Tag Archives: racism

Conflicted thoughts on Thanksgiving

[Image: An activist at a Stand with Standing Rock rally in San Francisco holds a sign reading “Protect the Sacred”.]

Today’s post on Medium, “Conflicted thoughts on Thanksgiving“, is about reconciling the celebration of the holiday with the continued oppression of marginalized humans and the killing of animals. Please follow me on Medium if you aren’t doing so already, thanks.

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!

No human being is illegal

[Image: Protesters at a DACA rally hold signs and banners in support of the “dreamers”.]

On Tuesday evening my partner Ziggy and I joined hundreds of demonstrators outside the San Francisco Federal Building in protest of the rescission of DACA, President Obama’s executive order that protected hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children. Rescinding this order was one of Donald Trump’s campaign promises, so the development was not exactly a surprise. But it was cowardly of Trump to send Attorney General Jeff Sessions out to make the actual announcement, while Trump professed his “love” for the “dreamers” he seeks to send back to countries that many of them don’t even remember.

DACA rally[Image: A protester holds a sign reading “Ningun Ser Humano Es Ilegal / No Human Being Is Illegal”.]

By the time I read the news on Tuesday, protests were already happening in cities throughout the country, including Washington D.C., Denver, and outside the Trump Tower in New York. Though I’ve grown weary of attending anti-Trump protests, I thought it was important for me to come to this one, to add my body and voice to the huge opposition to this move. It’s politically motivated, cruel, racist (the majority of those affected came from Mexico), and serves no positive purpose, to national security or anything else.

DACA rally[Image: A protester holds signs in English and Spanish.]

The rally began outside the Federal Building, but soon spilled into the street. There was some confusion as organizers were only using a megaphone at first, but eventually we made our way (flocked by many police officers, as well as safety monitors in orange vests) to a makeshift stage with proper speakers (which Ziggy helped adjust briefly). I couldn’t get close enough to get decent photos of those speaking, but powerful words and songs were shared, with at least one speaker breaking down in tears.

DACA rally[Image: Protesters fill the intersection of Seventh and Mission.]

DACA rally[Image: A protester holds a sign reading “Dreams Are Not Illegal”.]

We left while the rally was still ongoing; the protesters later marched to City Hall. A great turnout from a city that thrives thanks to the contribution of immigrants.

DACA rally[Image: A protester holds a sign in several languages reading “‘We the People’ Are All Immigrants”.]

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

Confronting white supremacy

[Image: Protesters hold signs reading “Fuck white supremacy” and “End white supremacy”.]

On Saturday I joined thousands of counter-protesters in San Francisco battling back against Patriot Prayer, a group of Donald Trump supporters who planned to hold a “free speech” rally in the city that weekend. The group claims they are not white supremacists and not racist as they have some people of color in their ranks, but as this Medium article explains, they are still oppressors. They wield their idea of free speech as a weapon against marginalized people who are not on an equal playing field, and their outspoken support of Trump validates his racism, sexism, and neo-Nazi apologism.

The rally was originally scheduled to be held in Crissy Field, a familiar destination for my longer runs. Once the park service granted a permit (which was highly controversial), police prepared with a long list of restrictions on what could be brought into the park, to the point of banning liquids other than water in factory-sealed bottles. Public transit was also rerouted, and parking restricted. Between the restrictions and denouncements from Mayor Ed Lee and Representative Nancy Pelosi, the group decided the day before the rally to cancel their plans, and announced they’d be holding a press conference (without a permit) in Alamo Square Park instead.

Patriot Prayer counterprotest[Image: Queer protesters gather in the Panhandle in preparation for the march to Alamo Square.]

With this new information, I headed to the nearby Panhandle of Golden Gate Park to meet up with a “queer resistance” group and march to the Alamo. Other demonstrations against Patriot Prayer were being held throughout the city, including a music and dance party at City Hall and a rally and march in the Castro.

