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I owe everything to being queer: An interview with Tirza True Latimer

ImageTirza True Latimer is the chair of the Visual and Critical Studies Department at the California College of the Arts (CCA). She is a feminist art historian, a lesbian, a general mover and shaker and a huge mentor of mine. I was Tirza’s student during my time at CCA in 2007 – 2009 and am indebted to her generosity, tender heartedness and fierce intellect. She modeled for me and all her students what it means to not only teach about feminism but to create a learning environment that is embedded within feminist politics and spirit.

After a few years of my own undergraduate teaching experiences, I was eager to talk with Tirza about feminist teaching. We met at a cafe in Berkeley with this subject in mind and after discussing her coming of age during anti-war movement of the 1960s, her refusal of mainstream, heterosexual culture, her participation the queer, collective culture of the 1970s and transition from working construction to teaching art history, our conversation eventually found its way to the feminist classroom.

Somehow I manage to corral this conversation into a readable interview! And I am so pleased that it was recently published on the literary site, The Rumpus. You can read the full interview here to see what I mean about this incredible woman and teacher.

Chowchilla Freedom Rally draws 400 protesters and all local media

The Chowchilla Freedom Rally drew over 400 people from throughout the state and caught the attention of all local media and many independent media sources. Below is an 8 minute video of the day created by the Freedom Archives and links to the articles, videos and op-eds.

Windy Click and Leslie Mendoza on Evening News, KPFA (min 28) 1/28/13

Officials insist inmates’ needs are being met at Central California Women’s Facility, Merced Sun-Star 1/29/13

Inside the women’s prison in Chowchilla, CBS 1/28/13

Protest against prison overcrowding draws hundreds, KSBY 1/27/13

Manifestación de la Libertad, Univision 1/27/13

VIDEO: Hundreds of prison protestors rally outside of Chowchilla, Merced Sun-Star 1/26/13

Thousands Rally Against Prison Overcrowding, KSEE 1/26/13

Protest Against Overcrowding Held Outside Philadelphia Women’s Prison, CBS 1/26/13

Protest against prison overcrowding draws hundreds, The Tribune 1/26/13

Group to Protest Outside Jail Saturday, Redwood City Patch 1/26/13

Op-Ed: Angela Davis/Windy Click: Rallying to end women’s prison crisis in California, Fresno Bee 1/25/13

Chowchilla Freedom Rally to draw hundreds of Bay Area residents to Central Valley to protest women’s prison, SF Bay View 1/24/13

Groups set to protest crowding at Chowchilla women’s prison, Merced Sun-Star 1/24/13

Crowding More Into Chowchilla Prisons, Prison Radio 1/16/13

Chowchilla Freedom Rally, Rise Up and Join Together

The Chowchilla Freedom Rally is 5 days away and many of us throughout the state of California are getting ready for what will undoubtedly be an empowering and impactful day. We can’t wait to be there with all of you to raise our voices loud enough to let our loved ones inside know they are not alone. Let’s make enough noise so that the decision makers in Sacramento have no choice but to hear our demands!

We are so inspired by the energy building around this rally. On Saturday in Oakland, we packed The Hold Out’s community room raising awareness (and money) about the injustices occurring in Chowchilla. The Youth Justice Coalition in Los Angeles is busy getting people to board the bus to Chowchilla or fund a seat.

Across the country in Pennsylvania, Mumia Abu-Jamal recently shamed California’s Department of Corrections for the inhumane and unconstitutional overcrowding in Chowchilla’s prisons during his Prison Radio broadcast from State Correctional Institute Mahanoy. And in a beautiful act of international solidarity, the Global Women’s Strike in London is planning a protest and speak-out in front of Holloway Prison on January 26th in support of the Chowchilla Freedom Rally and prisoners locked up in the UK’s women’s prisons.

If you haven’t yet, now is the time to sign up for a ride. We will send out information for the day-of shortly including a safety plan, directions and contact information. Thanks so much everyone and we will see you Saturday!

