Justice for All or None: A Note on This New Era and Possible Coalition

:– I was at The Women’s March on Washington. I did not wear a #pussyhat. I have since purchased a pussyhat, in pink, from a woman who’s donating proceeds from the hats to PBS and NPR. I will wear it with my #BlackLivesMatter and #LGBTQIA and #EqualRightsAmendment pins. –:

I want all these newly energized liberal-or-progressive-mostly-white women to hear the skepticism we are getting from women of color and lgbtqia folk, especially trans women:

  1. They want us to show up FOR them.
  2. The do not want us to save them, or fix their movements.
  3. They want us to help in the background.
  4. They want us to come to their marches and demonstrations* and risk for them, too.

I have been a feminist scholar all my life, and have been knocking around social justice movements primarily for the last five years or so. I have interviewed many women in the Second Wave and recorded those interviews for posterity (visit Va NOW’s YouTube to watch, they’re rough edits).

What is missing, still, from “white feminism” is deep engagement with the particular issues and experiences of other kinds of women.

We have a huge historical opportunity right now to build coalitions like never before, simply because so many more people are energized and realizing they have skin in the game.

“Intersectionality” is a word requesting this support, this space-making, this basic sharing. “Coalition” is about the strategy for doing that, finding our areas of common concern and really being concerned in common.

I am asking us to do a little learning. To deepen not only your action as a citizen, but to deepen your commitment to Justice for All. This country did not begin oppressing people last year. It started from the beginning. There are good historical reasons for many kinds of people not to trust us white women. Historically, we have ditched on them — every time.

Reading. Do some. There’s more here than a person can do, I know. But, do some. Show up with some education. Don’t ask people in these movements to get you hip, get hip, be cool.

Remember, make space: You get to center your issue and your symbol at your march, at your action. When you show up for others, and when you work intersectionally, the focus can’t stay on you all the time.

* There are huge practical and legal differences between planned and permitted marches compared to direct actions and spontaneous demonstrations. The latter two often involve some kind of not-very-serious law breaking — like blocking a street or highway or entrance to a building, etc. Those actions can result in arrest. Not all activists can be available for that, but we can all be available in support roles that do not risk arrest.

+ Full Disclosure: I’m the Poetry & Social Justice Fellow at Split This Rock and the managing editor of The Quarry.



#StayWoke, layers of

PoMoRed, 1/12/2016, Mt. Vernon, VA —

Staff meeting this afternoon, but just this morning Dr. Cornel West was on Democracy Now reminding us to dig in and push, we became certain that #notmypresident’s cabinet is made of #robberbarons, Texas is set to force women /clinics who have abortions to pay for the burial/cremation of the remains, and #StandingRock is gearing up for a confrontation with #historicalconsequences, read a great interview with Ralph Nader in Sun Magazine

“#StayWoke” usually shows up tagged to some awful event.

A murder by police. A missing or murdered transgender woman. An incorrectly drawn swastika on a school. News of some climate destabilization symptom meant to yank on our hearts. #Amnesia is a defense employed, by those not too-directly affected by these problems, to cope with the sheer psychic battering that Knowing does to us in a world built of Systems of Damage. #StayWoke is usually a reminder to keep looking, stay sharp. Like being awake all the time, it can lead to exhaustion and total breakdown.

BUT. #StayWoke also means staying Awake To Your Power. 

I see so many new energized people! Folks calling Congress to draw a line on #SteveBannon. The joy in that! If you’re a social justice advocate of any stripe, you’ve been hungering for a long time to see Americans Get Engaged! And it is really that simple: Call your representatives and let them know what you think. Keep those phone numbers in your contact list. Get their emails. Bug them. Bother them. Talk to them. It is, no joke, that simple.

#trump wants to fill his cabinet with #robberbarons (literally), call to draw a line on all of them. Congress must approve the appointments. Lay some conscience on these people.

1 minute out of your lunch break. That easy. You can call while you’re in line at your favorite casual dining establishment or small business eatery.

You can bet your soul that the political right has been at this a long time. That’s how we’re in this clusterfu(K. Because this shit works. Some of the levers of state operation can be swung in our favor.

Ralph Nader reminds us how to #StayWoke: 

… it’s not that hard to turn the country around. Most people, whatever they call themselves — conservative, liberal, libertarian, progressive — have a deep sense of fair play and justice. They’re not sadists. They care for other people. We see this in a national disaster. All labels go out the window, and everybody helps …. That’s what we need to tap into. That’s why I say fewer than 1% of the people, if they represent a majority opinion [on background checks for gun purchase and restricting assault weapons, for example] can make a lot of changes.

If that 1% makes the phone calls. One or two calls a day, at lunch maybe, or while you’re on the train or bus, or stopped on the highway in your commute.

Wanna get more radical in a totally gentle and effective way?

Throw the labels out the window forever and all of time. Just ask yourself: would I suffer if X or Y or Z were happening to me? If the answer is Yes, ask yourself one more question: Where is my phone?? The 21st Century version of: If not now, when?

