A constant cause of activism in the squatting and social center occupation movement is open borders, and solidarity with migrants. The European squatting movement is peopled with activists from many European countries, most of them with colonial pasts of which activists are well aware. Threaded through this blog, and the book Occupation Culture that came out of it, are stories of experimental solidarities like the Metropoliz in Rome where punks and gypsies live together, and Jeudi Noir, the French collective that squats big buildings for migrants to live in. And recently in Madrid, the Sindicato de Manteros y Lateros – the union of blanket-sellers and can-sellers, who work selling on the streets without legal papers, was organized inside squatted social centers.
With the unceasing flows of migrants and refugees from south to north, the issue has been on the front burner of global politics, leading to the rise of "populist" neo-fascists who have mobilized white fear to win elections. At the same time, the USA has seen a spike in activism by people of color – by Afro-descendants in Spanish parlance, against police violence, and by immigrants against the mass detentions, deportations and jailing of children by the Trump government.
Beyond what can be called reactive activism, powerful as it may be, the inspiring initiatives of Cooperation Jackson in that Mississippi city are part of the global municipalist movement. (I've also blogged on them here.)
As municipalists have taken power in some Spanish cities, a line of work specifically focussed on migrants and Afro-descendants has been taken up by the cultural institutions. This string of posts will be devoted to a review of some of those initiatives.
A Union of the Excluded and Illegal
Earlier this year I was commissioned to write on a social art project with the Sindicato de Manteros y Lateros de Madrid (@manteroslateros), a kind of union for the mostly Senegalese and Bangladeshi migrants who sell stuff on the streets. They do the work they can do without papers, and endure much police harrassment and punishing fines. (The text was written, but not published – that's another story.)
But I saw the stirrings of a larger movement against institutional racism in Spain, which connects to wider struggles of migrants and marginalized peoples globally. In the summer at the MAC 4 conference, a group met to talk about it. (I blogged this in a July post "MAC 4: Anti-Racism and Subaltern Europe".)
That summer I could not follow most of the talk in ESP – but, with the visit of Princeton professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor to Madrid shortly after I had another chance to catch up (@KeeangaYamahtta). Prof. Taylor is Anglophone, so the Reina Sofia museum which invited her set up a seminar with simultaneous translation into English.
She'd given a formal talk – on the translation ftom Traficantes de Sueños of her 2016 book. From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation. And in the seminar she frequently referenced her work in the 2017 book How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective.
Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective
Beatriz García Dorado of Traficantes de Sueños introduced. She referenced a 2005 project of migrant solidarity, the “Ferrocarril Clandestino” – underground railroad. (This early initiative has been eclipsed today by the rescue ships, like Open Arms, which ply the Mediterranean despite the fulminations of the Italian interior minister.)
There is now an alliance, Beatriz García said between the precarious worker and the migrants. It is anti-capitalist, and works against the way people are divided.
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor said her interest in black feminism was spurred by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and the women she met in it; especially the #SayHerName campaign to remember black female victims, like Sandra Bland, murdered by police.
In the view of whites, Taylor said, black women are seen as angry, aggressive, “impervious to pain.” “Slavery was far more terrible for women.” “Overlapping simultaneous oppressions explain the essence” of black feminist politics.In the 19th century there was both a “woman question and a “race problem.” Gender, race and class meet in the Combahee River Collective Statement.
The name of the group came from an 1863 U.S. army raid directed by Harriet Tubman which freed 750 slaves. Identity politics for the Combahee River Collective was about how black women were being politicized. While they paralleled the mostly white New Left of the 1960s, the slogan/idea “the personal is political” was not a retreat, but a description of their lives of oppression. The “daily indignities” were not abstract.
Like the Black Panther Party, the CBC's program was misconstrued as a demand for separation. The idea was that if black women were to be free, everyone would be free. “Black women will never be free within capitalism.” Oppression is in the “marrow of the nation.”
Between today and 40 years ago, the class divide between black people has grown. As an example, in Ferguson – [the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police killing of Michael Brown] – black political figures urged young people “to get off the streets and vote for them.” BLM rejected that kind of politics, and the “pathetic tradition of currying favor.” The CBC, in contrast, were internationalists aligned with third world movements.
NEXT: Spain Is Africa (Part Two) – The Seminar of Prof. Taylor: Important Complaints
Occupation Culture: Art & Squatting in the City from Below, by Alan W. Moore (Minor Compositions, 2015)
Il Metropoliz – Space Metropoliz
Collectif Jeudi noir
Sindicato de manteros y lateros de Madrid - Inicio | Facebook / (@manteroslateros)
July post "MAC 4: Anti-Racism and Subaltern Europe" reporting on the anti-racism discussion
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor - Wikipedia
“She'd given a formal talk...”
Her talk in ENG with x-lation into ESP after each statement was posted by Katakrak as Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor «Un destello de libertad» (a flash of freedom)
Her visit was part of the museum's fascinating series "Six Contradictions and the End of the Present"
Combahee River Collective
PDF The Combahee River Collective Statement - American Studies