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National People’s Movement Assembly

Karlos Gauna Schmieder with the Center for Media Justice reports back for the Media Action Grassroots Network's Media Justice PMA

More than 1,000 people attended the final People’s Movement Assembly, the National PMA, and reported back from the over 50 PMA’s held between Wednesday and Friday. Today, representatives from each assembly reported back the synthesized demands, commitments, and collective visions for moving forward. As each declaration was made, forum participants cheered for the visions they helped create. The demands made reflected the overall feeling towards the current status of social justice across the United States. These politically charged statements are the foundation for moving our collective visions forward using multiple strategies to ensure the greatest amount of successes.

The message that resonated most with me throughout this assembly was the overwhelming desire for folks to be in charge of the decisions that most impact and affect their ability to self-determine the quality and direction of their lives. Organizers across the country from broad and diverse backgrounds are asking for our struggles to be interwoven as a strategy to make each of our movements stronger. There were cries for divestment from the oppressive state of Israel, support for the people in Arizona resisting the racist laws that target people of color, and the urgency to reduce the havoc our precious earth must endure at the hand of capitalism.

The power to communicate belongs to all of us, equally. We must deepen our collaborative efforts to protect this right for each of us. This is the only way we will defeat the disaster that capitalism insists on leaving in its wake. Another world is beginning. Another world has begun.

thanks for reading,


June 26, 2010 Posted by | USSF, USSF_mlp | Leave a comment

People’s Forum on Language Theft, Language Occupation, Language Domination, Resistance & Reclamation

Friday was, sadly, the last full day of the US Social Forum.  I attended an amazing workshop put on by Poor Magazine: People’s Forum on Language Theft, Language Occupation, Language Domination, Resistance & Reclamation.  The workshop opened with a poem performed by seven women, who call themselves the welfareQUEENS.  Each shared how they have had to interact with different kinds of language privilege.  Some of the powerful statements I heard these women share were, “I am a digital resister”, “I am a Super Baby Mama”, “Zapoteco no más por pendejos”, “Hablo con fuerza y también con amor”, and “Using the master’s language means you have a place in the master’s world.“  The facilitators asked us to participate in a couple of exercises where we would share our own stories of language domination.  Several questions came up for me, such as— What does it mean to not have access to language, to not feel authentic, and feel like you won’t be able to prove your authenticity to others?  What does linguistic domination of our own stories mean?  What does it mean for how people remember us?  What does it mean for our health and chance of survival in a society that doesn’t let us tell our own stories?

The facilitators asked us to write about a time when we have encountered linguistic domination.  One woman from Russia talked about how certain books, specifically books on Gender Studies, are not being translated into Russian.  She shared how hard it was for her to apply to graduate school in the US with an English language barrier.  Another woman talked about her family attempting to protect her from discrimination by teaching her the imposed language along with the violent colonial ways.  This story made me think about how internalized oppression materializes in our lives and how pervasive it must be when we have very little opportunity to use any other set of words to communicate with each other.  I began thinking about this impacts our daily lives.  Some questions I had were: How are we supposed to feel intelligent when every time we turn around we are being told that we are not using language appropriately?  When do we get to experience the privilege of safety and not have to beg for crumbs?  Are we supposed to really never feel valued in our own experiences? Is English really a privilege?

Next, we got into groups and collectively wrote a poem to reflect some solutions we thought would help us confront this language domination.  In my group, each member shared a few words to make a poem.  My contribution was about resisting shame, the shame that comes from not feeling authentic because I grew up so far from Mexico, not just geographically, but also generationally.  I am a fifth generation Mexicana born and raised on the Southside of Chicago.  Really, it’s a miracle I can speak the language at all.  But that’s my privilege.  I have parents who are bilingual and understood how valuable it would be for my sister and me to also know both Spanish and English.  I have been speaking Spanish my whole life, but I have no family in Mexico that I can visit.  For me, it’s something I feel some in my community could potentially see as a deficit, something that pushes me further away from being part of the community.

