Monthly Archives: October 2008
Trick or Jay Treaty? Canada Border Assaults Remind Indigenous Women of Old Indian Story – Mohawk Nation News
The hundreds of Mohawk women who have been harassed, assaulted, threatened, abused, raped, almost killed and “disappeared” at the Cornwall Ontario border crossing are getting to the point where they must challenge the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) goons. This check point has been illegally put right in the middle of the Mohawk community of Akwesasne disrupting the normal flow of life, forcing people to submit to questioning and examinations by officials of a foreign state whose rule we never consented to.
There is no way the CBSA can be confused with honorable defenders of peace loving people against “terrorism.” Like common criminals the goons have become terrorists themselves. They behave worse than street gangs. They are part of a scheme designed to make us defenseless. Their training is created to take advantage of their primitive instincts and emotions. It’s the “Abu Graib” syndrome where soldiers tortured, maimed and killed thousands of innocent Iraqis.
The CBSA goons usually attack the women in packs of four to six when they catch these women passing through the border alone, night or day. The goons are well armed with all the latest so called non lethal weaponry like pepper spray, batons, handcuffs and other “pain compliance” gewgaws. They now have the technology to aim and send microwave pulses to fry us. They also have sound battering weapons which can destroy internal organs. Other electromagnetic pulse weaponry can disable electronic equipment and render people non-functional. They are in the process of forcing everyone to carry biometric radio frequency ID (RFID).
The goons uniform consists of steel-toed shoes, flak jackets with badges that have numbers instead of names, everything to remove them from personal responsibility for their brutality. Many look bulked up with steroids and appear to be under the influence of legal and non-legal drugs. It’s well known that people under such influence are prone to violent unprovoked behavior. They act together in an out-of-control frenzy. All levels involved back each other up, be they border guards, local cops, courts or other crown agencies. They started out as civil servants and are now “foreign” gangsters who steal and protect goods stolen from us.
The manufactured 911 event is used as their justification. According to the December 3, 2001 “Joint Statement on Cooperation” adopted by the Solicitor General of Canada, Minister of Citizenship and immigration and the Attorney General of the United States, the main concern is protecting the “flow of commerce.” They were careful not to mention that what they are protecting are the resources they are stealing from Indigenous peoples. The border crossing system is designed to victimize us and eventually eliminate us, not to protect human rights. There are now over 300 and growing reports of abuses of our people at Akwesasne. No one is there to defend or protect us. Because of the climate of fear created by the Canadian government, most of the complaints have been submitted to the Akwesasne Mohawk Council (who work for the government) and not to the Canadian government, courts or human rights commission (CHRC). Canadian justice tends to be slow when it isn’t non-existent. After a two year investigation of one case, the CHRC did confirm that discrimination took place and an inquiry was warranted. Euro Canadians are rarely hassled. The average Canadian citizens would probably be shocked to learn what’s really happening at Akwesasne.
The wise Ms. Red XY, an Indigenous sage of the fourth dimension, has been watching this. She is urging Mohawk woman to stand up and protect our rights and that of our children. She is appalled by the behavior these goons are getting away with. They handcuff the women behind their backs and assault them in a mob. They subject them to strip searches and get extra jollies by doing cavity searches.
One elder was almost killed when she was subjected to the well known “stress position” that is used by the U.S. armed forces in their overseas operations. She was violently removed from her car, cuffed and put in a cell in the customs building. While she was suffering a heart attack, she was ordered to bend forward as one stood in front of her trying to pull her down and another tried to push her over from behind. This would have caused death, given the heart attack they had already induced.
Five border guards jumped one woman and tried to rape her in broad day light while video cameras filmed the whole pileup. The result? She was charged with assault because she resisted.
One young woman was forced to drive her SUV under an untested VACIS X-ray machine that was meant for transport and commercial vehicles only. She was pregnant and lost her baby.
Their favorite trick is to wave the Mohawks through the “Indian lane” and then accuse them of “running the border.” From then on they give themselves the right to harass, charge, arrest and assault these women and their family members for many years.
