Friday, December 31, 2010

A Cure for HIV?

I believe in miracles. I believe that miracles come in two forms: those seemingly impossible happenings that can not be explained because the science has yet to be developed to explain them and those truly mysterious events that defy science, logic, rational thought and, sometimes, even hope.

When I first saw the headlines that a man called the Berlin patient, Timothy Ray Brown, had been cured of HIV, I believed the headline. Frankly, any credible news publication that would print that headline would have made sure that there was little to no doubt about the veracity of the claim. So, I believed the headline. What I didn’t know was whether this was miracle type one or miracle type two.

After reading the article, which outlined a bit about Timothy’s story, how he was HIV positive and had developed leukemia, which had been treated with a bone marrow stem cell transplant—with a little twist in that the stem cells were taken from a donor that had a genetic abnormality in which the CD5 receptor cells (the cells that HIV uses to invade white blood cells) were missing—and now he was seemingly cured of HIV. Immediately, I questioned whether or not the doctors had biopsied some of the places that HIV likes to hide out (the brain, lymph areas, etc.) where it is not detectable by regular blood test only to read in a further article that the Berlin patient had developed a neurological condition which required a brain biopsy. The biopsy confirmed that HIV was also absent from his brain and spinal fluids. After reading about the biopsy, I was convinced that I’d lived to see a miracle occur that I hadn’t allowed myself to dream about.

The best part of the miracle is that it is absolutely explainable by science. While I know and have seen the hand of God reach out and touch the world creating tremendous and powerful healings, the Big Guy is hard to reach, quite often booked for years, and sometimes when he returns your call, the news isn’t the news you wanted to hear. So, I offered up a little prayer of thanks—mostly because when a miracle can be explained by science it makes it easier for other folks to become miracle workers.

There are a group of researchers that are now working to try and find out exactly how to repeat this miracle. The fact remains that until this treatment is repeated successfully, it is still firmly in the “mysterious act of God” column on the miracle tracking chart. And even if the procedure is repeated successfully using donor stem cells, the cure will be extremely expensive and will wholly rely on finding other rare donors with the same CD5 genetic mutation that also happen to have a matching bone marrow donor type to the HIV positive person in need (please see the above paragraph about the likelihood of Type One miracles).

Frankly, I watched a family member that I loved dearly, my cousin Jim, go through chemotherapy and an experimental stem cell treatment for a rare type of leukemia. The chemotherapy ate at his body and his spirit, and though he fought and fought hard, he lost his battle. The pain that he had to endure during his fight was heartbreaking. A cure that demands that type of pain as its cost is one that may be more than many people are ready or able to face.

Researchers are also looking at developing gene therapies that would replace the need for donor stem cells. In 2009, a group of doctors were awarded a research grant to look at ways to substitute CD5 deficient stem cells as an alternative to the process that the Berlin patient underwent. It could be years before a successful and cost-effective gene therapy treatment is developed.

In the end, I am so very happy for Timothy Ray Brown. I am excited for what this cure means for the HIV positive community. I sincerely hope that the doctor’s that developed this treatment are on the short list for next year’s Nobel Prize in Physics and Medicine. But, for now, I am keeping this one-time, isolated event in the miracles column. All signs are pointing to a shift of this miracle from the Hand of God type to the scientific discovery type, but there are still too many “what ifs” standing between Timothy Ray Brown and a cheap and effective cure that, for example, will be easily available to people living and dying from AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa for me to recommend that the good people at start looking for new jobs in the post-AIDS era.

But, regardless of the caveats, this is a hell of a great way to ring in 2011. Perhaps by the end of the year, the miracle will become scientific fact, and next year, I will have many good friends at the sending out their resumes and looking for new jobs.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Filibuster Be Damned!

I have already written exhaustive rants about the filibuster, so I will keep this one short. There was a time when I felt emphatically that the filibuster had to remain as a defining element of Senate debate, as it has been an effective tool in keeping the Senate from passing truly heinous laws based on whatever particular craziness seemed to leap out of nowhere and grip the popular majority for a time before running its due course and returning to sanity. With the House, we get all kinds of super kooky bills that have been backed a majority of members and then killed (most often secretly) by this or that Senator that didn't poo poo publicly the House's legislation, which was the Congressional equivalent of a drunk text, but instead would send a nice handwritten note or while deliberating great deliberations in the world's greatest deliberative body would take a moment, perhaps over a nice cup of tea, and sidle to the Senate Majority Leader's desk, tap the House Bill, written out in an elegant hand, and then would shake his head ever so slightly. He would then move on to make a congenial jab at an old Princeton chum from across the aisle before returning to his chair, feeling proud of his tact and poise, something the barbarians in the House simply would understand (comportment! please!). Then he would congratulate himself for staving off another disaster and all before he drank his morning tea.

But don't be fooled, every now and again one of great lions would shake the dust and crumpet crumbs from his great mane, climb to the front of the room and roar. It was unthinkable before the 1980s to indicate that you would filibuster, and then when challenged, meekly step aside. No! You knew that every now and again, the cause of the moment was sometimes taken up by a dangerous majority of the Senate, and it was now not only a point of taste but a point of honor that you should enter into this contest of wills alongside your like-minded and right-minded colleagues and roar down those that challenged your power. And roar they did. Why Strom Thurmond (no lion was he...more like a sickly leopard) proved that he was made of the stuff of which Senators from ancient days had been hewn, when he spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes straight in his attempt to derail the Civil Rights Act!

But one by one the old Senators fell away until only the greatest of the last generation of gentleman senators, the grandmaster of the Senate Robert C. Byrd, remained. Now he too has passed. But long before he took his final rest, as the others were replaced by the Congressional equivalent of new money Senators, the filibuster, which was made great by the risk that you would actually, in rare instances, take the podium, became instead a veto pen wielded by exactly 100 legislatures, each of whom thinks of him or herself as a petty monarch at best or a Grand Duchess at worst.

Well fie I say! FIE! What I once believed to be an integral part of the Senate and the safeguard of the legislative process has now become, instead of a proceed with caution/dangerous roads ahead sign,there is now a stop sign and a checkpoint that makes the Berlin Wall look like it was made out of legos and guarded by Rainbow Brite and those creepy little star creatures.

To Hell with the filibuster! Let America do as the rest of practicing democracies do...pass legislation with a 50% majority (or now again 2/3rd as may be called for by those greatest of all procedural guidelines, Robert's Rules of Order aka my personal Bible). And, just in other countries, when we realized we passed some crazy bullshit, have the House Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader keep calling Congress into session until the ubercrazies take their meds and start talkin' sense again.

Damn...that was a long as rant. I believe it shall be my blog of the

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Everyday Heroes: Sue Sylvester

Generally when I write a blog post about one of my everyday heroes it is about a real life human being that has touched my life in some significant way. Most often the person I write about has no idea that I consider them an everyday angel. Today, not only am I writing about someone with whom I have never communicated, the person that is today's Everyday Hero isn't a real human being.

That's how Sue sees it.

Sue Sylvester, for those of you that have been sealed up in a cave with Osama Bin Laden somewhere in Kandahar for the last two years, is the role in Glee played by comedienne Jane Lynch. I have been a fan of Jane's work since the first time I saw Best in Show. The woman is a tremendous actor, and her dry delivery and comedic timing are flawless. I could watch Jane Lynch, Parker Posey, and Jennifer Coolidge discuss the fat content of a Nutri-Grain bar and probably rupture something internally from laughing.

In Glee, Sue is the woman that we love to hate. She is the arch-nemesis of the Glee Club, and her one aim in life is to the Supreme Commander and Boss of Everyone. When the show started, I was worried that her character would become a caricature. She seemed to be on the fast track to one dimensionality, and her role in the program was quickly becoming something like that of Old Man Withers from Scooby Doo. No matter what form the plot took, you knew, at the end, that when they pulled the mask off of the Abominable Swamp Monster inside you would find dried up Old Man Withers.

Boy oh boy oh boy did Sue Sylvester fool the hell out of me. Just when you thought she couldn't possibly do anything to prove that she actually has a soul, without losing any of her acerbic egocentricity, would show such a depth of compassion and incisive grasp on the human condition that for a moment (a brief brief moment), you actually forgave her for any of the other loathsome things that she has done and will do again.

I chose Sue as my Everyday Hero while watching the end of the latest episode of Glee. Sue, in grand Sue style, dresses up as the Grinch and steals the Glee Club's Christmas. It wasn't the well acted single line moment at the end that moved me to write this but something I realized about Sue in general.

Sue is the six year old inner child in us. Just as children can be absolutely and utterly cruel and self-centered, they retain a basic grasp of right and wrong that when piqued comes out in such a direct, forthright, and poignant way that it forces us to step away from our "grown up selves," and take a good look back at a time when all we really wanted from the world was to be loved, to be valued, and to be heard. It was when I felt that I was lacking in one of those areas that I would show out and do what it took to get the attention that I needed. Yet, it was all done within a moral framework that was simple, direct, and fairly uncompromising: sharing is good, hitting is bad, loving is good, being mean is bad, pick on kids your own size and put things back from where you got them.

Watching this latest episode of Glee, Sue reminded me that even though we leave our childhoods behind, we don't ever lose the need to be loved, valued and heard. We learn that we can't drop to the floor of Target and kick and scream when something doesn't go our way, so we get a whole new bag of adult ways to act out, but, in the end, it's the same process attempting to have the same needs addressed. Sue'a process is just a little more obvious than the rest of ours.

So, I am naming Sue Sylvester as my Everyday Hero. Thank you Sue for reminding me that big kids are just little kids in grown up bodies.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Voice of the Unemployed: NO DEAL OBAMA!

