Category Archives: Call to Action

Post the Sixty-First or On the Unbearable Whiteness of College

It is a documented fact that poverty coincides greatly with skin color. By the measure of the last Census, the percentage of white people living in poverty was 14%. The percentage of Black people living in poverty is 36% and for Latino people it is 35%. That is more than half times more than the percentage for white people. The reason for this is manifold and outside of the scope of this piece. Suffice it to say that it is due in large part to an inheritance of enslavement and genocide. The point I am trying to make here is that more people of color live in poverty than do their white counterparts.

Education is often cited as the way out of poverty. People with bachelor’s degrees earn more than those with high school diplomas. People with master’s degrees earn more than people with bachelor’s and so on. With higher education, people say, one can make a better life for one’s self, especially if one grew up in poverty. Education is the price of admission into Middle America and the American Dream. There is no better way to pull yourself up by your bootstraps than going to school.

If this is the case, why are most college campuses so white? Here at Northeastern, 28% of the student body are people of color that were born in the US. In other words, the student body is primarily white. If education is the key out of poverty, why aren’t college campuses flooded with people of color?

My Advanced Writing class. There are 2 POC, including myself, in this class of 9.

The racists among us would cite the inherent laziness, stupidity and criminal nature of people of color. And while most people wouldn’t cop to that in those words, I can’t tell you how many times people have used coded language to say just that. For example, implying that so-and-so wouldn’t have gotten in if it wasn’t for affirmative action or, worse, that affirmative action is racist against white people. I remember once, after a presentation, a white classmate told me later, with surprise in his voice, “You are so articulate!” As if being articulate was a trait reserved for white people. Or saying that so-and-so isn’t, like, “stereotypically” black because look at the way they dress and they are doing so well in college!

Or worst yet, “28% of the students are people of color? That’s so diverse!”

Yeah… I have to keep Advil in my bag at all times, just in case.

I would counter these subtle, or not-so-subtle, racists that the reason why college campuses are so white is not because people of color are lazy or stupid or criminal but rather because of the systemic injustices that our education system has. There is very little support for people of color, who live in predominantly poor urban neighborhoods with shoddily funded schools, to get a decent high school education. Let alone a good one. Not only that but brown children, especially brown male children, are routinely disciplined much more harshly then their white counterparts. They are constantly being told that they are lazy, stupid and criminal. They are already written off as failures before anyone even says go.

And then there is the School to Prison Pipeline, which siphons underperforming youth into the juvenile justice system.

And even if they go to a decent school, with supportive and affirming teachers, the violence that often permeates their lives (which is due to more structural injustice) often prevents them from applying themselves to their studies and doing well. When one is worried if one will survive the walk home, it’s kinda hard to care if you are gonna pass a math exam.

Look at the all beautiful white people...

All in all, the deck is stacked against you if you are brown.  There is little to no support to help you succeed if you are a person of color. And most white people can conveniently ignore this because it doesn’t affect them; so who cares, right?

College campuses, including Northeastern, are mostly white because there is little to no investment in getting brown people to college. Those in power are not interested in empowering the disempowered and so the support is not there.

The other reason why Northeastern is so white is because this school does not provide enough financial support for low-income students. People of color and low-income people might get in, but without scholarship and grants, they cannot hope to afford to come here. Since middle-upper class and upper class families are usually white, it makes sense why they would make up most of the student body. When money is spent to build and power some foolish

Holy crap! Two black women! It seemed that all the POC on campus moved in groups. Strength in numbers!

piece of engineering “artwork” and finance a million dollar home for the president, it’s clear to see where the financial priorities of the university lay. I’ll give you a hint: not with students of color.

At this point you might say to me, “None of this is news, Morgan. Why write about it now?”

