Knitting Together the Struggles
As the last years, decades, and centuries have taught us, our freedom is inextricably linked with the freedom of others. The anti-colonial struggles that raged across Africa during the mid-twentieth century inspired those fighting for liberation in the United States, leading to the Civil Rights Movement. In turn, the movement for Black Liberation was a catalyst for the second wave of feminism, and for the ongoing work of both the queer and trans communities. As Angela Y. Davis—who so masterfully combines Black feminism with prison abolition—continues to remind us, “Freedom is a constant struggle.”
It makes sense then, that if our freedom is interwoven, so therefore are our struggles. The fight to protect asylum-seekers and migrants, the ongoing battles to defend the environment and other living beings, the ongoing movement to abolish capitalism… the list is endless, and yet the struggle is singular. It is a struggle against oppression, against greed, but also a struggle against indifference and ignorance. It is a struggle for life itself.
There is tremendous power in creating connections between generations, between movements, across borders, and across prison walls. Yet all too often (and with the unswerving assistance of corporate media), we are unable to connect the dots that unite our struggles. While we may notice that the ongoing imprisonment of children of colour reflects the United States’ internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, we must also make the connection between these horrendous actions and the privatization of the Global South, the expansion of the carceral state, and the growing authoritarianism of state governments. Similarly, we see the threads that connect the Indigenous struggle for land (and against drilling and pipelines on their land) with the fight for a living wage, the growing demand for a more equitable distribution of resources, and the need to confront white supremacist policies and practices.
We hope that you will find examples to help deepen your own connections in our Knitting Together the Struggles calendar for 2020. Only by uniting our work to directly confront oppression will we see concrete results.
In a 1970 letter to a then-imprisoned Davis, James Baldwin wrote, “If we know, then we must fight for your life as though it were our own—which it is—and render impassable with our bodies the corridor to the gas chamber. For, if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.”
None are free until all are free.
p.s. Visit certaindays.org for more great art and articles from prisoners, supporters, and abolitionists.
-the certain days collective: Amy, Daniel, Helen, Josh, Sara
-supporting members: Aric, Erin, Tasha
One Movement, Many Fronts
By Dawson Barrett
We are living through many, overlapping crises.
Most overwhelmingly, on the global scale, the climate catastrophe has arrived. Its causes are also poisoning our water, our air, and our bodies. In many corners of the world, a rising authoritarianism is feeding on—and accelerating—economic inequality, police violence, endless war, the erosion of workers’ power and funding for public education, and misogynistic attacks on reproductive freedoms. Refugees of imperial capitalism, meanwhile, are being caged to the rabid cheers of white nationalists throughout Europe, Australia, the U.S., and beyond.
These crises are legacies of injustices dating to the Cold War, the industrial revolution, chattel slavery, 1492, and earlier. They have been challenged by many human generations, and our struggles today connect us to that past.
Our crises are themselves also deeply intertwined. In 2010, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform dumped more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It devastated marine life. It also killed a dozen platform workers, injured a dozen more, and poisoned hundreds of people involved in the clean-up. The spill bridged environmental concerns with the safety of workers, as the corporations involved ignored both in their pursuit of profit. Two of those companies were BP and Halliburton, further linking the mess to more than a century of imperialist violence around the world, from the 1953 coup in Iran to the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
More recently, opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline demonstrated that environmental campaigns—with local and global implications—are often also anti-colonial and anti-racist struggles. The Water Protectors at Standing Rock dared to oppose the will of some of the world’s most powerful oil companies and banks, and so faced armed mercenaries, as well as the combined police forces of several state and local governments.
This intersection of ecology, human rights, and empire is also inseparable from incarceration. In California, prisoner labour is used to fight the dangerous wildfires that are exacerbated by the changing climate. When BP poisoned the gulf, incarcerated people in Louisiana were among those exposed to toxic chemicals while cleaning it up. And when increasingly powerful hurricanes have forced evacuations from coastal states, prisoners were often left behind.
Paralleling decades of “War on Drugs” legislation, recent years have also seen waves of laws criminalizing immigration, women’s reproductive rights, and forms of protest that target oil pipelines or white nationalists. Lawmakers and their corporate backers see these issues as connected, and their response has been to dehumanize their opponents—and to control their bodies.
We are living through many, overlapping crises, but we don’t have to face them alone. If the problems are connected, then so, too, are the movements against them. Standing Rock, Occupy Wall Street, #BlackLivesMatter, the airport occupations, the Women’s March, #MeToo, high school student walkouts, teachers’ strikes, prisoners’ strikes, the Poor People’s Campaign, protests against family separation, the Extinction Rebellion, and parallel efforts from India to South Africa to Brazil and beyond … are all one big movement, with many fronts.
Or at least they could be.
The movement of our time is for water. It is for life. It is for people, for dolphins, for trees, and for sea turtles. It is an abolitionist struggle, an anti-war struggle, an Indigenous rights struggle, and a workers’ rights struggle. It is bold and massive. It is feminist. It is diverse, messy, and full of contradictions. A family with many relatives. A tree with many branches.
The future is ours to build, together. And we have work to do.