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Category: Political Activism

A’s, Laney, and Gentrification

There’s a lot of interesting politics at Laney right now. The Oakland A’s want to build a new stadium on land owned by the Peralta school district. Much of the faculty and staff at Laney are actively against the project. On it’s face, I don’t really care about the A’s stadium or understand why they need to build a new one when they could easily expand it by getting rid of some of their infinite parking. Most of the opposition to it is about the gentrification it will bring.

I’ve observed that in practice, many people who claim to be anti-gentrification advocates display that not by advocating nuance and care in the implementation of resources, but by outright trying to disallow opportunities, programs, services, and improvements to underserved communities. These same people will come down to city hall to block developments with affordable housing because it will change their view, garden shadow, or because they want to get something out of the deal that winds up killing the project. The way I have seen white people try to avoid gentrification is by segregating – actively avoiding integrating with underserved communities and only living near other people in the same or similar racial/socioeconomic status.

Gentrification as the destruction of underserved communities by the wealthy steamrolling over them is terrible and wrong.

Gentrification as road improvements, better transportation access and options, food, and new housing developments? These are things that improve people’s lives, not decimate them.

Access to these things because I live in an area with them improves my quality of life and chances of success as a poor QTPOC student. Gentrification in this sense is not bad, and is in fact helpful to the community as a whole.

When I hear people talk about gentrification they equate these two. They talk about the addition of new housing, improved transit, and access to opportunity as if these things are the same as literally destroying entire neighborhoods. The flyer that has been circulating campus demonstrates this.

“Construction Noise and Air Pollution”

First thing, is that Laney is known for its trade school. There is a literal construction pit right outside the cafeteria. I spend 4 hours a day in the machine shop or welding lab on campus adjacent to the construction area. A trade school complaining about construction noises seems ridiculous. Additionally, the proposed site isn’t on Laney’s actual campus, it’s on a Peralta District site that consists of warehouses and office space several blocks away. I think our construction site outside the cafeteria may be more disruptive than the proposed ballpark construction several blocks removed.

“…Upscale Restaurants, Shops, and Apartments Expand”

The cafeteria closes before I get out of my classes and I don’t often have time to walk multiple blocks to order lunch between them. As a result my food intake is shit which is terrible for my health in a program that demands a lot of physical activity. I don’t usually have the spoons to figure out dinner, let alone pack a lunch the night before. It seems like people are patting themselves on the back for starving Laney students by disallowing and vilifying restaurants and food trucks in the area adjacent to campus, because avoiding gentrification is more important than student health.

“Displacement of Local Community Residents”

There is currently no housing on the land the A’s would like to acquire – however, part of their proposed plan is to build housing including below market rate homes, and possibly even some dedicated housing for Laney students and faculty. Increased housing supply is something that is desperately needed in Oakland, regardless of who funds it. As far as I’m aware, no people will be removed from their existing homes for the A’s stadium to be built. Displacement is a terrible problem and misrepresenting the causes to further an agenda helps no one.

“Skyrocketing Rents in Surrounding Communities”

It’s a bit disingenuous to say that a stadium with a development plan that includes affordable housing built on land currently containing no homes is going to make us face skyrocketing rents. As if skyrocketing rents are something we don’t already have, and as if the solution to skyrocketing rents is to not increase the supply so we have the ability for those to go down in this capitalist hellscape. This is the one that gets my housing activist goat up in arms, because that’s not how it works.

Influx of Humans Existing Near Me in My Parking Spot

The other points about parking and crowd/traffic noise are problems that I feel are super solvable. Laney is a commuter school and some of my classmates drive hours in the morning just to get to class on time, half of which start at 8am. As much of a transit advocate as I am, I understand that people still do need cars and Laney needs to be able to handle student parking and the students who drive will be sitting in that traffic. We don’t live in a public transit/cyclist/scooter/pedestrian utopia yet, and most of the East Bay is car-centered, so I get that concern.