When I had mentioned to a (gay male) friend a couple of days prior that I was tentatively planning to head to the site of the right-wing rally, he tried to talk me out of it, for safety reasons. I countered that I had attended over a dozen demonstrations since the election, and wasn’t sure that any of them had made a difference. But after seeing thousands of people shut down a similar “free speech” rally in Boston, I felt that joining those confronting these oppressors was worth the risk. I was also convinced by a fellow trans activist of color, Gwen Park, who urged all those physically and emotionally able to do so to meet in one location rather than spread out throughout the city. Another activist friend, Saryta Rodriguez, was visiting me that week and also wanted to attend, providing additional motivation.

Patriot Prayer counterprotest[Image: Protesters hold signs reading “Queer Jew Against White Supremacy” and “Queer Jew 4 Intersectional Liberation”.]

Upon arriving at the gathering spot on Saturday, I learned that Alamo Square Park had been completely fenced in by the police, with only documented residents allowed to enter. Patriot Prayer announced they would now hold their press conference in an undisclosed, indoor location. We decided to march to the park anyway, where we joined up with thousands of other demonstrators. We had some fun chants along the way, including “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re fabulous, don’t fuck with us” and “If you’re a Nazi and you’re fired, it’s your fault.”

Patriot Prayer counterprotest[Image: Protesters hold up a Workers World Party banner reading “Make Racists Afraid Again – Smash White Supremacy”.]

Outside the park, the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition called for a sit-down in the street, and hosted several speakers. The number of speakers was a bit excessive, and some of us were getting antsy in the mid-day heat. Eventually we resumed marching, ending up in the Mission. I was unhappy with some of the marchers thanking the police who were guarding the park, and more unhappy with other marchers taunting the police who walked alongside us. I preferred to keep my distance from the police officers and try to ignore them as much as possible.

Patriot Prayer counterprotest[Image: Protesters march in the street, holding various signs and banners.]

Patriot Prayer wound up having their press conference in nearby Pacifica, then returning to the city to meet with individuals at Crissy Field and other locations, under heavy police presence. Reporter Dan Noyes of ABC 7 News was accompanying them and live-tweeting their moves,  which I wasn’t thrilled with even though I suppose it was under the guise of objective journalism. In any case, I was already home by the time I learned of the group’s return, and did not venture out again. I did not wish to speak with or otherwise confront these people face-to-face myself; I only wanted to join a large, peaceful demonstration against white supremacy, racism, and fascism.

Another counter-protest was held in Berkeley the following day, which I did not attend. I was glad that I stayed home when I learned that black bloc counter-protesters chased and pepper-sprayed some Trump supporters there, during an otherwise mostly peaceful demonstration. I realize that some (perhaps many) progressives feel that pacifism is unwarranted or even foolish in the face of oppression, and I am sympathetic to their views. But I am still personally opposed to physical confrontation, with the exception of immediate self-defense. Punching Nazis with words instead of fists might or might not be the most effective tactic in the long run, but I will not engage in violence if I can possibly help it; naming myself Pax Ahimsa was my pledge and constant reminder to be peaceful and avoid causing harm.

My photos from the protest are 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.

Connecting with Wikipedians at Wikimania

[Image: Wikimania panelists discuss movement strategy during the Wikimedia 2030 keynote.]

Last week Ziggy and I traveled to Montreal to attend Wikimania 2017, the 13th annual international conference for editors and users of Wikipedia and related Wikmedia projects. My trip expenses were funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation via Whose Knowledge?, a campaign to improve the representation of marginalized people on the Internet. It was great to connect in person with more members of this group.Wikimania Whose Knowledge panel[Image: A panel of Whose Knowledge? members at Wikimania: Michael Connolly Miskwish, Stan Rodriguez, Thenmozhi Soundararajan, and Anasuya Sengupta.]

Siko of Whose Knowledge[Image: Siko Bouterse presents on the Whose Knowledge panel.]

Sadly, a fair number of people were denied visas by Canada for this event, and this included several Whose Knowledge members. One of them, Azra Causevic, joined the presentation by live video link.

Pax and Sydney at Wikimania[Image: Pax speaks with Community Advocate Sydney Poore following Pax’s presentation on harassment. Photo by Ziggy.]

I gave a talk during the WikiConference North America pre-conference to the main Wikimania event. As I blogged about previously, my presentation, Facing Defacement, described my efforts to combat harassment of users on the English Wikipedia. The talk was well-received, and I connected with several members of the Wikimedia Foundation anti-harassment team, who I hope to work with in the future.