I write this now because even though none of it is news, it all bares repeating. Here at Northeastern, on a mostly white campus, it is exceedingly easy to ignore and write off the issues that don’t directly affect some of us. But by ignoring these issues, we are only contributing to them. As Desmond Tutu, the South African activist, once said,

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

I write this critique to spark conversation and engage this student body to move away from its lethargic, apolitical nature. For far to long we have languished in this space of “neutrality”, of aligning with the status quo through inaction. For far to long we have failed to interrogate and challenge not

One of the many quads. Trying to spot POC is like playing "Where's Waldo?"

only Northeastern administration but also those greater systems of power that keep us oppressed. College campuses used to be the center of social change and gave so much power movements that worked for change; The Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Liberation Movement, the Anti-War Movement, the Queer Rights Movement, just to name a few. Students have been at the forefront of so many movements. But that no longer seems to be the case. That main concern of students today is not how can we make this world a better place but where the next pseudo-frat party is.

I write this critique, also, to tell my Black and Brown sisters and brothers that they are not alone. I know that, for myself, the sense of isolation that I feel when people who do not share my struggle surround me is very corrosive to my spirit. I get discouraged, apathetic and frustrated. So I write this to not only remind myself of the importance of the struggle but also to remind you, dear reader, that you are not alone.

One thing is certain, however: to remain ignorant in the face of these struggles is to be part of the problem.

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Post the Forty-First or On Magickal Anti-Racism

The neo-pagan movement has seen an amazing resurgence in the belief of a Goddess or even the belief in many deities. It has inspired many to break away from traditional and oppressive forms of worship and find their own way to relate to the divine. This resurgence has also created a space for the revival of the magickal traditions from all over the world. The magick of many of the institutionalized religions have lost their power. Either because those branches have been erased or because the mainstream nature of the religion make magick largely inaccessible. Whatever the reason, more and more people are turning to witchcraft and paganism for their spiritual and religious needs.

One of the things that I really love about magick is that, historically as well as presently, it gives access to power for the powerless. Magick allows oppressed people get ahead, whether through casting a spell to get a job or calling upon a spirit for justice, it makes life easier. I know that in my experience, magick has helped me a lot and I don’t think I would be where I am today if I hadn’t relied on it. And I know countless people who have used magick to do anything from escaping an abusive john to healing the wound that was caused by rape. And these were things done by those who don’t have access to the “mundane” channels of power. In many respects, it levels the playing field.

But despite this, it seems that the neo-pagan movement as a whole is mostly white. When I enter pagan spaces, it is predominately white and a white person is usually leading the ceremony. What’s worse is that many times these white pagans will appropriate deities and ceremonies from magickal traditions that are not only still alive but also practiced by mostly people of color. For example, I was at a ritual where the mostly white circle were invoking the loa without context or understanding as to what they were doing. They seemed to fail to realize that the reason the loa came to be is because of centuries of colonialism, diaspora, and religious persecution. I’ve also been in space where white people were invoking Native powers and traditions without acknowledging that they were occupying stolen land. Not to mention the fact that there are no authors of color in the mainstream neo-pagan movement, which I know for many is their only way to access this knowledge.

It’s no wonder that people of color are turned off by it because their is no space for them and many times the rituals are actively racist.

Moreover, since we live in this diasporic context it’s sometimes very difficult, if not impossible, to have access to the traditions and magickal practices of our ancestors. In many cases, those traditions have been erased or so bleached of their power that they no longer work for us. Speaking for myself, as a first generation American, I don’t have access to the ancestral land of my foremothers nor their spiritual traditions. However, the need for this sort of practice is needed, if not vital for my well being.

How, then, do we create a space for anti-racist magick? How do we practice our craft or transformation that has at it’s roots principles of social justice? If magick gives power to the powerless, how do we give the powerless access?

The first step, I believe, is to start talking about it. I think it’s important that we start having conversations on the legacy of colonialism and its very real impacts today. White folks need to start owning their privilege and their part in appropriating the cultural traditions of those that they have colonized. They need to realize that by appropriating those traditions, they are furthering the cause of cultural imperialism.

