08.20.2013 / Interview with Maya Weeks on BEYOND OAKLAND

MW: One question that was really big for me at Beyond Oakland was ‘How do you present a vision of a life you would actually want?,’ and I think that came out of something that Cecily [Nicholson] said, but also–

ES: Is this in writing, or in activism, or is there separation between the two?

MW: No. Nothing was separated at Beyond Oakland. We just sat in a circle and talked about everything, and it was very flowey–there has to be a better word for that–there was a lot of–until stack started happening, it was just like, people each jumping in after the other, actually quite a bit of space being given and like, sometimes raising hands, but um, also, just sometimes somebody following what somebody else said. So ‘How do you present a vision of a life you would actually want?’ might have come out of Cecily or maybe Anne Boyer, but like definitely both, um, and, oh, I have I have this note–here–at the top of the page that says “the combination of proximity and admiration,” which is what Michael [Nardone] said about being around Juliana [Spahr], and like, how it’s difficult for him.

ES: Yeah, he said something similar to me, like, how it’s difficult for him to be around her.  [laughter] He was like, I kind of can’t handle it. And I was like, she’s just a human, it’s okay. [laughter]

MW: [laughter]

ES: And he was the one who was talking about the Montreal student strike?

MW: Yeah, he was talking about the student strike in Montreal. Um, so the first two things that I wrote on this page were like, the things that I kind-of wanted to find out about during this conversation, because the conversation was posited as a place to understand or to like, further develop thought after the panel on Saturday, or Friday, or whatever the day before was. Um, so I wanted to know more about urban gardening in Detroit and how that was problematic. Marie Buck.

ES: Did you get to ask her about that?

MW: Kind-of, finally, after the conversation, like we talked about it Sunday afternoon, after the talk. But that didn’t get addressed during the conversation. There just wasn’t room for it; it didn’t come up at all.

ES: Yeah–what’d she say to you?

MW: Um, I’ll try to talk about that after I talk about the other things I wrote in my notes.

ES: Okay, I’ll just keep sawing this table. [sound of sawing]

MW: Okay. And so like, the other question–the thing I was thinking about, which is like, something I’m always thinking about–is like, ‘What defines the local?’ Or being on the inside. Or being a member of a group.

ES: Uh huh.

MW: Which is something that, um–

ES: Your work is really interested in–

MW: My work is really interested in. Something that, like, seems really relevant.

ES: You should say your name for the tape.

MW: Maya Weeks.

ES: And what your most recent work is.

MW: My most recent work is, um, maybe this poetic project called Left Out in Weather, that’s kind-of about the Great Pacific Garbage Vortex, or maybe, um–

ES: What is the Great Pacific Garbage Vortex? I have no idea. [laughter]

MW: There–there is trash swirling in the gyres of all the oceans, and the Pacific one has like, had the most research done on it, and it’s supposedly the biggest. From what I understand.

ES: And it’s like, it’s own island?

MW: Yeah.

ES: Okay–

MW: But it’s also, not solid, and like, the debris is not always connected to other debris, like, it’s so massive. It’s not just a big mass of plastic floating. It’s like, a sea of garbage. From what I understand. So maybe that. Or, like, this book I’m writing–or wrote–called the fragility of we, and also this book called The Possibilities are Endless. [laughter] Those are my projects right now.

ES: So, back to the questions you had from Beyond Oakland.

MW: Yeah, so like, Cecily was talking about working with indigenous communities, and, like, the populations she organizes with in Vancouver, and I was really curious about how–how she came to be a member of those communities. Or if she considers herself a member. And I actually asked her about that, about like–she said about her Vancouver community specifically, like, where she works with Elders, that she had asked them if they see her as part of the community, and they had told ‘Yes.’ And this was after being involved with them for like, six years. I think it’s been like, ten years now, she said.

ES: So she, like, she became an Elder, through, duration?

MW: She wasn’t an Elder, but she was a member because she had put the work in to be there. Um, so i don’t know why I keep wanting to ask questions about insides and outsides. Or like why–that seems like, really superficial.

