New Book! No Fascist USA!

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In January of 2020, I have a new book coming out with the extraordinary Hilary Moore. Thanks to City Lights Publishing/Open Media for the opportunity and to Robin D.G. Kelley for writing the forward!

Please get in touch at jamestracysf <<<at>>> gmail <<dot>> <<com>> if you would like us to speak in your town, campus, or community group.

From City Lights/Open Media:

How a national grassroots network fought a resurgence of the KKK and other fascist groups during the Reagan years, and how it laid the groundwork for today’s anti-fascist/anti-racist movements.

“Smash fascism! Read this book!”––Tom Morello, Rage Against the Machine

“Studying the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee will give readers an understanding of the complexity of deconstructing the weapon of white supremacy from the inside out. Thank you Hilary and James for the precision of this analysis, and the true north of this star.”––adrienne maree brown, author of Pleasure Activism and Emergent Strategy

In June 1977, a group of white anti-racist activists received an alarming letter from an inmate at a New York state prison calling for help to fight the Ku Klux Klan’s efforts to recruit prison staff and influence prisoners. In response, the activists founded the first chapter of what would eventually become a nationwide grassroots network, the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee, dedicated to countering the rise of the KKK and other far-right white nationalist groups, and to building support for movements fighting for self-determination.

No Fascist USA! tells the story of that network and how its members emerged from the radical movements of the 1960s and 1970s to combat racism and state repression throughout the 1980s. Featuring dozens of graphics, posters, and materials from the time, the book follows the group’s trajectory through its political actions, engagement with punk rock youth culture, and involvement with underground splinter groups, concluding with an exploration of what tactical lessons their efforts offer those dedicated to fighting white supremacy today.

Praise for No Fascist USA!:

No Fascist USA! is not only timely, but also essential in the present period of accelerated white supremacist activity and anti-racist organizing to combat it. In telling the story of the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee, the authors, without romanticizing or condemning, draw important lessons from the fifteen-year history of the group.”––Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment

“With its savvy blend of youth culture and street confrontation, the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee tried to stop Trumpism before Trump. They confronted the rise of white nationalism in prisons, workplaces, and music scenes when precious few paid attention to it . . . Hilary Moore and James Tracy have gifted us with an urgent read.”—Dan Berger, author of Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era

“James Tracy and Hilary Moore deliver a searing, bold new work that examines another painful and complicated chapter in American race relations. In an eye-opening account, They are able to connect the dots of the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee, a band of contemporary predominantly white activists, and its efforts to expose white supremacist organizations. With a fresh eye and new research, their book uncovers with stunning precision how these groups remain active and exposes some of their unlikely alliances.”—Laurens Grant, filmmaker, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution and Freedom Riders

“We learned from history. You can too!”–Terry Bisson, author of Fire on the Mountain and former member of the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee

No Fascist USA! brings us the unromanticized, and largely untold story of the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee. . . . we learn how their work exposed the complicity of the state—all the way to its highest levels—as well as the media’s role in the spread of white nationalist ideology. This book is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand the roots of what happened in Charlottesville, and the burgeoning white nationalist membership lists in the U.S. today. We cannot possibly take on the challenges we face without learning from the past. This book is a necessary and long overdue contribution to inform the way forward.”––Carla F. Wallace, co-founder, Showing Up for Racial Justice

“Yes! This book is right on time! As a Black woman supporting Black liberation struggles, it has been terrifying to grasp the resilience and reach of fascism in the U.S. and around the globe, and disheartening to see how many White people want to sign petitions and express discontent with current political conditions, but won’t acknowledge that there is a ongoing race war that they’re benefiting from, and who won’t put their actions behind their beliefs. This book is about an imperfect effort to be brave, to be committed, and to risk the privileges of Whiteness in order to relinquish the entire construct of white supremacy. And from where organized people of color are sitting, this kind of work is absolutely necessary. Studying the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee will give readers an understanding of the complexity of deconstructing the weapon of white supremacy from the inside out. Thank you Hilary and James for the precision of this analysis, and the true north of this star.”––adrienne maree brown, author of Emergent Strategy, Pleasure Activism, and facilitator of Black liberation movements

