Season of mourning

Tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, is supposed to be a day of gratitude and happiness. While I have much to be grateful for, I feel nothing but sorrow and grief.

I grieve for the first Americans, whose genocide is the true origin of the Thanksgiving holiday, as you can see in Kat Blaque’s video (transcript available).

I feel sorrow for the water protectors at Standing Rock, who are being attacked and maimed by the police.

I feel sorrow for my fellow queer and trans people who are scared for their safety, and may be sitting down face-to-face with relatives who voted for a man who will put their lives in further danger. I feel sorrow for my fellow people of color (of all genders) and for women (of all races) who will be in the same situation.

I grieve for my fellow animals, whose bodies, eggs, and milk will be feasted upon in even larger amounts than usual on this day. I feel sorrow for vegans who will be mocked by non-vegan friends and family members for their beliefs, but vegans are not an oppressed class of people.

While boycotting the traditional Thanksgiving meal (even if it is a vegan-friendly one) is a symbolic gesture, oppressed people also need support with money and activism. The Stand with Standing Rock site has information on how to donate money and supplies, write letters to elected officials, and take other actions to help the indigenous people.

While I often feel hopeless, I know we are not powerless to change history for the better. Those who are able to confront oppressors without compromising their own health and safety can and should do so. Some publications have given advice on how to talk with Trump-voting family members on this holiday, but it is important not to center white feelings when doing so.

Pax with Ricky the rooster[Image: Pax holds Ricky, a rooster living at PreetiRang Sanctuary. Photo by Ziggy.]

The winter holiday season has always been a difficult time for me. I took some comfort in visiting an animal sanctuary, PreetiRang, on a beautiful fall day this week. Connecting with the residents there helps me realize how interconnected we all are, and how protecting the most vulnerable among us is a valuable lesson in empathy and non-violence.

I may not live to see a day when humans evolve beyond our culture of killing, but I hold out hope that we can overcome our oppressors and begin to make a more livable society.

Trans community and remembrance in San Francisco

[Image: Min Matson and Janetta Johnson speak on a panel, accompanied by an ASL interpreter.]

Yesterday I attended a Trans Day of Remembrance (TDoR) event at TRANS:THRIVE in San Francisco. Each year, trans people and our allies worldwide gather to memorialize those lost to violence, and reaffirm the resilience of our community.

Agatha Varshenka at TDoR SF[Image: Agatha Varshenka plays the violin.]

Holy Old Man Bull at TDoR SF[Image: Holy Old Man Bull speaks into a microphone with fist raised.]

The event began with viola and violin music by Agatha Varshenka, then an invocation from Holy Old Man Bull, a two-spirit Ohlone (whose land we are occupying). I remembered both of them from the Trans March.

TDoR SF altar[Image: An altar with photos, flowers, decorated skulls, and the transgender flag.]

El/La Para TransLatinas[Image: Representatives from El/La Para TransLatinas speak on stage.]

Representatives from El/La Para TransLatinas then spoke about the altar they created to honor the dead.

TDoR SF panel[Image: Janetta Johnson speaks into a microphone while Min Matson looks on.]

TDoR SF panel[Image: Claudia Cabrera speaks into a microphone while Kataluna Enriquez looks on.]

Akira Jackson at TDoR SF[Image: Akira Jackson sits on stage, holding a water bottle.]

Emcee Akira Jackson (who also performed at the Trans March and co-emceed at the Compton’s Cafeteria 50th Anniversary) then moderated a panel. The panelists were Janetta Johnson of the TGI Justice Project (who I also remembered from Trans March), Min Matson of the Transgender Law Center, Claudia Cabrera of Instituto Famliar de la Raza, and Kataluna Enriquez of Queen USA.

After the panelists answered prepared questions about the challenges and joys of being a member of the trans community and their hopes for the future, the audience was invited to participate. Some told emotional stories of the struggles and harassment they have faced. One asked if we could gather on more than just the three big occasions each year: TDoR, Trans March, and Trans Day of Visibility.

This event was held inside the Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center in the Tenderloin—the same neighborhood as the Black Excellence Tour I attended earlier this month—and had an all-PoC panel. This was not a space that centered the cisgender white gay men who are usually the face of the LGBT community (as one audience member pointed out).  When a white trans woman who had some issues said “All lives matter,” Janetta Johnson graciously explained the purpose and intent of Black Lives Matter.

