Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tweet featured on Aljazeera

Originally posted on Aljazeera

#BrooklynRiot vs. #BrooklynProtest

Words used to describe angry gathering in New York City stirs debate.
Demonstrators wear shirts with the likeness of 16-year-old Kimani Gray during a march protesting a New York Police Department shooting of the boy, in the Brooklyn borough of New York, March 11, 2013. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

A vigil became a heated gathering on Monday; one that mainstream and social media differed on how to define. 

Brooklyn residents gathered on Monday evening to honour 16-year-old Kimani Gray, who was shot and killed by two undercover police officers. Details of the shooting still remain unclear. 

When vigil attendees marched to the 67th police precinct, they were met by officers in riot gear. The event quickly became known on Twitter as #BrooklynRiot, and news outlets used 'Riot' in their headlines. Conversation online soon questioned use of the word 'riot'.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

RoundUp Featured on StudentActivism.Net

This occasional roundup of student movement stories is put together by Isabelle Nastasia, a CUNY undergrad, New York Students Rising organizer, and friend of this site. 
 Student Activism History – March:

Deaf President Now (DPN) was a student protest in March 1988 at Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C. The university, established by an act of Congress in 1864 to serve the Deaf, had always been led by a hearing president. The protest began on March 6, 1988, when the Board of Trustees announced its decision to appoint a hearing person as its seventh president.

Gallaudet students, backed by a number of alumni, staff, and faculty, shut down the campus. Protesters barricaded gates, burned effigies, and gave interviews to the press demanding four specific concessions from the Board. The protest ended on March 13, 1988, with the appointment of I. King Jordan, a Deaf person, as university president.
In honor of the anniversary of Gallaudet, one of my favorite TV shows featuring many actors who are deaf and hard of hearing, portrayed deaf students rallying around the school board’s proposal to close of their school and displace their student body to various hearing schools. They strategize, organize and execute an occupation of their school building: Occupy Carleton. You can watch it here.
Featured organization of the day: Dream Defenders
The Dream Defenders were formed in the aftermath of the murder of Trayvon Martin. They are black, brown, and allied youth working to end systemic inequalities in incarceration, education, voting, and immigration.
Video of the Dream Defenders press conference

Important perspectives on educational injustice:

Friday, March 1, 2013

Incomplete short story circa 2010


Everett Ruess
Isabelle Eberhardt


A sand storm grumbles and spits out a man in traditional 19th Century Algerian clothing; although, it is not a man. 

Isabelle Eberhardt scrambles to an oasis and plunges her head in the water splashing. She pulls her head out ruffling her short dark hair; she rubs her eyes as if trying to wake up from a nightmare. She emerges her whole body in the oasis lazily paddling in circles then she flips over and floats face down looking straight into the mud with her eyes wide open. She swims to a spot where she can stand and clambers to the shore with heavy, wet clothe draping over her thin body. She collapses on the shore with her hands faced upwards and her eyes closed, she coughs spitting up what looks like blood and seaweed. She sheds each piece her clothing along the floor of the desert as if each garments were thick with the weighed down with the memory of a lover she is trying to forget. Her naked body digs in the sand, her fingers raw and dirty; she is so small, starved, mutilated but digs feverishly. 

The sand storm spits out a black fez, which rolls along sand dunes and past Isabelle digging. The fez appears like a maple tree or Robert Longo painting, a giant next to Isabelle. 

Isabelle shivers as the sunsets now her hands are blistered and bleeding and it is dark. Suddenly her hand pierces a point in the earth where there is nothing left to dig and her arm falls into a pocket in the center of the earth, she plunges all of her weight head first into the cave.

