Based on the work of Beirut-based American Arabic calligrapher, Everitte.
Installed in Oakland.
In coming out as transgender, one day after receiving the longest sentence ever handed down for releasing information to the press, Chelsea Manning once again started a difficult conversation that this country needs to have. In the media frenzy following Chelsea’s announcement, even the case of Cece Macdonald got some attention. Cece is a transwoman doing time in a men’s prison in Minnesota, for defending herself and her friends against a racist, homophobic and transphobic attack.
Some supporters have suggested that Chelsea should have waited to make her announcement, in order not to deflect attention from “the broader issues.” But we feel that the rights of trans prisoners is not a narrower issue than U.S. imperialism and war. It’s all connected.
We support Chelsea for starting many hard convversations and for being who she is.
On July 8, 30,000 California prisoners began a hunger strike to demand an end to the state’s use of long-term solitary confinement and other forms of cruel and unusual punishment.
California holds nearly 12,000 people in extreme isolation at a cost of over $60 million per year. The cells have no windows, and no access to fresh air or sunlight. The United Nations condemns the use of solitary confinement for more than 15 days as torture, yet many people in California state prisons have been caged in solitary for 10 to 40 years!
In 2011, over 12,000 prisoners and their family and community members participated in statewide hunger strikes protesting the inhumane conditions in the SHU. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) promised meaningful reform. In February 2013, prisoners announced that another hunger strike would begin July 8th because of CDCR’s failure to fulfill that promise.
The hunger strikers** have developed these five, straight-forward, core demands, as shown below in their own words:
1. End Group Punishment & Administrative Abuse – This is in response to PBSP’s application of “group punishment” as a means to address individual inmates rule violations. This includes the administration’s abusive, pretextual use of “safety and concern” to justify what are unnecessary punitive acts. This policy has been applied in the context of justifying indefinite SHU status, and progressively restricting our programming and privileges.
2. Abolish the Debriefing Policy, and Modify Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria –
3. Comply with the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 Recommendations Regarding an End to Long-Term Solitary Confinement – CDCR shall implement the findings and recommendations of the US commission on safety and abuse in America’s prisons final 2006 report regarding CDCR SHU facilities as follows:
4. Provide Adequate and Nutritious Food – cease the practice of denying adequate food, and provide a wholesome nutritional meals including special diet meals, and allow inmates to purchase additional vitamin supplements.
5. Expand and Provide Constructive Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status Inmates.
The Department of Corrections (CDCR) has refused to negotiate with the prisoners. Some of them are already in serious medical distress.
Call Governor Jerry Brown and demand that he meet with the prisoner hunger strike representatives and agree to their five demands.
(916) 445-2841 (510) 289-0336 (510) 628-0202 Fax: (916) 558-3160
Suggested script: I’m calling in support of the prisoners on hunger strike. The governor has the power to stop the torture of solitary confinement. I urge the governor to compel the CDCR to enter into negotiations to end the strike. RIGHT NOW is their chance to enter into clear, honest negotiations with the strikers to end the torture.
13 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons are also on open-ended hunger strike, some since April. They are protesting the Israeli government’s use of administrative detention, which allows Palestinians (but not Israelis) to be held indefinitely without charge or trial. This is similar to the situation of the prisoners held by the U.S. military at Guantanamo, over half of whom have been on hunger strike since February. At least 45 of the 120 men on hunger strike at Guantanamo are being force-fed, which is painful and dangerous and a violation of international law. 86 of the 166 prisoners at Guantanamo have been cleared for release for six years, but the Obama administration is not moving forward with releasing them. Only a handful of the 500+ inmates who have been held at Guantanamo since the prison opened in 2001 have ever been charged with a crime.
We demand an end to unjust imprisonment and all forms of torture, including solitary confinement. Tear down the walls!
Fourth of July is always such a difficult time for people who are ever-conscious of how far this country has always been from promoting the ideals we espouse.
As people sing about “the rockets red glare” we hope to get them to think for a minute about the people who have borne the brunt of all the rockets we’ve sent down on people around the globe. The above graphic recalls the heroic action of Muntadher al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at George W. Bush, to protest “the violations that are committed against the Iraqi people.” Al-Zaidi shouted “This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog,” as he threw the shoes, which is a traditional sign of contempt in Arab cultures. He was sentenced to three years in prison for his action, and spurred solidarity demonstrations all over the world.
