About five years ago, more than anything, I wanted to be a journalist who truly represented the voice of the people. A job at a corporate, mainstream publication never appealed to me. Today, I’m honored to have worked as the web and design editor for Race, Poverty & the Environment, a journal that has mirrored my passion for a myriad of issues in the realm of social and environmental justice. And it’s also great being able to say, I worked for Urban Habitat, “an organization that builds power in low-income communities and communities of color.“
But for 2013, I want to do more. It was Grace Lee Boggs that said, ”How we change the world and how we think about changing the world has to change.”
Race, Poverty, and the Environment
Interview with Silvia Federici
By Lisa Rudman and Marcy Rein
As a feminist activist, writer, and teacher, Silvia Federici engages and inspires students of all ages to fight for the liberation of women and all beings. In 1972, Federici cofounded the International Feminist Collective, which launched the “Wages For Housework” campaign. While teaching and researching in Nigeria in the 1980s, she observed the specific impacts of globalization on women—and their similarities to the social disruption caused by the enclosure of the commons in the earliest days of capitalism. She became active in the anti-globalization movement and the U.S. anti-death-penalty movement, and cofounded the Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa. From 1987 to 2005 she taught international studies, women’s studies, and political philosophy at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY. Her books and essays span philosophy, feminist theory, women’s history, education, and culture, and more recently, the worldwide struggle against capitalist globalization and for a feminist reconstruction of the commons. Caliban and the Witch: Women, The Body and Primitive Accumulation, perhaps her best-known work, argues that capitalism depends on a constant supply of women’s unwaged labor. Federici sat down for this interview while she was on a tour to promote her new book, Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle (Common Notions), a collection of essays written over the last forty years. In conversation, Federici moves smoothly between history, theory, and present struggles, hardly stopping for breath, almost vibrating with concern and indignation.
The confluence of the Occupy movement and demographic change is shifting the public discourse about class and race and breaking ground for new political spaces. In the tumultuous months since the February 2011 takeover of Wisconsin’s Capitol, Occupy Wall Street as well as actions at stockholder meetings of banks and protests by university students and faculty have shed light on who owns our wealth and how they use it. (Baham)* The failure of the recall effort in Wisconsin emphasizes the urgency of constructing new spaces in which our majority coalitions can come together outside the constraints of corporate-dominated political parties to develop creative and effective strategies.
Faced with the dual threat of a rising majority of voters of color in many key states and mass public demonstrations against economic inequality, the system is pushing back. Supreme Court decisions ceding increased power to corporations as “persons” have in effect privatized the election process. Right-wing strategists are backing voter suppression and anti-immigrant legislation in states across the nation, seeking to fan racial animosity and redirect popular anger toward scapegoats (Keyes et al., Lewis, Kromm, Bacon).
As Governor Scott Walker explained to one of his billionaire backers, the public workers in Wisconsin got the brunt of a classic “divide and conquer” strategy—but instead of going after immigrants, gays, or women, this attack targeted workers who are one step up on the economic ladder: public sector employees.
Every year, the NAACP holds a rally from March 4-9 to commemorate the Selma to Montgomery march and draw attention to the issues facing African Americans in America. Since the passage of Alabama’s HB 56—the nation’s worst anti-immigrant law—the NAACP has reached out to organizations around the country to build lasting relationships between Civil Rights and Immigrant Rights communities over their common history of struggle. The event marks the coming together of a broad movement for a renewed call for civil rights in America. This year, a core part of their agenda was a demand to repeal HB 56.
Gamaliel, a grassroots network of non-partisan, faith-based organizations in 18 U.S. states, South Africa and the United Kingdom, is now taking on the voting rights issue. They are working together with the NAACP and other social justice organizations on “Get out the Vote” initiatives for the Fall elections.
In April 2012, an anti-immigrant bill similar to the ones passed in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina legislatures was stopped cold in Mississippi—contrary to all expectations.
Tea Party Republicans, confident of rolling over any opposition, had enlisted Kansas Secretary of State and co-author of Arizona’s SB 1070 Kris Kobach, to push the bill with Mississippi state Representative Becky Currie, who introduced it. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which designs and introduces similar bills across the country, also had its agents on site in Jackson. The timing could not have been better. In November 2011, Republicans took control of the state House of Representatives for the first time since Reconstruction, making Mississippi one of the last Southern states to give up Democratic control of the legislature—a final triumph for the Nixon/Reagan Southern Strategy. But these were not just any Republicans. When Governor Haley Barbour, now ironically considered a “moderate Republican,” stepped down, voters replaced him with Phil Bryant, a rabid anti-immigrant whose venom rivals that of Lou Dobbs. And yet, the seemingly inevitable did not happen.
North Carolina Dream Team
By Christine Joy Ferrer
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Viridiana Martinez, 25—undocumented, unafraid and unashamed. Martinez is co-founder of the North Carolina Dream Team and a young community organizer and activist for immigrant rights. She only discovered her illegal status after graduating from high school. Born in Mexico and raised in a little town in North Carolina called Sanford, she has lived in the United States since the age of seven, when her parents immigrated. The NC DREAM Team is an organization composed of undocumented immigrant youth and allies, dedicated to the creation of a sustainable, community-led immigrant rights movement in North Carolina and to helping undocumented youth recognize their individual and collective power to activate their communities.
Christine Joy Ferrer: What was it like growing up as a young, undocumented Latina in the South and how has your identity influenced your work?