FREEDOM & DIGNITY ACROSS WALLS: UNDERSTANDING PRISONER ORGANIZING FROM PALESTINE TO PELICAN BAY

Wednesday, June 21, 7PM
City College of San Francisco – Mission Center, Room 107
1125 Valencia St, SF

FEATURING:

Just a couple weeks ago, Palestinian prisoners suspended a 40-day hunger strike, bringing the Israeli state to the negotiating table. At the same time word began to emerge of a prisoner hunger strike against appalling conditions at Folsom State Prison here in California. Although both strikes come amid an intensification of Israeli colonialism in Palestine, and brazen plans for increased policing and imprisonment against Black, Brown, and immigrant communities in the US, they are also born of bold prisoner organizing.

Join us for a discussion drawing connections between struggles by imprisoned organizers in Palestine and California, providing updates on current prisoner-led actions, and lifting up opportunities for more powerful solidarity.

Help us spread the word: www.facebook.com/events/1930149910600506

DEGREES OF VISIBILITY


Opening Reception: Friday, June 9, 7pm

Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics
518 Valencia St., San Francisco

CPE is honored to help bring Degrees of Visibility to the Bay Area.  This photography exhibit lays bear the landscapes in which over 250 prisons, jails and detention centers are situated throughout each of the 50 U.S. states and colonies. As recent challenges to the United States’ scale of imprisonment mount in the wake of the Trump regime, the exhibition offers a unique approach to art and political representation.

Join us to celebrate this important exhibit coming to the Bay. Hear updates on local campaigns and projects against imprisonment, policing, and in defense of political prisoners from organizations including:
All of Us or None
Arab Resource and Organizing Center
California Coalition for Women Prisoners
Critical Resistance Oakland
Freedom Archives
TJI Justice Project
Underground Scholars
…and more!

In describing his work, Hunt situates imprisonment “as one arm of a larger system of racial, class and gendering controls that structure the United States’ hierarchies, segregations, political and economic relations….”  Degrees of Visibility provokes us to contemplate the plans and ideologies that facilitate and justify the disappearance of millions of people while simultaneously normalizing that process. At the same time, and most essentially, Hunt’s work compels us to understand that along with the disappearance of people goes the attempted disappearance of resistance—past, present, and future.

Degrees of Visibility helps put us in a strong position to find history, life, culture, resistance, and connection despite systematic attempts to disappear them. Our shared fate is tied to our abilities to think and work together across barriers including those erected through the prison industrial complex. We need to seize opportunities to connect our understandings and our fights to people living, dying, organizing, learning, and dreaming behind prison walls. These opportunities strengthen our vision and practice to fight for a better, freer, future.

Please help us spread the word by sharing our Facebook event and by following us on twitter!

In the Dark Times Will There Also Be Singing?

Saturday, June 3
11am-3pm
Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture
Gallery 308
San Francisco

CPE will be hosting a block of political programming as part of the  San Francisco International Arts Festival.  Inspired by Bertolt Brecht, we’re calling the program “In the Dark Times Will There Also Be Singing?”.  The program will feature three panels of people engaged in culture work and activism in the Bay Area and internationally.

11am-12:00pm  The Struggle over Creative Space and Resources
On the federal level we see proposals for the decimation of public arts funding, while at the same time the strains caused by displacement and gentrification are having a profound effect on where and how people–especially in working class communities of color–can build creative space. This panel will explore how artists, activists, and organizations build creative spaces and struggle for public resources for arts and culture in times of economic instability.

Panelists: Nihar Bhatt, Charmaine Davis, and Fernando Martí

12:30-1:30pm Arts and Culture over and against Borders
Common threads of far-right governments and movements include anti-immigrant sentiment/legislation, intensified border enforcement, and militarism. This panel will explore how artists are resisting the violence of xenophobia and war, and creating common cause (and common art) despite the borders displacing and dividing them.

Panelists: Ziad Abbas and Wael Buhaissy, Dohee Lee, and Eden Silva Jequinto

2-3pm Building Movements
Strong arts and culture have always been parts of strong social movements–creatively illustrating injustice and inequity, but also resilience, courage, and a better world.  This panel will explore the work of movement-based arts and culture and its role in igniting the imaginations and energies of people in Dark Times.

