Category Archives: Sexism

Discrimination against women

Freedom to oppress: Berkeley’s civil war

[Image: Protesters, led by Sunsara Taylor of Refuse Fascism, kneel with raised signs and fists.]

Today’s post on Medium, “Freedom to oppress: Berkeley’s civil war“, has photos and thoughts on freedom of speech and Berkeley Free Speech Week. My full set of photos from Sunday’s protest in Berkeley is 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 my photos, thanks.

Reminder to readers: I am considering moving to Medium as my primary publishing platform. Please follow me there if you aren’t doing so already, thanks!

This week in woke Wikipedia

[Image: Dalit activist Thenmozhi Soundararajan and Whose Knowledge co-founder Anasuya Sengupta present on a panel at Wikimania, August 11, 2017.]

Today’s post on Medium, “This week in woke Wikipedia“, is about improving representation of marginalized people on Wikipedia. Highlighted are new biographies of notable women I’ve created for the Women in Red initiative: Raquel Willis, Shay Neary, and Annie Segarra.

Attention readers: I am considering moving to Medium as my primary publishing platform. Please follow me there if you aren’t doing so already, thanks!

Day Without a Woman

[Image: London Breed, President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, speaks at City Hall for A Day Without a Woman.]

Yesterday I attended a rally at San Francisco City Hall for A Day Without a Woman, an event created by Women’s March organizers to coincide with International Women’s Day. The peaceful gathering included an hour of speakers, starting with an invocation from Kanyon Sayers-Roods (aka Coyote Woman), who reminded us that we were standing on Ohlone land.

Kanyon Sayers-Roods (aka Coyote Woman) [Image: Kanyon Sayers-Roods (aka Coyote Woman) speaks at City Hall for Day Without a Woman.]

Several of the speakers were from the currently majority-female San Francisco Board of Supervisors, including board president London Breed and board members Katy Tang, Hillary Ronen, and Sandra Lee Fewer.

London Breed at Day Without a Woman[Image: London Breed, President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, speaks at City Hall for Day Without a Woman.]

Katy Tang at Day Without a Woman[Image: Katy Tang, member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, speaks at City Hall for Day Without a Woman.]

While it was great to see representation from women of color in high positions, this event has been criticized for focusing on the mostly-white women who are privileged enough to take the day off. In that respect, it was good that one of the speakers was Maria Trujilo, a Latina janitor from SEIU United Service Workers West. Unfortunately, I could only see her translator when Maria was at the podium, as the sound monitor was lifted up there in an (unsuccessful) attempt to boost the volume, blocking many of the subsequent speakers from view. I did manage to catch a photo of Maria and the next speaker, Maya Malika from Refuse Fascism, off to the side.

Maria Trujilo and Maya Malika at Day Without a Woman[Image: Maria Trujilo of SEIU United Service Workers West raises her fist. Next to her is Maya Malika of Refuse Fascism.]

Other than the sound problems and lack of ASL translation, the event was successful, with a turnout of over a thousand people. The beautiful sunny weather (in contrast to the pouring rain on the weekend of the Women’s March) no doubt helped, though I’m sure many women who would have liked to attend were unable to leave work, childcare, or other duties.

Women in red at Day Without a Woman[Image: A woman and young girl, both dressed in red, sit on the steps of City Hall for Day Without a Woman.]

Crowd at Day Without a Woman[Image: The crowd at Day Without a Woman fills the sidewalk and street next to San Francisco City Hall.]

Day Without a Woman attendees[Image: Day Without a Woman attendees hold a sign reading “Not a paid protester – If I were would I make 78 cents for every $1 too?”]

I’ve posted my full set of photos of the event to Flickr. I’ve also posted some of the photos to Wikimedia Commons (alongside photos from other contributors). Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks!

Rising in dissent

[Image: Protesters fill United Nations Plaza at dusk.]

The dreadful occasion has come to pass: Donald Trump has been inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. What more can I say about this man and the people who voted for him that I haven’t already said? I’ve had to suppress much of my anger, disgust, and fear just to remain functional.

But I cannot simply ignore the impact this transfer of power is likely to have on tens of millions of marginalized people, including myself. So I went beyond my comfort zone this week to attend three crowded San Francisco protests on three consecutive days.

Ghostlight Project SF[Image: A crowd fills the lobby of the Geary Theater in San Francisco, holding the lit screens of their cell phones aloft.]

Thursday’s event, The Ghostlight Project, was more of a solidarity rally than a protest. People gathered at theaters throughout the country to express inclusion, protection, and compassion. The space inside and outside the American Conservatory Theater on Geary Street was completely packed. I was overwhelmed and unable to get good photos, unfortunately, but formal photos were taken and should be available on the event’s web site.

Ziggy at Trump protest[Image: Ziggy looks down from a truck, with anti-Trump posters and an I.A.T.S.E. Local 16 banner.]

On Friday, the day of the inauguration, there were protests all day long throughout the country (and abroad). I chose to attend the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition rally at United Nations Plaza in the evening. Ziggy volunteered to run sound for it (his union, I.A.T.S.E. Local 16, supported the protests), and ended up being drafted into running sound for their morning action as well.

Rainy Trump protest[Image: A protester stands under an umbrella with “Not My President” and “Resist” written on it. ]

The weather was stormy, with intermittent sudden downpours. Some protesters got clever, with messaging written directly on their umbrellas. Having learned my lesson from being drenched at a previous A.N.S.W.E.R. rally, I wore rain pants in addition to my jacket this time. (Holding an umbrella isn’t practical while operating a professional camera!)

Rainy Trump protest[Image: A protester holds a sign reading “My melanin is not a threat.”]