The poster below first made its appearance nearly six months ago. At that time, prisoners in Guantanamo had just begun their hunger strike. Now, the medical staff and guards at Guantanamo have announced they will only force-feed the hunger strikers at night during Ramadan. Force-feeding is condemned by international law as a form of torture. Although four months into the hunger strike, Obama finally renewed his promise to close the prison and repatriate most of the detainees — over half of whom have been cleared for release by every authority — none of them have been released. What will it take? When will we rise up and demand justice?
Official LGBT Pride celebrations, both in San Francisco and all over the country, have been coopted by assimilationist liberals demanding equal rights. Along with many other queers rooted in broad social justice struggles, we were especially distressed this year by celebrations of the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage while the court’s assaults on voting rights and affirmative action threaten so many in our various communities. We posted these three images along the route of the Dyke March and Trans March in San Francisco, to remind people of our history of queer liberation militancy.
These three posters commemorate three important moments of joyful, powerful queer revolt. The Stonewall Rebellion is iconic, but is in danger of being sanitized from consciousness. When groups calling themselves “Stonewall Democrats” ally themselves with politicians like former SF mayor Gavin Newsom, who supports gay people as long as they’re not poor, it’s obvious that the spirit of Stonewall is being perverted. Stonewall was a fight-back led by street trans sex workers, working class bar dykes and queer youth who openly identified with the Black Panthers and the Vietnamese people.
Lesbian Avengers, formed in 1992, was a direct action group focused on lesbian visibility and survival. Inspired by the success of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), and with chapters in dozens of cities throughout the country created fabulous street actions that inserted lesbians into public life, forced political change, and redefined dykes as the coolest, most ferocious, girls on the block. Lesbian Avengers organized the first Dyke March at the 1993 March on Washington. At least 20,000 women participated in the semi-spontaneous march, which had no permit and no official sanction.
“Fight AIDS Not Arabs” was the slogan shouted by the group from ACT UP New York when they took over a CBS news studio in 1991, interrupting Dan Rather’s nightly news broadcast. The action preceded the “Day of Desperation” at the start of the first Gulf War, as bombs rained down on Iraq. In San Francisco, Dykes and Gay Guys’ Emergency Response (DAGGER) joined with Queer Peace (part of Queer Nation) and members of ACT UP to organize an all-queer march of over 1000 people and a queer blockade of the Federal Building, to protest the war against Iraq.
We will not forget.
Last week, the San Francisco LGBT Pride Committee rescinded the selection of military whistleblower Bradley Manning as an honorary grand marshal of this year’s parade. According to the flood of articles about the decision-making process, the committee was pressured by LGBT military organizations to withdraw the invitation. Manning was elected grand marshal by the SF Pride “Electoral College,” which is composed of past community grand marshals, and they are supposed to choose someone from “the community.” So one part of the debate has centered on who is our “community”.
We in BAAQUP (which includes at least one former grand marshal) say that our community is people who follow their conscience and do not remain silent when they see war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed. We see Manning as more worthy of being honored than the big banks and other corporations who pay to put their names and banners all over the parade.
Take action! Tell the Pride Committee to stand up for justice.
Street Cred and BAAQUP commend the UC Berkeley Student Senate for its vote Wednesday night to divest from companies profiting from Israeli occupation. The student senators voted 11-9 to divest its funds from Hewlett-Packard, Caterpillar and Cement Roadstone Holdings, and recommended that the UC Regents do so as well.
Caterpillar sells armored bulldozers to the Israeli military. The bulldozers are frequently used to demolish Palestinian homes, in violation of international law. One such bulldozer killed U.S. solidarity activist Rachel Corrie in Gaza in 2003. A Hewlett Packard subsidiary sells biometric technology to the Israeli government to track the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Similar technology was supplied to the South African government by Polaroid and IBM, which were key targets of the U.S. divestment movement that helped to topple South African apartheid in the 1980s.