She falls like an arrow through the earth past mist and rock and ice and lands on a stalactite, which pierces her breast (finally, she thought finally). She had endured so many pricks but this one had left her chest irredeemable. Years of wrapping her breasts in stiff canvas under many layers had left her finding them irrelevant and lost. Her spine may have been severed but she pushed herself off the stalactite as her organs spilled out onto the ground, blood and guts and sex rolled out of her but she was not frail, nor did she limp or sputter with pain. She lifted her stomach off the ground and examined the poor thing. Empty and looking pretty, betrayed deformed – it spat warm acid into the air that Isabelle dodged thinking she deserved it. She had deprived him of sustenance for years, only filling him with wine and rainwater and leaves and cum. She felt exhausted like she could sleep for a year and somewhat deranged. Using her stomach as a moist pillow she rests her head on him to sleep. She shakes and turns many times in her sleep, going through a seizure like motion from an opium withdrawal.

She woke up to breathing on her neck; Everett appeared as an apparition and a warm body rubbing against her own. She wondered if the caretaker was raping her again but then remembered that she had escaped the French hospital almost five years ago. She opened her eyes and finally felt sharp pulling on her skin where the stalactite had pierced her. A boy was sewing her insides back together with long thick strands of what appeared to be hair. Though she did not fear any disease since she had been plagued with bulimia for her almost entire life, used to her rotting teeth and wretched breath she had a moment of disgust that he was tending to a wound with filthy fingernails. She could see miniscule bacterial worms encroaching on her large intestine. 

Everett lifts her head up and shifts her body into a sitting position while he picks up her stomach and places it gently back inside her torso. 

(Everett wears old hiking boots, a floppy black hat, a flannel tucked into jeans with a brown belt – very utilitarian if you hadn’t already noticed)

“That’s not needed,” she says. Everett puts down the stomach but continues to sew her back together. A donkey walks over to the operation and begins licking Isabelle’s breasts, Everett shoos him away without saying anything (English, anyway).  Isabelle squirms away as Everett uses his teeth to cut the thread. She pears down at her body and the stitches neatly placed down her breast to her right hipbone. The piercing had grown in her sleep because she moved so often, she had dreamt of her father. 

Almost instinctually Isabelle grabs Everett’s hand and runs her nose all over his palms sniffing his lifelines as if they were lines of coke. She drops his hand when she doesn’t smell what she is looking for. She turns away shielding her bare ribs in a moment of self-consciousness. Everett discretely sniffs his own palms out of curiosity. Then noticing her attempt to cover up her body he turned to his mehr who had a knapsack slung around him and pulled out a large gray blanket and places it on the floor next to her. Isabelle snatches up the blanket and let it engulf her until she disappeared into the stone and all but her head was visible. 

“Who’s that?” Isabelle pointed at the mehr.
“That’s my mehr companion” the mehr scuffs his feet. Everett looks up at the ceiling where Isabelle fell from and then back down at her, he crouches beside her.
“…And who are you?” Asks Isabelle. 
“I’m Everett,” he says removing his hat and rubbing his eyes looking down at the ground. 
“Are you crying?” Isabelle tilts her head and holds his face his eyes are red but there are no tears, he may not have been crying at all.
“Its nothing, my dog just died” Isabelle turns to the side of the cave where there are various papers scattered on the ground where the floor meets the wall. She crawls over to them and picks them up. 
“Did you do these?” she looks over at Everett for a response and he smiles and nods.
“I’m sorry about your dog” says Isabelle. Everett laughs.
“I’m sorry about your internal organs” Says Everett. 
“I am not afraid of death but would want to die in some obscure and pointless way” says Isabelle. 

The papers are that of block prints of landscapes, beautiful and depicting the solitude of a tree, a desert, a canyon. It is clear that Everett is not comfortable with company and does not know exactly what to do with his visitor but is kind to Isabelle. She explores the cave, the donkey keeps watch over her, she scratches him behind his eyes which seems to bring him great pleasure. She speaks in pros writing tiny notes with a pencil Everett lends her out of his shirt pocket in a notebook. She finds letters from his brother and quickly puts them back because she doesn’t want to intrude but Everett welcomes her to read them. 

“He’s in California…that’s where…” Everett hums away the end of the sentence not wanting to say what he started to tell. Isabelle doesn’t notice she uses her teeth to hold the blanket around her while she reads the letters.