But beyond that, we need to start making a space for ourselves. We need to develop our own magickal practices and traditions. We need to take what fragments we have and create a system that is relevant to us today. We need to build collectively a system that serves our interests and our needs. We need to call upon and explore the powers that we have to create a community that not only learns together but also thrives together. We all need to pool our magick together to create something beautiful and healing and energizing. So that we can continue the work that we do.

The time to create something that can heal our wounds has to be now.


Post the Twenty-Sixth or A Call to Action for OccupyAustin

I have gone down to Occupy Austin several times and what I have seen is truly dismaying. I saw a whole lot of white folks holding drumming circles (problematic), doing yoga, talking about meditation, worrying about hurt feelings and cooperating with the police. I saw a lot of white, cisgender, men leading and facilitating. I saw a whole lot of standing around, a whole lot of disorganization and a whole lot of complacency.

You know what I didn’t see? I didn’t see a whole lot of people of color. I did not see a whole lot of visibly trans and queer folk. I didn’t see a lot of people who are disabled. I did not see a whole of critical analysis and discourse and I did not see a whole lot of action. What I saw was a bunch of white folks, hanging around and socializing.

This is unacceptable.

Don’t get me wrong; I like meditation and yoga and other forms of self-care, but if we are going to build up a movement that creates lasting social change then we need to be checking our own shit. We need to be examining our privilege and make sure that we have equitable representation of folks that hold different identities. And this means more than just inviting them. This means that we are building a culture of inclusion and radical celebration. It means that we are making room for people of color. We are making room for queer and trans people. We are making room for women and mothers and poor people. It means that we are making room for oppressed people. Equitable representation means that we are examining the effects of white supremacy, capitalism and patriarchy. It means the we examine the actions that we take and makes sure that we are not unconsciously perpetuating those systems of power and oppression. This examination must also include our language.

For example, the language around the very name of the movement. Occupy. We need to examine how this word and the language that surrounds it is oppressive language. This is because this land is already being occupied. This land has been occupied since the first colonizers landed 500 years ago. We need to be examining colonialism and our participation in the continued colonization of this land and the Third World. Moreover, we need to realize that indigenous folk and other folks of color have been trying to decolonize their land and their bodies from white supremacy since the beginning of European Imperialism. We need to realize that they are still fighting this. We need to realize that economic growth in the US usually means the suffering and exploitation of the Third World. We need to realize that the US is still pursuing global empire by getting the Third World to be economically dependent on the US. And its going to take more than issuing a solidarity statement to understand and change these things.

We also need to examine our relationship with the police. The police are NOT allies to oppressed people. They work to defend the status quo and defend those in power. The police has a long and bloody history of brutalizing people of color, queer and trans people, people in poverty etc. They do not exist to defend your “first amendement rights” because once you start getting out of line, they beat you down and arrest you. Any movement that seeks to upset the status quo by bringing true equitable power back into the hands of the oppressed will find no friend in the police.

And not only must we be doing direct action, like protests and bank bombs, but we also need to be establishing sustainable communities. We need to be banding together to support one another, whether that be through skill shares or through popular education or even better permaculture. We need to supporting our activism by having active, vibrant, sustainable communities so that we not only have sustainable leadership but so that we also continue to have momentum and not burn out.

We have an opportunity here to help usher in a new era of social change and social justice. We have a chance to make this world a better place for everyone. Now is the moment in which the 99% can be truly and equitably represented. In this moment we can change the course of history.

Don’t fuck it up.


Post the Twenty-Fifth or On the Merits of Community Organizing

com·mu·ni·ty

[kuh-myoo-ni-tee]  Show IPA

noun, plural -ties.

1.a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.

