Transcript and video of Strawberry Hampton’s speech at the 2020 Chicago Reclaim Pride March

Strawberry Hampton is an incarcerated Black transgender woman in Illinois. For my TRANS BEHIND BARS column at Shadowproof, I reported on her experience fighting sexual violence behind bars, which she explained was retaliation for speaking up against the Illinois Department of Corrections. Read more about her story here.

You can materially support sister Strawberry by donating to her Patreon. If you are unable to financially contribute, it also helps to spread her words widely with anyone who will listen.

Below is a transcript of the video above. Special thanks to Eric Vitale, who put the video together and transcribed the audio. You can also watch this video on my Facebook page and IGTV.

. . .

Hi, my name is Deon Strawberry Hampton. I’m a 29 year old Black transgender woman on the south side of Chicago. And today I want to say happy Pride to all my beautiful rainbows and butterflies.

On this special day, I want to bring awareness to how transgender Black women is mistreated on a daily basis. You know, since me being in this system of trying to survive in the street. It led me to becoming in jail. And by me being in these jail cells. I have been raped. I have been beaten. I have been ridiculed. I have been gay bashed for being a Black transgender woman. The police have been so designed to have Black trans women to destroy us, to divide us. But most importantly, to hurt us mentally, physically and emotionally. I have witnessed Black transgender women beaten by the hands of correctional officers. I have witnessed Black transgender women beaten by police officers. Me, myself.

I was 16 years old coming from a loving house. And I was walking down the street, going to the train station. And instead of the police pulling me over and asking me what I was doing, they told me I looked like I was doing something suspicious. And they pulled me into an alley. And when they pulled me into an alley, I told them that I was transgender. Not only did they get physical with me, they ripped my clothes off me. They forced they fingers inside me until I was bleeding. They arrested me and told me that I was trespassing. But they never said what I was trespassing for. And when I went to the judge and I made a complaint about how I was sexually assaulted by the Chicago PD from Bill Minor Westermann, I was. So there was nothing they can do. Go file a complaint at the police station. I self-destruct. I was mentally and emotionally messed up. And I’ve come from abuse as a child, as a teenager and as an adult. I want to say did no matter how much I’ve been victimized, I am a survivor and on this special day I would like to give thanks to all the Black trans women, but to all trans people, period in the LGBT community.

I want to say that we must fight to stop this nasty behavior that the police put amongst us. I want to say that we must stop the hatred that the court put against us. We are outsiders to this world, the churches, the politicians, the governments, the judges. They ridicule us for being trans people. And every time that I’ve been arrested, I have not been given the opportunity to have been treated fairly. A cis man could get locked up for a gun charge and get probation. But a trans woman can get locked up for stealing food and get seven to three years in prison while this cis man is out. It clearly shows that we have no protection. We have no rights. And until we fight for our rights, until we get recognized for our rights, we must continue to fight.
This is a day of celebration that we come together to fight the battle of abolishment of prisons and abolish police brutality. I have fought for years my whole life to make it so I’m able to walk down the street so other people like me can walk down the street. But I also want to give thank you to women of all race and all genders that fought to make it better for me and transgenders like me to live a better life. For all the people that have died, for all the people that have fought the great battle to make me have a voice. I was there with them in silence and given on my voice for the voiceless. I will fight for the weak. I will fight for you. I will fight. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to bring awareness to the cruelty of trans Black women. We are being killed on a daily basis. We are being raped on a daily basis. We are being beaten. We have multiple people committing suicide. We have multiple people just going crazy mentally to where they couldn’t even function right to where they self mutilate themself. I myself have tried to commit suicide numerous times in prison, out of prison. I have been victimized to the streets of sexual abuse and sexual assault by the hand of correctional officers and police officers. When I was 17 years old, I was raped by a correctional officer at IDOC. And not only was I raped, I was punished for reporting the rape. I was locked in a suicide cell where all my clothes taken from me. I was called a whore. I was called a faggot. I was told I was a prostitute. I was told I was a dude and I wanted it.

You do not know how it feels to be victimized and be called all types of nasty names for being a Black trans woman, for speaking out against hatred, for speaking out against people who supposed to protect and serve the system. It means that Chicago police officers all over the world they job is to protect and serve us to make sure that we are safe and to make sure that we are protected. But instead, we are in fear of our life from the people that have these badges. The officers used they power to destroy, to divide, and to create some confusion. Sorry for my words, to to create anger and hatred and resentment among each other in the community, I want you all to know that this message I give to you is from the heart. And I am continuously fighting every day to make a better life for me, for you and everyone like us. I will not shut up. I will not be silenced. I will not be quiet no matter how many ass whoopings I take, not many how many years they give me in prison. I will not be afraid to speak out against cruelty to Black trans women or trans people at all. All lives matter. But at this moment, it’s about me and Black transgender women that’s really having the fight . I know it can be a bit of selfish so excuse me. But you know, it’s hard being a Black woman and trans, It’s hard to get a job. It’s hard to get a place to live. It’s hard to do anything. As Black women we are divined to prostitute, to steal, to do things to survive. Instead of walking into a business and signing up, we’re being told oh we can not be hired because our sexuality, we’re too flamboyant, we’re too overrated. And at this moment I embrace everything that they say about me. I am overrated. I am flamboyant. I am a woman of God. And I am loving to myself. And before anyone can love me, I have to love myself.

And I want to give a big thank you to my mom, Barbara Hampton. She’s my biggest supporter. She’s my biggest rock and she’s the biggest supporter of the LGBTQ community. But also, I want to give thank you to Peter that’s recording this. I want to give thank you to Kim, Cameron, Kelly, Rose. I want to give a shout out to Dan and Healy. I love both y’all both, Big Brother. Thank you all for supporting me. Thank you all for helping me with legal counsel. Thank you for helping me get out of jail. And most importantly, thank you all for loving me. I also want to give a shout out to a black transgender woman that her name is Alyssa. She’s currently in the prison jail in I think Pittsburgh, where she’s been raped and beaten by guards. Well the courts have taken her outdate and punishing her for speaking out. They continuously blocking her mail, blocking her voice. They are trying to quiet her. And a person that I love is my Adryan. Adryan is a person that she’s been in contact with, reached out to me and asked me, can I be a voice for Alyssa? I am that voice. Alyssa, I hear you. To all the Black trans women in the crowd, to all the people in the crowd that’s listening, I hear you. I listen to you. I see you. I am a reflection of you. We are a family. We are a community. We must fight this battle together. And let’s fight until the wheels fall off. Because you know Strawberry gonna tear it up! Hey! Thank you. I love you. Don’t forget to support me. Don’t forget to write the judge in the state’s attorney on my behalf. And also I have a patreon. If anybody want to donate to help me have a better life. I would be very thankful and very welcoming for any donations. I want to say I love you all. Thank you. And if it wasn’t for Peter giving me a voice right now, I want to be able to give the statement that I’m giving today. No more brutality, no more abuse, no more VSC, no more being scared of the police, no more being scared to speak up against the justice system, or for the corrupt things they do. I am a Black woman. I am a woman that deserves to be respected and acknowledged. I am a Black woman that needs to be seen just like every last one of you. You are human. You are love.

And one thing I want to leave with you all is with somebody gay bashes you, when somebody say evil things against you, is not that they hate you, it’s because they hate theyself. And you know what make a person look stupid? Is when you look them right in their face and you tell them, how can you hate me when you don’t even know me? And it’s gonna make them feel like shit. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Don’t be afraid to fight back. If a person hits you, you knock the Kamasutra out they ass. Don’t you be afraid to stand up for your rights. The First Amendment saying we have a right to freedom to express. We have a freedom to our religion. And we have a freedom to love who we want to love. And if we’re not able to express who we are and if we’re not able to love who we are, that means our constitutional rights is being violated under the First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment. Learn your rights. Learn your protections. Education is a strong key in this world. And if we want to fight, we we’ve going to have to have smart people to stand up as well. Lawyers, doctors, governors, state representatives. We need it all to fight this battle.

Every day we’re attacked for being loving and caring to each other. And who’s to say that we can’t love who we love? Who is society to say that I can’t love a man because I was born a cis male? It doesn’t matter what the hell I was born. I love who I love. And I would not be afraid to show my love and affection in society to my partners. I will not be silent. I will not be afraid to walk down the street. And I will not be scared to speak my mind. And I hope that you can do the same. Sometimes you have to be a little bit aggressive to get respect and get your voice heard. Don’t be afraid. And if you are afraid, I will be that voice for you. Thank you so much. Happy pride. Have a great, blessed day.

Now let’s fight and make this thing happen. For better people, for the next generation. For the old generations, for the people that fought so hard to make life better. Let’s continue to fight this battle and march together and speak together, support each other, love each other, and most of all, help each other and bring awareness to the corruption of the justice system, the police system, and most of all, how politicians use their voices and use they power to gay bash and to discriminate against trans people in the LGBT community, period. I love you all. Kisses and hugs to my rainbows and butterflies. My prince and kings and my princesses. I love you all. Thank you, Peter.

Transcript of “TRANS ABOLITIONIST SERIES: Decarceration, Re-Entry, and Housing”

This is the first talk of the TRANS ABOLITIONIST SERIES, an online series of Facebook livestream talks dedicated to discussing prison and police abolition from a transgender perspective. In this installment, I talked to community organizer Sterling Johnson about the need for accessible housing and other re-entry services for previously incarcerated gender variant people. You can watch the full talk on my Facebook page here.

Adryan Corcione [they/them]: Cool. So it says in the corner we’re live. Let’s see if it shows up on the page yet. Cool, alright. We’re here! Do you see it? Do you have it pulled up, Sterling? 

Sterling K. Johnson [they/them]: Yeah.

AC: Cool… Ok. I have it pulled up for when comments roll in… Ok. I muted myself on the other end… Cool there’s already people who are tuning in. So it’s about 5:01 now. Let’s see where were at at 5:05, but how’s your day?

SJ: Yeah, my day has been busy. There’s a lot going on, as per usual, per COVID. How’s your day?

AC: Good. I did a lot of prepping for this. I’m super stoked that we already got $700 between Eventbrite and Chuffed. It could also be that since I first mentioned it like 2 hours ago that were at over $800, so that’s really cool. And I created a form so that people who know folks who need support that fall under the trans umbrella who are Black and/or Indigenous, they can apply. I was also doing map stuff for COVID Behind Bars. Have you seen that I can’t tweet the URL?

SJ: Yeah

AC: So it was fixed for like a day and then I started tweeting about it last night, and then I couldn’t do it today. And then I tried to update the actual map on Google Maps and I am unable to currently. I keep getting an error message. So having a lot of technical things that I’m wondering if they’re more than technical. Who knows? But the cool thing is that there is a print newsletter now and that’s really important, y’know, in the face of technical difficulties. So that’s good… Cool, people are tuning in.

SJ: Yeah the important thing, honestly with this, is that all the money we raise will be going to Black and Indigenous Trans people, so I’m pleased!

AC: Yeah, and I already have a running list of people that I’m in touch with, that fall under that who could definitely use help. Cause I’ve been sending books- Do you know the book ‘Captive Genders’? It’s like an anthology.

SJ: No.

AC: Ok. I forget who put the anthology together. But it’s the one singular- well it’s not singular. There are very few texts that address abolition and incarceration from marginalized gender, gender oppressed perspective, but that is one of them, and I bought that for Strawberry Hampton who’s in Illinois and my Paige in Pennsylvania. There’s also a really good text, ‘Resistance Behind Bars’ by Victoria Law that documents women’s resistance movements from behind bars… So those are two texts that I try to send to the Trans women I know that are behind bars because many of them could benefit from that information just  because of how much it’s like not available to them… people are still rolling through… ok 9 people are watching. Do you want to do intros now?

SJ: Yeah. That’d be great.

AC: You go first.

SJ: Hi, my name is Sterling Johnson from… I guess for context I’m a Black, non-binary, disabled person. My pronouns are they/them. I have been doing work around harm reduction and recovery… which expands to things related to our criminal and legal system and a lot of things healthcare and housing, for the last 7 years in Philadelphia. Longer in previous places. I think it’s really- I think we’ve come to place where my ideas have evolved, especially about 5 or 6 years ago around things that needed to be done and around Queer and Trans liberation and Black liberation and abolition of not just places of incarceration, formal jails and prisons, but thinking about the world of other institutions as well like child protective services/institutions, abolition of that as well. Hospitals and clinics as they are right now. Abolition of those coercive measures. So I wanted to kind of think about abolition of, of course jails, of course police, but there are other centers of coercion that we really need to be thinking about as well. So that’s all I have for right now, thank you.

AC: Cool. I’m glad you brought up that context too. I think that’s helpful to think of the carceral state not just as what we know like jails and prisons. That expands to immigration, Indigenous vs. non-Indigenous land, and also the many ways that Black and Brown people, Black and indigenous people are impacted by detention as like- you mentioned foster care, but as an encompassing thing of like homeless people too that are in shelters where it is like not what we know to be like “classic” prison, but they’re very like- movement is restricted and monitoring and surveillance is very real. And also policing in the communities we have outside of bars definitely, there’s orders that are constructed by policing and displacement too. 

And for those tuning in, Sterling just introduced themselves. I am Adryan Corcione, I use they/them pronouns. I identify as a disabled, working class, white, Trans and non-binary person. A lot of you may be tuning in from my social media profiles. I, by day, am a freelance journalist. And most recently launched a project called covid19behindbars.com tracking impacted prison facilities, whether it’s state or federal prisons, immigration detention centers, city and county jails, youth detention facilities, substance and work release centers, and any centers that would fall under bureau of prisons and state department of corrections. Any facilities that are impacted whether they have officially reported cases or not, whether by media or perspective state agencies. 

A lot of you may be tuning in from Comrade Alyssa’s social media. Comrade Alyssa is a Black, Transgender, disabled woman in Maryland. She is at a men’s state prison in western Maryland. She identifies as a Marxist organizer and a fighter for Trans liberation. And a lot of what I do is inspired by her, especially related to my work for Shadowproof as a Trans Behind Bars columnist, and trying to get the word out for somebody who physically can’t be here, is barred from access to electronic technology. She doesn’t even have- like a lot of incarcerated people have access to video calling and messaging. I occasionally get calls from her, but our relationship has been predominantly over mail. Her marginalizations of her intersecting gender, race, ability, but also her political identity as a prisoner makes it even more difficult for her to get her word out. So we’re definitely thinking of her and also the many, many people that I am in touch with behind bars as well, through that advocacy. 

And really the fundraising that will be from the ticket sales, the Chuffed fundraiser, will be distributed to Black and Indigenous Trans people behind bars, or those who have been recently released. And when we are saying Trans, we are not only including non-binary Trans people, but also binary Trans people. We also include those who fall under Two Spirit or otherwise gender non-conforming umbrella, just the gender variant identity in the ways that anyone not adhering to the cisgender what we know under the colonialism context is policed and further criminalized by their racial and gender identities. 

AC: And with that, I wanted to move on to land and privilege acknowledgement between the both of us, so Sterling and I are both on occupied Lenape territory; what you would know on Google Maps as Philadelphia. But we are very much on Indigenous land that was taken over through the violence on Indigenous people under a capitalist state that in many ways still exists around it. And for my privilege, I have not personally been impacted by incarceration where I have not served time, significant time, behind bars. I’m white. And while I identify with mental illnesses, I a physically able-bodied. Yeah. Your turn, Sterling?

SJ: Yeah. I think we want to acknowledge the land that we’re on and this territory. And all the death and pain that has been brought upon it. Definitely all the people that were brought here against their will as well. And the many ways- and ??? my family as well. But so many other ways people have been brought here, brought to this land against their will. And acknowledging my privileges as a person that has disabilities but has been able to conduct labor in the ways that are common among us. And just through the abilities of having a brain that perform in thins kind of whiteness. And also the ability to appear male as well. So there are different bases of privilege that we really want to acknowledge here. And we want to think deeply about our privileges in these spaces. And that fact that the work that we’re doing here is meant to support people that have been affected by this violent system of incarceration. That are Black and Indigenous Trans lives that matter immensely. And we want to support not just in our words, but in our resources and our time. Thank you.

AC: And I think that’s a great transition in that this is a Trans abolitionist series where we talk about the topics that relate to trans people from an abolitionist point of view. We don’t speak to speak for people that we’re not in community with. And also people that we do share overlapping identities with, we’re not speaking for them either. However, this is going to be a series that we will continue to have on Fridays. It will be myself and other guests. The next one will be next week at 6:00pm. And there will be more details about that at the end. But yeah it’s really a conversation where Sterling and I will be discussing decarceration in the context of housing and re-entry. We will have a discussion of questions among us for the next 45 minutes or so. And then afterwards we will have a Q&A period. So definitely feel free to take notes and ask questions. At the end we will try our best to address them to the ways that we can in our work. And yeah. I think that’s a great place to start the actual talk. On time, about 5:15 – 5:16.

So Sterling, you sent me a bunch of questions that I think are really great. And if it’s cool, I’ll just read one that I’ll ask you. And if I have anything to add, I’ll say that. And then we go back and fourth?

SJ: Sounds good.

AC: Cool. So What are the immediate needs of Trans people in terms of housing, healthcare, education, and training?

