Tuesday, February 28, 2006

March 4th event on New Orleans

This saturday evening (after you attend the All City forum on popular education), there is going to be a great discussion on New Orleans featuring Jordan Flaherty one of the editors of Left Turn magazine and Kenyon Farrow one of the editors of Clamor magazine. The event is over at Bluestockings books and starts at 7pm.

Monday, February 27, 2006

NCOR 2006 [Feb 3-5]

We had been hearing reports that the organizers at NCOR were expecting
record numbers and it seems like they were not dissapointed. One organizer
told me a few days agothat they estimated the number between 1800-2000,
which would easily make it the largest NCOR to date, now in its 9th year. One
of the things you notice right away (really every time you come) is how
young and white the crowd is. It is safe to say that the attendees are at
least 80-90% white if not even more. It is something that NCOR has
struggled with over the years and that they have made significant progress
on in recent conferences but this time with an all new organizing crew (of
really young students) the contrast was pretty stark. Still with such huge
numbers in attendence there were easily a few hundred young radicals of
color there, more then almost any other annual conference in the US.
There are some larger discussions going on within the collective of how to
make NCOR more inclusive in the future, including moving it off of campus
and a few other strategies but i think the main thing is just to build on the
positive steps it has made over the years including:

- inviting better and more diverse speakers, especially from groups of people
who are not usually invited to present their ideas at 'activist conferences.'
- tailoring more panels and workshops towards things that connect with peoples
everyday lives, especially within the inner-cities (gentrification, public schools,
hip-hop activism, other forms of cultural resistance etc.)
- getting together a crew of multi-racial organizers who reflect a broader and more
diverse life experience and put more focus on local outreach in the DC area,
a city with fairly progressive politics and a majority Black and brown population.

Its not about getting down on the organizers, some of whom i met and was very
impressed with. But it is about getting serious about some of these things and
really taking steps to make sure they are implemented over the next few years beyond
the lip service. I dont think its going to be possible to move NCOR off of American
Universities campus for a while just because that is where the financial base comes
from at the moment. It would however be a huge achievement if in 2-4 years
future NCOR collectives could make that happen, because in the end these things
do need to move outside of the University setting.

On Saturday we were a part of three panels, one on 'The Economics of
Independent Media' which drew about 60-70 people, one on 'pre-figurative
and strategic politics' (which drew standing room only 60-70 people, and
the final one on 'The Revolution Will Not Be Funded' (one of the most
popular sessions of the conference) which drew around 200 people. Although
one of our speakers for the later session couldnt make it at the last
minute, Ije Ude from Sista ii Sista who came up from New Tork with us did
an amazing presentation. From what we heard afterwards people were really
into the discussion and were looking forward to continuing to develop the analysis
locally. As the 'Non-Profit Capital of the World' the issue of the
relationships between non-profits, NGOs and social movements really
resonated with DC activists.

Sunday morning was our big New Orleans panel which included great
presentations by Tameka of CR New Orleans, Mayaba also with CR NO and
Peoples Hurricane Project, and Jordan. The session was facilitated by Zein
and included a local housing activist from DC named Linda Leaks. The
session was fairly well attending with about 100 people in the audience
but i think i was personally expecting more people to come out for such an
important topic. Francesca presented the following session on 'Preaching
to the converted, the role of progressive media and social movements'
which from what i heard went really well. Late afternoon there was the
'all-star' Palestine panel that Rami put together and facilitated which included
our friends Uda, Rafeef, Adam, Mohammed and Ora (among others). The
room (which was small) was completely packed with about 60 people in attendence.
I could only stay for the first half which was excellent but im hoping to get some
audio of this workshop (as well as others) up on the blog or Left Turn website as
soon as possible.

To Blog or not to Blog...

I started this blog back in early November, kind of as a trial run. I was on unemployment, we were heading into another long, cold new york city winter, and i figured to be on the computer quite a bit so i was like fuck it - lets see what this blog world is all about.

At first i was really into it, i have to admit. It was nice to link up all of the articles that have been so helpfull to me over the past few years as a student activist. It was cool to mess around with the design and lay-out of the template and the pictures i was using. Initially there were a lot of nice emails from friends, family and political allies that were encouraging of the project. Ive published a little over 30 posts over the past few months, usually pretty regularly (not counting this past month obviously). Still as i sit here now in late February, im not sure what to make of these first few months...

From the start, i told myself that the blog thing would only be worth it if other people were checking in, posting comments, and in general finding the content useful to some extent. It is true that the plan was also to help me focus a bit more on writing more regularly and following the various news articles and debates online - but this was more of a secondary reason to having the chance to interact with various activists from around the country (and internationally at times). Realizing that a few months of blogging and 30+ posts has hardly been much of an experience to make larger generalizations off of, there is definitely something about internet culture and online posting boards that scares me.

1. It actually takes a fair amount of time and energy to publish good thought out posts complete with relevant links to other stories etc. This might be something that gets easier with time im sure, but at the moment its pretty time intensive.

2. Online discussions & activism in general is often pretty alienating. You are sitting in front of a screen for extended periods of time, often by yourself, thinking about what kind of smart insights or footnote's you have to add to the days discussions. Unless you do get a series of responses, its usually not a colaborative effort and you wonder if anyone out there is really reading the stuff anyway.

3. Because of the way that technology functions in our society, specifically on the lefty political bulletin boards, healthy social interaction often end ups quickly giving way to confrontational (and generally nasty) back and forths. These back and forths often end up in a debate around political ideology and orientation rather then the concrete questions that started the discussion inthe first place. Almost any Indymedia posting that you see draw more then a handfull of posts is a good example of this. It is rarely amount an online community trying to build with each other or genuinely trying to struggle through difficult questions, it is more like different ideologues trying to win each other to their respective positions, or if that seems too hard just insult the other person (either outright or in more subtle condescending ways).

4. Many agree that todays generations of activists are not rooted enough in oppressed communities. This is because of a wide variety of reasons, some of which are very complicated and have to do with the larger political shifts in this country over the past 30 years. Still, if we acknowledge this as one of our starting points, then it is questionable how online blogs and the resulting conversations and arguments on these blogs are going to actually move us forward in some real way.

Initial Conclusion:

I still think blogs like this are usefull as a way to communicate and share some ideas and articles with friends of and folks that you already have some relationships with. However, as with everything we have to prioritize where to put our energies. There is so much work out there that needs to be done, and I (like most of you who are reading this) am already too over involved and over extended with other projects. The last year or so ive decided thats it seems better to do a smaller amount of political projects really well then to be involved in a ton of different things and not be able to put all of yourself into any one of them. The way forward is in the end i think is strong local activist formations, rooted in real social relationships and diverse communities of people, being in touch with larger regional and national/global networks but really prioritizing local work as none of those networks mean a thing without that base of people committed to each other and ready to move. Im thinking maybe something more specific to the New York City area might be more helpful then this current format.

Having said that, I will try to post as often as I can and update some of the article links when it makes sense. If you are reading this you know that feedback is always encouraged. Perhaps there would be a better format for this thing to be more useful to folks?