ES: Well, talking about [sawing sounds] and um, sort of the ability or the level at which you’re able to participate based on whether you’re seen as inside or outside, or whether you see yourself as inside or outside?

MW: Yeah.

ES: Especially in, like, the wake of Occupy, where suddenly like, almost everyone was inside.

MW: Yeah, no, like it can be possible for everyone to be inside? Kind of. Almost.

ES: Complicatedly inside. Inside sometimes.

MW: Yeah.

ES: But, those moments where everyone almost is. [sawing sounds]

MW: Which happen to be the ecstatic moments. [sawing sounds] Um, so I have this quote here, actually,from Marie, which kind-of addresses the urban gardening thing, I think, or like, this wave of gentrifiers, like, people who are effectively gentrifying, but who are anti-gentrification, coming into a place and being like ‘We are going to do this thing, and live this sustainable life, and hopefully be involved in this community and help out,’ um, like, say, starting an urban garden. Which I feel is a really effective strategy in Oakland. The urban gardens I’ve visited here are very much of the community and for the community, and like, really strong. Marie said that, in Detroit, the reason that it doesn’t work is that it is posited as The solution for the failed city. And, like, maybe if it weren’t posited as like The capital-T solution, um, it would be an okay thing. As just a thing that is going on.

ES: Just a way to create food justice.

MW: Yeah, exactly. I don’t think that food justice is irrelevant at all. Um, but she said, ‘You can make this thing that can envision what we want, but it’s not going to be secure.’ That also might have been about social movements in general. Like, the conditions of Occupy or the conditions of a strike. No–she was talking about anarchist spaces.

ES: That they aren’t secure? How so?

MW: Like, say, The Public School, or like, Zach Houston’s space, pre-Public School. How that exists and people are so jubilant in it and it works while it’s working but they’re unable to last.

ES: And why do you see that–why–wha–what–

MW: Like, historically, they’re unable to last. Like, historically, none have lasted. Or maybe some do. The Longhaul‘s still going. I wonder how long that’s been around. But, like, a lot of them fall apart. Or like, Occupy is basically over, even though it never officially ended. We talk about it in the past now.

ES: What do you think–well, did she-did you get an answer from her as to what those things are that make it unable to–

MW: No–we didn’t go down that road–

ES: –last? [sawing sounds]

MW: –that I can remember.

ES: I feel like that’s really relevant, but I also feel that that’s one of the things about guerrilla tactics, um, is that it’s one of the things that makes recuperation more difficult. Having a–creating a constantly shifting landscape. Like how the landscape is shifting in Rene Gladman’s work. You know? Or like, if you get too stable, you’re ability to–like, it becomes much easier to recuperate what you’re doing into the system. Um, so in that sense there’s sort of Temporary Autonomous Zones–

MW: Yeah. But they’re not totally autonomous.

ES: No, they’re not. But what people would call that–

MW: Yeah–and then another thing, at the beginning before I started talking about this, David Buuck mentioned that, like, he wasn’t going to interrogate his pilates practice. Which I thought was really interesting and connected, like, this is the line between activism and quote-unquote “being a person.” You know? Like, when are you an activist and when are you just “being a person” like feeding your dog and walking your dog and going to pilates and going to the grocery store? Like, you can be an activist but you still have to do these things?

ES: And by ‘these things’ you mean things that are participating in the culture that you have a critique of?

MW: Yeah. Exactly.

ES: And how there are certain levels at which you still have to participate?

MW: And that I feel end up being really hypocritical within activist circles.

ES: It’s hard not to–it’s hard to completely–

MW: It would be impossible.

ES: Impossible to completely isolate yourself from–

MW: Yeah.

ES: I think there’s not a lot of generosity for–

MW: I mean I’m not complaining about it, I’m just–

ES: –for people’s levels of participation.

MW: I mean–this is coming out–I don’t mean to complain about Buuck going to pilates. I totally support that. Because I have my own things like, you know, I need to go to the beach sometimes, or I just like, want to–I’m in total support of that. What I’m curious about is, like, why these things are seen as un-interrogateable, or something? Or, why these activities, like say the pilates class, are in conflict with activism. Like I wish there was a way to be able to be doing pilates, or like, going to dance class that I have to pay for, or like, going and having an ice cream at a place I have to pay for, without contributing to capitalism. You know? And also this relates to my question of ‘What is the domestic and the active, and where do they intersect?’