“People used to ask me that question all the time…the one your brother asks in his letter…you know… ‘Doesn’t it get dispiriting being so aimless?’” She says. Everett twists his mouth into a sneer.
“What do you even say to something like that?” Asks Everett. 
“I always say ‘of course, that’s the point, buttercup.’” Says Isabelle. Everett giggles a little. 

Everett stairs at Isabelle sweetly and curiously all the time; He eats nuts and berries and always tries to force-feed her or her stomach. She spits up or throws up everything he tries to feed her. She expresses herself very directly and honestly and Everett need not guess what her true feelings are. She doesn’t really like him and tries many times to escape the cave but cannot get rid of the mehr who tugs on her blanket with his teeth asking her to write him another poem.

“So, what do I call you?” 
“My name is Isabelle.” 
“Mmm,” Everett hums the tune of a Jolie Holland song “There’s something very nostalgic about that name.”

Everett complains about having company but he always wants to be around Isabelle. His mehr is clearly annoyed at Everett’s new companion but seems oddly attached to her as well. The donkey loves to lick her toes and snuggle under the blanket with her while she sleeps.

Isabelle has frequent emotional outbursts due to her fiery temper and emotional impulsiveness. Everett gets used to her mood swings and is always nurturing and helpful as he tries to take care of her; however, she is abhors emotional dependency and dislikes showing any personal weakness or her need for support. Everett grows anxious when Isabelle disappears for hours at a time and has to come looking for her. This makes Isabelle really annoyed.  She says patronizing things like “You have an-addictive-fucking personality, Evy” and treats him like a little boy. She’s not used to being the substance of addiction and abuse but is very familiar with being the abuser and the addicted. Everett changes her bandages tenderly cleaning her wounds and even observing her morphine tracks when she is distracted with her writing. 

They share their art daily. As if it were a competition, each sharing their truths; attempting to hypnotize the other. Isabelle is doesn’t have to strain herself as much as Everett does during these interactions. 

Her poetry is fast and breathless, like her: 
I am one of the oblivion seekers
Named after a feminist who never spoke about feminism but was the ultimate determinist
Addicted to narcotics she disguised herself as an Arabic man so that she could live in privilege
Venturing forth into the abyss of chance she discarded a chain of prior occurrences along with last nights dinner
They called her nostalgia
She immediately received her legacies as I did 
Asked to be called ‘tom’
Sitting in a small green rocking chair with a short red tie
She moved to France where my noblemen father spent part of his youth 
She grew up a polyglot, spoke fluent French and Arabic and agreed to the widow’s proposal to move farther west
My mother traveled further and further away:
From New York to Oodipor to Vancouver to LA
It was thing spot where she fell in love with Everett Ruess…
Her infatuation stronger than nostalgia’s love for men’s clothing
She chased the sixteen-year-old boy who was searching for the superlative high
(But still fumbles for his beeper in his saddlebag)
I am the daughter of my mom’s eight-year-old research project
Not such an immaculate conception
Back in France the young women dressed as a Muslim man, left no misapprehension as to her sex
Dressing as a man is my affair as well
Every time I shake a man’s hand I sniff his palms searching for the scent of tobacco frantically rolled with your left hand with your right hand scratching your receding hairline
He says he feels the presence of God every time he walks into a church 
But what attracts me are the nude sketches of Me, My mother and the Virgin Mary on his refrigerator from the occasional drawing classes he’s decided to take
My mother cries as we sit listening to ‘My womb is not a football for you’ and leans over to tell me that she misses her Vagabond for Beauty

“I’m a vagabond for beauty!” Exclaims Everett when Isabelle is far off in the cave out of earshot. 

Everett always ends up falling asleep because he’s so exhausted after entrancing her with his rants about time being “strangely circular” and stories about falling in love with Dorothea Lange after he walked all the way to her house from Southern California just to say “hello”.

