Daniel McGowan is currently being housed in the Communications Management Unit (CMU) at the United States Penitentiary at Terre Haute, Indiana. In a controversial ruling an Oregon court ruled that McGowan’s acts of property destruction as part of the ELF although wholly non-violent were to be considered acts of terrorism and designated McGowan as such. The CMU is a designer penal program aimed at severely restricting the communications of McGowan and other specially designated inmates like him as well as cutting off their access to the outside world. This includes a ban on contact visitation with immediate family members.
Daniel and all of the men housed at the CMU need your support! For a list of things that you can do to support Daniel McGowan as well as information about Daniels case visit — http://supportdaniel.org/
To learn what you can do to fight for the rights of prisoners secretly held within CMUs the Center For Constitutional Rights has set up a webpage dedicated to the CMU at — http://ccrjustice.org/cmu-factsheet
Andy Stepanian, cofounder of the Sparrow Media Project & defendant in the SHAC7 trial will dissect contemporary activist movements, highlighting which tactics are working, when they work best, and how a diversity of tactics often yield the largest benefit. Andy will reflect on his past involvement with non-violent direct action movements, his role in the campaign to close down Huntingdon Life Sciences, as well as his current with Sparrow work as a grassroots activism PR consultant.
Local and Vegan refreshments will be served courtesy of Club Activism!
Andy Stepanian, cofounder of the Sparrow Media Project & defendant in the landmark SHAC7 trial will dissect contemporary activist movements, highlighting which tactics are working, when they work best, and how a diversity of tactics often yield the largest benefit. Andy will reflect on his past involvement with non-violent direct action movements, his role in the campaign to close down Huntingdon Life Sciences, as well as his current with Sparrow work as a grassroots activism PR consultant.
Join us on Tuesday, April 26 at NYU’s Kimmel Center, Room 803 from 6:00 to 7:30 PM
Usually we reserve space on this blog only for projects we are actively involved in or for activist efforts that we support but today may be one of the few exceptions.
The semi-elusive UK street artist Banksy was commissioned to storyboard the intro to the primetime animated television show The Simpsons which airs weekly on the Fox network. It is amazing that this passed, and perhaps even insulting to know that a company as crude and oppressive as NewsCorp feels ok about parodying themselves in this manner. Whether you hate Banksy or love him, there is no question that he shanked 20th Century Fox & NewsCorp in the jugular with this one. Watch, laugh, and then do your part to disassemble the corporate media…
The Uganda Skateboard Union in Kitintale Uganda has whittled itself out a little place in the hearts of us here at Sparrow. If you are able to, please consider buying one of these t-shirts we made to support their beautiful program that embodies solidarity and hope.
One year ago Cassi Amanda Gibson visited their handmade skatepark and emailed us photos. Since then the kids of the skateboard union and Jackson Mubiru, the union’s founder, have consistently inspired us and everyone else who we shared their story with.
To say that skateboarding will put an end to a 20 year long civil conflict would be naive, but the principals exercised by the Uganda Skateboard Union have, and will continue to change lives for the better. In a region where international non-profits and NGO’s providing aid are often viewed with skepticism, or viewed as parental, these youth have created their own social epicenter where their positivity and creativity is infectious.
Their numbers are growing exponentially every day, and with the growing numbers, gear and resources are being run through faster then they can arrive in the region. Sparrow was stoked to team up with Sky High Skateshop, Special Sauce, Supreme, and Boundless NYC in helping provide the Union with over 100 pairs of brand new skate shoes, dozens of new decks, trucks, clothes, books & magazines. The kids were stoked too. Cassi and her sister Nicolette returned to Kampala twice over the course of the year to bring the kids more supplies and to film a short video for http://sparrowmedia.net. The kids are also pretty good at getting their own press, like this photo feature on BBC.com and most recently this video feature on CNN.com
With their growing numbers their dreams are growing too…
The kids hope to expand their park and build an adjacent school. In a country where publicly subsidized schooling ends at age 12 and only the most fortunate can further their education, this kids are taking their DIY approach one step further with a plan to build a solar powered learning center as part of the programming offered through the union. This will cost them $13,800 (US Dollars) to build and outfit with books & five computers. The Sparrow Project has made these shirts to support the dreams of the Uganda Skateboard Union, when you purchase one %50 of the proceeds will go directly to the Uganda Skateboard Union. The kids in Kitintale live the very essence of solidarity, we tried to capture a piece of that and put it on a shirt.
