Public Transportation is a Must, But Not a Solution to Racism

6 Sep

Reading All Aboard? by Ben Campbell brought up conflicting emotions for me.

I felt excited about a public transportation system that might be effective, affordable, and improve the lives of so many low income people in Richmond. I was also excited by Campbell’s accurate, historical look at the loss of good public transit in Richmond, and how he identified racism and bigotry as the reasons why we ended up with the terrible transit we currently eke by with,

So, to get a few things straight before I go into a slight critique-

1- I am for a larger, better thought out, more affordable, multi-jurisdictional public transit system for the Metro Richmond Area.

2- I am against racism, segregation, and policies, institutions and practices that reinforce racism.

The part of Campbell’s article that I think deserves challenging and a more in depth discussion, is the seeming underlying assumption that developing a better public transit system would be anti-racist, and a step towards changing Richmond’s long, dirty legacy of racism. Racism is complex. Racism is not a flag we can change out front of City Hall and move on. Racism is an issue that all Richmonders will have to do a lot of work around for us to take steps forward as a city.
The loss of public transit in Richmond was a symptom of the underlying disease of racism.

Treating the symptom is not enough to solve our problems.
There are some really great things about a better, less segregationist public transit system- the possibility for people to interact more outside of their race, better opportunities for jobs and recreational activities for low income people of color, and more.

But without a more holistic approach to the issue of racism in our city and society, we won’t be “solving” racism. One complicating factor I can think of is simply that a change in our City’s ranking, without a change in real estate practices, might just exacerbate issues of gentrification. As Richmond grows in popularity, low income people, many of whom are People of Color, are forced out of their homes and neighborhoods in response in increasing real estate values. Gentrification represents a systematic problem, out of any individual’s hands to stop. But until this process, poverty, and racism are actively being addressed, I don’t want to see Richmond’s ranking go up.

An improved public transit system would be a marked difference in City policy and programming. Many of the urban renewal projects over the years have been pretty clearly directed towards improving the desireability of Richmond to people who might visit or might one day move here. Consider the tourist aspects of many of the recent projects and events. First Fridays which attracts many people from surrounding counties, and has difficulty when low income youth of color from surrounding neighborhoods in the city start attending in mass. The Canal Walk, where I’ve only ever gone with my grandma (love you grandma). The Convention Center. The upcoming 2015 cycling event. Richmond’s urban planning efforts have been fairly pitiful, and seem to reflect the racism and classism of the City government.

Richmond does need to focus more on keeping current residents, helping current residents, and developing ways to make our daily lives better. Jobs, housing, access to healthy food, and transportation are some really great places to start.

Some questions Richmonders should be asking themselves in the mean time are:

What are we doing to make Richmond a better place for the people who are currently living here?
How can we make sure we take care of the current residents before visitors or potential new residents?
What do low income people want and need?
What do people of color want and need?
How can we listen to low income people and people of color more?

If Richmond really does want to shed our racist reputation we’ve got some work to do. Let’s get a better public transit system, but make sure we don’t lose sight of the whole disease of racism while we ride around on some buses.

Homosexual Sex is Safer Sex- Turn Queer Virginia! Sex Strike!

16 Feb

“Homosexual Sex as Safer Sex”

Ladies, what kind of sex can you have that ensures you won’t get pregnant, even if they take away birth control? Sex with female-bodied people. Men, what kind of sex can you have that runs no risk of impregnating a woman with limited options to resolve it if she doesn’t want it? Sex with male-bodied people.

If you aren’t gay/lesbian/bisexual/queer we are also proposing a Sex Strike- where women in Virginia go on a sex strike until we make sure that our health, safety, and reproductive freedoms are going to avoid being totally crushed by a patriarchal government. Sex Strikes are a tactic that has been used with success before- see Lysistrata as one example. http://rogueclassicism.com/2011/06/25/latest-lysistrata-comparanda/

Some slogans to stand behind:

Keep from Harm- Use Your Arm!

Get Anal- Not Banal!

Resist! Use Your Fist!

“Out of the Closets and into the Streets”

“Two, Four, Six, Eight! How Do You Know Your Kids Are Straight?”

Ni dios, ni ley, ni marido. Under no god, no law, no husband.

