Category Archives: palestine

december 17: develop/ment/democracy/meant/more

Dear Readers,

Bright sun in a blue sky, Brooklyn shines over brown, black, and white people bundled up, fur lined hoods like halos around our heads.  I’m heading over to City Hall in a minute, for a New Orleans Survivors Council NY and Right to the City Alliance sponsored protest.

 

What are we protesting: The demolition of 5000 otherwise habitable units of public housing in New Orleans, amounting to an 82% reduction in the amount of public housing in NOLA period, a pricey decision, costing NOLA 762 million, and charging it all to the race and class hustle for life called America.

For more info: www.NYKatrinaRita.org, www.myspace.com/NYKatrinaRita.org

Scholar with an attitude, Ward Churchill calls this democracy “a travesty of a mockery of a sham.”  Let’s give Professor Churchill a minute with that lil statement right there.

 Todays New York Times front page story, 66 Nations Pledge Billions in Palestinian Aid,” covers Monday’s international “fund-raiser” for Palestine.  The day long event was held in Paris, all the big wigs out to bid on and increase their clout, a post-Peace Talk dash to develop Palestine, a “high profile” effort to pitch into the game while the camera’s are still watching.  The story is only half told.  When the Times reports on massive aid to Palestine without fleshing out the story with even one nod to wall-to-wall imprisonment, lethal check points, criminalization, and slow genocide of the Palestinian people that’s been going on for decades, they risk increasing the anti-Islamic sentiment that currently fuels much of the U.S. sponsored world war.   

My father forwarded me an article written by Republican Presidential hopeful and Governor of Arkansas, Michael Huckabee, feautred in the Jan/Feb 2008 issue of Foreign Affairs.  Entitled, America’s Priorities in the War on Terror: Islamists, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan, the article is a manifesto of sorts, a peek into what he would do if elected.  I’m going to give you a sample of the shit talking he’s doing, so that you could feel me when I say, it is neccesary to tell the whole fucking story if we’re going to take the time to tell it at all.  Especially when it comes to nations with a large Muslim population.  Especially now. Here goes Huckabee talking about how Bush never did enough to villify Muslims:

*The Bush administration has never adequately explained the theology and ideology behind Islamic terrorism or convinced us of its ruthless fanaticism.

*Given how Americans have thrived on diversity — religious, ethnic, racial — it takes an enormous leap of imagination to understand what Islamic terrorists are about, that they really do want to kill every last one of us and destroy civilization as we know it.

*If they are willing to kill their own children by letting them detonate suicide bombs, then they will also be willing to kill our children for their misguided cause. 

Anti-Islamic sentiment indeed.  On balance, aside from being a racist jerk, Huckabee has a few ideas that are actually interesting, unlike Bush, who managed to keep me bored with his script for 8 full years.  In the article, Huckabee says we can’t export democracy like KFC or Coca-Cola.  Which is the heart of the matter.  What is democracy?  Is it the freedom to choose American?  Or is it a kind of freedom we have never seen? 

In the name of New Orleans.  In the name of Palestine.  In the name of the world wide hustle and of the individual struggle.  In the name of peace.  Here’s some information.  On brown and black people working to protect their land, their homes, their territory in America’s mid-sized cities. 

It’s an article I wrote for WireTap, reprinted with permission by The Nation

Enjoy. 

Anti-Gentrification Rebels

kimberly ellis main

Increasing gentrification in America’s midsized cities has spurred collective actions — and gained victories — among local communities fighting for their right to stay.


(Author’s note: This article builds on Laura Hadden’s recent WireTap feature “There Goes the Neighborhood” with a brief introduction to the Right to the City concept, which fosters urban dweller sovereignty. This piece examines gentrification in America’s midsized cities through case studies of Southwest gem Austin, Texas, and the Rust Belt renaissance city Pittsburgh, Pa.)