SJ: So, I mean, that is the real question, right? In COVID19, in this space where we have so many people coming out of jail, there do need to be specific considerations of the way that Trans people have connections in the community and are supported in the community. Right now there are not re-entry supports for people just coming out of prison to begin with, which is a problem. So right now there is a real need for housing. When it comes to how that happens…there is money available. I think we’ve seen that some states have chosen to use it and some states have chosen not to. There has been guidance by public health organizations, and the federal government actually, which has said that you should be using that money to house people in empty hotels or empty dormitories. Which would give people that space to isolate. We know that there have been outbreaks in Riverside Correctional Facility which is in Philadelphia as well as CFCF (Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility) which is the men’s facility. So yeah In general there needs to be spaces for people to be housed and I think they have done a really poor job of that. 

When it comes to healthcare, the COVID19 issue has really, really- you know, just like it has done with so many other things, has really shown us who they think is important by considering certain procedures as elective compared to others and putting certain- from my experience putting certain gender affirming surgeries in the back of others. And instead of expanding the nets, they have simply kept the resources the same, but then put people who need those procedures done to the end. That is not the correct- they don’t have to do that. That’s not even why the money that’s- when it comes to it being available, that’s not what needs to be done and I think that that is what shows us, and why we really need to fight, to say that this needs to be done, the timing of it has to be done now. I kind of like to put this in the context of what’s available and the decisions that people are making. They are saying that there aren’t resources. They are lying. It’s very important to know that. And when people tell you that something happened, as a person who has experienced a lot of, people telling you “Oh, there isn’t enough room for you. Oh, this not your job.” You just get used to rejection like that. I think there’s a space for us even within the ??? to reject that entirely. You have to. And when it comes to us going through this emergency, It’s very important for us to know that our needs do not need to be put on the back burner. And that’s including issues around any physical health and any mental health. Those things are still important.  

And lastly, at least for this answer, I think we need to be thinking about what sort of resources people need like immediately, whether it’s food, I would say the internet. The internet is quite important. Even if it’s a phone, a smartphone, a computer, a laptop, using the internet as a utility. Those are the things that you need in today’s society. And those are things that should be delivered upon exit from any institution. They have to be. And honestly, I would say money as well. I think we’ve talked about that. That’s a natural thing for anybody- in other states they have a general assistance. We used to have a general assistance, and it used to give you a really paltry sum to survive. I was on general assistance in New Jersey at one time and I will tell you that $100, or I think it was about $150 a month. And I needed that because I had to get on a bus or if I needed deodorant, or if I needed anything. That stuff costs more than zero dollars. So to think that people can survive on nothing is just offensive and wrong. And cruel. Honestly it’s a cruel thing to do to a person. Especially, you know, I don’t know if our audience knows this, but the usual practice is to just drop people off in the middle of the night and you’ll see people with the only things they have in their lives in the middle of the night in Center City cause they got one pass down to find their way. And we think that’s an unreasonable thing to ask of anybody. And that especially puts Trans people at possible harm… We cannot continue to let this happen. And you must speak up about this or you are complicit. 

AC: I’m really glad you mentioned the abundance of capital. In the sense of money is being withheld and that’s a very direct form of economic violence. And especially we know now, with so many people on unemployment, a lot of people haven’t gotten it, but many, many people have gotten it; stimulus checks, getting voted around the second time, like asking for money directly without performing any labor, performing anything. Obviously there is the institutional barrier of having to apply for these things, which is strenuous in itself. And someone who hasn’t used a computer, someone who’s been away for so long might not even know how to do that. And libraries aren’t open to help them get access to a computer. But we know this Uncle Sam money isn’t really Uncle Sam. It’s like people performing labor everyday, people paying taxes, people who are contributing to the world to go around, everyday people, essential workers, non-essential workers, all go into that pool of money, that kind of, under the idea of society is- the idea is to redistribute it. And in the US we obviously do not have that distributed equally, in a for profit system. 

And I’m glad that you spoke to housing- a lot of re-entry support fails people pre-pandemic and there’s a lot of systematic inequalities. You mentioned earlier about Trans specific housing, which is so, so needed, so I think Trans people in particular have very few opportunities within the existing resources that make them have to do alternatives for survival. Survival looks a lot different when… if you’re leaving a prison you basically get the clothes off your back. And not only do you basically have nothing, but at least if you were incarcerated in Philadelphia and you’ve served years of sentence, you are shipped to a place that’s hours from where you need to be in a rural area and it’s like “Ok I’m out. Now who do I call to pick me up?” And you have to arrange your own ride. Like why do you have to arrange your own ride? A lot of these places don’t have public transportation.

And what you were saying about quarantining too is like after a pandemic inside these prisons right now is a cesspool because social distancing is not happening. Pretty much what we can afford to do in our homes right now is not afforded in a facility where you have already poor healthcare, already poor environmental and public health conditions. So even if you- let’s say you did have a family to come back to, where are you gonna go for that 2-3 week period before passing it on to your family. That’s a public health negligence. And that’s something correctional officers and police officers are already doing in our neighborhoods by going in and out of prisons without taking the pre-, without taking the accountability for precautions taken. And again, if you don’t have a family, and it’s like well, not only is there the risk of going to a shelter, but that’s assuming you can actually get in one…. So yeah.

SJ: Yeah and when it comes to the housing portion of it and the money that should be allocated toward Trans people in general, I think we really need to think about manning resources. And that means all people. And that means all people need to man your resources for Trans specific healthcare, housing, and also when it comes to the education part too. The amount of discrimination that we see in those areas has to be acknowledge. And I don’t mean a vigil. I don’t mean- no parks need to be named after anybody. They need the money that says you don’t have to pay your rent for the next, this much time. Especially upon exiting incarceration. So as I always say, cause I’m a person that looks across jurisdictions and comparative policies across not only the US but also the world, it’s not an unreasonable thing to do. Not at all. It’s like there are programs out there. Some countries have acknowledged the pain the horror that’s happened, and the way they combat that is by making sure that Trans people and Queer people in general have resources to protect themselves and that’s mainly housing, specific training so you can earn a living and live your life in the world. So those are things that are gonna help people. Definitely, no named parks, no “Marsha P. Johnson” park, I mean, she’s an amazing woman, but do not do that. Give us the money. Can I curse? Give us the fucking money. 

AC: Yeah, totally. And I think she would want you to say that too. Knowing her history of doing exactly that. Of providing young sex workers and young LGBT people, not just Trans people, housing in Greenwich Village, especially when the mainstream gay liberation movement was not showing up for drug users, for sex workers, for gender variant people that did not fit the cis and white, you know, what we’re still seeing today, but, you know.

SJ: Yeah and I was just in a meeting that had a wonderful collection of people, including some of our comrades that we know, I don’t know if I wanna call them out but they are wonderful. We were thinking about what does a Trans specific drop in space, definitely during COVID19, what would that look like? What would that look like funded through homeless services or somewhere else? To create another one just for in general, outside of addict… But it seemed like there’s… where was I going? I just wanted to think that through of-

AC: Can I add on?

SJ: Say again?

AC: Can I add on to that thought?

SJ: Yeah.

AC: I think there should be- and this goes to healthcare/mental healthcare portion but also just like general support. I’m very pro re-entry support group for Trans people. So that there is community amongst people who are returning home from prison because part of my work is like, Oh you were recently released? Here’s the number of somebody who was also recently released. Talk about it. Like even if there’s just- talk to each other. You can talk about whatever you want. But just know that there is another person who has somewhat of a universal experience between those identities of being incarcerated and gender variant. To know that people exist because often times especially when you’re in such gendered institutions, like you don’t know- like when I got in touch with Alyssa, she was like, “I don’t know any other Trans people in here.” And now there’s 4 which is like not much at all considering there’s thousands of people incarcerated there, but they all know that they are in existence together. And now whenever there is somebody coming in whose like, “Oh, have you heard about Alyssa? She’s the sister. She’s the mother.” 

So I think having those connections to know that there is…people’s experiences aren’t just like one-off. And actually this is like a very, very- it happens a lot and it’s just not represented or visible in the sense of like prison reform movements. Or even just narratives about incarceration. Even when we have data about mass incarceration, young Black men are the ones who are often named. And while that’s super, super important that we have that racial analysis, we are erasing Trans women that would otherwise be included and people who are assigned male at birth. So we are totally erasing Black Trans women when we are strictly focusing on young Black men. And there is a lot to say about the rising incarcerations of women and children who also don’t fit that description. But I just noticed in the ways that women’s vs. men’s prisons can be very isolating for people just because there’s very little room institutionally for gender variance.

SJ: [NO AUDIO]

AC: Uh-oh. Can’t hear you.

SJ: Yup. And I will say that we need people confronting these issues, especially white people. They need to be confronting the people around them on these issues. I know even at our state level there’s an LGBT commission, I think one of their specialties is youth homelessness. I’ve just never heard it. Heard of any of their issues, you know. The first thing that they should be doing should be introducing a resolution to decriminalize sex work. That should be the first thing on here. And I haven’t heard anything. So it’s really upon us to talk to those people and hold them accountable for that… We need more people always. 

AC: Yeah and there’s also something you mentioned about, I think, often times when we look into the carceral feminist approach, we see re-entry as like a reaction to incarceration, when, what you were saying before, when we provide housing, when we allow for educational and employment opportunities, like that- Obviously people will be criminalized no matter what under a capitalist carceral state, but when we’re talking about absence of need, people are criminalized based on what they do to survive. So even these material supports, like let’s say, we were able to get housing, healthcare, education. There would be far less opportunities for people to be incarcerated based on the absence of need. Until, obviously the goal would be no prisons at all, to be a post-carceral society and what does that look like under transformative justice. So when we talk about re-entry, often times the approach is like, “oh well you did this thing and now you’re re-entering and you’ve been rehabilitated”, when the narrative is like, no, these are things that all people should have, and it shouldn’t be a reaction after you’ve been to this horrible, traumatic place. We should be preventing that in the beginning, by decriminalizing sex work, decriminalizing drug use, allowing spaces for safe consumption sites too. 

SJ: And there are parts of our society that are basically decriminalized. As I always say, it’s really important for, people that are privileged to say- At times I talk to people and they will remark that, “That’s illegal,” or- They don’t understand the experiences of all the people across the spectrum of gender and class. And it’s really important to know that, for especially, what white males in a college institution, you can do as many drugs as you want, you can act as crazy as you want. You can assault people. You can commit, I guess for the content warning, other types of assault. You can also…You can burgle people. You can take things. People can commit “crimes of all sorts” if you have the right privilege. You can engage in sex work. You can be a person that receives sex work too. There are all types of “crimes” that you’re allowed to do. And it’s really important to decriminalize that for all people… 

And part of that help is housing, I will say. I really think that. I love safe consumption spaces and “safe injection” sites, as people often know. I also say… Most people I know prefer to use drugs in their living room and their sofa among their comrades. Or if you’re choosing to use it while engaging in sex or anything, you wanna use it there. So… And the same goes for sex work. Having a physical place is really helpful in avoiding any sort of police state including the social workers that can follow you in all their stuff… So that’s why I focus so much on housing, because I know that finding that space of privacy is so important for escaping the police state. Cause they can not look through their- they can only act on things that they have a view of, a plain view of.

AC: Yeah. And I think that- Yeah, so- We talked about, what kind of support Trans people need when returning from prison. And what types of resources that they would need. Housing, income, healthcare, education and employment opportunities, mental healthcare, and community support, cause collective care is also a very huge component, and we know that to be true in abolitionist spaces, that often times we are providing mutual aid, that I know has become a huge, huge buzzword in COVID 19 and we need to be able to resist mutual aid projects- Mutual aid projects are not to be non-profits, like that is not the end goal. Mutual aid projects are to fill the gaps where the state does not provide aid. And the end goal is to not need mutual aid because we will eventually live in a society under abolition that cares for people in ways that they don’t need mutual aid. Like it’s not charity. Charity is a capitalist construct… A product of the non-profit industrial complex and also religious origins. And it’s like that’s a very moralistic, non-strategic thing, and really gets into savior-y, white savior-y, but even in the context of LGBT, like cis and white savior-y. And actually has origins from like, overtones of conversion therapy of trying to get people to identify with not who they really are. And obviously those things do not fall under the Trans abolitionist future we are fighting for. That includes everybody, and when we say Trans abolition, we’re just speaking from a Trans perspective, in that abolition benefits everybody, not just Trans people….

And we started to talk about it a little bit, but how do we create spaces for people to find each other and support each other?

SJ: Ooo, what a-

AC: I mean housing is a space.

SJ: What a question. Right? There’s a… I think that is… That is the question that people often ask that leads to naming of spaces, like a Queer and Trans space or a Trans specific space, but people then are taken aback with why the people need to divide themselves or to like find a difference. And I think that is where we need to all have humility around those facts. So there’s the part of this world where we just need more visibility everywhere. And that means that even when the space is inclusive of everybody, yes you should be flying the Trans flag. I mean, you should be centering Trans people… And, you know, when we talk about this it’s important to… You know, you will on another… the next series… Black Trans women and femmes talking about their experiences. Have them on their as much as possible to share that experience. Because that’s how we find each other. Also, other people have to be a part of that. I know that I have… I have seen- I will give credit to them but an organization I know called the Q Foundation had a database of people looking for roommates and that was what they did when they ??? connected people that needed a Queer house, needed a Trans house. But that had to be intentionally made and people had to sign up for it and people had to think that, “Oh this is a service that needed to be made”, which was just about connecting people to their community. And it was needed because so many new people come to spaces, and it’s kind of about us being as welcoming as possible. I won’t say that that is easy but, and I know that I need to try harder, but it’s like, it’s really lonely out there and when there are new people, newcomers in the community, it’s really important to be as welcoming as possible to them.

AC: Yeah, and, I think too, when we are choosing who we are centering and the spaces we hold, that boundaries are not necessarily borders. And I think about this as like, you know, prisons, detention centers, even just like homeless shelters- Like you know physical walls on houses, right? Like as physical borders between inside/outside. And like… Obviously borders of countries are known to be violent, borders of prison walls tend to be violent. Even like how policing works; different precincts, different wards create systemic violence. Gentrification creates violence and borders in our communities even though it might not be as forthright and physical. But, you know, I thinks it’s important to hold space in a way where we’re being as inclusive as possible with the sense of, you know, our demands are specific for Trans people. They center Trans people. And when we center the most marginalized by society under capitalism, the idea is to benefit all. Because all the demands that we make for Trans people, we know to be true about anyone who isn’t gender variant as well. When we say Trans housing, and accessible housing, we’re including not just Trans people but low income people, drug users, sex workers, who again don’t fall under the gender variance.

SJ: People with mobility issues.

AC: Yeah. And even people who are very privileged but lost their job and lost healthcare. Because there’s still ways that, you know. You’re still impacted by carceal systems and structures of economic violence in that you have labor stolen from you… We don’t have… Rent control isn’t really a thing, at least in Philadelphia, that I’m aware of. 

SJ: Yeah. And I think it’s really upon us to ??? more too. I think there’s this thing where people, at least in my experience, talking to people that are in power, they say that they are doing all that they can, but they’re not. They haven’t fully imagined the possibility of what can be done. If they’re being honest. That’s a big “if.” Yes, but the fact of the matter is that there is money, there are supports, there are resources, for the things that we are demanding. And they just refuse to do it because they don’t think that our lives matter. I know I’ve had conversations around, especially homelessness. They… believe, they say things like, “oh this isn’t a sweep, it’s a service day.” A service day in their minds, they come with social workers and outreach workers and police to then badger people into going to a shelter. And then take all their stuff, their belongings and throw it into a trash drop, and then usually spray the place down and have a police car sit there so a person is too intimidated to to rebuild their shelter. 

That’s what they believe is service. And that’s what they believe is the caring way to go about this. They believe that they are a model to be followed, and they have people from around the world come in and view their model cause they’re not just arresting everybody. But to think that is to normalize cruelty. And we need to say that over and over again to them. That, no, this is not nice. No, you’re not being kind… And to ignore the specific needs of people who have already experienced so much trauma, and people that have experience intimate partner violence in different ways, people that are gender variant and their specific needs. To ignore those people, people with mental health conditions, and people that use drugs, to me, is violence. It is really violent. And then to say that you’re trying you’re best? No, you are not. And no, you are not kind. No, you are not good. And you’re cruel. What you have is a cruel system, and you’re trying to make us normalize the cruelty by calling it something like a “service day.” Service to whom? Service to whom, is my retort, right? And what we have is a- sometimes, I don’t like to be too negative, sometimes it does seem like we live in hell, like a 1984-like situation where they try to turn the words that we have in our language into something that they are not. To make us- To trick us. And they repeat these words, I mean they accuse our president of doing this, but they do it too. They do it just as much as him. 