His poetry is slow, stubborn and serious like him:
Isabelle still reigns desert queen i spit cold mucus onto the sidewalk as I walk shedding block prints jackets and friends and my brother writes to me ‘Still sick. In the library. Need something question mark’ and I respond ‘LOVE CLARITY WARMTH OF FRIENDSHIP’ and he doesn’t write me back I make lists, the aries in me cannot stop jotting down tiny notes of raspberry jam super glue all these things I have to do; I burry dead birds and my mother grapples with the other side of 45. She disappears again without asking me if I’ve eaten I fumble with my last block print and as the youngest one in the orgy I suffer from lack of efficiency when I finally leave I hup step two step three step four but I trip and drop it at the door they don’t call it fall for nothing

RoundUp featured on StudentActivism.Net

Rest in Power, Trayvon Martin:
Marching to Sanford  (a short documentary featuring the Dream Defenders, a coalition of black and brown youth fighting for immigration reform and an end to the school to prison pipeline and the prison industrial complex.)
Updates on educational injustice:
[Trigger warning: racist costumes and racial exploitation] USC Frat Planned a ‘Racist Rager’ Until a Mexican-American Students Put Them on Blast – Colorlines
Batraville and Lew Dod are Shortsighted, Unethical - Yale Daily News (Sneak peek: “As early as this April, Yale plans to welcome a training center for interrogators to its campus.”)
The Latest Education Craze Could Very Well Worsen the Achievement Gap - Colorlines (Good analysis of whats wrong with MOOCs)
[Trigger warning: discussion of sexual assault and sexist university policy] UNC Sexual Assault Survivor Faces Honor Code Violation after Speaking publicly about Abuse - HuffPo (Think Progress wrote more about this, too)
Harvard Helps the Less Fortunate - Socialist Worker (Do not be deceived by the title…)
The Next Hate Fest  - NY Post (Alan Dershowitz sets his sights yet again on CUNY as he targets an upcoming Queer conference on “Homonationalism and Pinkwashing”)
Examples of radical student movement-building, tactics and strategy: 
Les Bureaux De Leo Bureau Blouin et de Pierre Duchesne Vandalises - La Presse (In French but can be easily translated via google translation)
Les Medias Et la Hausse des Frais de Scolarite de 2005 a 2010 - IRIS (In French but can be easily translated via google translation)
Games of Theories – Inside Higher Ed
A Protest Resignation – Inside Higher Ed
N.C. Students Sieze Power – Technician
Building an Inclusive Climate Movement - The Nation (Report from the divestment and climate conference at Swarthmore this past weekend)

RoundUp Featured on StudentActivism.Net

Featured Campus of the Day: Emory University
As American as … Compromise – Emory website (Trigger warning: this is super racist.)
Important perspectives on education injustice:
Truth and Justice Report - Colorado Progressive Coalition
Universities Overtake Prisons in Gov. Walker’s Budget - JS Online (Maxwell Love of United Council of UW Students says “Before you start patting the Governor on the back: we lost $350 million and [UW students] get back $100 million…”)
Free Education - McGill Daily (MOOCs are a growing part of the education crisis in Quebec as well in the U.S.)
Whether we are occupying buildings or writing bills,  we are students taking action!
CCSF Students Occupy Conlan Hall – Golden Gates Express (ABC Local covered this as well.)
Speech to the University Regents - Student Union of Michigan
Steps forward on the policy-change front:
DMW releasing Drivers Licenses to Many Immigrants - WRAL (Colorlines tells us why they are still problematic for many DREAMers, here)
No Salary Increase for UC - Changing Universities
Essays on student movement-building and radical organizing strategy:
Hidden in Plain Sight – Free University NYC (Commissioned by Tidal 4 – Occupy Theory. This piece is a collaboration between myself, Manissa McCleave Maharawal, Conor Tomas Reed and Zoltan Gluck–faculty and students at CUNY.)
What is a Strike?  -  IDS News