2.a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived orperceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists (usually preceded by the).

or·gan·ize

[awr-guh-nahyz] , -ized, -iz·ing.

verb (used with object)

1. To form as or into a whole consisting of interdependent or coordinated parts, especially for united action.

2. To enlist or attempt to enlist into a labor union.

Community organizing is about recognizing the power that we have as a people. It is about recognizing the immense spiritual and emotional power that we have. It is also about taking different forms of power back into the hands of the people. Whether that be institutional power or the power that comes from being visible, from being recognized as a people. Community organizing is the act of getting people mobilized to make systemic change in their communities and in communities beyond.

I am a community organizer. Nothing gives me greater joy than to see a group of oppressed folks get together and talk about how we can make our space not only safe but also transformative. Nothing is so healing for me than seeing my people gather together for a common cause. To see relationships and coalitions build around me to create change. This kind of work heals me because it demonstrates to me that I am not alone. It shows me that there are people like me, who think in was similar to mine and who are invested in making the world a better place.

This world constantly oppresses us in many subtle and corrosive ways, and one of the most damaging messages that we receive is that we are alone. That we are are abnormal, freakish and strange and that we are the only ones in the world that have this sort of existence, this sort of body. And for many oppressed folks, myself included, this message is so ingrained in our personal and collective psyches that we often think that we are, in fact, the only ones.

The reason why community organizing is so healing for me is because it dispels that myth. It rewrites the programing of my psyche so that I can fully reject that message of isolation and know it to be false. It shows me, quite viscerally, that I am not alone and that these people share my story in ways that may not be specific, but are similar in tenor and tone. The other reason why it is healing is because it allows me to take off the armor that I have to wear in my everyday life. It allows me to take off an armor that I have been wearing for so long, I have forgotten that I am even wearing it. Because of our shared experience, I am able to be vulnerable in ways that I cannot allow myself to be when interacting with people that have privileged bodies. And that vulnerability allows me to grow and expand in ways that would not be possible because of all the armor that I must wear to survive.

Community organizing is more than just healing work, it is transformative work. When oppressed communities organize by themselves for themselves, movements are created. Change is enacted when oppressed people work together in concert. Spaces are reclaimed and power is taken back.

When communities organize, change occurs.

Those in power are terrified of this change, of the power that we hold if only we claim it. And with good reason. For once power is reclaimed and shared, they lose their ill-gained and oppressive power. I was fired last week for this work. I was one of the louder and more visible member of a community of people who wanted to revolutionize the way my organization was run, which was from a top-down management system to a bottom-up member vested management system, where the power resided with the constituents and they were in charge of the direction of the organization.

I was fired because I threatened the status quo and challenged those in power.

But they cannot fire all of us. And least of all the young people. I might have been fired but the movement continues and I would encourage all those involved to double their efforts to keep those in power accountable and to create the change that they want to see. They fired me because we were getting to them, we were being effective. They wanted to derail our movement. Do not let them do that.

The biggest merit of community organizing is that if one falls, many take hir place. Community organizing is about communities and what communities wants. All it takes is momentum. All it takes is for people to step up and recognize that we are never alone.


Post the Fourteenth or Why Consensus Decision Making is Better

con·sen·sus

[kuhn-sen-suhs]

noun, plural -sus·es.

1.majority of opinion
2.general agreement or concord; harmony.

The Consensus Decision Making process is one in which everyone involved is equal and has equal voice. Every voice is heard and every angle is considered. Consensus is not majority rules. It is a process in which all people agree on a course of action. There is compromise and agreement so that all individuals are satisfied. True consensus takes into account all historical factors of racial, queer, class, agist and ableist oppression and addresses that history so that the process is truly egalitarian.

My dream is that all organizations and decisions that involve communities are reached using this process. My dream is that through this process we can finally make decisions for ourselves and our community. My dream is that we can truly empower ourselves to not only advocate for ourselves but also to take action ourselves and for ourselves. My dream is as we embrace consensus we can create a truly equitable world.

