‘An Open Letter to Eve Ensler’ from Lauren Chief Elk

This letter by Lauren Chief Elk from 2013 outlines some of the reasons I did not support the Dark is Beautiful / One Billion Rising / V-Day campaigns, and now i am not supporting Women’s March on Washington or Women’s Global March scheduled to happen later this month.
It seems that the ‘people’ movements are being usurped by the ‘elite’. Even when the leadership of these anti-Trump marches has given an expanded, and so supportable, agenda, i’m weary of this action because to me it represents a coup, not against Trump, but against the current local women leaders of the ‘people’ who have been organizing for years but their agenda/s do not suit the interests of American elite. And when the confetti is swept off the streets by the ‘people’ women and men working the streets, guess who’ll be sitting on the negotiating table with Trump bartering women’s rights on my behalf? The kind of women Trump can sit with and talk to; the women whose interests are tied to the same elite that he is a part of; women such as eve anslers, emma watsons and other celebrities, supported by the acquired malala yousafzais, shermeen chinois, and…, well. Some more is here: dalitweb.org/, and many important things are pointed out below.
Fauzia
gandholi.wordpress.com
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laurenchiefelk

Dear Eve Ensler,

I want to start off by saying thank you. I appreciate the time you took to reach out to me, because I know you’re incredibly busy. I know there are much more important people in this world than myself, so I appreciate you engaging in dialogue with me and my colleague Kelleigh Driscoll.

This all started because on Twitter, I addressed some issues that I had with V-Day, your organization, and the way it treated Indigenous women in Canada. I said that you are racist and dismissive of Indigenous people. You wrote to me that you were upset that I would suggest this, and not even 24 hours later you were on the Joy Behar Show referring to your chemotherapy treatment as a “Shamanistic exercise”.

Your organization took a photo of Ashley Callingbull, and used it to promote V-Day Canada and One Billion Rising, without her consent. You then wrote the word “vanishing” on the photo, and implied that Indigenous women are disappearing, and inherently suggested that we are in some type of dire need of your saving. You then said that Indigenous women were V-Day Canada’s “spotlight”. V-Day completely ignored the fact that February 14th is an iconic day for Indigenous women in Canada, and marches, vigils, and rallies had already been happening for decades to honor the missing and murdered Indigenous women. You repeatedly in our conversation insisted that you had absolutely no idea that these events were already taking place. So then, what were you spotlighting? When Kelleigh brought up that it was problematic for you to be completely unaware that this date is important to the women you’re spotlighting, your managing director Cecile Lipworth became extremely defensive and responded with “Well, every date on the Calendar has importance.” This is not an acceptable response.

When women in Canada brought up these exact issues, V-Day responded to them by deleting the comment threads that were on Facebook. For a person and organization who works to end violence against women, this is certainly the opposite of that. Although I’m specifically addressing V-Day, this is not an isolated incident. This is something that Indigenous women constantly face. This erasure of identity and white, colonial, feminism is in fact, a form of violence against us. The exploitation and cultural appropriation creates and excuses the violence done to us.

When I told you that your white, colonial, feminism is hurting us, you started crying. Eve, you are not the victim here. This is also part of the pattern which is a problem: Indigenous women are constantly trying to explain all of these issues, and are constantly met with “Why are you attacking me?!” This is not being a good ally.

You asked me what would it mean to be a good ally. It would have meant stepping back, giving up the V-Day platform, and attending the marches and vigils. It would have meant putting aside the One Billion Rising privilege and participating in what the Indigenous women felt was important.

At the end of our conversation you offered me the opportunity to join V-Day. Offered me money. Offered me to become a spokesperson for Native American women. These are things I am not interested in. I do not want to be part of the white savior industrial complex, and I never want to duplicate saviorism and colonialism within my own organization, Save Wiyabi Project, and I’m surely not interested in selling my soul and integrity for a bit of cash and perceived prestige.

I’m not here to speak for Ashley and how she felt about her photo being used, and I’m not here to speak for the Indigenous women in Canada. Indigenous women in the United States and Canada have agency, self determination, and are quite capable of telling their own stories, and have been doing so for thousands of years. We are aware of the violence we face, and are also aware this just isn’t about individual acts of violence. We expect not only our bodies, but our agency, work, and contributions to be respected. None of this is new, and we do not need a white person to legitimize our history and existence.