Last week we got a tip from a twitter follower, that the re-branding of BP & similar greenwashing campaigns came out of a design studio in the UK called Ogilvy Earth even worse they have issued a sort of greenwashing manifesto, they call their “greenwashing guide; without the greenwashing.” It takes a lot of audacity to keep doing what they were doing without even a hiccup considering the reality of the situation in the gulf of mexico. Now it would be foolish to somehow blame Ogilvy Earth for BP’s current mess, but they are a symptom in a larger sickness to which all of us that drive, buy plastics, or consume animals, take part in daily. These events will only stop when we drastically shift our worldview from that of a mentality of taking to that of peaceful coexistence. What if each of us upheld a worldview that the earth, it’s elements, and it’s animals existed for their own reasons and not simply for our consumption?
That said, our prior notions are being challenged all the time now, and not just from activists. Wether it’s figures that show a waning ecological carrying capacity, figures that show that we may have already reached global peak oil, or an exponential increase in species extinction people are being challenged with a reality that we, and the things on this earth are finite and not inexhaustible. Activists are also challenging this notions, and some of them are doing so in very creative ways. In the UK alone there were two brilliant actions last week that creatively shut down business for those responsible for the BP spill, and the destruction of the Alberta tar sands.
Greenpeace held a contest for the best re-branding of BP’s flower re-brand. This is what the very talented winner came up with, and it was so good that before it ended up on any handbills it had to replace the company flag at BP’s headquarters. This video is brilliant…
“Before Abu-Sayyaf was an inmate in a secretive US political prison called a ‘Communications Management Unit’ Abu-Sayyaf was a computer programmer for a software company in Florida. Abu-Sayyaf was an immigrant, he attained rights as a US citizen, he gave back to his community, to his co-workers, he generously donated to UNICEF, and he gave much of what he had to people outside of this country, specifically to children in Bosnia…”
BOP DOCKET #1148-P COMMUNICATION MANAGEMENT UNITS Rules Unit, Office of General Counsel Bureau of Prisons 320 First Street, NW. Washington, DC 20534
Please consider submitting your comments by June 2, 2010* and sending The Center for Constitutional Rights a copy of your comments as we’re hoping to collect these pieces to illustrate the depth of collective public outcry over the creation of the CMUs.
*The official deadline for comments is June 7, 2010.
Long Island says, “NO TO LNG!” With little public review a group of investors proposed the construction of an artificial island 13 miles south of Long Beach that would import and re-gas foreign Liquid Natural Gas (LNG.) The plan is bad for our environment, it poses a threat to our coastal security, and has a laundry list of negative social & economic impacts. Nassau County legislator Dave Denenberg, Claudia Borecky chair to Denenberg’s Anti-LNG Taskforce, Marvin Weiss, and Andy Stepanian of the Sparrow Media Project will present an overview of the proposal, list it’s environmental and social impacts, and will highlight what we as Long Islanders can do to stop it before it is built.
The NYU Student Animal Legal Defense Fund presents “Muzzling A Movement” a speaking engagement with former SHAC 7 prisoner Andy Stepanian, and Dara Lovitz whose book, Muzzling A Movement, on the suppression of speech & first amendment protected protest within the animal protection movement, is due out this summer from Lantern Books.
Activist & former SHAC 7 prisoner Andy Stepanian tells his personal story of standing up to one of the worlds largest contract animal testing labs, being charged with “terrorism” for his efforts, and serving 3 years in a federal prison. To learn more about the SHAC 7 please visit http://SHAC7.com .
Attorney and animal law professor Dara Lovitz describes the money, power, and politics behind animal enterprise terrorism laws in support of her claim that animal activists are being silenced, as set forth in her upcoming book, Muzzling A Movement.
Please support Lauren Gazzola & Kevin Kjonas two of Andy’s SHAC 7 codefendants who are still incarcerated write them a letter or send them a book today http://shac7.com
You can RSVP this event on Facebook here. You can download a flyer for he event here.
“I want someone to sit me down and say, what the fuck was up with that?,” says Tim McIlrath, front man to Rise Against, a pop-punk outfit from Chicago. In an interview off the set of the music video shoot for “Re-Education (Through Labor)” the single off their most recent album “Appeal to Reason” (DGC/Interscope) McIlrath states that “Americans are coddled with images of non-violence,” and that, “we have a war raging in Iraq where hundreds of thousands of people are dying,” and that “this video is about not coddling Americans and letting them know that this is a reality, this is a potential reality, treat people fair because these are realities we can be looking at in our future…”
These “realities” to which he refers to are depicted in a music video montage of typical music scenesters on an atypical self-styled campaign of destruction. (Quite literally the video shows your cookie cutter hot topic set running around with and eventually detonating improvised explosive devices.)
