Friday, December 7, 2018

From NYC to San Francisco: Thinking about the Clash, Community Building and other reflections on the Howard Zinn Bookfair.

A copy of Brooklyn Tides in San Francisco and other images from the 2018 HZBF.

Ron and I stopped for a coffee and  a stroll at the beach on  the way to the Howard Zinn Bookfair where we were presenting.

But first a few Monterrey Pines, waves, and  conversations along  the shore in Pacifica.
A eucalyptus tree here, a memory there. 
Birds and fisherman warming the morning.
Can we all share this space together?

On  Valencia Street, the murals fly from  the walls.
Bands play in  the street. 
The city really is still a work  of art. 

We run into  Eric Larsen walking inside.
What are you doing?
Walking to the bookfair.
Its that way, we point.

I chat with my hero Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, who just finished her panel on 1968.
And snap a picture. 

On the second floor,  Mark Andersen recalls 1985.
The Clash:

“a paradox of revolutionary conviction, ambition, and drive.
George Orwell’s 1984 loomed.
Crash[ing] headlong into a wall of internal contradictions
 the world teetered on edge of the nuclear abyss,
British miners waged a life-or-death strike,
tens of thousands died from US guns in Central America,
The band shattered just as its controversial final album, Cut the Crap, was emerging.”
I bought the record in 1985.
And played  it over and over again. 
But something was wrong.
The band was over.
But the clash remained.
Meanings reverberating,
A clash of music,
When two guitars clash,
Ideal vs the real,
What is and what could be.
Paul thought of the name.
Saw the word in the news,
The riots in Brixton.
Its not just music.
Its not just a look.
It’s this big idea.
The clash between generations,
Between the rulers and the ruled.
It started as a reaction.
An  antithesis to all that was plastic.
Rejecting monoculture in favor of world beats.
This is radio  clash,
But  could dance music be a  synthesis?
Mick embraced the beatbox.
Joe rejected it.
Wanted more guitars.
You can’t go home again.
Its not just about the great white way, Joe declares at the Yes Festival in LA.
Michelle Gonzales felt like he was speaking to her.
Create a new metric.
Singing in Spanish.
Like he knew I was there.
The clash was over.
The dialectic at a standstill.
Mark’s voice cracks. 
I wouldn’t be standing here before you without them.
Snaps a photo with a kid in a Clash T-Shirt.
We’d think about that music the rest of our lives. 
Where else were we going to  learn about  Sandinistas, police or thieves?
James Tracy works the room. 
Any fights yet, I ask.
Not yet. 
But there is still time. 
Actually there are not as many.
Everyone checks their egos.
Our panel is about to start:

How are residents building sustainable communities in an era global capitalism,
which fuels climate change?
Brooklynites forge alternative models for sustainable urbanism for their globalizing borough.
Activists use sanctuary policies to defend undocumented community members, advancing abolitionism.
Immigrants and their allies to expand notions of citizenship and gain voting rights in NY and SF  
Social change is possible through community building.
Here, social change is activism in process, not a theoretical promise.
I begin, looking  back.
From left coast to right.
LA riots
So people build gardens.
Friends die.
ACT UP Golden gate throws ashes.
Chicago to new York, and back.
Join collectives, act up, and built a city of friends.
Small affinity groups… working around housing, public space, direct action, culture jamming, community gardens, nonpolluting transportation.
My favorite garden bulldozed…
We save many
but the loss hurts.

The city breaks our heart.
Out to  Brooklyn.
To Carroll Gardens.
The same thing happens.
Skyscrapers rise.
Email from Beka points out that the most aggressive rezoning  in the city history in Greenpoint. 
Same process.
Sea of identical details expands,
Flatting out cities.
So  we organize.
Vote for our own community plan.
We lose one rezoning battle.
Fight another, winning restrictions on height and bulk.
The waves  of buildings are the latest of many tides
The Lenape People, the Dutch, English,  immigrants.
Mercantilism and industrialization transforming a space once known as agricultural community
Labor struggles.
Globalization, with accompanying yin and yang.
A cultural mix
More ugly buildings.
Then I get to Brooklyn.
Fighting Walmart.
Defending bike lanes and nonpolluting transportation
Creating gardens
Sandy hits the shores.
First water then neglect
Then food and mutual aid.
All ingredients of a sustainable urbanism,
built around an engaged populace.
Non polluting Transportation
Energy Bikes
Community Gardens
But challenges continue around housing and affordable  renewables.
Is it enough?
Social change is possible through community building.
Social change is activism in process, not a theoretical promise.
      How can we create and sustain communities of resistance?
      We’re  tear gassing, locking up kids, throwing  trans migrants  in freezers, creating detention centers,
      concentration camps in  the good old USA.
How do we fight the encroaching fascism of our era?
Che talks about community organizing and abolition.
And the psychopathology of white decline.
The alien could be the welfare queen, the queer, the immigrant.
With white people voting against their own interests to keep them back. 
Prison abolition is a movement with a past Angela D reminds us.
Its has a past and a future
Not just against but a fight for
Instead of centering itself on the mainstream
It expands the possibilities for all of us.
Incremental forms that take the bricks out of the prison. 
Sanctuary cities, sanctuary states.
Embrace  the  other.
Can we  build a city of friends?
Abolish the electoral college.
Remove the  police.
Decenter the urban. 
Create societies that prioritize flourishing.
40 states allow non-citizen voting.
Alien declaring.
Future citizenship.
All of our welfare is entwined in this process of connection.
Arts and activism support the community building.
More poems and dogs.
Mission arts and performance. 
Childcare cooperatives
Participatory budgeting.
Bring democracy to the neighborhoods.
Provision of services from those known & trusted.
Bring people together,
Bring food and love.
Work with youth.
Where they come from. 
Train them to be future leaders.
Community is a democratic process.
Share skills.
Create a public bank in San Francisco. 
Think like a Wobbly
Make one big union.
An injury to one is an injury to all. 
Get the commons.
Save the commons.
Expand the commons.
Expand the floor.
Immigrant rights expands the floor.
Democracy for all of us.
Fight displacement.
There  is no sustainability without people.
How many new people participated?
We have to ask.
Everyone’s talking and sharing.
We can’t get em to shut up. 
Best panel ever.
Thanks comrade Ron!
We’re all historians,
James declares.
Down the hall.
His panel with Lynn Lewis on oral history methods is one of the best.
 “Write Document Your Own Chapter of the People’s History
Inside or Outside of Academia.”
Why do people come?
Why do they stay?
Recording movement history is an act of resistance.
Oral history and community organizing are simple.
We can  all do this kind of work.
Eric and I grab a beer next door after it is all over.
Mary is writing about Carson McCullers,
She lived down the street from  Mom on Stark Avenue in  Columbus.
I  can’t stand the place.
Eric about Alex Comfort.
I’m trying to write wild discombobulated prose,
My oral history of the present.
Like Dylan wonders Eric.
“I love Howard  Zinn,” declares the bartender,
 pouring  herself another glass of red wine.
“Its great to see so many writers here.
We all love the Howard Zinn bookfair.”
I’ll have an Anchor Steam even  though my old girlfriend here named her cat Anchor steam.
That’s over now.
Its good to laugh  about it all.
“I’m always encouraged by how much it looks like it looked when I was a kid,” notes Eric.
“Here’s to a few of the landlords who didn’t sell out,” toasts the bartender.

Thanks James.
Thanks Roxanne!
Thanks Lynn!
Thanks Che!
Thanks Kathy!
Thanks Ron!
Thanks Howard!
Lets all add a new chapter to the people’s history.
And share our stories at the bookfair.

No comments:

Post a Comment