Today, I went to try and act in solidarity with my fellow New Jerseyans by volunteering with an organization I found through Occupy Sandy. I had felt bizarre being in Tucson, not a cloud in the sky, while Sandy was happening at home. My work in Tucson made me feel very strongly that I want to be more connected to organizing in the place where all my loved ones are – the Northeast. I wanted to be part of the community response to the Sandy: people coming together to fill in the gaps that FEMA and NJ/NY government disaster relief have left.
The organization I found was a church food pantry, not too far from my house, and I arrived asking what I could do to be helpful to them. A very nice woman who shares my name directed me back into the bowels of their warehouse, piled high with donations, and instructed me to start going through a table covered with toiletries, and draw a line with permanent marker through the UPC code (the barcode) on each item, to prevent their resale-ability
“Isn’t that terrible, that someone would try and take something they got from us back to the store for money? To sell it???” she asked indignantly.
Well, I thought to myself, No. If someone decides they need $4 more than they need a Lady Speed Stick, then they should go for it. Wouldn’t this time scribbling over a barcode be better spent finding out why people needed the $2 more than they needed a toothbrush?
I didn’t say anything. I hadn’t been there more than five minutes, and I didn’t know who these people directing me were, or how long they had worked at the food pantry, or whom they had worked with, or why they were there. I didn’t feel right then, like it was my place to call out or make judgments on their work. I also don’t and can’t go there day after day, and I don’t know the immediate community – I can’t commit to understanding the nuances of people who sell the goods they get from the food pantry. So I did the work they assigned me, figuring that if this is what it would take for the items to get into bags to go to people, I should just get it done.
But I feel like I should have said something, or at the very least asked a harder question and said it aloud, like, Do we really need to try to control what people do with the things we offer them? Is it our place to decide how they will best serve their own needs?
What would I have lost by giving voice to my thoughts? I didn’t want to make anyone feel angry. I was nervous about getting into a more involved conversation about politics and religion with people I didn’t know. And at the same time, it was an opportunity for me to create a discussion, and I passed it up.
I am all about giving myself room to feel safe, but this was a time where I felt acutely aware of the privilege I can hide behind that lets me err on the side of inaction.
And so I continue… learning and growing. Gotta act on love, act on collectivism, build solidarity networks, and hold myself accountable. Hold each other accountable. This is not a passive process.
Today is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.
“… When most people think of violence against sex workers their first thoughts are usually of clients or employers who become violent and while that does happen workers face violence from from many other people and institutions…” – ANARCHAFEMINISTWHORE
“The public is not in danger,” announced Lt. J. Paul Vance, after the massacre in Newtown, CT, when the shooter’s body had been found, dead at the scene.
But the public is still in danger. There have now been seven mass-shootings* in the United States this year, not to mention thousands of murders, by civilians and law enforcement agents alike; and casualties in armed conflicts around the world. It is not a matter of “if” another mass-shooting, or individual death from gun violence, will occur, but “when.” Unless we make some radical changes, we will continue to be in danger of dying as a result of gun violence, in schools, in theaters, in malls, in parks, on our streets, in our homes.
We have to start now. We can’t wait until tomorrow, or until we’ve grieved, to start to take guns and weapons off our streets and out of our homes. Children in Newtown, Connecticut just suffered the loss of classmates and teachers and mentors.** They need to be supported in their experience of this trauma, so they can do their best to keep living their lives and growing into whole, healthy souls, and they need to be assured that they won’t bare witness to such violence again.
I’m not only talking about the gun violence that happens in Connecticut or Virginia or Colorado, either. The family and friends of José Antonio Elena Rodriguez, 17-year-old resident of Nogales, Sonora, are grieving his death by the bullets of US Border Patrol. When I visited the Border Patrol Station in Nogales, AZ for a tour with my Border Studies classmates, we were invited to hold the agents’ weapons to see what they were using to protect themselves. José Antonio’s death was not about protecting anyone. His death did not protect anyone, and now I can’t imagine that anyone walking along the Mexican side of the border wall, going about their daily lives, feels a greater sense of security.
Guns have no place in a peaceful society. Guns have no role in creating a peaceful society. Until we stop trying to pretend guns are important and necessary to the health of our society, we will not be safe from gun violence.
President Obama, gave a speech today about the tragedy in Connecticut. Mr. President, stay true to your tears, and do something real. Take real action to get guns out of our homes, and stop enacting foreign policy that results in continuously escalating violence. We can live in peace together. We need to come together, support each other, listen to each other, and do hard work to make it happen.
My heart is with the victims and survivors of violence around the world, from Connecticut, to Nogales, to Colorado to Virginia to Palestine to Syria to Iraq to Tibet.
**this piece was edited on Sunday, December 16, correcting details about the Sandy Hook shooting.
Ronald Reagan and Comprehensive Immigration Reform by Joe Nevins on NACLA
And also, TUSD proposed school closures. This hits particularly close to home, as two of my fellow BSP-ers worked at one of the schools proposed to be closed, Manzo Elementary. Manzo is a center of community in Barrio Hollywood; some families have attended Manzo for generations.
Video by Roxanne
I’m going to a community forum tonight to show my support for the MAS program and the preservation of Tucson’s neighborhood schools, including Manzo Elementary, where two of my fellow Border Studiers interned this semester.
Tú eres mi otro yo. You are my other me.
Si te hago daño a ti, If I do harm to you,
me hago daño a mi mismo. I do harm to myself.
Si te amo y respeto, If I love and respect you,
me amo y respeto yo. I love and respect myself.
-Mayan Traditional Greeting
In some classrooms in Tucson, each class begins with a recitation of In Lak’Ech, a reminder that we all are intertwined, and how we treat others affects how we experience the world.
As this semester of the Border Studies Program ends, I carry forward with me the words of In Lak’Ech,
Let’s build a world on bonds of solidarity and collective wellbeing. Let’s listen to each other, let’s respect each other, let’s act on our love and make a world where we can all act on our love.
Many views of the Border! Thanks to Rachel Adler for being one of our resident photographers. These are all her photos! Sorry for my relative blog silence these past few weeks.
It was a hard call, between Jill Stein and the ever-so-easy possibility of just not putting my ballot in the mail. Obama has been disappointing in many ways, and I’m a lot different from the girl who cut school to make phone calls and canvass on election day four years ago. I’d never expected my first vote in a general election to feel so difficult. But I did it – don’t worry, grandparents. I cast my ballot for Obama, because my friends and I need Planned Parenthood, and we all need FEMA, and Joe Biden actually acknowledged trans* people, and I want to see what happens when a democrat that was elected under the banner of Change gets a second term.
“the violence a romney presidency would bring down on the bodies of my female and queer comrades is enough to make me show up to this election and vote for obama.”
-Adrienne Maree Brown, standing with: an election call from my body
Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a celebration of life, a traditional way for the living to affirm their love for those who have passed away… We carry in our hearts the memories and dreams of all who have walked beside us in the journey of life. So long as we remember with love and honor, the dead never really die.
I’ll be celebrating the life of my mother, great-grandparents, grandfather, other friends and family members, and those who have lost their lives in the desert and at the Wall in many processions this weekend.