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.
When George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin, it brought home to all of us how little has changed since Emmett Till was murdered in Mississippi, nearly 60 years ago. Emmett, like Trayvon, was visiting relatives in a place where he was not known. Like Trayvon, he was murdered after a trip to the grocery store. In Emmett’s case, he was killed for speaking to the wife of the store owner’s white owner.
The Zimmerman verdict came down ironically the weekend that “Fruitvale Station” opened in Oakland. Watching the film, as well as protesting the failure of justice for Trayvon’s family, reopened the pain and anger of the days following New Year’s Eve 2009, when Oscar Grant was killed by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle.
But what the film does not portray is that it was popular resistance that forced the district attorney to prosecute Mehserle, and led to his conviction, although he received a very light sentence. (See an interesting perspective on his sentence in Mother Jones.)
Ultimately, it is not the criminal courts which will ever deliver justice for oppressed people in this country. Courts and prisons exist to perpetuate racism and inequality, as Michelle Alexander has so devastatingly documented. Only our unity, determination and creative energy can create a world in which murders like Emmett’s, Oscar’s and Trayvon’s can never happen again.
The creators of the brilliant website and hashtag #BlackLivesMatter ask the question, “what are you doing to make sure that #blacklivesmatter?”
This is the beginning of our answer. We need, first of all, to make sure no one can forget.
Street Cred artists modified bus ads in San Francisco over the past few weeks to highlight this truth. “Palestinian farmers face the brunt of Israel’s land confiscations, demolitions and water theft,” explains a recent call issued by Palestinian farming organizations. “An estimated 10% of the Palestinian GDP ($480 million) and 110,000 jobs are lost annually because of the negative effect of Israeli policies on Palestinian agriculture in the occupied Palestinian territory,” the report continues.
The bus ads which were modified promote the annual “Israel in the Gardens” festival, which celebrates the 1967 annexation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem by the Israeli army. These areas remain under Israeli military occupation today, one of the longest-standing occupations in the world. Since 1967, Israel has moved half a million Jewish settlers into Palestinian territory, confiscating over 63% of the agricultural land, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and other international laws. Israeli settlements in the West Bank expanded by 1977 acres in 2012, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
The artists’ action comes at the same time that a controversy has erupted over a series of ads placed on buses by American Muslims for Palestine. The AMP ads read “End Apartheid Now: Stop US Aid to Israel” alongside a picture of the Apartheid Wall which runs through over 300 miles of Palestinian land in the West Bank. Pro-Israel organizations and seven city supervisors have claimed that the AMP ad are “deceptive” and “inflammatory” because of its use of the word “apartheid,” Supervisor Scott Wiener and six other supervisors sent a letter to the Metropolitan Transit Agency calling on the agency to fork over the $5,030 from American Muslims for Palestine to the Human Rights Commission to combat “growing intolerance alienating the Jewish community.” The supervisors demand equates the AMP ads to a previous campaign, by Islamophobe Pamela Geller, which called Muslims “savage.”
As pointed out in a statement by Jewish Voice For Peace, Israeli officials themselves have used the word “apartheid,” which means “separation,” to describe its policies toward Palestinians. Israel’s calls the Wall pictured in the AMP ad its “Separation Barrier.”
“It’s Israel in the Gardens, not the AMP ads, which is deceptive,” said StreetCred member KD. “The ad calls it a ‘Jewish community celebration’ but it’s really a celebration of land theft. We call for the proceeds of these ads be donated to study the harm done to Jews and non-Jews alike by the conflation of the Jewish community with the Israeli state, and/or the harm done to Palestinians by the theft of their land.”
Numerous different modifications to the Israel in the Gardens bus ad have been posted on buses in various San Francisco locales.
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.
Pamela Geller is back in town, this time with a series of ads modeled on the ones created by the Committee on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) last month. The CAIR ads in turn were responding to Geller’s previous series, which said, “Defeat Jihad, Support Israel” below a quote from Ayn Rand: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.” CAIR launched the “my jihad” series to familiarize Americans with the true meaning of the often-misued term “jihad,” which means “struggling in the way of God”.
Geller’s new series uses incendiary alleged quotes from various Muslims, along with their photos, to stir up anti-Islamic fervor.
When her previous series ran in San Francisco, we unwelcomed her by stamping out hate speech and remaking them to say “Defeat Racism. Support Palestinian Right of Return.”
This time we are choosing to show Geller what it feels like to have your photo plastered on a bus next to something you may or may not have said. We hope she appreciates it.
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.
We read that the British anti-hunger organization, Oxfam, had released a report saying that the wealthiest 100 people in the world made enough money last year to eliminate extreme poverty in the world four times – that means a quarter of the money they made in one year could wipe out all the poverty in the world. This is truly an astounding statistic, especially at this time when we’re seeing deep cuts to the fragile safety net that so many in this country and other countries depend on for survival. We live in a time when scarcity is taken for granted, but the only real scarcity is of compassion.
We can’t wait for these billionaires to decide that they want to give enough of their wealth to charity to eliminate unnecessary suffering. They won’t do it. Most of this money came from other people’s labor. The people have a right to it, and taxation is the answer.
The Oxfam press release calls for:
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