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Movin the Masses: Ramblings on political action in the Black Community

Longtime migrant rights organizer Harsha Walia has given our movements a tremendous gift with the release of her new book, Undoing Border Imperialism (AK Press, 2013). Walia gives us cutting edge analysis from one of the most radical and highly effective immigrant rights movements in Canada, No One Is Illegal (NOII). With local organizations throughout the country, a decade of experience, and a growing list of impressive victories, NOII is a critically important organization for all of us in the United States to study and learn from.

As Walia beautifully explains in her book, NOII runs militant grassroots campaigns guided by an anti-colonial, anti-capitalist, anti-state, anti-oppression analysis, a vision of decolonization and collective liberation, a practice of popular education, community organizing, Indigenous solidarity, and multi-issue Left movement building. Furthermore, NOII is a decentralized network of volunteer-based autonomous groups with well functioning anti-authoritarian structures of decision-making and leadership and they are successfully organizing most impacted migrant communities of color, and running campaigns that are winning tangible victories on a case-by-case and city-by-city basis.

Walia's book is an articulation of NOII's analysis of border imperialism along with an exploration of NOII's vision, strategy and practice. For all of us in the immigrant rights movement, this book is essential. As more and more direct actions are taking place in the U.S. against deportations, with the "Fast for Families" hunger strike in Washington D.C., with a growing unrest with the failure of lobbying efforts to pass immigration reform, Undoing Border Imperialism, gives us theoretical and practical insights and tools to help us be both more radical and more effective.

Walia gives us the ins and outs of NOII's work both through her own analysis and in a roundtable interview of fifteen NOII members from different chapters throughout Canada working in different circumstances (i.e. big cities, smaller towns, people of color-majority groups, white majority groups, and so on). NOII is essentially working to win status for all, from the ground up, in a way that erodes the legitimacy and power of the Canadian state. NOII is working to win rights and dignity for migrant communities in a way that destabilizes the Canadian colonial project, actively supports Indigenous self-determination, and advances an agenda of decolonization for all.

Beyond the immigrant rights movement, this book is vital reading for all of us cultivating and longing for a healthy, dynamic, effective Left. Walia's chapter, "Overgrowing Hegemony: Grassroots Theory", which explores strategy, tactics, anti-oppression work, organization structure and leadership, is written for, in her words, "North American movements that aspire to be radical yet accessible in pedagogy, mass based while militant in orientation, and are characterized as the antiauthoritarian, anticapitalist, nonsectarian Left engaged in grassroots community organizing." While this chapter focuses on our organizing practice, her chapter "Journeys Towards Decolonization" goes in depth into the heart and soul of what we are working for and how we can live our values and vision in the here and now.

One of the themes running throughout Walia's book is the centrality of Indigenous struggles for self-determination and decolonization. Walia writes, "Decolonization is more then a struggle against power and control; it is also the imagining and generating of alternative institutions and relations." She then outlines her thinking on what decolonization means for our movement by drawing insights from prison abolition, anti-imperialist struggles, gender liberation, and disability justice. What she gives us is at once inspiring and instructive.

For the past decade I have been watching NOII's work from a far. I always had the feeling that they were one of the most important Left organizing efforts in North America, and after reading Walia's book, I am convinced that they are. I don't write this just because I am deeply proud and inspired by NOII, and my comrades like Walia.* I write this as a call for mass study of Undoing Border Imperialism, which in turn will help us all take more radical and more effective mass action for decolonization and collective liberation.


*I refrain from making comments in this review such as "Harsha Walia is one of the most insightful grassroots organizers of our times", because I know she would respond that her insights are drawn from collective struggle, reflection and wisdom. I think we would both be right, and that the tension of these seemingly contradictory statements is actually the dynamic energy created by anti-authoritarian leadership for liberation, just the dynamic energy that pulses through the pages of Undoing Border Imperialism.

Thursday, 15 November 2012 20:21

My Louisiana Love: The Film


My Louisiana Love  follows a young Native American woman, Monique Verdin, as she returns to Southeast Louisiana to reunite with her Houma Indian family.  But soon she sees that her people’s traditional way of life- fishing, trapping, and hunting in these fragile wetlands — is threatened by a cycle of man-made environmental crises. Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil leak are just the latest rounds in this century-old cycle that is forcing Monique’s clan to adapt in new ways.  Monique must overcome the loss of her house, her father, and her partner-and redefine the meaning of home.

Watch the official trailer:

Published in Video

nopalesDr. Luz Calvo is a professor of Ethnic Studies, a gardener, cook, and political activist in Oakland, CA. Describing their newest project, Calvo and her co-author, Dr. Catriona R. Esquibel, write: “We have a passion for Mexican food. We have a passion for gardens, for healthy food, for food justice, and for people of color reclaiming our histories. All of this has led us to our current project, Decolonize Your Diet. This is a project to reclaim the heritage foods of greater Mexico and Central America as a way improving the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of US Latinos/as.”