As many of you know Out Youth is in a state of civil war due to the abrupt and painful termination of one of the most beloved members of the Out Youth Family. This was done without our consent and without us being consulted. It was done brutally and without compassion. I think the biggest reason for this is the agist, ableist, classist, and racist nature of the non-profit industrial complex. The organization is structured in such a way that the Board of Directors have absolute governing power, they make and change policy and budget without any accountability to the community they serve. Moreover, they elect themselves. They are self-perpetuating. Sounds a lot like an authoritarian oligarchy to me.

The Board of Directors does not take into account the thoughts, opinions and experiences of the youth, staff, interns and other volunteers. The reason for this is the subtle forms of power that they have and the very overt forms of oppression that they wield. Because they are adults, have class privilege (since you need to be able to either give or raise $1000), are mostly white and are mostly able-bodied they can write off or ignore the subtle ways they oppress the community they serve. For example, they have their board meetings at a location that isn’t Out Youth, they have it at a location that isn’t accessible and most of all they don’t make it a point to recruit and let everyone know where and when the meetings are.

The most obvious way, however, is that in order to be a part of the Board, in order to have a vote, in order to have any say in the direction of Out Youth, you have to be able to contribute monetarily. In order to be a part of the Board, you need to pay. And that makes it inaccessible not only to young people (which they serve) but also a whole slew of other people who can’t afford to pay. It says to young people that their thoughts, opinions, experiences and voices are of no consequence.

And their privilege allows them to not see ANY of that.

Which is why I think it is so important to introduce and inform them of consensus. I think that the first step in making Out Youth sustainable is to incorporate the process of consensus in all decision making processes. From the budget to programming to who gets hired to who gets fired. By keeping focus on consensus we can all get adequate representation and it keeps things like this from occurring. It will prevent organizations, families and people from being ripped apart by disagreement and ineffective leadership because it puts power in the hands of everyone. If we share power than no one is left out in the cold.

Moreover, it would check and inform folks with privilege of their privilege and lead to a more equitable world.

It has to start with us.


Post the Thirteenth or The Call for Letters

The following is a Call for Letters to go to the Out Youth Board of Directors to let them know how we feel and what we want.

We, the members of the Out Youth Family, are calling out for letters from youth, staff, interns, volunteers, donors, friends, and all other members that identify with this family and this community and believe in this mission to be presented to the Board of Out Youth at the next board meeting on September 12th.

In light of the decision to eliminate the programing director’s position, members of the Out Youth family are feeling hurt and betrayed by the board and upset that the voices of the staff, youth, and community were not brought to the table to make a decision of such magnitude that affects every aspect of the organization. The elimination of this position without notice means that programming and the services offered to the queer/trans youth of Austin will suffer, and the ability to manage interns and volunteers will decrease significantly because there was no time for such tasks to be handed off and delegated. Furthermore, it has been a part of Out Youth’s history and culture to not only be given fair notice of a member’s departure, but also to host a celebration of their achievements, contributions, and overall experience with this organization. Lisa Rogers was not given fair notice of her time at Out Youth coming to an end and the community was not given any chance to say goodbye or wish her well on her next endeavors.
Beyond this decision, members of this community are feeling aggravation over the lack of transparency around the board, a lack of financial responsibility to the organization, and an overall lack of competency. We are calling for:

  • complete restructuring of the board that will include youth positions on the board and advisory council
  • a restructuring of the current bylaws
  • meeting minutes and budget proposals be sent out and made public to all members of the organization
  • all board members be current donors to the organization and held accountable for meeting fundraising deadlines
  • autonomy of the Executive Director on matters of staffing and staff positions,
  • mandatory and regular training for all board members
  • the resignation of the board chair Aubrey Wilkerson

We are asking for letters of solidarity and support to deliver to the board concerning these issues. Please feel free to contribute personal stories, your own feelings about the matter , and what you wish to see in the future from the board of Out Youth.

Email letters to: Ginger Yachinich at lovegingi@gmail.com
Physical copies to Ginger or Tameika Hannah or Morgan Collado.

We are also asking that folks post videos of themselves reading their letters to the Out Youth Family or the Out Youth facebook wall.