Friday, October 28, 2011

A Memorandum in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples

I went to the General Assembly at Occupy Oakland tonight where a group of us proposed the following  memorandum, which passed with  97% support! I'm writing another post about Occupy Oakland, but wanted to post this tonight. The full text is below:

Proposal to "Occupy Oakland":
Memorandum of Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples

RESOLUTION:  Memorandum of Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples

WHEREAS, those participating in “Occupy Oakland” acknowledge that the United States of America is a colonial (and imperial) nation, and that non-indigenous people are guests upon stolen indigenous land; and

WHEREAS, those participating in “Occupy Oakland” acknowledge that Oakland is already occupied land; Oakland being the historical territory of the Chochenyo Ohlone people; and

WHEREAS, those participating in “Occupy Oakland” acknowledge that indigenous peoples here and around the world continue to resist the violent oppression and exploitation of colonizing nations like the United States, and as a result have a great amount of experience that could strengthen the “Occupy Wall Street” movement; and

WHEREAS, those participating in “Occupy Oakland” acknowledge that after centuries of disregard for the welfare of future generations, and the consistent disrespect and exploitation of the Earth, we all find ourselves on a polluted and disturbed planet, lacking the wisdom to live sustainably at peace with the community of Life; therefore be it

RESOLVED, that those participating in “Occupy Oakland” seek the genuine and respectful involvement of indigenous peoples in the rebuilding of a new society on their ancestral lands; and

As a signal to the national “Occupy Wall Street” movement and the indigenous peoples here and there who have felt excluded by the colonialist language of occupation used to name this movement, it shall be declared that “Occupy Oakland" aspires to “Decolonize  Oakland" – to “Decolonize Wall Street” – with the guidance and participation of indigenous peoples; and

Extending an open hand of humility and friendship, those participating in “Occupy Oakland” respectfully invite indigenous peoples to join the uprising against corporate greed taking place across this continent. “Occupy Oakland” wishes to further the process of healing and reconciliation and implores indigenous peoples to share their wisdom and guidance, as they see fit, so as to help restore true freedom and democracy in this country, to initiate a new era of peace and cooperation that will work for everyone, including the Earth and the original inhabitants of this land.

In Solidarity,

Corrina Gould (Chochenyo Ohlone)
Joanne Barker (Lenape [Delaware Tribe of Indians])¸ SFSU
Luz Calvo, CSU East Bay
Andreana Clay, SFSU
Andrew Jolivétte (Opelousa/Atakapa-Ishak), SFSU
Melissa Nelson (Anishinaabe [Turtle Mountain Chippewa]), SFSU
Kathy Wallace (Karuk, Yurok and Hupa), SFSU

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Endorsing a critique of Slutwalk

About a month ago I was asked by Farah Tanis, ED of Black Women's Blueprint, to endorse the Open Letter From Black Women to Slutwalk. I had read some about Slutwalk, a response to an officer comments that women should avoid dressing like sluts to avoid rape. That's a protest  I wholeheartedly support. So, I was a little hesistant to endorse the letter, given that I hadn't participated, hadn't been following it too much, and knew that other Black women, like Aishah Shahidah Simmons, have been keynote speakers at Slutwalks in the U.S.

Farah Tanis, as others have noted, was open to these hesitations (as well as my questions about how queer women were represented within the organization) and we had a nice back and forth, open discussion. After reading a draft of the letter, I decided to sign on and endorse. Still working out my thoughts on it, but emphatically behind a group of Black women coming together to question the focus and intent of a movement that speaks for all women, under an umbrella term that is used to delegitimize, attack, and dehumanize women. I see the letter as an important step for discussion. For movement.

And I support Slutwalk, or at least the ideas behind it.

Any protest that directly targets institutions and individuals that blame women for the violence we are subjected to is something I can get behind, fully. But, the critique that Tanis and others outline in the open letter is significant and appears to be even more necessary with a development from the NYC Slutwalk this weekend. As pictured above, a young white protester held a sign quoting Lennon and Ono's "Woman is the Nigger of the World," released in 1972. As others, particularly Aishah Shahidah Simmons and Latoya Peterson, have written, the fact that this woman embraces this quote, years after the context (not justifying) in which this song was written is a telling statement about race, feminism, and women's bodies. She was asked by one of the NYC organizers, a Black woman, to take the sign down and she did. Great. Still, the action, the belief that it was okay to use "nigger" as a call to protest is what troubles me.

Interestingly, I saw this photo right after I gave a lecture on Frantz Fanon and asked students if it was possible in this historical moment to, as Fanon states, "rediscover(ing) one's people [which] sometimes means...wanting to be a 'nigger,' not an exceptional 'nigger,' but a real 'nigger,' a 'dirty nigger,' the sort defined by the white man."  And, most were alarmed and adamant that the N-word, as we now know it, is a word that they view as unacceptable, even as a call for liberation or decolonization. It was even difficult for some of them to say it, even quoting text. And, in what appears to be a moment where a white woman who probably says "N-word" rather than "nigger" in her everyday life feels completely entitled to print the word on a sign protesting violence against "women," demonstrates that indeed, it is not. If you can't say it, if the words physically can't come out of your mouth, like some of my students, how are you going to use it as an organizing tool? Which brings me to the question of "slut" being used in a similar way--embracing the cheap slut, the whore, as it's been defined by men may not be the path to liberation. It may be, but I'm not convinced. Not when the intersections of racism, classism, sexism, and heterosexism continue to be overlooked in feminist spaces. And isn't that what we're in this for? Liberation. Freedom. An end to violence against women simply because we are women. As Blackwomen's Blueprint's letter states,

"For us the trivialization of rape and the absence of justice are viciously intertwined with narratives of sexual surveillance, legal access and availability to our personhood.  It is tied to institutionalized ideology about our bodies as sexualized objects of property, as spectacles of sexuality and deviant sexual desire. It is tied to notions about our clothed or unclothed bodies as unable to be raped whether on the auction block, in the fields or on living room television screens."


I don't think the intent of the organizers of Slutwalk has ever been to trivialize rape, I firmly believe that. Nonetheless, intent is of dire importance at this time. Or the ignorance of the real differences and experience of "womanhood," and the intersections of race, class, gender, sex, sexuality and violence that structure the lives of women of color will continue to be a dividing line in feminist movement.

I am hopeful that we will keep these conversations, these critiques, open.