Women are pulled over for groceries, toys and whatever else the goons feel like taking. Our cars are searched, torn apart and taken away. When they can’t find anything, they look for receipts. “Ah, we thought you were up to something,” they say after finding a receipt for shoes. They are taken into the Customs building and verbally brow beaten. If the woman reacts defensively, then plan 2 is put into motion. The goons don’t let the woman call anyone to let them know what’s happening. Some are abused and some have even been “disappeared,” panicking our families who don’t know what happened to us.
When a women stands up to them, their cop friends follow us on the highway, stop us and give us tickets. Many put their hands out for money or try to get us to “help them out with information” on our families and people in exchange for dropping their threats and charges against us.
Ms. Red XY decided to remind us of an old story about General Clinton when he was in a battle with the Mohawks. He saw one Mohawk warrior standing on top of a hill. He sent ten of his soldiers to go up the hill and kill him. A big fight broke out. Not one returned. His soldiers all died. The lone warrior stood back on the hill and looked down at the colonial army. General Clinton then sent 25 of his best up the hill to kill him. Once again, not a one returned. They too were all killed. Finally, the general send the rest of his army up the hill to finish off this lone warrior. A huge battle ensued. All were killed except for one. He limped back bloody and beaten down the hill. The general asked him, “How could that one warrior stand up to our whole army?” The soldier answered, “He wasn’t alone. He had a Mohawk woman behind him.” Is this the new/old reality?
Staff of MNN Mohawk Nation News
Note: These challenges of abuses at the border require support and money. Your financial help is needed. Please send donations to PayPal at http://www.mohawknationnews.com, or by check or money order to “MNN Mohawk Nation News,” Box 991, Kahnawake [Quebec, Canada] J0L 1B0. Nia:wen thank you very much.
The 2010 Winter Olympics will take place on unceded indigenous land from February 12-28 2010. Far from being simply about ‘sport’, the history of the Olympics is one rooted in displacement, corporate greed, fascism, repression, and violence. Only the political and corporate elite – from real estate developers to security corporations – have anything to gain from the Olympics industry. The effects of the upcoming Winter Games have already manifested themselves- with the expansion of sport tourism and resource extraction on indigenous lands; increasing homelessness and gentrification of poor neighbourhoods; increasing privatization of public services; union busting through imposed contracts and exploitative conditions especially for migrant labour; the fortification of the national security apparatus; ballooning public spending and public debt; and unprecedented destruction of the environment.
The Olympics Resistance Network is primarily based in Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories and exists as a space to coordinate anti-2010 Olympics efforts. In doing so, we act in solidarity with other communities across ‘BC’ – particularly indigenous communities who have been defending their land against the onslaught of the Olympics since the bid itself. Our organizing is largely being done under the slogan of “No Olympics on Stolen Native Land”, while creating an opportunity for all anti capitalist, indigenous, anti poverty, labour, migrant justice, environmental justice, anti war, and anti colonial activists to come together to confront this two-week circus and the oppression it represents.
In addition to building ongoing educational and resistance efforts, we are organizing towards an anti-2010 convergence, currently called for between Feb 10th-15th. Building on the call by native warriors – particularly at the Indigenous Peoples Gathering in Senora, Mexico in October 2007 – we will be working to coordinate the logistics to host all rebels converging on Vancouver, Whistler, and surrounding unceded native land during Feb 2010. Over the next year, there will be more information provided regarding the convergence, however in the meantime we encourage as many communities to fundraise, raise awareness, and organize towards the anti-2010 Olympics convergence. We hope to see you all in 2010 to demonstrate our indignation and resistance!
UPCOMING – SPIRIT TRAIN AND TORCH RELAY
While we encourage people to continue their mobilizing and daily efforts rooted in their own local communities and local struggles, in the lead-up to the 2010 Games there will be several significant opportunities for coordinated and developed campaigns and actions (see section below “Be in Touch” to coordinate efforts).