The Virginia Legislature is coming close to passing a slew of new laws which would SEVERLY restrict the rights of women, their reproductive freedom, their safety, and their health. Sounds like all those boring old politicians want to discourage folks from having heterosexual sex- OK! Cool! Let’s have other types of sex! For more information about the proposed legislature and some upcoming events and responses to it, go here: http://wingnutrva.org/2012/02/14/fight-for-virginian-womens-rights/

To avoid the pitfalls of heterosexual sex, join the movement of QUEER SEX. Go on a Heterosexual Sex Strike!

From now….until these shitty pieces of legislation are dead.

~~~~~~

Worried about the idea of a “sex strike”? Think this is sexist? Gonna be sad if your partner won’t have sex with you for a little bit? We understand. Here are a few explanations that might help you understand where we are coming from with this Sex Strike/Turn Queer campaign:

It’s creative, and it’s not just about ‘good men’ v ‘bad men’ or whatever but raising awareness and making a point overall. I don’t think it matters whether your partner is supportive of your rights. If he’s supportive, he’ll support the sex strike. I enjoy sex, but I think women’s reproductive rights are more important and worth fighting for and I would support anyone who chose to fight this way.

From another person: I think the point is that none of our needs should be compromised by legislation. But they are. In the heterosexual male case, it’s a theoretical decrease in something that isn’t really guaranteed in the first place. In the case of women, it’s an extremely practical limitation on whether we get to have both sex lives and jobs and educations, or sex lives without significant risk of death if we get pregnant and something goes wrong, or just regular lives where, if we’re raped, we can have emergency contraception or an abortion and not spend the majority of that year being forced by the state to carry our rapist’s baby.

You might be thinking – “But wait, isn’t a Sex Strike sexist against men?”- Probably can’t get into it all online, but I would just say that in my POV, and that of a lot of folks, sexism is a one way street- because of the institutional powers that support patriarchy and prejudice towards women. Were women to act prejudiced towards men, it would be just that, prejudice. Because there is not an institutional backing in everything from the media, to school, to books, to wages, etc. supporting women.

You might also be thinking- “But wait, I’m in a happy healthy relationship with someone and I don’t want to stop having sex with them”- Then don’t! No pressure! Denying ourselves sex sucks, and can totally be unhealthy. We don’t want anyone to hurt a relationship or really hurt themselves by not having sex. We just want to bring home the idea that sex IS awesome, sex SHOULD be positive and fun, and that right now, in Virginia, that is all being put at serious risk. Refusing to have sex can help bring home that reality to folks who don’t get it yet. Having sex would be much more risky to women if all of these laws get passed, and more women might feel like they can’t have sex then due to the risks (which as some folks point out is probably half of what the religious right wants). And then there is the obvious- you can say you are going on Strike, but just lie. This is not a court of law. Not all of us are in the sort of relationships where a strike on sex would change our partner’s behavior, or be needed to, or be a useful tactic. But there are definitely women out there who have less than supportive partners when it comes to these issues, and having a larger movement that would support them and their push for rights could be useful.

* We would like to add that there are many MANY aspects to safe sex besides the potential for pregnancy. We strongly encourage folks engaging in any sort of sexual relationship to do so consensually, honestly, and with protection to help prevent any STDS/STIs from being transmitted. Queer sex does not mean total safety- there are still needs for condoms, dental dams, gloves, lube, toys, consent, and all kinds of other things to make sure that everyone participating is actually have safe sex- safe for their bodies and their emotions!

**Additionally, this is not meant to tokenize or trivialize queerness or any aspect of LGBTQI identities. There are more queers than you might have even dreamed of! And queerness is not just a choice made in response to the political realm. People are born into all kinds of bodies, with all kinds of genders, and with all kinds of sexual desires and lack of desires. Sometimes those identities and desires are more fluid than other times. We are encouraging people to come out of the closet, embrace their desires and needs, and identify with the identity they feel at home with.

***If you are upset, or offended by this (for reasons other than you being a misogynist or a patriarchical pro-life turd or a homophobe) we are sorry. This is not meant to upset you. Its meant to be part satire, part pushing the envelope, part pushing the fundies’ buttons, and part for real. This is not meant to be the most effective tactic, or the best tactic, or the coolest tactic, or the tactic for everyone. To successfully fight this legislation and a lot of the really oppressive shit that is going on in the world, we need a diversity of tactics. Do the things that you find to be effective, and comfortable to you given your risk level and any other personal considerations. For more on Diversity of tactics- check out the St. Paul Principles: http://wingnutrva.org/2011/11/04/organizing-with-large-coalitions-the-st-paul-principles/

The last thing intended by this concept is to create division in the movement for women in Virginia. If you don’t like it, we are sorry, but we are also not trying to make this feel like something anyone is obligated to be into. If you want to talk about it, lets do it. We’ve tried to make this as un-oppressive and fucked up as possible while still being interesting, but we might have made mistakes so please let us know. But mostly, lets all do what we can to protect our rights to reproductive freedom and sexual freedom and health!