So it’s just really important for us to really decouple these ideas. And really see that- And you have to view it, you have to go down to places and view it. You see the people who are on the street, most of them are Black. Most of them are you know… I’m not going to say I know everyone’s sexual orientation and gender, but they are not gender conforming people. They are Queer people. They are people with mental health conditions. They are people that are kind and are just sitting and reading and just like want to be left alone. Like that is what it is, and for our city to continue the legacy of racism that Philadelphia has always had, and bombing our own people, especially Black people, and neglecting their needs. And when they say- when they rise up they say “You’ve neglected our needs and I’m gonna get real mad about it,” then acting shocked as if this isn’t the thing that you’ve always done. And the reason that I’m mad is very reasonable… It’s just unconscionable. I think we, hopefully everybody here already knows these things, but you have to know that facts. You have to know what’s up. And the neglect which historically has happened, now happens every single day to the people of Philadelphia, has to be said. It has to be said over and over again. 

You know, so… And I actually asked them, I think it was Gabor Mate, who is this doctor from Vancouver who’s a wonderful person that talks about drug use and trauma that people have experienced and how to help people and those things, he’s very, very smart. But- And a survivor of the Holocaust so that’s also a very important fact. And even he had this kind of interesting way of kind of avoiding that idea of like what does collective healing look like. Collective healing is the space that I think, that Queer and Trans people need to be at, need to be thinking about, need to be having together in spaces too that are carved out only for those people. The same can be said in the specific groups…???…From the disabled people to the Black and cis and able person, the LGBT person too, you know, those things too. We have to collectively heal and that takes taking space, that means taking time with each other. With each other. So it would be very helpful if this government were not so oppressive and actually helped that. I don’t see that happening. But that is the thing that needs to be done. And we also need our white cis allies, our white LGBT allies, when it comes to people that identify as gay, those allies too, for Trans people, to support that and to be in a room where nobody is and fight for that furiously, right? 

So that is what I find, that that is what needs to be done. And I if- And I will say that if everybody put their job on the line, their life on the line, like a lot of the people that I know do, then we would win. Then we would win. And I know so many people that have been demoted, have been fired, have been suspended. Every single day, people that we know are doing the right thing, that’s what happens to them. They are retaliated against by these people. It is the common thing. And we come and we talk about it. About why the system- And there are so many complicit gay Black people in that system too are you kidding me, at the same time, right, that care more about their paycheck than the dignity and respect of anybody- But those are the people, we have to get together, we have to see each other. We have to do it. I’m a person that if you have not been fired from a place, or let go in some strange way, I don’t really trust you. You should’ve been. You should’ve been by now. 

Because what we ask for is, when you’re asking for, like things that I ask for, like $400 Trans subsidy right now for all Trans people that live in Philadelphia. Well, people are like, “how are we gonna do this?” Well there’s this money that you should be asking for to administer it. So why aren’t you doing that? And then they look at you like you’re insane. Well, you are saying that you don’t have resources, and I show you the resources, and you don’t get it. So that’s the thing, right? Just wanna put that context of when we’re like “why aren’t people doing this?” It’s because they don’t care about us and they don’t care about out lives, you know? It’s not because the money isn’t there. It’s not because they don’t want to get it. There are foundations, and there’s federal money, there’s so much federal money out there that we don’t get. You know… I mean, I just want people to know that. 

AC: Yeah. I think that’s a great, great transition to talk, a big question; Do you think capitalism stands in the way of Queer and Trans liberation? Again, you kind of touched upon that, but I think that’s a great transition.

SJ: Yeah. That’s a very interesting concept. I often think about the role of capitalism in drug selling and sex work, and how those things can be so freeing but then they, sometimes they’re turned into this really capitalist venture that I don’t like. You know I start to think, oh, things that- Or even art. Art that people make becomes this capitalist venture. It’s like these beautiful things, like pleasure, and your body, and the things that you can make with your mind… They can be turned into, like the constant commodification of the things that you make, and we’ve gotta figure out how to stop that… I think that’s why the first thing that you have to say is, and I think people and a few organizations do, is that you’re anticapitalist. So that goes with understanding that- I always start at the basics, right? Housing, healthcare, the education, and you’re organizing any sort of workplace, right? So you start with those basics and it’s like, I’m not for privatizing or understanding those as money making properties in the slightest. Those are the spaces that we have to be at. So when we think about occupation of land or new occupation of land, or any sort of housing thing, you want that to be in a trust of some sort that does not change its price, you know? 

AC: Yeah. And I’m just thinking about abolition vs. incarceration. And how abolition is not synonymous with capitalism, and how it can’t happen under capitalism in the sense of; Incarceration whether it is run by “for profit institutions” or like a state run institution. Many detention centers are run by for profit institutions, CoreCivic being a big one… But also the state- Alyssa’s incarcerated in a state prison, and  actually, there’s actually very few private facilities that are run, like, classified as “for profit,” but under capitalism we know that all institutions are for profit in the sense of whether or not an incarcerated person actually produces labor, we still profit off of their incarceration in the sense of, we are employing correctional officers, we are employing third party contractors, whether they be additional staff or other services including; JPay, Connect Network, all the phone minutes, all the electronic messages. Like it doesn’t cost us any money to send an email. It costs incarcerated people to send an email. Price gouging within the prisons in terms of commissaries. And also the physical land and how it contributes to property value of the rest of the area. 

And often times to in a town like Cumberland, MD, where Alyssa is, that area is not the only place where a prison is. So like lots of people who are employed in that town come from generations of correctional officers, whether it be at the several prisons that are there. But also it’s a military manufacturing town in the sense that it’s very militarized, and many towns that are in these rural areas that are away from cities also have that militarized aspect in that they are right next to, or on, prisons that are on bases. Or they’re in towns that are heavily militarized. And like, capitalism cannot exist without the military industrial complex, the non-profit industrial complex, the medical industrial complex. And there’s just so many overlapping ways that there- There are just many overlapping ways of the industries that go into incarceration to make it for profit even though it’s run supposedly by the state. Even though that there’s many- Like the state itself is for profit, don’t get me wrong, but also there are so many for profit manufacturing products, services, where- At Alyssa’s prison there’s no infirmary. All of that is contracted medical staff. When their prison was shut down and on lockdown, there were no lawyers, there were no medical staff allowed, during a pandemic. 

So I think it’s important to understand the ways that prison life is industrialized. In the sense of like a lot of daily life is, you know, with Amazon, with all the big names that we rely on for groceries, and in ways like that. But, you know, what we are fighting for- And another thing too is like we’re fighting for not just visibility, but material support. And these things are very, very basic things that are provided under capitalism, plus so much more, to not just the rich, but  like even what we know to be the middle class, right? Like that’s like the standard. Like we aren’t even asking, in terms of Trans liberation, and in our demands, of that abundance. But part of the abolitionist vision is thinking beyond that survival, what do we need beyond that? And I think that is what you’re saying is that that communal, collective aspect where we shouldn’t be doing damage control, we shouldn’t be only engaged in recovery from a past experience. We should be healing and going on, and creating transformative spaces so people never have to go through this violence. 

And at least what we know to be true about US capitalism, pillaging of Indigenous land and resources, trafficking of African labor, like those two are very critical to the foundation of this country that was founded by settler colonial capitalists. And that legacy still plays out today in how our government works, who is allowed to be an elected official. And I just don’t see the- It’s very hard to envision abolition when surveillance, incarceration, money, for profit anything rules our lives. But I do want to challenge people to be like, you know, not only what does it look like when our siblings our home, when our brothers and sisters are home. 

But what does it look like too- and this goes into the last question that you have about; What does the future look like without prisons in the sense of how do we come together? What does that collective healing look like? What is that abundance, right? Because I think abundance has been a theme, like there’s extraneous wealth that is being stolen from people daily, whether it’s officially in the sense of, you know, coming out of your paycheck, paying taxes. But also the inherent, like, minimum wage, working for a large corporation owned by millionaires, billionaires, trillionaires that are like- These businesses are maintained, the capitalists maintained by the oppression by labor and having labor stolen from us. And the many ways that Trans people specifically are criminalized just… Many people have that difficulty being a regular wage worker, in the sense that I described, but going beyond that, what does it look like to really own your labor, own your body, own Trans-ness in post-carceral abolitionist society too? 

SJ: I think a lot of it first comes through finding their spaces of healing. I think that there’s this view that we need to find a, find whiteness at all, and I think you need to reject that entirely. I can be a harmful person. I can personally have times where I don’t feel that great and that I have harmed people around me. That doesn’t mean that I need to…not be able to work, not be able to have a house, not be able to have children or see my children, not be able to ever use drugs again or anything like that. So there’s nothing about personhood and harm that does not involve these sorts of “Scarlet A’s”, these marks that we put on people that say the were the worst thing that happened during one instance of their lives. Period.

AC: Yeah. I think we- especially in conversations around sexual violence, I think there’s this dichotomy that’s created, and there’s definitely a reason why, and a purpose, and a service why. But I think, when we’re thinking about harm and abuse more broadly, labels of abuser, Often there’s this- Abuser/victim, abuser/survivor type of dichotomy as if you’re fit in one of two of them. One of those two labels. And for accountability- That label, that dichotomy, is sometimes what it’s called to address harm, in that one person commits harm to another person. But those are not identities that are to like follow somebody, in the terms that they are defined by that harm for the rest of their life, like a carceral punishment, capitalist system does. And part of reckoning with abolition is, you know, myself being a white drug user, like what are the ways that I have been able to get by, where being a medical marijuana patient in Philadelphia… 

That experience is far, far different from someone who is Black or brown in this city who comes from- Like I am not from- I was not raised or born in Philadelphia. And just the different ways that are- The many different experiences and privileges that I bring into this work, and also acknowledging that harm is not exclusive to one person, one situation, and it’s often the dichotomy… Again, context is helpful to determine the accountability process. Who harmed who. Cause in many cases it’s very obvious who is committing the harm, and who is impacted and hurt by that harm, but these are not identities that follow us, that bar us from jobs, housing, educational opportunities. And avoiding the language of rehabilitation, because that still implies that there was something inherently wrong with you, as opposed to, people who don’t come from those marginalizations do the same acts, “criminal” or not, every day. In the sense of, people are cheating, people are stealing, people are lying. People are doing these things that we consider to be crimes, not for survival, just because and because they can. Rich people steal from working class people daily. Always have been. 

But really thinking about transforming and being like, what does it look like for us to be conscious of harm? Because another thing too is, once we move away from that abuser vs. victim dichotomy as identities, we can start to figure out, to reckon with, what harm have I contributed? What harm, in addition to the harm that has been imposed on us? And also creating that compassion for yourself. Because anyone who says they’ve never never harmed another person, I straight up do not believe you. We all do it. It’s part of the human experience, number one. But, number two, under capitalism, it’s impossible. You have to harm people. And that’s the structural violence that we want to oppose and actively work against. 

There’s definitely ways to be mindful, and being able to reckon. And being like, “this harm happened to me, but I’m gonna try to do the personal transformative healing work so that these cycles don’t repeat.” Especially in the context of generational trauma. We don’t wanna be- We wanna show up for the generation after us in ways that we were not shown up for by the previous generation, while also understanding and having the compassion to be like, well… Children weren’t really seen as people who have feelings, pre-1950s. And a lot of that still comes up today. But it’s like, even in our generation, as like talking about mental health, and like, this inner child work is like… That wasn’t really a thing for previous generations, but it can be really helpful to that self compassion and creating empathy, and creating these spaces so we see people as people and not by the labels they’ve been imposed on by a capitalist state. Not defined by the crime that they did, or something they did or didn’t do that was reported and ???, and they’re blacklisted whenever their name comes up on a google search. That’s not justice, that’s not transformative. That’s completely carceral, that’s capitalist. That makes it so there are blatant inequalities that aren’t just structural, but also completely social. So that people- We further create this stigma, we further create borders between in our communities, of who is deserving of care, who is deserving of space, who is deserving of having access to housing.

SJ: That’s why- I just wanna do a quick note. That’s why I’ve been- I want people to think of housing and healthcare, especially those…as well as education and jobs and right to bodily autonomy as human rights. Those are the things that you have to think of as human rights. There are ways in which our bodies are used as currency constantly, whether it’s used as- Used in a prison bed, or in a hospital bed, or from our blood, to our urine, they have commodified every bit of us. We have to decouple these essential goods from capitalism. They have to be. It’s not something that’s a discussion. It’s a “have to.” So when people say that this person died, you should be saying, “that makes sense, that’s how capitalism works.” 

Yeah, if we do not deal, you are complicit in that person’s death. That’s a preventable death that we should not have let happen. And it is all of our faults. We’re not fighting hard enough for that person. So those are the things that have to be done, and… Just thinking about that Trans liberation part, it is very important to, at least in the actual ways that organizing and space comes together, to think of ways that we can cooperatively produce and then also consume and share with each other, regardless of what that is. In whatever space that you’re doing. If that is, if you’re really good at making art, that’s great. If you’re really good at being an accountant or a programmer… That also means if your thing is sex work. If you can be in a collective space and help each other and share resources, as well as have that idea of being anti-ableist, that everybody has something to give to this space and therefore deserves resources to live their life in a place of dignity and happiness and wellness. That is where we need to be. 

And that means recognizing that. That means sharing resources. I always mention that thing around… I feel really privileged in having a mind that is able to do the things that I can. At least I try not to make it based in any sort of like, creating a hierarchy of things. But in our current society, there are certain things that are, that allow people to go further in our “social hierarchy”. Those are privileges. That is about ability. And you’re lucky to have that ability. I don’t think people think about that as much as they should. Like if you’re able to get through some of these stupid institutions, like law school or medical school or whatever, that is about ability. And if you don’t understand that you need to be sharing your resources with others that don’t have that ability to then do the same thing that you can do, then I don’t know what to do with you. Because that is what it is. 

It’s like, just like the ability to be a basketball player and be 6’7” is about ability and basically something that was an accident, but that you’re able to benefit from. It is the same thing that has to do with what is in your head. And that goes for emotional things too. So there’s this disease of whiteness that we have, where people are like “I deserved every single thing that ever happened to me, and I have worked for everything. And there’s no reason for me to believe that this is either an accident or… I’ve come from nothing.” No. Nobody has ever come from nothing. I want to be really clear about that. There has to be a way to talk about ableism from that perspective too. There’s such an ableist perspective around this. I don’t think people think that it’s ableism. I don’t think that people do. 

But in terms of the liberation part, it’s so important that whatever dynamics that are happening, that there is a constant, constant pressure toward equity and repossession, and understanding that each person is giving what the can. And that usually happens on a small scale. And those spaces can exist. I think that we’re looking for ways that that liberation to pop larger than that. I think that’s the challenge. And we need spaces that are actually going to help that instead of the ones that are hindering that. We see so many hindering spaces, but… I guess I’m gonna throw that back on you, Adryan. Your thoughts on Trans liberation.

AC: Yeah. And I think too, we’ve already started to do like some calls to action. I think that’s really important for everyone to be reminded of just like the varying privileges you carry to the work and to be conscious of it in terms of your role in a movement. And like what I have found to be healing as a Trans person, but also healing even as a white person, to reckon with the harm that my ancestors have, is being an advocate for a Trans person. Being able to share that relationship and create that connection in a world that does not- in really just a capitalist country that does not value relationships with people who are socially disposable, who are physically distanced and separated from communities for so, so long. And I have found that to be transformative. I consider Alyssa a friend, a comrade, a mentor, an educator, a teacher. She has taught me all that I know about Trans liberation and how it is not synonymous with a capitalist state. 

And with every Trans person behind bars, every person behind bars really, needs an advocate. But especially for Trans siblings, sisters, and brothers, it is super, super critical because a lot of them don’t have ties to biological family. They don’t have ties to chosen family either because of hoe long it’s taken for somebody to be removed. And I think it goes through that absence of community, right? For gender variant people, for a lot of queer people even, the nuclear family and that type of structure does not fit, and it is not sustainable to ways of life that we know to be true. Not even just with reproductive justice, but also like having a house together, the common structure and how dependents work legally. People don’t fit into the legal definitions of a family. For so long, we didn’t have marriage equality and that is even new in our lifetime. 

But yeah just being like, having relationships with people in our community, whether they are behind bars, people who have been recently released and making those connections, and really extending- A lot of time people, LGBT family, right? We’re not a fuckin’ family. Like so many of us don’t really care about what that means. And like “community” is a phrase tossed around, “family” is a phrase tossed around. And forming these relationships and being able to materially provide for them- And another thing too, I know we’ve talked a lot about it. But also even if you don’t come from wealth, like for me, I do not come from wealth, but I come from a place of being able to preform labor. And I still consider that a form of reparations and redistributing labor in the sense of like, Alyssa can’t be here physically doing this work. She’s absolutely organizing. And the support that I’m providing her is like, I’m less of the- like I’m an abolitionist organizer in the sense of being able to connect people, but I’m not the prison organizer. I’m not base building amongst prisoners, that’s not my role. That’s Alyssa’s role. 

And if we’re able to provide these connections and support on the outside, we can be able to extend the resources that we have to people behind bars. To not only improve their individual conditions, which is super important, but also, these people who are being commuted like know this problem to be true from their first hand experience and sure as hell want to do everything they possibly can to not only change things for themselves, but everyone around them, even those who are not gender variant. When Alyssa fights for people, she fights for everybody.  She fights for everybody at her prison, she fights for everybody who’s incarcerated. She fights for all Black people, all LGBT people, everyone who is impacted by this capitalist state. 

