Category Archives: war

Highlights from the US Social Forum: LA COIL on Intersectionality, Horizontalism and Prefigurative Politics

My favorite session at the U.S. Social Forum was organized by LA COiL (Communities Organizing Liberation), a collective of revolutionaries who work with the teachers’ union, the Garment Workers’ Center, and in hospitals in Los Angeles. [For more information, contact them at coil.losangeles (at) gmail.com.] They asked us to imagine in detail the world we want to live in, starting with what we want our schools to look like (windows on every floor! peer evaluation! all students, faculty, staff and community members involved in decisions about budget, curriculum, etc!) and then exploring how we can build accountability and support structures in our neighborhoods to replace police and prisons. These folks are for real.

LA COiL members gave workshop participants a little green booklet with a fresh design (trippy rippling circles that intersect) and reader-friendly layout. I am going to zerox the hell out of this thing and start handing them out like candy. I don’t think it’s available on the internet yet (although you can download a scrappy pdf here), so I’m going to type up a few short excerpts. The pamphlet, which LA COiL wrote together with a group named Another Politics is Possible, is called, “So That We May Soar: Horizontalism, Intersectionality, and Prefigurative Politics.” What does that mean? Basically, these folks are putting into words the kind of politics many of us have been trying to develop and have been searching for in every organization we work with. Here are some brief quotes from the pamphlet that can be used as definitions:

1. “Horizontalism challenges each individual to break out of the patterns of allowing others to be the agents of change, and to begin to trust, grow and develop ourselves, politically and personally, alongside others…. It is about investing the time and energy in education, support, and encouragement in order to allow for full participation and decision-making…. This requires the development of structures that truly embody collective work, collective leadership and decentralize power.” (pages 11-12)

2. Prefigurative politics: “We offer our vision of a different world, not as a promise of a place that is far off in the distance where one day we can hope to dramatically arrive, but rather as a set of principles and values that guide us in our practice of liberation now. We want to talk about how to build movements and organizations that both challenge current conditions and practice liberation. We practice liberation now in order to build experience with holding power differently in our own lives and communities, to reclaim our agency, creativity, humanity, dignity, and our capacity to love and be joyful…. We understand revolution as a process rather than an event and are working to build movements that transform power, rather than merely seizing or democratizing power in its current forms.” (page 1)

3. For Intersectionality, the term I think is most relevant to the AIDS movement, I’m going to type up a whole section of the pamphlet here:

Making an Intersectional Analysis Central

“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not lead single-issue lives.”

— Audre Lorde

We all live at the intersection of multiple identities, privileges and oppressions. As a result, radical politics that rank oppressions or attempt to identify a “primary contradiction” all too often end up addressing one aspect of domination while reinforcing others. Continue reading

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Filed under Alternatives to 501c3, arts and culture, California, economic justice, gay and bisexual men, gender, imperialism/colonialism, Native Americans/Indigenous peoples, police repression, prison, revolutionary strategies, sexual violence, transformative justice, Uncategorized, war, women

Che Gossett on AIDS activist Kiyoshi Kuromiya’s legacy and the intersections between all movements for liberation

At Movements For Change, an event in honor of Kiyoshi Kuromiya on June 10th in Philadelphia, student activist Che Gossett incited a room of sleep-deprived AIDS activists to shouts and tears, reminding us why we are doing this work and inspiring us toward new ways of doing it. The event was hosted by longtime activist Chris Bartlett at the Church of St. Luke and The Epiphany, where ACT UP Philadelphia meets each Monday night at 6pm, and strategized for the future while remembering Kiyoshi, a beloved member of ACT UP who died 10 years ago.

“Kiyoshi believed in intersectionality long before that was a term people used,” Chris said in his opening remarks. “He brought what he learned from the Civil Rights, Gay Liberation and other movements to all of the work he did, and wherever people struggled for human rights and dignity, he was there.”

Che generously shared the text of their talk with us here. Enjoy!


“The white middle-class outlook of the earlier [homophile] groups, which thought that everything in America would be fine if people only treated homosexuals better, wasn’t what we were all about…We wanted to stand with the poor, with women, with people of color, with the antiwar people, to bring the whole corrupt thing down.”[1] Kiyoshi Kuromiya

This quote, especially the call to stand with the poor, women, people of color, anti-war people and for a radical alternative is what, in my understanding, animated Kiyoshi’s life. To me, it represents the core of his legacy and stands as an imperative for discussions of the future.