Dear President Obama:

What the goddamn hell are you thinking? As a recent addition to the masses of unemployed, please allow me to speak to you clearly: in what alternative reality does it make ANY sense to barter your assent to a temporary extension of the Bush era tax cuts (which, you pandering idiot, are at the heart and soul, along with these two wars and the shenanigans of Wall Street, of the reason are in this shit storm of a recession right now) for a short term extension of unemployment benefits?

You are a community organizer sir. Not only does your history prove that so did your campaign that landed you in the White House. Yes, it will be a shit shame and extremely hard to look people in the eyes that have exhausted their last week of benefits and are now desperate for an answer to their financial hardships. BUT this is the EXACT time for you to grow a fucking pair of balls and tell the honest to GOD truth about the situation in DC. You need to look these largely white and rural families and urban angry hungry poor and tell them that it is the REPUBLICAN SENATE that is holding back an extension of unemployment benefits. INDEED, you need to name names. In fact, you can refer them to the last extension of unemployment benefits in April 2010, and you can go ahead and name the names of every single Republican Senator EXCEPT Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Senator George Voinovich (R-OH), and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). That leaves 40 people that you can present as concrete impediments to food on their table. These aren't some esoteric public policy concepts that you have to articulate and break down for the working person to understand and then somehow convince matters enough for them to pick up the phone or to march on their senator's office. This is straight forward community organizing 101: Identity your target, identify your allies, identify your goals and objectives, and then MOBILIZE.

Exactly how long do you think that the GOP is going to let people in their state slip into destitution and allow unchecked anger to build to the point of direct action? The last election proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the people could give a shit come election day about political labels. In 2012, the party in power that let them and their children starve is the party that is going to reap the harvest from the shit plantation.

AND HOW DARE YOU ATTEMPT TO PUSH FORWARD YOUR LIMITED SHORT TERM POLITICAL GOALS WITH MY FUTURE! The government stands to lose hundreds of billions in revenue from the WEALTHIEST Americans. Let me state this plainly for my readers: Obama is basically giving a big old multi-billion dollar Christmas present to the wealthiest Americans while, in my case, giving me $405 a week. Let me speak plainly Mr. Obama. I grew up on welfare. My family used the food shelves when we had to do so. I would gladly return to the food shelf ever week for a year if it meant in the end that the government finally stood up to the GOP and the wealthy elite exposing the GOP for what it really is and unequivocally demanding that the overindulgent and undeserving uber-wealthy pay into the system a tiny portion of that which they milked from its now desiccated teats.

I get it Obama. You are panicked. You got a major ass whooping in November. It really wasn't your fault. You were out organized. Not only were you facing anger at a system you inherited but you were also facing the full fury of a racist backlash by uneducated and threatened white folks in this country. TOUGH SHIT OBAMA. It comes with being the first black president. You knew exactly what you were facing when you decided to run. You knew that your life and your family's life would be in danger. You knew you would face hundreds of years of racism and all the historical baggage that entails. And you knew that you would face the full might and fury of a reactionary conservative movement that was going to cast you as the greatest and most terrible of bogeymen.

You may not be judged my history in how you and your policies were shaped, motivated, and resistant to these external forces. But I sure as hell am going to judge you based on that criteria. I was and am proud of you for your election. Though I had different goals for financial and health care reform, I am proud of the tremendous and historical wins that you have had legislatively. But your fight right now is not just about the goings on in Congress. The United States people NEED you. They need you to be the long term visionary that empathetically and strategically centers their hurt, anger, and poverty in a long term vision with short term solutions that do not compromise principles and our well being in order to placate political ambition and the ultra rich. IF YOU FAIL IN THAT, then, sir you fail as my president.

A temporary extension of Bush's tax cuts on the backs of poor folks is really what you are asking. You are once again asking poor people to accept crumbs...a temporary pain reliever that is supposed to replace necessary surgery. Surgery is painful. Recovery from major surgery is slow and also comes with pain and discomfort. But the alternative to avoiding pain and discomfort in the short term often means losing everything in the long term. Do not give us crumbs, Mr. President. I am tired of crumbs. I want a full, organic, multi-course, sustaining all you can eat buffet. If that means that between now and dinner all I can eat is ramen and spam, so be it. It's ok. I can smell the good stuff cooking, and I am willing to make due, to tighten my belt an to share in the labor and preparation if it means that I get to eat my fill with everyone else.

Please don't make of me a server that can only smell the food and eat the scraps of those most privileged that already have more sustenance than they could ever consume in any of a number of lifetimes.

Friday, December 3, 2010

She Blew My Mind: Tamar-kali

Yesterday afternoon I got a text message from my homeboy Kenyon Farrow asking me if I were free later in the evening to check out a concert with him. I had no idea who was performing, but I rarely turn down anything for free, so I said sure thing. Plus Kenyon ALWAYS knows the T, so I know better than to not show up to something he has dropped some ducats on.

So, around about 7:30, I met Kenyon at Better Burger on 19th and 8th in Chelsea, and we walked the couple of blocks to The Kitchen. The Kitchen is a multidisciplinary performance art space. Basically it is a good sized black box theater tucked away between 10th Avenue and the West Side Highway in a very unassuming building. It's actually fairly sterile looking when you walk in, which was a hell of a juxtaposition against the gorgeous and very colorful cadre of stunning black women with a sprinkling of men and a dash of white folks that was chillin' in the lobby.

Usually, I can tell whether or not a performance is going to be good either by the space that the show is in or by the crowd. Well the space was giving me one message and the crowd was giving me an altogether different message (space said...STERILE...crowd said...HOLD ON TO YOUR TITTIES).

Let me tell you I was not prepared for what went down.

The opening artist to take the stage was a petite spitfire Tennessee black woman with amazing locks and a baby doll face that reminded me of Lauren Hill. But when that country gal opened up her little throat and all that voice came out she was giving me Dolly Parton meets Tori Amos meets Ani DiFranco meets no one I've ever heard of before...and all that was Miss Valerie June. She reminded everyone in that audience that country, bluegrass, blues, and soul are all black music forms that may have been appropriated or expanded beyond the black community, but the soul of those genres is still black. Her musical storytelling and her brilliant voice was great to hear. She referred to the stage as her living room, and she and her accompanists were tremendous.

There was a brief intermission at which time folks mingled about and use the bathroom and the like. I figured the headliner was probably someone that sang along the lines of Valerie June.

Lord have mercy the minute that Tamar-kali took to the stage I knew I was wrong, so very wrong. This woman walked on stage looking like Miss Josephine Baker, but when she opened her mouth she gave us an experience the likes of which I have never had in my life. She joined a full band that included two back up singers, a percussionist, a grand piano, a cellist, a violinist, and during two songs she played the bass and the guitar. Her music was a mix of rock, soul, funk, punk, folk, and something else that I just don't have words to explain. And that voice...THAT VOICE....when she sang she not only brought you into the story, she demanded that you LIVE THE STORY. And I lived. Child I LIVED last night. She had us calling out like we were in church, and at one point, she was singing a song about someone that she had once loved, and I was no longer part of the audience. I was her. We were her. The vibrations moving through the floor from the audience stomping to her music was a living testament and a mighty praise to this woman's artistry.

Tamar-kali is music.

At one point, Grammy nominated pianist Vijay Iyer joined her on stage along with another vocalist, Somi, and they did a Bjork cover. Let me tell you that I would DRINK Somi's bath water. And I am not sure where the hell Tamar-kali found her guitarist, but that man was working that axe so hard that all I could think about was him working me in just the same way. Whoever that man is going home to at night is having the types of orgasms that you only hear about in fairy tales and Samoore's stand up routines. Sweet baby lord Jesus.

Let me make a sacred vow right here and right now. Unless I am sick, dying, poverty stricken. or at a birth, wedding, or funeral...I will NOT be missing another Tamar-kali show in New York City. Plus, I need to get as much of this woman into my blood stream before she starts selling out stadiums for ticket prices that make me want to slap someone at Ticketmaster.

If you are free this evening, then you need to get your ass down to The Kitchen. Tamar-kali and Valerie June will be performing again tonight at 8pm, Tickets are only $12, and the tickets are worth EVERY penny. You can buy tickets from The Kitchen.

Thank you Kenyon for the ticket to the show, and thank you Tamar-Kali for blowing my ever loving mind.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dr. Brandon Lacy Campos?

So, for those of you that are my Facebook pals, you know that for the last three days I have been up to my neck in my first graduate school application. It is due tomorrow, lord help me now. Since I shared that I would be applying to a PhD program in addition to MFA programs, a number of you have asked me why. Specifically you've asked why a PhD versus an MFA.

The best way that I know how to answer that question is through the publication of my personal statement to the Feminist Studies PhD program to which I am applying.

William Brandon Lacy Campos
Personal Statement

Until a few short weeks ago, the PhD program in Feminist Studies at the University of Minnesota was not included in the pile of graduate school applications that has been haunting my desk since the beginning of the fall. Rather myopically, I had directed my attention to MFA programs in Creating Writing, specifically fiction. Though, I have a deep passion for scholarship, and I proudly describe myself as a NOC (Nerd of Color), I was finding it difficult to find a program that was flexible enough to allow me to explore both of my passions that are pushing me towards graduate school: honing my craft as a writer and exploring the ways in which gender, sexuality, sex, race, and the politics that intersect, interweave, and dissect these issues play out in an artistic and pedagogical manner in science fiction and fantasy literature and movies.