Kahanuola Salavea at TDoR SF[Image: Kahanuola Salavea sings while playing ukulele.]

Vi Le at TDoR SF[Image: Victory “Vi” Le sings into a microphone.]

The event concluded with more music, from ukulele player Kahanuola Salavea and singer Victory “Vi” Le.

In lieu of reading the names of those killed out loud this year, Gwen Park made a beautiful video. The tribute honored not only the 25 trans people murdered in the U.S. this year, but the 249 murdered worldwide. The video ended on a hopeful note, with montages of trans and gender non-conforming (GNC) people, past and present, who are “doing the work” of liberation; I was honored to have my image included.

Gwen also designed the “I <3 Trans People” T-shirt that Akira and Min are wearing. You can order one, with or without an additional donation, to help low-income trans and GNC people in San Francisco.

My full set of photos from the event is available on Flickr. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks!

ETA, November 22: A video of the TDoR event is now available.

Rallying against white supremacy

[Image: A protester speaks into a microphone, while standing under an umbrella in front of a banner.]

Yesterday I ventured out in rainy weather to attend another anti-Trump protest in downtown San Francisco. Unlike the one I attended last Sunday, this rally and march was organized by the ANSWER Coalition, which has mounted numerous protests against racism and imperialism. Having attended the rally against racist police that ANSWER co-sponsored this summer, I knew that they would center people of color at this rally, and not just to pander to Democrats.

I was not disappointed. The speakers condemned white supremacy and neoliberalism as much as they condemned Donald Trump himself, if not more so. Some in the audience seemed impatient at this, but this was not merely a group of Hillary Clinton supporters expressing disappointment that their candidate lost. These were people who have been fighting back against white supremacy all along.

ANSWER Coalition Dump Trump rally[Image: Protesters stand in the rain in front of a banner, with their fists raised in the air.]

I recognized one speaker from the Justice for Alex Nieto coalition, from another rally against racist police violence I attended this year. He pointed out that protesting, not voting, was what ousted San Francisco police chief Greg Suhr. He wore a shirt honoring another Bay Area person of color killed by the police, James “Nate” Greer. There’s plenty of racism right here in our “blue” state, sadly, and that’s always been the case.

ANSWER Coalition Dump Trump rally[Image: A protester stands in the rain holding a sign reading “Got $ for War but Can’t Feed the Poor. Party for Socialism & Liberation”]

ANSWER Coalition Dump Trump rally[Image: Protesters stand in the rain, holding signs.]

ANSWER Coalition Dump Trump rally[Image: A protester stands in the rain, holding up a sign reading “8 trans people have died since the election”.]

Many carried signs for socialist organizations. Other causes were represented as well. One held up a heartbreaking sign pointing out the impact of the election on trans people. I went up to them and told them I was trans, and invited them to attend today’s Trans Day of Remembrance event in San Francisco.

ANSWER Coalition Dump Trump rally[Image: A protester stands in the street in the rain, holding up a sign reading “Nasty women rise up!”]

ANSWER Coalition Dump Trump rally[Image: A protester plays the trumpet while standing in the street in the rain.]

After the rally at UN Plaza, we marched down Market Street. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve marched there, this year alone. The mood was lightened by a group of musicians, who I think were from the Brass Liberation Orchestra.

I was glad to have the company of my friend and fellow queer vegan Saryta at this rally. I encourage all vegans and animal rights activists to speak out against oppression of marginalized humans, at every opportunity.

My full set of photos from the rally is available on Flickr. Some are also on Wikimedia Commons (alongside photos from other contributors). Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks!

Standing with the Sioux against white supremacy

[Image: Protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline march past San Francisco City Hall.]

Yesterday I left home before dawn to join the San Francisco contingent of Stand with Standing Rock, a national day of action against the Dakota Access Pipeline that is threatening the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. You can read an essay here about the oppression of indigenous people that is going on right now in North Dakota, and has been going on since well before this election season.

The San Francisco event was organized by Idle No More SF Bay. Unlike the anti-Trump protest I attended this weekend, Tuesday’s protest had specific, clear demands, directed to the US Army Corps of Engineers:

  • Deny permit to bore under the Missouri River
  • Full Environmental Impact Statement must be completed.

