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Happy Place, In Solidarity: Weekly Photo Challenge

Happiness is standing side by side in solidarity with family, friends, colleagues and neighbors, working toward a goal of social justice. I especially find this participation satisfying when advocating for justice and fairness in the workplace. By making connections with my fellow workers, we can come together to improve our mutual conditions, recognizing the bonds we share.

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Without worker solidarity, we find ourselves adrift and alone in the workplace where many employees have little voice or camaraderie. Corporations like to keep it that way, pitting employees against each other for raises, power and influence in the organization, the very opposite of encouraging teamwork, consensus and harmony. When we resist human labor as simply being a commodity, we have taken a virtuous path.

Solidarity is by nature inclusive. Regardless of background, solidarity brings everyone together. Differences fall away as the greater good of the group becomes paramount. We nurture our collective rights rather than than engage in competitive interactions. For those who experience the greatest degree of discrimination and marginalization, we can stand together so that they have the strength to participate and defend their freedom of association.

Solidarity is not a quiet place, but it is not a forced state of mind. It evolves naturally as our shared responsibility displaces uncertainty. The result is a joyful state of mind.

WordPress: Weekly Photo Challenge, My Happy Place

Teresa Forcades Speaks on Women’s Ordination

Women’s Ordination Conference
 A Voice for Women’s Equality in the Catholic Church

“We have a church that’s misogynist and it’s representing the Gospel. We need freedom, equality, and the people’s capacities to participate in the conversation. I look forward to having this discussion in Philadelphia.” –Teresa Forcades

Teresa Forcades WOW

Teresa Forcades: History

As a supporter of anarcho-syndicalist movements, which advocate for democracy for the working classes in politics as well as the workplace, I’ve followed the news about the strikes against the Spanish government’s spending cuts, which create severe consequences for workers and their families. Following these events, I read about one of their leaders, Sister Teresa Forcades.For folks who have their doubts about capitalism, Teresa has launched a political manifesto to counter austerity measures by the Spanish government. The document calls for an independent Catalonia to carry out a more democratic and progressive agenda, including nationalizing banks and energy corporations. I visited Spain in 2013, and on my first evening in Barcelona, I attended an event, Women, Spirituality and Social Change, a dialogue between Teresa and Lekshe Karma Tsomo, a California Tibetan nun, who share the same commitment: to promote social change based on inner transformation.

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A year ago I heard Teresa speak again, this time in my relative neighborhood, at Red Emma’s in Baltimore. Red Emma’s, a worker cooperative started in 2004, supports a bookstore, restaurant and community space and is “dedicated to putting principles of solidarity and sustainability into practice in a democratic workplace.” The namesake of the cooperative, Emma Goldman, a political activist known for her promotion of anarchism, is another woman I admire for her progressive views on women’s rights, prison reform, racial equality and right to organize our workplaces.

While some may consider Teresa’s ideas radical, I think of them as being common sense, such as viewing capitalism as an unethical construct. Sometimes when I’m talking with people about the problems of capitalism, they agree but then say, “Well, that’s the way it is.” Teresa says it doesn’t have to be that way.

When I learned that Teresa was speaking at the WOW conference in Philadelphia, I immediately signed up to attend.

Women’s Ordination Conference, September 2015

WOW Protest

WOW Prayer Vigil at Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul

The WOW Conference represents forty years of advocacy for women to become full participants in the Church by allowing women’s ordination. I am a former Catholic and what drove me away from the Church was thinking about my daughter’s perceptions of how affirming Catholic practice contradicts a fundamental belief that women must be treated as equals. The Church’s embedded bigotry against women, which arises from historical chains of oppression, undermines women’s liberation.

Teresa flew into Philadelphia just before she spoke, as she had to stay in Spain for an important leadership event on Saturday. Teresa presented an inspiring talk, a few of the highlights in the video:

I met Teresa after her presentation, and we talked about the political situation in Catalonia and her candidacy. She asked about my son, John. Truly a remarkable experience to connect with a woman who is on the world stage advocating for her fellow citizens and for equality for women in the Church.