However, we have more than 6ft available to drill into before we hit water so we can dig underground and like, store cars there without loosing much room for people to exist. What I’m saying is, we can make parking garages. Additionally, it’s not like roads are unchangeable. I am not a traffic scientist, but the topic people are on about the most is roads and traffic so I feel confident in assuming many people are On That Problem Already.

While I’m really ambivalent about where the baseball stadium goes, I do give many shits about how and what the arguments are from my school; I have to say I’m disappointed. If these are the arguments to stop all movement from happening, they are not good enough, compelling enough, or even accurate. They are largely fear tactics, buzz words, and a misrepresentation of facts. The bullet points for being against the stadium just don’t hold water. We do know that the A’s appear willing to pour boatloads of money into our college system and the area surrounding it, however, and more money to the school directly benefits myself and other students.

The way I see the situation is thus: The Peralta Board has already decided at this point so instead of spending all of our energy fighting something that will happen, we should be using it to our advantage. Which means getting as much as we can out of the deal for the Peralta college district and especially Laney.

My thoughts are that Peralta should:

  1. Lease the land to the A’s – This will give the district a constant stream of income which would help all the schools in the district. Especially since funding for community colleges has been getting harder and harder to come by. It just seems to make the most sense and be in the best interest of the longevity of the school.
  2. Have some stipulations about Laney College Student/Faculty/Staff Only Parking – which will eliminate the “game goers are stealing mah parking!” anxiety.
  3. Negotiate creating dedicated BMR Student/Faculty Housing near campus.
  4. Think about some way that the A’s stadium construction and maintenance could be used to advantage Peralta students. i.e. Providing work/job experience/internships to students in relevant departments (like welding) and require prevailing wage.
  5. Some kind of fee or donation that would go to improving the infrastructure on Peralta campuses (bathrooms and elevator maintenance, longer cafeteria hours, etc)
  6. Look into creating a community land trust that protects existing housing nearby

I am not a policy analyst. I’m just a machine student & housing activist who wants to be able to eat between classes, live near school, and learn things.

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Hiatus

You may have noticed that I really haven’t been able to do much of anything for several weeks at this point. My brain checked out two weeks ago thanks to burnout and I’m only slowly getting it back. It’s really frustrating because the world is still going to shit, I just am powerless to do anything about it because all my spoons got eaten. So, to try to recover my brain and restore my energy I’m taking a solid two weeks off activism and anything work-like.

I spent the last few therapy sessions talking about burnout and resting and how hard it is to do. Resting starts a constant internal battle where the physiological need to rest is actually a traumatic minefield because of how often I would be punished and put to work if I was caught resting when it wasn’t the designated time. I wished once that I would get sick, just so I could rest, because that was how exhausted I was and how much I was not allowed to sit down as a kid. So resting is actually a fuck ton of work. Resting is more work than activism and working, but I run myself ragged and then go splat when I forget to rest or don’t feel like fighting that day.

But at this point, for the last two and a half weeks, my body and my brain have just been screaming at me that they need to rest and recover. I need to reset. My therapist told me that working – in activism or otherwise – is an exchange of energy, and you need to be able to balance it, because if you give more than you’re taking in, it’s not healthy. Taking a break is important to restore all of the energy I’ve been spending and not replacing, and this will enable me to then have energy for things again.

Obviously, I guess. But it helped to hear it out loud and that sort of calmed the part of my brain that is still a teenager who’s freaked out about taking a break if they aren’t actively vomiting because someone will come yell at them for being lazy and unproductive and they should ignore, y’know, anything less than death-bed levels of damage and keep going.

So, I’m taking a break. I am going camping for three days after I take my shot on Sunday and I think the being in the middle of the woods with no internet to remind me the world is falling apart will be really really helpful. Beyond that, my plans for the two weeks are to: go through Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain again, play through some video games, and maybe bike a bit.

Hopefully I’ll be able to come back in full swing, because there’s shit to do, I just can’t do it right now.