Aside from my presentation, my proudest moment from the trip was confronting the president of the ACLU, Susan Herman, who gave one of the keynote speeches. As freedom of speech was a major topic of study for me in college, I was right with her up until she started discussing the controversy over the scheduled appearance of Milo Yiannopoulos at UC Berkeley. Herman referred to “echo chambers” and students only wanting to hear from people who thought just like they did.

As I’ve written previously, as a member of multiple marginalized groups, the phrase “echo chamber” causes me great irritation for a number of reasons. For the purpose of brevity in Herman’s Q/A session (which was already running overtime), I said that speaking as a black trans person, people like myself have felt targeted and threatened, particularly since the November 2016 presidential election. I argued that a university that championed gender and racial diversity and aimed to provide a place of relative safety for their students should not be obligated to welcome this speaker inside their halls (as opposed to allowing him to speak outside, in the true “public square”).  You can watch my response (and her reply) starting at 1:16:43 in the video.

It’s sadly ironic that the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, during which a domestic terrorist (“allegedly”) killed activist Heather Heyer with his car, happened on the same day as this talk. The neo-Nazi apologism from Donald Trump in response to this rally has raised my stress level to the point of physical illness (compounded by the stress associated with the international trip, and the subsequent, unrelated terrorism in Barcelona). There is a difference between supporting free speech and supporting incitement to violence.

Cute plushie[Image: A representative from the Cuteness Association sits on a table on the main stage.]

The trip wasn’t all stressful, however. I enjoyed connecting with people from all over the world and learning useful information, such as how to nominate photos for quality status on Wikimedia Commons. While I felt too worn-down and overwhelmed to explore Montreal beyond a four-block radius of the hotel, Ziggy spent plenty of time out and about in the city.  Going through security and customs at both airports also went smoothly, which was a relief.  I hope that I will eventually become more comfortable with traveling so that I can attend more conferences like this.

My photos from WikiConference North America and Wikimania are available on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks!

Combating harassment on Wikipedia

[Image: Pax speaks at WikiConference North America 2016. Photo by Ziggy.]

On August 10 I will be presenting a talk on combating harassment with user page protection at WikiConference North America 2017 in Montreal. The presentation will discuss the idea I submitted which led to protecting user pages on the English Wikipedia from editing by anonymous and new users. The working title for my talk is “Facing Defacement”.

In preparing for this talk, I’ve been monitoring the abuse log that captures attempted edits to user pages that were prevented by a filter. I’ve seen some pretty ugly examples of hate speech, particularly regarding sexual orientation. I’ve been subjected to racist and trans-antagonistic taunts on Wikipedia myself, which was what led me to submit the idea. While protecting user pages does not prevent harassment elsewhere on Wikipedia and the Internet, it’s an important start.

WikiConference North America leads into the Wikimania 2017 conference, which I will also be attending. I look forward to meeting with hundreds of Wikimedians from all over the globe.

May Day, May Day!

[Image: Protesters stand in the street, fists raised and chanting, holding a banner reading “Unite Here – All races – All religions – All immigrants.”]

The phrase “May Day” has a number of meanings. It is associated with spring festivals, the pagan Beltane holiday, and International Workers’ Day. When uttered three times in a row, “Mayday” signals an emergency situation.

An emergency situation is exactly how I’ve come to see the presidency of Donald Trump. My ire and disgust at the tens of millions of US-Americans who voted for this man has turned into real fear that this incompetent bigot will not only set back civil rights by several decades, but actually start a world war.  Thus, despite my flagging energy, I continue to attend protests and document the resistance.

May Day SF protest[Image: Protesters holding large signs stand in an intersection, blocking traffic.]

On Monday, I attended two demonstrations in San Francisco, out of many protests, rallies, and marches that occurred throughout the country. The first was outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building. When I arrived about twenty minutes before the 8 a.m. scheduled start time, only a handful of people were milling around. But that quickly changed, and soon all of the streets around the building were filled with sign-carrying activists.

May Day SF protest[Image: Protesters sit on the sidewalk with arms linked in front of the ICE driveway.]