This leaves me thinking about privilege and responsibility, in terms of media messages.  Who shapes the public image of those of us in the margins?  Who suffers the consequences of irresponsible speech?  How does dominant culture benefit from silencing us and telling their version of our stories?  What do we need to do to take back out voices?  Media Literacy Project is currently running a responsible speech campaign to examine what are the impacts community faces when the messages in media allows the dominant culture speak for everyone.  We demand healthy digital ecology for low-income, working class, and immigrant communities.  Digital ecology is defined as interactive, multi-disciplinary inquiry of life in an increasingly digitized and technologically mediated environment.  It explores how people interact with, are shaped by, and shape the mechanisms through which we produce, share, receive, archive, and access information, stories, and cultural knowledge.  Digital ecology is rooted in the belief that healthy digital ecosystem is community-based, people-centered, and supportive of political, economic, cultural, and technological justice.

With privilege comes responsibility.  With access comes responsibility.   We each have a voice and it is our duty to make it be heard, no matter how many people or systems have tried to take it away.  We are the ones who need to tell our stories; we are the only ones who can do them justice.  We have been, and continue to be, conditioned to remain passive and silent. We need to move that behavior to our past.  The negative impacts irresponsible speech has on our communities has the potential to not only erase our experiences and realities from history, but also push us further into the margins and away from the agency we have to tell our own stories.  Our future must be filled with our voices and the telling our stories—in any language we want to use.

thanks for reading,


June 26, 2010 Posted by | USSF, USSF_mlp | Leave a comment

Media War Against Venezuela: The Role and Ethics of Media in the 21st Century

The Media War Against Venezuela workshop at the US Social Forum interested me because of my work with Media Literacy Project.  I was curious to see where I could find similarities in how Venezuelans saw the way media messages shape their environment and the way we talk about hate speech in this country.  The conversation began with some recent historical context, which set the frame for better understanding the current situation in Venezuela.

Television and the Media in Venezuela are huge and have done more than enough to turn the working class people against themselves.  The ruling class in Venezuela has successfully bombarded the county with messages that the people of Venezuela are inferior because they are a mixture of the worst of everything; Spanish (the worst of Europe), Indigenous, and Black.  These messages were pumped through the news and even their daily classist and racist soap operas. This process stabilized the class structure in Venezuela and solidified viewers’ internalized oppression, which can only serve the interests of any ruling class.

During the time before the first coup, the media ran non-stop images of violence during the uprising, painting a picture that President Hugo Chavez as a murderer and couldn’t care less if people were dying in the streets.  These images were shown on 4 channels for days, making it extremely difficult for people to think anything else was going on or that Chavez was anything else than a villain.  This was not the case at all; the people were being lied to.  Chavez was forcibly removed from his post as President, the country was torn, but it was not the end for Venezuela.  (For more information on the coup d’état, please check out The Revolution Will Not Be Televised).  It was at this point filmmakers from the 60’s began to examine these images and deconstruct their meanings, to better understand what the impacts were.  Imagine a whole country coming into their consciousness and realizing they are being lied to. This is what the last 5 years have been about in Venezuela.

Imagine not wanting to support your government, not because they are oppressive, but because being associated with them means that you are fat, ugly, or “uneducated”.  What type of impact might this have on the decisions you make about your life and what is good for you? This is what the people of Venezuela combat everyday.  They are inundated with messages that convince them to fight for the rights of the ruling class, rights that will never apply to them.

Does this sound familiar?  Do you see this the US?

The media has a long and powerful reach and knows how to manipulate the public into being complacent.  One example of how this plays out in everyday life of the working class and working poor in Venezuela is in the fight for renters’ rights.  One woman shared with us how the battle for housing in Caracas has turned on those interested in fighting for people.  As I mentioned before, media messages tell Venezuelans that unless they are part of the opposition, they have no legitimate claim to rights.  Organizers were trying to make sure that people living in this apartment complex for more than 40 years, as renters, would not be forced to leave their home.  Building residents turned on a neighbor, one of the lead organizers, after this effort began.  I am not just talking about shunning her from the community by not talking to her; there was much more.  They threw stuff at her and threatened her safety.  She wasn’t just some stranger coming in from the outside to “help” residents; no, she was a fellow renter.