Having worked closely with three graduate students in the feminist studies department, specifically Jess Giusti and Charlotte Karem Albrecht—with whom I co-authored a chapter, in the recently published anthology from the University of Minnesota Press, Queer Twin Cities—and Dr. Kandace Creel Falcón, I had a fairly clear picture of the flexibility of the scholarship within the department. But it wasn’t until a recent conversation with Dr. Jigna Desai, a brilliant thinker that I have known for 13 years and with whom I would hope to work as a graduate student, that I was convinced that a PhD in Feminist Studies would help me achieve my personal and professional goals.

In order to understand those goals, it is first necessary to understand the multiplicity of identities and experiences that have contributed to creating the person that I am. As a staunch anti-post modernist, please allow me, in detail, to delineate the identities that I claim (forgive me-- the identity theory of Foucault and Wilchins makes my skin crawl—Lisa Duggan is my hero). I am an African American, Afro-Boricua, Anishinaabe Euro femme genderqueer male-bodied HIV-positive working class recovering addict queer feminist man born that was born in Duluth, MN and grew up in a geographical reality that stretched from Duluth to Pampanga, Phillipines. My Father is from southern West Virginia where he grew up in the same town in which our family lived as slaves, and my Mother’s family is a working class clan from just outside of Duluth, MN.

These particular narratives: coming out as queer, coming out as positive, embracing being a person of color, critically examining my relationship to masculinity, choosing my gender expression, working as an artivist/organizer, choosing to be a community scholar and people’s policy wonk, finding richness in my extreme Northern and beautifully Southern heritage, choosing to draw strength from my slave ancestors and my reservation-ized indigenous people, being raised by a single mother, having a beautifully complicated family structure, and acknowledging my penchant for academia have all participated in my decision to pursue a PhD in Feminist Studies as a specific means to push forward my personal mission, which is to create positive social change through research, analysis, and idea exchange through writing, particularly creative writing, and as an instructor.

In order to create a strong foundation for sustainable progressive social change, it is necessary to critically understand the role that current systems play in propping up regressive ideas and paradigms, stagnant notions of identity, and harmful concepts of being that are then codified into our moral precepts and propped up through the media, pop culture, public policy, laws, and jurisprudence. Once understood, and I believe we have made progress with that understanding, new ideas, institutions, thought patterns, arts, pop culture, media, educational systems, and other modalities of socialization and idea exchange must be created to replace the self and society concept delivery systems that currently exist.

This must include a fundamental integration of the arts and artists as tools and agents for social change. While the “artivist” most certainly exists, and in my role as a spoken word poet I count myself among them, there still remains a lack of scholar/artists that are or have the training to integrate critical pedagogies into their work as tools for changing the ways in which justice concepts, particularly of race, gender, and sexuality, are consumed and integrated into community.

Imagining ourselves newly is difficult if one removes the option of only recreating ourselves in an equality framework—I have no interest in being equal to straight, white, able-bodied, misogynist wealthy men with the same privileges they have. I am interested in a liberation framework that requires a full expression of my best self while at the same time committing myself and my work to the full and best expression of everyone else without regard to national borders or the dictates of privilege.

That is why, personally, I love the creative genres of science fiction and fantasy in literature, television, and movies. In worlds where literally anything can be imagined or created, one should not be limited to concepts of gender, race, and sexuality within the frameworks that exist in our quotidian reality.

Unfortunately, while speculative fiction has created brave worlds where non-humans can thrive and be object lessons in diversity, the mass consumed franchises of speculative fiction literature and movies reify and reinforce rigid concepts and stereotypes of race, gender, sexuality, and sexual orientation. There are notable exceptions in the genre, but, for the most part, the role of speculative fiction in socialization (the Harry Potter series, Lord of the Rings, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, Star Wars, the Wheel of Time series, ad infinitum) continues to be largely unexamined or critiqued. And in those rare instances when they are critiqued (for example, there was a plethora of conversation about alien racialization in the latest three Star Wars movies), there is still very few artists/scholars that are offering bold alternatives. Indeed, some of the best and brightest offerings in speculative fiction that challenge our notions of, for example, gender were Ursula LeGuin’s 1969 classic The Left Hand of Darkness and Octavia Butler’s Xenogensis trilogy, the first book of which Dawn was published in 1997. While there have been notable books between those two that have challenged our concepts of race, gender, and sexuality (specifically Mercedes Lackey’s Last-Herald Mage trilogy which was published beginning in 1989 with Magic’s Pawn featured a gay protagonist) the library of speculative fiction that challenges or lifts up different notions of gender, race, and sexuality are few, far between, and far from the most recognized titles in the genre. Thirty years between notable speculative fiction works that implode gender is much too long to wait.

And, forgive my skepticism, but while The Left Hand of Darkness was a work of literary genius that openly discussed issues of fluid sexuality and basic concepts of transgender identity in the same year that Stonewall took place (and I am sure that I do not need to mention that 40 years post-Stonewall trans and gender identity continue to be disconnected discourses from the LGB community let alone the community at large), I doubt it will be made into a Hollywood summer blockbuster anytime soon. While Harry Potter, as much as it is loved, still adheres to rigid concepts of male dominance, damsels in distress, distraught and overwrought mothers that turn to men for help, and the wise old crone that offers random sage advice to the young, white, male heroes that ultimately, time and time again, save the day (sometimes with a little help from Hermione) and continue to reinforce rigid gender roles and conventional mores around good and evil and the relationships between “men” and “women.”

My professional goals are to not only write amazing speculative fiction that is consciously, though not overbearingly, written to challenge notions of race, gender, and sexuality but to also create and teach coursework at the university level. My work as a professor, and the work I hope to explore through my coursework and dissertation, is to outline methodologies that use the arts, particularly the literary arts, to actively and consciously train writers and artists to address not only inequalities but liberated concepts of being and to provide the theory and the praxis tools in order for artists/academics/organizers to be able to do so.

On November 29, 2010 at NYU, I performed as part of program called Living Out Loud, which featured three artist/activist queer men of color living with HIV. During a panel discussion after the performance an audience member asked us a specific question about academia. The question was how did we deal with getting the ideas demonstrated through our poetry into classrooms with faculty and administrators that were resistant. My answer was two-fold: use community organizing principles to build relationships with instructors that are natural allies and get your work in front of students that way and become an instructor yourself. Pursuing a PhD in Feminist Studies is my commitment to walking the talk. I believe that sustainable social change starts with education and the classroom, and as a veteran community organizer and artivist, I believe the best way that I can continue to be effective in my work as a change agent is to research, write, and teach.

This begs then the question of why Feminist Studies? To be blunt I wholeheartedly believe that sexism is the root cause of not only gender and gender identity based discrimination but also homophobia and heterosexism. Further, it is sexism and its accompanying requirement of the oppression of women to maintain the privilege of men that is the ultimate roadblock for radical social justice. Even racism, which at its root is about maintaining economic hegemony for the elite, has at its core a fundamental roadblock built around sexism. Sexism has been so ingrained in many communities of color that it is a natural check on progress towards racial justice. It keeps men of color from working effectively with women of color and white women allies, and the feedback loop between racism and sexism often keeps white women and women of color from building with one another. As such, I believe that in order to effectively work towards liberation that my work must be centered in an overtly feminist approach, identified as feminist at its root, and the analysis and theory that it is built upon most come from a feminist ideologies.

Specifically, I am interested in the Feminist Studies PhD program at the University of Minnesota because of its multidisciplinary approach to scholarship, its cross university breadth and scope, the amazing faculty that I have had a chance to know over the years (particularly Dr. Desai, Dr. Torres, and Dr. Zita), and, perhaps most importantly, the students in the program with whom I have worked, and for whom I have the utmost political and personal respect: Dr. Kandace Creel, Jess Guisti, and Charlotte Karem Albrecht. And, considering my own extensive background in political movements and my work around community of color political ideologies, I am deeply excited at the possibility of working with Dr. Isoke. Finally, In my conversations with Dr. Desai as well as students in and previously of the program, I have been assured that my own commitment to a multidisciplinary approach to scholarship as well as my rock solid to making direct connections between academia and the broader justice community would be welcomed and nurtured within the department.

While I do not meet the program requirement of having at least a minor in a feminist studies concentration, I have consciously exposed myself to feminist thought and ideologies. My study abroad in Puerto Rico from 1999-2000 was specifically designed to study the feminist movement and impacts of colonization in Puerto Rico, including the course La mujer contemporanea en la sociedad puertorriqueña (The Contemporary Woman in Puerto Rican Society). I have been deeply influenced by feminist writers and thinkers such as Lisa Duggan (The Twilight of Equality changed the way I think about organizing), Barbara Smith and Beverly Smith (and the Combahee River Collective), Lisa Albrecht, Karín Aguilar San Juan, Gloria Anzaldúa, Cherríe Moraga, Octavia Butler, Jacqueline Carey and Aurora Levins Morales. Lisa Albrecht and Aurora Levins Morales are friends and mentors, and I have also had the privilege of knowing, working with, and being mentored by Barbara Smith.

In the end, I am a feminist. I am also a man and as such work daily to keep in check my own privilege. Most of the time I am successful. Sometimes I am most definitely not. But I firmly believe that if only women identified individuals center their scholarship in a feminist framework, then our work to dismantle system sexist oppression, and therefore all forms of oppression, will continue to be slow, uneven, and ultimately less than liberating. It is for this reason as well as those that I have stated previously that I am interested in pursuing a PhD in Feminist Studies at the University of Minnesota.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Interview with an Soulful Artist: Pepe Villegas

Every now and again the world manages to bring someone into your life that is breathtaking in just about every imaginable way. A little less than a year ago, via the fantastic Karlo Colon, I was introduced (electronically and later physically) to Pepe Villegas. From his physical awesomeness (yes Lawd this man is a looker...and so is his partner RJ...but I ain't opposed to a package deal of spare husbands...heyyyyyyy) and spiritual beauty to his stunning art to the intentional manner in which he lives his life (and helps others to live theirs), Pepe really is breathtaking.