Panelists: Cat Brooks, Armael Malinis, and Maisha Quint

 

New Video Available!

Facing the Right: A Conversation with Tarso Luís Ramos
May 2, 2017
Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics

CPE hosted an event with Tarso Luís Ramos, of Political Research Associates looking at the current constellation of right wing forces within government and on the ground. This event explored emerging threats and authoritarian trends in the U.S. and globally, identifying some of the top threats facing the left movements today, and how organizers and activists can respond.

See the video from the event here.

WIthout Walls Video Now Available!

WITHOUT WALLS: ABOLITION & RETHINKING EDUCATION

Brought to you by:
Center for Political Education, Critical Resistance, Education for Liberation Network, Teachers 4 Social Justice
Organizing to get police out of your school?  Working on responses to harm at your school that do not involve criminalization? Building curriculum that creates possibilities to imagine a world without borders?  Come to this panel discussion with K-12 educators and abolitionist organizers, that will deepen learning between and across these constituencies, and identify needed tools and resources.

Panelists:
Farima Pour-Khorsid, Education for Liberation/Teachers 4 Social Justice
Sagnicthe Salazar, Xicana Moratorium Coalition
Chrissy Anderson-Zavala, UC Santa Cruz
Sharif Zakout, Arab Resource and Organizing Center
Moderated by:
Isaac Ontiveros, Center for Political Education

Welcoming Dr. Maryse Narcisse to the Bay!

The Center for Political Education is excited to welcome Dr. Maryse Narcisse of Fanmi Lavalas to the Bay Area on April 23rd.  We believe her visit is a important opportunity to be in solidarity with the struggles of the Haitian people.  We are very grateful to Haiti Action Committee for organizing this powerful event.

In anticipation of Dr. Narcisse’s visit we offer the following interview with our friend Pierre Labossiere  of the Haiti Action Committee on the significance of Dr. Narcisses’s visit. We also offer a study guide we hope can be helpful understanding Haiti and its people’s fight for freedom–past, present, and future.  Please check out and share these resources, and please join us in welcome Dr. Dr. Maryse Narcisse to the Bay Area on April 23rd!

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUR SPECIAL MARYSE NARCISSE RESOURCE GUIDE!

What’s Happening at CPE?

We’ve been busy during the past few months and show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.  Thanks to everyone who has turned out to recent events. We’re also excited to announce a couple upcoming events we’re working on.  We hope you’ll join us for them.

FACING THE RIGHT:
A Conversation with Tarso Luis Ramos of Political Research Associates

Tuesday, May 2, 7pm
518 Valencia St., San Francisco, Eric Quezada Center for Politics and Culture

Join CPE in welcoming Tarso Ramos, Executive Director of Political Research Associates to the Bay Area!  Tarso will help us unpack the current constellation of right wing forces within government and on the ground.  This event will explore emerging threats and authoritarian trends in the US and globally, identifying some of the top threats facing the progressive movement today and how organizers and activists can respond.
Check out the facebook event here.

WITHOUT WALLS: ABOLITION & RETHINKING EDUCATION

Friday, April 14th 6-8:30pm
Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California
1433 Madison St., Oakland

Brought to you by:
Center for Political Education, Critical Resistance, Education for Liberation Network, Teachers 4 Social Justice
Organizing to get police out of your school?  Working on responses to harm at your school that do not involve criminalization? Building curriculum that creates possibilities to imagine a world without borders?  Come to this panel discussion with K-12 educators and abolitionist organizers, that will deepen learning between and across these constituencies, and identify needed tools and resources.
Panelists:
Farima Pour-Khorsid, Education for Liberation/Teachers 4 Social Justice
Sagnicthe Salazar, Xicana Moratorium Coalition
Chrissy Anderson-Zavala, UC Santa Cruz
Sharif Zakout, Arab Resource and Organizing Center
Moderated by:
Rachel Herzing and Isaac Ontiveros, Center for Political Education
Check out the facebook event for more details.

The Reading Black Reconstruction Study Group is going strong.

As we approach the group’s mid-point this week, we’re inspired by the participants, guest facilitators, and the book itself.  Black Reconstruction has so many good lessons to teach for today’s organizers and activists and we encourage everyone to dive in.