Rainy Trump protest[Image: Protesters hold signs reading “Fight white supremacy” and “Fight back against sexism, homophobia, war & racism”.]

Rainy Trump protest[Image: Speakers stand under an umbrella. One holds a sign in Spanish, calling for an end to the fascist Trump/Pence regime.]

As with that previous rally, I appreciated that the speakers and attendees (judging from the signage) emphasized that capitalism and white supremacy were the real problems to be overcome; this wasn’t just a pity party for Democrats or Hillary Clinton supporters. I was disappointed that there were not more black folks on the stage, however.

At the end of the rally, the emcee announced that they would be marching to the Castro and the Mission, but I headed on home. I wanted to save my energy for the Women’s March on Saturday.

Women's March SF[Image: The crowd at the Women’s March fills the San Francisco Civic Center.]

When I arrived at the Women’s March half an hour before the 3 p.m. rally start time, the area in front of and to the sides of the stage at UN Plaza was already packed. I tried to take refuge under a tree to the side of the stage, but people kept climbing it for a better view, and I narrowly avoided being kicked in the head several times.

I eventually gave up on watching the speakers, and moved behind the stage to try to get some breathing room. In the over 13 years I’ve lived in San Francisco, I’ve never seen such crowds; not at Pride, not at a Giants victory parade. I read later that an estimated 100,000 people attended; over two million attended “sister marches” worldwide. Though I was stressing out from the crowds,  the energy was amazing.

Women's March SF[Image: Women’s March attendees hold a banner reading “Love Trumps Hate”.]

Women's March SF[Image: A Women’s March attendee holds a sign reading “Girls just wanna have fun…damental rights.”]

SF City Hall in pink[Image: San Francisco City Hall, lit in pink for the Women’s March.]

Ziggy, who ran a half-marathon that morning but still had plenty of energy, joined me a bit later. We took refuge for awhile at the nearby Opera House, where he works, and I took a few photos from the parapet. He convinced me to come back out for the march itself, as it was such an important and historic occasion. We made our way down Market Street to Justin Herman Plaza in a steady rain, thronged by thousands of people chanting and cheering.

Women's March SF[Image: Women’s March attendees stand under umbrellas holding candles. One holds a sign reading “Truth is now a defiant act!”]

So what is next for the resistance? Marches and rallies are important to show solidarity, but I can’t help remembering what one speaker at a rally against police violence said: “This is not the work.” More radical action will be needed to actually dismantle white supremacy. I cannot support violence, but I don’t know what alternatives to suggest. I will be keeping my eyes and ears open for practical solutions.

My photos from this week’s events—The Ghostlight Project, The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition rally, and the Women’s March—are available on Flickr. Some are available on Wikimedia Commons as well. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks.

Wikipedia, harassment, and inclusivity

I mentioned in a recent entry that I’ve been spending a lot of time editing Wikipedia lately. One of the contributions I’m most proud of is helping to reduce harassment by protecting user pages from editing by anonymous and new users. This change affects every registered user on the site.

The process started with an idea I submitted to the Inspire Campaign in June, which solicited ideas to combat harassment on Wikipedia. The proposal received a lot of support. So with the help of Chris “Jethro” Schilling from the Wikimedia Foundation, I created a Request for Comment (“RfC”) to implement the page protection, which was posted in August. The RfC was closed a month later with consensus to implement protection, which was done via an edit filter on November 30. You can read more about the process in an article by Chris in the Wikipedia newsletter, The Signpost.

While preemptively protecting user pages has been criticized by some as against the “anyone can edit” spirit of Wikipedia, the fact is that user pages are not actually part of the encyclopedia. There’s even a template saying as much, which I and a number of other editors have added to our user pages. As I said in the Signpost article and also mentioned during the most recent Bay Area WikiSalon (see video starting at 47:19), having my user page vandalized with deadnaming and misgendering felt like having hate speech spray painted on my front door. Protecting user pages doesn’t prevent vandalism and stalking elsewhere on Wikipedia and on other sites, but it is an important start.

As an aside, this month’s salon featured prolific Wikipedia editor Jim Heaphy giving a very informative talk about the Teahouse, a welcoming place for new editors. Some members of Jim’s family came along, including Dexter, an adorable Boston Terrier. You can see the rest of my photos from the event on Flickr, as well as on Wikimedia Commons (gallery may include photos from other contributors). Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks.

Dexter the Boston Terrier[Image: Dexter, a brown and white Boston Terrier, sports a colorful sweater.]

The Wikimedia Foundation has indicated that addressing harassment and creating safe spaces for participation—online and off—is a priority, which is encouraging. In addition to combating harassment on Wikipedia, I’ve continued to work on improving the representation of marginalized groups, particularly trans people. Wikipedia has a “Women in Red” project which seeks to address the content gender gap, as fewer than 20% of the biographical articles are about women. This week, I resurrected two articles from that list, both on black women: Debbie Goddard, an atheist and humanist activist; and Monica Roberts, a blogger and trans advocate. Both of these articles had previously been written, but redirected or deleted for lack of notability. I hope that the community allows them to remain this time around.

Stand with Standing Rock - SF[Image: Protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline march past San Francisco City Hall.]

I’m also pleased that the Wikimedia Foundation has used one of my photos in an article about the Dakota Access Pipeline. I’ve seen this particular photo used on a number of sites around the web, and I feel slightly conflicted about that, since this was of a protest in San Francisco, not at the site of the Standing Rock camp in North Dakota. Still, I am glad to help bring attention to the nationwide protests in solidarity with the indigenous people.

I hope to continue contributing productively to Wikipedia and Wikimedia, as frustrating as the process can be at times. I feel it is a good use of my writing and photography skills, and an opportunity to make a difference in this troubled world.

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.

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!

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!

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.

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!