Tag Archives: palestine

on oscar grant: time for more questions than answers

dear readers,

when i talk to people in india about america, i don’t forget to tell them about how much state control and violence we bear.

a long series of police assasinations continues to unfurl across the united states. just as slavery morphed into imprisonment, hangings or lynchings have turned into government sanctioned public shootings.

these shootings, increasingly bold-generally aimed at the young, the black, the male-tend to galvanize a cross section of communities. activists, artists, targeted families and neighborhoods. there are press conferences, rallies, marches, riots even. most of this response will go under or un-reported.

but within the galvanized communities, a core group of community organizers will make the relevant police assasination their number one priority night and day. the organizers are on constant alert, aiming for almost military like tactical prowess, ready at the drop of a text to awake in the middle of the night and protect a march or confer a press conference. the dedication is commendable.

as of late, amongst organizers and their followers, ideological connections will be made, verbally and visually, between the most recently lynched and the oppression of palestine. while in law school at uc berkeley, i used to cringe at all the carbon copy yuppie bumper stickers declaring, “free tibet.” what rubs me the wrong way is the grabbing for a distant cause when there are freedom issues a few blocks down telegraph ave, not to mention the fact of contested sovereignty within the home, within the self.

why risk the obvious grab? it’s as though there are favorite teams being rooted for, but these teams are countries, causes to be thrown together like brands at the world cup. amongst my bay area connects, im seeing facebook profile pics of a poster showing oscar grant’s face with the words justice in oakland and palestine, justice for oscar grant and palestine. i wonder. to what end is this association being made? from where is the instinct to link local causes to palestine? palestine, out of all oppressed nations and peoples, almost exclusively.

perhaps, as the most tapped out consumers in the world, u.s. organizers are more programmed to brand than we are comfortable acknowledging. what happens to the social justice equation when we think of ourselves as branding causes, nations, people? an initial look might reveal trends in naming. who gets named individually and why, are intestering questions. what nations are elevated to name brands of the movement? what peoples or nations are rarely named, despite mass oppression?

this post is in the name of questioning, which is at times more important than answering. even for community organizers, who for personal and political reasons, feel compelled towards solution.

hats off to those working towards justice, for all.

roopa singh

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student occupation and protest at nyu: 411 + photos + editorial

dear readers,

[update as of 2.24.09: the occupying students were physically removed and expelled.  let see what impact the occupation makes on the constituency known as new york city students.  guess its up to yall to chose your own ending.]

under the slogan, “take back nyu,” approximately 70 nyu students and community activists are illegally occupying the 3rd floor of nyu’s kimmel center in effort to spark good faith negotiations with university administration officials regarding a host of hot button issues such as students rights and institutional support for palestine. actions such as this are impactful and rare at elite educational institutions.

at a 5pm press conference from the broken into 3rd floor balcony of kimmel, protestors and their numerous supporters below, chanted: “the students/are justified/nyu is occupied!,” “whose school? our school!,” and “disclose it/get off it/put students over profit!”

two street worn onlookers from washington square park (who were overheard declaring their own right to the space with, “the police around here know us by first and last name, socially security too, probably”) replied, “disclose it/get off it/we’re shooting dope in public!”

one young man in a small but loud group of student non-supporters (who booed with gusto when the protestors shouted out solidarity with students at cuny, no accompanying boo for students at columbia u) yelled, “just because you have a bullhorn doesn’t make you right.” which prompted one young woman to remark to her companion, “hey, at least it’s uniting the campus.”

cameras pointed upwards, the student occupiers rallied the crowd, a couple students walked by selling frosted cupcakes for a dollar, cops stood in their wide legged stance, plastic handcuffs ready, just in case.

this was the scene on the street today at new york university.

2.19.09, cops prepared at nyu's student occupation (image: r.singh)

2.19.09, cops prepared at nyu's student occupation (image: r.singh)

2.19.09, 5pm press conference crowd (image: r.singh)

2.19.09, 5pm press conference crowd (image: r.singh)

2.19.09 kimmel center, site of 3rd floor student occupation (image: r.singh)

2.19.09 kimmel center, site of 3rd floor student occupation (image: r.singh)

2.19.09 stencils around nyu's urban campus (image: r.singh)

2.19.09 stencils around nyu's urban campus (image: r.singh)

in the latest news, takebacknyu.com (the official website of the campaign), reports that administration officials have shown a willingness to begin negotiations. (this has changed, see above).

i was at nyu this afternoon and evening, shot the photos in this post, interviewed folks, and generally got the word on the street. a few questions emerged: what is this action for? is the action strategic? what are the best and worst case scenario’s in terms of the action’s outcome?

