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× 1: Setting the Scene - Portland OR 2: The Murder of Mulugeta Seraw 3: Building Community Defense 4: The Minneapolis Baldies and Anti Racist Action 5: They Thought We Were Everywhere: the Portland ARA 6: House Defense 7: A Research Capacity: The Work of the CHD 8: SHARPer Times 9: The Story of Jon Bair 10: Less Booted, More Suited 11: Nothing is Final Bonus Episodes

Bonus Episode Nine Transcript

Bonus Episode – no. NOT EVER


MIC

When we met the Coalition for Human Dignity during the main season of It Did Happen Here and focus on their coalition building and opposition research in the fight against nazi boneheads on the streets of Portland. The CHD along with its Seattle-based sister organization, the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment also played a major role in supporting rural anti-racist struggles. Together they provided intelligence, training, research and support to dozens of small town anti-racist groups and initiatives against white nationalism across the Pacific Northwest.

CELINA

In 2006, two former Coalition for Human Dignity staffers formed a new group called, If You Don't They Will, a Seattle-based collaboration that provides concrete and creative tools for countering white nationalism through a cultural lens. This includes creating spaces to generate visions, desires, actions, memes and dreams for the kinds of worlds we want to live in.

MIC

In 2015, If You Don't They Will gathered ephemera from decades of small town anti-fascist activism into a traveling interactive art show called no. NOT EVER. The multimedia installation documents rural and suburban organizing strategies from the 1980s and 1990s to showcase how people of the Pacific Northwest continuously asserted no. NOT EVER to white nationalism. To call this an art show is a bit understated. No. NOT EVER is a living traveling archive of over 120 anti-fascist groups and projects that took place outside of big cities throughout the western states. The installation combines video footage from interviews, interactive research stations and a community resource guide. The dynamic living archive functions as a participatory teaching and learning tool for anyone interested in connecting with the long and vibrant lineage of anti-racist resistance. I'm Mic Crenshaw,

CELINA

and I'm Celina Flores. In this bonus episode, we hear from the founders of If You Don't They Will, Kate Boyd and Christien Storm, about their histories, their organizing philosophies, and their interactive anti-fascist art show, no. NOT EVER. This first voice is Kate:

KATE BOYD

My name is Kate and I am a co-founder of If You Don't They Will, I got started doing this work, I think in '96 or '97. I was 18, 19 going to college. Two neo-nazi skinheads attacked to students of color right outside of campus. So, there was this huge community meeting where people were coming together trying to figure out how to address what happened. Some folks were saying ignore the neo-nazi skinheads, if you organize against them, that gives them too much power. Luckily, there was also another conversation happening that framed these white nationalist attacks as part of a larger social movement that defined white nationalism as a social movement that was well funded, organized, and intentionally recruiting, testing the waters, specifically in the Northwest. And so when I heard that second analysis of white nationalism as a social movement, like a lightbulb blew up in my head. It really opened up things for me because I was thinking like, "oh, this is a social movement, that really changes how we need to fight it." When I graduated, I ended up working for the Coalition. I did research, and was running programs for and supporting and learning from this incredible network of I think 120 task forces that were all fighting white nationalism in their communities in the northwest states. And while I was doing this work and learning from the super broad-based coalition, I also started learning about the white power music industry. And I got really excited thinking about how to use art and music, to fight against white nationalism and to also imagine and work towards the worlds we actually want. Eric Ward was my boss and mentor at the time and he was like, you have to go meet Christien and you have to get trained at Home Alive.

MIC

We'll hear next from the other half of If You Don't, They Will, Christien Storm.

CHRISTIEN STORM

I was working at a project that I helped co-found called Home Alive during the time when I connected with Eric Ward and Kate and the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment.

CELINA

Home Alive is a Seattle-based anti-violence organization that launched in the aftermath of the 1993 rape and murder of Mia Zapata, singer for The Gits, a popular Seattle punk band. Home Alive organized low cost self defense trainings to disrupt assault both from strangers on the street, and from more intimate violence and abuse.

