Bay Area Student/Activist Conference

Random Notes From May 6, 2012, Bay Area Activist/Student Conference

About 20 students and supporters in a cooperative event space in the Mission. Breakfast of donated pastries, peanut butter, and celery. Grew to 25-30 students by mid-day.

Activist panel: apocalyptic ecological scenarios, how to move past hopelessness, stop infighting, arguing over whose ideology is the best, each person contributes in their own way, solidarity, making compromises and sacrifices, collective ideal of utopian future, use that to decide when to compromise, revolutionaries need a clear collective purpose and focus to make decisions in a rational manner. Concept of a culture of resistance, normalize radical actions in the daily sphere of humans on the planet, a way to reduce risk as we escalate tactics. How do cultures of resistance relate to mass movements? How to get people involved? People’s privilege in the U.S. will have to be threatened until they don’t have a choice or is it a myth that people are too well off? That identifies the U.S. with white middle-class America. Different perspectives on privilege. But in history the struggles come from communities of color and those who have suffered oppression. Where is the force for change going to come from in the U.S.? When organizing is divorced from working class movements of color, then it won’t be as effective. We live in the greatest terrorist state that the world has ever seen, founded on the genocide of the native people who lived here. Privilege is corruption… it’s a matter of dismantling privilege. Many people see political organizing as ineffective, so how to get them to see their efforts as effective. When people with privilege ally with those who don’t have privilege, then it turns the system upside down. It confuses the police and the media. Concept of ally very important. Occupy using old tropes, rehashing old tactics, symbolic one-day marches and protests, think outside of the box. Lots of small actions in individual communities that are creative and involve people. People need to see a successful struggle. Sometimes that happens by models outside the US or movements within the US. Need to win enough struggles for people to have confidence in the struggle. Build base. Take context into account and think strategically about how we tailor our tactics to our goals, which requires identifying our goals in the first place. Mass demonstrations do activate people and make connections. But protest and demonstrations also perpetuate the idea that we live in a pluralistic, tolerant, democracy. One person said need to have a highly trained cadre to attack infrastructure. Another person responded about the farm, trespassing on land, don’t need Whole Foods, can grow your own food with people you just met, something hopeful to look at, not just symbolic. If mass underground action is happening, then the Occupations won’t seem radical anymore. What is the difference between an activist and an organizer? Core organizers vs. people who are just getting involved.

what are the strategies and tactics that can hit the 1% at their achilles heel in a way that the 99% can understand and support what we’re doing? level of paralysis that you can get by withholding labor, study what happened in Egypt and Tunisia recently, tactic of strikes, French labor strike in October, production-consumption capitalist based economy.

History of Student Activism


– privilege
– nonviolence v violence, every tool in the tool box, diversity of tactics
– institutional vs cultural change

* images of history like image of Malcolm X at SFSU Student Center
* living history: Black Panther visiting the campus
* 68 strike at State
* SNCC, wrote the book on nonviolent direct action
* free speech movement at UC Berkeley
* Latino walkout
* Chile, France, Quebec

* Kent State Massacre
* Jackson State

Kent State students joined by locals in doing some “smashy smashy”
National Guard ordered in when ROTC building burnt. Lockdown of campus, not allowed on campus if not student, created a culture of fear and idea that they couldn’t resist, but they resisted anyway. People part of different resistance movements came together. No one expected the National Guard to fire, but they panicked, said rocks were thrown at them. They marched away to a field that was surrounded by a fence. Guards say they were not ordered, but 27 shot 67 rounds and killed 2 women and 2 men. After that, 4 million students went on strike, stepping away from campuses. Students had been organizing for the prior decade so networks were ready to be activated. Also had to do with the draft. Students exempt as long as they were in good standing. Constant state of fear over losing privilege and getting shipped to possible death in Vietnam.

Student privileges:

* Wealth of information at your disposal

* People in close proximity with infrastructure to form a community of resistance

Student disprivileges:

* Limited to when you are a student at university, transitory, temporary

* Isolated from labor, different views and experiences, issues of larger society

* Very busy, especially if also working to raise funds (in the 60s, public universities were practically free)

* Curriculum can be narrowly defined, limits on class offerings

* KONY 2012 style activism

* Student debt

History of SNCC, started nonviolent, opened to violent tactics
Did Freedom Rides in the South, despite facing lynchings, bombings, etc.
Once they started talking about black power, they started losing black power
Got rid of white folks in the organization, lost funding
They dropped out of school after the sit-ins in the 60s