As often happens in New York, all of the best things are scheduled at exactly the same time in different parts of town. The day I received notice that Pepe would have a gallery opening was the same day (not even 10 minutes before) that I had finalized a meeting with a number of people for a new work project. Without resorting to vulgar language...I was a wee bit pissed off. But sometimes thems the breaks. Since I wouldn't be able to be with Pepe for the opening of the show, I thought of the next best thing I could do, which was help spread the word about the show and about this truly gifted artist.

I hope that you all get a chance to experience Pepe's artwork and Pepe himself. You will get a taste of Pepe here, but if you are free this evening and in New York City, do yourself a favor and check out the opening of this exhibit. If you can't get there this evening, it will be up through sometime in January (more information about tonight can be found at the end of Pepe's interview).

Thank you Pepe for agreeing to be interviewed for the good readers here at My Feet Only Walk Forward. From my heart to yours!

1. Talk to me about the type of art that you do. Where does it stem from? You went to school for architecture, so how does one go from being an architect to being a brilliant painter?

I am considered a multi media artist since my creative expression ranges from a diversity of mediums; painting, photography, video, writing, drawings, etc. My artistic motivation stems from a deep-seated curiosity concerning the unfolding of my life journey and an innate drive to reveal the beauty within the ordinary. I know that everything in life happens in an impeccable and many times in an inscrutable manner as it upholds the embodiment of who we are.

My education as an architect provided me structure, to conceptualize ideas, introduced me to art history and consequently became the gateway for me to embark into a multifaceted search for that self-expression which brings to fruition my genuine and creative life force.

2. You grew up in Puerto Rico (WEPA!) how has your identity as a Puerto Rican influenced your artwork? How has the narrative in your artwork changed since you have lived in the US? How have the two narratives of your life combined?

I was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico and spent half of my life in New York City.
All through my evolution as an artist and regardless of the location or subject matter, you can sense an undertone that resonates with my upbringing in my art all the way through the use of storytelling, vibrant colors, folklore and figurative mysticism.

Being raised in a Roman Catholic environment kept me in constant inquiry to reason the unreasonable. The contradictions, the fear based demands on how to be, see and think and the insufficiency of common sense when it comes to its dogma, awakens the provocative style that exemplifies my art work

3. You such a quiet confidence about yourself and who you are, particularly as a gay man. How has your artistic journey intersected with your journey as a gay man?

I particularly don’t identify myself with labels and categories. It limits our perception of the oneness that we are and it only perpetuates discord

My artistic journey is my emotional, physical and spiritual journey. It’s all the same thing!
I believe that we are all artists and creative beings with a voice and the means to embody it. It is in our faculty to unfold and express that which we are, trusting that everything that we experience is an invitation to surrender to our authentic greatness.

4. What is it that you want consumers of your art to take away from the experience? What is it that you hope to achieve through your artwork?

I love bringing people together and through the joy of fellowship I have been skillful in conceiving artistic happenings that inspire others determination to get acquainted with their unique brilliance.

I can only offer of myself, just as I am and I know that when we come from that Awareness all we see is our own reflection in everything. This realization is an insight for inspiration and brings forth the motivation to share it as an art piece and just feels wonderful.

5. You and your partner RJ founded The Waking Circle, which is an amazing group committed to helping folks grow spiritually. How does your work as an artist intersect with your spiritual path? In what ways does your spiritual path determine how you experience your artwork?

As I mentioned before, everything is one and you can’t have one without the other. Rj and I came together in a most synchronized and natural way. We both share an awareness of what is in the moment-to-moment experience and the power in the simplicity of being.

In the Waking Circle Rj’s recognition and teaching of "resting as awareness for short moments, repeated many times" and its instant effectiveness resonates with my present conscious take on of life and the complexities of my creative process.
For example: What I used to define as an “artist block” now I see it as an invitation and an opening to step out of “my limited and familiar strategy” into a moment of awareness where I can see myself thinking that I am blocked.
The byproduct is clarity and the revelation of fresh ideas and unimagined solutions.

6. Finally, you have a gallery opening coming up soon, where can people find you? What projects do you have coming up? How can people keep connected to your work?

Here is the press release information on the gallery exhibition “Folkorican”:

With FolkloRican, renowned multi-media artist Pepe Villegas presents us with a ten-piece collection of oil paintings that delve into an intriguing archive of personal and cultural memories referencing his Puerto Rican upbringing. Ranging from striking representational and semi-representational portraiture to abstract and symbolism-rich canvases, this highly evocative criollista sampling is deeply rooted in cultural pride, introspective contemplation, and national nostalgia. The exhibition title, a playful portmanteau of the adjectives “folkloric” and “Puerto Rican,” aptly and cleverly captures the autochthonous and celebratory spirit of the artist and his artwork.

An opening reception is scheduled for Wednesday, November 17, from 5:30 to 7:30pm, and will feature live Afro-Caribbean and Latin music by percussionist and NYU Steinhardt masters candidate Carson Moody.

FolkoRican: The Art of Pepe Villegas runs from November 17, 2010 through January 31, 2011 at The Gallery Space at Wagner is located on the 2nd floor of the Puck Building, at 295 Lafayette Street, corner of Houston Street (B/D/F/M trains to Broadway Lafayette, 6 train to Bleecker, or N/R/W trains to Prince Street).
Viewing hours are Monday-Thursday 9:00am-9:00pm, Fridays 9:00am-7:00pm, and Saturdays 9:30am-6:00pm (closed on Sundays). The Gallery is closed from December 24 through January 3, inclusively.
For more information, including adjusted holiday hours, please contact Frankie Crescioni-Santoni at 212.998.7400.

You can find more information on my work on my website

Gracias Brandon!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hudson Valley Seed Library Art in New York City

Just over a year ago, my partner David hitched a ride with our good friend Karlo Colon about an hour and a half north of the city to hang out with the folks from the Hudson Valley Seed Library. The Hudson Valley Seed Library is a great organization that each year makes available heirloom seeds to the public. But instead of packaging the seeds in any old seed packets, the seeds are sold in packets with original artwork done by regional artists, and it just so happens that this year my partner was chosen as one of the artists.

Each fall, the Seed Library hosts an art exhibit where the original prints can be viewed and purchased. This year, there will also be an exhibit of 2011 artwork at the Horticultural Society of New York. Don't miss this opportunity to see amazing work by local artists.

Contemporary Heirlooms:
Art from the Hudson Valley Seed Library

December 9 - 23, 2010

Opening Reception: Thursday, December 9th, from 6:30 to 8:00pm

The Horticultural Society of New York is pleased to present Contemporary Heirlooms: Art from the Hudson Valley Seed Library as part of its continuing exhibitions program featuring plant-based art.

The exhibition showcases for the first time in New York City original artworks commissioned by the Hudson Valley Seed Library for their unique Art Pack seed collection. Each season, the Seed Library looks for a diverse range of artists to interpret the herbs, flowers and vegetables from their catalog for the designs of their seed packets. The focus this year was on the heirloom varieties currently available through the Seed Library. All sixteen artworks from the 2011 collection will be on view. Drawing from a range of different styles, materials, and experience, Contemporary Heirlooms includes works in a variety of mediums, including collage, encaustics, oil, ink, watercolor and digital art by a diverse selection of artists.

The Art Packs were established to celebrate the beauty of heirloom gardening in New York. The collection is part of a long tradition of art in the Hudson Valley, stretching back to the Hudson River School in the 19th Century. In addition to being a vital region for food production, the region continues to be home to many artists. The diversity of the artwork and artists chosen is meant to reflect the genetic and cultural diversity of the varieties offered by the Seed Library and is emblematic of the region.

Founded in 2007 by Ken Greene and Doug Muller, and based in Accord, NY, the Hudson Valley Seed Library aims to create an accessible and affordable source of regionally-adapted seeds that is maintained by a community of caring farmers and gardeners. The Seed Library is member-driven and led by a simple principle: the 700 members receive seeds each spring and then are encouraged to return the seeds from the mature plants in the fall. Sold to the public, the 130 heirloom seeds varieties are divided into two categories: the "Library Packs", which include seeds grown locally by the Library members; and the "Garden Packs", which are seeds bought from wholesalers. By 2014, the Seed Library hopes that they will be able to exclusively sell locally grown seed.

The art from the Seed Library collection has been exhibited in various locations throughout the Hudson Valley, including: Kingston Museum of Contemporary Art, Kingston; Roos Arts, Rosendale; Kaaterskill Fine Arts Gallery, Hunter; and the Gardiner Library, Gardiner. The Hudson Valley Seed Library has been featured in Martha Stewart Living and Margaret Roach's blog, A Way to Garden. Most recently, The New York Times ran a feature article and profile on the Seed Library and their mission to grow, save and share New York's heirloom varieties.

A Preview Party, hosted by Great Performances & Katchkie Farm, will be held on Thursday, December 9th, from 5:00 to 6:30pm. Signed limited print editions of the original artworks will be for sale during the opening and throughout the exhibition, along with seed packs and framed Art Packs.

The Horticultural Society of New York is the premier resource center for all things horticultural in New York City. Through a broad array of unique educational, vocational, and therapeutic programs, resources and exhibitions, The Hort brings together plant and gardening experts and enthusiasts to share knowledge, exchange information, and take part in activities that enhance environmental and cultural life in New York. The exhibition program combines an innovative curatorial approach with a unique gallery space to showcase emerging and established artists in all media who are inspired by the natural world.