The U.S. anti-gentrification movement has gained inspiration from a banner-worthy ideology called “Right to the City.” The notion was originally articulated in 1968 by French philosopher Henri Lefebvre. His concept was simple and daring: Return decision-making power in cities back to all urban dwellers.Lefebvre also promoted the concept of “layers of recognized citizenship,” which endows city folk with authority over all their dwellings, past and present. Lefebvre’s Right to the City concept suggests that one can be a national citizen of India, while being an urban citizen of Los Angeles, thereby layering that urban dweller with all the civic rights and responsibilities of a citizen in both places.

So, why should the movement be studying the Right to the City concept?First, because gentrification causes urban citizens to feel the glistening, hungry fangs of globalization at home, literally, and Lefebvre’s theory helps us understand our rights, especially in an era of worldwide war.Additionally, the Right to the City ideology is spreading through the national activist ranks, lately through the work of the Right To The City Alliance (a national advocacy group representing community organizations in nine cities) and the United Nations, sending smoke signals from coast to embattled coast.Lastly, America’s forgotten treasures, the less heard from midsized and secondary cities that stubbornly maintain alternatives to mainstream cool and nonsustainable development are experiencing virulent land takeovers largely undetected by the movement radar. The Right to the City concept requires citizens to take each other into account and learn from our varied battles the ways of the machine.

Austin, TX: Las Manitas’ struggle for respect

The Austin Chronicle just released its Best of Austin 2007 picks, and the takeover of Las Manitas restaurant won the readers’ poll for best news story. Escuelita Del Alma Learning Center, a sister business on the same block, won the critics’ pick for best community childcare. But both beloved institutions are currently at the bargaining table, trading property rights they can’t spare in exchange for a few more days till their forced evictions.

The Daily Texan further reported that “land development on the 200 block of Congress Avenue threatens to displace three local businesses: Las Manitas Avenue Café, Escuelita del Alma Learning Center and the retail arm of Tesoros Trading Co. A $185 million deal announced a few weeks ago between the landowner Finley Co. and White Lodging Services Corp. would tear down the businesses to make way for three Marriott International Inc. hotels.” Behind the headlines, a trio of devoted community activists worked to save their neighborhood.

A matriarch crew, including Cynthia Perez, a founder of the Indigenous Women’s Network, has been holding it down for the movement on the 200 block of Congress Avenue in downtown Austin, Texas, since 1981. Three women of color, sisters Cynthia and Libby Perez, and Dina Flores, life partners with Cynthia, run three entities between them. La Peña sits majestically on the northern corner, a nonprofit arts organization with a world-class gallery consistently showcasing marginalized art in schools and youth prisons throughout the city.

Las Manitas Avenue Café is the for-profit sentry on the southern corner, a restaurant, political watering hole and underground railroad station for immigrants, cooking culturally relevant food and funneling money to La Peña when funding gets lean. In the middle of the block is the beloved Escuelita del Alma Learning Center, a for-profit, community, Spanish immersion day care for the children of employees on the block and in downtown. All three entities face uncertain futures.

“What we’re asking for is managed growth, mixed use growth that actually represents balance,” asserted Cynthia. When I asked her why she turned down a special, one-time, forgivable relocation grant of $750,000 from the City of Austin she replied, “People don’t understand. They’re going: ‘This is for you and no one else affected, this is for you to shut you up.”

Despite the real need for fiscal support, the Perez sisters and Dina Flores declined the grant, which the local press picked up and spun as a wedge issue between these three business and other threatened establishments run by people of color in Austin. Two thousand miles away, likeminded civic activists were mobilizing to save one of the Northeast’s most significant historic districts.

Pittsburgh, Pa.: Battle for the Hill

Pittsburgh, Pa.’s historic Hill District was home to Sugar Top (a must stop spot on the national jazz circuit), the champion Pittsburgh Crawfords (a Negro National League baseball team), writers like August Wilson, and a pre-eminent national Black newspaper, the Pittsburgh Courier, for whom W.E.B Dubois, the Hon. Elijah Mohammed and Zora Neal Hurston wrote.