Black Panthers
founded at Oakland City College (now known as Laney College)
using principles from Malcom X
moved into communities in Oakland
first open carry of guns at protest, self-defense stance
now illegal to have a gun within 100 feet of a university
providing useful infrastructure, feeding people
had most clearly articulated ideology: 10 point program starting with “we want freedom”
police and local authorities had shoot-outs
COINTELPRO hit them hard, disinformation
lessons: free breakfast program brought community together
lot of participants were agents provacateurs who gathered information and helped prosecute them afterwards
turn rage into something constructive
cultural change beyond political change

Weather Underground broke with SDS because they were militant
bomb attacks (see list on wikipedia)
used college education to navigate oppressive system
armed propaganda (only one person killed while putting together a bomb)
one captured of estimated 500 members
militant direct action

effect of student debt:
– atomizes students, “my debt”, have to get a job to pay for it
– brings people to point of being fed up, affects them directly
– can’t go into bankruptcy to get rid of it
– antithetical to the educational mission… a financial investment rather than a quest for knowledge and skills
– corporatization of universities
– what is the purpose of education in our society? just for diploma to get a job or for personal and societal fulfillment?
– US has highest cost for personal education in the world
– academic freedom

Key Components of Effective Social Movements

* Identifying the problem
* Building infrastructure
* Personal relationships and community building
* Development of local leadership
* Research
* Effective communication
* Creating coalitions
* Strategic use of the arts
* Strategic use of nonviolence
* Dealing with contradictions within the movement
* Being in the right historical moment

* use of murals: Diego Rivera and muralismo
* Bernal Library mural to be replaced in June
* chanting, short-lived, tiring, ugly, angry — replace it with singing, can sign all day long, beautiful
* administrators using structure to keep students from organizing, including even building architecture

Occupy critique:
– how to remain nonviolent, “violence” discredits what we’re trying to accomplish
– most of communication is non-verbal
– Occupy identified the problem that we have no control of our own lives
– camps example of taking control of our lives, participate in society that we want to live in
– take the public sphere back, return the commons to the people
– camps built personal relationships, community and coalition building
– got tied up in occupation of space, maintain as a tactic but not the only tactic
– strategy in a world that’s being privatized
– civil rights movement able to build a sense of solidarity and comradery with the people
– some people coming to Occupy sometimes don’t get a feeling of true community
– we are all occupying stolen land, unless you are native american
– creating 1% vs 99% meme
– horizontal model and consensus system very effective in demonstrating type of change people want to work for

Great panel on Privilege and Self-Oppression facilitated by Ramses.

Info on wheat pasting… it’s so easy!

Do You Know the Way to Lome?

After the W.E.B. Dubois experience, I went back to the Millennium Guesthouse to get my bags and off to the bus station for Lome.

Lome, Togo

Lome is a pit. I took only this one picture and I managed to lose my Dell laptop power adapter.

Protect Ourselves and Protect Others, AIDS Prevention Campaign Billboard, Lome, Togo

I have to say that crossing the border from Ghana to Togo, then arriving in the city of Lome, was my least favorite part of the trip so far. That probably has to do with the difficulty of getting across the border dragging my bags along uneven pavement and gravel without any helpful signage or people to make it any easier, not to mention random people yelling out “white man? at me as I walk by, the sun setting and my anxiety about getting a taxi to the hotel, negotiating a fair price with a driver who claims to know where we’re going but then somehow doesn’t know once we’re underway even though I’m giving quite clear directions from the travel guidebook. Worst of all though was losing my laptop power adapter somewhere along the way. That was a real disaster! I hoped maybe I had left it in the last taxi and that the driver would return it to me at the hotel, but no such luck. He tried to charge me more money because the guidebook said Hotel Digbawa instead of Hotel Degbava. Anyway, I checked into a strange room with a window out to the reception area of the hotel. The place was pretty dumpy. I did manage to walk to the bank in the morning, then to the anemic Musée Nationale de Togo.

Ile de Goree

November 4, 2007, Île de Gorée, Dakar, Senegal

When the ferry was ready for us, everyone in the waiting room squeezed through two small exits onto the dock. Then, we crossed over to the ferry with two guys grabbing each passenger to help them across the one foot wide step to get on board. Once on board, the two Germans and I sat on the upper deck. I chose a spot in the shade. In port next to us was a giant container and cargo ship, twelve stories tall. The ferry boat is new, launched in 2006 under the name of Beer. The Germans and I joked quite a bit about that… like, how come no free beer on board? 😉

Large Container Ship Viewed on Ferry From Dakar to Ile de Goree The Ferry Is New and Named Beer

From the ferry, we had excellent views back to the Dakar harbor and Cape Vert (I think it’s called).

View of Dakar Harbor From Ile de Goree Ferry More of Dakar Cape From Ile de Goree Ferry

Soon, we reached the open sea with magnificent views of Île de Gorée.

