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july 01 dispatches



06-26-01    craig offers some shitty news

Now that the Lower East Side is basically a shopping mall, it seemed too good to be true when a jury ruled in favored of battle-scarred community center Charas/El Bohio a few months back. Well it was. Ever since the city sold the abandoned school building that houses this Losaida institution to private developer Greg Singer a few years ago, Charas has endured an exhaustive legal battle to challenge Singer's attempts to evict them. Though the jury found that Singer could not evict Charas because he would not be renting the space to legitimate non-profits, as agreed to when he purchased the building, Judge Sara Lee Evans has decided that a new decision by the Appellate Term in favor of Singer's appeal voids the jury's decison -- which she had stalled entering into court record. Though Singer's lawyers, aided by Evans, seem to have effectively circumvented Charas' right to a jury trial, Charas members are organizing to fight this latest confirmation that NYC government functions only to uphold the greedy agendas of real-estate speculators.

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06-25-01   dean and craig spout transrage

Tonight we went to Gay Shame at Dumba where Dean gave a talk about globalization. We suffered from the by now routine disappontment in discovering that even supposedly radical queer spaces are hostile environments for transgender people. As usual, the path to hell was paved with good intentions. Also as usual, the burden of creating trans visbility fell on trans people. Dean was welcomed to the stage by an m.c. who used the wrong pronouns to refer to him despite the fact that the event organizers all know the pronouns he uses. In a typical slip-up, no one bothered to tell the m.c. and Dean was left to choose between accepting the erasure of his transgender or making everyone uncomfortable with a correction. He bravely chose the former.

How long will this be acceptable? How many more times will Dean's pronouns be treated as trivial? How many people who purport to be down with trans people (and dean specifically) will get defensive upon being corrected when they repeatedly fuck up the pronouns? Does anyone get that this is a big deal yet? Both of us have figured out how to take pronouns, a part of language usually used without thinking, and make them a conscious process. This allows us to interact respectfully with people who do gender in creative, dissonant, non-cohesive, radical ways. Apparently, as daily experience shows, this is too much to ask from other queers. Next time, please don't invite us if you're not ready to consider the burdens your thoughtlessness place on trans people.

Saving graces? Tons of sharp speakers talking about displacement in the Lower East Side, the struggle in Vieques, and the Global Women's Strike.

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06-22-01   craig
Bush is planning a sureptitious visit to NYC on July 10th. But activists and agitators have some plans of their own.












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06-21-01   emily d
Dean, Just read your dispatch from Life and Debt and as usual you're enlightening and a pleasure to read. I agree with much of what you say about the film, but wanted to note one of the things I liked most about the film: the ending. The film opens and ends with the same words, "If you come to Jamaica as a tourist, this is what you will see." Different effect at the beginning and at the ending, right? I felt implicated by the words at the end, that seeing the film was a kind of tourism itself [witness a similar discomfiting effect in a viewing of 'The Elephant Man'], and was left wondering if an 'open-eyed' tourism was really better than any other. Would the U.S. buffoons have been any less buffoonish if they'd taken their cameras and stayed in Kingston, or gathered about the fire? I'd like to think more about tourism in a broader sense, wondering how we can responsibly navigate 'places,' whether those places are Kingston, a cruise ship, or a given text like this film. And I think we need to think immediately about what kind of wrenches are available to people in rich countries that we might throw into the wheels of the machine of global debt structure. What do people know about movements toward debt relief, besides that Bono thinks it would be a good idea?

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06-20-01   dean
Tonight we saw 'Life and Debt,' a new documentary that focuses on the impact of rich-country-imposed economic policy on Jamaica and, to some degree, other poor countries. The film has a few different narrative strategies that all combine for a deeply felt understanding and sense of frustration about what globalization policies mean for people living in countries under IMF control.

From the beginning, you see the experiences of tourists entering Jamaica for vacation, and hear a voiceover of a modified version of Jamaica Kincaid’s text "A Small Place." This is one of my favorite books ever, it really takes apart the experience of american/european/ canadian tourism in poor countries. (An excellent gift for anyone you know who’s considering a vacation to somewhere sunny where everything is "cheap.") The narrative mocks the impressions and rhetoric of western/northern tourists, exposes the brutal work conditions and environmental hazards that underlie a tourist economy, and angrily confronts the willful blindness and racism that justify tourism and make it enjoyable. Interspersed with scenes of tourist gluttony are interviews with farmers and workers who have been displaced and run out of the market by the "market opening" globilization policies forced on Jamaica because of its indebtedness to the IMF and other global loansharks. In addition to those interviews, you hear from both the former prime minister of Jamaica, who was forced to take the first IMF loans against his own beliefs when no other lenders would assist the country, and an IMF deputy director who explains the justifications of IMF policies. The film does a brilliant job of showing the false logic of “open markets” that establish “level playing fields” where rich countries have every advantage and poor countries are bullied into giving control of their economic polices to their loansharks.

It is also stunning in its exposure of how knowledgeable people in countries controlled by globalization policies are about their mechanics and their devastating effects, while most Americans remain completely ignorant of our government's central role in dominating the economies of the two-thirds world. The film is the most condensed explanation of what globalization looks like and how it works that I've seen yet, and I think that makes it an excellent tool for increasing understanding of global economics in the US where we are sorely lacking. It explains how countries end up in deep debt, how that debt is used to force them to open their markets and eliminate social programs like education and health, and how people are killed by these policies while the northern/western world celebrates globilizations success.

"Life and Debt" will be playing on PBS in NYC in August, and if you can’t do that, contact the Artists Network who may be able to hook you up with a copy or a screening (you could even organize a screening in your neighborhood!). Our links page offers some organizations that work on issues of global economic justice and debt cancelation.

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06-19-01   craig
Why do non-profit organizations and so-called "community organizations" have to be so consistently disappointing? Last week, at a housing conference that proposed to strategize ways to fight gentrification and population displacement, we were subjected to talks about development corporations revitalizing neighborhoods by creating "mixed income" housing -- out of low-income housing. The idea, of course, is that the presence of new wealthy homeowners will have a trickle-down effect on the quality of life of low-income (usually long-time residents). The director of a non-profit development corp in Atlanta spoke proudly of how they chased out the "druggies" and "prostitutes." The crowd chuckled. These are the folks who've taken on the work of preserving affordable housing, of organizing with urban communities of color against racist, greedy real estate industries? I didn't realize that white yuppies have a shortage of housing options available.

Wondering about the criminalization of poor people, I thought about how images like "druggies" and "prostitutes" serve to obscure capitalism's demand for underground economies and to justify a war on the poor that materializes as rolling back welfare programs and cutting city services. I shouldn't have been surprised, then, to see that the conference organizers accepted money from citigroup, a big funder of the private prison industry, and gladly printed a citigroup ad in the conference bulletin. Can you fight for affordable housing with both hands deep in the pockets of private prison industrialists?

Apparently being pro-prison is a trend amongst non-profits. Last weekend, protestors targetted a benefit party held for an organization in the Twin Cities. The party location? A newly-built prison. Guests could get down-n-dirty in the jailhouse setting -- for a good cause, of course-- and take home the souvenir mugshots produced on-site. What are people thinking?

Everything basically sucks, but at least the webpage is finally up.

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