Public television station WQED’s historical guide summarized the importance of the district: “From the 1930s to the 1950s, the Hill District thrived and was one of the most prosperous and influential black neighborhoods in America. It was thriving, bustling, and safe — a center for music, art and literature.”

But in 1955, post WWII “redevelopment” in the Hill displaced over 8,000 residents, 1,239 black families, 312 white. Between this displacement and the industrial corporate abandonment that turned the entire region from the Manufacturing Belt into the Rust Belt, the historic Hill watched its population fall from over 50,000 in 1950 to 15,000 in 1990. So in 2006, when the City of Pittsburgh opened up a bidding process for a new casino and hockey stadium mega-complex with eyes on the Hill, resident activists like Dr. Kimberly Ellis sat bolt upright in their seats at the sound of redevelopment knocking on their doors again.

Out of three bids placed, only one proposed entry into an existing neighborhood, and once again, the Hill District was the target. Folks on the Hill began to mobilize, spurred on by Dr. Ellis and other community activists who demanded a seat at the city bargaining table. Their petitions, marches, and arts-based activism efforts persisted with a definitive vision for what the Hill should become.

And on Dec. 21, 2006, they won. The city of Pittsburgh chose to award the lucrative stadium-casino contract to a bidder whose plans focused on a preexisting industrial parcel.

Says Dr. Ellis, “Fifty years ago my ancestors stood on Freedom Corner and said ‘Not another inch!’ and literally and figuratively saved my community from further destruction of ‘urban renewal.’ [And here again] we just saved our community, plain and simple. Now we have the opportunity for some real development to happen.”

Lessons on gentrification

I asked Valerie Taing, national organizer, The Right To The City Alliance, what her vision is for an ideal city. Valerie replied, “A city where everything is controlled by, developed by, and meets the needs of the people that live there, and I get to sit on a porch and build with elders.”

As the Austin and Pittsburgh examples show, if it ain’t corporations on the gentrification takeover, it’s smaller developers or individuals. As the economic dynamics of midsized cities around the United States change, power brokers will continue their direct targeting of historic neighborhoods and populations. Neither Austin or Pittsburgh is in the position to lose these vibrant businesses and cultural districts. But as our national progressive, anti-gentrification movement grows, mindful of Lefebvre’s innovative concepts, there’s hope that empowered citizens’s rights and dreams will eventually be respected.
STAY TUNED FOR MORE, of “All the News That’s Fit to Flip,” by political poet, NaXaL.

Peace,

N/RS 

 

november 30: the word laugh has “ugh” in it

Dear Readers,

Naxal here, with “All the News That’s Fit to Flip.”  Here’s to making it through the first wave of U.S. holidays.  That is, if you made it through.  If not, R.I.P and everything. 

Heads up: Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I posted a series of political poems at www.myspace.com/naxal.  The series, Chosen Family Holidays (Installments 1, 2, 3), gives voice to whats weird, severing, and grudgingly triumphant about *being real* over the goddamn, gotta love it, holiday season.   

This winter, the planet tilts further from the sun and the personal edges closer to the political.  Millions strive towards togetherness, fulfillment, flat screens, all in the face of unemployment, loved ones at war, and daunting lines at the local Best Buy.

It’s all a bit ridiculous, and we’ve still got Christmas and the Western New Year to go.  Great.  In the name of the holiday spirit, I’d like to dedicate this post to loosening up, without the wine. 

Enjoy and stay tuned for more injections of holiday decimating cryptonite, from me, Naxal, with, “All the News That’s Fit to Flip.”     

 November 30, 2007

1.  1.  An Exiting Bush Begins To Recall How To Appear As Though He’s Doing Something “Presidential.”

  

2.  Pequot Warrior Demands Four More Beads For Sale of Connecticut, Drunkard President of All Pilgrims Demures: “Sorry, Mr. I’m-all-buff-but-I’m about-to-be extinct, sale’s final.” 