Getting Closer to Ile de Goree on the Ferry Approaching Ile de Goree on the Ferry

We sailed around the tip of the island where the fortress, now a museum, is located to get a great view of the harbor, beach, and seaside.

Round the Point of Ile de Goree on the Ferry The Beach at Ile de Goree From the Ferry Ile de Goree Fortress and Museum From the Ferry

The island boasts some wonderful old houses.

Colorful Old Houses on Ile de Goree From the Ferry

Once on land, we paid a tourist tax and walked toward the Maison des Esclaves (Slave House), which was closed for siesta time. On the way to the Maison, we saw this monument to the end of slavery with a man and some children having their photo taken alongside the monument.

Statue of the Liberation From Slavery, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal

We also saw a breadfruit tree with breadfruit hanging from its branches.

Jackfruit Tree, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal Jackfruits in Front of Colorful Old House, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal

We entered a cathedral with some black statues, as well as white ones.

Cathedral on Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal Black Figure in Cathedral, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal Second Black Figure in Cathedral, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal
On our way up to a peak where the old cannons are gradually rusting away, we saw many arts and crafts stands and paintings painted by local artists.

Craft Shops, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal Artist Shop on Top of Peak at Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal View From Peak Over Town on Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal

On the way down from the peak, we saw a local soccer game with some guys in real good shape.

Young Guys Playing Soccer, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal Young Guys Playing Soccer and One With Longhair, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal

We walked over to the port for lunch. A man tried to get us to eat at his restaurant, but I really wanted to eat at the place recommended by the Lonely Planet guidebook. Eventually we escaped his clutches and made our way over to the Ana Saban restaurant.

After lunch, we went to the Musée Historique de l’IFAN on the island.

Entrance of Musee Historique IFAN at Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal View From Top of Fortress Down Into Musee Historique, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal View From Fortress Over Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal

I somehow lost the Germans at the museum, so I walked alone back over past the beach to the Maison des Esclaves, now finished with their siesta break. I started by taking pictures of the “Door of No Return,” which was apparently the last place where slaves bound for the Great Passage across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas set foot on the African continent.

Door of No Return, Maison des Esclave, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal Closeup of Door of No Return, Maison des Esclave, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal

Here’s what it was like to stand just in front of the door out to where the slave ships used to load their human cargo and the sign currently posted by the Door of No Return.

Standing Just Before the Door of No Return, Maison des Esclaves, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal Sign by Door of No Return, Maison des Esclaves, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal

Inside the Maison des Esclaves, an exhibit explained about the history of the slave trade and showed some of the actual fetters used to bind slaves.

Shackles for Wrists, Maison des Esclaves, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal Shackle for Feet, Maison des Esclaves, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal

In a small museum office with lots of signs and sayings posted on the walls, there is an elder who must have helped to establish the museum. I went in to thank him for what he has done and he replied that to the contrary he must thank me for coming.

After the disturbing and moving museum, it was a real treat to be able to relax on the beach with locals and people visiting from all over the world. I met a sweet Italian fellow (married) who is working in nutrition in Africa. It was so much fun that the Germans and I had to run for the Beer ferry when it was time to go.

Italian Friend on the Beach, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal Beer Ferry Viewed From the Beach, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal

Beach, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal Another Beach View With Ferry, Ile de Goree, Dakar, Senegal

To round out the evening, we dashed to Point des Almadies to see the sunset and eat dinner on the seashore.


I finished reading Samuel Delaney’s delightful Phallos this morning. Erudite and sexy in an overtly intellectual manner, the book recursively iterates the story of a story, delving into philosophical and political torrents worthy of the most recondite symbologist.

One example:

“Power itself is fundamentally phallic, in that it is a consensus-illusion that stands in for a material strength most of the time not there.”

Replete with a panoply of Delaney’s usual colorful nail-biters and other perverts, the false modesty of the narrator renders the sexual descriptions all the more enticing.

Finally, some good advice from the High Priestess of the unnamed god after she avoids the planned theft of the phallos by the main character Neoptolomus and the straight men with whom he plots, then finishes impaling Neoptolomus’ rear with what may or may not be the infamous phallos and offering it to him as a souvenir:

“Please, from now on, my friend, forget the lusts of these men and follow your own desires — as much as desire can be said to be ‘owned’ by anyone, or that anyone can own what chains us all, one to another. Do not try to take upon yourself the wishes of men like these, who slumber around you when you yourself are awake. For you to try to mimic their lusts is as pointless as it would be for them to try to mimic yours. Love and cherish whom you would, man or woman, when you would. For lust is never fixed. Its variety is as glorious as its superfluity. But do not treat it as a scarcity, fixing it within the straits of convention and law. Believe me, you’ll be happier. Let this petty and pretty token you take with you tonight forever remind you at least of that.”