Links:

Teresa Forcades Facebook Page

The Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research

Celebrating Joe Hill: 100th Anniversary, November 19, 1915, Part 2

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Joe Hill Roadshow, 100th Anniversary Tour

IWW Membership CardThe nationwide tour honoring the life of Joe Hill, presented by Crossroad Music, stopped in West Philadelphia on July 25. I just joined the I.W.W., Philadelphia Branch, and I’m now a proud, card-carrying member. This concert provided the opportunity to connect to the music of labor activism and to honor Joe Hill.

The previous post, Celebrating Joe Hill: 100th Anniversary, November 19, 1915, Part 1, provides a brief history of Joe Hill’s life and his association with the Industrial Workers of the World. 

The anniversary tour began in Chicago and will finish with their last concert in Salt Lake City. A complete listing of the tour dates is available at Joe Hill 100.com.

The Roadshow in Philly featured the folk duo Magpie, singer-songwriter Charlie King, and protest singer George Mann. Terry Leonino and Greg Artzner have been touring as Magpie since 1973, performing a poignant and lively mix of folk, jazz and blues. Charlie King sings and writes about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. Pete Seeger described him as “one of the finest singers and songwriters of our time.”  Reference: Jon Bekken, Joe Hill Roadshow will be in Philly this Weekend.

Local Connection

John Braxton

John Braxton

West Philadelphia resident John Braxton joined the performers. John Braxton and I have a connection through Swarthmore College.  When I was active in the living wage campaign at Swarthmore, I met John when he spoke at one of our events in 2002. At the 2010 Commencement, the college president awarded John, Class of 1970, an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws for his labor activism and as co-founder of Philadelphia Jobs with Justice Coalition. In his address to the students, John said,

We face problems on a scale that we have never faced before — but they are solvable if we don’t ignore them. The solutions require building powerful social and political movements — and people do find a way to do that even in the darkest times. Today, we have the tools to guide this process more intelligently and nonviolently. The moral arc of the universe does bend towards justice — if we harness ourselves and help it to bend. 

Bekken’s article quotes John as saying, 

Today, when the gap in wealth and income between the richest and the rest of us is greater than at any time since the 1930s, it’s a good time to remember that Joe Hill worked for justice for all workers around the world. 

The Music

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John Braxton, Charlie King, folk duo Magpie (Greg Artzner and Terry Leonino) , George Mann

The evening performance began with the rousing, “The Preacher and the Slave,” a song Joe Hill wrote as a parody of the hymn, “In the Sweet By-and-By” and coined the phrase “pie in the sky.” The I.W.W. targeted the Salvation Army for satire because of their illusory promises to workers:   

You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die

The concert turned into a sing-a-long, as all the music is singable and many in the audience were familiar with the words.

George Mann sang, “Which Side are You On,” written in 1931 by Florence Reece, the wife of a union organizer for the United Mine Workers. Florence borrowed the melody from a traditional Baptist hymn.

Don’t scab for the bosses
Don’t listen to their lies
Poor folks ain’t got a chance
Unless they organize

“There is Power in the Union,” another song by Joe Hill, who used the tune of Lewis E. Jones’ 1899 hymn, “There Is Power in the Blood.”

If you like sluggers to beat off your head,
Then don’t organize, all unions despise.
If you want nothing before you are dead,
Shake hands with your boss and look Wise.

Come, all ye workers, from every land,
Come, join in the grand industrial band;
Then we our share of this earth shall demand.
Come on! Do your share, like a man.

Before the song, George read a letter to the editor of Solidarity from Joe Hill.

Near the end of the program, audience and musicians joined in singing “Solidarity Forever,” a song sung to the tune of “John Brown’s Body” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Although the song was written for the I.W.W, other union movements have adopted the song as their own.

They divide us by our color; they divide us by our tongue,
They divide us men and women; they divide us old and young,
But they’ll tremble at our voices, when they hear these verses sung,
For the Union makes us strong!

A progressive union since its founding in 1905, the I.W.W. has been committed to anti-racism, and at its height, counted among its supporters radical and class fighters. One hundred years ago, Joe Hill understood and advocated for social justice. His songs stay in our political consciousness, encouraging and guiding us toward one big union for all.