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The Importance of Mourning

Something I’ve noticed in activist circles is an emphasis on pushing on past feelings to organize and do shit. Which I agree with to some extent – we can’t get stuck in sadness and let it stop us from doing things – however, it’s important to mourn and grieve and let ourselves feel and process the losses. If we don’t, we stuff it away and internalize it, and it becomes fuel for burnout later. If we don’t let ourselves have a moment to be sad and acknowledge the pain and the loss, it will build until we can no longer press on.

I didn’t mourn the deaths of my stillborn siblings until over 10 years had passed. It was harder to bear and process later than it would have been if I’d been allowed to mourn when I needed to, allowed to process when I needed to, instead of ignoring it and moving on because there was no time.

We shouldn’t lose ourselves in sadness, but we should give ourselves time to grieve.

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This Is Not Normal

I’m beginning to get anxious now that more than a month has passed since the fall of our republic election and things have started to quiet down. We’re normalizing.

We desperately want to return to normal, to stability, not to whatever the fuck this reality is. Collectively we do not do well with unrest, we don’t do well with unease, and we will do anything we can to get us back to the place where we feel secure and normal, where we can live in our bubble and pretend everything is okay.

Every time I’ve stepped foot in any chain store since the election this has hit me. The jarring normality of it all: as if our society isn’t falling apart at the seams, as if foreign countries interfering in our elections or being one tantrum away from nuclear war isn’t something that’s actually happening. As if all of the civil unrest in this country, all of the kids who are terrified to go to school out of fear they’ll lose their parents, as if the president elect inciting violence and spreading hate was something we were all making up. Walking into target feels like being gaslit by corporate society.

We want to desperately to live in a world where things weren’t as tumultuous. But that isn’t our reality. It’s tempting to bury our heads in the sand and wish it all away, to create as much of a bubble as we can to surround ourselves in. To create a new normal that adapts to fascism in this country just being a fact of life. We want to not have to fight.

None of those are bad feelings. I crave normalcy, I yearn to be able to live and not feel like my country has betrayed me, or that danger is at every turn because of the intersections of my identities. I long for stability.

But we elected a literal fascist who’s activating all the other fascist and fascist leaning types that have been preparing for this for 30 years; people I’ve grown up with, training I’ve had. They’ve been here all along and they’re ready now. We can’t have normal, we can’t have stability, we can’t be safe unless we fight back. Until we acknowledge and remind ourselves that this isn’t normal, that we have to fight, that we cannot let complacency overrun us, stability will be elusive.

We have to fight back on every front, wherever we can.

For me, this looks like local housing advocacy so we can actually be a sanctuary (if you want to get involved in building more housing, check out your local YIMBY cell). Working on advocating for homeschoolers locally and providing as many resources to homeschoolers as possible. It’s being involved with my local hackerspace & arts community, and building local coalitions. It’s writing, prolifically, while I still can, and making all of the art.

None of this is normal, as much as we desperately want to make it so. We need to remember that.

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Expecto Patronum

I was talking to my therapist last night about the election and activism and something she poked at really struck me.

It is important for activism to come from a place that isn’t fear. Fear and panic spreads like wildfire and runs everyone down. The longevity of the fight depends on us being able to approach our activism from a place of okayness inside ourselves.

I woke up in a good mood this morning. My partner made coffee that we sipped quietly while working on our respective projects. I’m working on and lining up freelance projects to stay afloat and figuring out what of my personal projects I want to start on next.

I know everything is shit in the world but right now I feel okay. And I almost felt guilty about it, but here’s the thing.

It’s important – vitally important – that we make and keep and foster moments of happiness, that we take care of ourselves, that we love ourselves and each other, that we take our actions against facism from a place where we are emotionally okay and stable and not terrified.

Selfcare in the face of fascism is resistance. Finding ways to not live in a permanent state of anxiety while still fighting is revolutionary. Being happy and hopeful are not bad things in light of everything that’s going on, they are important, and they are the things we need to cling to, because those will keep us going.