The Gallery at The Horticultural Society of New York is free and open to the public Monday to Friday, from 12 to 6pm. For further information, please visit or contact Chris Murtha at 212-757-0915 x121 or
For more information about the Hudson Valley Seed Library, please contact Ken Greene at 845-626-4910 or

Friday, November 5, 2010

Book Review: Thoughts Induced by Chewing Ice

I have a good friend who just happens to be 40% gay. That basically means that he shamelessly flirts with me and with my partner but without ever putting out. And his adorable and brilliant wife Adi totally encourages his deviant and distracting behavior.

One day he is going to flirt with me, and I am going to punch him right in the head.

In addition to being 40% gay, he is a gifted short-order satirist, that has an amazing way of seeing a moment in life and summarizing it brilliantly in just a couple of lines of prose. Beware the Ice Chewer!

Yuval Sheer aka The Ice Chewer is a beautiful blogger that publishes his photos and life vignettes on his blog, Thoughts Induced By Chewing Ice.

His words are often incisive, usually funny, and always amazing in the messages they convey in their simplicity.

Here is an example of a recent entry at his blog:


Store owner at diamond district
asks me if I want to take a look inside his shop.

I tell him that my love does not like diamonds and jewelery.
He says:"Every woman loves diamonds".
I repeat that my love doesn't and he tells me"
"Really? I wish I had married her........."

Sometime in the last year Yuval teamed up with brilliant visual artist Mettookonet, who started illustrating some of Yuval's blogs in her ink drawing style that is very reminiscent of cartoons from the Jazz Age. When I see her art work, I am taken back to the height of Art Deco, flapper dresses, and decadent wealth of the 1920s. For her, I believe Jazz Age art is most apropos. Her drawings seem to be on the verge of tapping their feet and bursting into a scale.

Sometime along the way, Mettookonet and Yuval decided to self-publish a graphic novel style book that featured his quips and her art.

The result was the book called Thoughts Induced by Chewing Ice.

This graphic novel is witty, smart, sly, hilarious, and pure pure pure eye candy. The graphics tell as much of a story as the text and together they are a breathtaking experience.

The stories in the collection will make you think, laugh, and tap your feet with their poetic prose.

I heartily recommend this book for you and for anyone you know that enjoys finding the poignant lessons and hilarity in every day life.

For cost and to order a book please email

PS Once upon a time, I was having dinner with my Aunt, Uncle, and cousins. My Aunt started chewing ice from her pop glass. I remarked to her that chewing ice was a sign of sexual frustration, without skipping a beat she retorted that perhaps if me and my cousins left the table, she and my Uncle could do something about that. My Aunt would love this book too.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Yes We Can?: Only If You Shut the Fuck Up and Do Something

I still believe yes we can.

But only if "we" shut the fuck up, recognize that we have seen amazing progress, and recognize that we gave the president four a year term.

Unfortunately, it seems the only message that got across to the majority of Americans was "change." Once again this proves that there are three year olds with longer attention spans and cognitive abilities than the bulk of the American voting public.

Change is good if there is a strategic reason for change. Changing because you are angry, impatient, and haven't done anything to be part of a solution is selfish and damaging, and the fools that participated in this "change," are going to get exactly what they deserve. They are going to get even more polarization, ridiculous obstructionism (do I have to remind people that Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, openly declare in August that his ONLY goal in the Senate was to deny Obama a second term? Don't you people FUCKING LISTEN OR PAY ATTENTION!), and gridlock. What that means is that working people, poor people, the self-hating/racist/too stupid to think critically elder white men that turned out to vote, queer folks, women, and anyone else that is not secure enough in their personal wealth to be unaffected will find themselves worse off than they were at the end of 2008. Mark my words that these same individuals, including gutless/stupid/selfish/cry baby gays that have been been throwing tantrums and pity parties because Obama didn't put their pet issues first (WE ELECTED HIM TO A FOUR YEAR TURN--SHUT THE FUCK UP AND GO SUCK ON A THE TIT OF SOMEONE AT HRC!), are going to be all "shocked" and dismayed that they voted for this new Republican House, which really couldn't give a shit about anyone but themselves, that is not only ineffective but is going to act as a rubber stamp roadblock of legislation that could make a difference in this country.

I voted for change in 2008 when I cast my vote for Obama. By strategically thinking about my vote and what it meant, I have gotten much of what I wanted (though by no means all). I wanted universal health care, Obama fell short but we have the first health care reform bill basically EVER in this country...every President since Teddy Roosevelt has been trying to do what Obama has done and failed. I wanted the recession to end. Though the economy is growing slowly, it is growing. I wanted a massive slap down and regulation of Wall Street. Obama fell short, but he still managed to have passed a significant financial regulation reform including the creation of a Consumer Protection agency with significant powers to regulate Wall Street. There are still many more things that I want: job growth, end the wars, non-draconian immigrant positive legislation, passage of the DREAM Act, a package of queer liberation bills that can include the hetero-normative largely bullshit issues of HRC queers but queer positive immigration reform, 50 billion dollar investment in HIV/AIDS prevention/support for positives/cure research as well as a bill to de-criminalize HIV transmission and a ban on states that attempt to do so except in cases of willful malicious intent, student loan forgiveness for ANY college graduate that spends at least 5 years working for a non-profit organization in a service capacity, a infrastructure and transportation bill that drops half a trillion dollars into updating all aspects of our infrastructure and the construction of high speed rail lines all across the United States linking at least one major city in every U.S. State (of course, except Hawaii and Alaska).

I may not get all that I want, but I elected Obama to a four year term...expecting that he is going to do everything I want in two years is not only stupid and selfish but is unfair. The man was given four years to do the best he could for America, yet after only two years (which have seen amazing progress), folks are screaming ME ME ME ME MINE MINE MINE MINE NOW NOW NOW NOW. And let me be really clear with those of you that are feeling good and patting yourselves on the back because you did your once every two years duty to turn out and cast a ballot but in between elections you don't do anything except complain: FUCK YOU. FUCK YOU. FUCK YOU.

Was that message clear enough?

I have reached an end with those that believe that voting is their one and only civic responsibility when it comes to engaging with the political process. They cast a vote for a person and then heap all of their wants, desires, and expectations on that person. Basically, they abdicate person responsibility to advocate, actively, for change onto another person and then have the audacity to be angry when that person, staggering under the enormous piles of demands from all sides, picks a path that is shiny and lined with gold. if you are broke, of color, queer, disabled, or a woman and you don't, every day, do something small to create positive social change in this world, please know that the other side, with their massive wealth and deep pockets, can pave the way to their desires with gold bricks. It's up to the rest of us to make sure that those bricks are revealed as fools gold and that the field the path walks through is seeded with land mines.

The whole damn country needs a good old fashion ass-whooping and grounding. And, just like when I got a spanking when I was young, these voters deserve exactly what is coming to them.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Interview with a Comic Diva Part Deux: Yamaneika Saunders

A little over a year ago, I met a a beautiful and hilarious woman by the name of Yamaneika Saunders. A year ago August, I published my first interview with this sexy, sassy, no holds bar maven of the microphone. Over the last year, though I have not gotten to see her as much as I would like, I have gotten to know her better, and I love everything about this human being. From her art to her heart, I am a true blue fan of this gem of a stand up comedienne. Yama is an inspiration to me, and I am very happy to present this new interview with her.

Thank you to Yama for providing this very real, very straight up (no pun intended) conversation.

1. You have a keen and vivid sense of the political, talk about how your art as a comedian and your incisive political wit cross? How does your politics as a back woman inform how you choose your topics for your comedy?

Whether I like it or not, I am grouped into this "angry black woman" category, for the sheer fact that I'm loud, black, big and female - so right off the bat there are going to be generalizations. I take it in stride. I am definitely trying to carve out my own unique voice, in hopes that the world will see I'm not defined by my sub-culture.

It's important for me to take on certain topics, as well as, trying to veer from being marginalized and characterized by my physical identity.

2. A few months ago, you thought about giving up on comedy. Let me first say that I am damn glad that you didn't, but can you talk a little bit about what brought you to the point of making that decision? You decided to continue gifting us with laughter, can you talk about why you choose to keep doing stand up?

Well, its still part of the plan for me to take a break. The reason is not that I don't love comedy, I just don't love the business of comedy. I'm always going to be a performer, its in my blood, but if I can't use my gift to save a life or change one then I'm failing. So, its quite possible you might see me make a switch into the ministry very soon. I can tell jokes from the pulpit.

3. We are in a recession, duh, how has that impacted your work as a comedian? And, in this climate, who, if anyone, of your peers is "making it?"

The recession affects the city, a lot, because people want to keep tight with the purse and the clubs want to make money so there are requirements when you come to shows. I try to make it worth everyone's wild when they come and see me, trust me no one is going to say "I wasted money on that show" even if I'm the only person who does well that night, I give 100% and its often times is enough to overshadow a bad night overall (that sounds cocky, but I'm keeping it real) that's not to say I don't have my moments but after being the game so long they are few and far between.

I'm not sure who is making it, we all get opportunities and they seem like they are gong to pan into something, but you just never know. Most of my peers in this game have set such a high standard for "making it" that I think when everyone knows our name we feel like we are "making it". I sometimes get a little ahead of myself because I'll go out to a club and I'll be surprised when someone says "Oh, I saw you at this place or that place" and I'm like "Really? You remember me?"

4. You have an amazing spirit and an obvious strength. Where does that come from? How do you re-energize yourself and keep yourself moving forward?

