Building radical community/Spreading Radical IdeasPosted: December 12, 2010
Building a radical community grounded in class struggle and feminist and anti-racist principles that puts the collective survival of the people first over individual gain is a way to protect our histories, culture, sanity and everything else that has been stolen from us by the oppressive sexist, racist, homophobic capitalist system we live in. I don’t mean this in a non-profit or utopian sense, where our solution to resist such a system is to build an exclusive community removed from the rest of society; that is not going to bring about the revolutionary change I believe in. However, while we are living in and fighting against this oppressive system we need to build radical communities to sustain and support each other as well as pass on our revolutionary principles, ideas, and cultures. I am reminded of this when I think of the indigenous people of this earth, who have survived centuries of genocide, but still work hard to preserve traditions and culture and history. I am reminded of this when I look at the genocide of African people, and how it effectively worked to disconnect what would later become ‘African Americans’ from any sense of African culture and tradition. And most recently I am reminded of this last night when I shared food, art and love with some friends and watched the Smithsonian censored experimental film by queer artist and activist David Wojnarowicz called A Fire in My Belly.
The film is an expression of Worjnarowicz’s grief over the death of his partner Peter Hujar, who died of AIDS in 1987, and his overall rage at a homophobic system that censors, represses, oppresses, and stands by and does nothing while 1000’s of people fall ill to HIV. A system that continually does nothing about the HIV/AIDS crisis that effects millions of people around the world, heterosexual Black women being the largest group effected. Worjnarowicz’s film was a part of a queer exhibit at The National Portrait Gallery called “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” that explores same sex themes in American Portraiture. The film was removed due to the uproar caused by William Donahue and the Catholic church, who were upset by the images of a crucifix with ants crawling all over it. As a response to the homophobia and censorship of art a friend of mine hosted a dinner for folks to come together and watch the film as well as share other art, and celebrate Worjnarowicz, art, and resistance. Another very close friend of mine shared a poem from Palestinian woman poet Fadwa Tuqan, whose strong and beautiful words gave us a glimpse into colonization and the experiences of the Palestinian people; a side of the story that we don’t get living in a country that relies on imperialism and supporting Israels zionist government and occupation of Palestinian land. The poem came out of a poetry anthology called Against Forgetting: A twentieth Century Poetry of Witness, which is about experiences with war, militarism, exile, imprisonment and censorship. It was a perfect piece and book for the theme of the evening.
We cannot forget the experiences and atrocities of the ruling class and our cultures and histories of resistance it has sought to annihilate. That is all we have as radicals and revolutionaries and oppressed people is our memory and our consciousness and our ability to pass things on for resistance. What distinguishes humans from animals is that we have consciousness. We can produce culture and societies in a way that go beyond basic animal functions of eating, sleeping, fucking and survivng. Capitalism seeks to break down our consciousness, de-humanize us, and reduce us to animal-like beings that just work and then eat and sleep to reproduce ourselves and work some more. Therefore we must actively fight against that by organizing ourselves and producing political and cultural ideas that counter-act the oppressive bourgeois ideas of the ruling class. Our consciousness is all we own that the oppressors can’t take away. It is our ability to spread the truth to others, and to start to build collective resistance. We must learn the truth and not forget it even if our schools teach us lies, even if musuem’s censor our peoples art, and even if people are killed, because of their ideas we must continue to pass them on, because it is more than just us and it is more than just our communities that we are building in different spaces. We are a part of a larger historical network doing similar work to change the society we live in and its social relations.
It makes me think of Harriet Tubman and this network she created amongst slaves, white people, free people to liberate slaves in the 1800s. I think of Cecelia Bobrovskaya’s memoirs Twenty Years in Underground Russia: Memoirs of A Rank-and-file Bolshevik, which describes her experiences as a Bolshevik working to prepare for revolution. I remember what stood out to me in the book was the importance of revolutionary literature and how threatening it was to the ruling class. She desrcribes the process of setting up illegal printing presses then smuggling illegal literature into cities. That work was dangerous to the oppressors, because it was sharing revolutionary ideas that could influence people. I think of Domitila B. De Chungara a brave bolivian woman and wife of a miner, who organized other bolivian women in the housewives committee, who was tortured in jail and suffered a miscarriage, who was exiled, and who continually risked her life in her struggle against her own capitalist government and foreign imperialism. Her autobiography Let Me Speak is an important piece of history. I think of Leila khaled, who was a heroic palestinian militant who was a part of the Popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine, who successfully and non-violently hijacked a plane and who had plastic surgery done to herself multiple times to conceal her identity as a revolutionary and to hijak a plane again. What a badass. And i think of today when I am able to smuggle an Advance the Struggle Oscar Grant pamphlet,
into jail and read it with other political detainees, who were also illegally arrested for exercising our first amendment rights (for what they are worth) and protesting police murders. And I think of beautiful dinners, like the one I experienced last night, where people are able to come together and share food, art and ideas. What do all these people and events have in common despite the different countries, time periods, historical events that our happening? What they all have in common is that they are all examples of freedom fighters, who were/are committed to changing the objective conditions that we live in and making history. This is what me must continue to do. And we must also find ways to break bread, share art, and build healthy, loving communities and spaces to sustain ourselves in these struggles.