Now, look at #StandingRock and ask yourself: if an occupying government broke every promise it ever made me and mine, if a company were about to dig up the cemetery where my parents and grandparents are buried, my child is buried, my spouse, if that company were about to destroy my private land,  if the police whose salaries my taxes pay and who are supposed to protect me were spraying me with water in sub-freezing temperatures in order to shut me up and get me out of this company’s way, would I suffer?

Yes, you would. So pick up the phone. Simple.

If you throw out political, even social, kinds of labels, if you act on your heart and your connection to the joy and good living and to the suffering of other people, you become a completely uncontrollable, politically unpredictable, socially responsible excellent human being. You come from a place of love and care, and that is nearly impossible to manipulate.


Your state government lists the phone numbers and contact info for state representatives and senators, and the governor and their cabinet, on a website like States each have a Senate and a General Assembly (like the House of Representatives).

Your city, too. City council, aldermen, Jane Smith who lives over on Maple St., whatever your town’s manner of organization, call them about local issues and needs.

The Feds.

Find your senators here. There’s a search box in the upper right corner.
Find your representatives in the House here. Also, search box in the upper right.

Not sure what each house of Congress is responsible for? No problem. Below are links to the committees. Here you can find out what the committees are working on, and who’s on them. You can contact committees much the way you would your own legislators.

Committees of House of Representatives

Committees of Senate

Keep your representatives’ numbers in your phone,
use them daily, #StayWoke.





Call for Submissions Split This Rock Poem of the Week

Call for Submissions
Split This Rock Poem of the Week

Open to Split This Rock Festival Attendees & Presenters

Submit by June 19, 2016
We are now accepting submissions for
Split This Rock’s Poem of the Week Series
that publishes a contemporary poem online each week.

Submit up to 3 poems via Submittable by June 19, 2016.

Who Can Submit: This call is only open to poets who attended and/or presented at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2016 AND who do not yet appear in The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database — the anthology of poems of provocation and witness at Split This Rock’s website.
We are especially interested in 
themes currently under-represented in The Quarry, poems on themes such as (but not limited to) Indigenous life and resistance, disability issues, working class issues, poverty and inequality, international perspectives, transgender and genderqueer themes.
We’re also looking for socially engaged poems of provocation and witness, poems on topics such as (but not limited to) identity, community, civic engagement, politics, economics, government, war, leadership, education, activism, history, Americana, and cultural icons.

Read the full list of guidelines at Split This Rock’s website or Submittable page.

Accessibility: If Submittable is not accessible to you, please contact us at for instructions on how to e-mail your submission. It is important that we know about your situation before receiving your mailed or emailed entry. Please allow sufficient time for your submission to be received.


Weather Eye

It’s not that we’re fat (tho many are), or a little less sharp of movement than East Coasters, or more uptight than West Coasters (tho many are), or more racist than either (tho many are) — it’s that we’re obsessed with weather. We go to Istanbul and talk about the weather.

In CUNY’s  Lost & Found collection of poets writing on poetry or to each other, Baraka and Dorn exchange notes mostly on getting poems published and Baraka’s young journal off the ground. I can tell Dorn is the Midwesterner in this dialogue. No matter where he is, the letters include long sections on the weather, remarks on the snow, dryness, the oppression or lifting of conditions, season. Dorn, it turns out, is from Illinois. He watches his atmosphere minutely, with some love but mostly a kind of background trepidation.

Midwesterners think inside a farming culture. MW hipsters will deny this, but their false consciousness is another post. Our cities, surrounded by 100s of miles of crop & herd. Eastern cities are surrounded by other cities, US NightLightsand Western ones by wildland of myth and monster (to hear them tell it — it’s just wolves and indigenous people they’re freaking out about).

Weather is not conversational filler, it’s vital gossip about a bad cop. If you live in a town whose name starts with a J (Jarrell, Joplin) you are in trouble from go. The Ring of Fire Derecho of 2012 was born in Iowa at 9:30 in the morning, and was pounding Virginia, DC, and Maryland ELEVEN HOURS later. It moved 2 days worth country in half a day.

Michael Stipe is a MW’er & complained about our serious small talk in “Pop Song 89“, but he was really on about a flat kind of interchangeable human insufficiently engaged in their world while Reagan & Co. burned the 20th Century down to wee green shoots. He had a point.

In LatinX and African American cultures, polite conversation gets quickly to asking after family, everyone’s grandparents, cousins. In the MW, we call long-distance to ask after the weather there, guessing whether a storm will break N or S or just smash thru everything with all of Canada behind it. I live in the East now, so when Mamma calls we compare weather in every conversation while we both have apps & know perfectly well what’s up with the atmosphere.

Little House on the Prairie? The whole plot of those novels turn on a hail storm leveling the Engel’s wheat crop. So, I’m in grad school in the early 1990s, this is before the flood of ’93, with my dad who’s helping me move into my first apartment. We get the mattress in (this is all true) and sit on the trailer with a couple of beers, it’s late June, we are made of sweat at this point and chatting about the homegoods I need to score at the Goodwill, when the sky goes gunmetal and green and the sirens wind up

that cats-fucking-in-the-alley wail, and I realize this apt has. no. basement. 20 min later, it’s over, sunny, shiney streets and glittering oaks rise & shake their crowns in the after-breeze. “Sky turned over,” Papa says,”not seen that in a few years.” Radio that night reported a tornado on the edge of town — yes, that edge of town, always. This was a sunny day.