****Turn Gay, Break Stuff!

Happy Thanksgiving- Go Vegan

21 Nov

My friend Mark Strandquist made this awesome pamphlet for thanksgiving! Please print and redistribute!

2 awesome recipes included as well for vegan pumpkin pie and vegan cornbread!

vegthanksgiving2

vegthanksgiving

Hope you enjoy!

Richmond Anarchist Arrested in Chapel Hill Raid

13 Nov

Following the first evening of an occupation conducted in Chapel Hill (of a long-abandoned building, with the intent of recycling it as a community space), a team of riot police raided the building at roughly 4:30pm, with a slew of assault weapons drawn and pointed at occupiers and bystanders. All were unarmed and did not resist. Many were detained and 9 were arrested, including some who were not in the building and even as far as half a block away from the premises. Among those arrested was Ellen Crawford, a Richmond anarchist tabling at the book fair for the Flying Brick Library.
Alleged charges are at this time unknown, and arrestees are being processed at Hillsboro County Jail.
Anyone wanting to make donations for bail/legal can, for the time being, contact 804 303 5449 or donate via the Paypal on our website, wingnutrva.org, and include the intent of your donation. Richmond Anarchist Black Cross will direct these funds to the local support group. We will give further info on the legal support team in Chapel Hill so that funds can be transferred directly.
We will also give further updates on details of the entire situation. We recommend at this time you check Chapel Hill’s local newspaper, The Observer, and trianarchy.wordpress.com.

Why I want to protect First Fridays!

10 Aug

I have never been a regular attendee of Richmond’s First Fridays Art Walk. In fact, over the years I have been a major critic of the event and the concept of the event.

Richmond is by no means unique in having such an art walk. The tactic of using an art walk to push for the redevelopment or gentrification of an area (depending on your perspective) is not at a new concept. Richmond has had First Fridays for over a decade now. And while over that decade there have been major changes to the Jackson Ward/ Broad Street area, they have no occurred quite as  quickly as they might have were we not in an economic depression. I’m no expert, but the aspects of City Planning that I have studied and read about have lead me to take a position against Art Walks, Canal Walks, Convention Centers and other cookie cutter redevelopment schemes that fail to address the actual needs or wants of people living in a city.

Jackson Ward is a historically black working class neighborhood. The demographics of that neighborhood have been changing, particularly via VCU students moving in. First Fridays basically occurring in Jackson Ward was something I viewed as problematic- another major gentrifying move that had the potential to hurt that community and displace lower income people.

When I have gone to First Fridays in the past it was mostly to support friends who had art on display or who were performing. I even helped to organize some First Fridays events- like the Richmond Zine Fest at Gallery 5 in 2009. And what I saw was mostly white people.  And I saw a lot of white people who were more affluent. Which is definitely the type of crowd this sort of event is desinged to draw in.

I would acknowledge at this point that there have been organizers of First Fridays, Gallery owners and artists, who have all along worked to make this event inclusive and welcoming to pre-existing residents of Jackson Ward and the surrounding areas. I have just always been highly skeptical of their chances of success despite their good intentions.

So I mostly stopped going to First Fridays. I was not interested in participating in  a redevelopment strategy that seemingly reached out only to suburbanites and fearful west enders, adventuring into the heart of a city they really don’t understand. But then this year, we started to hear the rumblings of something else. I am a member of the non-hierarchical organization Richmond Copwatch. We listen to a digital scanner to hear what the Richmond Police are up to. This enables us to go out and observe and record the police, thereby helping to keep them accountable for their behavior. So through this and conversations with people we know who do attend First Fridays we began to hear that this year, the police were there in force, disrupting the crowd.

We heard that the police had maced the crowd a couple times, ridden their horses into the middle of crowds, and were trying to organize with Curated Culture (the non-profit that officially organizes First Fridays) to change the times of the event and potentially get rid of it altogether. We heard from many non-anarchists, respected community members about town, that the police were being very aggressive and that a lot of this aggressiveness seemed directed towards people of color. The media and others mostly spoke of the “youth”, but in this case the youth they meant was mostly youth of color.