Chowchilla Freedom Rally, I am free today

We are 3 weeks away from our statewide mobilization to Chowchilla to protest the unconstitutional overcrowding in California’s women prisons and show our support for our loved ones inside who are struggling to survive as the conditions worsen. As a result of the conversion of Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW), one of the remaining women’s prisons has now reached 179% capacity. A woman recently transferred to CCWF informed us that they were given clothes and bedding that “you wouldn’t want even your dog sleeping on.” Another person confirmed, “Everything we rely on to survive, including medical and legal, is highly impacted by overcrowding. Overcrowding is the issue. It causes everything else to come crashing down like dominoes.”

We need your help to show the U.S. Supreme Court, the government, and prison officials that not only are we witnessing this discrimination and abuse but we will not be silent! Join us in demanding an end to overcrowding! Our loved one’s deserve humane living conditions and their freedom! Bring them home!

Chowchilla Freedom Rally, One Millions Reasons to Go

Last week Governor Jerry Brown proclaimed that the prison crisis in California is over and overcrowding is a “distant memory.” This outrageously untrue statement added even more fuel to our already burning, hot fire! In less than two weeks people from throughout the state will gather in Chowchilla and march from Valley State Prison to Central California Women’s Facility–now the most overcrowded prison in California–to demand an end to this gender discrimination and the release of our loved one’s locked up in Chowchilla’s prisons.

The support and enthusiasm for this rally is overwhelming and the word is spreading. Check out our recent interview on KPFA’s Hard Knock Radio program, a recent article covering the overcrowding in the Merced Sun Star and our latest promotional videos featuring some of our incredible leaders: One million reasons to go and I am free today!

Let’s not wait until the 26th to share in our collective power! Come to our pre-protest party this Saturday in Oakland to learn more about the conditions in Chowchilla’s prisons and the history of resistance to this inhumane system. We will be making signs and noise-makers!

BRING OUR LOVED ONES HOME! Chowchilla Freedom Rally, January 26, 2013

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The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is converting Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) into a men’s prison in response to a U.S. Supreme Court order to reduce overcrowding. Instead of releasing people and closing VSPW, they are squeezing over 1,000 women and transgender people into the two remaining women’s prisons. The population of the other women’s prison in Chowchilla, Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) is dangerously close to 4,000 even though its maximum capacity is 2,000. The conversion has aggravated overcrowding, created dangerous conditions, and healthcare is already getting much worse. What’s more, they have added yet another men’s prison to their inhuman system. We’ve had enough! Come show support for all people locked up in Chowchilla’s prisons and tell the Federal Judges that overcrowding must stop now!

CHOWCHILLA FREEDOM RALLY, Saturday, January 26, 2013

Rides available by bus and carpool. Contact chowchilla.rally@gmail.com or 415-255-7036 ext. 314

Caravans leaving from MacArthur BART in Oakland at 10:30AM and Chuco’s Justice Center in Inglewood at 8:30AM. We will gather at 2PM at the SE corner of Avenue 24 and Fairmead Blvd. off Highway 99 in Chowchilla.

Rally begins at 3PM at VSPW.

OVERCROWDING = DEATH

BRING OUR LOVED ONES HOME!

COMMUNITY RELEASE PROGRAMS * PAROLE FOR ELDERS * RELEASE FOR MEDICAL REASONS * END LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE (LWOP)

Solidarity actions encouraged! If you cannot make the rally or do not live in California, we encourage you to organize a solidarity action on the same day in your community. Hold a demonstration in front of the DOC offices or the county jail, organize a speak-out against prisons in a public space, stand in solidarity with the Chowchilla Freedom Rally! Please let us know how we can support you! Contact info@womenprisoners.org

Interested in helping organize this event? Join our coalition! Our next meeting is Wednesday, January 2, 2013 from 6 – 8PM at the CCWP offices. 1540 Market Street, Suite 490, San Francisco. Or contact adrienne@womenprisoners.org
The Chowchilla Freedom Rally Coalition includes members from California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, Justice NOW, All Of Us Or None, Legal Services for Prisoners With Children, Fired Up!, Transgender, Gender Variant, Intersex Justice Project, Critical Resistance, Youth Justice Coalition, Global Women’s Strike, Occupy 4 Prisoners, Asian Pacific Islander Support Committee and the California Prison Moratorium Project.

An Infinity of Traces: An interview with Evan Bissell on Organizing Upgrade

7_Bissell_1954 Deleware and Brown v Board 72ppi-1This interview has been a long time in the making. Partly because I find Evan Bissell‘s work so damn powerful that it felt difficult for me to do it justice. I knew I wanted to interview Evan after seeing the opening of his project, “The Knotted Line” last spring. It was one of the most moving experiences I’ve had viewing art.

