By Arkansas ElderX
Fayetteville Free Zone
Tú eres mi otro yo.
You are my other me.
Si te hago daño a ti,
If I do harm to you,
Me hago daño a mi mismo.
I do harm to myself.
Si te amo y respeto,
If I love and respect you,
Me amo y respeto yo.
I love and respect myself.
– Luis Valdez, “Pensamiento Serpentino”
Let’s blame it all on Chris Crass.
He’s a good starting place, though the roots of all this go much
further back. Back for centuries actually. Still, Crass makes a
reasonable starting place for this particular discussion. You see, the
man wrote a book, Towards Collective Liberation: Anti-Racist Organizing, Feminist Praxis, and Movement Building Strategy.
“A white guy writing about racism? Why would I want to read that?” Some people may not understand her reaction, but those who have experienced mansplaining and/or white-’splaining understand her instinctive response all too well.
Then she heard that it was a book about racism written by a white guy for other white folks. Interesting. Then Meredith Martin Moats heard that several of her activist friends of color thought highly of the book. So, she figured, it was perhaps time to give it a read. Right there, that’s the start of this part of the story.
She read the book. No, she devoured the book. She got so excited that she called some of her friends together and they collectively devoured the book. They all got so excited that they worked out how to bring the author to Arkansas to speak in both Little Rock, their home town, and in Fayetteville.
The Little Rock Collective Liberation group was so excited about the book though, that they couldn’t wait until Chris Crass got here. So they came up to Fayetteville on Sunday to talk with local activists here about our collective liberation.
So just what is all this excitement about? For one thing, in his introduction to the book, Chris Dixon, a long time anarchist organizer, firmly grounds the book and us in a long, long tradition of resistance and grassroots activism. From the last few decades to the last couple of centuries, Dixon gives us back our herstory and history that mainstream culture has tried to suppress. He places the book and us firmly in the centuries long struggle for transformation. He gives us back our ancestors and our traditions.
For another thing, the book is grounded in practical, grassroots organizing across the lines of gender, race, class, age, and ability. It sidesteps the academic and ideological language that too often chokes the life out of such work for those who don’t share the jargon.
The real power of the book though, is in its vision of a transformative movement that includes us all. And in the practical realities of building such a movement. Diversity and inclusion are easy words to say but they are much harder to do when we are all tripping over our own cultural baggage as well as the wounds which have been inflicted on each of us. Crass talks about how we can actually build a transformative movement across those old lines of division.
This is not just a book review though. Something much more significant than that happened at the OMNI Center yesterday afternoon, when the Little Rock and Fayetteville activists sat down to talk with each other.
We talked about what collective liberation means to each of us and why we thought it was important enough to spend a Sunday afternoon discussing it. We talked about the activist work going on in Little Rock and about what was happening here locally. We talked about ways that we can network and stay engaged with each other, supporting each other’s work on an ongoing basis.
The Arkansas Food Network, the Cisneros Project, oral histories and the McElroy House, Boiled Down Juice, LEAFF, men against patriarchy, solidarity economies and worker owned co-ops, the work of the OMNI Center and even that of the Fayetteville Free Zone, all were discussed. There is a lot going on in both towns and there are a lot of ways we can support each other.
Building An Ongoing Network:
Two concrete ways for the activists in Little Rock and in Fayetteville to continue engaging with each other were suggested. The first was for offline, face to face contact. People in both cities are very interested in the Arkansas Truthful Tuesday Coalition. Fayetteville folks are talking about going down to Little Rock at least once a month for Truthful Tuesday. When they do, they will meet with the Little Rock Collective Liberation group for coffee to continue talking with each other.
The second suggestion for ongoing engagement was online- to use social media to keep everyone abreast of what was going on in their respective cities. Both the Boiled Down Juice and the Fayetteville Free Zone can be used as platforms for sharing information, as can the Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for the assorted groups. Here’s the links for those who want to plug into the various networks and information flows.
To quote an old, old story about love and resistance in the face of oncoming evil, Sunday afternoon’s meeting between Little Rock and Fayetteville activists was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Our feature photo is by ADKphoto, used with permission, all rights reserved. The other two photos are by the FFZ collective.