ES: Yeah, and like, what is the presence of, like, ecstatic leisure.

MW: Right. Or even not ecstatic leisure, or even just down-time.

ES: Even just down-time, and how that, like, well, like, in America, it’s so Protestant, there’s such a focus on production and wanting, like–I mean, huge struggles happened to create the eight-hour work day, but everyone’s asking for more work now, instead of asking for more pay for less work. Which is–why is that conversation happening right now? Um, why do people want more work? And why is the Protestant work ethic–

MW: Because we’re not able to look to the future, because we have to be so short-sighted in order to just keep getting by. We all have to just live on a month-to-month basis, kind of.

ES: And so then, what is the presence of, in the movement, for acknowledging the necessity of the radical potential of leisure? Or of, rest.

MW: Do you have a pen? [laughter]

ES: [laughter] We’re also recording it, but–yeah, go for it. [laughter] I think that’s important. I think that a movement that doesn’t have the acknowledgment of the [sawing sounds]–how like, I think I mentioned the Temporary Autonomous Zone, by Hakim Bey. I’ve been re-reading T.A.Z. lately, and thinking about, I think he mentioned protesting, but demanding like–

MW: So that was something that Michael talked about in Montreal. This is where the conversation began: he talked about the student strikes and how they’ve been going for, years, I want to say, like seven, maybe ten, at least six, something. Long. But that they take a break every summer. To gear up for the following school year. And everybody does this. And like, all the activists do this. So everybody gets to rest.

ES: That’s so smart, right? Okay, so we have a culture of–post-9/11, we have a culture of endless warfare, and also of endless, like, production, which has been longer than the endless warfare, but like, that same mind-state and thinking–

MW: Well, the endless production is to benefit the endless warfare.

ES: Yeah, and thinking about how, how creating that shift, suddenly in the light of that, seems really important. So, we feel like, to fight endless warfare we have to be engaging in endless warfare, but–

MW: Right, So–

ES: Maybe we don’t. Or maybe–

MW: We need a reset. [beat] Two things that Michael said were, quote “It never gets to general strike,” and, in Montreal. Because like, the students strike and make their demands, and he said a bit about the different student organizations and there being one fuck up where like, there are more moderate organizations and then there are the radical ones.

ES: Yeah,

MW: I forget the names of them, um. So he talked about it being fucked up when the moderate organization, like, decided to meet with the government, or something, during elections. And the radical one wanted to hold out. I don’t remember the details. But, point being that like–

ES: So, reform vs. abolition.

MW: Yeah. Oh, so there there was a big reform versus revolution conversation. And this was when the mansplaining started happening.

ES: [laughter]

MW: So terrible. Because everyone was–not everyone, two…men, were both just like, mouthing off about revolution, like declaring like “Why we need revolution! I–” Which I’m pretty sure that everyone in the room has that as like, their baseline. LIke, nobody’s disagreeing with you here. So that was really unnecessary. The other thing–I just want to finish with what Michael said–about people enjoying their summer, which comes back to your, like, radical potential for rest–

ES: [mumbles something]

MW: Um,

ES: So you want to come back to the thing Michael said?

MW: That was just it. He said “people enjoying their summer.” That was all I wrote down. Because, yeah, it’s necessary.

ES: I felt like the Occupy barbecues were a good example of the radical potential of the party. Or like, the gathering–

MW: There was some critique of the barbecue at the conversation. There was also support of the barbecue.

ES: –that the barbecue was, like, right, it’s a way for people to get to know each other.

MW: Yeah–you should talk to Buuck about it, ’cause he was really um, pro-barbeque, and Juliana had a critique of the barbecue.

ES: Ohmygod, What’s Juliana’s anti-barbeque critique? [laughter]

MW: Um. I mean, she didn’t say anything, at least that I can remember, but it was kind of like, ‘Nothing was happening’ you know, like, it was just barbecues.