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Celebrating Joe Hill: 100th Anniversary, November 19, 1915, Part 1

Joe Hill Watercolor

Original Sculpture, I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill, K.K., 2015

Poet Laureate of the IWW

Joe Hill, a Swedish born, American labor activist and songwriter, wrote union songs for his organization, the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.), popularly known as the “Wobblies.” The I.W.W., an international union, advocated direct action in the form of boycotts, strikes and sabotage. However, adversaries of the I.W.W., including some historians as well as industrialists, government officials, press and religious organizations perpetuated the idea that I.W.W. members were dangerous terrorists. Almost from the founding of the organization, their philosophy and tactics aroused intense fear and hatred by those in power. The I.W.W. garnered significant publicity during the western free speech movements of 1906-1917, resulting in hostility and fear directed toward them, unparalleled in American history.  I.W.W. positions advocating class conflict and revolution in provocative language that mocked societies’ sacred cows of patriotism and religion contributed significantly to officials’ concern about labor conflicts.

220px-The_Rebel_Girl_coverJoe Hill joined the IWW in 1910 and wrote songs to encourage his fellow workers to join in solidarity to fight for their rights. His songs were first published in the March 1916 edition of the Industrial Worker in the Little Red Songbook. During his lifetime, Joe wrote over thirty songs, including Casey Jones, The Preacher and the Slave, Dump the Bosses off Your Back, Rebel Girl and There is Power in the Union.

In a controversial trial, a jury convicted Joe Hill of murder. Despite appeals and international calls for clemency, the state of Utah executed Joe by firing square in on November 19, 1915. Professor Ron Yengich and his students have posted a website, The Joe Hill Project, on Joe’s life and the trial.

Writing in his cell, November 18, 1915, on the eve of his execution, Joe addressed his fellow workers,

My will is easy to decide,
For there is nothing to divide.
My kind don’t need to fuss and moan —
“Moss does not cling to a rolling stone.”My body? Ah, If I could choose,
I would to ashes it reduce,
And let the merry breezes blow
My dust to where some flowers grow.

Perhaps some fading flower then
Would come to life and bloom again.
This is my last and final will.
Good luck to all of you.

Joe Hill, Remembered

Joe’s remains were sent to Chicago where thirty thousand people attended his funeral. Envelopes with his ashes were sent to I.W.W. chapters and supporters, and on May Day 1916, friends and members of his union scattered his ashes in every state and throughout the world. In 1988, an envelope seized by the United States Post Office turned up. Labeled as “subversive potential,” the envelop was left at the National Archives. Members of the I.W.W. in Chicago laid claim to the contents. Several stories in I.W.W. lore claim that theses ashes were then scattered. However, it seems that one bit of Joe’s ashes was not cast to the wind but rather held at the union headquarters. I was asked to make an urn to hold these last remaining ashes.  

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Urn for Joe Hill’s Ashes

Joe has been memorialized in folk songs, and Paul Robeson, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Utah Phillips, Bruce Springsteen and Si Kahn have performed his songs.

Joe’s immortal words have been the rallying cry and inspiration to union and labor organizers ever since.

Don’t waste time mourning, organize!

Joe Hill’s songs can be played from this website, Songs of the Wobblies.

 

Anarchist Symposium Topic, Understanding the Kurdish Women’s Movement in Syria & Why it is Important

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Because of my interest in anarcho-syndicalism and my connection to Swarthmore College, a participant in the Tri-College Consortium, I could not miss the opportunity to attend this Mellon Symposium. Andrew Cornell, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor of American Studies organized the event, which featured a group discussion on “What We Mean When We Say . . . Anarchism, Decolonization, Radical Democracy,” and then broke into three panels: Limits of Liberal Democracy, Self-determination without a State? and Putting Principals into Practice.