One such opportunity is the Nov 2009 – Feb 2010 Torch Relay “A Path of Northern Lights” across 100 cities. This Torch Relay will be the longest in-country relay in Olympic history- giving us the chance to make some anti-Olympic history! The relay route will be announced in the fall of 2008.
Another upcoming opportunity is the Spirit Train, being launched on Sept. 21, 2008 by Canadian Pacific Railway (which has historically and currently played a critical role in the colonization and usurpation of indigenous lands) and VANOC (Vancouver Organizing Committee for 2010). We are calling for and encouraging protests and actions to disrupt the ‘Spirit Train’ as it stop across cities across Canada.
- Scheduled route and days (note, these events have already taken place):
Sept. 21, Port Moody, BC. 2-8 pm. West Coast Express Station, 65 Williams St.
Sept. 27, Calgary, Alberta. 2:00pm – 8:00pm Pop Davies Park (Ogden Rd. and Millican Rd. S.)
Sept. 29, Edmonton, Alberta. 1:00pm – 8:00pm WP Wagner School (6310 Wagner Rd NW)
Oct. 2, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. 1:00pm – 8:00pm William Reid Park Pendygrasse Rd.
Oct. 4, Winnipeg, Manitoba. 2:00pm – 8:00pm Sinclair Park Community Centre
490 Sinclair St.
Oct. 8, Thunder Bay, Ontario. 1:00pm – 8:00pm Marina Park
October 11, Sudbury, Ontario. 2:00pm – 8:00pm Energy Court, next to National Grocery on Lorne St. Oct. 13, Toronto, Ontario. 1:00pm – 8:00pm Cooksville GO Transit Station
3210 Hurontario St.
Oct. 16, Smiths Falls, Ontario. 1:00pm – 8:00pm CP lot on Rideau Ave N and Ella St
If you are interested in hosting an Anti-Olympics educational such as a film screening or panel with speakers, please contact us if you require support. We are able to provide educational materials, suggestions for speakers from diverse experiences, as well as resistance art, posters, comics, buttons, stickers and more! In particular if you are located along the West Coast and your group of friends, affinity group, youth group, organization, campus, union local, or community centre is interested in learning about the history of the Olympics, the impacts of the Olympics, and Olympics resistance efforts please contact us!
We are working on compiling contacts throughout Turtle Island in an effort to broaden our networks, disseminate information as well as updates, and to connect with as many communities as possible.
- Interested in actively organizing or coordinating anti-2010 Olympics resistance efforts, for example anti-Spirit Train actions? Please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your location and affiliation and specify that you would like to be added to the cross-continental network list to coordinate anti-Olympics efforts and communications.
- Interested in regular announcements including news of interest and events? Please email us at email@example.com and specify that you would like to be added to the ORN-announce list, a low traffic moderated list for weekly public announcements and updates.
Please note: New website, phone, address will be forthcoming
The Olympics Resistance Network Basis of Unity
Anti Olympics organizing through the Olympic Resistance Network is largely being done under the primary slogan and understanding of “No Olympics on Stolen Native Land”, although this is an opportunity for a large convergence of groups, issues, and sectors to come together. We look forward to working together across our diverse experiences and movements, while sharing a common understanding including an anti-colonial and anti-capitalist analysis; respect for diversity of tactics and strategies; an anti-oppression understanding and solidarity with those most directly affected; and organizational philosophy based on decentralization and autonomy within a coordinated and accountable structure. It is open to both delegates from groups as well as individuals interested in building anti-Olympics resistance by providing a space for existing groups to better share and coordinate their efforts as well as a space for this Network itself to take on its own activities including actions, educational efforts, creative resistance, awareness raising etc.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse
Long Live the World’s Indigenous!
Long Live the Excluded of the Entire World!
Long Live the Anti-Capitalist and National Liberation Struggle!
Long Live the Tireless Defence of Mother Earth!
Long Live Our Dead Forever!
Democracy! Liberty! Justice!