Thank you, for saying that! It's tough because I as an individual am very weak, in my opinion; the fortitude that I have is from God, without Him I wouldn't even wake up out of the bed. He keeps telling me He has me in His arms, so I step out on faith. My mother also keeps me grounded. She is always reminding me to be strong and stay positive. I have a good friend system too, even though I fight with all my friends and alienate them, the ones who stick around keep me tough, they don't take the shit from me so I can't take it from myself. So, by the time people see me on stage I've been picked up by all the above.

The audience also keeps my strong. I am super sensitive and I have so much I want to say to people, jolt them into reality that life is hard but so the fuck what?! Don't let a person treat you like shit. Don't accept shit! Those are my messages, so when I get on stage I just want to shout and yell and tell everyone FUCK IT ALL LETS LAUGH!

5. You have a show coming up on tonight at Comix in can folks get tickets? Where else can they see you? What else do you have coming up?

Yes, the show at Comix is a hot one! Its been a minute since I've been back in the city, and since I go on the road often I sometimes don't get the chance to really get on at some of the clubs like I could, so its great when I'm able to do such a prestigious club like Comix.

The show starts at 9 PM Oct 28th, which is tonight. Tickets are $20, but anyone who mentions my name at the door gets a $5 discount. So, come out!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

One Liner of the Week Award: Jersey Woman at the Laundromat

This morning, I was up early and at the laundromat before 10am. If you were to judge me by the clothing I had on, you would think I was half-a-step above a psych patient off his meds that would not be out of place preaching the gospel to a recycling bin somewhere in the East Village.

I walked the block to do my laundry, and much to my surprise the place was almost empty. Usually Sunday mornings at the laundromat is a exercise in extreme patience. Usually, I want to start shoving irritable (irritating) old ladies into the jumbo washer and lock it permanently on spin.

This morning, two women that are what the hideous little creatures from the Jersey Shore reality show will someday become were putting clothes into the dryer.

One woman was tatooed to Jesus and the other was so skinny I could see her heartbeat through her chest.

Miss Skinny says, "Oh yeah. You know I am taking tai chi and the instructor is like a master. And he is tall for a CHINAMAN, like 5'10". And you know, those people can, like, just kill you. But he's really nice."

And that, ladies and Chinamen, is the One Liner of the Week.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010



I live with HIV
I have been a part-time junkie
Trying to find something I missed
In between overachieving and the point of a needle
People generally look at me like I am lying
By trying to tell them I am recovering
And some days much less recovered than others
My Mother couldn’t believe that her Straight-A-Beaver-Cleaver
Would cleave to whatever he could snort or swallow or fit in a needle
Powders and pills devouring the pain of little red ribbons
T-Cell Counts and technical knock outs by Chelsea boy faggots
That see only a status
It might mess with their A List adventure if they fall for a retroviral warrior
Rejecting gentlemanly advances as if being asked to marry a leper
All the while playing jeopardy
Take a hit and then split in half/open wide to let the next big raw cock inside
You see Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is all very well in a fairy tale where in
Your sexual health is someone else’s responsibility
Silly me, I thought when I saw your ass bubble cum like a champagne fountain that you had made a decision

Not a wager

Lord and Savior
I know that there is a responsibility for disclosure
But somewhere it was decided that raw riders got to blame others
For riding without a saddle
I am madder than hell that with all my own shit
I have to deal with bitter bitches that pretend to some moral authority
to do as they say and not as they do and do and do
turning you into a cracked out rehabilitation project
filled with so much vehemence
it’s funny that they can’t see the real disappointment
but it’s boring to look at the weeds in your own back yard
when your neighbor has such a lovely garden

Let me be clear with all ya’ll here
If you are choosing to go on a meth fueled sex affair
My responsibility to the outcomes of your personal decisions stop right there

So happy we got all that out in the air.
I feel much better

HIV and addiction fly formation in a circular pattern
Its tough to unlearn
The poison poured into young ears
By the 1980s and shady queers
Never fear!
I am well aware that I am a tragically flawed human being.
There are choices that I have made that have ripped apart the lives of others.
A lover that came to me in tears when he tested positive
Confirming my own fear about my status
Except I had been too cowardly to take the damn test
At least if I had
it would have been only one life in shambles

In the end, I have more than enough to do
Without having to take care of you
Let this serve as final public notice
I am HIV Positive
There is the disclosure that everyone wanted
From now on, make your own damn decisions
and live with the consequences
because when two adults come to a conclusion
that they want a little skin on skin action
the minute your legs are in the upright and locked position
it’s your job to make sure that you don’t have a bumpy landing

Am I being unclear?

That’s your asshole in there
And while another asshole may have told you what you wanted to hear
You are the one that let him steer his jet into your hanger
Check your anger Boo Boo
In this game of cards
A tie goes to the dealer

I feel much better after having written this poem.

I know that I have a lifetime of work left to do
Hope never to have to write another poem like this
Or slip and let addiction back in
But if or when it happens
Or when the next person looks at me and sees only a status
I got this in my arsenal
Poetry sometimes is the best ammo

-Brandon Lacy Campos
-New York, NY
-Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Economics 101 or Why Capitalism Sucks

So, I received an email the other day from a friend of mine from high school. He sent the email to me and to the younger brother of another classmate of ours. Somehow, even though we all went to the same high school and graduated from the same magnet program (International Baccalaureate), Tue turned out moderate, Jared turned out a super conservative, and, well, I think that Sweden is a little too far right.

Tue was struggling around the upcoming election and had a question about the repeal of the Bush tax cuts and specifically whether or not it was cool to return to pre-Bush tax cut tax rates for high income earners while allowing the tax cuts to remain for those making less than $250,000. With all due respect to Jared, his response was something directly from the Rand Paul Bible. He believes that all taxes are wrong and that pure and unadulterated free market capitalism is the answer to all the ills of the world. Jared also suggested that businesses have fled this country because of our tax rates. I almost gagged on my own vomit.

Why thank you Adam Smith! Luckily for us, we have 500+ years now of various incarnations of capitalism that disprove that there little theory.

When I first read Tue's email and then Jared's response, I saw little flashes of red and almost burst a capillary. So, I waited a week before responded.

This was my response:

Dear Tue and Jared:

Actually, businesses left this country because it was easier for them to abrogate their responsibility to the working people that created the wealth that they want not only to maintain but to grow without regard to the social, community, political, or human cost.

I am not a communist, but I do believe in a collective responsibility both to each other and to the means of production. Bill Gates, for example, should reap the benefit of his brilliance. But, without hundreds of thousands of employees, he would not now be the second richest man in the world. His wealth is in direct relationship to the individuals, humans that assisted him in creating that wealth. How then should he have no responsibility, which, in civil society is expressed through wages and benefits to the individual and to the broader society as taxes, to balance his personal benefit against the means by which he acquired his wealth in the first place?

In a purely capitalist system, which has NEVER existed, capitalism will, eventually, create such a disparity in social well being that even if it does not, as Marx suggested, eat it self, it will be destroyed (the good along with the bad) by those that rightly detest the unfair, illogical, and downright idiotic division in wealth.

The idea that those that are wealthy have acquired their wealth through perseverance, self-sacrifice, and by pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps is as much a myth as Santa Claus, and like Santa Claus grown ups shouldn't believe it.

Show me a single major corporation in this country that did not acquire its massive wealth through generous subsidies from local, state and federal governments. Show me a corporate that is older than 70 years that did not acquire its wealth through massive oppression of workers that included state sponsored terrorism of workers. Show me a corporation that is over 150 years old that did not directly or indirectly benefit from slavery. Taxation is fair because the means of wealth creation are, in general, inherently unfair.

Further, if you'd like to discuss the social contract and political security, how then are people who relate to one another in a society based on capitalism and not small, localized barter communities supposed to pay for and sustain collective security while also dismantling despotism and watching out for the human tendency for exploitation? The honor system just doesn't work, and without a social structure to protect it neither does capitalism.

To answer your question, Tue, I believe that since the wealthy rely on the government to maintain their wealth that they should have to pay a proportionate amount of their income to sustain the systems that allow them to remain ridiculously wealthy. In the 70s, the marginal tax rate for the highest income bracket was somewhere around 70%, it is now around 36%...the income gap between the richest and the poorest has increased the largest it has been since before World War II which would lead me to believe that, perhaps, there is a correlation. Oh, and to be even more specific, the income gap began to widen drastically in the 1980s when the marginal tax rate for the most wealthy citizens was greatly reduced WHILE at the same time the Reagan administration began systematically dismantling the Great Society programs. No economist that believes in peer reviewed research and is credible will suggest that the two are unrelated.

We have seen what massive deregulation has done to industry. We saw it under Reagan (trickle down my ass), and we saw it under Bush (gotta love a complete reversal of the U.S. economy).

One of my favorite lines is...if you always do what you always did you will always get what you always got.

So, if you believe the Bush economic policies were good for America, if you believe our country is more economically healthy now than it was in the early to late 90s, then, by all means, vote for the Republicans.

Democrats are not much better but they are better. I pray to Heaven every day for a real change and a multi-party system but that may be too much to ask.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tiffany Brought Me Glee and Glee Brought Me Tiffany

Last Friday, I was on an Adirondack Trailways bus on my way to Accord, NY for the Waking Circle's Fall Retreat. Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, my Facebook account was only an iPhone tap away.

I opened the Facebook app, and I saw that I had a message from Susan Raffo. Susan, as many of my readers know, is one of my favorite people in the entire world. So when I saw that I had a message in my inbox from Susan, I was mighty happy. I opened the message expecting that it would be something wise or witty or fun or thought provoking. Instead, it was a short note letting me know that our mutual friend, Tiffany Harmon, had died of a heart attack the day before.