In this new series on health, nutrition, and how it all fits into the project of revolutionary transformation, we’ll begin by hearing from Dr. Calvo on what (de)colonization has to do with what we eat, why the Standard American Diet (SAD) is the “standard,” and about the organizing that is happening around the intersections of self-determination, food security, and radical social change.

Michelle Foy: How did you come to this work of decolonizing our diet?

Luz Calvo: There are two tracks that led me to this work. In 2006 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had been a vegetarian for 15 years and thought I had been eating really healthy. I went through treatment for the cancer, including chemotherapy. The whole experience shook me to the core. In my rebuilding process, I started looking at lot more in depth at diet, investigating what I should be eating to rebuild my strength and how I could fight a recurrence of the cancer through dietary choices.

Published in Article
Monday, 17 September 2012 23:47

Song from the Chicago Teachers Union


When there's a contract, then call us maybe

Published in Video


holdyournoseThis piece is reposted from

I first heard liberals’ rationale for voting against their own values and interests during the infamous 2000 presidential election: “I’ll vote while holding my nose!” In the decade since then, my reaction to that gutless cop-out has gone from outrage to annoyance to mild amusement to hysterics.

In every instance, my question has been the same: “how much longer are you going to sit still for the Democratic Party’s abuse? What are you going to do when the stench gets so bad that holding your nose doesn’t work?” I’m still waiting for an answer.

Published in Article

hipsterracismThis piece is reposted from Colorlines.

Unfortunately we don’t have too much information about the two Brave New Voices poets seen in the video above, but if you’ve got any details on them please comment below and share any links you may have.

The video was sent to us by a reader who notes one of the poets is Kai Davis, you can find her on Tumblr.

Brave New Voices is best known as the annual gathering of young poets from across the globe who take part in the International Youth Poetry Slam. Brave New Voices is also a network of over 70 organizations working with young people through the literary and performing arts, a television show that aired 2 seasons on HBO, and a growing social and cultural movement featuring the voices of 21st Century America.

Hipster racism is nothing new. Check out Channing Kennedy’s re-reading of “Lester Bangs’ 1979 ‘White Noise Supremacists’”


Published in Video

ArethaArticleA 1970's news article on Aretha Franklin's heroic gesture to pay bail for then recently arrested Angela Davis has been circulating on face-book. Aretha offered to pay bail stemming from the capture of Angela Davis in New York after a massive FBI woman hunt in 1970. Ms. Davis was charged with murder, kidnapping and conspiracy for allegedly supplying weapons for an attempted courtroom escape led by Jonathan Jackson to free his brother and revolutionary leader George Jackson. Angela Davis already well known for her battles with then California Governor Ronald Reagan over her right to teach in California Universities after being identified as a communist sealed her image as a revolutionary icon in the Black movement. The article has caught the attention of many because of Aretha's striking and unapologetic stance in offering bail towards Mr. Davis release.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012 19:36

Are Your Skinny Jeans Starving the World?

skinnyjeansThis piece was originally posted on Mother Jones in August 2012.


Walk into an H&M, Zara, Forever 21, or any other fast-fashion outlet and you'll see it: people throwing bargain-priced jeggings, peacoats, and clingy tank tops into their carts as if they were buying staples at the supermarket. Shoppers with stodgier tastes do the same with $12 capris at Walmart and $20 blazers at Kmart. In 1985, Americans on average bought 31 items of clothing a year. Today, we buy roughly 60—more than one per week. And when we lug home our haul we're not shy about making room in the closet: We throw out 78 pounds (PDF) of textiles per person—five times as much as we did in 1970.

Published in Culture

violenceThe photo story slide show is availaible here on the New York Times site.


ERPIGNAN, France — Walter Astradadoesn’t view his four-chapter project, Violence Against Women, as a story about a serious problem for women. Though it is.

“It’s not a woman’s problem. It’s a societal problem” said Mr. Astrada. “If 50 percent of a country can be beaten, raped, killed or tortured, then it’s not a free country, it’s not a democracy, no matter how developed it is.”

Mr. Astrada started the project in 2006 in Guatemala, where over 600 women were murdered that year. He then documented sexual violence in war torn Congo, where hundreds of thousands of women and girls have been brutally raped. In India he focused on the low status of women and on female infanticide.

Published in Culture






The US Commission on Civil Rights held a briefing in Alabama on the impact of state-based immigration laws. They invited the author of SB1070 and the sponsor of Alabama's hate law. In this video, the riders from the Undocubus respond, bringing the idea that "We are Undocumented and Unafraid" to life! 

Published in Culture
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About the Author

  • Kamau has worked as a community activist and attorney for over fifteen years in New York City and now in the south. He has been a leading member of several grassroots organizations dedicated to human rights advocacy and building grassroots institutions in the black community. Currently he is building a new organization named Amandla Training and Organizing Project. You can follow Kamau on twitter at @kamaufranklin.

Organizing Upgrade 2012 / Built by Union Labor