Stand with Standing Rock SF[Image: Protesters stand in semi-darkness with signs and banners in front of San Francisco City Hall, which has NoDAPL projected onto it.]

The plaza was already filled with people when I arrived at 6:30 a.m. Protesters held large banners in front of City Hall, while images and texts were projected above them. At 7 a. m. a sunrise ceremony was performed, including prayers and music; at the request of the participants, I have not posted any photos of it.

Stand with Standing Rock[Image: A protester holds aloft a sign reading “Protect the sacred”.]

Stand with Standing Rock[Image: A protester holds a sign reading “We can’t drink oil! #NODAPL”]

After the sunrise ceremony, we gathered in three groups to march to the office building of the US Army Corps of Engineers on Market Street, where activists blocked the entrance while protesters filled the street.

Stand with Standing Rock[Image: Protesters holding signs and banners fill the street.]

Stand with Standing Rock SF[Image: Young people stand in the street, holding signs reading “We stand with Standing Rock” and “Together we stand”.]

Stand with Standing Rock SF[Image: Activists holding signs block the entrance to an office building; a police officer stands nearby.]

Stand with Standing Rock SF[Image: Activists sitting with arms linked block the side entrance to an office building.]

I am glad to have attended this day of action, which had a turnout of 2000 people or more, according to news reports. The protest went on until noon, but I was overwhelmed by the crowds and left around 9:30.

I follow a number of radical people of color online, and I am sympathetic to their complaints that white folks who are protesting Trump’s election have not been turning out in great numbers for actions like this. The 59 million+ people who voted for Trump reinforced hundreds of years of white supremacy, and the ongoing oppression of indigenous people is one of the many examples of this. I plan to continue attending anti-Trump protests as well, but will be following Black Lives Matter and like-minded activists for advice on effective resistance.

Allies who want to help can contribute funds and supplies to support the water protectors at Standing Rock. I donated to help Food Not Bombs give out vegan food and supplies there, via A Well-Fed World, which is matching donations up to $10,000.

My full set of photos from the protest is available on Flickr. Some are also on Wikimedia Commons (alongside photos from other contributors). Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks!

Marching against hate in San Francisco

[Image: Trump protesterrs march through the Castro in San Francisco, holding signs with slogans including “Not My President”, “Queers Bash Back”, and “I Will Not Be Silent.”]

Yesterday I joined one of the many anti-Trump protests that have been taking place throughout the country since Tuesday’s election. This one did not have a specific group or organization sponsoring it. We gathered at the Powell Street cable car turnaround, where a Christian evangelist was preaching “love” in the form of denouncing anyone who didn’t accept Jesus Christ as their lord and savior. We shouted him down, and started marching through the Tenderloin to City Hall.

Trump protest SF[Image: Protesters hold signs reading “Not My President” and “Dump Trump.”]

Trump protest - Love Trumps Hate[Image: A protester holds a sign with an image of Donald Trump crossed out, and the words “Love Trumps Hate”.]

Trump protest - Hands Off Our Pussies[Image: A protester dressed as a vulva holds a sign reading “Hands Off Our Pussies”.]

City Hall was barricaded by fencing and police when we arrived, as expected. We stayed there for awhile, and I found my friend Dana, who hosted a Food Not Bombs serving I volunteered with for a couple of years. I was glad to see a friendly face, as I was in a terrible mood. We marched together for the rest of the day.

Trump protest at SF City Hall[Image: Protesters hold signs outside of a barricaded San Francisco City Hall.]

Trump protest - Not My President[Image: A protester wearing a Trans Lifeline T-shirt holds a sign reading “Not My President”.]

We marched on to the Castro, where we sat down in the street. A black woman (as far as I could tell) took the megaphone to address us, urging us to get to know the names of those sitting next to us, as we would need each others’ support. I appreciated that she was the first to speak, as I didn’t see many black or brown folks in this crowd.

Trump protest - Sit-in in the Castro[Image: Protesters sit in the street in the Castro, San Francisco.]

Trump protest - Sit-in in the Castro[Image: Protesters in the Castro are addressed by a black woman with a megaphone.]

We marched onto the Mission District, where we had another sit-down, and were told that the march would be continuing to the Ferry Building.

Trump protest - Sit-in in the Mission[Image: Protesters sit and stand in the Mission District, holding signs including “Never Again Not Mein Fuhrer” and “Remember Hitler Was Also Elected”.]

