laney until 3:30 just in time to meet up with the lovely Zakia. We ran in between 2 workshops (one on community accountability and the other on the war on drugs/war on kids), nothing spectacular to share. The highlight was definitely the open bar at AIR lounge afterwards (wow, I sound like a counterrevolutionary, huh?). Two beers later, I BARTed back home and grubbed hard body with Nati and Pat at our FAVORITE thai joint on Divisadero before going out with Ana. The night ended with us watching Bear Grylls on Man Vs. Wild piss on snakes, eat larva, and get attacked by bees. I want to do a Katt Williams inspired stand up routine spoofing that show. I mean, homie’s name is BEAR and he’s even more intense than Steve Irwin, the crocodile hunter (RIP).
Hilarious. So, long story short, Sunday rolled around and I came to the epiphany (the same epiphany I have every month or so) that the people I know are some of the best people in the world. Instead of boring you with more details of the weekend, I’m going to use the rest of this entry to put you onto the good work of my friends. Let’s face it, this blog is primarily a hype platform for people I co-sign and who I personally believe don’t get the props they deserve. Let’s begin with the talented Una Aya Osato.
“The one-woman play, Recess,is the culmination of Una’s experiences in the New York City public school system from the early years of her education all the way to adulthood where she has been teaching for over three years.After having taught all over New York City she has witnessed the myriad of frustrations that beset both teachers and learners as they try to navigate their way through the day to day struggle of the great bureaucracy that is school.The play follows the experiences of one seven-year-old girl, Sherita from the Bronx, as she copes with life. Burdened by undue familial responsibility at too young an age, school has become the epicentre of stress and comfort. In the course of the play we are exposed to various people and relationships in Sherita’s life.We meet her mother, teacher and schoolmates. It is through the encouragement of her school peers that she is temporarily able to forget about familial strain and daily battles with school authority.” — Recess MySpace
I had the pleasure of experiencing an intimate performance of Una’s latest work “Recess” on Sunday at CR10. Ever since I saw her Senior Thesis show at Wesleyan “Keep It Movin’” I knew she had a rare gift to produce powerful and accessible performances that tell stories of everyday struggle within greater contexts and questions of war and racism. Homegirl had me full-bellied laughing in one instance and crying in the next, she has the flexibility and intensity of any strong performer. More than anything, she’s down to put herself out there and be vulnerable in front of her audiences. Check her out here and here and here. Support that good shit, ya dig?
“Break The Chains (BTC) is a non-profit organization that seeks to build a national movement within communities of color to promote reform of punitive drug policies, with the ultimate aim of enacting alternative policies based on public health, compassion, racial justice and human rights. A guiding principle of Break the Chains is that since people of color are disproportionately affected by current drug policies we must be an integral part of the movement to reform them” — BTC publications
Now I got to plug my girl Zakia. Zakia represented for her NYC based organization Break The Chains at CR10 and led a workshop examining the impact of the “war on drugs” on poor communities of color, the policies supporting it, and the politics sustaining it. The workshop provided folks with an overview of U.S. drug policy and outlined harmful strategies employed by government to criminalize certain addictions over others (illegal vs. legal drugs) and block funding for needle exchange programs. Unfortunately, the workshop took a turn for the worst when self-proclaimed revolutionaries started to get at Zakia’s co-facilitator from the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act (NORA) campaign (Yes on 5) for being “pretendo” AKA “reformist bullshit” AKA “counterrevolutionary” AKA “a white lady reading statistics”. I’m sorry but my threshold for militant people of color spitting that “revolution” “all or nothing” “black and white” early 90s identity politics shit is low these days. We tell ourselves that we need multi-faceted and dynamic movements that can respond to present day mutations but we’re simply recycling the same played out tactics/strategies and righteously preaching to the choir on our bootlegged soap boxes. C’mon now, let’s stop the nonsense. Why do Q&A’s at these radical conferences inevitably devolve into opportunities for know-it-alls to flaunt their “downness”? I mean, ask a question (not rhetorical) instead of offering the same boring critique: “Why aren’t we talking about ______ (Insert cause here)? Why are YOU leaving ME out? Why are YOU in MY space?” Worst of all, they acted like homegirl wasn’t aware she was engaged in legislative REFORM, how condescending can you get? Zakia and I are half convinced those folks are going to campaign against “yes on 5” just to prove their point. I’m not sure what their point was/is (exactly). Thankfully, Margaret didn’t pull any defensive white people shit and maintained her cool (impressive forreal). What’s the problem with allying with white people doing good work and playing their position? You definitely don’t want her on the block so STOP hating! PHEW I had to get that off my chest. Fortunately, the rest of the day made up for any wackness when I got to meet Japanese American badass. freedom fighter and diamond dame, Yuri Kochiyama.
For those of you who don’t know Yuri Kochiyama, please take time to read up on her. In short: longtime civil rights activist, interned at a U.S. concentration camp during World War II (along with my grandmother), friend of Malcolm X and with him as he died. While she finds herself in poor health these days, she has no trouble screaming into any microphone and standing up to rock with Oakland and Brooklyn youth to hip hop. I have a difficult time containing my emotions around her, she’s always been an inspiration to me and an undeniably positive presence in this world. Also, who isn’t jealous of her political alliance and friendship with Malcolm X? Are you kidding me?! It was a great honor to meet her and I aspire to be the kind of fierce (and fly) fighter she was and continues to be for Japanese Americans and for the world. As you can see, it was a long and busy weekend and I’m only breaking you off with a little something something, there’s much more to share but I haven’t the energy to keep blogging SO look Una, Zakia, and Yuri up and watch your back for any over-zealous revolutionary types looking to call you out and/or cut you down. Now, tell me about YOUR weekends, what’d you do? where’d you go? who with? why? how? Indulge me.