sisters of resistance

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Solidarity with @GoldAntiRacism #goldoccupy #myracistcampus — April 23, 2019

Solidarity with @GoldAntiRacism #goldoccupy #myracistcampus

Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Occupation banners on front of Deptford Town HallIt is the 43rd night that undergraduate students of colour, led predominantly by Black, brown and Muslim women and queer folx and supported by white allies, have been in occupation at Deptford Town Hall, the face of Goldsmith’s University Campus in New Cross, South East London. The students are campaigning against the numerous manifestations of institutional racism they have encountered, many of them in their first year of university life. Considering the outstanding community organising undergirding the occupation, it may be surprising that most of the students were not previously involved in activism of any kind. Yet, in this final portion of the academic year, they have powerfully articulated and mobilised around a common cause and put their bodies and livelihoods on the line to attain the outcomes they seek, and in so doing have created the longest-standing student occupation in the history of Goldsmith’s University.

The analysis and activities of the occupation are deeply and inherently intersectional, demonstrating the distillation of theory into practice by this generation of young people, especially women, femmes,  queer and trans folks of colour, who have learned to link struggles and centre the needs of the most marginalised. It is they, not academics or recognised intellectuals, who are advancing this knowledge and practice as they discuss and share it through digital media and implement it in their political struggles. This is represented in the Audre Lorde quote they have posted on the entry door, enacted in the way they have organised, signposted, and offered resources in the physical space in the occupied rooms, and outlined in no uncertain terms in their manifesto: our struggles are interconnected and intertwined. We will only achieve true, full liberation for all if we boost and listen to the voices of the most marginalised.

Audre Lorde quote on occupation entrance
Audre Lorde quoted on the entrance

While the students have made explicit and unflagging critique of the statues of slavers and a slave ship adorning the building they occupy, they also argue that Deptford Town Hall is, as a Town Hall, meant to be a community space, and that it was promised as such by Goldsmith’s leadership when it was purchased. However, the students protest, until the occupation, the ornate, palatial building was closed to the public and used primarily for music recitals and for the offices of senior management. The students have flipped this state of affairs on its head, with their occupation causing senior management to flee the premises, without returning, within minutes of the occupiers’ collective entrance. They have struggled with management for the open access to the building they now enjoy (open doors to students, staff and invited guests from 9AM-7PM) as well as against the arbitrary rules and power trips of white members of security staff. They have taken over at least four substantial rooms of the upper floor of the town hall, designating gathering, study and sleeping areas, art and mental wellness space, meeting, and prayer rooms, as well as a back office in which they found a telling book laughably left behind by university senior management, “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics”.

Goldsmith’s University, like so many others, has an disreputable history of ignoring the protests made against it regarding structural oppressions at the institutional level, particularly in regard to accusations of sexual harassment of students by staff, and the pattern here continues. Current management strategy appears to be to disregard the students as much as possible, so as not to legitimise their struggles, expecting them to exhaust themselves until the problem simply disappears. However, management sorely underestimate the occupying students’ sheer willpower and determination to stay in occupation until their demands are met. They have been locked in by security and had hostile and violent exchanges with university management, describing these escalations as stressful, tense and scary times. But, sitting in the fully stocked, peaceful and well organised kitchen area, it was difficult to imagine the scale of the animosity that the students had not long ago had to endure. The occupation was triggered by blatantly racist attacks on the posters of a student of colour running for a leadership office. Once in occupation, doors to the Town Hall were locked and supplied had to be hoisted in through the balcony. Security staff with whom students had a rapport were suddenly taken off their posts and replaced with strangers. They described recently preparing a full cooked meal for a visiting student group that had travelled from four hours away, when at the last minute that same group was barred by security from entering, without any notice. This turned into a three hour standoff with some violent physical struggle, and is indicative of the type of vicious response of which the institution is clearly capable and prepared to mete out at will to frustrate and discourage the occupiers.

However, thankfully, the vibe today was much more relaxed and positive – Beyonce’s newly streamable Lemonade was being projected onto a screen and played on speakers, while students of colour, Black, Muslim, South and East Asian, offered tea and birthday cake, sat and studied, or just relaxed with each other, at the same time extending an open invitation to use the space with a warm hospitality that eminently captured the love with which they have undertaken this profoundly political and radical act. Although the Goldsmith’s Anti-Racism Occupation students struggle against the violence of white supremacy, they do not replicate the monster they are fighting, with its adherence to hierarchy, privatization and status preventing it from being responsive, transparent and accountable. Instead, the form of the students’ activism echoes its function, demonstrating the best of human social life: collective action – pooled resources, held in common, responsibilities shared, where the reproduction of everyday life is a collaborative effort, enacted with care, consideration and compassion.

We at Sisters of Resistance are incredibly inspired by these students, who build so beautifully on the legacies of freedom fighters before them, and we offer our wholehearted and unconditional support and solidarity for them and their occupation. We commend and thank them, and all other anti-racist and intersectional student activists, for their tirelessness, bravery and dedication in demonstrating that another university is possible – one that is ours for the making, if only we have the courage to demand it.

View the full manifesto and sign the endorsement here!