CHRISTIEN

And then the aftermath of her murder, we came together and started talking about like, "what do we want to do with all this rage and pain?" and I think for many folks, this was the first murder or major trauma and for others of us, like this was the straw in a series of fucked up violence and abuse we were grappling with. A bunch of people came together and there was community discussion after discussion, and out of this, we realized that we wanted self defense for us in our community. We wanted self defense that was affordable--most of us couldn't before the classes that were out there, we wanted self defense recognize the kinds of violence and abuse that many of us were dealing with; domestic violence, you know, hate crimes, alongside sexual harassment and rape and assault. We didn't want to just get home alive, we also wanted to be like, safe and alive in our homes. I think all of the self defense out there was like exclusively stranger violence. And we also wanted self defense that recognized and acknowledged racism, white supremacy, capitalism, police violence, poverty, transphobia, and other systemic forms of violence and abuse. So to recognize that that was part of what we were defending ourselves from, and incorporate that into any curriculum. I think our informal motto was, "be safe in a way that works for you and don't fuck anyone else over just because you disagree with how they do it." So we were looking around, didn't find anything, so we just started our own. We just started talking to folk. Train us to do martial arts. Can you turn us around domestic violence? Can you train us and like, talk to us, and like, share skills and tools. And that's how I met Eric...

MIC

"Eric" is Eric Ward, who is working with the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment at the time. He is now executive director of the Western States Center. Eric's name will crop up a lot during this episode, in his role as a mentor and educator to young anti-racist.

CHRISTIEN

He did the first instructor training with us around bias crimes, I think it was at the Northwest Coalition for Malicious Harassment. And he did an awesome training and I was like, "this person is great. This organization is awesome." And so we kept in touch. Also Home Alive was, because we were like a bunch of artists, musicians, we were doing benefit shows, but also at the moment, Seattle was blowing up on the national music scene. A lot of bands were becoming internationally known and so we were putting out a record with Sony records, or a CD. And so I was just involved in a lot of music stuff.

KATE

Can you say that motto again?

CHRISTIEN

Be safe in the way that works for you and just don't throw other people under the bus or fuck anyone else over just because you disagree with how they do it. All these other places, there's so much of management around like how you're supposed to do it. And we're like, "no, everybody's gonna be safe in their own ways." And it also I think, came from, everybody's priority of what violence and abuse mean are going to mean different things at different moments, which means they're going to look really different in what they're addressing and how they're addressing it.

CELINA

Christien and other Home Alive organizers were frustrated by the limitations of the options available at the time. Telling a punk singer that she should be home by 10 and lock her doors ignored the reality that she might not leave a gig until after two. Or that a roommate might pose a bigger threat than a stranger on the street. Home Alive created accessible, inexpensive, queer-friendly self defense classes and teacher trainings that spread throughout the US and Europe.

MIC

Home Alive also met people where they were at. If a gun made someone feel safe, they help them get training. If guns made someone feel unsafe, they gave them other tools. They did not apply one solution to anyone seeking support but held space for all possibilities, a practice that was served Christien well when she embarked on anti-racist Coalition work.

CHRISTIEN

I got this flyer for a workshop that Eric was doing in Eugene, on the white power music industry, and I was like, "what?" Like, Kate, I'd never heard of anything about a white power music industry. I'd been dealing with skinheads and fighting nazi punks in my music community for a long time, and figured out how to like draw boundaries and kick them out and deal with racism. But like an industry, I'd never heard of, and nobody that I talked to had heard of it. So I went to Eugene, and did the workshop and was just totally blown away. Not only was there this white power/white nationalist music industry, but it was a multi-million dollar industry and they were doing the same thing that Home Alive was doing, but making shit tons more money and it seemed, like, being way more effective. Like, they were putting bands on tours, using tours as organizing hubs, using events and shows to recruit volunteers, get folks excited, talk about what they were doing, and, like, disseminate that out to the world and create networks.