Peace and Solidarity
(Because this always comes up, one initial point of clarification: the term “homophobia” does not just mean “fear of gay people.” It refers to ANY fear, aversion, distrust or hatred directed toward people who identify as gay or lesbian. So I don’t want anyone coming up to me later saying “Ayo I hear what you’re saying, but see I ain’t AFRAID of gays, I just don’t like them.” I’m glad we’re all on the same page now.)
I first heard New York rapper Saigon a few years ago—a few songs here and there from his various mixtapes, from hip hop websites and from friends’ mix CDs. Armed with a razor-sharp wit, a real talent for multisyllable rhyme and the bombastic production of Just Blaze, Saigon was a welcome breath of fresh air. To top it all off, Sai was political! He was down with dead prez, he rapped about crooked politicians and he was one of an extremely few artists able to successfully blend street credibility with socially-conscious rhymes.
“Finally,” I thought. “A credible rapper who isn’t afraid to talk about real issues and actually has some personality. This guy could be the future. He could be ‘the conscious 50 Cent.’ Saigon could really change the face of mainstream hip hop.”
But it was too good to be true, as these sorts of things always are. Saigon, as it turns out, is virulently, publicly homophobic. For example, Sai’s response to Kanye West calling for a moratorium on homophobia in hip hop:
“S to the A I, may I say I never affiliate myself with a gay guy/ Sorry Kanye I, had homophobia ever since I was yay high.”
Doesn’t really get much more overt than that. And here is his rhymed multiple choice question on “Contraband II:”
“Question number three is for the females/ y’all know how I feel about the details/ this is 100% true, I’ll bet with you/ why is three out of every four broads bisexual?/ A; ‘cause they tired of the problems that the men bring/ B; they just munchin’ on carpets ‘cause it’s the in-thing/ C; ‘cause America say it’s okay to be gay/ D; this just Sodom and Gomorrah on replay.”
I really had no reason to be surprised. Throughout the years, rappers I had once looked up to as talented and socially conscious have repeatedly let me down when it comes to applying their revolutionary fervor to the LGBTQ community. While “mainstream” artists like Eminem, DMX, Busta Rhymes and many others have been publicly criticized for their homophobic lyrics, we’ve failed to shine that same light on many of our self-proclaimed revolutionary heroes, so-called “conscious” acts like Saigon, Immortal Technique, Brand Nubian, Capital D, El-P, Goodie Mob and many, many others.
Even “conscious” hip hop’s champions, the oft-heralded Common and Mos Def, have a history of anti-gay lyrics.
“Homo’s a no-no, so faggots stay solo…” (Common on “Heidi Hoe,” 1992).
“Cats who claimin’ they hard be mad fag/ so I run through ‘em like flood water through sandbags…” (Mos Def on Blackstar’s “Re-Definition,” 1998).
“In a circle of faggots, your name is mentioned…” (Common on “Dooinit,” 2000).
“Quasi-homosexuals is runnin’ this rap shit…” (Mos Def on “The Rape Over,” 2004).
To be fair, Common has since changed his view and attitude (at least publicly) and this is to be applauded. The point is, however, that underground/conscious/political artists are just as prone to homophobia as their mainstream counterparts, and we in the broader hip hop community have a responsibility to hold them to the same standards.
And this is usually the place in the discussion where people start getting defensive and/or making excuses for these artists. “We shouldn’t expect them to be perfect.” Or “homophobia isn’t hip hop’s problem; it’s society’s problem.” Or “at least they’re talking about other important issues.” Or “it’s free speech; stop trying to censor them.” Or whatever.
But this isn’t censorship or a demand for absolute ideological perfection; it’s a call for some pretty reasonable standards. Don’t be a bigot—is that so much to ask?