ES: I feel like–I feel that sometimes that’s important.

MW: I do too. I do too.

ES: It’s like, trying to put the action in place before there’s the trust–and the community.

MW: I think the barbecue is like, the most grassroots thing. [sawing sounds] Or like, its so grassroots, you don’t–[sawing sounds]–or even–I really like radical things that don’t posit themselves as radical.

ES: The radical dance party. Or, the dance party as radical.

MW: Or like–

ES: The moon bounce.

MW: [laughter] Exactly. Or like, the conversation that you have with a stranger. Or [sawing sounds] even, like, traveling can be radical. Putting people up in your home. Or being put up by people. Stuff like that, that kind of like, immediate connection.

ES: And sort of being outside of. I think when it’s framed in that way–like, right, Occupy was putting a bunch of people that usually wouldn’t be socially interacting together. And so to have a bunch of people who usually wouldn’t be able to have that kind of interaction, where they would be normally ignoring each other on the street, or like, stereotyping each other on the street, suddenly are in this space together–

MW: –and they’re talking about how, like, great the rice is, or whatever.

ES: Yeah. Those little everyday things that suddenly make you able to–

MW: I love those moments.

ES: [sawing sounds]

MW: So, the next things I have written down are “indefinite threat” and “the trauma of repression.”

ES: What do you mean by “indefinite threat?”

MW: I have no idea. I have no idea why I wrote that. Um,

ES: [sawing sounds]

MW: maybe it will come back to me. [re: sawing sounds] You made it halfway!

ES: We’re halfway there! [beat] So. Is the “trauma of repression”–

MW: There was a little bit of conversation about, like, people not being in the streets and Why aren’t people in the streets? Why isn’t everybody revolting already? Why aren’t we all rising up?

ES: You mean like, why do we have to wait for another black person to be murdered?

MW: No no no, but like, why are people still going and working their day jobs instead of like, having radical barbecues. So, Cecily said “I think one of the questions is, Who’s not in the street everyday, and Why?,” and like, something Anne Boyer was kind-of talking and thinking a lot about is, like, What if you have kids? What if you have a mortgage? What if you are, you know…there’s a million economic reasons why people aren’t in the streets. Aside from, like, a lack of desire.

ES: And then, how can you create ways for this people to plug in.

MW: Right. So the conversation didn’t even get that far. Something that Anne said. Anne talked a lot about surviving. Um. And I think Cecily did too, kind of. Um.

ES: Like, day-to-day survival?

MW: Day-to-day survival, and like, survival in a household way, survival on the streets, like, Who’s surviving what and what does it take to survive? And, she, Anne, talked about workfare.

ES: About what?

MW: Workfare.

ES: Workfare?

MW: Yeah. As opposed to welfare, I think? And I’m not really sure what workfare is, and I have it written down as something to look up. I don’t know how it works. Yeah. So, another thing that Cecily mentioned was, um, “to be aware of the cultural history already existing.”

ES: In the place where you’re at?

MW: Yeah. Which I think, like, that’s a big deal. I don’t even need to say anything about that. I feel really ignorant about the cultural history here. And, everywhere. So, I don’t feel like I have the right to, to even make statements about things a lot of times.

ES: [mumbles something] it’s hard to know [mumbles something] silencing voices?

MW: Or, like, we talk about the gentrification of Oakland as opposed to the Oakland that Oakland was in the 60s, but what about the Oakland that Oakland was in the 30s, or what about the Oakland that Oakland was in the 1800s, or what about the Oakland that Oakland was in 1400, what about this place that this was in 00, what about this place that this was five-thousand years ago, you know? Like, how often do we look as far back as can be looked?

ES: Taking the long view, as opposed to the short view.

MW: And like, also, how do you get any kind of relatively accurate long view, when all the history books are skewed?

ES: [sawing sounds]

MW: Yeah, I really loved these, these Cecily moments, that were so wise. Um, she also talked about–

ES: I think we should start calling other wise moments “Cecily moments.” Just in general, like I love those Cecily moments.