As darkness fell, we sat again on Market Street, near where the march began. One protester took the megaphone, saying that she was a child of immigrants, both Muslim and Jewish, and queer.

Trump protest - Market Street[Image: A protester speaks into a megaphone, surrounded by fellow protesters filming with cameras and smartphones.]

After over three hours of marching and demonstrating, we ended at the Ferry Building, where protesters again sat in the street, and offered the megaphone to anyone who wanted to address the crowd.

Trump protest at the Ferry Building[Image: Protesters occupy the street in front of the Ferry Building.]

I’m glad that I attended this protest, one of many more to come. I expect that the resistance will only intensify as the inauguration approaches, and that police will become increasingly aggressive in response. We must be prepared, and we must organize with specific goals in mind so that these rallies aren’t seen as merely the venting of sore losers.

My full set of photos from the march is available on Flickr. I have uploaded them to Wikimedia Commons as well (alongside photos from other contributors). Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks!

Black trans excellence

[Image: Activists Joshua Allen and CeCe McDonald speak in front of a screen showing their images and the words “black excellence tour”.]

Yesterday I was still feeling very shaky and sleep-deprived after the election results, and was tempted to either stay home and rest or go out to join a demonstration. But I had committed to attending the Black Excellence Tour, featuring black activists CeCe McDonald, a trans woman who was imprisoned in a men’s facility for defending herself, and Joshua Allen, a gender non-conforming organizer and abolitionist.

CeCe McDonald[Image: CeCe McDonald speaks into a microphone.]

I had first seen CeCe speak at the Trans Day of Remembrance last November; my photo of her speaking there is currently featured on her Wikipedia page. She is the subject of the documentary Free CeCe, which I’m attending tonight at the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival. I contributed to the fundraiser for this film, which also features Laverne Cox of Orange is the New Black; CeCe was Laverne’s inspiration for her character on that show.

Hearing CeCe talk the day after the election was a great reality check. She said that she woke up that morning “unbothered”; with all the oppression she and folks like her have faced, including under the Obama administration, it was “just another day” to her.

CeCe is a woman who gives no fucks about respectability politics. She said we need to respect the people with their pants down around their knees and the heroin users as much as any other folks. This was especially poignant given the talk’s location in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. The venue, Faithful Fools, offers ministry and services for the people in that troubled area. I had a good talk with Sam Dennison, one of the residents and workers there.

Joshua Allen[Image: Joshua Allen speaks into a microphone.]

Joshua Allen spoke about their activism for queer, trans, and gender non-conforming people, and the intersections of gender, race, and class, especially with regard to policing. I asked them a question about how to cope with being non-binary in a binary world. They replied that they had hope for change, and that if others tried to force their “gendered apparatus” on us then that was their problem, not ours.

I’m very glad I went to this event, and spent time in the company of queer and trans people of color. We need each others’ support, now more than ever.

My full set of photos from the event is available on Flickr. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks!

ETA: A video of the event has now been posted.

The silent majority of deplorables

[Image: Screenshot from NBC News of Donald Trump speaking in Iowa, with the caption “What did Donald Trump think of the third night of the DNC?” A quote from Trump reads, “I wanted to hit a couple of those speakers so hard… so hard their heads would spin they’d never recover.”]

Last night, along with the rest of the world, I watched the election returns come in with a growing sense of dread and disgust. Unlike many of my friends reacting on Facebook with shock and horror, however, the result was not entirely surprising to me. This country was built on a foundation of exclusion and oppression of everyone except for straight cisgender white Christian men, and those are the people who Trump correctly predicted constituted the “silent majority” that would carry him to victory.

Although I did not endorse or vote for Hillary Clinton, I don’t want to talk about her flaws, perceived or actual. I don’t want to talk about e-mail servers or Wikileaks or Russian interference or what might have happened if Bernie Sanders had been the Democratic candidate. And I definitely don’t want to talk about third party “spoilers”. Anyone blaming or shaming progressives who voted for third parties, or who didn’t vote at all, needs to keep your comments out of my space.

The only thing I want to address right now is that millions of US-Americans voted for a man who ran on a campaign of unbridled bigotry, bullying, and blatant dishonesty. The people who say they want to “Make America Great Again” are thinking of a time when people like me—a queer black trans atheist—were invisible and openly oppressed, and ridiculed with impunity without any fear of repercussions. A time when joking or bragging about sexually harassing women was more socially acceptable, inside or outside of locker rooms. A time when religious freedom applied only to people practicing different flavors of Christianity.

