yes, all cops.

content note: cops, mentions of racism, classism, state and carceral violence. 

the other night in a white, wealthy town in marin county, i had just parked my car to go out to dinner. one parking spot over were two cops harassing a latino man sitting in his parked car. he had been pulled over because he had a garbage bag taped to the inside of his rear view mirror, and one of the cops wondered “what was going on.” the man’s license was suspended for driving without insurance, and his car wasn’t registered. the cops cited him and called a towtruck, insisting they were doing the merciful thing by having his car towed instead of having him arrested. the man quietly pleaded with them, saying he really needed his car. the cops kept repeating how they are good guys and they hate doing this kind of thing. soon enough it came out that he was living out of his car, which the cops gave him a hard time for — as if houselessness is a measure of character or a matter of choice. i called out to the man and offered to take his stuff since his car was being towed and he didn’t know when he would get it back. we moved a laundry basket of clothes, a backpack, and his bible to my car. he said, “i don’t have anywhere for this stuff to go.” i said, “i’m so sorry this is happening.” with tears in his eyes he shook his head and said, “for nothing.”

i am certain these men consider themselves good guys, “good cops.” the exclusively white passerbys seemed to trust that as well, as several of them nodded and smiled at the cops, and narrowed their eyes at the man who didn’t know where he would sleep that night. aside from some quietly infuriating tsk-tsk-type comments and value judgements about the man, the cops were well-mannered in their words and body language. aware of my presence and intent to observe their behavior, one went so far as to thank me, saying i was so kind to offer the man a ride. he shrugged, saying, “it is what it is.”

i don’t believe there is any such thing as a good cop. i am not saying all cops are mean or all cops are card-carrying members of the KKK. i even believe cops sometimes offer certain forms of support to some people. however. i bear witness to the fact that the norm of police culture, not the anomaly, is using physical and systemic violence to enforce oppression. yes, all cops break up families, depriving parents of their children and children of their parents. yes, all cops enforce racist, sexist, and classist laws. yes, all cops protect “private property” on stolen land, patrolling the streets for people who they don’t feel have the right to exist in public space. it doesn’t matter how polite or nice a cop acts, who a cop voted for, and what kind of person they are when they’re not wearing the badge. no cops are good cops because all cops accept the state-sanctioned power to lock humans in cages based on interpretations of already racist, classist laws.

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former 49-ers quarterback colin kaepernick tweeted this image last week and was heavily criticized. it’s factual truth, not opinion or exaggeration, that the us’s modern-day police originated from runaway slave patrols.

often when the idea of abolishing police and/or prisons comes up, people who feel resistant to the idea point to the small percentage of people in prisons who are chronically violent and unremorseful. in the long-term, let’s-vision-collective-liberation scope, i strongly believe that all people with lifelong access to stable housing, comprehensive healthcare, education, cultural resources, and community support are capable of thriving in a way that doesn’t hurt others or compete with others’ right to live and thrive. that may sound far out, since so many people in the US don’t have stability in terms of housing, healthcare, and other basic resources. but as i continue to learn from adrienne maree brown and other visionary black women, envisioning a better world requires imagination. walidah imarisha writes in the introduction of octavia’s brood:

… the decolonization of the imagination is the most dangerous and subversive form there is: for it is where all other forms of decolonization are born. Once the imagination is unshackled, liberation is limitless.

For those of us from communities with historic collective trauma, we must understand that each of us is already science fiction walking around on two legs. Our ancestors dreamed us up and then bent reality to create us. For adrienne maree brown and myself, as two Black women, we think of our ancestors in chains dreaming about a day when their children’s children’s children would be free. They had no reason to believe this was likely, but together they dreamed of freedom, and they brought us into being.

i have been thinking a lot about the man and wondering how he’s doing, where he’s staying, if he got his car back. i won’t forget the look in his eyes. we owe it to ourselves and to our communities to look out for each other, even when we don’t feel we can do anything to help.

if you are interested in learning more about abolition for police and prisons, black & pink has a collection of resources compiled here — i really appreciate captive genders for a queer perspective. if you are interested in learning more about observing police in action, i think the berkeley copwatch handbook is a good place to start, as well as the other resources here.

til next time.

xo freddie

on the stabbings in portland

[content note: white supremacy, etc.] 