So I think it’s just super critical that those with platforms, even those who don’t have a platform, nows a good time to ??? now you have so much time at home. And abolitionist work does not require- Like just because of the physical separations we have between prisons and non-prisons, all of this has been online. All of this has been remote already. So I have been doing the same thing as I’ve always been doing. 

SJ: Yeah I think that that is so important. And I do just want to recognize that you have done that among barriers, around resistance from the prison, from the state in general. So it’s like really important to continue to resist. And when those places of resistance come up to you, you should be going right through them. Do not be afraid to go right through them. I will say it’s really important to think about how you are actively redistributing wealth, and that means looking at your budget, like how am I doing this. Where in my budget am I redistributing wealth. Where in my time and my energy and my labor am I giving to combating the state oppression of people. It’s important to look at our own space and wonder what time we’re allocating toward those things and also do them… 

There’s such an interesting thing around this that I fell like it gets people really sad, it gets people really dejected, but, I don’t know. To me, there are certain spaces which are sad, and you should not go to those. One of the things I’ve experienced in some protests of individuals or state officials or governors that don’t want to listen to you, and they ignore you. Those can feel really deflating, right? Those can feel like you are…like you don’t have power. And it’s really important to assert that you do have power. You do. You need to not let those people waste your time. Tell them, “do not waste my time.” And the meetings that you have, come a little late, leave a little early. Get in what you need to say. Interrupt them all the time. Make sure that you are getting your agenda past. If they do not respond with it, stop them and leave. That is all that you need to do. It’s really important that you let them know that the fact that you’re even there is a waste of your time. If they would just do the right thing, honestly, if they would step down and resign, and allow you to be there, and you would do the right thing, let them know that. It’s really important. 

It’s really important. And I just say that because it’s- I hear a lot of people; they seem really tired. It’s because they’re disrespected. Don’t let these people disrespect you. Be ungovernable. And it takes all of us to be ungovernable for them to change. We know where their houses are. We know where they live. That’s public information. We know where they live. We know where their children are. We know their wives. We know everything. There’s so much information about everyone out there. Be a little ungovernable. And if all of us do it, we’ll see what happens. I’ve always believed in doing things that people do not expect. So if you ever go into a space, do whatever someone is not expecting. And these are just the things that I really- what I see are spaces of resistance, and this goes for our current oppressive regime. This is the only way that they will ever change. 

I think that we’ve seen things throughout time from around the world; Cuba, China, Russia, Haiti, South America. I always point- I’ve said this to you many times, Adryan, but I always point to the Russian revolution and the fact that it took them 100 years. And they had to… They had so many liberals in front of them that wasted their time. But they continued to say that the only answer is to drag the czar out of his house and to kill his family. And that was the answer. It was always the answer. It was the answer in 1845. It was the answer in 1905. It was the answer in 1917. It was always the answer. Revolution was the answer. And that is the answer here too. The only answer is revolution. I think we all know that. We will have these liberals, but we need to look back. There are so many dark times, in the late 80s, 90s, and the 2000s. Dark times. Dark, dark times. And they tried to extinguish the things like Mumia. Like John Africa. They tried to extinguish those people. As we’re on the eve of, I think it was- was it yesterday? 

AC: A few days ago.

SJ: Yeah, of the MOVE bombing. The anniversary of the MOVE bombing. It’s really important to recognize the spaces. The Black Panthers and also MOVE in Philadelphia. Specifically MOVE in Philadelphia opened up and turned to peoples’ spaces their ideas, that Ramona Africa continued. So we have to, you know, even take a second just to give those people the space to say thank you, in gratitude for opening that space for all of us to move into. And this, they may have started a hundred year journey that we’re on. And all we have to do is do our job. And to say the truth. The truth is there. We’re not making anything up. These are just facts. The facts show us that. And there’s no need to do anything else. 

But we are in this time, and I think that is our job to hold space for this time to show, to talk specifically about things like government programs and how they exist, but also about our space as Trans people and supporting others like Comrade Alyssa, like so many other people that will be on hear raising their voice. Understanding our relation to each other, our relationship to the earth. To every species that is alive, every atom that exists on this place that is the earth. And also making sure that we fight every single day on this occupied land against the oppressors. And I would say even think about what returning to Lenape territory would look like. The fall of the empire is near. And when I say near, we might be 30 years out, but it is near. So, I have no doubt in it. As long as I’m alive- I will say this for myself. As long as I’m alive, I will be here saying these things, about the need for this evil and oppressive empire to fall. So, I just wanted to say those words. 

AC: Yeah, definitely. And we’re coming to the Q&A period for those who are tuning in, definitely feel free to ask questions in the comments. We do have some time to address comments. 

In the meantime I did wanna add- So we already raised a tremendous amount of money, even before the talk happened. There is a Chuffed fundraiser that is in the comments on my Facebook page, that we want to- It’s just like a general fund for Black and/or Indigenous Trans people who are impacted by incarceration, whether they be currently released. They will be going to phone minutes, email minutes, commissary funds, if they have books that they want, we’re happy to provide that. But also, if you know of someone who has been recently released from prison, definitely we want the funds to go there. And when we say Trans people, we are including the colonial constructs of Trans and non-binary identities, but also we want to extend that to a broader umbrella where it’s gender variant people who my not subscribe to the Trans label, whether they’re Two Spirit, non-binary, or otherwise gender nonconforming. 

And that’s a really good opportunity to redistribute your wealth and put it directly in Trans people’s pockets. Directly in Black and Indigenous people’s- Directly support… There are lots of organizations doing great work, but what we know about the non-profit industrial complex, they focus on charity rather than solidarity and mutual aid. And once we are able to get funds to people’s accounts, we know about survival, it takes one less thing off of that person, and one step towards organizing on their own, behind bars, existing behind bars, and really being able to- if they don’t have to fight for their phone minutes, that’s one less thing they have to think about. Same with books. Books are really important. Especially for Alyssa in solitary confinement. Right now a lot of people are…

SJ: In solitary. Yeah. I feel like we do wanna recognize, that specifically the COVID response has been slow, has been torturous for so many people around this country. And the response has been solitary confinement. Has been… Recently a person reached out to me, 22 hours inside, 2 hours outside, of the very small cell. The type of torture that’s happening to people, is classically American, but you need to be giving money to these people. I mean they’re people. They’re people. 

AC: They’re people. Yeah. And the thing to is that even prior to the pandemic, Alyssa is only, is housed in a cell that’s a parking space, alone, by herself, in a maximum security unit, the highest security unit. She is out for an hour a day. Whether she actually chooses that is up to her discretion, given the hyper visibility of Black Trans women behind bars. But yeah, ??? occupy time, there’s a fundraiser for another woman at the same prison for a typewriter, which is really helpful in terms of getting legal lawsuits and other documents, grievances, typed up. Because a lot of people who have typewriters end up advocating for all the people around them because there’s such scarcity in typewriters. It’s insane that we still have typewriters. Before doing prison work, I didn’t really know that there was still a need. But much like print media, with like print magazine subscriptions, that’s how it’s keeping up, just because of the lack of internet access available to people. 

But these things are saving graces for people, that really keep them in touch with reality. And they’re able to connect and have direct relationships with people on the outside too. It definitely agitates prison staff to know that there are several people writing to Alyssa, several people calling in, receiving book shipments. Like every time that a piece of mail, anything goes through for somebody, whether it’s mail, electronic transfer, anything, prison officials know that they’re being looked out for. And there’s more potential for agitation, but also more- The more eyes you have on a person…

SJ: Always

AC: Always good. 

SJ: And that goes for in the hospital, in a nursing home, shelter, all of that. If you show people that they’re being watched, that there is somebody that cares about them, it has so much power. 

AC: Yeah. We don’t really have any questions. But is there anything that I… I kinda wanna say if you were an audience member, what would you ask. But anything that you think is relevant to this conversation that we haven’t talked about yet. 

SJ: I wanted to think about the future of incarceration post COVID. 

AC: Oh yeah. I’m thinking about just, in general, post COVID, right now. But also, I think this situation has… So social distancing is different than physical distancing because we can actually like- Us having this conversation, being engaged with the many people who are watching. We’re extremely socially connected right now, even though we are physically apart. And while there’s still definitely a physical value, and like this is done a lot different than it would be, I’d say, William Way. And there’s just different dynamics, pros and con to both. Like you and I can’t have people come up to us afterwards, as opposed to when I did give a talk at William Way in November. But isolation, people really need to be connected. 

And the thing is, as things start to open up, people are resuming jobs- Essential workers and many people have not been able, of course, to actually stay at home. So staying at home is a tremendous privilege in itself. And just being able to collect unemployment and be here. That is so inaccessible to people who even aren’t essential workers. So many people are barred just from that. Getting a stimulus check whether or not you’re working or not. And I think the theme of isolation; people really are not- I think in a lot of ways, capitalism has created the pandemic, in terms of like, we are able to isolate in individual houses, and we’re already isolated form each other in the sense that the communal spaces that we have are not really designed for interacting per-say. Like you go to a park, but culturally we go to a park with someone we know, we’re not really encouraged to talk to strangers really. And if we are, it’s usually small talk. And that’s not to say that you can’t meet people in community spaces, you absolutely can. But the capitalist spaces that are around us are like- That’s assuming we even have time to do that. 

SJ: Yeah, and that’s a little, almost Philadelphia specific. In that there are gates and barriers to meeting other people. Many of the parks are not meant for sitting. I think the only one is the Rittenhouse park and that’s deliberately only for rich people. And people will let you know that. 

AC: Definitely. Yeah I just think… 

SJ: I’m starting to like- I would like somebody from public health to really, really make regulations and rules around these spaces. These spaces that can transfer COVID at higher rates than others. So there are possibilities within that. What if allowing people to be incarcerated creates a space that, where if you’re breathing other people’s air for a long period of time, that then heightens the severity of it and it creates exposures, constant exposure,  like constantly being exposed to other communicable diseases means something different than like, one exposure. 

And maybe that means jails can’t exist then. What if that means they can’t exist? Because of the public health issue. I feel like that’s not the reason we shouldn’t have jails, but what if, seriously, public health says we can’t have them? And maybe every single homeless shelter that ever existed can’t exist. Because of the danger that it supposes. Especially to people that are already immunocompromised. Like what if you have diabetes, hypertension, HIV. Anything like that, I mean I guess mainly AIDS I’m thinking about, not really current HIV diagnosis. But, those are people that are higher risk of dying compared to others. So what if they just can’t exist? 

And what if somebody from public health says that we have to have a different way that we support people that are aging? We can’t have a nursing home. Nursing homes can’t exist  in the way that they are, which are just warehousing people until- I don’t know. It’s really, really hard to be at a nursing home. It’s extremely hard. Cause you do not get the care, the people who are staffed there do not have the resources they need. And my mother has been in a nursing home for 17 years. The amount of people that she has seen die is astounding. And it has hurt her so much. And I don’t really know what to do about that, but the amount of death that she has seen has been really harmful to her. But she also, you know- Those are all her friends. She recently, I think of course, tested positive for COVID, so she is a person that was asymptomatic, and thank goodness was tested, and is doing ok. But everybody in that setting needed to be tested. And it is no surprise that people that were asymptomatic are testing positive. 

AC: Yeah. I’m glad you mentioned that too. Because with my work with COVID Behind Bars, I’ve been in touch with a woman, whose partner is cis male. Cis woman, cis male, heteronormative relationship. She was released from a women’s work release center, residential work release center in Wichita. She came home. She had the best possible scenario in the sense that she had her own apartment to quarantine alone. She had access to a phone, access to internet data. So she could do all her tele-health meetings, parole, what have you, all of it. Great scenario. Awesome. Her partner at the men’s work residential center- So yeah she was released in part of the like releases for people in response to that. And we spent a lot of time talking about the many ways that that has failed. She does happen to be a person with these privileges, that was able to get like pretty ok. And again it’s not unreasonable to ask because these are already so accessible to people, it’s not unheard of. 

But just having a varying experience from her partner, who was in a Wichita work release center for men, residential. Once someone tested positive again, there’s only about 135 people in that program, everyone was transferred to Lansing Prison on the border, that already had tested positive cases. So you’re literally taking like 1 person, well not just one person, a group of people, that were exposed to one person, and you’re putting them in an institution where you already have the harm exposed. So the fact that transfers are still happening, and being able to cross, like cross exposure, and not really track it is absurd. And then after a period of time, 2 or 3 weeks, gets back to Wichita- That same guy gets transferred back, tests positive, gets sent back to Lansing. So it’s like, that is so- That’s health violence, that’s economic and structural violence that- This is harmful to anybody under the carceral capitalist state. 

But also… Like how this is a cesspool in prisons and how it spreads so quickly in prisons. That spreads to communities too by staff, correctional officers who have faced little accountability inside these institutions. Also I don’t think there are any questions yet, but people tuning in should definitely ask questions as we’re wrapping up. But the community spread is like, correctional officers and staff can go in and out of prisons as much as they want. And when they’re going home, they’re running the risk of spreading that in communities. We see this with just police officers, too, that are able to roam freely, who are not social distancing. Who are able to go into houses, people’s houses. They can go in people’s houses. I saw it in my neighborhood. I saw half a dozen officers with masks, who were not standing apart from each other go into people’s houses. And it’s like, that is a health risk, human rights violation of having like intruders in your space. You should be able to have autonomy over who comes and goes into your space. It’s really negligent and it spreads. 

SJ: And I think that we really consider- I mean when I say post-COVID, I really mean, it doesn’t seem like it’s going away. And it’s going to be affecting us for a time. But it allows us to think about, what does this world look like when… Because of public health, we cannot have congress settings that warehouse people and create this space, which are just death traps for people. I think the fact that 3 people have died at my mother’s nursing home is just unacceptable. It’s like, they shouldn’t… That did not have to happen. It is because they pack people back to back, have them sit around each other, breathing each other’s air for hours and hours and hours at a time. 

That is where we need to be thinking, and I would push public health to do that. I think that we’ve seen a really disappointing public health response in the city of Philadelphia. I mean, they have worked really hard with “flattening the curve” for us all, but the lack of consideration for people that are unhoused, lack of consideration for people who are in these congress settings, in a long term nursing home care facility. In a behavioral health facility. We know that there have been people in these behavioral health facilities that have contracted it as well. 

I think that is the most disappointing thing of all. Is that we have seen these settings- Like those are the people that are getting sick. Those are the people that are dying. And when people say that, and they have this- even our public health leaders are like “Well it’s only these people that are dying. Thank goodness it’s only these people.” And ??? What do you mean it’s only people that are incarcerated, and people that are unhoused, and people that are in long term healthcare facilities, or people with behavioral health disorders. What do you fucking mean by that? Cause those are people that are us and our lives matter. Don’t say that. Don’t fucking care for us. 

I’m just a person that believes that you need to be distributing the resources and money to the places that need it. And that’s where you need to be putting your attention. So do that. And I don’t care if you don’t think that the people vote or whatever. I don’t care what reason that you have. I don’t care even if this was like your place you plan to retire or something in terms of like your government service. So many people here don’t understand their jobs.Their job is to make sure that the people that are most vulnerable are taken care of. And that means resources. They might need more resources than other parts of the city. In terms of networks and people that they travel in. Allocate the resources towards those people. I have to say… I think we should encourage people to resign. If you cannot do that, then you should resign. 

And when it comes to some of the things that we have seen recently, some of the disgusting things that we have seen recently, even people like the CDC has made- These organizations that I do not trust to begin with, and some of the most conservative organizations like the CDC, even they have said, do not bother people who are sheltering in place, that are using tents, their own self-built structures to allow them to shelter in place. Do not disturb them. That is what the CDC has said. The city continues to go on sweeps. And we are not the only city. There are many cities across the country that have ignored the public health. And when they do that, they create danger for all of us. It’s called state created danger. When they ignore all public health, create these dangers for the people around us, and they don’t care about you. And I try to tell the police too, they don’t care about your health either. If you die, they’re probably fine with you dying as a police person. Like those people that are police, you should be rioting as well. Join us. Join us. This state does not care about your health either. I don’t know why you protect them. Cause they don’t give a shit about you. 

So it’s just really important that we understand who the state is protecting. And where we are in this world, and what the future of it is. I think it is recognizing these things and understanding that there cannot be congress settings, there cannot be these long term health services, there cannot be homeless shelters, there cannot be prisons. And I think those are things that we can easily say from a public health standpoint have to be done. I think saying that if you do not understand these facts, you are actively responsible for the deaths that come from them. I think that may be a challenge for some to get to, but I’m ready. I’m ready to say that. I’m ready to be there. Because we see it. We see it happen. We see the people dying. And we have provided suggestions on other paths that we should be going on.

AC: Yeah. And I’m really glad that you were able to join me because I really do admire and deeply respect the kind of unapologetic voice, and being that resistance, always being like, “no, this is fucked up.” Like people in power actively deny people’s reality on a daily basis of this violence that is constant. So I’m very glad that you were able to speak to that. And really tell people’s truth, tell the narratives that don’t typically get seen. Because this is constant. The violence is embedded into the foundations. 

SJ: They really attempt on a daily basis to normalize cruelty. And it’s really important to resist that. I will not be normalizing the oppression of my neighbors, my friends. Even the people I don’t know. We will not be normalizing the cruelty. The cruel states of the things that are actively and intentionally being put upon them. And ourselves. We cannot normalize them. 