Format Paperback
Nb of pages 204 p.
ISBN-10 087286796X
ISBN-13 9780872867963

Conversations with Gil Fagiani

(It has taken me over a year to write about lessons I learned from my dear friend, Gil Fagiani. Gil died in Spring 2018 and his loss is still felt through all of the communities he was a part of. -JT)

gilfagiani-512x659[1]In 2007, I was looking for a man named Gil Fagiani. At the time, I was doing  research for Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels and Black Power. Gil’s name had come up in both original documents and interviews as a member of White Lightning. White Lightning was a New Left organization made up of white, working-class New Yorkers. Like their cousin organizations such as Rising Up Angry, The Young Patriots Organization and October 4th Organization they attempted to “Organize their Own” in coalition with radical organizations of color. White Lightning members played an important supporting role in the takeover of Lincoln Hospital. They worked with the Young Lords Party and were the only white organization invited to assist in security work in the Attica solidarity protests in Harlem.

When I finally tracked down Gil’s contact information, I cold called him. When I told him the purpose of my call, and of the research, he was initially taken aback. Turns out that he had circulated a similar book proposal a few years prior. I could tell that he was suspicious, but he promised to let me know if I could interview him before I got on the plane for a trip to New York. That call came just a  few hours before my departure. He acknowledged that he had wanted to be the one to write the story, but that he would be more than happy to be interviewed and help myself and my co-author Amy Sonnie out in anyway he could.

When we met a few days later, it took hours to even start the interview. It turns out that we had both had a deep love of poetry, especially Passolini. In the 1990s, Gil was one of the organizers of Italian-Americans for a Multicultural U.S., while in the 2000s I had worked in ad-hoc organizations such Avanti-Popolo and the Italian-American Political Solidarity Club. We shared a belief that despite the acute white supremacy and conservatism in our communities that Italian-Americans could be extremely receptive to anti-racist ideas.

“But you can’t reach our people sounding like an ideological ton of bricks. You have to start with what we value and make the case that what we want for our families is what all families should have.” Gil said.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about a story that Gil shared with me. In 1971 or 1972 he wrote an essay comparing the trial of Italian-American anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti to the Angela Davis trial going on. He believed that histories of solidarity and resistance could be deployed to counter-racism in white ethnic communities.

The story of this essay was painful to him. Gil had clearly hoped that the essay could help turn Italian-American hearts towards the cause of Black Liberation. However the essay never saw a broad audience. After an initial circulation, it was so thoroughly castigated by many people on the left that he destroyed as many copies as he could get his hands on. The main objection was the belief that any positive take on white ethnic history would somehow bolster racism. When I pressed him as to what organizations or individuals made this critique, he refused to name them specifically.

Decades later, we are living in a time  of an emboldened racist right, that has consolidated power. Central to their world view is the idea that European-American values, history and accomplishments will be thrown to the rubbish heap. In Gil’s worldview, history could be used to build up a sense of multi-racial solidarity. In the paranoid world of today’s extreme right, history only holds a single lesson: white supremacy must be maintained or risk erasure.

The consequences of the extreme right’s move to center-stage are all around us, and make it extremely difficult to envision humanity surviving the next several decades of environmental reckoning, let alone making noticeable progress around inequality within racial capitalism. Much of this rests on the  stories that the racist right tells us about what we don’t have in common. I can’t help but think that the stories that Gil wanted the anti-racist left to tell might have led to a better conclusion if allowed to grow and integrated into the long-term organizing project.

 

Old Debates and New Eras: Amy Sonnie and James Tracy Respond to Paul Street.

Paul Street’s essay “What Would the Black Panthers Think Of Black Lives Matter?” has gained attention on social media since it was first published on Truthdig (October 29, 2017). Street attempts to raise important questions about the impact of foundation funding within social movements. This is not what he accomplishes.

Street jettisons a critical conversation about the “corporatization of activism” in favor of inaccurate personal attacks on Black Lives Matter’s founders and an ahistorical summoning of the Black Panther Party (BPP).

Given that Street is an accomplished historian, we’re certain he’s well aware of the numerous ideological debates among Black Panthers, past and present. This includes debates about reform and militancy, nationalism and internationalism, when (and if) to engage in multiracial coalitions, how Black radicals should relate to electoral politics, and what economic analysis supports self-determination given rising neoliberalism. These debates are well documented. Many remain active questions within today’s movements.

Street ignores these complexities in favor of a one-dimensional story about the Panthers, and an equally one-dimensional critique of Black Lives Matter (BLM).

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Photo credit: Stephen Shames

He quotes our bookHillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels and Black Power,in an attempt to shame BLM for not doing enough — presumably — to reach poor and working-class whites or to mimic the Panthers’ serve-the-people programs. There are three problems with this.