This oppression and invisibility and rape culture never actually went away, which is what many of those who were shocked with the election results didn’t understand. You all need to understand it now. Donald Trump is the product—the very embodiment—of white supremacy. His people have spoken, and they want to “take back” a country that they never actually lost in the first place.

I am not willing to take this result quietly. I am a pacifist, but not passive; I support loud, angry protests and civil disobedience. Last night, people in a number of cities took to the streets, and that will continue today and likely for the forseeable future. This will not be a peaceful transition of power.

In the meantime, for anyone in the LGBT+ community who is feeling suicidal, please know that there is help out there.  You can call the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 or the Trevor Project at 866-488-7386. Our community is under attack, but we are resilient, and we will get through this if we have each others’ backs.

CeCe McDonald at TDoR SF[Image: CeCe McDonald speaks at the Trans Day of Remembrance, SF.]

I had already planned to spend time with fellow black trans people (and our allies) over the next two days, tonight at the Black Excellence Tour with CeCe McDonald and Joshua Allen, and tomorrow night at the Free CeCe documentary that opens the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival. I will have to miss the Trump protests in San Francisco and Oakland tonight, but it’s important for me to be with some of the people who are most impacted by his bigotry.

I am not OK. I was not OK before the election, and I don’t know if I ever will be OK in the future. If you want to support me, please amplify the voices of the marginalized people who have been speaking out against institutionalized oppression all along. Make our country great, for the first time.

Going with Green in 2016

[Image: Jill Stein postcards and Stein/Baraka buttons on a table.]

About ten years ago, I wrote the following lines on a page of my old web site:

Voting for a Democrat to keep a Republican out of the White House is not an acceptable compromise for me. Participating in the current political system at all is the compromise.

I still feel the same way. With that in mind, I have decided to vote for Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka of the Green Party at the polls tomorrow.

This is not a decision I made lightly. As I’ve posted before, I have reservations about the Green Party, and lean more toward a true socialist revolution. I still remain politically independent. But I support green values, and I trust the Greens far more than the Democrats—who I have not supported since 1992—to advocate for marginalized people.

Some may ask why I am not voting for Clifton Roberts of the vegan Humane Party, especially as my friend A. Breeze Harper is running as their vice-presidential candidate. The answer is that I don’t have confidence in that party’s readiness to take on the White House right now. I have tremendous respect for Dr. Harper, but she and Roberts haven’t done much campaigning and haven’t responded with the Humane Party’s position on many current events. They also have no ballot access, and only have write-in access in one or two states. My vote is not a protest vote; I expect the presidential and vice-presidential candidates I support to be ready, willing, and able to lead the country if elected, no matter how long of a shot that might be.

While the Green Party does not currently campaign for veganism and animal liberation, I feel that it is possible they could be moved in that direction. I have no such hope for the Democrats, and obviously not for the Republicans; two-party politics will not liberate animals. I am far from a single-issue voter, but I cannot ignore speciesism any more than I can ignore racism, sexism, or cissexism, so the fate of my fellow animals definitely played a significant part in my voting decision.

As I’ve posted numerous times before, I have no patience for anyone who would shame me for not voting for Hillary Clinton. My vote belongs to me and me alone. I don’t want to hear from anyone asking how I will sleep at night if Donald Trump is elected. As a queer black trans atheist, I have plenty of trouble sleeping now, and electing Clinton will not do anything to make me feel more safe or hopeful about our country’s future. Regardless, the only people who should be blamed if Donald Trump wins are the people who actually voted for him.

So I will vote Green tomorrow, not with enthusiasm, but with the hope that enough people will join me to get the party to the 5% threshold they need to qualify for federal matching funds. That impact is significant regardless of who wins the election. And just as importantly, I will be voting on local offices and ballot measures, with the help of my local Green Voter Guide (though I don’t agree with all of their endorsements).

I don’t expect this post to sway anyone, especially as many have already voted anyway. I just want my fellow progressives to stop shaming those of us who refuse to support the two-party system, regardless of which state we live in or who the Republican opponent is. I have the ability and intelligence to make my own decisions about who I want to lead this country, and I not only deserve, but demand to be respected for that.

