Monday, April 15, 2013
Today I want to focus on the kids themselves and be a bit more theoretical.
What these kids have done is really amazing, if you think about it. Somehow, young African Americans have taken it upon themselves to find a place to freely carry out their lives, to create a space for their own enjoyment, safe from gangs and violence. This creation of a common space without any real organization, without any adult help, without some advanced planning is telling itself.
However, it obviously does not stop there. The response to this self (un)organized seizure of the commons has been dismay by the powers that be. The local media, unable to interpret or understand what is going on (and the is the best spin I can put on it) have responded in a blatantly racist manner. They have referred to what these kids have done (non violently, I might add) as "flash mobs"," they have called the kids troublemakers and thugs. They have implied that white patrons of the area are in danger of being attacked by blacks, and have spread unfounded rumors of such. They have done all they could to stir up trouble. They have been joined by those who run the area and who have long tried to keep anyone not fitting their image of who should be allowed on their upscale playground out. The city has responded with a ridiculous curfew obviously aimed at one particular component of society - that would be young, black kids. They have turned loose a police department with a long history of racism. The police have occupied the area on weekend nights in the spring and summer. They are there on foot, on horseback and in their patrol cars. They harass and provoke the kids and then they arrest them when they can. As one young black woman said, they tell us "we are in the way." Indeed.
And there have been well intentioned adults, self described community leaders, official community activists, and the like who have come to talk to the kids, but who never listen to them. They offer the usual offerings. They call for midnight hoops, church gatherings, roller skating. They are clueless to the fact that what these kids want is quite simple. They want the freedom they deserve and they want to preserve a space they themselves have created where they can enjoy their lives as they want. They don't need adult supervision. They don't need organized activities.
Despite all of this, despite the hard power and the soft power, the kids have not gone away. They disperse. They re-group. They come back. They won't go away. They won't give up the space they have created. They won't be cowed into submission and they have maintained control of their space for several years now. Is there a better example of the self organization that the multitude is capable of? Is there a better example of the ability of the multitude to simply create their own space and their own future? Wondrous, really, and these kids really have no idea, and that is also beautiful.
Amazingly, to me anyway, these kids have remained almost completely non violent despite all the provocations. Yes, there have been a few fights and yes, once, last year there was a gun shot, but by and large the kids have simply gone about their business being kids and refusing to be "controlled."
There may come a time when that ends. Continual harassment and provocation by police, the media, the wealthy who run the place, the authorities could very well force a confrontation to occur. I've been involved in this sort of thing with police when I was younger, and I well remember there came a time when we simply said enough and fought back. First they called in the national guard (who accomplished nothing and were meant with homegrown resistance), and a few months later the police came in, opened fire and left blood on the street and one man dead. It can happen, but it does not need to happen. Hopefully, the intervention which I described yesterday will help avert something like that.
Myself, I have mostly watched, chatted with the kids, listened to them, laughed with them, shouted occasionally at the police as they do what they do. What is important for the likes of me and those like me to remember is that THIS is the kids thing. We can support what these kids do if they want us to do so, and we can patrol the police as the group I described yesterday is now doing. The best thing we can do in my opinion is listen, be supportive, and learn.
The other thing those like me, leftists, activists, etc. who are white can do is not propagandize the kids, the black kids, but to instead concentrate on the white folks wandering around on the Plaza. Challenge them, explain to them, confront them, struggle with their racism and work to reject as much as possible our own white skin privilege. The job of anti-racist whites is to combat white supremacy and white skin privilege, and they have to do that amongst whites. Malcolm X laid this out pretty clearly in 1964 in a speech at the founding rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity. He said:
Now, if white people want to help, they can help. But they can't join. They can help in the white community, but they can't join. We accept their help. They can form the White Friends of the Organization of Afro-American Unity and work in the white community on white people and change their attitude toward us. They don't ever need to come among us and change our attitude. We've had enough of them working around us trying to change our attitude. That's what got us all messed up. So we don't question their sincerity, we don't question their motives, we don't question their integrity. We just encourage them to use it somewhere else in the white community. If they can use all of this sincerity in the white community to make the white community act better toward us, then we'll say, "Those are good white folks." But they don't have to come around us, smiling at us and showing us all their teeth like white Uncle Toms, to try and make themselves acceptable to us. The White Friends of the Organization of Afro American Unity, let them work in the white community.