Cement Roadstone Holdings owns 25% of Mashav Initiating and Development, parent company of Nesher Israel Cement Enterprises. Nesher provided cement for the construction of the separation wall, checkpoints, West Bank settlements and Israeli construction in the occupied territories.
The Berkeley vote was the fourth at a UC Campus in the last few months. The UC Riverside senate passed a similar resolution a few weeks ago, but then overturned it under pressure from Zionists on campus. A resolution at Santa Barbara was narrowly defeated last week. The UC Irvine senate passed its resolution in November.
Street Cred members installed bus shelter posters in downtown Berkeley and at the Bancroft and Telegraph entrance to campus, congratulating the student senate for its courageous action for justice.
On March 8, 1908, International Women’s Day was inaugurated in New York City, as part of a huge strike by garment workers, most of whom were young women and girls. 15,000 women, including middle-class women and sweatshop workers, marched through New York demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights – all of which they eventually won through collective action.
In 1961, Women Strike for Peace was born, as 50,000 women across the country marched for peace and against nuclear testing.
In 1970, the National Organization for Women organized the Women’s Strike for Equality, in which 20,000 or more marched through New York, demanding “free abortion on demand, free 24-hour childcare for all mothers and an end to discrimination against women in hiring, pay and promotions.
In 1978, 100,000 people marched on Washington to demand ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, which declared that, “Equality of Rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.” The ERA died an ignominious death in 1982, when it failed to be ratified by the required 38 states within 7 years of passage by Congress (it came three states short). One of the main arguments used by the right wing to instill fear and kill the amendment was that if women were equal under the law, we might be sent into combat.
So now, women are officially allowed in combat, though in fact many have been there for years in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. But not only do women still not have guaranteed equality under the law, but states are fast and furiously curtailing the right to abortion and even contraception. And there sure isn’t free or even affordable childcare for most women.
The right to kill and torture isn’t liberation. We don’t want women in combat, we want people of all genders to refuse to participate in wars of aggression.
Langston Hughes gave voice to the frustration and rage of a generation of
African Americans in the Harlem Renaissance. This is perhaps his best-known poem, and many know it as “A Dream Deferred,” but its actual title is “Harlem,” which pretty much speaks for itself.
The question it asks has never been more relevant than today in Oakland, where unemployment in the heavily African American neighborhood of West Oakland is up to 44% and in East Oakland, which is largely Latino and African American, it’s as high as 35%. At least nine young African Americans have been killed by police in Oakland in the last five years.
A translation of some of Hughes’ poetry into Arabic was published by a Lebanese publisher in 2011. We posted this English and Arabic version in Oakland and Berkeley to provoke contemplation of all the dreams deferred and denied by our government’s wars on Arabic speaking people, from Iraq to New York to our own streets. Arabic speakers are increasingly criminalized and suspect, and as anti-Islamic sentiment gains legitimacy Arabs and Muslims area increasingly targeted for violence.
It may not be true that the Inuit language has 100 words for snow, but it is true that Arabic has many words that mean “love”.
In a time and place where many people associate Arabs and Muslims only with war, and Islamophobia and race-baiting are on the rise, Bay Area artists chose this Valentine’s Day to hang this excerpt from Ahdaf Souief’s acclaimed novel Map of Love in highly visible public spaces.
Bay Area Art Queers Unleashing Power (BAAQUP) posted this image and text in Oakland and Berkeley bus shelters early Wednesday morning, as a Valentine’s gift to our community. The text, in English and Arabic, reads:
‘Hubb’ is love
‘عشق’ ‘ishq’ is love that entwines two people together,
‘شغف’ ‘shaghaf’ is love that nests in the chambers of the heart,
‘هيام\هام’ ‘huyam’ is love that wanders the earth,
‘تيم\تام’ ‘taym’ is love in which you lose yourself,
‘وله’ ‘walah’ is love that carries sorrow within it,
‘صبابة\صب’ ‘sababah’ is love that exudes from your pores,
‘هوى’ ‘hawa’ is love that shares its name with air and ‘falling’,
‘غرام’ ‘gharam’ is love that is willing to pay the price.
from Map of Love by Ahdaf Souief