CELINA

When Christien says, "this was the same thing home alive was doing," Home Alive became a social movement of sorts. Bands took literature on tour and talked on stage about the need to protect themselves and their communities against abuse and assault, or hosted benefit shows and raised consciousness about the issue and about Home Alive.

CHRISTIEN

So, I was pretty blown away and pissed and came back, like, totally 100% dedicated to integrating fighting white nationalism into my work with Home Alive and everything since, and figured out a way for Home Alive to support the Northwest Coalition. I started volunteering with them and working with Eric on ways to collaborate and support one another and connected with Kate. And all those folks connected to the Coalition for Human Dignity and Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment. They've all sort of been like, my movement heroes and movement mentors ever since. So then, I left Home Alive, handed it off to the next generation and actually went and worked at the Coalition with Kate for a year or so.

KATE

At Northwest Coalition, Christien and I worked all the time together, again, supporting, running program for and learning from the super broad-based coalition of task forces that were all, in really different ways, fighting the various shapes of white nationalism that were showing up in their communities. And some of these groups were like, one person, and some of them were collectives, and some of them were non-profit. They all had different strategies, and they all had different ideas about which strategies should be used. So I know we were like, already sort of germinating and, on how to share these organizing histories and strategies and political sensibilities.

MIC

Even though the Coalition Against Malicious Harassment ended, Kate and Christien we're still committed to the work.

KATE

So after the Coalition folded, Christien and I reconnected and we're like, "we have to figure out how to continue to do this work," especially with a focus on anti-racist and anti-fascist cultural organizing, and supporting and sustaining and nurturing broad-based coalitions. We call ourselves If You Don't They Will, and we are a Seattle-based collaboration that provides concrete and creative tools to counter white nationalism through a cultural lens. Our countering and our nos and our refusals of white nationalism also always includes generating spaces to collectively envision the kinds of worlds we want to live in. You have to do both work all of the time, the nos, and the yeses. What are we fighting for?

CHRISTIEN

The reminder of like, the yeses, that was something that I struggled with, with Home Alive, and then again with the Coalition. We have to be clear and draw these clear lines of what we're fighting against, but we also have to constantly be developing our imagination. Like, you and I talk about, like, we have our anti-fascist and anti-racist imagination muscles, [inaudible] and always because that yes, we need the yes with the no. The no without the yes, doesn't really move us.

KATE

So, in 2015, white nationalism was escalating. They have been successfully building their base, grassroots organizing, electoral organizing, taking over school boards, running for office, etc, etc. We were doing a lot of workshops to support groups to develop skills specific to countering white nationalism. We got excited about figuring out how to share these histories of these rural and suburban task forces from the 80s and 90s. And the broad-based coalition strategies that they practiced and theorized. How can we bring that into the present? History is so important and think about history as a way to activate and support current organizing efforts. So like a history that's alive. First we were like, "well, let's write a book," because we both love to write and we love to write together. And then we were having a conversation with our friend Molly...

CELINA

Molly is Molly Mac, a Seattle-based arts educator and video artist. Christien and Kate described Molly as someone who makes anti-fascist dreams come true.

KATE

...and she was like, "why are you writing a book? This should be a video art project. There's a timeliness and an urgency around this where we could put something together a lot faster than you having to jump through all the publishing hoops to put out a book." Yes, absolutely! Together, we got to work with Molly who really helped us figure out how to visually and audibly represent this broad-based coalitional social movement that was countering, and some of them still are, right? Countering white nationalism in the 80s and the 90s in the Pacific Northwest. And how do we represent this coalitional social movement in a way that doesn't romanticize the work? That doesn't create, quote, unquote, like hero narratives, and that truly reflects the political sensibility which, just like, of course, you get up and you fight white nationalism. That's just what you do. What are you talking about, of course, you would. Also in a way that fights fear and invites people to join our movement to fight white nationalism and feel connected and part the movement and the anti-fascist work in the present moment.