I am feeling sad about what went down in Portland, my hometown, over the weekend. Briefly: a white supremacist was harassing two teenage girls, one of whom was in hijab and one of whom was black, and some white men intervened. This resulted in the white supremacist stabbing the three men who intervened, two of whom died and one of whom remains hospitalized. The teenagers fled to safety. The white supremacist was arrested without incurring any police violence.

Since this event occurred, photos and other evidence of the white supremacist’s racist and xenophobic words and actions quickly surfaced, including photos and quotes from Portland Police officers writing him off as a kook “with a head injury,” and protecting him as he made his way to a bus following an alt-right “free speech” protest last month.

I mourn for the people who lost their loved ones, for the girls whose sense of safety is surely gone and who have the rest of their lives to look back on this bloody event, for other Black, brown, and Muslim folks who now have more cause to worry about their kids, families, and own wellbeing as they go about their lives. I fear for the impact this attack will have on future bystanders of hateful harassment and violence. I recognize that there are ways in which the alt right is organized and trained and the left and progressives are not. I wonder when everyone who claims opposition to Tr*mp’s dangerous rhetoric and deadly policies will stop defending nazis’ right to free speech and public rallies and start taking this shit seriously.

Looking at photos of vigils and memorials in my hometown, I saw a lot of “love trumps hate” rhetoric and other heartfelt, but apolitical, calls for unity and care. No mention of Islamophobia, of anti-blackness, of the ways women of color are at the highest risk for white supremacist violence. Now we want to talk about mental health. Now we want to talk about toxic masculinity. We as white communities will do anything to avoid naming white supremacy, and addressing how we are all complicit.

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“love trumps hate” is an empty phrase without naming white supremacy and the role we all play in it. 

I hear a lot of generalized statements about how the Pacific Northwest was specifically founded on segregation and white supremacy. Some quick history from Oregonian and organizer Keegan Steven:

While many see Portland as a progressive Mecca, it is in fact the whitest city in America, largely by design. When Oregon joined the Union, it joined not as a free state or a slave state, but as a no-blacks-allowed state, the only state to do so. Being black in Portland, Oregon was a crime punishable by 40 whippings a day until leaving the state, on the books until 1974. This was possible because Oregon refused to ratify the 14th Amendment – the equal protection clause – until the 1970s. Oregon also refused to ratify the 15th Amendment, giving black people the right to vote – passed after the Civil War – until 1959. As a result, Portland is still the whitest city in America, with some of the worst inequities in housing, education, and criminal justice.

I know what occurred in Portland is liable to occur anywhere. It’s a fatal, heartbreaking, and infuriating example of what happens when progressive communities are more focused on protecting the right to free speech and store windows than protecting their neighbors. Still, this is all happening quite literally close to home, and I sit in grief, anger, and love for those of us in resistance together. What will we do to strengthen ourselves and our movements, and re-commit to shutting down white supremacist violence?

xo freddie

that’s the question, isn’t it?

i recently watched i am not your negro, the recent documentary film featuring black scholar james baldwin’s unfinished writings. it’s intense and valuable in many ways, and i wanted to share one moment in particular that struck me:

it’s powerfully articulated and drives home the fact that it doesn’t really matter if i and fellow white folks think of ourselves as racist or hateful — i believe most people don’t think of themselves as hateful — what matters is our explicit or implicit support of the institutions we benefit from due to white supremacy. definitely a helpful reminder for me to continue to push myself to figure out the best and most felt ways of putting my principles into action.

navigating the changing landscape of how the outside world perceives me and reacts to my gender expression continues to be a mix of challenging, interesting, exciting, and absurd. because i am more frequently being addressed using he/him pronouns or other male-oriented terms, i am feeling more comfortable to explore and play with gender expression, wearing lots of floral, painting my nails, adding a little gold earring to the mix. the other day when I was waiting in line, a clearly confused stranger stared at me and asked, “are you a man or a woman?” i replied, “that’s the question, isn’t it?” there’s the absurdity — the urgent desire to know how to categorize a total stranger. a friend of mine on testosterone astutely observed about how peoples’ obsession with what ‘parts’ we have directly corresponds to how they decide to treat us. what other reason would anyone think they needed to know?

