I can't tell you what it was like standing on stage with Persephone SJ Smith (Green Party candidate for City Council District 37) and Frank Francois (Green Party City Council candidate for District 27), together representing the Green Party at the Union Square Mayday event. We stood as strong passionate black activists taking on THE system, THE system that perpetuates slavery and violence against black and brown bodies. As Persephone stated, “We deserve better. We deserve more.” Frank aptly summed up the main issue facing us as “corrupt corporate Democrats and Republicans,” who ensure that “the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer,” and urged us to “keep fighting, keep marching.” I added something that has become almost a mantra for me these days, “Join the party.” I mean that both figuratively (out of your homes and into the streets and out of the streets into the voting booths) and literally (running for office). Our current elected officials “DO NOT represent us, DO NOT look like us, DO NOT talk like us, and definitely DO NOT know what we go through every day.”
Change doesn't come easy. Many of what we consider core workers' rights, like the 8-hour work day, the 40-hour work week, and a livable minimum wage, cost lives, activists' lives. That's not something the people in power want us to remember. With the inception of Labor Day, they have tried to co-opt the legacy of the labor movement and separate labor from activism (and the lives lost to the state in fighting for basic workers' rights) in much the same way as they have tried to co-opt Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy and separate his civil rights work from his fight to end the Vietnam War and to end poverty. Why? To put it simply, so that corporations can continue to exploit workers. Corporations shamelessly seek out “welfare” while people work two and three jobs trying to avoid it because the stigma is so heavy for them. Who are we as a country that we prioritize the life and health of corporations above, way above, that of human beings? We need to take a page out of the book of our racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic oppressors … our corporate overlords: co-opt, tear down, and rebuild. Run for office en masse, repeal toothless, worthless legislation, and replace that with legislation that will effect REAL change, not to better the lot of corporations and their government enablers, but that of everyone else. Because, as Persephone shouted so passionately, “We deserve better. We deserve more.”
That better, that more, is what Frank, Persephone, and I will go to the mat fighting for.
Three weeks ago, I organized a screening of a compilation I had created of video from various Black Lives Matter protests in which I had participated (I am a videographer). I titled the event “A Perspective of Black Lives Matter in New York City: From Trayvon Martin to Deborah Danner.” The idea was to discuss the movement as it had evolved and imagine its future, where it must go. In this, I included myself, whether I have the good fortune to take office this year or not. Despite that, I must confess, I didn't know what to expect. The event was small, or, as I like to call such environments, “intimate.” Half of the attendees were Greens and half were Anarchists. If you don't know the origins of the Green Party or much about its platform, you might think we would have little in common. In fact, the opposite is true. The Greens ARE “Eco-Socialists,” after all.
I had set up the compilation to force viewers to see, really see, the pain inflicted by killer cops. The shots were long – with pauses as mothers and fathers found themselves at a loss for words, cried for their children, or looked into the camera as if waiting for an answer to the question in their eyes, always the same question, always unspoken: Why? Why did my child have to die? I cut in scenes of my own child, my own black son, on the bullhorn leading chants. Energetic, eager, smart, so smart, and very much alive. I guess I needed to share my own fears, fears that keep me awake at night sometimes, to share my sense of urgency. If answers and solutions come, they will come too late, no matter whether that happens in a month or in another five years.
My campaign manager urged me to find the clip I had made of the woman who came to a Trayvon protest to support Zimmerman, which she pronounced, as Gabe pointed out, like Superman: Zimmer-Man. The protesters were traumatized, shocked and angry, and said so, but she was in no danger. Yet white cops still came to escort her to “safety”: back to the safety of her prejudice.
This is the enemy we face, not her specifically, but the attitude she represents, that police and all other security officers are basically good, out there on the “mean streets” risking their lives, that they wouldn't chase down and brutalize or kill anyone without a good reason, and that whatever they do to “protect the public” is justifiable. The lack of indictments, convictions, and jail time attests to this widespread attitude because even when cops are dragged in front of a jury, and precious few times they are, the jury, made up of people like Zimmer-Man's biggest fan, invariably take the cops’ side.
The question is how do we protect the public from their so-called defenders. Many ideas surfaced. Civilian review boards with actual power, third-party investigators, the recruiting of cops from their own neighborhoods, all of which the Green Party supports. But other ideas emerged, too.
“Has the Green Party ever considered abolition?”
“Not that I have heard. But unlike the other parties, we would.”
Copwatch was floated as a model we might emulate if we went down that road. In fact, I had included an interview I had done with Jose Lasalle, probably the most well-known member of the branch in New York City. Copwatchers patrol their neighborhoods, carrying only cameras, with which they capture wrongdoing (by the police) and later for which they seek accountability from the Civilian Complaint Review Board. Before potential Copwatchers hit the streets, they must undergo training. They need to be aware of laws and people’s rights so they know when to tape police and what to tell the community members they seek to keep safe.
We didn't solve the police's war on black and brown men, women, and children that evening, but we remembered some of those who had died; those, like my son, we desperately want to keep safe; and those who have been fighting for so long to put the cops in check and imagined a future where we might not “need” them anymore (if we ever did).
I am in the process of exploring what police abolition might look like and in crafting legislation to that end. If you have thoughts, do share.
This past Wednesday was International Women's Day. Normally I would stay silent and just listen because I am a man, but I don't want to let this pass without sharing my concerns for women here and worldwide, especially in the current climate, where unions are weak and people are revisiting socialism, communism, and anarchism, hoping for a cure to the myriad ills of capitalism.
International Women's Day is celebrated on March 8 every year, which coincides with the March 8, 1917 demonstration of female textile workers in Saint Petersburg, Russia. This protest engulfed the entire city and helped to mark the beginning of the Russian Revolution. The demands made by these proud, brave women and their supporters in the streets ultimately forced the emperor of Russia to abdicate and led to the provisional government's granting women the right to vote. In celebration of this monumental change, Soviet Russia declared March 8 a national holiday in 1917. Until 1975, when the United Nations adopted the holiday, only the socialist movement and communist countries celebrated it.
Now here we are in 2017 and our country is facing the struggles of the Trump administration and its dismantling of institutions such as Planned Parenthood because Planned Parenthood supports women's control over their own bodies. Does that mean this administration would be willing to pay to support the millions of mothers with children resulting from unplanned pregnancies because these women did the "right thing" and either raised their children on their own or had them raised in a surrogate family? Just a guess, but I'd say hell no. The administration should, especially if it continues the Republican Party's attacks on Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics, but it won't.
Also, the current protests against Trump due to his executive order banning immigrants from certain defined countries make me wonder where was all that outrage when Barack Obama's administration started deporting people in the millions? He deported more women in his first term than any president in history, winning himself the title "Deporter-in-Chief". But few seemed to care then.
Where is the outrage that our government still continues to bomb, mutilate, and murder countless numbers of women and their children in countries around the world?
Where is the outrage over women and their children being forced to live like slaves in factories while producing the latest and greatest overpriced consumer goods to feed our capitalist system of over consumption?
Where is the outrage over female celebrities' being placed on a scale of visual acceptance as opposed to one involving their morals and integrity? Is this truly what we want our daughters and sons to believe is right?
I could go on for days about what International Women's Day means to me, but as I said before I am a man and do not feel that I have a right to comment. However, as a potential public official, I feel it is important for people to know where I stand on the subject of seeing that ALL women in ALL countries are allowed to live and prosper in a world that is free of bigotry, hate, racism, sexism, transphobia, and homophobia.