Rise Against, who in recent years have developed a groundswell following have made a conscious effort not to fall into lockstep with the process of corporate grooming & imaging that most of pop-punk acts succumb to. Simply put, many of the record companies are afraid of their artists getting overtly political, especially when it involves issues that make us all feel uncomfortable. Generally, the record company opinion is to do everything not to alienate a potential buyer, because they buy your merch, your albums, go to your shows, etc. The next part goes like this… “don’t get too political, because when you do the people who don’t share your opinion will feel alienated and henceforth you will narrow your audience, you will sell less stuff, and since all we care about is money we don’t want that.” I applaud Rise Against for trying to keep the grooming to a minimum while watching their sophomore album “The Sufferer & The Witness” go gold with certification by the RIAA and while “Appeal to Reason” is creeping towards gold, debuting at #3 on the billboard charts selling 65,000 copies in its first week alone. This is an accomplishment in itself considering the internet has made it nearly impossible for an indie artist to go gold, let alone a hardcore band, and it’s even harder for a hardcore band with a political platform. But enough saccharine…
When I first saw the video, I think I regurgitated the exact phrase McIlrath hoped to evoke. Literally I think I said something like, “What? – How? – What? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me?” or a derivative of such. So many things came to mind, too many to list but if I had to sum them up I was thinking…
1.) How did this get play?
2.) Is this what the kids need to see? – Maybe?
3.) Does this drip with wanton irresponsibility?
I took this question and the clip to a friend of mine, a videographer who makes campaigning tapes for unions in NYC. He laughed when he saw it and said that, “corporations love that teen angst stuff… that shit appeals to kids. They don’t expect it to go anywhere.” I guess that’s how Rise Against’s handlers, MTV, Music Choice, Fuse, and whoever else’s hand this touched saw it as well, teen angst and nothing more. To chalk it up to “teen angst and nothing more” is a sad commentary considering the state of the world today: two wars waged without public support with little to no outdate, the rate of species extinction increasing 1000-fold in the last 100 years, genocides in Gaza & Darfur (and probably a dozen similar events go under-reported,) billions of animals killed annually for human excess or vanity, the continued objectification of womyn in pop culture, and the commoditization of everything living from children in sweatshops to forests slated for sale. There are a lot of real issues to be upset about.
I think the reality of the situation falls somewhere in between, I think people are upset, and this type of content is becoming more appealing to folks as the proverbial chickens are coming home to roost. However if this video posed a true threat would the networks still agree to play it?
For those of you who know my background you are aware that I spent years in prison for being charged as an alleged “extremist activist” so perhaps I look at this topic through a biased lens. However, I do question whether or not it is responsible for bands to produce videos such as this. Sadly when one becomes a celebrity in our spectacular culture they become a spectacle, a larger than life figure, sometimes even a role model, and with the fame they inherit a heavy burden of responsibility.
The real question here is will kids feel the hype of this video and go out and follow suit?, or will they just feel the hype and shake their fists? Anyone can realize that when you employ mass destruction as a direct action tactic the chances of hurting someone are inevitable. It is my opinion that there is no moral argument for violence against people or animals, and by the tenor of his interview McIlrath seems to echo that opinion; so this is where the situation gets murky. Rise Against must consider that as their audience widens with their success the gamut of their listeners/fans is going to span all walks of life, all temperaments, various types of people, some more rational than others, and some who feel incredibly disparaged. Some listeners may be moved to act, and if they are moved to act should they be moved in a better, more sustainable direction than the imagery reflects this recent video? It is clear that there is an abundance of work that needs to be done, and we are going to need to cultivate a culture of life-long activists to address these seemingly endless problems. Wrecking shit is not always pragmatic. Not if it allows systems of oppression to stage which-hunt style grand juries, or raid homes, or scare off future activists in response to one night of wreckage. We need to plan for the long haul, and sometimes that means working on projects a lot less glamorous. Making copies, cooking food for hungry people in your community, cleaning up an old factory to make a D.I.Y. social center, this things don’t exactly meet the criteria of sexy, visually inspiring footage to make a music video from, but this is the backbone of the revolution, not an aesthetic of tattoos, angular haircuts, and burning skylines.
I don’t say this to undercut the effectiveness of direct action, but rather to say that we should be constantly critiquing (in a positive, constructive manner) ourselves, our movements, and our social scenes. In the case of this video I would have preferred to see solid examples of activism, realistic and less violent implementations of direct actions, and a more constructive approach to social change depicted in the video treatment, but alas maybe that would be too boring and the video would miss rotation…
In place of railing against Rise Against and their video for “Re-Education (through labor)” we thought it would be more constructive to invite them on here for a dialog, lets say less of an interview and more of a dialectic. Stay tuned to SparrowMedia.net for follow-ups to this. I thought it best close this out with a few links to real projects you can get involved with in your area. Take time to whittle out a long lasting sustainable niche for yourself within our larger movement, find something inside that means the world to you and take action for it. If not you, who? If not now, when?