The case against having children — November 9, 2017

The case against having children

I am a thirty three year old woman with a secure job in a long term relationship with a man seven years my junior. We are both at the start of promising careers, me in education and he in catering and music. We have been together for five solid years, are deeply in love, and live together part of the time with the intention of soon making it full time. Nearly all of the couples we know have children. He is godfather to a bright and beautiful six year old girl, who we see often; we have close friends with one and two year olds, and at family parties there are usually five or six little ones running round and playing in the back garden. We are active in their care, babysitting on request and voluntarily; there is no shortage of interaction with children in our lives. We smile at their sweetness, sigh over their cuteness and giggle along with them at their silliness. We head them off if they are about to hurt themselves, cuddle them when they cry, play with them, speak to them gently, and truly love them. 

And yet. The likelihood that he and I are going to have children of our own is a possibility growing further and further away with each passing year. My rejection of the social script to progress from the stage we are now at, to marriage, and then children, at the expectation of others is a commitment that in my mind is nearly as strong as our commitment to each other. When people ask me, “Do you want kids?” my standard answer is, “It varies…between ‘maybe’ and ‘hell no!’” The older I get the more it has become clear that the conscious choice I have always made to prevent pregnancy has been the right one for me.  

That I have come to this conclusion surprises me as much as it confuses others. Most of my life I have wanted to be someone’s mother. I have daydreamed about what I would name my children, how I would teach them to be good people, what languages they would speak and what family heirlooms I would pass on to them. But as I have come to the realisation that having children is not something that makes sense for me in the immediate or short term future, the rationale has taken shape in my mind. So, I present below the reasons that make up my current case against having children, for reasons other than not liking them, loosely organised into THINGS I WANT and THINGS I DON’T WANT.  

I want to remain the protagonist of my life. I don’t want to have to constantly be thinking about someone who for at least 20 or so years (until I am in my 50s) cannot care for themselves. I do not want to spend my 30s changing diapers and bedsheets for a being that wees and shits all over itself and me. I do not want to have year after year of very little sleep and sore nipples from breastfeeding. I do not want to research the best things to feed toddlers or then latest parenting method; instead I would rather work on my research papers. I do not want to have to go to bed early so I can wake up to wash them, feed them breakfast, and take them to school at 8am. I do not want to move houses so we can be in a better school catchment area. I do not want to clean crayon off the walls or have small items around the house suddenly go missing. I do not want to take a tiny being to expensive places like Disneyland and put all my effort into making them happy when they are young if it will be just a blip in their memory when they grow up.  

I want to spend my money on myself, on gifts for loved ones already living, on traveling and have something saved for retirement. I don’t want to feel obligated to buy the latest toy to make them smile only to have them forget about it a few weeks later. I don’t want to be hassled at the grocery store where the aisle of sweets is strategically placed at a child’s eye level. I don’t want the negative vibes that come from continuously denying the requests of someone I love, minor and ridiculous though they may be.  

I don’t want to raise a child in late capitalism who will be socialised into a generation so far removed from my childhood that I don’t understand their culture, logic and way of thinking. I don’t want to to be disturbed by the music they listen to, the technology they are obsessed with. I don’t want to have to speak in child-friendly language and terminology for days or months or years at a time. I don’t want to have to explain everything, because I would feel that responsibility. I don’t want to have to deal with teen sexting and adolescent porn use and the impact these will undoubtedly have on their self-esteem and sexual development. I want to have adult conversations and I also want to be able to avoid the lies that parents sometimes have to tell. Like that the world will be ok when they grow up, or that I am sure they will find a job and pay off that student loan. I don’t want to raise a child with Western expectations of material pleasure and success without the means to help them actually achieve those objectives. I don’t want to watch my child’s generation be less successful than me, as this is the trend we are currently in and which doesn’t look like it will end anytime soon.  

I want to drastically reduce my carbon footprint in a way that I could never do simply by keeping the heat down and the lights off. I want to be able to distribute my love widely and not have it concentrated on one or two precious beings who will then keep my hands full and unable to serve others. I want to follow in the traditions of religious who devoted themselves to their work and to their spiritual practice by not marrying and having a family. I have always been inspired by women of the cloth, as in generations past that would have been the only way for someone like me to have a life of the mind. I understand how much effort it takes to live a life that intentional and for this reason I love that their clothing was referred to as ‘habit.’ If we make our clothing a habit the energy we expend on selecting items of dress and beautifying ourselves is much reduced and there is effort left over for other, more important things. Once children arrive, they become the subjects of ultimate importance, and as such, assume their rightful place in the priority list. If all is as it should be, everything else comes after. Babies are helpless beings who depend on us to satisfy their every need. I associate this relationship of dependency, at least the way we have arranged it in contemporary Western nuclear-family capitalism, with a requirement for selfless, unconditional giving on one hand, and a learned behaviour of demanding and taking on the other. If it was a relationship between adults I would call it abuse, but it is not in a child’s nature to do anything different. This imbalance is enough to drive one to mental illness, as the many mothers with post-natal depression will tell you. Thus, much like nuns once opted for uniform clothing, I choose to be child free in order to preserve energy and sanity for my work in the world.  

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