By way of encouragement, we’ve been posting videos from the study group sessions and supplemental materials on CPE’s website.  You can find them by clicking here.  Materials usually get posted within a couple days of the in-person session.

We hope to continue to do study groups, and are always looking for ideas about good books (or films, or albums–the sky’s the limit!) and topics to use as inspirations.  If you have an idea to share , please contact us at center@politicaleducation.org.

Looking the World in the Face: Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A PDF OF THIS PIECE

February 24, 2017

“History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.”

James Baldwin (“Black English: A Dishonest Argument”, 1980, as quoted in I Am Not Your Negro)

Raoul Peck’s filmmaking approach in I Am Not Your Negro, affords us the opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with the dynamism of James Baldwin’s thinking. Our times call on us to take up the critical task of ruthlessly analyzing our economic, social, and political conditions, not only as a way of understanding them, but as a way of changing them and ourselves. Baldwin and Peck each depict this process, in different ways, as messy confrontations and contestations of oppression and struggle that make up history itself. The ways they decipher and deconstruct the periods in which they live offer us a useful methodology. Baldwin and Peck’s approaches and their critical elaborations, their contestation of social, political, and economic terrain, recall how Frantz Fanon uplifts the revolutionary potential of radical cultural engagement: “By imparting new meaning and dynamism to artisanship, dance, music, literature, and the oral epic, the colonized subject restructures his own perception. The world no longer seems doomed.” (The Wretched of the Earth, 1961)

Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro, takes up the dangling threads of an unfinished book by James Baldwin about the lives, politics, struggles, and deaths of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King. Baldwin’s previously unheard and unread words are brought to life through a vocal performance by Samuel L. Jackson and woven together with historical footage of Baldwin, Malcolm, King, and Evers, with moving and still images of US cultural life (commercials, TV shows, state and business propaganda films, etc.) and political struggles of the 20th century. The text of some of Baldwin’s letters appear on screen for us to read, as does the text from FBI counterintelligence reports on Baldwin’s movements, politics, and sexuality. I Am Not Your Negro also lingers on scenes from a dozen or so other films, as Baldwin’s words in Jackson’s voice offer scathing criticism and insight. Contemporary footage and images from our time are interspersed through the film and offset by some comment from Baldwin or a film or TV segment from the 1950s or 60s. This contemporary footage almost exclusively depicts the violence of policing and police repression of uprisings, from Los Angeles to Ferguson.

The film charts Baldwin’s attempts to energize the lives and contradictions of Evers, Malcolm, and King:

I want these three lives to bang against and reveal each other, as, in truth, they did…and use their dreadful journey as a means of instructing the people whom they loved so much, who betrayed them, and for whom they gave their lives. (as quoted in I Am Not Your Negro)

Continue Reading Here

Continue reading

Study for Struggle: Weaponizing Theory for the Fights Ahead

This post is part of a series on the possible impacts of Trump’s election on a variety of social justice issues. Click here to read more.

• • •

by Rachel Herzing & Isaac Ontiveros*

The election of Donald Trump to the office of President of the United States set off a chain reaction among Left organizers and activists across the country. The responses were immediate and forceful. Disbelief was one of the primary reactions we witnessed via social media, informal conversations, and in-person meetings. Many people expressed grief and despair. Others, fear and dread. Still others, anger and outrage. And still others said, “I told you so.” Many took to the streets to express themselves collectively in what was sometimes a cacophony of perspectives and voices.

Nearly as immediately, we saw the release of platforms and statements. We received notices about online fora, trainings, and presentations. We heard about community meetings covering everything from strategies for making one’s church, campus, etc. a sanctuary space, to ways to protect organizers and activists from increased surveillance, to strategy sessions preparing for the 2018 elections.

In the wake of November 8th’s result, at the Center for Political Education we scoured the news, participated in online and in-person community meetings, and set ourselves to studying the range of post-election analysis circulating. We also met one-on-one with local community and political organizations to understand their current campaigns and projects, political education programs and needs, and to continue our ongoing work of understanding how we might support local groups to apply strong theory and analysis to their work on the ground. That ongoing effort has been strongly affected by the reactions of our community partners to what they see as the shifting context in the post-election era.