At first I thought there was something wrong with me. Not only did I not cry or feel sad, I didn't feel anything. As a matter of fact, I got a little pissed off at Susan. There was no question of me believing that Tiffany was dead. I didn't believe. Not only did I not believe it, I rejected it.

Of all the people walking this planet there was no one that I knew that loved God more than Tiffany. Also, on the good person scale from 1 to 10, 10 being Jesus/Buddha/Dalai Lama, Tiffany was, at least, a 9.9998.

So, if Tiffany loved God, and if Tiffany were good, then Tiffany, by all accounts a young woman (maybe 40 years old...maybe), could not possibly be dead. And she most definitely could not be dead from a heart attack. Therefore, Susan was lying and therefore I was pissed.

If you are amazed at my powers of deduction, and denial, you should know I shocked the hell out of myself.

Like a good Minnesotan, I don't do emotions in public, especially on a bus heading towards the idyllic countryside. A bus filled almost exclusively with well-off WASPy white folks. And I was headed to a retreat with a bunch of folks that I didn't know.

Unfortunately, grief acknowledges not geography nor demographic metrics.

The tears started coming, and I pretended as if I were moved by the mist rolling off of the mountains. Such a sensitive soul am I. (Please refer to my line about denial).

I spent a good part of the weekend thinking about Tiffany and the lives that she touched. The first time I met Tiffany was during a job interview. I was applying for the position of Development Associate at YouthLink. Tiffany, as director of human resources, was one of the people doing the interview. I was a finalist for the job along with Susan Raffo. I didn't get the job.

I pretty much thought that was the last time I would see Ms. Harmon.

But, a year later, Susan was promoted to Development Director at YouthLink, I applied, again, for the position of Development Associate, and lo and behold, this time I got the job. Tiffany was again part of my interview team.

From the first moment I met Tiffany, I felt relaxed and welcomed by her. In the grand world of HR personnel, she was pretty much the perfect person for the job. Strong, emotive, empathetic, and able to balance many personalities. She believed in lifting people up, holding them accountable, and helping them figure out how to move from the place they found themselves to the place they wanted to be. Life at YouthLink is always tricky. At the time that we all worked together, YouthLink had just moved its several large programs under one roof. Though each program had been part of the same agency, for years they'd operated almost as independent entities, with their own cultures. When the programs combined...all hell broke loose...again and again over a number of years.

Tiffany sat at the center of that storm. I watched her do her job, and I watched pick at her and cut at her. So I made it my duty to make sure that every day, at least once a day, I would go into her office and do or say something so ridiculous or outrageous that it would force her to laugh (usually followed by her shaking her head and giving me a "Big Mama," look followed by the statement, "Brandon. Brandon. What am I going to do with you?")

I'll tell you what she did with me. That beautiful amazing woman loved the hell out of me, and that love was returned. I watched her struggle with some of the positions of her church around queer folks. I watched her make the choice to leave her church because she couldn't reconcile its teachings with what she knew to be true. I watched her try and love herself in the way that she deserved. Almost every memory that I have of Tiffany includes laughter. How many people in your life do you have where your memories are 99.9% pure joy? Not to say that I never saw Tiffany down or struggling. I've seen her upset and angry. But she always held joy so close to her skin, and she shared it so freely even in times that she might not have had the spirit to give.

I looked back over my Facebook wall, and almost every note I ever got from that woman ended with I love you.

I love you too, Tiffany. I hope you were greeted at the Gates with a big old plate of fried calamari.

I shed my tears for Tiff, and I let go of my anger. And I thought I was doing just fine. And then I started watching the latest episode of Glee. In the new episode, Curt's Dad has a heart attack. And no sooner did I realize what was going on that I had to stop watching and start writing.

This is my goodbye to you, Tiffany. I know I will see you again (I hope not too soon...unless you get resurrected or decide to swing through on a Holy Ghost Conga Line or something). You earned your rest. Sleep well. I know you are with your God, and I know he loves the hell out of your beautiful self. I would be lying through my teeth if I said that I wasn't a little bit angry with him for taking you away. Those children still need you. Those staff people need you. Your family and friends need you. But I guess what you needed was to rest a little while. So take your rest, sweet sister. Sing and shout and dance and laugh and eat and feel that joy that you gave to all of us so freely, so sweetly, and so lovingly. I love you.

Thank you for loving us so well.

Tiffany's family announced that a scholarship fund has been created, in Tiffany's name, for the homeless and at-risk youth served by YouthLink. YouthLink is the largest provider of services to homeless, at-risk, and precariously housed youth in Minnesota. Through programs that provide basic needs of food, clothing, and transitional housing to education programs and a drop-in center for homeless youth, YouthLink changes the lives of young people.

Please consider a gift to the Tiffany Harmon Scholarship Fund. Gifts can be made out to YouthLink, care of Dr. Heather Husesby, Executive Director.

Checks can be mailed to:

41 North 12th Street
Minneapolis. MN 55403

Monday, October 4, 2010

One Liner of the Week Award: Kim Kortum

This last weekend, I was in Accord, New York with eight new friends for the first fall retreat of The Waking Circle. During a break in the day on Saturday, we went for a walk in the beautiful Catskills countryside.

As we walked through the woods, laughing and watching Tasmin the Dog bound around like a a little wood nymph, I was talking with Kim as we walked along next to Barbie and Tim.

Barbie, a vivacious crackerjack of a gal, steps over a log with a large cut off branch sticking straight into the air, grabs at her crotch area and screams, "Oh lord, I've been monkey bubbled!"

Kim and I blinked at each other like two little bunnies and then lost our shit.

I then said, "Sweet Jesus, she's been monkey bubbled in the cooter!" As we glared at the offending log and branch sticking up like a big middle finger in the middle of the woods.

And Kim, with a completely straight face said, "I think that if you get monkey bubbled in the cooter that you should probably go to the E.R or get a shot or something." She nodded sagely. I ruptured an internal organ from laughing, and Barbie finished the walk holding the inside of her leg.

And that, my little great apes is the One Liner of the Week.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Statement of Solidarity with Activists Raided and Subpoenaed on 9/24/10

Below is a solidarity statement crafted by some folks from Minneapolis in response to the FBI raids. Information about signing on to the statement is included. Please distribute widely.

Statement of Solidarity with Activists Raided and Subpoenaed on 9/24/10

The raids and grand jury subpoeanas against antiwar and international solidarity activists on the morning of Friday, September 24, 2010 are not just an attack on particular activists, but on our movements for social justice as a whole. With a united voice, we condemn this repression; we demand the federal government cease its investigation and withdraw the subpoenas immediately; and we vow to continue our work for true justice.

We reject the allegation that the government's investigation into our movements is based on "material support for terrorism" in any form. This allegation is particularly ludicrous considering the terror tactics the U.S. government engages in on a daily basis, both globally and domestically. Aimed against valued members of our community, the raids against activists on Friday morning were particularly offensive to us. However, we recognize that they are unexceptional instances of repression when compared to the daily crimes against humanity carried out by U.S. imperialism.

We refuse to let the accusations of a notoriously untruthful, repressive government divide us in any way. Because an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us, we resolve to set any ideological or other political differences aside and respond in solidarity with one another. Our struggle will continue.


(All organizational affiliations listed are for identification purposes only unless otherwise noted)