C_gQuBLUQAEiqHZ.jpgtwo of the best experiences i’m having connected to being on hormones and getting more comfortable in my body are: feeling physically strong as i continue to exercise and build muscle, and feeling cute! especially in the midst of mental health struggles and what still feels like an overall unkind world, i never want to underestimate the power of an affirming selfie that depicts me how i see myself.

observing and feeling my voice changing is also a mix of feelings — i’ve written briefly before about the inherent loss there is in transformation, and how it feels appropriate to grieve that loss. in acknowledging grief and loss here, i fear those harboring subconscious transphobia will see this as a reason why i and other trans people are unfit or unwise to use hormones to self-actualize. however, i believe all physical, emotional, and mental growth involves loss and letting go of a previous version of oneself in order to welcome in the new. for me, where there is grief, there is also joy and gratitude. that is what i dominantly feel as i continue to explore these changes through singing and making music. my friend kieran recently recorded and mixed this track of me singing in their backyard in oakland, and my friend elisa is singing harmonies.

in other news of what’s been running through my head lately, I saw hamilton! my abridged thoughts, in classic virgo bulletpoint form:

  • what the fuck? i thought i heard something about flipping the script, but all i see is another glorified portrayal of the colonization of turtle island, albeit with a very talented cast of black and brown actors.
  • is there really no mention of the colonization and genocide of indigenous people… anywhere? even in lin manuel miranda interviews about creating the show?
  • holy shit, satisfied is catchy.
  • does this show even come close to passing the bechdel test? is one of the two woman-sung songs really called “helpless”?
  • holy shit, every song is this show is catchy.
  • i guess i have a new problematic fave. i mean… have you heard the mixtape? queen latifah, usher, and alicia keys ftw…

but seriously, if anyone who engages with decolonization is interested in sharing their experiences of the show/music (raves or critiques or both), i am interested in hearing about it!

wanted to share one more piece of organizing and mobilization that i found incredibly powerful and beautiful. a coalition of black-led organizations ran a campaign to raise funds to bail out over 100 black incarcerated mamas leading up to and on mother’s day. some words from mary hooks, co-director of southerners on new ground (SONG):

We know that about 80% of black women that are sitting in cages right now are single parents and caretakers. We know that one out of three black trans women who have spent time in the cage have experienced sexual violence in the cage. One out of nine black children have parents who are incarcerated. Our goal is to be able to free our people from these cages, using the traditions from our ancestors that bought each other’s collective freedom, to get our folks back home and to highlight the crisis around the cash bail system, put pressure on all of these institutions who are making money off of our people’s suffering, but, most importantly, restore the life that this cash bail system have taken from our people.

if you’d like to hear or read more about these actions, i recommend watching mary hooks’ interview on democracy now,  and reading caitlin breedlove’s piece on what white-led organizations can learn from this mama’s day bailout action.

that’s all for now. ’til next time…

xo freddie

ps — if you are a queer person interested or involved in farming and/or ecological justice, check out queer ecojustice’s summer reading group! you can participate from anywhere…

healing in nature & relationships as resistance

between periods of nonstop rain, we’ve begun to have warm, sunny days of thawing out, and it feels like springtime is emerging. it feels good to be living in sonoma county, both for the healing properties of the redwoods and ocean, and for the proximity to my loved ones and community in the bay. oroville, the town eli and i just moved from, has been in the news lately due to a recent evacuation order and fears of flooding from the dilapidated spillway of the oroville dam. i have been thinking of our friends at the farm tons. they are safely positioned above the dam, but taking serious precautions to prepare for an emergency, just in case. it’s so intense to think about the thousands of mostly poor and working class residents dealing with the uncertain safety and stability of their homes, at the same time the newly appointed leaders of the executive branch are ferociously denying the impact of climate change.