MIC

Avoiding a hero narrative was central to Kate and Christien in planning no. NOT EVER. As veterans of political organizing and Seattle's rock scene, they were familiar with the social pitfalls of depending on a charismatic leader.

CHRISTIEN

I was feeling so grateful for all the mentorship and all these lessons that I've just been metabolizing ever since, and I came up with this list. Everything is research, and everyone is a researcher, making research accessible and helping folks see what they're already doing is research. Have fun, fight fascism, which is our motto. These movements are hard. And we have to have like, good fun! I think sometimes there's a sense if we get caught having fun, we're not taking this seriously. We need to be having fun. Coalition is at the root of everything. Coalition, coalition, coalition. White nationalism is a social movement. That, just keep integrating that. I'm thinking of, like, Eric's like, the anti-semitism is the fuel. As he says of white nationalism, we have to keep understanding anti-semitism and keep bringing it back into our work when it drops out. We have to deal with our own sexism and hetero-patriarchy and understand white racist feminism if we're going to be able to have robust coalitions. Cultural organizing, why it's important, which I didn't realize and got so humbled to be a mentor to that. And then, this is the last thing like, I was thinking about how many different ways folks were like bad ass and like, fighting white supremacy, white nationalism, and how easy it was to like, go into these communities and like, ignore or dismiss or minimize the anti-racist and anti-fascist work, if it didn't look a certain way, and how much it was a deep, deep, deep lesson in like, shutting up and seeing what emerges. More than once it took me a while to see like, the actual depth and breadth and sophistication of the resistance and the struggles that these communities were engaged in. Even going there, I'd be like, "I know that they're badass, I know they're doing all this." It would keep emerging. And it's messy and complicated and problematic, too. But that lesson from the Coalition, it's one that I carry with me and I just keep getting more and more engaged in and I'm so grateful.

CELINA

Learning from the Coalition about the depth and complexities of political work outside of urban and sub-cultural norms is part of what motivated no. NOT EVER. This interactive art experience honors the dedicated labor of rural anti-fascist organizing, and helps participants locate themselves in a heritage of resistance.

KATE

So no. NOT EVER is the name of our installation. It is a like, mixed media installation. Video interviews with organizers from the 80s in the 90s. There's also activities, quizzes, scenarios, activities where people are invited to write, or name or push to really activate our bodies.

CHRISTIEN

What are the things with the installation, in creating these interviews was creating an interactive place where people could get information, understand some of these stories of these histories, but also begin to have this embodied sense and feel like they are part of this movement to say, "well, no, not ever to white nationalism, and yes to the world that we're working towards and building towards." Part of that embodied feeling, part of a movement, was a commitment to continue to capture these stories and integrate them into other projects, whether that's an expansion of no. NOT EVER, or whether that's a new thing. But that, that's another one of our commitments, is If You Don't, They Will to continue to capture the stories and sensibilities that people currently engaging in resistance to white nationalism.

KATE

And we think of archives that we're working on, that we've worked on in the past and that we're working on now, as coalitional practice. There's also lots of opportunities inside the show, to strategize and practice together, figuring out concrete, creative, robust strategies to say no. NOT EVER to white nationalism every day, in every single way.

ERIN

Thanks for listening to this bonus episode of It Did Happen Here. There are transcripts, show notes with links, and other relevant content at our website, itdidhappenherepodcast.com. You can also listen to the podcast on the KBOO website, on Spotify, Stitcher, and Apple podcasts. Your hosts were Celina Flores and Mic Crenshaw. This podcast is produced by Celina, Mic, and me, Erin Yanke. Music in this episode is by the Neo Boys. Thanks to them, and thanks to the Marla Davis Fund, KBOO Community Radio, and to the rest of our production team, Icky A, Julie Perrini, and Moe Bowstern. And thank you for listening.