By Jess Clarke
With a planet and a political system ever more out of balance, communities in resistance are called ever more urgently to the critical work of restoration. In this volume, organizers for sanctuary, restorative justice and social housing share their stories, strategies, and visions, and we continue to explore the rejuvenating power of the beauty, complexity and abundance prevalent within ‘Black Life’ in San Francisco.
Immigrants, inmates and tenants are imprisoned in an economic and social system that has long denied our full human rights. The election of Trump, the elevation of right-wing Republicans in Congress, and an ever-growing corporate plutocracy in the courts mean that the palliative of progressive action at the federal level is evaporating. But even as the national political landscape becomes more racist, more tilted toward the super-rich and more xenophobic, we are finding powerful means of challenging neoliberal capitalism and at the same time deepening our connections to one another.
Using coordinated creative trans-local actions for renters rights, Right to the City Alliance is building a decentralized nationwide network led by low-income residents and people of color that reimagines housing as a human right and rejects corporate ownership of our homes. (Clarke p. 8, 18; Torrejón Chu p. 14.) The movement aims to win power using organizing methods and political objectives that resist cooptation and promote class solidarity in arenas beyond the workplace.
The sanctuary movement is organizing, city by city and state by state to defend migrants from deportation while at the same time moving toward alignment with African Americans confronting police violence and murder and with local struggles for economic justice. (Muñiz-Pagán p. 22; Sarmiento p. 28.) Grassroots feminists are challenging the entwining of domestic violence and state violence when women are doubly victimized, first by a domestic partner and then by ICE or the court system. Valiant resistance and community support in the cases of Yasmin Elias (Elias p. 34; Vazquez p. 36.) and Marissa Alexander (Law p. 40.) spring from different communities, but both demonstrate the power of bringing together individual resistance with collective action. Their steadfast refusal to allow the courts and the media to blame the women themselves for their incarceration is part of building a feminist analysis of patriarchy that links systemic violence and personal violence.
More broadly, the system of mass incarceration is being challenged by a growing paradigm of reconciliation that offers opportunities for peace inside and outside of prison walls. In Jo Bauen’s first person narratives set we get a glimpse of how new forms of relating without violence are being learned and taught by men, acknowledging harm while recovering their own integrity. (Bauen, p. 58, 62.) In excerpts from a panel interview by Lisa Dettmer we can see glimmers of how this reflective and reparative process is being applied to restorative justice in the neighborhood, and even the economy. (Dettmer p. 46.)Policy initiatives to open employment opportunities to formerly incarcerated people—banning the box— are also part of this movement to restore dignity and opportunity for those impacted by interpersonal violence and by the carceral state. (Myres & Jones p. 55.)
On the streets and in the jails—a new generation of truthtellers are moving toward practices that integrate healing and rejuvenation with resistance and class struggle. In doing so many of us are also looking to our ancestors and origins for the keys to generational resistance. We close out this issue with another installment of I Am San Francisco, Black Past and Presence, examples of resilience from the African diaspora. (Phillips, p. 71.)
Jarrel Phillips starts close to home in an interview with his grandfather Tommy LaGrone who in 1955 moved from a sharecropper family in Texas to eventually become a prosperous property owner in San Francisco.(p. 71.) We also include numerous other excerpts from Phillips’ growing collection in-depth interviews with Black residents of San Francisco. In one, Dr. Toye Moses (p. 78.) reminds us “We need to start having our young folk hear our stories, We’re not going to be around too much longer. We must tell our stories...”
Reimagine! has taken this imperative to heart and for the past year have been experimenting with new forms of collaboration using storytelling, theater and movement arts. Working with the support of our sister publisher Freedom Voices, we have started the Collaborative Liberations Arts Workshop Series (CLAWS). We are organizing workshops using theater of the oppressed and other movement practices to better tell stories of our own race, class and gender oppression— and to embody ways those forces can be resisted and transformed.
We are striving to energize and liberate the creativity in our community through publishing, performance and action. Please see our invitation on page 3 to join us in this practice and read about our new publication model. Let’s work together to follow the advice from Dr. Joseph Marshall (p. 71.) “Honor your ancestors and honor yourself. And, most importantly, do not collude in your own oppression... “