MW: Yeah. Cecily also mentioned working in a very specific neighborhood, and so knowing her particular community and her work arising out of that context. And, I think that’s really key to the prolonging question. And the inside/outside–

ES: [sawing sounds]

MW: That looks like a good strategy. [re: sawing the table]

ES: [continues sawing the table] Yeah, it’s a bit quieter.

MW: It is quieter. And it feels, more, um, less all-over-the-place. I don’t know what the opposite of all-over-the-place is.

ES: Maybe: contained. [laughter] Effective?

MW: Um, for some reason I have “austerity” written here. I’m not really sure why. And then I have “the day-to-day” which is related to “surviving.” Um, and then I have “reasons to live,” which also has to do with “surviving.” And, uh–

ES: So that might be–We were talking earlier about the role of language or writing or poetry–

MW: Yeah. As a reason to live.

ES: Well, not as a reason to live, but like…reminders?

MW: Or, reminders of being alive?

ES: Or, of the reasons to live? Because those are so easy to forget in this culture. But also, like, poetics as, as like, continuing to bring up, continuing to create the conversation and bring it back to, like, Why isn’t everyone in the streets? You know, like, I feel like, it’s so easy to fall into the day-to-day, and the un-critiqued day-to-day, or the critiqued but feeling isolated and unable to act day-to-day.

MW: Or, the critiqued and having to push the critique down in order to pay the rent day-to-day.

ES: In order to survive. And so, like, poetics as a way of bringing the critique back up in the day-to-day. Like if you do this every day–

MW: You’re a poetry worker.

ES: Yeah, if you’re a language worker. [sawing sounds]

MW: Uh, yeah. I have a note here that says “problem is not intersection,” which goes back to the barbecue thing as being a place of intersection. And like, yeah, like, just the basic alienation of our society, how we’re kept from each other.

ES: Like, geographically–

MW: And how, we spend more time apart than together. Like, I don’t. I don’t have a default social group that I’m always around. I think that, unless you live collectively, or have a family, like if you have a nuclear family that you live with, then you have like, a collective social group that you’re always around. But not everybody has that.

ES: Yeah.

MW: Um. That’s another kind of surviving. Um. So poetry. There’s this note here that says “poetry before politics,” which I think came out of something that Buuck said.

ES: What do you think he meant by that?

MW: I don’t–I don’t know if that was what he said or if that was my response to what he said. I think that that sounded like his argument to me. His argument sounded like that. And,

ES: What do you think about that?

MW: I don’t know. I also have a note that says “kinds of outlets for thinking differently.” Along with “reasons to live” and poetry being that. I guess “poetry before politics” being like, is a manifestation. Like, politics not needing to exist for themselves, but just being realized. Like, maybe you don’t have to articulate your politics if you act on them.

ES: That sort-of brings up the question of, like, what we were talking about earlier, of the formal constraint, or like, a form enacted–like, work that enacts its politics in its form. And like, why–like, the person at your residency, who had the critique of conceptual work as, or, the hatred of conceptual work without articulating the critique of it, but I feel like often the critique of it–

MW: I feel like the critique was assumed, like she was assuming that I knew what her critique was, that she didn’t have to articulate it.

ES: But I mean, like, there’s a critique that comes out of the unexamined, sort-of masturbatory, uh, formal constraint based work of OuLiPo, and that um, there’s something else that’s happening here right now, especially in our–or, like the local Bay Area where–people are using formal constraints that I think are enacting their politics in sort-of, like, a visceral way, and it sort-of goes back to like the Why articulate something when you could do it, question. So like-

MW: Bodies!

ES: Yeah. So everyone, like, talks about bodies, but when is their poetics actually embodying, uh, and that being an important question for poetics that, well, claim to be insurrectionary. I don’t know. [laughter] [sawing sounds]

MW: Along the lines of the inside/outside thing, there’s this note that says “going into the neighborhood versus going into your own neighborhood” or being in your own neighborhood and doing that work. We were talking a little bit about activists, like, finding out about a cause, and like, going to the cause to join it, versus like, when the cause might–Okay, like my own personal experience of Occupy Oakland was that it happened here, and so there was no way I was not going to be involved. Because it was in my place, and so I felt like it was okay to get involved, whereas if it had just been Occupy SF, I would have been like, I don’t know if I can come in, I’m an outsider, bla-blah-bla-bla-blah.