Hip hop—and yes, even “conscious” hip hop—has a problem with homophobia. It’s high time we just admit this. From mainstream artists to underground artists to local and amateur acts—homophobia, both indirect (the use of homophobic slurs as a general insult; attend any emcee battle and see for yourself) and explicit (overt gay-bashing in lyrics) is far too prevalent in hip hop. Of course, it’s far too prevalent everywhere, but hip hop warrants special attention both because of the nature/frequency of the attacks and the visibility and worldwide influence of the medium. I’d write an article about homophobia in polka music, horse racing, or old-world breadmaking, but the people who participate in those activities aren’t constantly and publicly making idiots out of themselves (while commanding the attention of a global audience) by calling one another “fags.”
This is especially problematic when it comes to artists who are placed on a pedestal by both the hip hop and activist communities as being pillars of progressive or radical thought. Immortal Technique, for example, is a hero to thousands of “revolutionary” minded hip hop fans who are either so desperate for politics in hip hop that they’ll ignore his homophobia, or don’t care about its presence in the first place. And I’m afraid it’s more often the latter.
“Why you tryin’ to be hardcore, you fuckin’ homo-thug?/ and don’t be sensitive and angry at the shit that I wrote/ ‘cause if you can take a fucking dick, you can take a joke.” (Immortal Technique on “Obnoxious,” 2003).
Immortal Tech offers more jewels of wisdom in this interview with RapStation: “As for homophobia, hip hop never embraced faggots. One can’t deny that there are probably rappers, DJs and fans that are mo’s but I think since the culture was based around proving ones manhood; acting like a fruitpop isn’t gonna get you anywhere.”
(Tech does, oddly enough, make a very important point about how sexism and outdated ideals of masculinity serve to undergird homophobia in the hip hop community. As always, sexism and homophobia go hand in hand).
The bottom line, particularly for those who consider themselves progressives or radicals, is that homophobia, aside from being morally wrong and flat-out ignorant, is counterrevolutionary. “An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere.” Rappers can claim anti-government, or pro-black, or pro-social justice or whatever all they want, but if they’re casually throwing around anti-gay slurs then they’re directly participating in the oppression of a significant portion of the world population.
Which is, of course, exactly what the powers-that-be want. We can’t have decently-funded schools or universal health care because voters are too upset over the prospect of gay people getting married. We can’t have revolutionary organizations because racism, sexism, classism and homophobia hinder people’s basic ability to work together. It’s divide and conquer, and perhaps it goes without saying, but it’s bigger than hip hop too. Politically-minded rappers being homophobic mirrors a lot of other problems associated with the Left: white liberals being racist and completely oblivious about it, male activists being all for smashing the State but not willing to follow female leadership, college student organizers holding meetings that working-class people are not able to attend, the list goes on and on. We all need to start thinking more holistically.
As far as solutions go, this problem needs to be assaulted on multiple fronts. A whole lot needs to be done in the public realm with regards to education and legislation, but that doesn’t mean that we in the hip hop community should just wait for those things to happen and filter down to us. It’s going to take action.
First and foremost, we can support gay and lesbian rappers, artists like God-des & She, Rainbow Flava, Deep Dickolective, Deadlee, Soce the Elemental Wizard, Johnny Dangerous and many more. The more support these artists have the sooner mainstream acceptance will come. And the flipside of this, of course, is NOT supporting homophobic artists; if a rapper is saying some dumb shit, don’t buy his album. Period.
And that’s difficult—many of the artists I mentioned earlier are or have been personal favorites of mine. I grew up on the first two Goodie Mob albums and I still love a lot of their material. But group member Khujo’s verses on “Fly Away” and “All A’s” have really made me take a second look at the group—and at myself. Five years ago, I let his gay-bashing lyrics slide, rationalizing to myself that they’re drops of negativity in an otherwise positive stew, and that as long as I’m not beating up gay people or joining the Klan I can’t be homophobic.
But there comes a point when lines need to be drawn and principles need to be upheld. I can’t take back the mistakes of the past, but I can be sure not to make them again—as much as I’ve liked a lot of Saigon’s and Immortal Tech’s material, I won’t be buying either of their new albums.