First, Street focuses his criticism on BLM’s founders — Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors — and falsely discredits their organizing experience. He questions their ability to reach poor Black communities and then insults those same communities by writing, “Few among the ghettoized and incarcerated black poor sit on the internet puzzling their way through the intricate policy ideas.”

This is a confounding statement in an article evoking the Black Panthers, who engaged the poorest of the poor in studying both theory and policy.

In fact, BLM is a network of many leaders, some new to activism and others — like Garza and Cullors — who have been organizing in Black communities, in prisons, and in grassroots multiracial organizations for nearly two decades.

Second, Street implies that BLM’s focus on Black dignity and power is too narrow, going as far as sympathizing with the All Lives Matter camp.

Much to their credit, BLM leadership has never been narrow in this regard. In addition to direct solidarity with Indigenous movements, many BLM leaders actively support the development of white — and specifically white working-class — activists through close collaboration and strategic alliances with white anti-racist organizations.

Street conveniently leaves this out, seeking instead to lay blame at BLM’s feet for the lack of organized working-class resistance that ushered in the Trump era.

Street spends the bulk of his article critiquing Garza, Cullors and Tometi for what he feels they left out of particular speeches or essays. In doing so, Street conveniently ignores the intellectual and political work of the entire BLM network, whose breadth of vision is clear: “We are a collective that centers and is rooted in Black communities, but we recognize we have a shared struggle with all oppressed people; collective liberation will be a product of all of our work.”

Finally, if we must make parallels, let’s be accurate. The Panthers never directly organized white communities nor did BPP water down its message to appeal to white feelings. The Panthers organized Black communities first and foremost, establishing a vision and serve-the-people model that inspired others. Strategic alliances emerged in that context.

Under the leadership of the Chicago Panthers, the Rainbow Coalition emerged after decades of Black-led organizing during the Civil Rights Movement and a deliberate shift to fortify Black Power and Third World Liberation. When Fred Hampton reached out to the Young Lords in 1969 and Bob Lee visited the majority-white enclave of Uptown in Chicago, it was because these communities were already organizing their own people.

“We never expected the Black Panther Party to come and organize poor white people” confirms Hy Thurman, a founding member of the Young Patriots Organization. “We were already organizing in Uptown and the Panthers sought us out for an alliance because of that.”

These groups found commonality fighting greedy landlords, poverty, police violence, imperialism, racialized capitalism and, specifically, anti-Black racism as a central, shared goal. This happened because a powerful Black-led movement existed in the U.S. and anti-colonial struggles were actively reshaping the global South.

While Street mocks BLM for playing identity politics, the Rainbow Coalition was arguably a model for identity-based class struggle. These alliances took time to build, happened under very specific historical conditions, and, ultimately, suffered because of deadly government repression.

As BLM faces increasing repression, there is a lot to learn from this history. But easy comparisons do little to instruct or inspire.

While Street evokes the Black Panthers as a rhetorical device for a catchy headline, the Black Lives Matter network has been deeply engaged in developing a broad vision, learning from history — including in-person meetings with former Panthers and veteran organizers — and confronting new challenges.

We are not here to speak for the Panthers or for BLM. Rather, we have appreciated numerous opportunities to see BLM leaders speak about these crucial questions directly. In fact, some of the most critical assessments of BLM have come from Garza, Tometi and Cullors themselves, alongside their contemporaries. Appropriately, many of these deeper debates happen offline and in the many grassroots spaces where real movement-building happens.

Street positions himself as uncovering a story about BLM that has been silenced on the Left. In reality, Mr. Street has uncovered more about the problems with the Left’s persistent self-immolation when it comes to criticism offered without concrete solutions.

We get the impression that Mr. Street has put a lot of thought into how to run a movement without foundation funding or the influence of Democratic party politics. Judging from his other important books and articles, that would be a truly worthy essay. We hope to see it.

Amy Sonnie and James Tracy are the co-authors of Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels and Black Power: Community Organizing in Radical Times. Sonnie works as a Librarian in the San Francisco Bay Area. Tracy teaches in the Labor and Community Studies Program of City College of San Francisco.