My talk is supposed to be about the future of gay rights, but how do we talk about a future that, as defined by homo-normative groups and political formations like the HRC [Human Rights Campaign], neither centers nor sometimes even includes those categories Kiyoshi mentions — women (trans and non trans), the poor and people of color?   How can we hold a mirror up to a future in which we are not reflected?   How is it that we, as queer and transgender people of color are evacuated and disappeared from a future we helped to create?

The Lawrence v. Texas legal decision that struck down sodomy laws has been heralded by gay rights groups, yet it is haunted by the racial violence of its past — the legal basis for the police invasion of Lawrence’s apartment was not “consensual sodomy,” but a false report of a weapons disturbance — the Harris County police dispatcher was called and told, “There’s a nigger going crazy with a gun.”[2] How is it that this racialized past now exists as a sign of a post-racial queer future? In which gay rights are the new civil rights, and the civil rights battles of the 60s have been won?   How did we move from gay and trans liberation to queer neoliberalism?  From gay anti-capitalism to the depoliticized neoliberal gay market niche?  How did we get from the gay anti-imperialism of the Gay Liberation Front, the Philadelphia chapter of which Kiyoshi and Basil O’Brien created in May of 1970[3], to homonationalism — the marriage and military rhetoric — of today?  Why, instead of fighting US imperialism, and standing in solidarity with anti-occupation struggles and against political repression, such as the recent Israeli military attack on the Gaza aid flotillas — are queers rushing to join wars rather than protest police and state violence? Continue reading

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Filed under African Americans, criminalization of HIV, economic justice, gay and bisexual men, harm reduction, housing, imperialism/colonialism, New York City, people with AIDS in leadership, Philadelphia, police repression, prison, revolutionary strategies, Southern United States, stigma, trans and gender non-conforming, Uncategorized, war, women

Survivors in Action: Disaster, conflict, and displacement—communities struggle to heal

by Suzy Subways, Editor, Solidarity Project

APRIL 2007 • Issue 4

War and natural disaster affect the AIDS pandemic in ways that can be devastating to individuals and their communities. Service disruptions increase HIV risk, interrupt treatment, obstruct continuity of care, and impede the provision of other necessary services, although the specifics vary depending on the nature of and response to the crisis. This article looks at two disparate regions of the world in which communities are determined to heal after experiencing severe crises. On the U.S. Gulf Coast following the 2005 hurricane season, and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, ravaged by civil war, activists and providers are identifying community needs, developing creative ways to meet them, and demanding that government and the international community support their efforts. These two very different situations provide examples of how disaster—whether natural, caused by humans, or a combination of both—and the resultant displacement of people affect those living with and at risk for HIV.

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Filed under Congo (DRC), disaster capitalism, displacement and gentrification, imperialism/colonialism, New Orleans, sexual violence, Solidarity Project, treatment access, Uncategorized, war

Violence and Destruction in the Congo

NOTE: I wrote this article about the conflict in the Congo without mentioning the reason behind it – multinational corporations fighting over natural resources that are used in cell phones. Please read this article from the October 20, 2009 issue of San Francisco BayView: Congo Week: an interview wit’ Kambale Musavuli, spokesman for Friends of the Congo

by Suzy Subways

APRIL 2007 • Issue 4

In New Orleans, an extraordinarily incompetent official response compounded Katrina’s brutal impact. In another October 2005 New England Journal of Medicine article about the response to Katrina, disaster relief experts observed that “ignorance of the lessons learned from managing similar crises in other countries” played an important role in the U.S. government’s insufficient response to Katrina. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), destruction caused by governments and militias has created a humanitarian disaster of tsunami proportions. Living in the U.S. is very different from living in a developing country in Africa. But in both places, we can see how powerful forces sometimes worsen and even take advantage of catastrophe, while others with power do their best to help people whose lives have been shattered.

Healthcare: Another Casualty of War

Although the Second Congo War officially ended in 2003, violence continues, especially in the east. The conflict has directly involved eight African nations and 20 armed groups, and it continues to include the Hutu militia that took part in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Since 1998, nearly four million people have died—more than in any conflict since World War II. As in other violent conflicts, most of these deaths weren’t caused by bullets but by disease and malnutrition that could have been treated or prevented if not for the violence and its effects on healthcare, farming, and housing. As in Rwanda, the conflict has facilitated HIV transmission and made it far more difficult to deliver healthcare to the increasing number of people with HIV.