Like I’ve been telling myself since election night, little things matter, they matter a lot. Find the little things that bring you peace and hold on to them. We have a long road ahead of us, and running on adrenaline isn’t sustainable.

You are allowed to be happy and feel okay and have good days. Fighting doesn’t mean you have to be afraid all the time, please don’t. Find the little things that matter, let them fill you up – like a patronus charm. We can resist best when we’re not letting fear rule our every waking moment.

 

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Existing Is Resistance

So, we elected a facist.

I, like every other marginalized in-any-remote-way person have spent the last week utterly terrified. It’s an anxiety attack that won’t go away. I’m suddenly very aware of the intersection of my transness, queerness, afabness, and olive skin.

I am public about all of those, I’m public about being queer and poly, I exude queer vibes in person.

Nothing is normal anymore. My life is topsy-turvy. All of my plans jumped out the window right behind my hope for the future. I was a poll worker on election night and I told the voters not to tell me anything because I needed to get through closing the polls when voting was over. I got home and my partner hugged me and told me what happened.

I was in shock. I’m still in shock. Every day existential dread grows a little more. Every day the background level of constant anxiety grows a little more. I’m worried about my olive-toned siblings, I’m worried about my partners, I’m worried about my friends. I’m worried about everyone.

And there’s a part of me that feels super prepared for this. A switch activated.

I was made for this. I am a product of the conservative movement meant to fight in the culture war they’ve spent the last 30 years building for and I am fucking pissed. Don’t think the right didn’t see this, didn’t plan this, didn’t see the opportunity in hiding Mike Pence behind the intolerable senseless oaf that is Donald Trump. We have Hitler 2.0 and puppets. Trump is horrifying and charismatic – he can pull on hate and fuel it. Pence is worse. Pence will have control.

And I grew up in Pence’s world. I grew up in the world that said my purpose in life was to fight in this war and guess what, they were right.

But I am fighting for my life and the lives of those around me. The lives of those already and about to be targeted. I know now why I felt like I needed to be here, why following my instincts have taken me to this place in this community…because I need to be here, now, – the resistance.

Existing as myself is an act of resistance, empowering others to do the same is resistance. This is our reality now.

We elected a facist, and now we have to do everything we can to stop facism from taking hold, or WW2 will pale in comparison.

I am fucking terrified, I am angry, I can’t stop thinking about the future, if that even exists. But I am taking this existential dread and channeling it into everything I’m able. I’m fighting with every fiber of my being and reminding myself that this isn’t normal. 

notnormal4small

What’s Next?

I’ve spent the week updating the security on all of my devices and getting PGP setup on my email. If you haven’t installed Signal already, you should. The EFF has some good advice in their security starter pack that would be a good place to start.

I’m going to be adding a page where you can verify my ID by my PGP key and see what things I’ve also verified. In the meantime, I’m on keybase.io. CRHE is gearing up for our annual fundraiser and putting efforts into preparing to help people who start homeschooling because of the election. I’m getting involved in my local community and politics to make change here with East Bay Forward and on my own. I’m helping build a safe, open, hackerspace in my community as well.

I’m making rage art again, and some of that is in the form of banners for download. I’m not being quiet. I’m enjoying the last 62 days of First Amendment rights before everything really goes to shit.

How you can help me

Finding a 9-5 job at a startup seems ridiculous now. It seems normal. Nothing about now is normal. I am looking to spend my energy helping people, being an activist, doing whatever I can to provide safe haven and squash facism. I am an artist, activist, and organizer with mad web skills, I intend on using every skillset I have to get myself and others through the next 4+ years.

If you have the financial ability to help, I need enough to pay bills and acquire meds and eat – you can setup a recurring donation on patreon and also get cool art. Or just donate. I am an uninsured, unemployed, queer enby trying to get my documents together. I just spent $200 on my passport update and still need to get my license updated.

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I was meant to be an arrow

We would scoff at the idea that people wanted to have well-rounded educated children. I was meant to be an arrow to pierce the darkness and pop all the well-rounded bubbles. << actually a thing that was said.