Maggie Gabriel Interviews Sam J. Miller Author of the Art of Starving

MGI’m turning over the blog to my well-read-beyond-her-years niece Maggie Sex_Kitten-768x807Gabriel, for her interview of my good friend Sam J. Miller, author of The Art of Starving (Harper Teen). Starving is Sam’s first published Young Adult novel, but recently it has been impossible to pick up a Science Fiction magazine or journal and not see one of his short stories in it. We can only hope that he doesn’t forget all of his friends when the movie adaptations inevitably come his way.

Bay Area readers will have two chances to hear Sam read:

  • Tuesday October 17th, 2017 7:30pm at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Avenue, He’ll be joined by local favorite, Ananda Esteva reading a sneak preview of her new novel, ‘The Wanderings of Chela Coatlicue,” soon to be published on Transgress Press.
  • Wednesday October 18th, 2017 7:30pm at the Green Arcade Bookstore, 1680 Market Street, San Francisco. With Juliette Torrez (Kapow! Poetry and Comics, Madness and Retribution) Tomas Moniz (Rad Dad) and Michelle Gonzales (Spitboy Rule)

MG: What was the inspiration for Tariq?

SJM: Tariq evolved pretty naturally for me as I thought about who Matt was as a character, and how he was both attracted to and menaced by masculinity and the expectations of how boys should be and act. Manly, confident, athletic men can be threatening at the same as they can be hot as hell! The key to Matt as a character is that he’s wrong about pretty much everything, and that includes thinking Tariq is a villain when he’s really a boy who is good and kind and strong and hurting inside. I also loved the idea of a gay romance between a Muslim boy and a Jewish boy.

MG: How did you come up with the title and the cover art?

SJM: When I wrote the book, its title was RULES OF THE BODY. That’s why every chapter starts with a “Rule”! But my agent felt like it needed a more compelling title, something that stood out from the rest and raised questions in the mind of the reader, and we decided on THE ART OF STARVING before we started sending it out to editors. As for the cover art, I’m in love with it, but I’m afraid I can’t take any credit for it. I was lucky that HarperTeen assigned brilliant art director Jenna Stempel to design it, and she chose gorgeous art by Matt Blease. That’s generally how it goes at the big publishers. Authors have very little say over what goes on the cover of their books.

MG: Do you consider yourself an activist?

SJM: Absolutely! I think there is so much suffering and oppression in this world, and that we all have a duty to fight back against that to the best of our ability. These days, with the government doing so many scary things, we need to be activists in a lot of different ways. Calling senators, going to protests, retweeting people who are trying to expose the truth and fight the good fight. But activism is more than that – it’s about being kind to people who might be hurting, or standing up for people who need it. For my day job, I’m fortunate to be a community organizer at a great organization called Picture the Homeless, where I work alongside homeless people fighting against police abuse and bad city policies that keep them from getting housing. So I get to raise a lot of hell and support a lot of powerful people who are dealing with unthinkable violence and pain from the police, from the government, from their fellow citizens who look at them as less than human – but still believe that they can come together and fight collectively and nonviolently for real social change.

MG: Dogs or cats?

SJM: Dogs! Well, I love them both, a lot, but I am allergic to cats, so I can’t have one.

MG: Do you plan on making more books?

SJM: Every day I’m above ground, I’ll be writing words! I have a novel called BLACKFISH CITY coming out in April – it’s not young adult. It’s set in the far future, after rising sea levels and climate change have transformed the globe, in a floating city in the Arctic Ocean, where one day a woman arrives with a killer whale and a polar bear at her side. And I’m currently working on my second YA novel, tentatively called UNPHOTOGRAPHABLE

 

 

Solidarity With Chuck Armsbury

Please help my good friend and comrade Chuck Armsbury recover from the amputation of his leg. This medical emergency has drained most of his life savings. Your support will help him through a lengthy therapy.

CLICK HERE FOR CHUCK’S YOU CARING PAGE 

Chuck is a lifelong fighter for the human rights of all oppressed people. Born in Kansas, Chuck was the Chairman of the Eugene Oregon chapter of the Patriot Party. The Patriot Party was a national organization of anti-racist working-class white people which emerged from the experience of the Young Patriots Organization in Chicago. They worked hand-in hand with the Seattle Black Panther Party and worked to build principled unity between black and white poor people. As a consequence, he spent years in federal prison on trumped-up charges. After his release, Chuck kept organizing to end the drug war with various coalitions.

When I last spoke with Chuck we joked that he’ll continue to kick-ass with only one leg, and schemed about where to put a secret door in a prosthetic leg to hold certain pain-killers now legal in Washington. He’s not going to let this setback ruin his legendary sense of humor. Let’s let Chuck know that he’s supported and loved by his community.