The following little blurb is from rurban commons.
definitions of commons
Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt
Marxist critical thinkers Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri define the commons as something which is not discovered but produced: ‘We call “biopolitical production” the current dominant model to underline the fact that it involves not only a material production in straight economic terms, but also it affects and contributes to produce all other aspects of social life: i.e. economic, cultural and political. This biopolitical production and the increased commons that it creates, support the possibility of democracy today’. A sustainable democracy should be based on a long-term politics of the commons but also on social solidarities understood as commons. ‘Creating value today is about networking subjectivities and capturing, diverting, appropriating what they do with the commons that they began’. For Negri, the contemporary revolutionary project is concerned with capturing, diverting, appropriating and reclaiming the commons as a key constituent in its process. At the same time, it is a re-appropriation and a reinvention. This undertaking needs new categories and new institutions, new forms of management and governance, and new spaces and actors – an entire infrastructure that is both material and virtual.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
|COP SHOUTS "WHOSE STREETS, COPS STREETS"|
Today is theoretical weekends at Scission, but this is going to be anything but theoretical. This is the real world. If you have read my blog, you will already know about the police harassment of African American kids which takes place in the "exclusive" Country Club Plaza shopping and entertainment district here in Kansas City on warm spring and summer weekend nights. The kids come to enjoy themselves, the media gets in a twitter about flash mobs, the police arrive and do what police do, some kids resist and get busted, once there was a shot fired and occasionally there have been some fights. Obviously, the main problem is the police which occupy the Plaza on these nights in huge numbers, on foot, on horses, in patrol cars. I have been observing this for two years now. I have talked with kids who just want a place to have some fun in their lives without fear and I, a white person, have never been bothered by these kids...not ever. The local media, however, likes to play this all up as "mobs of young people" harassing patrons of the area and causing trouble. Again, in general, the mob is the police and the people being harassed are the kids. Last year the city ordered a nine PM summer curfew. I know this takes place in many places across the country.
Now, finally, a group of folks, mostly white, mostly associated with the local IWW (I think) are trying to do something about all this. They have gone to the Plaza to actually video what is going on and to talk and actually LISTEN to what the kids have to say. This was the first weekend for what is called PlazaWatch 2013. It will not be the last. What you will read directly below is a report on last night. It was put together by a young woman from the IWW whom I had the good fortune to meet a while back during the Occupy stuff and with whom I have also been fortunate to remain in contact.
You should know that PlazaWatch 2013 didn't just spring up out of nowhere. This same women and her comrades have been working hard now for several years directly against white supremacy and white skin privilege and combatting racism in a fresh and energetic way (especially from the point of view of an old leftie like myself).
The path they have embarked on (whether they know it or not) is an important one. It is one of rejecting their own white skin privilege, it is one of being a "race traitor (look it up)." It is also a demonstration of the autonomous action of a group of self organized people who are demonstrating by their actions a way to stand up and a way to begin to build a new world. I may sound dramatic, but I believe this.
Anyway here is what follows below;
- a description of last night's PlazaWatch
- a recording of some young African American women talking about their perception of what is going on (it's great)
- my article from 2011 giving some historical context and background on what has been going down and my own thoughts on it (it makes reference also to an article I put with it on some similar stuff in Philadelphia (I won't reprint that article here).
I will keep you updated, by the way, as things progress.
This is some good and important work going on...finally...I have been individually observing the same now for two years and talking with kids, but this is much better organized and involves more folks and has a strategy. I know Brianna and she and many of her friends and her comrades in the local IWW are going where no one here has gone before. Call me very impressed. I hope to join in soon...
Friday, August 19, 2011
CURFEWS, LIES, RACISM AND AMERICA'S WAR ON BLACK KIDS
The article you will find posted below pertains largely to Philadelphia, but what I am writing about pertains largely to Kansas City, Missouri, which is where I live.
Just yesterday the city, my city, adopted a 9PM curfew on youth similar to the one in Philadelphia. The curfew came in response to "large crowds of (black) youth and acts of violence" on the Country Club Plaza. The Country Club Plaza is the city's premier outdoor shopping and entertainment district. It was designed and built long ago and resembles a Spanish town. It is also a prime tourist destination (for the few tourists who come to our city). It is privately owned and features numerous upscale stores, restaurants, bars and is surrounded by hotels and high-rise condos. A waterway runs along one side.