ES: That also happened with me, with Biblioteca Popular, where like, it was sort-of my community, because it was near Mills,–

MW: Yeah, Juliana talked about that–

ES: –but not really, because Mills is so separate from the community that it is the bubble inside of. And like, so much of the Biblioteca was started by, you know, white activists who like in North Oakland or South Berkeley, who were like “this needs to exist in that place,” and yeah, eventually the people who lived in that neighborhood started taking over, and that’s how it exists now, but. I was excited about that project, but could never fully engage because it was so distant from where I lived, that it was such a–

MW: Right, it was geographically difficult.

ES: –hassle to get there. It was geographically difficult and it wasn’t my community. Even though, in some way, it was?

MW: Yeah.

ES: Whereas like, if that had happened here, in West Oakland, I would feel much more comfortable engaging in it, because I would know that I would be able to participate in it often.

MW: Right. You could stop by on your way after work, or before school, or you could, just like, pop over. See what’s up.

ES: And so like, those sorts of hyperlocal things feel really important for developing that sort of, like, trust in the way that the barbecue does.

MW: Yeah. I think that was the big problem for the barbecue. For like, with the going into the neighborhood, I have a note that says “the outside agitator.” Like, the person who believes in the cause–not putting any value on them, and not like, putting value on the term agitator positively or negatively, just like, a person. And then with your own neighborhood, there’s a quote that says “a small battle.” LIke, you’re waging a small battle, or something that you’re already invested in.

ES: A small daily battle. That you will actually be continuing with. As opposed to like, a drive-by. Or like, being only there for the protest and not for the kind of work that has to happen for the long term.  [sawing sounds]

MW: And then there’s this note that says “Who gets to go in?” Which is like, ever my question. I don’t even want to try to talk about it. And then, the next question is “What is a neighborhood?”

ES: Hmmm. Ohhh. Keep talking about that question.

MW: I have an arrow going to “residential area.” Which is also super vague. And then we start talking about organizing. Um, and organizing within the bounds of the neighborhood. And, um, something that was important in the conversation was this concept of mutual listening. And we kind of talked about mutual aid for a minute. But listening seemed really important. And it was cool, because like in the conversation there was–

[tape Side A ends]

[tape Side B begins]

–on the ground, so. So there was room for listening. Um.

ES: [sawing sounds]

MW: And there’s–so the next question is–”Who are the folks that you relate to?” And I think that this has to do with the being on the inside and being on the outside. Like, like, like you just mentioned like, relating to folks who live in West Oakland who you see on the day-to-day basis. Who you pass on the street, or, or who you come to know because you’re at the Library, even if you don’t live around there. Yeah. Um. And somebody said that there were, quote “plenty of people not involved in any social structure,” I don’t remember who said this, but it felt really really relevant and important to me. Um, like if you don’t choose to belong to a community, you don’t,–yeah, you’re not involved in social structure, and then you’re just this alien American.

ES: Sometimes it’s like, the lines between communities are so invisible too. If it’s not clear [mumbles] your affinity–

MW: Right. Is it your church? Is it the street that you hang out on or the people you walk by on your way to the store? Is it like, the crew that you ride bikes with? Is it a volunteer group that you do work with? Is it your singing club? Is it just your friends? Is it the people you party with on the weekends? I mean, there are a million possibilities, but–

ES: I’ve been thinking about that question in relation to chosen affinities versus accidental or–

MW: I was just talking about this today! And I was writing about voluntary versus involuntary affinities! I was writing about language studies.

ES: And about different voluntary families. I feel like that’s really relevant discourse in the Bay, because there are so many transplants, but specifically in like, queer communities. Where people have been rejected from their biological family, or often dislocated from their geographic affinity, or their origin.

MW: Oh man, I have so many thoughts about this–because I feel like those communities tend to be really exclusive.