Counselor Jeanne Banyere (far right) and fistula patients in Masisi, DRC. Photo from the new documentary film Lumo: A Young Woman’s Struggle to Heal in a Nation Beset by War (Courtesy of Goma Film Project, http://www.gomafilmproject.org/).

Rape as a Weapon of War

Historically, rape has been used against civilians as a weapon of war, although it’s relatively recently that feminists and humanitarian groups have been able to draw media and world attention to this atrocity. During the Second Congo War, rape was widespread, and this brutality continues today as violence persists in the east. Immaculee Birhaheka, director of a women’s rights group in Goma, a city in Kivu province in eastern Congo, told the Guardian in November 2006, “It is impossible to know how many women have been raped in the war, but it is hundreds of thousands.”

In the chaos, with no reliable government authorities to protect civilians or rebuild the already limited public health infrastructure, nongovernmental organizations have done their best to step in. HEAL Africa, a nonprofit started in 1994 by a Congolese doctor to improve rural health, provides continuing medical education to local physicians with support from international funders and medical schools. Joseph Ciza Nakamina, a Congolese nurse who runs HEAL Africa’s North Kivu sexual violence program Heal My People, presented preliminary research at the global AIDS conference in Toronto last summer, confirming that conflict increases the risk of HIV. Of the militiamen and armed gangs who commit most of the rapes in the region, 12 percent are HIV-positive, Nakamina reported.

A Community Takes Action

In March 2003, hundreds of women held a protest against rape in the center of Goma, demanding medical care for fistula, a severe resulting internal injury. Since then, trauma counselor and activist Mama Jeanne Banyere has brought women from remote areas to HEAL Africa’s Goma hospital, which offers surgery for fistula, HIV treatment, and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)—a short course of antiretrovirals used to prevent HIV infection immediately after exposure.

Ciza Nakamina recommended making PEP more accessible through trained nurses in places where doctors will not go due to safety concerns. Judy Anderson, a HEAL Africa consultant from the U.S., says, “There’s a huge need for help in getting the PEP kits out to the clinics in outlying areas—a virtually unlimited need, as there are not many others out there doing so.” The stigma of surviving rape can also be a barrier. “We are trying to get more PEP kits out there and inform the public of the treatment option—the difficulty is getting people to come forward within the 72 hours for PEP,” she says.

Nakamina also called for keeping the DRC conflict and gender-based violence on the world’s agenda. While global attention focuses on other conflicts, the war that’s over in name only continues to terrorize civilians and spread HIV. And as most Americans forget about the destruction of New Orleans, another preventable disaster whose impact continues to increase in many ways, Gulf Coast survivors still fight for their homes.

As AIDS activists and human beings, we can never forget to honor the dignity of all displaced and brutalized people in the U.S. and around the world, listening as communities define their own needs and offering our solidarity, rather than patronizing charity.

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Filed under Congo (DRC), disaster capitalism, displacement and gentrification, gender, imperialism/colonialism, sexual violence, Solidarity Project, stigma, treatment access, Uncategorized, war, women

TAKE ACTION

APRIL 2007 • Issue 4

Last summer in New Orleans, former public housing residents built a tent city called Survivors’ Village to protest being locked out of their homes as 86 percent of pre-Katrina public housing units, mostly undamaged, remained fenced off. In early April, Survivor’s Village will re-launch with cottages instead of tents, along with a legal clinic, first aid station, and chapel. Visit their “How to Help” page to download flyers, email legislators, donate, and sign up for action alerts.

Encourage your Senator (www.senate.gov) to co-sponsor and support the federal Gulf Coast Hurricane Housing Recovery Act of 2007, which would re-open 3,000 New Orleans public housing apartments by August 1, 2007 and maintain pre-Katrina levels of federal housing assistance. This bill, approved by the House of Representatives on March 21, is a direct result of grassroots organizing by local activists. Now it’s up to the Senate to pass it and get it to President Bush.

Donate money or volunteer your healthcare, education, counseling or administrative skills by emailing the New Orleans Women’s Health and Justice Initiative (WHJI), which is opening a clinic at 1406 Esplanade Avenue this spring to offer quality, affordable healthcare and counseling services to low-income and uninsured women of color, regardless of immigration status. The clinic aims to fill gaps left by Charity Hospital and other closed facilities. WHJI also plans to expand its community organizing for healthcare and social justice. To receive a tax deduction, please make checks out to Women With a Vision, with “New Orleans Women’s Health Clinic” in the memo line, and mail to P.O. Box 51325 New Orleans, LA 70151.