AC: Yeah. I think that’s a great place to wrap up. It is almost coming to the hour. We have thus far raised $761 for the fundraiser. That’s really awesome. Thank you to everyone who contributed. And even if you didn’t, even if you weren’t able to contribute financially, thank you still for being here, still part of a conversation. We really didn’t have any comments, I think it was a little shy today. It’s the first one. Always trying to get things out, and that’s totally ok. We wanna keep the conversation going. The fundraisers are still up. Definitely, if you would like to contribute, you can definitely do so. It’s ongoing. Share it. 

In the series next week, I will be joined with abolitionist organizer and emerging scholar, Huey Hewitt, a Black Trans man who works with me on Comrade Alyssa’s advocacy. I’ve learned a lot from him and am very, very curious of what he will say. I actually did present with him almost 2 years ago. Yeah, I don’t know. 2019? Doesn’t matter. We are going to be discussing the differences between carceral and abolitionist feminism from a Trans point of view. Talking about things- Big conversation amongst the two. The question of Trans women being housed in Trans prisons. And while that’s critically important to improve the everyday conditions of Trans women, we also know that women’s prisons fail Trans women in that they’re institutions and that they still face violence. And on the flip side, you don’t really see too many people advocating for Transgender men to be placed in men’s prisons. It’s not often talked about. Speaking for myself, I’d never want to be, in any prison, but especially not a men’s prison as someone who is AFAB non-binary. And just recognizing that there is no prison for non-binary people. Don’t believe there ever should be, don’t ever want there to be. So kind of just jumping on that conversation and being able to discuss just the greater canon of abolition feminism from a Trans point of view and continuing the conversation. 

For those tuning in, if you know somebody who is Black and/or Indigenous, that are gender variant, definitely get in touch because we, again, raised a lot of money just in one day. We’re gonna keep it going. And also if you know somebody who is Trans and abolitionist, for those watching, and if you wanna hear from somebody, let me know. We definitely wanna keep this conversation going. Again, next week it is me and another guest, but I would like to extend it to be beyond me. Only because, not only my experiences, but I don’t wanna talk at people all the time. It’s exhausting. It’s great, but I really don’t want to do that. 

But, get in touch, and also that goes the same if there are any topics that your interested in from an abolitionist point of view, let me know. Some future topics that I’m thinking of is like; eco-facism, anti-facism from a Trans lens, disability justice, maybe doing something more broadly on public health in terms of drug use, and sex work from a Trans lens.

And thank you so, so much, Sterling, for joining us. This will not be the last that we hear from you either, I’m sure. Thanks so much for being here. I really appreciated you contributing and I definitely, definitely want to encourage people who are out there too. Sterling and I are not experts on this topic. Abolition is not something that people are authorities on. And we definitely want to encourage people to do there own learning and their own analysis. Especially if you are Trans, non-binary, gender variant watching, definitely wanna hear from you too. Do you have any last words, Sterling?

SJ: You know. Just… Definitely do not feel afraid about reaching out to wither of us. The things we give are just our offerings. Definitely wanna stand in equanimity with everyone that is watching, everybody that has donated. And it is for the people that are inside and the people that are returning. And their health and well being. And thank you for even creating this space, Adryan. You are awesome.

AC: Thank you. All right. Gonna sign off. Take care.

SJ: Take care.

AC: And thank you everyone. Bye.

SJ: Bye.

END

Transcript of “TALK: Confronting White Supremacy and Class in Italian-American Communities: South Philadelphia, Then and Now”

In response to the white supremacist demonstrations in defense of the Columbus statue at Marconi Plaza, a group of Italian-American leftist comrades (including myself) came together to discuss political education. Our goal was to address recent events (especially as they related to the larger movement to abolish the police) and talk about local Italian-American history through an abolitionist perspective, in addition to raising funds for local grassroots Indigenous and Black organizations.

This turned into a livestream that was first aired on Thursday, June 18, 2020. You can view this talk on my Facebook page. Below is a transcription of the talk.

Special thanks to volunteer transcribers Neera Saxena and Jeanne D’Angelo for your hard work!

Samantha: Hi again everyone, ciao a tutti. My name is Samantha. I am from South Philly, I’m from the Italian American community in South Philly. I am an artist, a healthcare worker. I have a background in Italian studies. I’ve been really fortunate to be able to study Italian – studied the Italian Southern Question, Italian American studies, Italian diaspora studies. I’ve studied in Naples. I did the Calandra Institute’s 2016 Italian Diaspora Studies Summer Seminar. I talked about a lot of the things I’m gonna talk about today. I used to teach Italian. I’ve also done a lot of organizing in Philly, especially around Palestine and abortion access, as well as other things. So I’m really happy that so many people are on here so that we can talk about what’s been going on in South Philly and all over the country, and really thankful to Adryan for helping put this together.

Adryan: Yeah, so Samantha introduced herself a little bit. […] I’m Adryan Corcione, you’re watching this on my Facebook page. I am a freelance journalist, I have a few different projects going around. So I was doing a series of trans abolitionist talks on my Facebook page, so like, the format of this. I co-founded COVID-19 Behind Bars, and I’ve been published in a few different places. […] Very excited to have Samantha here. So, three years ago I had written about the Rizzo statue, which has now been taken down from Thomas Paine Plaza in Center City, but now it’s under the property of the Arts Commission. So we shall see what comes of the Rizzo mural in the Italian Market, if it’s taken down. So those are two things I was writing about. Coming to the history, the political moments that were happening after Charlottesville, is where I was coming from in talking about the history of Philadelphia in the context of white supremacy and the context of class, which we will be talking about today, so that’s really exciting. Samantha has an Etsy shop and an Instagram you can follow. You can also follow me on Twitter. I think we’re gonna have a link to the Teen Vogue stories. Yeah, so we know each other from the left in Philly, and I mentioned the Etsy site because I have some of your art hanging all over my house, and I think it’s really, really beautiful. And I think it has started a lot of conversations. […] I think art definitely has the power to bring people together like that. So, just to lay the setting for those at home: definitely ask questions. We definitely encourage engagement as we’re going about this. But we’re gonna do a Q&A at the end. But definitely engage, ask those questions. And then we will bring it back, after Samantha and I are done talking, to address some questions from the audience. We’re going to do the questions, the Q&A. And again, in the event description, like this is a free event, open to the public. But we deeply encourage those with access to wealth to contribute to Indigenous 215, the Venmo is up there. We’re collecting for the organization, our local Indigenous organization. As well as Philly Coalition for Real Justice, who’re really the fighters trying to get the statue down, so we cannot thank them enough for the contribution to our community. And really the community space in the city that’s since been occupied. So it’s definitely important that we honor Indigenous and Black organizing. Even though the both of us are coming forward as white Italian people who have a lot to say about this topic from an abolitionist point of view. And with that, I think right now we’ll talk about land acknowledgment in the privilege context, because I think that is very important when we set the tone of where we’re coming from with that. Would you like to start with that, Samantha? 

Samantha: Yeah. So, of course we are on occupied Lenape territory here in Philadelphia. I am from a white Italian and little bit Irish family, who have been both settlers and immigrants in this country. I’ve also had family members who have been employed by the Philadelphia Police. So I need to be upfront about that. It informs my experience but it is what it is. I am a working class essential worker in healthcare. I come from a working class background in South Philly. And my family’s neighborhood is being gentrified like crazy. But that being said, I’m still very fortunate in that I’ve been able to get an education. And I’m very thankful to have this knowledge. And also, I had to go to university in Italy to learn Italian because that was a language that was lost in our community. So I wanna acknowledge how privileged I am to have all of that.

Adryan: Thank you. Yeah, so very similar but a little bit different than Samantha. So I’m living here in Philadelphia, on occupied Lenape territory. My family are white Italian immigrants who came from Naples, and the other half is Irish, the pretty standard Jersey “white mutt”, if you will. So definitely have had to do some grappling with, like, how those two are tense with each other, but also existing on a settler context of privilege on occupied land. I’m physically able-bodied, but I have mental illnesses that pose work issues. I’m self-employed, working class but I’ve had access to a college education, raised Christian. Even though I’m working class, come from generational poverty that is definitely rooted in that immigration narrative. I still have adjacencies to wealth that are related to my whiteness, related to access to institutional support.

And the thing is, when we acknowledge these things, the purpose is not just to acknowledge it but, like, frame the narratives of where we’re coming from. Because the intention of this talk is, like, we’re not trying to argue with fascists, we’re not trying to argue with white supremacists. However, there are people in our lives that will listen to us, that respect our points of view, and we know that political education is not an overnight thing. It’s a lifelong journey. Samantha and I are lifelong students in the Black liberation struggles, and land back movements for Indigenous rights, so even though we are in solidarity we still have to do a lot of work. And part of the work here is to be, like, alright, here’s what’s worked for us, here’s this history. And once we know this history, and I think Samantha you would agree, I definitely find it healing. I think for a lot of working class Italians, we have had our history stolen from us as white proletarians, and being led to serve these racist bourgeoisie interests that actually don’t align with our own class interests, right? So I have definitely found it empowering to learn more about the history and also learn about our ancestors that have opposed. Because too often Italian anti fascists, even though it’s from a hundred years ago, are erased and it’s very intentional. And that’s why we’re here to talk today. So, I have mentioned, please feel free to ask questions, definitely engage, make comments, tell us how you feel. We’re gonna have a Q&A at the end of this talk. But we’re gonna talk a little bit first and then we’re gonna have some calls to action. And then we’ll get to the Q&A. So definitely stay engaged, ask questions, we will get to them.

So, let’s take it back. Let’s go back a little. I actually was researching today for Frank Rizzo’s exact birthday. He’s born October 23rd, 1920. So it’s the hundredth year birthday, that will be coming up during this Libra season. So, with that in mind, first question: What were the material conditions of Italian immigrants a hundred years ago?

Samantha: Alright. So I think I have to go a little farther back than a hundred years. Not too far back, it won’t be long. But I mostly studied Italian studies in Italy – the Southern Question – so I’m biased towards that kinda stuff. But one thing that I think that a lot of people, and even Italian Americans, don’t know is that Italy is, compared to a lot of European or western imperialist nations, a pretty young country. There was no Italy, first of all, when Columbus was around. I love to tell people that. The Italian state as we know it now was unified in 1861, a movement called Risorgimento, or usually just called The Unification in English. So before 1861 there was an idea of an Italian peninsula that dates back to antiquity, but the north was controlled by various empires, nation states, European countries. And then the south was mostly under the rule of the Bourbon Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, which was a pretty well-known backwards monarchy that was responsible for really terrible conditions in both the rural and urban areas, for generations. And then in the mid-1800s, like around the 1840s, 1850s, into the ‘60s and ‘70s, there was a movement for unification led by kind of like a liberal bourgeoisie, a liberal middle class, mostly northern middle class with the alliances of southern middle class. So basically, when unification came to southern Italy, many people saw it as, it’s often called an annexation. Many people saw it as an invasion. There are some people that go so far as to say it’s internal colonialism. That’s a whole other talk that I would love to do! So basically, it’s often seen that the south was invaded by the new Italian army. There was peasant resistance that led to really brutal repression of peasants. Those people were our ancestors in the region that people in South Philly and many Italian Americans come from, which I think is an interesting parallel because all of the stereotypes of southern Italians that Italian nationalism was built on come from that era. It also comes from the era of, you know, the precursors of eugenics. Cesare Lombroso, and the phrenologists who measured southern Italians’ skulls and said, “Look, this skull is smaller than the northern Italian skulls, so they’re inherently criminals.” So basically, after unification, Italy really struggled to build a national identity. The majority of the wealth was generated in northern Italy, which was generally late-to-the-game industrial capitalism – when cities became industrialized, issues with taxes and large landowners taking advantage of the moment of revolution and starting these latifunds, I think is the word in English. So basically their conditions were terrible, in both northern and southern Italy. But it created these cycles of financial crises, and agrarian crises. In the south there was basically no government or institutions or infrastructure, so people had no faith in civil institutions. In some cases, the government encouraged the mafia to kinda control the regions of the south so they wouldn’t have to govern. So in that context, millions of Italians emigrated. Not just to North America. We’re gonna talk about North America today, but the reason why Italian diaspora studies is so important is that it’s looking at Latin America, Australia, other cases where Italians immigrated, and became settler colonists in other countries. But for the majority of Italian Americans, I read one figure I think from Unico years ago that said 80% of our ancestors in the US come from southern Italy. So looking a little bit forward to the 1920s, and just to give more precise numbers because I don’t wanna be vague: 29 million Italians emigrated between 1860 and 2011. So some figures I got from a class I took at with professor Maddalena Tirabassi, she works with Altre Italie. And I can share a link to that later, if you guys wanna look that up they have a lot of good historical resources. And then almost 6 million emigrated between 1876 and 2015. Basically, Italy up and left once it became a country. So there’s a lot of contradictions there. So Italian Americans came to cities like Philadelphia in the United States, and were not automatically seen as white. And this is the case for pretty much most immigrant European groups that came in the years of settler colonialism in the US. So it had happened with the Irish, about a generation before, and when Italian Americans came to the United States, it’s interesting because from city to city you see a lot of different dynamics. Like in some places, especially in the south and Midwest, Italians were outright associated with Black people, Latinos, other nonwhite groups. And then there were other places where they were like, “Yeah, I guess they’re white, but “low tier” white.” And eugenics, like I mentioned before, was extremely popular among white settlers. So there was this idea that the northern Italians were “Alpine” so they weren’t as “good” as the Nordic, you know, German, British stock that came before, but then the southern Italians and the Sicilians, they were “Mediterranean”. I was reading a document from a racist American settler who was talking about the Saracen and Berber blood of Italian American children in schools, and how that’s related to their inability to do well in school and become productive workers. And these are things that people heard, I would say, into my parents’ childhoods. Not comparing it to racism in the ‘50s and ‘60s towards Black people by any means. But in an even earlier generation, one of my aunt’s used to tell this story. At her public school in South Philly, one of her teachers tousled her hair and said, “Oh, such pretty hair, too bad you don’t have any brains under that hair”, that sort of thing. That had to be the 30s, or something like that. So Italians were also seen, not only as racially inferior and different than other white people, but they were seen as insular. So a lot of Italian American communities, first of all, again, didn’t refer to themselves as Italian, that was a foreign concept. There’s a really interesting book by this author, Stefano Luconi. I don’t wanna co-sign everything he wrote, because you know, he wrote an article I don’t agree with about Columbus and Rizzo and monuments, but it’s a really good historical account of South Philly and it talks about what I grew up in, so I really like it. And he talked about how people settled based on their village. And not even their region, it was like, you’re from a different village in Abruzzo than me, that’s like, “You’re those people over there.” So people were very insular, they were very, there’s this term campanilismo, it means like kind of the mindset that you’re not going past your church parish. Like even when you meet people from South Philly, they don’t tell you their corner. So you definitely see that today. Basically Italians, like many immigrant groups today, were exploited for their cheap labor. They were actually like labor brokers, most of the time, usually called padrone, who would set immigrants up with work. Usually like take a fee, or put them in really toxic work environments. People worked in very precarious labor. Italians were known to take the lowest paying jobs. You know, food service work, agricultural work, factory work, things like that. Throughout the 1920s, that era, there was a lot of poverty, there was a lot of discrimination, there was also a lot of political foment that was going on. I think Adryan touched on it earlier, but there was a long history of Italian American radicalism and there is some really great scholarship out there that talks about this. There’s Jennifer Guglielmo and [Marcella] Bencivenni has a really good book. I can try to get links if people want recommendations. Sometimes they’re kinda hard to get a hold of because they’re academic books. And, you know, I was reading a little bit today about South Philly, because everyone’s talking about “an-tee-fa” right now. I pronounce it “anti-faa” because it’s short for antifascista and that means anti-fascist. So if you’re listening and you’ve been hearing ANTIFA and you don’t know what it means, it literally just means anti-fascist. And there were anti-fa in South Philly in the 1920s. There were multiple organizations. There were anti-fascists in South Philly. I found out that the grandson of the original owner of Colombo’s, which was on 8th and Christian, it was a boarding house… Mr. Colombo was from Abruzzo and he set up this boarding house to help people when they were coming from ports to get housed, and kinda create these immigrant enclaves. So one of his grandson’s who then operated the restaurant-boarding house, he actually was involved in one of the anti-fascist groups. There were also a lot of fascist groups unfortunately, too. There was Giovanni Di Silvestro, I think there’s a park named after him-

Adryan: I was just talking about him today.

Samantha: -yeah, I was reading about him in Stefano Luconi’s book and I wanna read more. He was like a pro-fascist, the word is prominenti, like “prominent”. So even today, we have people that make a little bit of money and then they think that they’re the spokespeople for the Italian American community. 

Adryan: I have a quick book recommendation. So […] pardon the imagery, it was in this book [holding up book, Hoods & Shirts: The Extreme Right in Pennsylvania, 1925-1950], I will bring it up again, but there’s a whole chapter on that guy. There’s a whole chapter on Italian fascism, and the history of Philadelphia. Because the first fascist convention in the 20s was in Philadelphia.