I watched the news nightly from the time I was 8, I listened to Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingram and Sean Hannity religiously as a teenager. I saw Bill O’reilly speak, Ralph Reed recognized me and said hello at TeenPact. I went to a video conference that Newt Gingrich did, I attend the FRC Action convention with TeenPact twice, I met Bobby Jindal, Zell Miller, and Sonny Perdue knew who I was. I had a name in the Republican circles in GA. I campaigned for countless religious right candidates. My first sign waving venture was during the 2004 election and I caught the bug. I spent time in local campaign offices putting together phone banking scrips that worked really well, I traveled and campaigned for people in Alabama, Florida, Virginia, and New Hampshire – as well as being thoroughly involved in the political scene in Georgia.

My blog was relatively well known – as well known as a teenager’s commentary on politics can be, anyway. I lived and breathed political activism from the time I was 13 until I was just shy of 18 when the burnout set in.

Politics is interesting where it overlaps with religion – and sexism, and gender roles. I’ve talked a bit about TeenPact and the sexism and queerphobia there is just as rampant in the republican party. My political involvement was a bit of a paradox. On one hand it was the only thing that was encouraged besides being a homemaker and I latched on to it for dear life. On the other, we acknowledged that a woman’s place was not in politics unless it was under a man in some way, so my activity was limited to ensure I was always under some kind of male authority – training to be a political helpmeet (my husband or son(s) could be the president someday, after all).

I am keenly aware of the amount of hate and fear of others that runs rampant in the christian conservative-republican communities. I was inundated by messages from all sides that being queer, liberal, compassionate, and seeing The Others as just as human as we are was wrong. Damning, even.

I was told by every authority figure to fear anyone who was different from what I was, what we were. The lack of compassion never set well with me, but I had nothing to compare it to. It was all I knew. I was warned of being too learned, too knowledgeable, too educated lest I become one of those man-hating feminazis. We shunned education in favor of the blissful ignorance paraded as enlightenment by right-wing pundits and preachers.

There wasn’t really a dramatic turning point. The burnout happened when I was close to 18 while my legs were infected and I couldn’t keep up physically or emotionally because life in general was taking it’s toll. I dropped out of politics and into relative obscurity – I was married, so it was expected. Quietly re-evaluating the things that were important to me while working really hard to be the kind of wife I was supposed to be (until self-acceptance became a thing and our relationship was healthier for it).

 

I wasn’t raised to be an independent person. My mother literally said, of my independence and desire for it “what do you think God thinks of that?!” I was 17 and a half and just stared at her blankly, and quietly mumbled something along the lines of “I think he’s probably okay with it?”. I was raised to obey whoever is above me, it’s something I’m still trying to un-learn.

While campaigning, I wasn’t campaigning for things I truly believed in because I wasn’t allowed to have my own beliefs, I was campaigning along the Paulino Party Lines – because that was accepted and encouraged. As long as I followed the rules, campaigned for those my parents approved of, and didn’t get any independent thoughts in my head, I was free to travel for short periods of time and feel like I was making a difference.

Toxic religion and conservatism permeated every fiber of my existence and my very confused and hyper closeted self. Being told day in and day out that you’re wrong for not being X or Y enough, burying all the thoughts and feelings that don’t line up with what you’re supposed to be…ignoring the things that feel wrong because technically they’re right. I learned that politics is corrupt as fuck and the GOP isn’t better than anyone else, and the reason they can organize and come out in droves is because they use hate and fear as their motivators.

Over time I reclaimed my independence, and I couldn’t let fear and hate dictate my actions anymore. I accepted that the person I am and the person I am becoming is the opposite of the person I was supposed to be. I am everything I was supposed to be fighting against.

Here I am, 2016, actively working to make the world better, to be an arrow to pierce the darkness, to bring light and compassion and empathy into the world any way that I can.

They succeeded, I suppose, just not in the way they meant to.

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