ES: Because, in response to having been so–

MW: –and not without reason, but I feel that, especially being a native Californian, and a straight person, I feel really excluded in the Bay. [laughter]

ES: [sawing sounds]

MW: Yeah, yeah. Despite having been an outcast and a weirdo my entire life. Where I grew up, you know? Yeah. But it’s like, here, I’m not, quote “weird enough.”

ES: Yeah. And I feel like a lot of, like, like I was talking about like, queer communities, but I feel like also the poetry community is my chosen family. Like, people whose work is in the same conversation as mine becomes my affinity group. You know, like right, because I don’t have a [mumbles] like, looking for–and I was talking to [Erika] Staiti about this the other–going into like, the protest situation and being like, there, with all these people who you know through writing and who you are engaged with through writing and conversations around that, but you know your politics are like, so different from the people you’re there in the political moment with.

MW: But do you feel that those people that you look for, the other writers, the other poets, are um, like willing to take you? Willing to include you?

ES: I, I find that, yeah. I find that, you know, there’s always moments of being outside. [sawing sounds] I’m fairly good at overcoming the awkwardness it takes to like, engage with people. Usually I just ask them a lot of questions, people like talking about themselves.

MW: Which is something that’s so true across social groups, and like, one reason why I get really frustrated with identity politics, because like, I really just want to treat each person as a person, and take them, as, as who they are, as what I find out just by talking with them.

ES: [sawing sounds] It can be really hard, because there’s so much in this world that strives to prevent that. That’s when I, when really aggressive tactics are going to be happening against a social movement, is when it’s crossing those sorts of class and racial barriers and like, social barriers, and bridging those, because that’s what’s really terrifying, and that’s what’s really radical. And that is what the entire system is designed to prevent against.

MW: So I have another really great Ceciliy moment–

ES: Yeah?

MW: Where she says, “We need to be able to have an analysis all the time, in the micro.” Which is about this, like, race, class, gender–

ES: Which is sort of, which is sort of a response to Buuck’s like, “I don’t want to have a critique of my pilates class.”

MW: I don’t even think that he said “I don’t want to,” just like, that’s not relevant to this conversation. Or, that’s not what I’m doing right now.

ES: Yeah.

MW: I’m just so on this page with Cecily. I guess that, this is what I’m talking about also, about this domestic versus active situation. I want to be doing this analysis in the micro, you know? Um.

ES: I think that’s, like, where it comes down to what you were talking about like, not having a right to speak, and sort of playing with that, that being what you said about analysis in the micro, about analysis in every encounter. Being the thing that enables everyone to have the right to speak. With, with–the critique of the acknowledgement being fertilized by like, the external white person who’s not from here. And also–

MW: But I’m here now.

ES: I’m here, but also I have this critique that I’ve been developing, this anti-capitalist analysis of race and class, and let’s talk about that. Without talking about it, it’s not going to–crossroads. You know, like, without those difficult moments you’re not going to develop relationships.

MW: Yeah, and ultimately, we’re trying to–

ES: [sawing sounds]

MW: I like that, quote “we” are trying to get to these relationships. I, um–Jess [Heaney] said something about when Occupy started happening, certain groups, or a certain group, not being involved in Occupy because that group had already been organizing for whatever huge amount of time, and they were like, “Well–

ES: Was this Critical Resistance?

MW: No. I don’t know remember what Jess was involved in, but she was basically like, this group’s been organizing forever and like, hey we’ve been doing this forever, like, Occupy, we don’t care about you because we’re just doing our thing and we just want to get our thing done. And, Cecily, well, and there was a moment later where we were talking about building relationships, and to me, it sounded like parallel activism, where like Jess, where the group Jess was mentioning was in, say, North Oakland, right, just a place. I don’t geographically know where this was happening. And downtown, where Occupy was, and like, their relationships being essential for cross-pollination of groups, so then why would you not want to forge those relationships? If thats the work of this activism and community organizing? And Cecily basically just said that relationships are key, and I was like, Yeaaaahhh.

ES: Yeah. And I think that–I mean, one of the things that I liked about–

MW: Wait wait wait–so, her, her specific quote was “I don’t think you can underestimate the importance of communication.” Booom.