Many of our comrades and allies, and the communities with which they work, are spinning. Some are fearful of mass deportations, a Muslim registry, the repression of dissent and the expansion of surveillance apparatuses, and the rollback of gains made in recent years. Some are forecasting and preparing for the rise of fascism, the Alt-Right, militias and vigilantism, and the evisceration of social safety nets that have offered the slimmest relief for poor and working class communities and communities of color in both urban and rural areas. Still others are worried about environmental calamity, increased privatization, isolationism, and increased hostilities with international players. Many of our partners are also springing into action to analyze the conditions, plan strategies, and shore up defenses.

In considering the landscape on which the Left will organize, a series of questions emerge. Who is the Left being used as the point of reference here? In assessing what the Left should do, who the Left should mobilize, or how it should increase its ranks, what is the starting place for forging alliances and alignment? This question seems particularly pertinent given a steady stream of exhortations to expand our bases and forge alliances and coalitions with workers, liberals, or Democratic centrists. But with whom do we understand ourselves to be beginning these building efforts? What steps should be taken to align our understandings of the current context, goals about priority targets, and the best means and timeframes in which to attempt to shift power? While certainly this is a unique period in some senses, what lessons could be drawn from history to inform how we fight tomorrow? What are the best tools to apply toward these ends?

In our own reflection at the Center for Political Education, we found ourselves asking, will the Trump regime affect people’s abilities to think clearly? Will the fear so many are expressing about what will happen under the Trump administration lead to retreat and paralysis? Will it ignite frenetic activity that cuts corners on rigorous analysis in favor of rapid action? How may we best balance people’s real sense of fear and urgency with the need for methodical, rigorous analysis and strategic thinking? What roles are we carving out for ideological and political struggle as we strive to develop collective understandings of who we are, what we’re up against, and how best to fight back?

During the 1966 Solidarity Conference of the Peoples of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, Amilcar Cabral made his famous Weapon of Theory speech. As some have noted, Cabral put forward a forceful argument that the struggle for national liberation against the devastation wrought by colonialism and imperialism was a struggle for history itself: an active historical understanding of their conditions allowed the oppressed not only to overturn the racist mythology proclaiming they had no history, but also to forcefully carve out an understanding of themselves as protagonists of a freedom struggle in the present, and as architects of a liberated future. Of course, this would not be easy. As Cabral (1966) put it:

The ideological deficiency, not to say the total lack of ideology, within the national liberation movements—which is basically due to ignorance of the historical reality which these movements claim to transform—constitutes one of the greatest weaknesses of our struggle against imperialism, if not the greatest weakness of all.

In reflecting on this moment, we think it is useful to re-engage with similar challenges and questions, albeit in markedly different conditions. How do we build and use weapons of theory? How do we create lasting environments in which people can put their creative energies to use, forging and testing conceptions of how to “produce and make history”? We can start by drawing lessons from how social movement–affiliated education projects responded to crises in other periods. The Highlander Folk School, for instance, started in the wake of the Scottsborough Boys arrests and militant labor upheaval and repression in the region. The Highlander Folk School, and later the Highlander Research and Education Center, was also a key resource for civil rights activists and organizations and played a pivotal role as a strategic incubator of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and in the founding of the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee (SNCC). During a period in which Black people faced intense repression, violence, and intimidation for attempting to register and vote, Septima Clark’s Citizenship Schools extended the work of Highlander outward from the physical space of the school and were an essential (and often clandestine) vehicle in helping people meet the literacy tests required to vote, while also teaching politics and organizing.

During the ensuing decades, civil rights and liberation struggles of oppressed people in the United States increasingly drew a common cause and shared fate with Third World liberation struggles across the globe. Countless progressive, radical, and revolutionary organizations wove intensive studies and analyses of political theory and practice into their organizing work—often drawing from the theoretical engagements, elaborations, and struggles of liberation organizations worldwide. Indeed, the struggle for education as liberation drove Third World students to carve out spaces for workers and people of color on campuses across the United States, leading to the founding of Ethnic Studies as a recognized academic discipline (a struggle which continues to this day). Amidst the lethal backlash against liberation movements in the 1960s and 1970s, the Brecht Forum in New York City emerged in part from collaborative work for Puerto Rican independence. The Brecht Forum became an important vehicle for Left learning, strategy, and struggle in the 1980s, and more recently as a place for thinking and strategizing during the 2008 financial crisis and the Occupy movement.