3.  Smith Family Thanksgiving An Unexplicably Solemn Occassion.

4.  With Careful Plotting, Barely Invited Uncle Fred Squeezes Into Holiday Photo, Again.

5. Stereotypes Really Are True: “Latino Immigrants’ Children Found Grasping English.”

(actual NYT headline in quotes)

6.  “Court Orders Police to Return Marijuana“: Empowered Defendant, Felix Kha, Exhales, Visibly Relaxes, Asks, “What, po-po’s couldn’t put an orange peel in that shit, why is my ounce so damn dry?” 

(actual NYT headline in first set of quotes)

Whad I tell ya?  The Times be killin me.  Stay tuned for more of, “All the News That’s Fit to Flip,” by NaXaL.

Peace,

N

sept 13: fall stays around the way today

Dear Readers,  

My name is NaXaL, I take NewYork Times based stories of the day, and flip ‘em into sumthing you can feel.  

All the News That’s Fit to Flip is a slogan homegrown, plucked and owned by me.   

Today’s post: I peeped this story on Monday, when the Times ran a piece about it, called: “Fracas Erupts Over Book on Mideast by a Barnard Professor Seeking Tenure (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/10/education/10barnard.html?_r=1&oref=slogin).   

Finally simmered down enough to write.   

September 13, 2007 

Nadia Abu El-Haj, a Palestinian woman of color Professor at an elite U.S. university, published many times over, with bling stints at Harvard and Princeton, is potentially going to be denied tenure or pressured out of pursuing it because of our times, her culture, and her recent book, “Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society.”  By most accounts, including according to her current academic host, Barnard University, she is a shoo in for tenure.  In fact, Barnard has already approved her tenure, but now the women’s college has to go ask Columbia for his final say.      

Professor Abu El-Haj is a Palestinian scholar working on creating and re-creating destroyed and under attack history.  Is the right to history one of the sticks in each human being’s bundle of human rights?  I guess it depends on which human beings, when.   

No matter where you stand on the issue, the facts are clear.  Professor Abu El-Haj is the latest in a line of higher learning teachers under attack.  Why is this getting my goat?  It’s not just that anti-occupation educators are being denied tenure.  Hell no, its more than that.  Shit, hardly anybody else has secure employment.  It’s true that tenure is important because presents a security that offers thinkers the chance to think freely.  But it really ain’t the be all and the end all of what matters about anti-occupation Professors under attack.  

What matters here is an ever deepening silence.  Like a blanket.  Like its the Never Ending Sto-oh-rie and The Nothing draws near.

A steady chill under blankets, Trojan Horses, the gifts of neo-liberal capitalism emptied like pinatas in the fray.  Patriot Act, Clear Channel, Viacom defunding artists, post-Gonzales don’t you doubt for a minute that the nation’s prosecutors have to prod the party line any less, academics like Norman Finkelstein publicly harangued for an unpopular but on balance neccesary study of Palestinians and the occupation/settlement of Israel.  Pictures of Britney Spears with half a teaspoon of fat on her body at the MTV Music Awards plastered all over mainstream online news sites and this is the culture that is responsible for freeing women in other countries?  God help us.  

So what’s going to happen with Nadia.  I can only imagine.  Education bent over empire’s knee.  One’s getting off, the other is fighting to stay whole, wishing she knew whether it was moaning or silence that would make him nut enough to leave her alone.  Chose your own ending suspense.  Will education stand victorious, torch of learning still blazing in hand even after all this like the Statutue of Liberty?  Or will she stand already melting like Brooklyn blocks into condos?  

Will domestic education in the 21st century be a woman tortured past a path home?  

Why(?)/not?

Aaaargh!  This is an entry that calls for the Serenity Prayer, religiously recited at N/A or A/A meetings around the world.  

Here goes my remix: God grant me the courage to face the things I cannot change.  The hopefullness it takes to change those things I really can change.  And the wisdom and patience I need to know the difference between what’s changeable and what ain’t.

Stay tuned for more of All the News That’s Fit to Flip by political poet, NaXaL.

 Peace, 

N