Samantha: Yeah, I just found that out today. So, to put this into context, history isn’t just dates and names and interesting things that happened, and monuments. It’s class struggle, right? All history is a history of class struggle. We had workers struggling against precarious conditions. We had Italian American radicals. Also Carlo Tresca, who’s a really famous Italian anarchist, I found out he lived and worked two blocks from my childhood home. And he was arrested at Moyamensing Prison – which is now the ACME. So, fun fact of the day, I didn’t know that he was so close to home, I know he lived in Philly for a while. So that’s definitely a part of this landscape. There were fascists that were petitioning politicians to support the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. And I think this is important because for a couple generations, Italian Americans as a community were used to being denigrated and being ethnic others, and the Italian state didn’t care about them. And all of a sudden, the Italian state was very interested in communicating and supporting the Italian American community, because they saw them as a colony of Italy that could promote the interests of the fascist state in the US. So they got a lot of support from pro-fascist groups in the United States, and in Philadelphia. I was reading, there were fascist and anti-fascist groups, and at one point Stefano Luconi remarks that sometimes the anti-fascists complained about being overpowered by the fascist groups. So sadly, I think, that’s the impression I’ve always gotten, growing up in South Philly. So I think that just proves that we have a lot of work to do in talking to our community, and undoing ideas that have been passed down intergenerationally about racism, white supremacy, class and fascism. So, that kinda gives you the landscape of Philly a hundred years ago.

Adryan: Thank you! Yeah, that’s really helpful. Even though I am living in Philly now, my family was from New York. So that definitely has a related but little bit different history. There’s definitely things in my own family that have been passed on. I mean, the fact that I pronounce my name “core-see-own”, it’s an extremely white version. My first name and my last name, now, are always really mispronounced. Growing up I noticed it, but I was like, “Well, but it’s a white name, like an Italian name.” It’s not like a Black name, or one that’s particularly racialized, where it becomes like a tool for white supremacy intentionally. But it has been butchered, like “Corcoran”. Which is like totally nothing close to it. Just being othered in a certain way that’s different, but also the narratives that I have about it, like for Corcione. When I visited Italy, […] they’re like “core-cho-ni”. And it’s like yeah, that’s how you pronounce it. But that was so far away, and I didn’t even know that my grandfather’s name – because he had a nickname this whole time, Chick – I didn’t even know that his name is Luigi until I was an adult. So now I know, and I love that. These are things in the family narrative that were definitely white washed. And you know, initially it was out of survival, but we don’t have to do that anymore. The narratives that were instilled, they were very intentional in trying to get Italians to assimilate into white culture. And we will talk about Frank Rizzo and how he was the prime example of that. Actually, let’s jump into that, the next question is: How did the material conditions for Italian immigrants, and the following Italian American generations, change over time especially in Philadelphia?

Samantha: I think there’s a lot of different things that factor into here. To build into what you were saying about the things that are lost, and the attitudes that were present in your family about assimilating into American culture… one, like I said before, people originally identified very closely with their region, so they probably spoke dialects of Neapolitan and Sicilian. And then people stopped teaching their kids dialects, teaching their kids Italian, because they didn’t want them to be seen as “those Italian kids”, or wanted them to have advantages in white American society, and try to be able to pass with the rest of white America at the time. People before had tight-knit communities, sometimes they replicated their villages as best they could in the new setting of South Philly or whatever city we’re talking about. Over the generations though, they gave up a lot of the linguistics, the customs, a lot of the folk religion and folk magic stuff, like doing the Maloik [Malocchio] spell at night – you have to learn it on Christmas Eve from someone in the family. People consciously discarded those things. But another important thing is, people chose to align themselves with the violent institutions in this country. There’s a long history. We’re gonna talk a little bit about police abolition and prison abolition. If people are here that aren’t really familiar with this paradigm, or this concept – there are people that have police in their family – and this is difficult for you to process, I know we might be using a lot of technical language, but please reach out to me if you wanna talk about this one on one. Because it took me a lot to process this when I was getting into activism, and trying to process this argument. So I know it’s hard, but if you can bear with us and listen, and reach out if you have questions or if something is just difficult for you to process. I wanna be really clear about that. But basically, the origins of the police force in the US, especially in the south, comes from the slave patrols. So after slavery, and during slavery, there were these patrols that would chase after slaves, Black people that were escaping plantations, escaping their bonds to their masters. And that eventually developed into the modern police in the US. And it’s one of the reasons why there’s such a violent culture of policing in the US, and such a racist culture of policing. And I don’t think any of us can deny, even if you have police in your family, that there is a racist dimension, and for generations in this country. And in the northern cities, a lot of times what the dynamic was, the white, I’ll say the medigans (Americans) the British and Scottish stock that came in the early days of settler colonialism in this continent, they received these white immigrant groups that came later. Like the Irish, later the Italians. And they kind of used them to protect the interests of capitalism. Capitalism is the system that we live in, where private property is more important than people. We’re seeing this with COVID, where people are risking their lives for food service jobs. We see this in the Black Lives Matter movement, and the response to police violence. And the response to things like looting, people being more outraged about looting a store than people being unjustly killed. So going back, this isn’t a new thing. Since the inception of this country, private property has come above humanity. So immigrant groups were used a lot of times to be the police force. And they were pit against Black people, and other non-white groups, Latin groups. […] In Philly, because ethnic cleansing occurred so early in Philly’s history […] we didn’t grow up with an Indigenous community the same way we grew up with a Black community right next to us. Italian and Irish immigrants were used to man the police forces in a lot of cities like Philadelphia. I think Frank Rizzo is a really good example of this. He dropped out of high school and became a cop. His father was also a cop, so it was almost like a family profession for him. And that’s the same case for a lot of families. My dad might get mad at me for sharing this – because in South Philly you’re supposed to keep family business in the family, it’s a very strong thing – but I was asking him recently about his grandfather who was a cop, what he did. So his grandfather, I think he was a junk collector. He made his living off of selling scrap parts. So it was very precarious, arguably not even working class but lumpenproletarian kind of living. For my grandfather, him becoming a policeman, it allowed him to live more of a blue collar but middle class lifestyle. My dad and his siblings, they weren’t rich but they grew up comfortably. He [grandfather] had a stable pension and things like that. And in exchange, he was protecting the interests of private property. Who knows the kinds of things that he did or saw and didn’t say anything about. He played cards with Rizzo and Angelo Bruno, so for people that wanna be “tough on crime” but wanna also apologize for Italian mafia organized crime – I mean, it’s known that those ties were there. So for not just Italian, but also for Irish and other white ethnic groups, the police became this institution, this respectable profession. That helped with the process of “whitening’ their identity, especially after WWII. I talked before about the fascist and anti-fascist groups in South Philly… so, when the US declared war on Italy and jumped into WWII, the pro-fascist groups were kinda like “…skirt”, and a lot of people enlisted in the Army ended up fighting on the side of the allies. Interestingly, a lot of Italian Americans went to Naples and Sicily. It’s kind of a weird way to go back to your homeland. After WWII, there was a period where there was a lot of anti-Italian sentiment, Italians were all being associated with the fascists. And after WWII, it kinda became a different story. People started latching on to a more “American” identity. There’s a really good book that Adryan actually recommended to me, it’s called Blue Collar Conservatism, and it talks a lot about these arguments. But it also-

Adryan: [holding up book]

Samantha: -yeah, there you go! Timothy Lombardo. I don’t know him, but a new paisano I didn’t know about. It talks about Rizzo’s biography because he was always in the media, people really were drawn to him, loved him or hated him. And he kinda built this identity, it was like a white blue collar identity, and author Tim Lombardo refers to it as “blue collar authenticity”. Like “I’m from here, I’m a real South Philly tough guy. You don’t wanna mess with me.” And it wasn’t just Italians that loved him. It was Irish, Polish, Jewish, all different white ethnic groups really were drawn to that identity. And with his political ascent, Rizzo became the Police Commissioner in, I think, 1971, or it might have been earlier, like ‘67, and then he was the Mayor from ‘71 to ‘80, something like that. Correct me if my dates are wrong, I have it written down somewhere. But him becoming a politician elevated, supposedly, the position of Italian Americans in Philadelphia. And then also the intensification of celebrations like Columbus Day, which we’ll talk about a little bit more. So people are going from “I’m from this specific village in Abruzzo” to “I’m a hundred percent ‘ita-yan’”, in just a couple generations. 

Adryan: Alright, thank you so much for that. I think that was a really great summary. […] If you’re just joining us now, Samantha and I are talking about white supremacy and class in South Philadelphia. Definitely donate if you’re financially able, in exchange for this free education. We highly, highly, highly recommend, and we urge you to contribute financially to Philly Coalition for Real Justice, a great local Black liberation organization who totally have the front lines of getting Rizzo down in the first place. As well as Indigenous 215, definitely contribute to their Venmo. There’s a great movement here in Philadelphia, to have Christopher Columbus Day replaced with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, they put on a celebration every single year. It’s definitely great that we give back to Black and Indigenous organizing locally. Because they’re on the front lines doing the work, doing the education, bringing people together. And we definitely ask in exchange for this free public talk that you will do your part in the work, to support these organizations. We’ll talk about them at the end but the Philly Black Radical Collective also has demands to put forward for defunding the police and ending state violence against Black communities. 

So we talked a little bit about the material conditions of Italian immigrants when they first got here, and how that can change over time, over generations, of Italian Americans. We’ve spoken a little bit to our own personal histories. We were talking about Frank Rizzo, we were talking about the police. And I think something to recognize – I kinda mentioned it and precursed in the beginning – about how the white proletariat has been spoonfed, and totally fell for it. Our ancestors made active choices to align ourselves with white supremacy, with bourgeois class interests, with rich ass class interests, to control and dominate other people. When our ancestors got here they could have totally chosen to engage with Indigenous struggle, with the Black struggle that was happening, but they intentionally chose to control and dominate, assimilate into whiteness, control over people, engage in racism, engage in this white supremacy that is so systemic that it is ingrained in our city’s history and our country’s history. Growing up in these generations, we’ve definitely been fed these narratives about how “Italian Americans serve and protect our community through law enforcement”, when a lot of us now in this political moment understand the real interest of law enforcement was created to protect property, to protect the rich. And that they don’t really give a fuck about working class white people. And in fact, many of the people who are out there right now in South Philly, defending it [the Christopher Columbus statue in Marconi Plaza], actually do have criminal histories in the sense that they’ve already been incarcerated, in the sense that many of these people have been radicalized because of their incarceration history. And any calls to incarcerate fascists is feeding into this racist system that breeds more people like them! Sorry, that was a little bit of a tangent. Next question: How have far right narratives turned Italian American communities against other working class people? In the umbrella of other working class people, of course we’re centering Indigenous and Black working class people, but we’re also taking into account LGBT people, who were intentionally targeted by the Rizzo administration. And how have the police helped out in making sure that those narratives are seared home and that people are turning against each other?

Samantha: I really want to thank you for talking about how people are calling for incarcerating these racists, these violent off-the-rails protestors. What Adryan is really getting at, for people that aren’t maybe familiar with this type of discourse, is that prisons don’t solve social problems. And when we’re talking about police violence, vigilante mobs, racism, ignorance and hate, we also have to talk about the other systemic issues that are really at the root of all these problems. This has been a core thing, I think, in addressing the question you’re asking of how white supremacy and the far right turn us against each other. […] I went down to Marconi [Plaza] – if you’re not familiar, down in South Philly there’s a park with a Columbus statue, and a rumor that ANTIFA was gonna take it down which was totally fabricated. And so a mob of racists, mostly older Italian men, have been screaming their heads off without masks on during a pandemic. And there have been some altercations between leftists and journalists and this mob of people. So I went down there because I grew up here, I have spent a lot of time at Marconi in my life, and I knew that it was gonna be a shit show. Sorry for that language. So I really tried to talk to people, and I said “I understand you’re upset, you think the statue is being taken away from you. But where’s your anger about the fact that people get ten-year tax abatements in Philly? You know, the “yuppies” that you think you’re railing against by screaming at a young college girl that lives down 15th street. Where were you when Ori Feibush [of OCF Realty] was buying up half of South Philly? Where were you when Lindsey Scannapieco’s daddy bought her Bok [high school] to turn into a bourgeois maker space to have pop-up weddings? Where were you when we closed fifty schools within ten years?” And I mean that from a place of good faith. Use that anger and direct it where it has to go. Because what far right narratives do is pit people against each other that, as Adryan mentioned, we have more in common with than not, you know what I mean? So what these narratives try to push – we talked about this “authentic blue collar identity” that so many South Philly whites are proud of, this kind of like “I’m from here. I never get off the corner. So I’m the only one that can speak about things” – this whole perspective is assuming that our interests are fundamentally different from the interests of Black people in Philly, of immigrant communities in Philly. I think it’s also interesting too, because one thing I’ve heard growing up and from being out at Marconi, and also other protests over the years, is this idea that “It’s not our fight as white people. We don’t have to worry about Black Lives Matter, that’s for Black people. Don’t get involved in this, it doesn’t have to do with you.” When in reality we need to be out there in solidarity with our Black neighbors. When I say Black Lives Matter, when I protest, or engage in this kind of work, I’m doing it for my Black friends, my Black classmates, my Black neighbors, my Black patients. You know what I mean? I was taught to take care of other people. I’m very lucky, my parents didn’t teach me to blame my problems on Black people in my community, they didn’t teach me to be afraid of the Black kids on the other side of Washington Ave, you know what I mean? Unfortunately, people say things like, “We’re fine with the police budget going up” because of the ideas of the police as preventing this “boogeyman” of crime, somehow. But we can’t put more money into the schools because “We can send our kids to Catholic school or private school or charter schools”. So the far right is making people think that instead of the Comcast CEO, the real estate developers, the corrupt politicians in city government, instead of them being the targets, we’re blaming our neighbors, basically. And gentrification, for me, has been really difficult to process. My neighborhood has been getting gentrified since I was born. I’m watching it happen in real time. So for me, it took a while to realize that these “hipster kids” – how people see people on bikes or with tattoos – you actually can’t generalize them. A lot of times these “hipster kids” are people that will have your back, and have the same interests as you and are on the same side as you. Even me – again, I grew up down South Philly – I spend a lot of time at Marconi, but I went to Marconi on my bike. I spent my childhood biking to Marconi. But because I had a bike, I was suddenly “from Oklahoma”, you know, that was the refrain. “You’re not from here, go back to your neighborhood, get out of our park.” I mean even if I was from Oklahoma, or Delco, or Jersey, if I was coming here and saying “Something’s wrong, let’s get together and fix it”, I can still have a valid point. So I think that’s really the crux of it. As far as how the police play into it, it kinda goes back to what we were saying. There’s this like constant “specter of crime” that everyone is so concerned about. “It’s a shame anymore, you can’t walk down the block to go to the store.” But it’s not necessarily the reality. When people talk about the “good old days” of Rizzo in South Philly, I think of stories my dad told me about how people would get blown up because they were trying to move up in the mob. People were getting killed all the time. I don’t understand what the rosy picture is. It’s really clever how the far right narrative has adapted in response to the Civil Rights Movement, and consciousness about racism – it’s adapted a colorblind language. Like these racists down Marconi, they were very careful not to say the n-word. They were careful not to say mulingnan, because they know it’s been thirty years and everyone’s seen Do the Right Thing and knows what it means. So they were really directing their anger by saying “You’re not from here” or “You’re white, you shouldn’t even be talking about this.” But when you really analyze what people are saying, they’re using coded terms. They’re associating crime with Black people. And then when you point it out they’re like “Well, you’re the real racist because you brought race into it.” It’s this really circular logic, but it works on people unfortunately. We have a lot of work to do to undo it. 