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a panoramic photo from the sonoma coast

i have begun my work as an in home support person for a couple of different folks in the area. the duties include everything from housekeeping to running errands to more creative endeavors, and it feels like unique and important work. over the years i continue to find a lot of power and strength in relationship building across lines of identity, ability, and oppression. i don’t mean for that to sound lofty or self-important. it’s not glamorous work by any means and i don’t kid myself that the support i offer is some all-encompassing solution to these folks’ problems. but as i’ve written before… enacting structural change feels super daunting most of the time, while relationship building both helps me step into my own power and transform, and has the potential to do the same for others as well. so, it’s work i’m learning a lot from. i am grateful and humbled to be doing it.

while my process for finding my place in this moment and movement of resistance feels slow, it is in motion. i am trying to balance showing up for action with finding ways to contribute and support grassroots efforts in more sustained ways. i would like to share the inspiration, excitement, and even hope i felt while joining with many hundreds of others at SFO a little while ago to shut down the airport and demand that the people detained due to the xenophobic, islamophobic travel ban be released.

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brooke anderson photography

first of all, it was amazing to see the airport filled with resistance, as airports are places i associate closely with heavy security, policing, and being on one’s best behavior. not to mention the ways that protesting in an airport makes things so much more accessible for families with kids, disabled folks, and elders — there are ample bathrooms, water, food, electrical outlets, and physically accessible means of getting around. there is lots of good information and resources floating around about the necessity of making movement work accessible, please do yourself a favor and read some if that’s not already an integral part of your work! i’ve found sins invalid and the icarus project to be great resources on this front.

one amazing thing about being a part of the SFO shutdown and protest was seeing the wide swaths of people who seemed totally willing to participate in civil disobedience and direct action under the leadership of AROC (arab resource and organizing center) with support from APTP (anti-police terror project). like many others i have my critiques about culture/politics around the women’s marches, but was so pleased and excited to see folks in their “pussy hats” ready and willing to lock arms and stand their ground to prevent police and angry passengers alike from passing through. it made me feel hopeful — perhaps in spite of the very valid critiques around inclusivity (particularly in relationship to race and people who don’t identify as women), the mass mobilization the women’s march provided can really lead to a popular movement of inclusive, effective resistance in this era of a fascist regime. alicia garza wrote a great piece related to this called, “our cynicism will not build a movement. collaboration will.” here’s a short excerpt:

“Hundreds of thousands of people are trying to figure out what it means to join a movement. If we demonstrate that to be a part of a movement, you must believe that people cannot change, that transformation is not possible, that it’s more important to be right than to be connected and interdependent, we will not win…

I remember who I was before I gave my life to the movement. Someone was patient with me. Someone saw that I had something to contribute. Someone stuck with me. Someone did the work to increase my commitment. Someone taught me how to be accountable. Someone opened my eyes to the root causes of the problems we face. Someone pushed me to call forward my vision for the future. Someone trained me to bring other people who are looking for a movement into one.”

one moment i witnessed: a line of about 15 riot police approached a small group of folks banded together to block an airport escalator, and ask them to move. they refused, and someone from APTP told the riot cops to leave. after a few moments, the riot cops turned walked away. i have never seen that happen before. it was powerful. (view democracy now’s coverage of the SFO protests here.)

thanks to the folks at protests and online who have pointed out the fundamental error in the sentiment, “we are all immigrants.” we are not all immigrants. notably, native people and black folks whose ancestors were brought here forcibly as slaves are not immigrants. i am a white settler, the descendent of great grandparents who immigrated from ireland to turtle island (aka the U.S.), which was stolen from indigeneous people. there is power in unity, but it is equally important and powerful to highlight the difference in our histories and experiences — and how if anything, that should serve to strengthen the collectivity in our struggles.

btw — i’ve done some re-organizing of my small monthly donations to include AROC. please do the same if you can, even $5-10 a month makes a difference for grassroots organizations. even better, seek out a muslim/arab led organizing group in your community, if you are not in the bay area.

on a personal note, i celebrate two years in my loving partnership with eliana this month, and am so grateful for the exploration, support, laughter, transformation, and love our relationship continues to bring me! this might be a little embarrassing for them to read. but rad, queer love is resistance and i am proud and grateful to be in it!