(Disclosure: In 1970, when I had only just passed youthdom, and looked like the radical "hippie type" that I was, I was arrested on the Plaza for "interferring with a police officer making an arrest" of a friend who was selling the underground newspaper Vortex).
Last Saturday night the mayor, an African American man, took a walk on the Plaza to see for himself what the hubbub about gangs of youth swarming the place was all about and to, in fact, talk to the kids. Not a terrible idea. Unfortunately, while there, a few shots were fired about a block away from where he stood and he was knocked to the ground by his bodyguards. Three kids were slightly wounded in the incident. Voila: Curfew Time.
The facts are that although black kids had been gathering in large numbers on weekend nights on the Plaza for several summers now, this is only the second time any shots were fired. The first time, in truth, actually was a block off the Plaza in a nearby park.
Now, these "large numbers" of black youth have been hanging out on the Plaza for the same reasons you and I used to hang out somewhere when we were kids AND because for most of these kids hanging out on their block is dangerous. It also leaves them open to gang activity. So yeah, their parents figure they are better off on the Plaza. They are right.
The media and talk shows here have been all atwitter about the "mobs" of African American young people on the Plaza ever since the "phenomena" began a few summers back.
Interestingly enough, I live about a mile from the Plaza and virtually every weekend night (and many other nights as well) I take myself and my greyhound, Whitney, out for a late night stroll down to the place. We wander about the Plaza amidst the "mobs" and you know what? I have never been shot. I have never been hassled. I have never felt in any danger from those "large numbers of kids." Yes, there are a whole lot of black kids there - as well as a whole lot of white people enjoying themselves. So what? Personally I find it refreshing to see these kids enjoying themselves, acting like kids...generally bothering no one. Again, I am white. Lots of these kids ask me about my dog and we talk. It's cool. It's almost like being IN A CITY.
No one has much cared when these same kids have been shot every night, as long as it has been "East of Troost Avenue," which in KC's quite segregated community, means the black neighborhoods.
Black kids in what has been sort of considered a playground for white folks and middle and upper class "others," now there is the rub, you see. Can't have that.
I ask where in the hell are these kids supposed to hang and be kids and be somewhat safe. There are no places like the Plaza, or even close, to hang out east of Troost. Not every kid (in fact, damned few) are interested in "midnight basketball," gatherings at a local community center with adult supervision, church, after school activities and the like, which is what old fogies always seem to come up with as an alternative to the dangers of the streets.
I need to add here that these same black kids used to hang out in Westport, which is a smaller entertainment district, famous for drunken white twenty something males. Westport didn't like the black kids being there and before you know they had been shooed away. Some African American kids with cars tried cruising in Swope Park and the city thought that was no good and they were shooed away.
So a 9PM curfew is starting tonight on the Plaza and several other "entertainment" districts in town. It begins slightly later in the neighborhoods. The mayor says he wants to protect the kids. Actually, because of who he is and where he comes from, I tend to believe him. As a matter of fact, until his encounter last weekend, he has opposed such a curfew. Still, the mayor is my age and his youth has passed him by. Apparently, unlike me, his memory of that youth has passed on as well.
Placing a curfew on an entire community of young people is in reality a military action, nothing less. It is a vast overreaction to an unreality of media making and white fear...and wealthy businessmen.
Until this city, Philadelphia, and this whole nation wake up to the endemic and unrelenting racism which is our history and which has left black youth living in poverty, living in danger, growing accustomed the sounds of gunfire, attending lousy schools, harassed constantly by police, with no job prospects, and incarcerated in huge numbers, all the curfews, all the talk, all the late night hoops programs, mean absolutely nothing.
Philadelphia and other cities are experiencing the results of the same system of Capital, of white supremacy, and racism that led to the recent rebellions in England - and will eventually lead to the same large scale uprisings in this country.
Meanwhile, Whitney and I will head on down to the Plaza tonight and tomorrow night and check out the scene. I fear that what we will find is that the white people will still be there, some older and middle class African Americans will still be there, the mobs of police that occupy the place every weekend will still be there - but the black kids will have been driven away and out of sight again.
America, love it or leave it.