May Day SF protest[Image: Activists sit in front of the ICE driveway, holding a large banner reading “No ban no raids no wall”.]

Some of the protesters sat on the sidewalk with arms linked, blocking the driveways to the ICE buildings so that buses carrying immigrants about to be deported could not leave. There was no violence and no arrests, though police (and police observers) were definitely present and watching.

May Day SF protest[Image: Protesters paint a large circle with the word “Resist” in the middle of the intersection.]

May Day SF protest[Image: Protesters paint a large circle with the words “Resist” and “No Wall” in the middle of the intersection.]

A number of those present, including several children, helped paint a large circle in the middle of the intersection, with the word “Resist” in the middle and “No Ban No Wall” around the outside.

May Day SF protest[Image: The Aztec ceremonial dance group Danza Xitlalli‎ performs at the demonstration.]

The Aztec ceremonial dance group Danza Xitlalli‎, who I’ve seen at many local events, performed during the demonstration.

May Day SF protest[Image: Activists speak from atop a truck at the demonstration.]

Several people spoke from the truck that served as a stage. One was very emotional about her sister who had been detained by immigration authorities.

After an hour and a half or so at this rally, I headed over to nearby Justin Herman Plaza to take a break before the start of another rally and march. Danza Xitlalli‎ performed again, and then the group from the first rally marched into the plaza.

May Day SF protest[Image: Protesters march into Justin Herman Plaza, carrying large signs and a banner reading “Sanctuary for all”.]

The rally featured a number of speakers, including several members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. As with the March for Science last month, the plaza was soon completely filled with people.

May Day SF protest[Image: A crowd of people fills Justin Herman Plaza.]

May Day SF protest[Image: May Day marchers head up Market Street from the Ferry Building.]

At noon we made our way out to Market Street for the march to Civic Center. I made it as far as Powell Street this time before bailing out due to fatigue and the unseasonable heat. Before heading home, I paused at the cable car turnaround to take some photos of the oncoming marchers. Upon spotting my camera, one of the marchers flipped their sign around and made sure that I saw it:

May Day SF protest[Image: A May Day marcher holds a sign reading “Impeach the racist, lying, abuser, terrorist occupying the White House.”]

I nodded in solidarity and agreement.

My full set of photos from the protest is available on Flickr. Some of the photos are also on Wikimedia Commons, alongside photos uploaded by others. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of my photos, 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!

Quietly overwhelmed

I’ve been pretty quiet online this month for a number of reasons.

I still haven’t adjusted to the fact that over 60 million of my fellow US-Americans elected Donald Trump to be our president. I cannot look at that man’s face on my computer or television screen without feeling dismay and sinking despair. Attending and photographing protest after protest has not really done anything to help address these feelings.

I am also having personal difficulties regarding gender transition and other issues. Most of these issues are not really new from what I’ve blogged about in the past. Though there have been a number of trans-related developments in the news that I could write about, these tend to depress me further as they are mostly negative. (ETA: OK, “mostly negative” is probably an overstatement, but the Trump administration’s recent withdrawal of guidance that provided protections for trans students looms largest in my mind.)

Regardless, I don’t feel much like blogging when I don’t get much feedback on my posts. But if I turn comments back on or resume posting on Facebook, I will subject myself to harassment and micro-aggressions that I’m not equipped to handle right now. I’m not talking about genuine criticism, but racist and trans-antagonistic attacks.

I have still been active on Wikipedia at least, contributing several articles to this month’s Black Women Online Editathon. I’ve also submitted a proposal for the annual Wikimania conference, taking place in Montreal this August. I’ve switched my DuoLingo language preference to French to try to pick up a bit of that language before visiting the Francophone province of Quebec.

But mostly, I’ve been overwhelmed and trying to escape the world with television and video games. After finishing watching every episode of The Jeffersons, I began watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show after that actress died last month. And after growing bored and frustrated with the bugs in the latest version of The Sims, I started playing a new game, Stardew Valley, which I’ve been thoroughly engrossed in for the last two weeks. I might blog about it from an animal rights perspective at some point.

So I am still alive, but not well. Although I’ve turned off comments, I am still reachable by e-mail if anyone would like to send a friendly note.