“love is an action, never simply a feeling.” (bell hooks)

til next time,

xo freddie

ps – !!!!!!!!

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“i have three hearts”

what’s going on? j20 and beyond

waking up at four a.m. to pounding rain and dramatic thunder and lightning was a bit cliche for what felt like the doomsday of a certain neo-fascist’s presidential inauguration. miraculously the storm cleared in time for the people to gather in the streets of san francisco and far beyond, all around the globe. i am deeply honored to have been able to stand with resilient and inspiring activists and community members to take a stand not just against the new u.s. administration, but against the country’s legacy of white supremacy, colonialism, and violence that made it possible.

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blocking off the parking garage entrance for 555 california street, the second tallest building in san francisco, 30% of which is owned by the new president. photo by brooke anderson photography.

the atmosphere throughout the day felt strangely celebratory, in spite of the terrible event we were there to protest. but i realize that is is imperative for people and communities overlooked and oppressed by those in power to gather to celebrate survival, resistance, and our commitment to love and support one another. i’m not talking about feel-good “love trumps hate” stuff. i’m talking about standing together in the face of danger to defend the lives of the most vulnerable against a regime which is only becoming more hostile to us all. i’m talking about acknowledging the labor and struggles that are invisibilized and diminished by white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism. i’m talking about fighting for each other like we were family. all of us — with different identities and experiences of race, gender, class, and ability — need each other to thrive. we need to lift each other up to win.

we did some singing in the streets today and although i’m exhausted i was inspired to record this cover of “what’s up” by the four non-blondes. please note i am still learning how to use my voice, both literally (thanks T) and in a woo-woo sense…

i know today is just the beginning of this particular regime of violence. i’m seeing lots of loved ones and strangers who have never hit the streets before now, out and about and planning to keep at it. i sometimes bristle at seeing messaging that doesn’t feel quite right, or feel annoyed at someone’s shock to learn about police violence and state repression. but i, too, am learning every day. it takes all kinds. one thing i remain resolute about is my firm belief in the importance of taking leadership from populations most likely to be impacted by discrimination and violence — black and brown folks, muslims, transgender women of color, immigrants and refugees, and disabled folks, to name a few.

that said, i have to speak out about one thing and i hope that folks newer to attending protests will consider it: it’s okay if you don’t want to be around window smashing, and it’s okay if you disagree with it as a tactic (though, it’s worth learning why many consider it strategic in certain situations). but, do not conflate property damage with violence. think about who defines violence and who gets criminalized. i repeat — it’s okay if you don’t approve of window smashing, and if you don’t want to be at risk for experiencing police violence, it’s a rather good idea to find an exit strategy  if that starts happening. but, do not take photos of property destruction, do not ‘snitch,’ do not do anything that incriminates people (this includes posting on social media, which we know law enforcement relies on for policing). if you’re committed to observing and stopping violence, learn some principles of copwatch and turn your camera on the police.

we’ve got a long and hearty fight ahead. please join me in seeking to be humble and open to learning and strategizing how we can resist oppression and defend all communities at risk.

shoutout to everyone i have been fortunate enough to learn from, in relationships and in action and in writings and by example. i am gratefully indebted to you.

xoxo freddie

ps – would very much welcome articles/additional resources that are more in-depth explanations of how/when property damage may be considered a strategic protest tactic. i know i’ve read ’em, but i can’t find them now. thanks!

courage is a heart word

i’m in the thick of moving, yet have been intending to write a end/beginning of year post for the past week or so, so here i am.