What’s cooking for World Vegan Day

[Image: A Russet potato, a red potato, and a sweet potato.]

Content note: Diet and exercise discussion.

Happy World Vegan Day! Veganism is more than a plant-based diet; it is an ethical stance against violence. But a plant-based diet is an important component of living vegan, as most of us eat multiple times a day. Every meal offers an opportunity to put ethics into action.

I’m planning to do a lot more cooking this month than I have been recently. Both Ziggy and I are concerned that we’ve been getting take-out meals too frequently, which is not good for our wallets or waistlines. Fortunately, I just received my copy of the Straight Up Food cookbook by Cathy Fisher, after contributing to her Kickstarter funding drive. I’ve enjoyed many of her recipes, which are all free of sugar, oil, and salt (“SOS-free”) in addition to being vegan.

While there’s no agreement among vegans on the healthiest way to eat, I personally feel best when sticking to a starch-centered, oil-free diet, and reducing or eliminating sugar and salt boosts the nutrient density of my meals. Eating this way gives me cleaner fuel for exercise, which I’ve had a lot of trouble sticking with. I’ve gone SOS-free for several weeks at a time with good results, but don’t anticipate sticking to that diet plan strictly right now. What’s important is that I eat more nutrient-dense, home-cooked meals, and get regular exercise.

Whatever your diet preference, if you need help going vegan, check out WhyVeganism.com. Let’s show love and respect for all animals not just today, but every day.

Jill Stein rally: Observations and opinions

[Image: Jill Stein postcards and Stein/Baraka buttons on a table.]

*Note/reminder*: I am registered with no political party, and have not endorsed any presidential candidates in this year’s election. I’m not voting for Hillary Clinton (nor Donald Trump), and that’s not up for debate.

On Saturday night, I attended a rally for Jill Stein at the Berkeley City Club. While I voted for Stein in 2012 (and for Green candidates Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader before her), I left the Green Party when I updated my voter registration after my legal name (and gender) change in 2014. I am currently an independent (not to be confused with the ultra-conservative American Independent Party).

Despite my friend and fellow black vegan Dr. A. Breeze Harper running for vice-president with the Humane Party, I have been strongly leaning toward voting for Stein, partly because the Greens have ballot access in almost every state, and winning 5% of the popular vote would qualify the party for federal matching funds. So I attended the rally not as a supporter, but an observer, hoping to listen and talk with people about why I should support Stein, or any presidential candidate when I have lost virtually all hope in the U.S. government (and humanity in general).

As I arrived at the venue, two people outside were trying to get the attention of those entering, and offering them copies of the Workers Vanguard. I spoke with one of them, asking if, as a socialist, she supported Stein and the Green Party. She said no. I mentioned that I had met some Socialist Alternative people who supported Bernie Sanders, and were now supporting Stein. She said that those weren’t real socialists, and that the Green Party is capitalist (among other things). She asked if I would buy her newspaper for fifty cents, and I happened to have two quarters in my pocket so I agreed. (I got the two most recent quarterly editions for that price.)

I spoke with her about being a pacifist. She asked what I thought about the Civil War. This took me aback, and I responded “Well, it was certainly necessary to end slavery.” By this I didn’t necessarily mean that we had to go to war to do so, though she understandably took it that way. When I explained how important pacifism is to me, she seemed less interested in talking with me; when I offered her my business card, she shoved it in her back pocket without looking at it, and went back to hawking newspapers.

Socialist Alternative at Jill Stein rally[Image: Two people staff a table with a banner reading “Socialist Alternative – Struggle – Solidarity – Socialism”.]

I entered the venue, staked out a seat and took some preliminary photos. I was then approached by a Socialist Alternative representative, offering their newspaper “to convince your friends to vote for Stein”. I explained to him that I was an independent, and told him about the conversation I’d just had outside. He said that those socialists weren’t being practical, and that we had to gain the support of the workers before we “marched on Washington”. I pressed him about their prior support of Sanders, since he was running as a Democrat; he said that they were actually very critical of him, but he had mobilized lots of people, including many independents, and they were harnessing that energy. He mentioned that he and another socialist would be speaking at the rally, and promised that they would “bash the Democrats”. I said that I didn’t want to “bash” anyone necessarily, I just wanted to get shit done.

A.J. Hill at Jill Stein rally[Image: A.J. Hill smiles while introducing speakers on stage.]