Ever.

“The Knotted Line” as an interactive, multi-disciplinary project that explores the historical relationship between freedom and confinement in the United States. It is comprised of over 50 miniature paintings, an interactive online timeline, and a curriculum guide for bringing this expansive history to classrooms of various ages. But what makes Evan’s work so powerful is not necessarily the end result but his approach to art-making wherein he appears more as a grassroots organizer than artist. Through political education, research, self-reflection, relationship building and community empowerment, Evan creates art that strikes at the core of my unrelenting questions and demands of cultural work: how can art function not as a passive form but an active agent for liberatory political practice? What is possible when we reject the distinction between artist, organizer, and community member?

Read the full interview with Evan Bissell on Organizing Upgrade.

Fax (Facts) Bomb

FAXFACTS_BOMBFor Fax (Facts) Bomb event at SF Arts Commission gallery, I researched and presented 19 Fax Facts beginning with the rise in popularity of the fax machine in the 1980s and traveling through the invention and subsequent use of cell phones, personal camcorders, and social media websites to protest the government and attempt to hold law enforcement accountable while the government and law enforcement uses these same technologies for surveillance of citizens.

Audience members kick-started each segment by reading out loud the fact card they were given and contributed with their own questions, experiences and opinions along the way.

The event also included a presentation by Christian L. Frock who spoke about the use of secondary protest strategies via social media and internet platforms during the detainment of Chinese artist and activst Ai Wei Wei in April 2011. Diana Block gave the closing comments on technology and surveillance by telling her story of discovering an FBI bug in her car and the subsequent years she and other activists spent living underground to evade arrests for their solidarity work with the Black Power and the Puerto Rican Independence Movement.

There was a lively conversation after the slideshow about using the rhetoric of the law when discussing government infringement on privacy, younger generations and the relationship to technology, strategies for defending oneself against surveillance. Audience members were also invited to respond in writing to the following questions: what is your first memory of technology and protest/civic engagement? How do you use or abstain from using technology?

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We thought the world we built would be forever: An interview with Lenn Keller

Maybe it has something to do with turning 29, but it seems that all I want to do lately is talk with older generations of queer artists and political organizers about their lives and work. Last week I met with Lenn Keller, a Bay Area film-maker and photographer whose practice straddles the worlds of art making, political activism, and queerness.

I first saw Lenn’s work in 2010 when her exhibition “Fierce Sistahs: Art, Activism and Community of Lesbians of Color in the Bay Area, 1975 – 2000” was on display at the San Francisco Public Library. Fierce Sistahs was a collection of photographs and ephemera documenting the political and social lives of lesbians of color from pride parades to workshops to community gatherings. Shortly after I included Lenn’s series of portraits of gender non-comforming youth of color into the exhibition, “Suggestions of A Life Being Lived” at  SFCamerawork which I co-curated with Danny Orendorff.

Lenn is a living vestige to the Bay Area’s history of lesbian culture and political movements centered on the experiences of women of color. We talked about this history, and how the politics of the Bay Area attempts to erode lesbian culture, as well as her film, A Persistent Desire which traces the evolution of butch-femme identities and dynamics. While posting this interview in June is perhaps a nod to San Francisco’s Pride festivities, Lenn’s work and experience reveal a complex legacy that extends well beyond the month and provides a historical context to our current manifestations of queer protest, survival and joy.

Read the interview on SFMOMA’s Open Space.

FAX (FACTS) BOMB, a participatory lecture at San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery on June 30th

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On June 30th I will be presenting “Fax (Facts) Bomb” in conjunction with the San Francisco Art Commission Gallery’s current exhibition, FAX. Through a participatory slideshow I will trace the evolution of technology and its effects on protest tactics and surveillance focusing on topics such as the invention of the camcorder, facebook black-outs, twitter’s new home in San Francisco, online petitions, Zapatista’s cyber sit-ins and BART police’s infringement on freedom of speech. This event will also feature Diana Block and other longtime activists as they talk about their experience with technology, protest and policing. Come join the conversation!

San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery
401 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco
Saturday, June 30th at 5PM