Adam Briesemeister
Adam Greeley
Alicia Ronney
Amy Selvins, AFSCME 3800
Andrea Palumbo
Andrew Carhart, AFSCME 3800
Andrew Somers, Students for a Democratic Society
Angel Buechner, Welfare Rights Committee
Angella Khan, Welfare Rights Committee
Anne Benson
Bill Sorem
Brandom Madsen, Socialist Alternative
Brett Hoven, UAW 879, Socialist Alternative
Brian Payne
Bruce Berry, Vets for Peace
Bryan Berry, Junkyard Empire
Bryan Jones
Catherine Salonek, Socialist Alternative
Chante Wolf
Charlene Wilford, Welfare Rights Committee
Charles Underwood
Christopher Clauson
Christopher R. Cox, Junkyard Empire
Chuck Turchick
Cian Prendiville, Socialist Party--Ireland
Coleen Rowley
Colleen McGilp, Women Against Military Madness
Communities United Against Police Brutality (organization)
Cynthia Clark
Dan DiMaggio, Socialist Alternative
Danny King, Welfare Rights Committee
Darryl Robinson, Communities United Against Police Brutality
Dave Bicking, Green Party
David Keuhl, Anti-War Committee
David Riehle, United Transportation Union
Deb Konechne, Welfare Rights Committee
Deborah Howze, Welfare Rights Committee
Dori Ullman, Communities United Against Police Brutality
Doug McGilp, IBT--Retired
Earl Balfour, Mayday Books
Earth Warriors are OK! (organization)
Elizabeth Raasch-Gilman, RNC 8 Defense Committee
Eric J. Angell, Our World in Depth
Erik Zakis
Eryn Trimmer, RNC8
Garrett Fitzgerald, RNC 8
Gary North
Gaylyn Bicking
Greg Gibbs
Hallie Wallace
Heather Haymond
Jaime Hokanson, RNC 8 Defense Committee
Jane Franklin, Twin Cities Indymedia
Janelle Colway, Communities United Against Police Brutality
Janet Nye, Green Party
Jean Heberle, Women Against Military Madness
Jennie Eisert, Anti-War Committee
Jim McGuire, Industrial Workers of the World
Joan Feakins
Joann Gonzalez, Welfare Rights Committee
Joanne Schubert
John Everett Till
John J. Braun, Twin Cities Peace Campaign, Pax Christi USA
John Kolstad
Joyce Wallace, Women Against Military Madness
June C. Conner, Welfare Rights Committee
Karen Redleaf, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network--Twin Cities, Our World in Depth
Karthik Ramanathan, Minnesota Cuba Committee
Katie Molm
Katrina Plotz, Anti-War Committee
Kieran F. Knutson, Industrial Workers of the World
Kimberly A. DeFranco, Welfare Rights Committee
Kira Downey
Kristen Keuhl
Kurt Seaberg
Linda Leighton, IPAC, SEIU 284, Industrial Workers of the World--Twin Cities
Linden Gawboy, Welfare Rights Committee
Lucas de Gracia
Luce Guillén-Givins, RNC8
Marie Braun, Twin Cities Peace Campaign, WAMM
Max Specktor, RNC 8
Melinda McGowan
Melissa Hill, Twin Cities Indymedia
Mia Overly, Univ. of Minn. Students for a Democratic Society
Michelle Gross, Communities United Against Police Brutality
Michelle Mandeville
Mickey Patterson, Women Against Military Madness
Minneapolis Autonomous Radical Space (organization)
MK Davis
Monica Bicking, RNC8
Nicole Duxbury
Phil Grove
Phillip Lickteig
Phyllis Walker
Polly Kellogg, Professor, St. Cloud State University
Rachel E.B. Lang, National Lawyers Guild--Minnesota Chapter
Rebecca Zaremba
Riva Garcia
RNC 8 Defense Committee (organization)
Robert Heberle, Veterans for Peace
Roger W. Cuthbertson
Roshaun White, Communities United Against Police Brutality
Sandra K. Bandli
Scott & Carrie Support Committee (organization)
Socialist Alternative (organization)
Stephen Abraham
Sue Ann Martinson, Women Against Military Madness
Susan Kolstad
Susanne Waldorf
Suzanne Linton, Green Party of Minnesota
Theodros Shibabaw, Socialist Alternative
Thomas Dooley, Mayday Books, Veterans for Peace
Timmy Ramone, Usual Suspects
Tom Schumacher, Boneshaker Books
Tonia Secor
Treana Mayer
Ty Moore, Socialist Alternative
Virginia Amy Weldon, Welfare Rights Committee
W. Brandon Lacy Campos, My Feet Only Walk Forward
Welfare Rights Committee (organization)

If you would like to add your name and/or organization to this list, please email

We Shall Not Be Moved

On 9/24/2010 the homes of several of my friends in Minneapolis were raided by the FBI. My friends have been subpoenaed and ordered to appear before a Grand Jury on charges of providing material support to terrorist groups in Palestine and Colombia. The same happened to activists in Chicago and in other parts of the country.

This election year ploy to "look tough" by law enforcement and federal agencies is nothing more than an intimidation tactic in the long tradition of state and federal sponsored anti-justice organizing (reaching back to anti-farm workers organizing in the 18th century through anti-slavery and anti-suffrage work, right up to anti-union, civil rights, and the peace and justice organizing of today). Never have the state or federal government been allies to peace and justice work of whatever stripe, nor have those entities ever been more than reactionary to organizing for liberation, workers rights, fundamental human rights, or any other economic, peace, or justice work of, for, and by the people (no matter what the Declaration and the Constitution may declare). This is simply another, predictable, carry forward of a long history of COINTELPRO type programs aimed at destabilizing the forces for truth, peace and justice in this country (and around the world for that matter).

And let's be clear, it is no coincidence that during this time of political and economic instability (to state the obvious...the two go hand in hand), the time and elements are ripe for a coalition movement to challenge the underpinnings of the capitalist corporate state. The Tea Party movement, no matter how misguided, is one example of every day folks that are (sadly) trying to reinforce the corporate values of the system, which the system may not love but tolerates since it does not fundamentally challenge the base structure of power. But the government and those that benefit from the status quo are deathly afraid that the Left will use this strategic opportunity to call BULLSHIT on the continuing vicious corporate political cycle that creates Great Depressions and Great Recessions, Oil Crises, and Housing Crises, Health Care Crisis, and double digit unemployment.

And so, staying true to form, the government has decided that the best defense is a good offense.


We see ourselves in solidarity with the liberation struggles of people without regard to man made, created, and colonial borders. We see ourselves in solidarity with women, people of color, queer folks, differently abled communities, working people, the working poor, developing nations and First Nation's Peoples. We see ourselves as true democrats, that believe in the empowered right of each person to participate in creating the structures and avenues for sharing power in a manner that respects the individual but sustains the communal. We reject corporate personhood and corporate democracy and corporatism that is ripping apart the heart of America and the world. We reject bailouts for those without need. We demand a fundamental right to free education, free health care, and freedom from the shackles of the corporate cycle which demands our labor while maintaining our poverty. We demand justice, and no invasions of our homes or intimidation of our friends, family, allies, or community is going to deter us from our work, our cause, and our liberation.

It's a damn shame when photographs of Martin Luther King, Jr, and Malcolm X are taken as proof of material support for terrorism.

We are not the terrorists, we do not participate in unjust attacks on our people, but the government, through these raids, has demonstrated that it does not share our principles. It has more in common with Al-Qaeda than it does with We the People.

Shame on you FBI. Shame on you Department of Justice, and shame on you Barack Obama.

We shall NOT be moved.

And so I call on each of you that believes in justice, that believes in peace, that believes that you have the right to live free from intimidation and fear from the government that is supposed to represent not repress you, to lift your voices against this injustice. Pick up your phone and call the FBI, call the Department of Justice, call the White House, and then call your Mama, your sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, ex-girlfriends, ex-boyfriends, your neighbors, your teachers, your students, random numbers out of the damn phone book and tell them about this injustice. Raise the cry and ask people to set aside their strategic differences and embrace their fundamental realities as peace and justice organizers. Trust, it doesn't matter if you are a progressive Democrat or a member of the Socialist Party, if you are to the left of Bill Clinton, then these attacks were aimed directly at you, at anyone that thinks like you, at anyone that would dare suggest that we live in an imperfect world with flawed values and that the answers and responses of the government are aimed only at ameliorating and not eliminating the root causes of why we find ourselves in this economic crisis. We are in a spiritual crisis, in a freedom crisis, in a justice crisis, and instead of reaching out to lift us up, the government has demonstrated that all it cares about is keeping us down, in our places, as cogs in the wheel of a broken system that doesn't work, doesn't serve, and doesn't give a damn about anyone or anything but the dollar.

Last time I checked the dollar didn't eat, breathe, sleep, make love, have children, cry, laugh or starve. The dollar doesn't go homeless or get sick. It doesn't die from neglect.

People do. Paper doesn't.

I stand with all those that were raided and intimidated on 9/24/2010. I choose people. I choose justice.

Friday, September 24, 2010

FBI Raids Activists Homes Across the United States

This afternoon, the FBI raided the homes of anti-war and solidarity activists across the country, including the homes of three personal friends of mine: Steff Yorek, Jess Sundin and Meredith Aby. For nearly a decade, I worked with Steff, Jess, and Meredith either directly through the Anti-War Committee in Minneapolis or through solidarity work around queer liberation, the Puerto Rican independence movement, and efforts to halt the march towards war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These are women that I love and respect. I also know that they have done their work and organizing with integrity and respect. These raids are an election year ploy, and must be denounced by folks that believe in justice and the right to organize.

Statement from Fight Back News below. Also see coverage from Star Tribune, MPR.

Activists Denounce FBI Raids on Anti-war and Solidarity Activists Homes

Subpoenas, Searches, and FBI visits carried out in cities across the country
By Staff | September 24, 2010

We denounce the Federal Bureau of Investigation harassment of anti-war and solidarity activists in several states across the country. The FBI began turning over six houses in Chicago and Minneapolis this morning, Friday, October 24, 2010, at 8:00 am central time. The FBI handed subpoenas to testify before a federal grand jury to about a dozen activists in Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan. They also attempted to intimidate activists in California and North Carolina.

"The government hopes to use a grand jury to frame up activists. The goal of these raids is to harass and try to intimidate the movement against U.S. wars and occupations, and those who oppose U.S. support for repressive regimes," said Colombia solidarity activist Tom Burke, one of those handed a subpoena by the FBI. "They are designed to suppress dissent and free speech, to divide the peace movement, and to pave the way for more U.S. military intervention in the Middle East and Latin America."

This suppression of democratic rights is aimed towards those who dedicate much of their time and energy to supporting the struggles of the Palestinian and Colombian peoples against U.S. funded occupation and war. The activists are involved with well-known anti-war groups including many of the leaders of the huge protest against the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, MN in September 2008. The FBI agents emphasized that the grand jury was going to investigate the activists for possible terrorism charges. This is a U.S. government attempt to silence those who support resistance to oppression in the Middle East and Latin America.

The activists involved have done nothing wrong and are refusing to be pulled into conversations with the FBI about their political views or organizing against war and occupation. The activists are involved with many groups, including: the Palestine Solidarity Group, Students for a Democratic Society, the Twin-Cities Anti-War Committee, the Colombia Action Network, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, and the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera (a Colombian Political Prisoner).
Steff Yorek, a long-time antiwar activist and one of the activists whose homes was searched, called the raids “An outrageous fishing expedition.”

We urge all progressive activists to show solidarity with those individuals targeted by the U.S. Government. Activists have the right not to speak with the FBI and are encouraged to politely refuse, just say “No”.
Please contact or if you would like to provide support to the targeted activists.