2.19.09: nyu student action (image: r.singh)

2.19.09, take back nyu press conference from occupied kimmel center (image: r.singh)

“take back nyu,” is a coalition of 21 left leaning student groups. what are their demands?

2.19.09 takebacknyu student demands (image: r.singh)

2.19.09 takebacknyu student demands (image: r.singh)

the take back nyu demand sheet above states,”We, the students of Take Back NYU! declare our solidarity with the student [sleepovers] in Greece, Italy, and the United Kingdom…We stand in solidarity with the University of Gaza, and with the people of Palestine.”

there are 13 demands in all. generally they break down into the following categories: students rights, labor rights, transparency of university money trails, support for palestine and palestinian students, and divestment of israel and coca-cola

here’s what the protestors are asking for, in greater detail:

1. immunity for all student occupiers and back pay for nyu campus employees affected by the action

2. transparency on NYU’s budget and endowments

3. fair labor practices: between nyu and all employees, including renewed labor negotiations between nyu and gsoc/uaw local 2110 (grad student union)

4. responsible spending: the addition of a new “socially responsible finance committee (srfc),” to nyu’s board of trustees, with equal voting rights.

5. divestment: the srfc will investigate nyu investments in war and genocide

6. money and goods to gaza: 13 full scholarships to palestinian students, and that nyu donate excess materials to help rebuild the university of gaza

7. equal access to nyu buildings: including public access to nyu’s main library (one onlooker said, “um, thats what the public library is for”) and priority given to student groups trying to reserve space at the kimmel multi-use, performance center.

2.19.09, supportive onlooker's sign (image: r.singh)

2.19.09, this dude was good people and his sign was The Truth (image: r.singh)

i received this text last night: “nyu kimmel center is now occupied by students to call for divestment from israel.” so i trekked over to nyu today. initially i was confused. there was one sign hanging off the balcony of the occupied floor, and it spoke to financial aid concerns. i talked to local activist and cuny grad student, shadia. she told me the nyu students were fighting for their own rights as students and were also, at the very least, bringing attention to the worldwide student “sleepovers”/institutional occupations in support of gaza. shadia was one of the only active muslim community members i saw at the nyu action today .

i asked to take a picture of her sign, she let me, and informed me that she was unsure how to incorporate the “occupation” language on her sign without inadvertently signaling support for the israeli occupation of palestine.

2.19.09, the homie shadia, representing for community groups at nyu (image: r.singh)

2.19.09, the homie shadia, representing for community groups at nyu (image: r.singh)

does it make sense to include palestine under this broad sweep of demands? yes and no. yes, to the extent that the nyu action raises awareness about the student actions happening around the world right now in support of a peaceful, sovereign palestine. no, to the extent that the nyu action leans heavily towards students rights and neglects to engage with community based palestinian rights efforts, thus potentially diluting the already oft-adopted national sovereignty struggle.

2.19.09 financial aid? (image: r.singh)

2.19.09 for financial aid (image: r.singh)

the broad sweep of take back nyu’s demands works for it and against the actual attainment of their goals. its not that i don’t peep the potential for a real, symbiotic connection between student rights and a sovereignty struggle. i see how divestment from apartheid south africa, for example, was related to student empowerment. it meant students learned about where their money was going. then those same students helped decide to where their money would and would not go.

but it doesn’t strike me as symbiotic for the students to demand nyu take responsibility for rebuilding the university of gaza AND demand nyu form a student committee with powers equal to the board of trustees AND demand nyu provide financial aid for all, to name just a few demands.

but i could be wrong. i’ll keep you informed on what happens next with negotiations between take back nyu and the institutional administration.