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Featured in Tidal 4

Hidden in Plain Sight: The Education Movement

by Zoltán Glück, Manissa McCleave Maharawal, Isabelle Nastasia, and Conor Tomás Reed, students and faculty of the City University of New York
In Florida, the Dream Defenders march for three days and hold a sit-in at a sheriff’s office to demand George Zimmerman’s arrest for murdering Trayvon Martin. Undocumented youth in the Southwest enter detention centers that violate President Barack Obama’s proposed immigration reforms, and they organize the detainees. Philadelphia high school students perform a zombie flash mob to protest the closure of thirty-seven schools; their video goes viral. New York City students and faculty host a Free University with hundreds of teach-ins in a midtown Manhattan park while Cooper Union students stage an arts-driven occupation to keep their school tuition-free. Students in California patiently construct a statewide student union that includes a wide mosaic of participants. Fossil fuels divestment campaigns at Swarthmore, Harvard, Syracuse, and elsewhere model their efforts on the anti-Apartheid movement. Internationally, students temporarily occupy bridges and buildings in Budapest, pour onto the streets of Delhi in outrage after the rape and death of a young female medical student, take control of public universities in Chile and Puerto Rico to oppose neoliberal strangleholds on school and society, and exercise mass disruptive power in Quebec to overturn proposed tuition hikes and oust government officials.
This is the education movement—hidden in plain sight and erupting around the world. We are forming organizations, holding rallies, sharing strategies and tactics, and building power. Our movement manifests in both local and international struggles, with an increasing frequency of protests and resistance to tuition hikes, precaritization, and the debt burden incurred by higher education. The sharp cries of those disenfranchised inside and outside the university articulate the crisis of a crumbling educational system that is a symptom of a broader crisis of capitalism. This crisis affects us all, and so we have begun to form alliances across social groups—students, contingent and tenured faculty, campus staff, families, and communities at large.
Building a Movement
Within the university new threats loom as old hierarchies are being unsettled. The specter of massive open online courses puts tenured faculty in danger of being outsourced and expendable, which may propel them into finally taking direct action. Meanwhile, abysmally paid adjuncts now represent 70 percent of university educators and are developing an awareness of how crucial their labor is to the maintenance of the status quo. What if adjunct strikes were on the horizon, and what if major academic networks as well as students supported them? What if in turn they supported ongoing student actions across the country?
How can we create a vibrant movement for educational justice? The answer lies in the families, workers, and students that make up our academic institutions. And so we must build highly engaged coalitions that can work across universities and the diverse set of social groups outside the institutions of higher education. We need new collaborative methods of diverse leadership that straddle social groups and build broad, dynamic bases. This is how we will craft winnable campaigns around issues that are deeply felt in our schools and our communities. Some practical steps towards building this power include:
(1) Mapping our sources of collective power across departments, clubs, campus unions, neighborhoods, and other professional and personal networks.
(2) Identifying and pressuring specific targets (individual people, not institutions, are easier to oust in the short-term).
(3) Charting strategic timelines with goals that address short, intermediate, and long-term policy and structural changes.
(4) Sharing our experiences and resources as organizers.
(5) Establishing common values as we build towards more democratic control of our schools and communities.
We are in movement and are being moved, influenced and radicalized by world events. We see shrinking life prospects, the immiseration of our peers and neighbors, and the gutting of our schools by private interests who are making billions in profits on our growing indebtedness. But we also see powerful examples of education power and resistance in places as varied as Chile, Puerto Rico, and Quebec, as well as in our own departments, universities, and towns. We are winning small victories, every day, across the world. Every time concrete policy changes impact working conditions, halt tuition increases, or increase funding for public education, we take important steps that build power. Such wins have the potential to move entire societies in new directions. And so we are demanding—quietly at first but growing in volume and intensity—a new order of things. This is more than just about universities—we demand to be active agents and decision-makers in our collective future.

[This article will appear in the forthcoming print edition of TIDAL: Occupy Theory. It has also been printed in the GC Advocate @]