Richmond Copwatch decided as a collective to go to the August First Fridays to observe and record the Richmond Police Department. I was still conflicted about how I felt about organizing to try and save something I have been avidly against in the past. For me, my motivations for going were mostly hearing from “youth” from my neighborhood (Southern Barton Heights on Northsiiiide) about the police presence. Regardless of the art, regardless of the suburbanites, I was interested in using Copwatch as a method to try and keep my friends and neighbors, as well as folks from neighboring communities like Gilpin Court a little bit safer from RPD.

We met at the Rite Aid parking lot for August First Fridays. Which was a bad idea, because of the whole private corporate property thing. But we met there, and then hung out in the parking lot waiting for one Copwatch member to go purchase some energy drinks from inside.  They came out and distributed the drinks to the caffeine fiends among us. We were just about to head out in smaller groups to patrol First Fridays for police, when lo and behold one came to us.  This RPO – Toney Waldorf- came speeding into the Rite Aid parking lot, parking at an angle, and got out of his car, basically yelling at me and my friend. He said something along the lines of “Hey you”. I asked if we were being detained (because if you are not being detained you do not have to talk to the police and can go on your merry way). He didn’t respond except to say he was not talking to me. He then crossed in front of me and unholstered his Tazer and held it about 2 feet from my friend’s face. Waldorf is a tall cop, and he positioned himself on a median above my friend, which made it so he would have been shooting my friend in the face had he fired his Tazer. That is the closest up I have ever seen a Tazer, and the fastest I have seen a Richmond  Cop freak out and pull a weapon. Tazers are less lethal weapons, just like if I shoot you in the foot with a .22 it is less lethal. They are still deadly and being shot with a Tazer can very easily end in death. Especially if someone has a heart problem, which my friend does.

Quickly other RPD arrived and kicked the rest of us (who were filming at this point) out of the parking lot. One of them, Stone, committed battery against me by shoving my arm while I was clearly backing out of the lot and not at all resisting. They eventually let my friend go, after we showed a commanding officer the picture of Waldorf with a Tazer in my friend’s face. He had no charges, had done nothing wrong, was simply wearing the same color shorts as a suspect in a call they had received.

So my first experience back with First Fridays is Toney Waldorf, Richmond Cop, freaking out, unholstering a weapon at an inappropriate time and in violation of protocol, and threatening to kill my friend.

As the night carried on, it became quite clear that First Fridays had changed. I liked it better. There were kids from my neighborhood, and overall a lot of people of color seemed to be enjoying a public space. I am a huge proponent of public spaces and our ability to use them. It is the lack of public spaces in lower income neighborhoods that can make community development and organization more difficult. Downtown was packed, loud, and seemed to be full of people enjoying themselves.  These were not the people who might be likely to eat at some of the few new fancy restaurants on Broad Street, but they were people socializing in an area that could certainly benefit from development of community. Continue reading

Interview on Richmond.com

31 May

http://www2.richmond.com/entertainment/2011/may/31/5-questions-foodie-mo-karnage-ar-1067037/?referer=None&shorturl=http://bit.ly/iS5zM3

 

Above is the url for an interview I did for Richmond.com

Update from the Monroe Park Occupation – 1 week in

14 Mar
From the website of the Monroe Park Occupation
RPD continue to kick people out of other parks and camps in Richmond.The Monroe Park Occupation is now having people who get kicked out of places like Kanawha Plaza come to join the camp. A lot of the time though, RPD does not let people grab their belongings before kicking them out. So more blankets/tents/tarps/food/entertainment is crucial.
The Occupation had about …8 people show up in the middle of the night last night and folks are excited that the Occupation is a safe place to sleep, but would also like it to be warm!

To contact the Occupation come to the corner of Main and Laurel. You may also email monroparkoccupation@gmail.com or visit http://www.monroeparkoccupation.wordpress.com for more updates.

The Monroe Park Occupation is a group of people forming a community in Monroe Park near the corner of Main and Laurel.
They are a multi-issue Occupation that has been encamped in Monroe Park since 4pm on Monday March 7th.
A City Official informed the Occupation on Friday March 11th that City Administrators wanted to negotiate with the Occupation.

However, the Occupation will only meet to discuss demands once the City gets the cops to stop busting up all homeless camps. Once that is agreed upon, folks from the occupation will meet with City Officials in the park at 11 at night.

Current Demands:
– Don’t cut down trees in Monroe Park
-Legalize Squatting in Richmond
-25-100% of Monroe Park should remain open at all times
-Stop destroying/busting up homeless camps Continue reading

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