[update as of 2.20.09 (3pm): students from “take back nyu” are still holding the 3rd floor of nyu’s kimmel center, where they have staged an occupation since 10pm wednesday night (2.18.09). this morning university officials cut internet access. the administration is not agreeing to negotiations or even immunity from expulsion for student participants. in a recent, smuggled email, take back nyu organizer ian chinich states, “Unlike any of the other 26 or so [student] occupations I have heard about in the last 3 weeks, this is the only one where the university is refusing to negotiate at all.”]

until then, power to all the people. enjoy the photos.


political poet = roopa singh

2.19.09, for gaza? (image: r.singh)

2.19.09, for gaza (image: r.singh)

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art and activism: a review of “signs of change,” exhibit ongoing at carnegie mellon university

dear readers,

i was just in pittsburgh, pa, where i saw the steelers win and where i laid eyes on an amazing graphic art and activism exhibit called, “signs of change.” keeping reading for a review of the exhibit and to check out pics of the rare movement posters currently on view at miller gallery (carnegie mellon university).

alcatraz and AIM

signs of change exhibit: AIM take-over of alcatraz, "supplies needed."

opening quote #1: frederico, of the argentinian stencil crew “run don’t walk,” takes us to school on why we need to engage in arts-based activism. “when you are in the streets all day, you see an invasion of the city by these ads,” he says. “when you paint in the streets you are taking the streets back, making the city yours.

sovereignty at home and abroad

vietnam and aztlan: solidarity

opening quote #2: professor singh brings us home with, “these gorgeous expressions of rage by torchbearer creators are not taught in our schools. ” (both quotes are excerpted from a book review i wrote for wire tap magazine and the nation, read the whole piece: here. )

young lords poster

young lords: health, food, housing, education

what is the exhibit, “signs of change,” about: “signs of change: social movement cultures 1960’s to now.” the description on the program reads, “hundreds of posters, photographs, moving images, audio clips, and ephemera bring to life over forty years of activism, political protest, and campaigns for social justice.”

opening poster

signs of change exhibit: opening poster

where is the exhibit now: miller gallery, carnegie mellon university (till march 8, 2009). it was at exit art in nyc (9.20.08-12.6.08) and, after being in pittsburgh, will be at the arts center of the capital district in troy, ny (3.27.09-6.5.09).

guest curators of the exhibit: dara greenwald + josh macphee


ezln mujeres: dignidad, rebelde

my take: the exhibit manages to be exhaustive without being exhausting.

the walls are jam packed with colors, shapes, ink breathing in a new world. josh macphee has his hands on an emerging intersection, namely, art and activism. macphee is out there collecting art based activism the world over, documenting, and loving what he does. the love shows. “signs of change,” is a bullseye sharp exhibit, spinning webs of history, knitting years of yarn, spitting pure and rare movement history through posters from movements spanning 39 countries and 4 decades. succinct placards, with dope breakdowns of movement history, dot the wall at about hip height, around one placard for every 4 posters. slow down with this exhibit, fight the urge to speed through because its images you’re looking at- new york heads, i know how it is, but leave your brisk concrete walk in the closet with them salt coated tims, take your time with this exhibit and you won’t be sorry.

much love to my girl, dj baglady, who spun at the winter harvest reception and who shouted out my parents with a personal invite to the pittsburgh affair. also, love to josh macphee. last year, i wrote a review of “realizing the impossible,” his recently released collection of anarchist art and art history. i learned a lot from that book and at “signs of change,” so im digging his approach.

feel free to take a second, relax, bask in the photography love from yours truly, political poet: roopa singh.

8 photos from “signs of change.” (images and commentary: roopa singh)

1. a comment on class: we have found new homes for the rich.

lets talk about class

signs of change exhibit: lets talk about class

2. starbucks workers: we have the right to organize.

starbucks workers organize!

starbucks workers organize!

3. a mural in ireland honors the struggles of others in palestine and south africa.

ira solidarity with paletine and south africa

mural in ireland: ira solidarity with paletine and south africa

4. unite: south africa emerges from beneath apartheid.

simple and effective

anti-apartheid struggle in south africa: simple and effective

5. we care about iran.

iranian civil rights struggle

iranian civil rights struggle

6. just cause: what will happen to black west oakland?

just cause raising awareness on gentrification in west oakland

just cause raising awareness on gentrification in west oakland

7. chile: it only takes one match to start a fire.

chilean peoples struggle

solidarity with the chilean peoples struggle

8. lgbt rights: every star is a sun, every sun is a world won.

keep shining movement stars

keep shining movement stars

stay tuned for more.



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