ES: [laughter]

MW: And that’s why I write poems.

ES: Boom. [laughter] Yeah. I’m going to just assume that what Jess was talking about was Critical Resistance, which is a prison abolitionist movement. I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t know. But, um, one of the things that I think that’s so important about mutual aid and, in particular, like, anarchist tactics in relationship to constant political change is that, um, we don’t have to do the same tactics. But your tactics do need to be in communication with each other.

MW: Right, exactly.

ES: And can benefit from each other. Like, if this person’s doing this thing, you know, like–

MW: I just don’t see the point of keeping things separate.

ES: And like, just because, a group is doing an action I don’t want to participate in–

MW: Because it’s all connected.

ES: Or like, when Occupy was new, it, it feels like an opportunity, because they’ve been developing that critique and have experience with organizing tactics and like, can share those.

MW: Right.

ES: And they don’t have to agree on everything. And don’t have to do the same–

MW: And there are going to be–there are bound to be people in Occupy who are invested in prison abolition. So the last couple things I have are–

ES: [sawing sounds continue]

MW: You’re so almost done.

ES: We’re so almost done.

MW: Somebody said “Experimentation isn’t for privileged people. Theory isn’t for privileged people.” Like, isn’t exclusively for. Um, I forget who it was who said that. Um, but that was…that felt useful, because, um, even people who aren’t privileged are experimenting and are, like, acting in, like, theory gets written, sure, but like, a lot of times stuff happens without even necessarily having come from theory. And, like, the theory is still there and it can be relevant whether, um, whether that’s what’s informing the actions, or not.

ES: Yeah. I think that’s really important. I had this conversation with M. Nourbese Philip at Naropa about that very same thing. Where she had talked about being an experimental black poet.

MW: Mmhmm.

ES: And how so many people in, in her community, people who were black, would be like “Why are you doing this? What needs to happen is to be clear. And to have this forceful, clear, almost like, confessional voice. And her rejection of that. And being like, No, there’s this place for this. And it’s important. And it’s doing this other thing.

MW: This–this is like the group I was trying to talk about when I was trying to talk about the rape joke, about the Vanessa Place project, right, about different people coming from quote, “the same group,” like, women, or the same identity group

ES: And the importance of a variety of tactics, at least evolutionarily speaking. Things survive when they are diverse.

MW: Mmhmm. On that note, “the material reality of more than survival!”

ES: [laughter]

MW: Ending on: having Time! Time is what we want! We want to have Time to do the things that we love to do and to take care of each other.

ES: The twenty hour work week.

MW: We just want to be able to take care of each other. Have a good time.

ES: Make some pickles.

MW: Pickles, sauerkraut. Have some encounters.

ES: More than just survival! More than just survival!

MW: Encounters!

ES: I think that, like, that’s a great chant. I want to be chanting that.

MW: More than just survival?

ES: Yeah. At the next rally. At the next life moment.

MW: At the next big moment of life.

ES: It’s not enough. The system that we live in, capitalism, is based on keeping us just at survival’s edge.

MW: I really want to learn more history, because I feel like capitalism hasn’t been the dominant mode for that long. Like, since the industrial revolution, that’s not really that long.

ES: Um, it sorta started a bit before that. I’ve been reading this book called Caliban and the Witch, by Sylvia Federici, and I leant it to someone, so I’ve only gotten about halfway through it, but it, it sort of looks at early, sort of, early capitalism and where the witch hunt came from–

MW: Oh wow. I’m also really interested in witches, so this would be great.

ES: Yeah, so it was like, you know, people who were called witches were actually part of these, like, social movements. They were, well, the heretics, which was a political movement, as well as an anti-christian movement. And the way that these women were organizing these radical riots, and then were persecuted for their organizations, but it sort of, this book sort of looks at the initiation of the movement away from, sort of, agriculturally based communities, into the wage.

MW: In the middle ages–

ES: Yeah, and the move towards the wage system; and people were against waged labor, you know, because of the way that it curtailed their freedoms.

MW: Yeah. I’m going to pause this conversation here. Or, like, stop it.

[tape Side B ends]



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