Anarchist Symposium

Event organizers moved the overflowing crowd into the auditorium. Students, professors, staff and members from the West Philadelphia anarchist community participated in the discussions:

“Slavery and the Anarchist Rejection of Democracy”
Ruth Kinna, University of Loughborough, UK

“From Anarchism to Ranciére: Radical Democracy as Active Democracy”
Todd May, Clemson University

“Nothing Common about ‘the Commons’: Settler Colonialism and Indigenous Difference”
J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, Wesleyan University

“Liberating Democracy from the Premises of the Dominant Global Order: The Rojava Revolution”
Dilar Dirik, University of Cambridge and Kurdish Women’s Movement

“‘Making power’: Another Politics, Democracy, and Radical Movements”
Chris Dixon, Anarchist social justice organizer

“Decolonizing Borders and Undoing Border Imperialism”
Harsha Walia, co-founder No One Is Illegal Network

Each discussion began with an acknowledgement that we occupy the lands that once belonged to the Lenni-Lenapi tribes that lived in eastern Pennsylvania before being driven out by the Europeans. The organizers and scholars presented compelling presentations, explaining the extent to which colonization frames the social and economic circumstances that we find in societies today.

The YPJ in Syria

I was not familiar with the current events surrounding the Kurds defense of their homelands against ISIS in Syria so I was very much interested in learning more during Dilar Dirik’s presentation. Dilar, A PhD candidate in the Sociology Department of the University of Cambridge, is an activist and advocate of the Kurdish Women’s Movement. Dilar is from Rojava territories within the borders of Syria.

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Territories held by Kurdish forces, jihadists, by the Syrian Army, FSA, or contested in northern Syria, as of October 2014. Wikipedia.org

The Kurds in Syria are fighting to prevent a takeover of their homelands by the Islamic State militants or ISIS, but the YPJ in Syria is loosely associated with the PKK in Turkey, who oppose and resist Turkish rule over the northern Kurdish region. The United States maintains a policy that is favorable to Turkey, a NATO ally, and in support of Turkey, rejects the self-determination of the Kurds because Turkey does not want to lose territory to a Kurdish independent state. In addition, the PKK originally had a communist ideology.

The Kurds’ attempt to organize stateless communities in Norther Syria, called the Rojava Revolution, is often compared with the Zapatista’s experience in Chapatas, Mexico. The YPJ has made efforts to initiate democratic reforms that represent the interests of the people.The Kurds in Syria and their YPJ Star militias are making heroic efforts in a war-torn country for self-determination and receive no support from the Western powers.

Kurdish-inhabited_area_by_CIA_(1992) Wikipedia

Kurdish-inhabited_area_by_CIA_(1992) Wikipedia

 

According to Infoshop:

The US is now maintaining that the PYD is a separate organization from the PKK, so Washington is not breaking its own law by backing a State Department-listed “foreign terrorist organization.” In November, left-wing German lawmakers actually unfurled the PKK flag inside the parliament building to protest the EU’s listing of the group as a “terrorist organization.”

Now that the US, of necessity, is backing the PYD against ISIS, what will become of the Rojava autonomous zone? Once ISIS is defeated (insh’allah!), will the PYD ultimately be crushed in deference to Washington’s ally Turkey? It can seem that the PYD stands an almost inevitable chance of being betrayed—as both anarchists and Kurds, two groups that have historically been subject to serial betrayals.

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The Term “Terrorist” Becomes Coopted

When the US labels a group as terrorist, we think of al-Qaeda and ISIS, and yet our diplomatic corps has deemed that the Kurds in Syria should also be labeled “terrorist.”  The YPG considers itself a democratic people’s army and conducts elections to select their officers. What most of the West does not realize is that the women, long marginalized, have begun to organize around feminist issues. The YPJ (Women’s Protection Units) is the female brigade of the YPG. They do not however, want to perpetuate the old forms of government and power, and are seeking to establish communities that achieve equality with men.

Dilar’s answer to the question: What can we do in the United States to support the Kurds in Syria?:

Dilar’s Webpage: Post, Why Kobani did not Fall

 

Philly’s First Anarchist Book Fair

Anarchist Bookfair poster

No one can seem to recall if there has ever been an anarchist book fair in Philadelphia, but no matter, because on August 23, dozens of vendors and organizations came together at the Rotunda to offer a selection of literature for the discerning minds of progressive activists.

If you are new to anarchism, you might believe that anarchists are a bunch of bomb-throwing lunatics. Please park all your preconceptions at the door.