Adryan: Yeah, thank you for speaking to that. I just posted to the chat, there’s a Teen Vogue story I wrote on ‘What is Ecofascism?’ because a lot of what you’re talking about, like “You’re not from this neighborhood”, “Go back home”, “Go back to where you came from” – that is a particular talking point, which if you’re not paying attention fully or you’re not really analyzing what is being said, it’s a trap. Because this is the same narrative that Trump uses about immigrants, anybody that doesn’t fit this white ethnostate guideline. It goes back to Hitler, it goes back to Mussolini, of really trying to create this genocidal politic around who is welcome and who belongs. You really need to be able to identify these arguments and you can’t take them at face value because they have a deep, deep history. In the same way, to keep Columbus alive, much like these Confederate statues, this is very intentional. […] There are younger people at the Marconi Plaza, and there are a bunch of people who look like my dad, don’t get me wrong. I would say most of them do look like my dad. My dad’s not there! But the younger people who are there are trying to deeply learn. They’re trying to deeply understand what’s going on in this political moment, and there’s just a need for information. And coming to this work as a prison abolitionist, doing work for trans prisoner advocacy – in a prison you do not have access to information. When I was doing the trans abolitionist series, the elephant in the room was “If you’re incarcerated, you can’t see this.” Much like the people here. Certain people are gonna see it, but people behind bars aren’t gonna see it. With the way information is intentionally gate kept for people, prison is a great example. Our history is the propaganda that is intentionally withheld from us in order to maintain the social status as white people, as people who “belong” in the neighborhood, that this is “our neighborhood”. So these narratives are really embedded in colonialism, settler colonialism in particular, in the way that in order to create space our ancestors were misled to believe “You have to dominate over other people” in order to do that. It’s not gonna be a whole talk because I’m not qualified for that conversation, but there is something to say about anti-colonization as it fits with abolition. If the Columbus statue comes down, what are we going to replace it with? Another Italian American? It becomes a question of decolonization. Is it really our choice as Italian Americans to decide what statues go where? Because if you ask me, not really my question to ask at all because this land is stolen land. And it was never mine to begin with. And everyone who is on here who is not Black or Indigenous, on this land, has to reckon with the politics and the privilege that you are carrying because this whole country was founded on stolen land, the pillaging of Indigenous resources, stolen trafficking labor, violence, genocide! That is what this country stands for. So when we come to the question, who is patriotic? Who is American? We need to question, what is the foundation of America and how does it fit into our politics? Because it does not fit in with police abolition, it does not fit in with fascism. And anything that aligns itself with fascism – you know, we talked in the beginning. Mussolini, the original Hitler, but where did Mussolini get his politics from? He got it from here, the foundation of this country and the way that we needed to control and dominate and perpetuate violence, abuse, harm! And when we have transformative justice – it isn’t only accountability measures, like, “How do we get this person to reckon harm with this other person?” It’s a larger political framework that requires going outside the capitalist state, going outside of a state! Going outside of what we know. So when these vicious (cop) killers, who’re killing George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, when we ask for these people to be incarcerated, what are we really asking? […] I just don’t think they should go to prison at all. What does that really do to rehabilitate people? How does that actually perpetuate harm, when we know as abolitionists, as antifascists, that these prisons only breed more harm, they only breed more violence. So there’s definitely something to be said about transforming harm and being accountable, but do we think that the Harvey Weinsteins, the Bill Cosbys are going to have any way to reconcile with their harm in a place where they are being held hostage? When we think about transformative justice, we are not just trying to react to harm. We’re trying to prevent harm. We’re trying to build, dismantle society away from capitalism, away from the carceral state, so that we can create a world, a society, where harm, violence, and abuse is less likely to happen. Because what we know about capitalism and its foundation, especially US capitalism, is violence. And anybody living here, doesn’t matter if you’re Italian American, doesn’t matter if you’re Black, doesn’t matter if you’re Indigenous – of course Black and Indigenous are directly harmed – everyone hurts! The whole proletariat hurts under capitalism. I’m not being targeted on the street, and I’m sure there are other white people who’ve had experiences, who’ve had proximity to poverty, to know that the police are out to get us too. And it is most wise for us, in the name of abolition, in the name of antifascism, in the name of our ancestors, those ancestors that have resisted – because again, those who came before us who were antifascist a hundred years ago, made it so that we can be out there, we can be using our voices in a way to communicate with the larger movement. Little bit of a tangent, but thank you for entertaining that. 

So bringing it back to contextualize a little bit, we’re talking about abolition and antifascism, and particularly with Marconi, the Columbus statue. […] So Rizzo’s out, the Art Commission is gonna do something with him, but no news of its destruction, if it’s gonna happen. So it could go up in a museum, it could go up somewhere else. It could go in the Schuylkill, who knows. So Columbus statue is boarded up, it’s not taken down. And also the other Columbus statue near Fishtown, near like the navy yard, is also boarded up. 

Samantha: It’s like near the South Street Bridge. Like more Center City.

Adryan: Yeah. So those are boarded up. And we’ve mentioned it, but these guys who look like our dads, but aren’t our dads…

Samantha: Not my dad!

Adryan: Not my dad! But they’re hanging out in front of this statue, South Philly residents – also, there are a bunch of people there who aren’t even from South Philly! They’re from Fishtown or whatever. So bringing it into this political moment, what is that history behind Columbus Day, behind these Christopher Columbus statues?

Samantha: So I actually, I didn’t realize this but I read this today in Stefano Luconi’s book that Columbus Day has actually been celebrated to some degree in Philly since like the late 1890’s basically but it really is something that took off a little bit later as a national holiday and you know kind of the political dimension of the holiday.  So, basically a lot of people are pointing to, it was in 1892, it was President Benjamin Harris, he declared Columbus Day like “we will celebrate the anniversary of Columbus sailing you know the ocean” but it didn’t really have anything explicitly to do with Italians. But the context of that is that the year before, I think it was eleven Sicilian immigrants were lynched, in New Orleans. So, kind of like I said before there were some cities where Italians were like not considered white at all and I think, from what I’ve read about New Orleans, you know that was one of the places where they were definitely seen as “Others”. And it’s interesting because you know, people on the right, and people that are trying to make excuses for racism, they love to be like “Italians were oppressed too there was a lynching down New Orleans so, you know” like somehow that makes racism and police violence okay, I guess.  But they don’t mention that a police commissioner was murdered and they basically blamed these eleven Sicilians for it, they didn’t get a fair trial and they were lynched. So a lot of people have always interpreted Columbus Day as a reaction to that, and in some ways it was a way to placate the Italian American community but it was actually in the years of fascism the interwar period that I kind of referred to before when there were a lot of pro and anti fascist groups in places like Philly where people really started rallying around Columbus Day including the literal Fascist Party of Italy, Mussolini himself. And it’s interesting because this happened in Canada too. When I was in Calabria for the diaspora seminar  institute one of the readings that my professor assigned was actually about Italian Canadians, I can try and send it to people if they’re interested in it. It’s called Caboto and other Parentela and it talks specifically about [John] Cabot but I think it makes a lot of good arguments and a lot of compelling evidence towards, you know, like how Columbus Day became a thing. So there’s this kind of idea of, you know, taking these figures that have some dubious connection to the Italian peninsula, like I said before, there’s no Italy in 1492, Columbus was from Genoa which was like a city state at the time, he was sailing for the Spanish, there are some people that say he was of like of Spanish Jewish origin which you know, doesn’t really change anything but it’s just how the world was back then, you know he wasn’t Italian necessarily. So basically you know, at this point where fascism is trying to appeal to the Italian Americans from the Italian American “colonies” and say “we’re not an inferior race. You now, we’re not Mediterannean Alpine inferior people, you know we can be white supremacists too, we can commit genocide too”. So that’s kind of where the push for Columbus Day came from. And then there was a prominent Italian American business man named Generoso Pope, and he owned a lot of newspapers, you know Italian language newspapers and some in English as well and he was a really big proponent of Columbus Day. I think I read somewhere in Luconi’s book that he came to Philly for some kind of rally or press conference, rallying for Columbus Day. He eventually I think broke with the fascists when they invaded Ethiopia so like good for you, um but you know before that he was totally fine with fascism you know. So I think that’s something that’s really striking and really important to point out to people. I mean also Marconi was a member of the fascist party too. So like, people are kinda like “just take down Columbus and keep it Marconi” and it’s like.. nah, sorry Guglielmo has to go too, not gonna work. So basically  like this…Columbus Day again, kind of like as Adryan said like we could have you know, there were a lot of Italian American radicals that worked in inter racial and inter ethnic unions and Socialist parties and Anarchist groups and things like that but unfortunately because of the Red Scare, suppression against leftists and this whole process of whitening that we’ve been discussing you know, unfortunately the Italian American radicals faded into obscurity and are now just starting to be studied more in academic scholarship which is really cool. But you know it’s this choice to align not with the Indigenous or the oppressed people of the world but instead with a symbol of genocide. So I think that’s, you know, that’s really important and it’s also difficult because kind of like I talked about earlier fascism and white supremacy were really appealing for generations of people who were used to being called guineas and dagos and wops, being discriminated against, working low wage jobs for medigans, um you know, being ashamed of their language and culture so you know, I think kind of like Adryan said everyone is hurting under capitalism you know. And you know those guys down Marconi half of them probably were in prison related to some mob shit, you know who knows what kind of trauma they experienced both on the streets and in prison. I was just looking at the crowd and thinking like that guy needs a therapist, like that guy needs a therapist like these people are traumatized, you know and when you’re traumatized you know it’s not an excuse but like you get stuck in the past and you can’t like reason with or return to the present. So I think you know we have to acknowledge that there’s an emotional connection to Marconi and you know people may have happy memories of Columbus Day but you know, like I said, we’re not trying to erase history, no one’s gonna stop talking about Columbus. No one’s gonna stop talking about fascism and antifa is not gonna go anywhere no matter what the weirdo facebook groups in South Philly say. So you know, I think we need to look at this as an opportunity to not discard history but to engage in history.  You know like in Italian protest you know there’s the one chant like “the people write the real story”  like “intifada fino alla vittoria”  “intifada until victory” so I think we need to take a lesson from that. For people who are upset about Columbus Day or the Columbus statue being nixed, like you know, let’s talk about what we can do, like what’s next. We deserve better and need to do better for ourselves, for our Black neighbors, for our Indigenous neighbors you know even if we may not have grown up with Indigenous community here in Philly there are organizers that are working on this and we should really connect with them in good faith, you know. Like Adryan said, this is not our land. You know our family had to leave Southern Italy, like…have you seen pictures of Southern Italy it’s beautiful but unfortunately, you know capitalism has wreaked havoc in different ways over there. So you know, this is not our land, we’re very fortunate that we’ve been able to live the kind of lives we lead here but we need to acknowledge that and we need to work with our Black, Indigenous, immigrant neighbors. That’s like, all my good memories of South Philly growing up like it’s not this lily white vision of South Philly, it wasn’t the other italian kids that were bullies, you know, it was my best friend from the Mexican American community, or my classmates growing up from the Asian immigrant communities, or my Black classmates that I still keep up with from our racist middle school. You know, like they’re the ones I kept in closest contact with so you know, I think, not to go on a total rant, but I think, you know there’s a lot of hope for the younger generation.  I’m hoping that the people I went to middle school, highschool with or who grew up in South Philly with me, I hope that  some of them are tuning in and want to connect. I also hope that maybe some of the older generations are going to open their mind. One thing my dad told me on the phone the other day that really touched me was that um, you know he told me stories about race riots in Philly about everything that went on back in the day, you know he taught me those lessons before I became an activist or became a scholar you know so he really instilled that in me. But you know other than that he wasn’t protesting Vietnam back in the day, he wasn’t an activist or you know a radical organizer. But he said to me, he said “you know you and your brother bringing home your friends from all different backgrounds, you know your black friends, your immigrant friends, your gay friends like it really opened my eyes to a lot of things I never thought about before”. So you know we can bag on the old heads and some of the old heads need serious, you know, they need some like CBT, DBT maybe some psych meds like I dunno, they need like a lot of help.  But you know there’s also a lot of people in the older generations that they get it, so I think we need to have these conversations with everybody. 

Adryan: Thanks, yeah, I think, I think this is a great opportunity, yeah it’s a jump into the calls for action if that’s cool but yeah. And we’re gonna have the calls to action before the Q & A so definitely keep asking questions, there’s some that have gone through so definitely keep engaging and asking questions. I think that that’s really really great. But yeah just to add to what you were saying about you know, obviously we don’t want to pathologize other people, by principle, however speaking from own experience, like I found these to be the combination of like traditional, or like Western mental health care, for what it’s worth how violent the medical industrial complex, don’t have to tell you because you’re a healthcare worker, however, they have served me.  Um they were made by white people, they are helpful to white people so like definitely use the tools that are accessible to you to engage in this healing because the point in healing all this is yes, we definitely want to repair wounds, we want to repair ourselves and heal, but that just brings us with a better foot forward when we are engaged in the struggle because there will be white guilt, there will be white shame, there will be white tears, there will be lots of feelings that we don’t want to feel because they are like considered negative. And I think you know part of Samantha and I having this conversation like, we’re not really talking to Indigenous people, we’re not talking to Black people, they already know, they’ve been here, they’ve lived it, you know they’re the same people who have been doing this work this whole time. So this is not really a conversation directed at them. However for those who come from Italian American families, or you now, maybe a lot of what you were saying too doesn’t just resonate with being Italian American but also Irish American on my side, you know that, having the violent history between you know Great Britain and Ireland and you know grappling with that. Because you know, the cool thing about my dad’s side is you know like I know the oral tradition and history down. Like you know if there’s a DNA test, like all the DNA tests like if I’m just like oh I deeply wanna know on what side my mothers on because we don’t really know other than being Irish.  But my dad’s like “no I know where I am, I know where we came from” I have that like history memorized for anyone to tell me. And I think that’s really strong but like definitely like you know, if you’re tuning in and you are not only Italian American I definitely challenge you engage with the history of your heritage, of your white heritage, and really dive into it because I will guarantee you if you, if these narratives of white supremacy and class have been in your family I guarantee you there is, that’s not the full story, there are missing parts of it.  Use that as an opportunity like don’t let this, I think it’s (Mariame Kaba? is this a quote?) don’t let this moment like take you all of what have you, use this as an opportunity to learn to engage with this history and coming out with the best foot forward. Because when I’m here, when I’m out, when I’m writing an article, when I’m engaging in this movement work, when I’m doing stuff you know for my friends behind bars you know what image I think of? I think of Mussolini and his mistress being fucking hanged. That’s what I think of, seriously! Like you gotta go down, and you know I come into this work with transformative justice work and you know not everyone is gonna get guillotined, however there is a very radical history and in part of like honoring our ancestors and honoring this movement that came forward, this antifascist movement that has existed for decades, you know a hundred years ago in Philadelphia. Like definitely like white people were given so much shame to you know like you know, growing up Catholic haha like we have so much guilt so much of it. However those are principles that I’ve used in the sense that you know you’re on this Earth give back, that was always something always always always growing up like, give back. I definitely think now, using that in kind of like a Marxist point of view is like well the point of doing this education is like we’re really trying to give back and give people the tools and history so that they can have their own conversation and we need to build strong leaders, we need to have more solidarity, we need to like engage with this history in a productive way that we feel empowered by it um because like we definitely like that’s another narrative of uh the far right of fascism and just of capitalism is that we are led into isolation and we wallow in these feelings and it’s very intentional based on the economic system that we are in. Poor people know this to be true. Like especially, right?  So talk about it, engage with it, um and yeah if you’re not Italian American, but white, or um, I dunno, maybe you’re a non-black person of color I think it’s really important to engage with this history because we…if we’re not Black or Indigenous living on this land of the U.S. you know there’s a lot of work to do. And definitely understand a history of policing as it applies to the immigration history that you were taught and really challenge it from a transformative justice and abolitionist point of view. So, again, keep your questions coming, uh there’s a lot going on right in the comments, which is really great so, let’s keep going forward.  Oh yeah and someone acknowledged that there have always been Black Italian people, we do not want to erase that in the conversation. In South Philadelphia we are bringing to this conversation you know people who are out there (at Marconi?) and they are definitely not Black Italians and that is to be assumed uh but yes Italy also has a deep history of a rich Black history especially if you learn more and more about fascism and who they were trying to kick out it was definitely refugees and immigrants coming from the more south parts of the world, of the global south. So, calls to action, keep the questions coming, it’s great we love it and again, we’re not experts either like this is a big cultural canon of work of abolition that we’re in solidarity with and we’re both lifelong students so definitely keep your input.  And we mentioned this in the beginning, we’re not here to debate fascists, we’re not here to debate nazis, we’re not here to debate people who are totally totally deadset that they are correct. That’s not who we’re trying to talk to. However, um like the both of us I’m sure that you have people in your family who love and respect you that will listen to you and you know part of political education does not happen overnight. NONE of us got here overnight, I certainly took many years of being a trainwreck to get where I am today and I actually am very proud of that because I can say, “okay, well, here’s where I am today,” but I’m sure you can relate Samantha 

Samantha: Yeah.