“You cannot, you cannot use someone else’s fire. You can only use your own. And in order to do that, you must first be willing to believe that you have it.”

— I Am Your Sister: Collected and Unpublished Writings of Audre Lorde

i was inspired by my friend marion to write a political accountability journal. marion writes: “every single one of us needs to enter 2017 as an activist. YES, YOU. ESPECIALLY YOU. IT IS NOT GUARANTEED THAT ANYONE ELSE WILL DO THIS WORK INSTEAD OF YOU SO IT IS UP TO YOU. and me. Please do this ESPECIALLY if you are a person with privilege and you’ve been feeling helpless hopeless sad complacent pessimistic. Consider choosing the same date each month to reflect back on what you’ve done and what your goals for the next month will be!” she posed some questions:

  • what do i believe in? what do i want to fight for?
  • what will my resistance look like?
  • what valuable skills do i have to offer?
  • how will i consistently go outside my comfort zone (because staying in it clearly isn’t working)? what sorts of activism make me uncomfortable, and why? how can I step into that discomfort?
  • which organizations will i join?
  • what will i initiate? how will i bring my people together with purpose? what community do i want to build?
  • what books will i read? how will i keep myself on track with my reading (internet articles do not count)?
  • where will i put my money?
  • how will i encounter feelings of helplessness or burnout? how will i resist slipping back to my comfort zone?
  • what privileges do i have? am i white? cis? male? able-bodied? educated? straight? employed? socially well-connected? etc? how will i acknowledge and check these privileges and simultaneously use them to weaken systems of unearned advantage?
  • how will I hold myself accountable?
  • who else will hold me accountable?
  • what is my plan to take care of myself so I can keep doing this work?

trump’s inauguration is imminent, and extremely basic rights and safety of muslims, immigrants, black folks, people of color, disabled folks, and queers is at risk more than ever. when he was elected, a conversation i was already having with myself was boosted to the forefront. if i am not a capital-O organizer, where do i fit into the movement? and what about all my friends and family, for whom it would be a big deal to even just show up to a meeting or a march? and what about my people for whom showing up is not accessible, most of whom’s rights and wellbeing are directly threatened by a right-wing government?

it feels true to me that it’s important we are all involved in the resistance against a fascist government and against neo-nazis who are growing more comfortable showing their stripes in the alt-right movement. what does this look like for me and for you? personally, i am embarking on a more intentional path of support. i intend to build budding skills like housekeeping, cooking, first aid and CPR, and navigating bureaucracy, to become a homecare worker for disabled folks, chronically ill folks, elders, and others who need help around the home. while this path will not likely impact any systemic change, building strong relationships with people isolated by systems of oppression has always felt powerful and meaningful to me. whatever is left of the optimist within my cynical and somewhat broken heart still believes that the change we inspire and the support we provide for each other can make waves that extend beyond our individual selves and relationships.

capitalism and near-constant microaggressions make it so easy to hunker down and get into survival mode. to avoid meaningful engagement with people who i could potentially build supportive community relationships with, or at least have interactions that challenge white supremacy, misogyny, and other systems of oppressions that impact us all.

my therapist will, who i deeply trust and value, recently shared the origins of the word courage with me. it’s from old french and latin and essentially means heart-ful, or from the heart. for me, hearing that affirms that it’s okay to be scared when pushing toward being the person i want to be, and fighting for what i believe is right. that while communication is important, i don’t have to be able to form an extremely articulate or academic argument to know what’s right. i want to approach challenges and relationships with courage, full of heart. it’s lofty, but it feels like the right place to start from in a moment where it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel incapable of impacting anything at all.

i’m apprehensive about what’s to come (both in my personal life and on a global scale) but i am committed to being present and courageous with myself and my people.

i think that’s all for now. thanks for reading. ’til next time.

xo freddie

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ace hotel in portland, oregon, in the final days of 2016.