I entered this conversation with uneasy feelings about V-Day and your work, and left feeling completely dismissed – much like the Indigenous women in Canada. You might have been listening to what I was saying, but you definitely didn’t hear me. You dumped all of my concerns onto someone else and did not take personal responsibility for anything. Eve, this is YOUR organization. My hope is that you do some self examination about what’s happening here. You have to see this before you continue doing this work because this is epistemic and imperial violence. Your actions are assisting violence, not ending it.

Sincerely,
Lauren Chief Elk
Co-founder of Save Wiyabi Project.
facebook.com/Save.Wiyabi.Project
@SaveWiyabi

From chiefelk.tumblr.com
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Om Puri: Four Performances

om-puri

Written by Randeep Singh

On January 6, 2017, Om Puri passed away at the age of 66. One of India’s finest actors, he also won acclaim for his performances in British, American and Pakistani films. Here’s a review of just four of his performances.

Aakrosh (1980)

In this searing indictment of India’s justice system, Puri plays a poor tribesman (Lanya) wrongly accused of murdering his wife. Traumatized into silence by his landlords, Puri as Lanya gives a masterful performance balancing intensity and restraint in a tortured figure of silence whose cry of anguish pierces India decades on.

Ardh Satya (1983)

In Ardh Satya, Puri plays a cop (Anant) battling for his sanity and conscience in a force bedeviled by corruption. Whether in dealing with gang bosses, his superiors, or his domineering father, Puri as Anant humanizes one’s struggle in the search for dignity in a circle of deceit.

My Son The Fanatic (1997)

As Parvez, Puri is a whiskey-loving Pakistani immigrant who falls for a local prostitute while his British-born son turns into a religious fundamentalist. Puri deftly plays the role of father, lover and working-class immigrant in one full comic-romantic-dramatic sweep.

East is East (1999)

In another culture clash comedy, Puri plays George Khan, a Pakistani fish and chip shop owner living in northern England in the early seventies. Struggling to establish his sway over his rapscallion Anglo-Pakistani children and his English wife, Puri’s performance elicits laughs, fear and even a little sympathy.

‘A standing ovation and a burning fire…’ by Harsha Walia

Arthur Manuel was undoubtedly one of the most committed and passionate and strong and inspiring Indigenous leaders of our time. I remember a talk that I was moderating that Art was a speaker on and someone else before him was describing three generations of Indigenous struggles. When Art spoke he said “So all these three generations you were talking about, I was part of all of those” as he went on to recount his forty plus years of unwavering efforts to challenge Canada at every level.

He was received, as he often is, with a standing ovation and a burning fire in everyone’s bellies.

When people ask me about law school, I say that I learnt more from Art than any class I attended. What (little) I do know about injuctions, trespass, criminal contempt, section 35, Sparrow, Calder, Delgamuukw, Tsilhqot’in is from Art. Like many others, I turn to Art’s words and cite him (including his trail blazing book Unsettling Canada) when it comes to understanding the scope of settler colonization and land theft.

His voice and clarity of vision is unparalleled, especially for settlers like me to heed.

When people ask me about burnt out in the movement, I recount the countless times I spent with Art in the middle of the night or early morning when he was passing through town on his way on the road in his truck for the next thirty hours straight to a community he had been invited to to speak about Rights and Title, the UN, the Treaty Process.

And when I would ask Art about if he ever got tired, he would say “when I get tired, I sleep. And then I get up and fucking fight for my land back.”

When people ask me about solidarity and alliances, I think of Art making so much time and room in his heart to listen to struggles of marginalized peoples resisting everywhere. He made so many trips into the city to attend gatherings in the downtown eastside, migrant and refugee community meetings, meetings in labour halls, and most especially with Indigenous peoples worldwide fighting extraction.

Art was also uncompromising and relentless, being a thorn in so many peoples side and yet winning everyone’s respect for his unwavering dedication.

When people ask me about intergenerational movement organizing, I speak about Art and how he patiently took me under his wing when i was an eager clueless (still am) twenty year old and so generously invited me into his whirlwind world of archives, maps, maze of policies and laws from the UN to WTO.

I think of the tremendous lineage of the whole Manuel family and what intergenerational legacies of resistance look and feel like, in the everyday teachings shared around kitchen tables that I’ve had the honour of joining at times.

Art was a leader and a mentor, and also a wonderful and generous and kind friend – he came for almost every cheesy birthday bash, when he drove through town every few weeks we’d go to his favourite Chinese restaurant (and sometimes if i could convince him to go to Green Lettuce :), he insisted on being our unofficial wedding photographer, he gave my baby her first basket that she slept in.