It takes constant awareness too. I recently included the Lil’ Wayne song “Shooter” on some “best singles of ‘06” list someone asked me to write up. And sure, it’s a great song, but it also includes the line “behind door dick-takers/ it’s outrageous.” It’s not as though I just didn’t notice the line before. I noticed it and didn’t care enough to change my decision to include it in my list, and that was wrong. Being truly anti-homophobic, truly revolutionary, is continuous work. We make mistakes, and we have to be able to acknowledge them while understanding that change is a dynamic process.
We can also write letters, send emails and talk to artists who have used homophobic language or expressed homophobic ideas. This could involve emailing Eminem, but it could just as easily involve talking to some random kid at a battle or one of your MySpace friends and asking him why he uses the language he does. A lot of people are simply never confronted about homophobia, and dialogue may be the necessary first step for many. A significant fraction of the artists who use homophobic language probably don’t have any serious beef with the LGBTQ community—the common excuse is that words like “fag” have evolved into all-purpose insults, and that questioning a male emcee’s manhood is just a part of hip hop culture. When we can initiate conversations about why that language—regardless of its intent—is harmful, we will start to open some eyes.
Finally, as artists, whether “conscious” or otherwise, we need to take some responsibility. Read up on the history of Gay Liberation and the struggle for LGBTQ rights. Find more creative ways to disrespect the hypothetical wack emcee that we all rap about from time to time (really, when every dis boils down to questioning masculinity and sexuality, it’s not just ignorant—it’s boring). If you’re a battlerapper, point out when your opponent uses homophobic language and use it to your advantage—be creative. And for God’s sake stop saying “no homo.”
The aforementioned Kanye West recently made waves by passionately speaking out against homophobia in hip hop. But a month or two later he dropped this lyric on DJ Khaled’s “Grammy Family:” “’Yeezy got a vision that’s clearer than Evian/ used to hit the radio them faggots ain’t let me on.”
Yes, we all know that West is “complex,” but this kind of hypocrisy is unacceptable. As artists at all levels of influence, from the Jay-Zs of the world to the basement emcee rapping into a computer mic, we need to lead with both words and actions—this is our community and it’s on us to change it for the better. Silence and inaction both equal complicity.
(Kyle “El Guante” Myhre is a writer, activist, emcee and spoken-word poet. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.myspace.com/elguante. Please feel free to repost or link to this article on your blogs, MySpace, Facebook, and everywhere.)
Written by: Kyle “El Guante” Myhre
On a personal note, I too used to be a huge fan of artists like Immortal Technique, but I could just never reconcile his many quite revolutionary songs (like Poverty of Philosophy off of Revolutionary Volume 1.) with the just totally in your face, blatant, violent homophobia and complete disrespect for women present in other songs.
Songs like Crossing the Boundary from Revolutionary Volume 2. really made my head spin because while I could simultaneously dig some its lyrics like “I used to be a Christian and a political pawn, the bible is right and all your native culture is wrong,” the song also had just way to much gay and woman bashing (by the way, by “to much” I mean that that crap is present at all), as can be seen in jems of lyrics like “Immortal Technique incinerate degenerate fags” and “and if your pissed off ’cause you think that I dissed you, I rape your moms and we can make this a personal issue.” And of course all of this is qualified by him begining the song with ” I never make songs to disrespect woman or to judge people about the way that they’re living but the way I am is based on the life I was given”
Crap like this just needs to be extinguished, end of story. You can talk all the shit you want about revolution, but if you still spout off about “fags” and “hos” then you are just as pathetically reactionary as the Klan itself. Just as we should not support the big time bourgeoisie of the rap game for their ignorant lyricism, so should we not support those in the underground, like IT, who are just as bigoted as those in the upper-levels, because if anything they impede the ability of truly revolutionary and radical voices to emerge from the rap genre (though some like The Coup have).
Ditch it, burn it, protest it, whatever! We have to show these artists that we are not willing to let their homophobic bullshit slide because some of their other lyrics have a radical message. Shit is shit, no matter who says it.