So as the rally started, I felt more confused and cynical about politics than ever. The crowd was mostly white, which wasn’t much of a surprise, but more than half of the speakers were people of color.  One of the speakers and event co-organizers, A.J. Hill, is a black vegan and activist with Direct Action Everywhere (DxE); though I left DxE last year, I was glad to hear animal rights mentioned at a Green event.

David Cobb at Jill Stein rally[Image: David Cobb speaks on stage.]

One of the main speakers at the rally was 2004 Green presidential candidate David Cobb, who is now Jill Stein’s campaign manager. (I didn’t vote for Cobb that year, opting to go with Nader instead, who was supported by many other Greens.) Cobb spoke at great length, emphasizing how he was a “mostly-straight” white man but understood the need to be anti-racist and anti-sexist. He said that people of color don’t want “white guilt”, they want action. He told a story about a black woman lovingly but angrily calling him a “cracker” for questioning the organizing tactics of women/of color in the movement.

While Cobb got lots of applause, and I’m sure he meant well, the length of his speech really turned me off. Good allies cede space to marginalized people to speak for themselves. After 45 minutes, I was more than ready for him to get off the stage. The next speaker, who was part Native American (but white-passing to my eyes, at least), also spoke too long; an organizer was repeatedly trying to get his attention and pointing to his watch.

YahNé Ndgo at Jill Stein rally[Image: YahNé Ndgo speaks into a microphone on stage.]

The main person I came to the rally to see was YahNé Ndgo, who I watched give a powerful speech at this year’s Green Party Convention. A “Bernie or Bust”er, she switched to the Green Party after the Democratic National Convention, and has been campaigning for Stein nationwide. I took lots of photos as she’s such a dynamic speaker. I got a chance to chat with YahNé briefly after the rally, and told her I came specifically to see her; she gave me a hug.

Kor Element at Jill Stein convention[Image: Kor Element sings into a microphone on stage.]

Up-and-coming artist Kor Element gave a talk and an energetic hip-hop performance, with plenty of audience participation. Another former Bernie supporter, he wrote a song specifically for Stein’s campaign.

Ajamu Baraka at Jill Stein campaign[Image: Ajamu Baraka speaks into a microphone on stage.]

At 9 p.m., three hours into the rally (and now at the originally scheduled end time), Green vice-presidential candidate Ajamu Baraka finally took the stage. Baraka announced that Jill Stein was recovering from pneumonia, and could not attend. I already knew this, but only because I had been told by the Marxist outside; I knew that Stein had a recent bout of pneumonia, but there was no mention on the web site or either of the Facebook pages for this event (one of which was titled “Jill Stein Visits Berkeley!”) that she would not be at this rally. I certainly agreed that she needed more rest, and I can understand why her absence wasn’t announced at the beginning of the rally as then some people might not have stuck around, but it still seemed disingenuous.

Regardless, I was personally more interested in Baraka than Stein, and was delighted to see him since he wasn’t originally scheduled to speak. I got to chat with him very briefly afterward (after waiting for many people to pose with him for pictures), and thanked him for speaking truth to power. I also mentioned how I tried to find out about him on Wikipedia, and he said that when he looked at that page, he didn’t recognize what he saw. I wish we’d had time to chat more about that, but many people were still waiting to talk with him, and his helpers were trying to get him out of there.

On the way home, I read part of the Workers Vanguard newspaper. I agreed with some of it, but was turned off the dismissal of Green values in one article, saying (in part) that bike paths and vegetable gardens were for rich people in developed countries, not for workers that had to live near industry, and decrying a call to “save the Earth” at the expense of the people living on it. I understood where they were coming from, but to me animals are people, and the Earth is not separate from its living inhabitants, humans included.

In any case, I’m not going to make voting decisions based on one article, one rally, or a couple of conversations. I’m definitely going to the polls on November 8, if only to vote on ballot measures and local, non-partisan offices, as I did in the primaries. Californians, today is the last day to register, so even if you hate every single person who is running for office, please at least vote on propositions that affect those living in our communities.

My full set of photos from the rally is available on Flickr. Some of the photos are available on Wikimedia Commons as well. Please credit me (as Pax Ahimsa Gethen) if you use any of them, thanks!

filed by Pax Ahimsa Gethen

%d bloggers like this: