Inspiration Porn – the second best thing about the internet

The other day I threw my back out while visiting DC, a painful three hours of travel from my home in Brooklyn. After two days laid out on a friend’s bed, unable put on my own socks, I took a handful of Advil and got on a plane.

The trip was full of all sorts of scary problems: How would I take my shoes off at security? How would I get my luggage from the apartment to the cab? How would I walk to the gate? etc. These once invisible challenges made me question a lot about my own assumptions about society and disability. With a the last week of very limited mobility I turned to the internet for some answers and inspiration.

The quote is from Olympic Figure skater Scott Hamilton, someone who is not disabled.

Stella Young, a comedian, a writer, an advocate, and a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer refers to the above image as “inspiration porn” in her in her 2014 Ted Talk . Inspiration Porn is the objectification of disabled people and their experiences for the benefit of others. This objectification, according to Stella, dehumanizes disabled people turning them into objects to be admired for feats non-disabled people do, often without thinking.

Continue reading “Inspiration Porn – the second best thing about the internet”

Truth vs. Meaning – When rubber bullets aren’t rubber, or bullets

This piece was originally posted on Wednesday, November 19,  on the Center For Story Based Strategy blog, where I am currently a Worker Justice Fellow. 

Last Friday St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson and St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar went on live public radio  to fire the latest volley in the battle of truth vs. meaning, which started with the first protests in Ferguson when people took to the streets calling for #JusticeforMikeBrown.


Referring to the early days of protest in Ferguson, Belmar said, “We didn’t use rubber bullets. If they’re actually rubber bullets, they’ll kill you. We did use tear gas. We did use smoke. We did use pepper balls — different things such as that. We did use armored trucks. But you know what? We didn’t use those on peaceful protesters. We used that on unfortunate criminal activity that spun out of the protest.”

This statement is a doing a few things at once:

  • Distancing police from violence that leads to death.
  • Bullets = death, so they deny any type of bullet was used.
  • Replacing the idea of rubber bullets with weapons that are not automatically linked to death, such as pepper balls.
  • Advancing a core frame of criminals and criminal activity.
  • Police force is justified when dealing with criminals.

Read the rest of the post here.

When stomping Nazis, no room for neutral

When I was growing up I could have been considered a thug. The short of it, I was a teenage punk rocker, I was smart, and I hated authority. And the only thing I hated more than authority were Nazis.

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 11.12.34 AM
Pretty simple

It wasn’t just me, it was the scene. In the 90’s Nazi skinheads were growing in organizational power and form. There was a story that passed around my high school. Once, a New York City hardcore band was playing a show in town. A bunch of Nazi skinheads flooded into the venue with baseball bats, cue balls in socks, and rolls of quarters in their fists, some real medieval stuff. And what did the punk and hardcore kids do? They fought them.

For me, and a bunch of my punk friends, it was a simple politic: Nazis are racist, racists are bad, if we allow racists at our shows then our shows are racist, we all loose (historical supported fact). Therefore you couldn’t sit out, there was one choice: we stomped Nazis.

Then things get complicated
Sometimes I long for those days when it was easy to just point to a skinhead and say, “See that bonehead right there? Let’s stomp ‘em” and know that I was fighting the good fight.

Of course, those days were only easy because my understanding of racism was simple. For my teenage punk rock self, racism was racial prejudice expressed physically or verbally.

But, as Michelle Alexander writes in The New Jim Crow, there is a “…widespread and mistaken belief that racial animus is necessary for the creation and maintenance of racialized systems of social control. The unfortunate reality we must face is that racism manifests itself not only in individual attitudes and stereotypes, but also in the basic structure of society.”

Continue reading “When stomping Nazis, no room for neutral”

Las Cafeteras – A Culture Cast interview with Hector Flores

I occasionally produce a podcast called the Culture Cast with my buddy Tracy Van Slyke. This week Tracy was too busy being awesome (seriously) so I interviewed Hector Flores of one of my favorite bands, Las Cafeteras.  Check it out. 

What’s better than a bunch of young lefty Chicanos playing Son Jarocho on stage while a mixed young crowd sings along clapping and dancing like it’s a punk or hip hop show?

Not much.

Las Cafeteras
Las Cafeteras

That’s what you get when you see Las Cafeteras, a seven piece band who’s East LA members met through various social justice campaigns and organizing and who take their name from the East Side Cafe where they first learned to play, most of them not until they were in their 20s.

Las Cafeteras music is political party music that makes manifestos something you can’t help but shake your ass to. It is the kind of movement we need in our, well, movement. 

In this interview Hector Flores, one of the Cafeteras, for the Culture Cast we talk about how the band got started, what it means to be in a band that is also kind of a political calling, and what it is like to be in the middle of a 55 day tour with 6 other people.

To hear, see, follow, and nerd out about everything Las Cafeteras check them out on: twitter @lascafeteras, facebook, YouTube. And maybe they are coming to a hood near you.

In the mean time… you’re welcome.

The human scaled #RoboApoc

This semi-weekly feature scours the internets for news of the Robot Apocalypse (#RoboApoc). I rate each item on a scale of 1 to Skynet

Still stuck in the past.

When I think of robots (which is often) I think of humanoid robots, you know machines that look human. Maybe it is because of the pop culture robots that shaped my childhood, like C-3PO, the Terminator, or even Transformers.

After humanoid robots I think of robots that function in a human understanding of space and time, meaning robots that relate to the natural and human built world in the same scale we do.

Continue reading “The human scaled #RoboApoc”

Warning: Click Bait – Racism in your Machine

kitty trap
Told you so.

OMG! We live in exciting times!

Technology is evolving and innovating all the time. We are integrating hardware and software into our lives more and more everyday. And opportunities for digital intervention, organizing, and activism are multiplying with each new iteration of tech.

Some of the technology will be born from the nexus of social justice organizing and technology development along the lines of the tools developed by the early pioneers of digital campaigning, MoveOn.

Yet, if new technology is not developed by those who are leading the charge for racial and gender justice, then we are missing the real chance to innovate our society.

The foundation
Today’s paradigm of digital campaigning, emerged in 1998, from an email group and petition started by Wes Boyd and Joan Blades, a married couple, who were interested in getting Congress to censure Clinton (over the Monica Lewinsky scandal) and “move on.” They succeeded in getting over half a million signatures, but not winning the censure.

The founders of MoveOn should be applauded for innovating and finding a new way to campaign, a way that has come to be the dominant form of digital campaigning (regardless of my earlier criticism).

moveon kitty

And yet…

MoveOn was started by rich white people (their software company Berkeley Systems was making $30 million in annual revenue until they sold it for $13 million a year before starting MoveOn – according to Wikipedia).

(@JTPspeaks #BFD –  masses of well meaning white technologists are tweeting)

Continue reading “Warning: Click Bait – Racism in your Machine”

Friday Inspiration – Heinrich on Why We Run

This is Occasional Everything and I have really been occasional about it, but not everything. Here is a report from my dear friend and fellow runner (like we run together a lot) Sean Sullivan about the humanness of running. I find it inspiring.

Milo and the Calf

It is fair to say that I’m obsessed with Bernd Heinrich. I found his book Why We Run: A Natural History to be both rigorous and moving and his lifetime commitment to running to be inspiring.

Heinrich is going to be a presence on this blog for a while to come, so get used to it and check out this awesome video Salomon Running did about him. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep, but this video almost moved me to tears.

View original post