Several organizations, including the Highlander Center and our own Center for Political Education, have joined other powerful education resources across the US and the world in continuing to provide spaces for study, reflection, analysis, and strategy. These kinds of spaces are more crucial than ever to understand our movements, to analyze our conditions, and to prepare to fight back. Returning to Weapon of Theory, Cabral reminds us that “every practice produces a theory,” and that “nobody has yet made a successful revolution without a revolutionary theory.” More than six decades before Cabral’s speech at the 1966 Tricontinental Conference, V.I. Lenin (1902/1993), writing from within a movement facing intense state repression, offered a similar analysis in What Is to Be Done? He averred that theory was an indispensable guard against “the narrowest forms of practical activity.”

The rise of Trump and the onslaughts he has promised to unleash are matters of dire urgency. There is no doubt that social change organizations should be taking up practical activities to protect themselves and their communities while building resistance and shifting power. The urgency that surrounds and compels us may discourage us from pausing to think deeply and rigorously. However, our ability to fight for the long haul depends on this deep thinking. Creating, valuing, and nurturing durable and thoughtful spaces for developing praxis in direct response to our times, places, conditions, and abilities is critically important as we face the perils that surely lie ahead. Now more than ever, we must understand that theory and analysis are crucial weapons, rather than things we don’t have time for.

• • •

References and Further Readings
Cabral, Amilcar. 1966. “The Weapon of Theory.” Speech delivered to the Tricontinental Conference of the Peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Havana, Cuba.
Lenin, V.I. 1902/1993. What Is to Be Done? Burning Questions of Our Movement. New York: International Publishers. 11th ed.

• • •

* Rachel Herzing and Isaac Ontiveros are codirectors of The Center for Political Education, a resource for political organizations on the Left, progressive social movements, the working class, and people of color in the San Francisco Bay Area.

• • •

Header image (left) by Joe Brusky, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 / Cropped and modified.

This Saturday, January 14!

JOIN US!

People Get Ready: Building Resistance in the Trump Era

SATURDAY, JANUARY 14, 2017
12-6pm
Dwinelle Hall, UC Berkeley

Join the Center for Political Education and friends for a one-day conference on analysis, strategy, and the fight for our future.

cpe_conference_with-berkeley

OPENING REMARKS (program will start promptly at 12pm)
Linda Burnham National Domestic Workers Alliance

BREAK OUT SESSIONS
(Block 1)  1:15-2:45pm

Clampdown: Understanding Fascism, Imperialism, and White Supremacy
Melanie Cervantes Dignidad Rebelde
Linda Evans All of Us or None*
Phil Hutchings
Alicia Jrapko National Network on Cuba

Trying Times: Understanding the Impacts of Neoliberalism under Trump
Chela Delgado Teachers for Social Justice
Kung Feng Jobs with Justice San Francisco
Emily Lee Chinese Progressive Association
James Tracy Community Labor Studies, City College of San Francisco

(Block 2)   3:15-4:45pm
Are You Going to Go My Way?: Considering Alliances, Fronts, and other Left Formations
Liz Derias-Tyehimba West Oakland Youth Center
Tongo Eisen-Martin  The Last 3%
Greg Morozumi Eastside Arts Alliance
Adrienne Skye Roberts California Coalition for Women Prisoners

Rocksteady: Exploring the Radical Potential of Community Defense
Max Elbaum author, Revolution in the Air: Sixties Radicals Turn to Lenin, Mao, and Che
Corrina Gould (Ohlone) Indian People Organizing for Change
Devonte Jackson Black Alliance for Just Immigration
Lara Kiswani Arab Resource and Organizing Center

Many Rivers to Cross: Navigating Opportunities and Tensions between International and Domestic Organizing
Lily Fahsi-Haskell Critical Resistance
Pierre LaBossiere Haiti Action Committee
Maari Maitrey Alliance for South Asians Taking Action
Alex Sanchez Homies Unidos

Closing Program 5-6pm

*affiliations listed for identification purposes only

This event is wheelchair accessible and free to the public. No registration is necessary. Childcare will be provided.

Graciously hosted by the American Cultures Center at UC Berkeley.

For more information or questions contact the Center for Political Education.

Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/186776625122711/

Building powerful movements from below and the left through education, analysis, theory, and dialogue