We’re like sailors this way. Not for nought it’s called a sea of wheat. That swath of Mississippi Watershed is the size of an ocean & builds up heat and damp like the Tropics do. It teaches us how the old gods still dance at their children’s weddings.



Never Made Sense / No Sense to Make

Neoliberalism has, by many accounts, come home to shit on the eggs. We’ve lived with it for decades now, and “things getting better” only deepens the fecund pile as the years drivel on. You are out of your job, future, house, sense-of-self because of it.

The fitzy little idea that countries can be run like corporations and presidents or prime ministers should act like — or better, by replaced by — CEOs is a central tenet of neoliberalism. Somehow, if we run government like business, all our woes will be kissed well.

I am not the only writer to point out that this, this is some buzzard shit. Here’s why, in an eggshell.

Corporations don’t participate in history.
Governments are only history.

What I mean by this is: corporations don’t deal much with the consequences of their actions for their employees, or the people who live around them, or the people their frequent malfeasance destroys. They might be forced to rectify a bad act by a lawsuit, but that happens almost never. They exist to profit. They pursue efficiency, and that’s why the replace US workers with cheaper foreign ones or (more often and even better) robots which don’t eat, sleep, get sick or old, or have children to worry about. Robots are efficient, and they make oodles of the profits.

Governments, of the sort we imagine we have in the US, are humongous non-profit organizations, primarily concerned with people and their well-being and the consequences of many actions, and are therefore wholly embedded in history. Governments don’t profit. Everything about governing from its supply to its demand is inefficient and cannot become efficient in the way the corporations imagine they are.

CEOs would make, and may make for real if we commit the self-immolation presented to us by a Trump presidency, horrible and destructive presidents because the whole set of assumptions, goals, and processes of corporations are just about the opposite of those of governments. Their philosophies don’t jibe.

Don’t get me wrong. Corporations to things that affect history, but they are not in the history business — they are not nations, or peoples, or even decently loyal clubs. They are profit making machines that make profit out of the planet’s resources and many of the years of many human lives. They are not concerned with anything like well-being, literacy rates, national health and contentment levels, cultural literacies, life-spans, or even defense (not even defense corporations are particularly interested in OUR defence).

We live in the fragile and uncertain consequences of 40 years of neoliberalism. A tiny group of friends and acquaintances own nearly everything (and most of us with it), and a few of us are still eking by on the skills the current economy hungers for, and the vast rest of us are tired and hungry and totally fucked.

History demands a stronger nation of us.
History will not reward a more businessy nation.


#nevertrump  #neoliberalism  #fakeeconomy  #americandream  #thegreatturning  #peaceeconomy #governmentisnotbusiness  #cantcheathistory  #goodluckwiththat



On offence, phobia


Homophobic. Transphobic. These words don’t make sense to me. We’ve used “homophobic” all my adult life, and the other day a co-worker use the term “transphobic” in conversation about yet-another screed on topics of how people should exist, which existences are acceptable or real or make sense. Must have been the relative “newness” of “transphobic” that struck me this time.

Here’s my trouble. Men who loathe women/feminism aren’t “gynophobic.” And white people who loath and abominate people of color aren’t “ethnophobic.” They are not scared of women or people of color. They’re misogynists and racists — they’re anti-woman and they choose to believe in race as a thing in order to use the concept again others, the hate is implied clearly. But, not –phobic, not fear. I might feel sympathy for someone who is afraid, and yet, I have never for a moment in the long history of my empathy for every downtrodden thing felt sympathy for these views or the people who hold them.

Why fear in the case of transness and queerness? It just hit me the other day — this is weird. It’s like hyphenation “rules.”

The old Greek suffix for hatred or aversion is -misia. It even sounds good. Let’s practice.

Transmisia. Homomisia. Gynomisia. Enthnomisia.

Misia: hatred of, aversion to.

Daniel Harris is a transmisiac. Sounds like maniac, sounds unbalanced. *grins

I, on the other hand, am a little androphobic and anglophobic because in a white supremacist and patriarchal culture, that’s just good thinking.


So, when a transmisiac or gynomisiac or ethnomisiac makes shit-tongued comments about how other people should exist in the world beyond having decent table manners, I am of offended. My moral sensibilities are disturbed and distracted by that kind of noise. But, when one of these misiacs lets go with their hate and their need for power, tansgender and genderqueer and gay folks and women and people of color or immigrants are DAMAGED. They are placed in fear, they are warned that their lives are at stake, they are made to live with WARNING blaring in their minds all the time.

That these communities suffer a kind of social PTSD is part of what I mean by this word “damage.” Theodore Adorno coined it for this purpose decades ago.  It’s use would give us a way to intervene in misiac discourse that goes beyond the relatively powerless word “offence.” Detractors might be able to claim that they are offended by responses to their privileged slights-of-hand, but they cannot claim to be damaged. They may live in a state of annoyance, but they do not live in a state of bodily and mortal fear that they get up and overcome every-single-day just to get to work.