CLICK HERE FOR CHUCK’S YOU CARING PAGE 

Left Forum Appearances: June 4th 2017

LEFT FORUM June 2nd-4th, 899-10th Avenue New York City

MUST BE REGISTERED TO ATTEND,

DISCOUNTS AND VOLUNTEER SLOTS AVAILABLE! https://www.leftforum.org

 Hillbilly-Nationalists-235x300In 2011, Melville House published Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels and Black Power: Community Organizing in Radical Times by Amy Sonnie and James Tracy.  Hillbillies explored histories of white working-class radicals who organized hand-in-hand with revolutionaries of color in the 1960s and 1970s.  These histories provide clues and sign posts for organizing in today’s world where the racist right has consolidated power and progressives are fracturing around issues of class, race and gender. This year, the Left Forum will bring thousands of activists to strategize about where to go from here..  What better way to begin this conversation than exploring the lives of those street level organizers who built the Original Rainbow Coalitions.

SUNDAY JUNE 4TH, 10AM, ROOM 1-127: LEARNING FROM WHITE LIGHTNING, OCTOBER 4TH ORGANIZATION. ORGANIZING THE WHITE WORKING CLASS IN THE 1970’S AND TODAY 

Philadelphia’s October 4th Organization (O4O) worked in the Kensington and Fishtown neighborhoods and played an important role in the coalition which ultimately denied the racist Mayor Frank Rizzo a third term in office.

In New York City, White Lightning provided a left-wing analysis to drug addiction and drug treatment, supported the Young Lords, the Black Panther Party and other militant community groups in the takeover of Lincoln Hospital, and inspired by the politics of Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, the BPP and the YLP, focused on organizing the white working class in the Bronx.

Panelists: Sharon McConnell-Sidorick, October 4th Organization, Gil Fagiani, White Lightning Dan Sidorick, October 4th Organization Moderator: James Tracy, Co-author Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels and Black Power: Community Organizing in Radical Times

SUNDAY JUNE 4TH, 3:50PM, ROOM 1-127 REMEMBERING BOB LEE, PEGGY TERRY AND THE ORIGINAL RAINBOW COALITIONS

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Bob Lee who passed away in March, was a member of the Illinois Black Panther Party and was dispatched to build the “Original Rainbow Coalition” with the poor white Young Patriots, Young Lords the Panthers and Rising Up Angry.

downloadPeggy Terry was a white southern migrant worker who broke from a Klan family history to work with the Congress of Racial Equity and Jobs Or Income Now, while mentoring new generations of activists in Chicago. This panel of people who knew and worked with Lee and Terry will explore their political legacies and the lessons they hold for those energized by the Black Lives Matter, immigrant defense, and anti-Trump movements.

Panelists: Jakobi Williams, author From the Bullet to the Ballot: The Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party and Racial Coalition Politics in Chicago,  Melody James, Jobs or Income Now Community Union Hy Thurman, Young Patriots Organization Asantewaa Nkrumah-Ture, Global Women’s Strike Moderator: Collen Wessell-Mc Coy, Kairos Center NYC

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Left Forum: Remembering Bob Lee, Peggy Terry and the Original Rainbow Coalitions

AT THE LEFT FORUM SUNDAY JUNE 4th, 3:40pm John Jay College New York City

ROOM 1.125

Must be registered Discounted admission available http://www.leftforum.org

Bob Lee who passed away in March was a member of the Illinois Black Panther Party and was dispatched to build the “Original Rainbow Coalition” with the poor white Young Patriots, Young Lords and Rising Up Angry.

Peggy Terry was a white southern migrant worker who broke from a Klan family history to work with the Congress of Racial Equity and Jobs Or Income Now, while mentoring new generations of activists in Chicago.

This panel of people who knew and worked with Lee and Terry will explore their political legacies and the lessons they hold for those energized by the Black Lives Matter, immigrant defense, and anti-Trump movements.

Panelists:

Jakobi Williams, From the Bullet to the Ballot The Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party and Racial Coalition Politics in Chicago

Melody James, former member Jobs or Income Now Community Union

Hy Thurman, Young Patriots Organization

James Tracy, Co-author Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels and Black Power: Community Organizing in Radical Times

Asantewaa Nkrumah-Ture, Global Women’s Strike

Moderator: Collen Wessell-Mc Coy, Kairos Center NYC