When things were hard in life, I would wake up to short late nite texts “Hang in there” or a personal favourite “Knock knock. Whose there? Hug”

All my love and prayers go out to Art’s family, his siblings, his children, his beloved grandchildren whom he absolutely loved sharing photos and antecodes of, the Secwepemc nation, and all those who held him close and were touched by his fire and heart. Art was a brilliant visionary, an inspiring leader, a mentor, teacher and a most generous friend. He is irreplaceable and it will take all of us to fulfill his consistent and clear vision of Indigenous self-determination and nationhood. As an ancestor, Art will continue to guide and lead us.

Rest well friend, rab rakha.

arthurmanuel-harshawaliaHarsha and Art

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artfamily-statement

More here:

Intellectual, activist, ‘giant’ Arthur Manuel sung out by family across the threshold to the other side

Arthur Manuel was loved and respected by many including my friend journalist Haider Rizvi, who came to know Art while working at the UN and whose accidental death in 2015 i haven’t mourned yet.
Fauzia Rafique

Memory Wall on the Strip: a Mirror for the Officials of the City of Surrey

memorywall-daveFriends We Remember, Lives We Celebrate

There is a place in Surrey where a ‘Celebration Of Life’ event begins and ends with memorializing the ongoing presence of death.

In the icy evening of Saturday 17 December, a few people were gathered on 135A, Surrey’s homeless Strip, to honor and remember those who had died here. The Strip is one of the few streets in Surrey that has no trees. Sparse one-level structures of a couple of auto parts shops, Front Room (drop in center, shelter and a food outlet serving the homeless), a couple more commercial units, and a small church across the street. In front of the closed auto shops, a group of 8-10 wonderful people, who said they were individuals ‘unalligned with any church or other group’, had laid out food on two long tables with boxes of pizza, cookies, juice and pop. On the sidewalk across the street, between a tent and a food table, a white board with some color markers and candles was propped up against the fence of the church.

Already, it had a few names.

I came to know of the Celebration of Life event in early December from a Surrey activist of Alliance Against Displacement (AAD), an organization helping the Residents of the Strip against homelessness. Scheduled for December 10, the event was moved to December 17th to avoid the snow storm; and, during that storm nine homeless people died on the streets of Vancouver, 13 in BC, in one single night.

The almost empty white board began to fill with names as people walked by, stopped to read, some came up and added names of their friends and relatives, some asked for other names to be added. A woman wanted ‘Jessy’ to be written as ‘Jessie’ because she said Jessie would turn in his grave if he saw it written like that; and, more than one person wanted to make sure that ‘Old Man Dave’ was indeed there along with ‘Dave’. A young woman touched a name on the board, cried and said, ‘My one best friend’.

The above photo and the two below were taken the next day, December 18, when a woman named CeeCee, who had the previous night added the name of her late partner to the Memory Wall, herself died in her tent.

memorywall-dave1Native / CeeCee / Dec 18, 2016

Tears are irrelevant in this place. The question is how many more people have to die before the prosperous City of Surrey yields a solution to the increased poverty and homelessness on its streets?

It is obvious to everyone except perhaps the high officials of the City of Surrey and its mouthpiece publications and organizations that these deaths are not ‘fentanyl’ ‘ODed’ deaths but deaths caused by homelessness and poverty. I say it because the ‘famed’ plan that the City was working on without consulting the Residents of the Strip, came out to be a plan totally off the mark- it’s as if people were dying because of hunger, and the City assigned more ambulances for a solution. The irony is, it’s not ‘as if’, this is exactly what has happened and is happening. The City’s new ‘plan’ for the Strip is to scare away it’s residents with increased surveillance and intimidation, but the problem is that there’s no place else to go from here.

There is a letter that a group of academics put together with regards to homelessness in Victoria, I find, it’s relevant here too. And so, Surrey! THIS WINTER – HOUSING FIRST!

The City of Surrey must provide the following to the residents of the Strip:
– Comfortable housing to the homeless people living on the Strip.
– Full assurance that until their housing needs are met, the people living on the Strip will not be required to unpitch their tents and leave each morning.
– A Memorial where the Memory Wall now stands.

memorywall-dave2Behind the Memory Wall

Uddari is grateful to Alliance Against Displacement (AAD) for supporting the Residents of the Strip in their demand for safety and housing, for organizing the Celebration of Life event, and for providing the photos for this post.

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