The media has the power to oppress already marginalized groups, and does so without batting an eye.  However, it also presents us with the opportunity to talk about the real life impacts of not being in charge of telling your own story, and actually step into that role.  WE have the POWER to take that back, when we step in as storyteller of our own legacies.  WE have the responsibility to talk with each other about the impacts of misinformation on our communities. WE have the right to shape our environments and make informed decisions about what happens to us on a daily basis.  In most cases, here and abroad, OUR LIVES DEPEND ON IT.

thanks for reading,


June 25, 2010 Posted by | USSF, USSF_mlp | Leave a comment

queer/trans people’s movement assembly

I am reporting from Detroit, Michigan and the 2010 US Social Forum (USSF). This forum is a movement building process. It is not a conference, but it is a space to come up with the peoples’ solutions to the 
economic and ecological crisis. The USSF is the next most important step in our
 struggle to build a powerful multi-racial, multi-sector, inter-generational, diverse, inclusive, internationalist movement that transforms this country and
 changes history.

Each afternoon, the forum offers several Peoples’ Movement Assembly (PMA), which is a gathering of people to discuss and analyze our conditions, to come up with demands, commitments, and visions for how things could be different. Each PMA is a facilitated space to decide and coordinate, actions that will bring us closer to those visions.

I attended the Queer/Trans PMA from 1 pm – 5:30 pm on Wednesday, which was facilitated by members of the more than 10 nationwide organizations that make up the Roots Coalition. The room was packed with more than 100 beautiful Queer/Trans people from around the country. There were 4 goals for this PMA, to clear pressing issues, to seek out a possible direction for a new national LGBTQ campaign, to gauge the group so we can move together in a chosen direction, and to develop a Queer/Trans agreement that will be present to the USSF National Planning Committee on Saturday at the National PMA.

The facilitators led us in a series of group activities before we got down to business. Our first task was to find our respective regions posted on each wall (North, South, East, West). I work in the New Mexico, so I went to the West region. Normally, this activity is not that challenging, but with more people than the room could handle, it was very challenging for folks to make it from one side of the room to the other. This became very obvious to me when my group realized we were only three. Really, in a room of over 100 people, only three of us work in the West? No, we knew it couldn’t be right. For the next activity, we were given three Post-it notes to write down what were three issues most important to our communities. After this we did two rounds of “speed dating” with folks sitting around us to share what our issues were. Next we connected our issues to larger themes like Education, Immigration, Policing, Housing, and Safety. This was an opportunity to see where our issues intersect and mirror each other. The facilitators wanted us to be able to walk around the room, so we could read what others wrote, but since all of us didn’t really fit, it was virtually impossible to accomplish. Our facilitators saw this was not happening as they expected and called out the bad idea.

Next, we were broken up into 6 groups, half of which moved into another room. In these groups, we discussed 3 topic issues that came out of local PMA’s from around the country, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Jobs Creation, and Real ID Act. Our job was to talk about and assess the potential for each issue to be a national campaign for Queer/Trans communities. The Real ID issue my group felt was the most relevant, winnable, bold, and could really grow capacity and give our communities the opportunity to work with organizations we might not traditionally look to as partners.

Thinking about this issue in terms of healthy communities and identity, it seems to me that all people, even white people, generally appreciate privacy and having their identities respected. While the Real ID Act will have serious implications on all communities, we are sure there will be serious ramifications for Queer folks especially. The impact this legislation has will look different in each community, and can be used as a tool against queer/trans, and people of color communities.

For anyone interested in this struggle, please contact FIERCE.

thanks for reading,


June 24, 2010 Posted by | USSF, USSF_mlp | Leave a comment


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