If anarchy is not about gratuitous violence, a view perpetuated to discount this group on the political fringe, then what is it? Yes, some have resorted to violence but no worse than violence brought on by “legitimate parties,” say, militarized police, for example. One group, anarcho-pacifists, completely reject the use of violence. Anarchy is a theoretical social state in which there is no governing body of persons, but everyone has absolute liberty.  Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States, was sometimes seen as a philosophical anarchist who believed that, “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’, because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”

Chomsky at Swarthmore College, November 2013

Chomsky at Swarthmore College,

Anarcho-syndicalism best explains my political philosophy where workers’ solidarity, direct action and workers’ self-management form the basis for encouraging workers to free themselves from the hierarchical systems of bosses and managers. In the ideal economic system, workers control the means of production and manage all aspects of their company. Workers make decisions collectively. Today Noam Chomsky, intellectual, MIT professor and author of over 100 books, is one of the most famous anarcho-syndicalists. If you have ever felt that your boss or your company was ineffective, bullying or stingy with wages, you might just be an anarcho-syndicalist.

 Books, Pamphlets, T-Shirts, Buttons

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I stopped at most of the displays, buying a t-shirt from the Lehigh Valley I.W.W, another t-shirt from Bindlestiff Books and coffee from Red Emmas. Representatives from other organizations, such as Philly Antifa, NYC Anarchist Black Cross, Marcellus Shale Earth First! and the Wooden Shoe answered questions and suggested reading materials. Most booths gave out free materials.

Entrance to the fair was free and pizza and coffee provided, with donations accepted.

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Refresher on Anarchist Economics

ASR-62Speakers presented talks throughout the morning and afternoon. I attended a lecture by Jon Bekken, who is on the editorial collective staff of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Review, an independent syndicalist magazine published since 1986. Jon gave an informative overview of anarchist economics, fielding questions from the audience.

The video offers a few excerpts from that discussion.

The book fair organizers hoped to challenge preconceived notions of anarchism and “move toward a world based on freedom and mutual aid.” With the number of vendors, the great turnout from the community and the workshops and discussions, I would say the fair had been a resounding success. The fair closed early so that participants could attend a vigil in Clark Park for Mike Brown and the people of Ferguson, Missouri.

Ararchist Airship flies Over William Penn

Anarchist Airship flies Over William Penn

 

Bringing Voice to Community Needs: A Collection at Swarthmore College

Collection 5.2.14This Collection was unique: a grassroots initiative with staff, faculty and students working together to offer all community members an opportunity to speak on decision-making and governance at the College.

Organized by the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP), the idea for the Collection grew from their advocacy for a child care benefit. In the previous week, SLAP and Human Resources released survey data from the dependent care survey of faculty and staff at the College. Of the 28% who responded that they used childcare, 41% of that number claimed that they were unhappy with their current child care arrangements. More than half of the respondents preferred an on-campus child care placement. In 1991 the Women’s Concerns Committee submitted a survey, and spent the next 14 years advocating for child care for faculty and staff. The question SLAP and the community had to consider: if the community supported a child care benefit, why hadn’t that benefit been implemented, especially since funding had been provided?

The Collection, facilitated Joyce Tompkins, Religious and Spiritual Life Advisor, brought together a panel to begin the discussion on decision-making processes and endowment spending at the College.

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Joyce Tompkins introducing Panelists

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Donna Jo Napoli, Linguistics Professor, advocate for child care

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Peter Collings, Physics Professor

Peter recently wrote a series of articles on the endowment in The Phoenix:
The inequity of Swarthmore’s endowment: An open letter to the Swarthmore College community
The inequity of Swarthmore’s endowment, revisited
Why endowment policy needs community input

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Gwen Synder, Class of 2008

Gwen Synder is Director at the Philadelphia branch of Jobs with Justice.

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Anna Gonzales, Editor in Chief, The Phoenix

Brett Day, Staff from Dining Services (unfortunately Brett could not make it because of difficulty arranging for child care).

It is the hope that this Collection will be a catalyst for the College community to work toward participation and transparency, as now neither faculty, staff or students have voice when it comes to financial decision-making. Truly enlightened institutions will foster coöperation that can only come by encouraging participation in decision-making as an inclusive practice that educates students in the process of genuine democracy and brings community members together to work in partnership with each other.

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More photographs at the Daily Gazette.

Proposal to Meet Staff and Faculty’s Child Care Needs at Swarthmore College sent to the College administration in May 2014.

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