Check out this Letter from the People of New Orleans to our Friends and Allies, by New Orleans-based activists, published in Left Turn magazine’s April/May 2007 issue.

Check out CHAMP’s comic book version of Mindy Fullilove’s Root Shock.

Global Strategies for HIV Prevention supplies the post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) kits to HEAL Africa in Goma, DRC. Specify that your check go toward PEP kits and mail it to Global Strategies at 104 Dominican Drive, San Rafael, CA 94901.

Women’s Equity in Access to Care and Treatment (WE-ACTx) provides HIV treatment, primary care, trauma counseling, income generation activities, and family planning services to thousands of women who were raped during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and works in solidarity with grassroots Rwandan women’s associations to advocate for improved treatment access. Mail donations to WE-ACTx, 3345 22nd Street, San Francisco, CA 94110. Call (415) 648-1728 or email weactx@gmail.com for more information.

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Filed under African Americans, Congo (DRC), disaster capitalism, displacement and gentrification, economic justice, housing, imperialism/colonialism, New Orleans, sexual violence, Solidarity Project, Uncategorized, war, women

Veterans: Casualties of War

by Suzy Subways

APRIL 2007 • Issue 4

Iraq Veterans Demand Comprehensive Care for Returning Vets

War takes an unimaginable toll on its victims, which includes civilians caught in the crossfire as well as active troops and veterans. February’s Washington Post exposé of neglect and unsanitary conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center prompted congressional hearings and the firing of the Army secretary and two generals. Various commentators pointed out the similarities between the Bush administration’s undermining of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Veterans’ Health Administration (VA).

Until recently, the VA was known for providing the best healthcare in America. The media and the public largely ignored numerous reports over the past few years that described the grossly inadequate healthcare combat vets were receiving. Revelations of the conditions at Walter Reed have changed that. As at FEMA, budgets were cut, cronies were hired, and private firms were contracted to do work that could have been done at lower cost by government employees. Just as Katrina highlighted FEMA’s incompetence and inability to protect the residents of New Orleans, the Walter Reed scandal brings to light the shoddy medical treatment of soldiers returning from Iraq [see this excellent animated cartoon].

The VA is the largest provider of HIV and hepatitis C care in the United States. People concerned about HIV/AIDS in this country should pay close attention to VA funding and veterans’ health. One way to do that is to support the work of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). As well as speaking out for an end to the occupation of Iraq, the group advocates full funding for the VA and complete access to quality healthcare (including mental health) and benefits for returning veterans. Continue reading

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Filed under disaster capitalism, economic justice, hepatitis, imperialism/colonialism, Solidarity Project, treatment access, Uncategorized, war

Money for AIDS: What Do You Think?

APRIL 2007 • Issue 4

Think U.S. taxpayers spend too much on global AIDS compared to the domestic epidemic? What if we could spend a lot more on both?

The National Priorities Project keeps a running total of the Cost of War in Iraq, which at press time had hit almost $417 billion, based on Congressional appropriations. Divided between the war’s four years, that’s more than $100 billion per year. Total U.S. spending on HIV/AIDS in 2006 was $21.1 billion, which breaks down to $3.2 billion for low- and middle-income countries, and $17.9 billion for U.S. programs.1

Whether you support the war in Iraq or you’re one of the two-thirds of Americans who oppose it, these numbers may suggest that more money can be found to fight the pandemic. Let’s think even more ambitiously…

Solidarity Project Poll:

Do you think the AIDS pandemic could effectively be ended with $417 billion?

Here are some global stats to work with:

• Six million people need antiretrovirals immediately, but only 12% are getting them. 2
• A year’s worth of generic medications for someone just starting treatment costs $200. 3
• 2.9 million people died of AIDS in 2006. 4
• Less than 20% of people at risk for HIV worldwide have access to prevention services. 5
• $18.1 billion a year would provide comprehensive prevention, care, and treatment for all. 6

Get out your calculators, consider the future treatment needs of people getting HIV now, second-line therapy for people whose HIV develops resistance to their first regimen, and the possibility of new infection rates actually going down… Then crunch the numbers and reply to us at champ@champnetwork.org. We’ll include some of the most interesting responses in future issues of Solidarity Project.

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Filed under disaster capitalism, economic justice, imperialism/colonialism, Solidarity Project, Uncategorized, war