Adryan: I think we all can so, definitely like what we want to be talking about and challenging in particular is like learn about these ecofascist movements learn about like what narratives are being driven about your history, as you start to engage with this history you’ll start to figure out what the talking points are and it’ll just be, you know, you’ll be trained, you’ll be learned to know how to respond to people because you will be actively engaging with this. Because the goal for here is to not ask, you know, you can obviously ask us questions but you know if you’re in an argument with your Italian American relative we want to give you the most knowledge and power to be able to fight your own fights yourself. Right cause we definitely want to create strong fighters and strong leaders in this movement so definitely it’s the people who love and respect you and will listen to you, like that’s your base, that’s who you should focus on. You’re not going to win everyone over, certain people just like are totally dead set on the belief but that’s okay because you don’t have to win everyone over, that’s the beauty of it. So you know, one of the things that’s been going through the conversation is contribute financially, especially if you have access to wealth, especially if you have wealth yourself , Indigenous 215 local grassroots organization, they’re been doing a lot of work in reclaiming or uh replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, they do celebrations every year but they’re also engaged with this work all the time, much longer than before right now. So you can donate via venmo, to Samantha’s venmo directly and the money will go to them. You can also donate directly to Philly for REAL Justice Paypal, uh very important and again great local Black liberation organization who were at the front lines of taking the Rizzo statue down here in Philadelphia also doing a lot a lot of legwork and heavy lifting right now during these protests that were originally sparked by George Floyd being the most recent history but again have like, you know, organizing against police brutality has a long long history so we definitely want to give back to the people who are embedded in the struggle daily who are actively doing this. In exchange this is a free public conversation however so deeply deeply encourage contributions. So um Samantha, first call to action what are some reading recommendations? I know that there’s some that we’ve mentioned and I can help you out cause I have a few of them but if there’s any off the top of your head 

Samantha: Yeah um so a lot of these things are books that I’ve encountered in the past like decade and a lot of them are more academic publications so sometimes they’re a little expensive but you can kind of get previews on google books or find someone to pirate them or something. But there’s a really good volume called “Are Italian’s White?” which I think it’s edited by Jennifer Guglielmo who is a really awesome scholar who writes about Italian American radicalism. There’s also the book that I mentioned by Stefano Luconi if you wanna like learn about Philly history. Um I’m not always with his narrative but it gives a lot of really good history about the fascist and antifascist movements. I also think that reading about.. oh we didn’t talk about Sacco and Vanzetti, what is wrong with me? Um so if everyone’s familiar with um it was Bartolomeo Vanzetti Nicola Sacco they were two Italian Anarchists that were accused of a crime, they were basically given an unfair trial, the judge was opening anti-Italian and anti-radical, he said it many times. It kind of reminds me of the Mumia Abu Jamal case which, I know some people are gonna be mad about me saying that, but there are really stark parallels between like the racism and the lack of due process  in both of those trials. So reading about Sacco and Vanzetti there’s so much out there, you know Vanzetti wrote a pamphlet called, you can find it everywhere on the anarchist internet, called like “Story of a Proletarian Life”  there’s letters that Sacco wrote to his son that like there’s a Woody Guthrie song that always makes me cry. [note: it’s actually Pete Seeger but Woodie Guthrie has a whole album about the Sacco and Vanzetti trial]. That’s a really good place to start because you know that’s first hand info . Trying to think if there’s other good books, there’s so much out there that, the book “Blue Collar Conservatism” I just bought the e-book version of it today, it’s great. It doesn’t just talk about Italians but if um if you wanna learn about Philly definitely read that. So yeah that’s the ones that come to mind for me. 

Adryan: Great yeah so, yeah you mentioned “Blue Collar Conservatism” about Frank Rizzo but also just about the climate that Rizzo grew up in. I mentioned this earlier (holds up:  The Extreme Right in Pennsylvania by Phillip Jenkins) but this has a whole chapter on Italian Fascism but also just is really good for anybody in Pennsylvania who wants to learn more about it, especially of how the Klan shaped Pennsylvania you know which is really really important to know and be aware of in our history and again a lot of the talking points we mention there.  And then my other on is a favorite, fan favorite (holds up Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook by Mark Bray) This talks about the first history, talks about this history of the anti-fascist movement prior to WW2 to 1945 so you know I definitely think it’s helpful in contextualizing a little bit of the history from an explicitely like antifascist lens here because there were many Anarchists, Communists, otherewise leftist antifascists in Italy and also here, but this definitely focuses more on Europe.  But it’s still a really excellent read and again those, it’s a pretty extensive history especially if you’re wanting to learn more about the history of the antifascist movement I think it’s really good for demystifying myths that are perpetrated by the media right now and just a really good educational resource. Yeah I know a lot of people are asking about captions right now and I am aware of it so that’s the one feature we can’t do so definitely I would like to say that I would transcribe it but this is very very long, if someone would volunteer to, that would be excellent.  That would be really helpful to making this a lot more accessible but that is a flaw with livestream I will not lie. It is not accessible to folks who need captions and I’m literally someone who can’t watch a movie without captions like I will get distracted so it’s also, for me, an attention thing. But yeah I know there’s other reading recommendations that were in the comments. And another call to action, we should, and like this has been stressed here but engaging and learning Italian history and trying to understand where our ancestors are coming from. I learned a LOT from you about the divisiveness between Northern and Southern Italy tonight. I was, I knew of it but like I didn’t get it and you know I still have a lot of work to do in understanding that but a lot of people I know in like the Philly area, the New York area, lots of folks are from Naples in particular but also just Southern Italy, Sicily as well so that is something I’m really excited to learn more about. And also, you know, read up, you know Samantha and I are both lifelong students in abolition and that abolition was created by, or well the scholarship of it, the people at the forefront of it are the Indigenouns and Black feminists. So definitely engaging with Indigenous and Black struggles is critical and crucial to supplementing our history, especially in Philadelphia and just what we know also for LGBTQ history you know Frank Rizzo was attacking the Black Panthers while he was going around the gayborhood raiding people you know, not even just trans people or what we know to be trans now, different terminology then but like really like anyone who was gender non-conforming, Rizzo was willing to call a “faggot” um and maybe even cis-het people that he thought were “faggots” he called them anyway because as long as you fit outside of the white ethnostate it didn’t matter because there was a certain ideal. But we definitely need to engage with this radical history and contextualize it. Oh great so Neera said that she’s down to translate great, so Neera definitely hit me up after this because that would be excellent, thank you for offering that. 

Samantha: I know I’m really obnoxious and use Italian words a lot so you can contact me if you’re like “what, what were you saying?” because I’ll help. 

Adryan: Awesome yeah because this is all about the community here because we definitely need people coming together to get things done because there’s a lot of work. So thank you so much. And yeah so the demands of the Philly Black Radical Collective are extremely important to uplift during this time, during this political moment, so yeah there’s a long history of you know this larger abolitionist movement but these demands were released in response to the protests nationwide that were happening, not just in Philly but in response to the killing of George Floyd. And defunding the police and ending state violence against Black communities are absolutely critical to these demands but you should definitely read them for yourself because they are out there so do you have any other calls to action Samantha? 

Samantha: I think we already covered that and um I also I wanna offer if people want info or resources you can get in contact with me, I think we linked to my instagram, it’s @samanthajanara, I’m always working on trying to have these conversations and there’s a few people that are like trying to organize collectives and things like that um, it’s SO much but you know, if people want to be in contact with me I’m happy to talk things through or send articles. We need to be here for each other and help each other learn. So, I’m here for all of you. But I also work like 50 hours a week so be patient with me. 

Adryan: To those captioning by the way, my pronouns are they/them, I know I didn’t explicitly say that in the talk, they/them here. So, yeah, I think this is great, and we’re at 9:07 so let’s definitely wrap this up by 9:30 because I definitely want to keep this concise and to the plan. So um we’re going to get to some comments. So something that definitely struck me and I…I don’t think we can get to all of them but thank you so much for tuning in and for asking all these questions. Something that definitely came up that resonated to me was choice, you know like the choice Italian Americans made to become white..I’m gonna try to find this one, there’s a lot of comments which is like excellent, there have been a lot of people tuning in..so…while I’m finding that Samantha can you recommend any approaches to talking to other Italian Americans who might not get it. 

Samantha:: Um, I mean I guess it’s kind of like meeting people where they’re at and you kind of like have to reframe things so that they’ll concede a point. And just try to identify like what are the things that are keeping them from understanding or what are the things that they’re struggling with. It can be a little bit tricky. And I guess also just like not..just being persistent because people don’t learn things automatically you know. Like I don’t say like “Mumia was innocent!” and my uncle suddenly is part of the Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia but yeah ongoing conversations and also like accepting the fact that you might have a conversation and it might feel like it doesn’t go anywhere but you know ongoing conversations, years later you might yield more of a result. 

Adryan: Yeah um the question I just found Ricky commented, “I’m curious about the language that our ancestors chose to become white, I think people in power extended certain privileges to Italians in order to gain “more white power”.  In this way perhaps Italians did make a choice but I think the blame isn’t really on the immigrants who were trying to survive but the systems trying to divide people” How do you react to that? 

Samantha: I mean I think that’s…I mean I think that’s valid, you know I think our identities are often weaponized kind of like we talked about throughout the talk. You know and maybe like that’s something to consider too like there are certainly a lot of ways that our families chose to do certain things or chose to give up certain things. But maybe it’s, you know, looking at it more as that was the choice that they were pressured or coerced to make in that time and we’re in a different time where we have way more access to information and way more diverse interactions with different communities so, you know. Maybe like kind of looking at it with nuance. Like yes people make choices that we are looking at years later and saying oof that wasn’t the right move but also understanding the forces of coercion and also ideological domination.  You know we can’t take people’s autonomy away from these choices completely and like absolve them of things. Like we can’t just say people were a product of their time, like people love to say with Columbus, even though he was arrested in his time.  But at the same time you know I think we should be understanding of why choices were made and also what can we do realistically to remedy them. You know there’s no point in feeling ashamed and guilty, what can we do today to rectify that. 

Adryan: Oh man I just was like scheming because the dialectical materialism definitely came up in what you were saying. So like the definition of dialectical materialism, so when we’re talking about the material conditions of Italian Americans like material conditions, what do you need to survive and with dialectical the dialectics part is that you have two opposing forces. So if you’ve ever heard the term dialectical behavioral therapy like you can be like with like a rapist being in jail, you can be really upset about that happening, like the rape happening, but then you could also be really really angry that the carceral system has yet another person. Cause I often feel that way, being like well there’s really no rectifying this harm  NOW even though it’s really fucked up and I really wish that wouldn’t happen. So we have dialectic, it’s two opposing forces and  when we apply the use of dialectical materialist analysis to talk about our history it’s like well you know, the material conditions back then were not and I mean I see this a lot where like you know what’s going through my head where I say well you know Italians choose to be white. Of course they were given far less resources and being systematically oppressed by the land they were coming on even though they were making active choices instead of aligning themselves, in the sense of like, the police is a really great example. Aligning themselves with the police and you know I’m not really interested in dissecting right now what motivates that, however there are different like material, there’s a different approach of ancestors who have said no, we’re not going to do that. And you know those ancestors that said hey, we’re not going to co-opt white supremacy we’re not going to engage with it and we’re actually going to actively fight against it and capitalism too. You know that’s an active choice to do that and that is the choice that we have to make today. So you know when we’re talking about autonomy and choice like don’t get me wrong, my grandfather did not graduate from…he graduated 8th grade to go work in the Depression. That was definitely because of his position of being a first generation Italian American the same way that my father grew up in a one bedroom apartment where there was a bunk bed in the living room in New York City. So it’s like you know, absolutely but also you know many of these people in exchange for that make choices where you know my grandfather worked at a country club where Black people were not allowed.  The access to the education that my father had going to a Catholic highschool and you know, didn’t graduate college but had the opportunity to, that is using white supremacy and taking advantage of that to advance ourselves and that’s the thing where it’s like these material conditions have changed over time. It’s very very important that we have that analysis where we extend the sympathy of being like yes, this is what was handed to our ancestors but we can also now, generations down we don’t face the same types of oppression and while keeping our history in mind we can make these choices instead of you know aligning ourselves with the people of Marconi Plaza or doing nothing about Marconi Plaza because that’s violence in itself. Um we can do something about it and I think that that is incredibly empowering. So…this is another good one “how do you speak to other white Americans who refuse to acknowledge our whiteness in focusing on distancing themselves from accountability and whiteness?” 

Samantha: Hm. I mean that’s a good question because you know you always hear people who are like, and you know I’ve probably drunkenly said this to people like “I’m not white I’m Italian” but I think like, you know you have to acknowledge that white is you know such a tenuous thing. I think I forgot to mention this earlier but I was rereading Angela Davis, I have it here, “Are Prisons Obsolete” which is a really good and short book and you can probably find it online for free. But she talks about, and this is something that tons of scholars have talked about, that whiteness is about property relations, about having private property, it’s about privileges. So I mean like to be honest like there are certainly times where I might be mistaken for a Latino or Arab and you know kind of lumped in with people of color and people perceive me as non-white for like one second until they hear me talk but at the end of the day it doesn’t take any privileges from me, it doesn’t hurt me, I still have all of the privileges associated with whiteness. So I think you kind of have to be like “listen, I see where you’re coming from there’s definitely a complex history but”. You know I’ve had people fight with me on the internet about this, I got exiled from Sicily from some girl on Tumblr like eight years ago because she thought I was telling her Sicilians aren’t white, or I was telling her Sicilians are white and she was offended. I think we can acknowledge the complex history we can acknowledge that some of these dudes at Marconi are tan as hell and that people in Southern Italy are not like Anglo Saxon looking even though some of them are. So you know we can acknowledge the complexity but like you just have to be really real with people like what is your day to day experience like? Tell me about it and let’s talk this through you know. 

Adryan: Yeah thank you. There’s another really great question and I’m glad you mentioned Angela Davis but there…and you’re definitely the more Italian studies minded part of this but someone asked if there’s any resources to recommend by Black Italians or Italians of color?

Samantha: Yeah um, so I know there’s this one scholar that I’ve discovered more recently. Her name is Camilla Hawthorne, she’s written a lot of good stuff I think she’s Black and Italian American and she’s written a lot about Black immigrants in Italy. There’s a woman called Kym Ragusa, that’s K-Y-M and Ragusa is R-A-G-U-S-A she’s written a lot of like prose and poetry type writing about being Black and Italian. I’m also thinking of, in Italy there’s a lot of really good literature that’s coming out and thankfully that’s in a lot of Italian Studies curriculums at the university level. You could look up like Igiaba Scego is a really good author.  There’s also, if you like music in Naples there were a lot of half Black and half Neapolitan children that came out of the Allies going to Naples and getting Neapolitan girls pregnant.  So there were a lot of half Black half Neapolitan children in that generation so the jazz musician James Senese he’s awesome and his music which is in the Neapolitan dialect but then utilizes these American music forms, Black American music forms to be clear. Music you know, is such a good way to learn too so yeah definitely that. 

Adryan: Awesome, thank you. This one wasn’t really a question but I thought it brought up something interesting but Kelsey asked “I would love to see some understanding of the intersection between white supremacy and that Italian machismo”. You have any thoughts? 

Samantha: Yeah man I think it goes down to the whole tough guy mentality. I really like the way that the author of Blue Collar Conservatism put it where he said um you know it’s this authenticity type of identity. So I mean I think you see it so much in Italian American communities like I used to teach at this Italian nonprofit in South Philly, I’m not gonna name any names, but I saw some members and former students in the crowd at Marconi on the wrong side.  And you know like they had dragged me into their events at some point and you know the women would be making coffee and cleaning up the whole time and the men would be standing around twiddling their thumbs.  I think it’s just like with mainstream American society like there’s no consciousness about that at all. There’s so much I could say about that. 

Adryan: A few questions kind of related to this theme, but “could you talk a little bit about segregation within South Philly, border maintenance by white violence, tensions with Point Breeze/Grey’s Ferry and all-white Catholic schools?” 

Samantha: I mean so growing up, I grew up in a neighborhood where my block used to be all Italian but then if you crossed Washington Ave it was what was called the projects and it was a Black neighborhood so there was this weird kind of tension where I never felt like I was in a segregated neighborhood. Like you would see Black kids at the corner store and at the park or whatever so there was this kind of like interlap. But there were some neighborhoods, I think like Packer Park and the area around Marconi is a little more petite bourgeoisie to be honest. Like my neighborhood is super working class or it used to be. So like you know there are neighborhoods where people see themselves as high society middle class so they’re a little more isolated. But I think in general South Philly is weird because it feels so segregated sometimes but it’s also like it’s not you know? And you know my dad would tell me stories like, I think when he was a kid basically everyone just hung on the corner all day. And my dad put it really well, he was like it’s been 50 years and these guys are still on the same corner. Like they never leave unless they’re going down the shore or something. So I think definitely like kids were like “yeah we’re gonna go beat the Black kids on the other side of Broad St. up.  Kids would just instigate those kinds of things. My dad said there would be race riots, you know he went to Neuman, he would have to take the trolley across Broad St., he was shot at, stabbed you know things would really escalate all the time and you know it was really bad. I think a lot of people are still stuck in that time. I was reading something about Point Breeze and Grey’s Ferry earlier in that, I forget what book it was in, I think it was Blue Collar Conservatism. One thing that’s always been a point of contention with South Philly whites and not just Italian, the Irish community too do this. Whenever [low income] housing developments were announced people freak out. So I know there have been tensions in Grey’s Ferry which used to be working class Irish, now it’s probably half yuppies and then Point Breeze which used to be a working class Black neighborhood and now is beyond gentrified. They’re trying to rename parts of it Newbold which is false consciousness.  But yeah Philly it’s like such a weird thing where like we’re such a diverse city and we live on top of each other so you can’t really be segregated but like it’s the mentality and the way people try to move on up, like moving up for white Italians in Philly is getting away from Black neighborhoods euphemistically. And that’s why so many people voluntarily move to Delco and Jersey, so they can get a parking spot and not have Black neighbors even though they’ll never admit it. So you know gentrification is a huge issue for working class Italian Americans and people in South Philly but there’s also white flight, completely voluntary white flight so that’s another important thing we didn’t really talk about. 

Adryan: Yeah, thank you. Another great question from Sarah “I would love to hear more about the Italian American antifascist tradition in Philly also very curious on your thoughts about how to deprogram cop culture and how people who were born into it leave it behind” 

Samantha: I mean the thing is growing up, people don’t learn or talk about antifascist culture and that’s why people are going around saying “anteefa” which I’m convinced people are pronouncing it that way to obscure the meaning cause like it’s so obvious, antifa antifascist.  So like I would say if you want to learn about it Stefano Luconi’s book talks about it a little bit. If somebody has a better book that talks about it explicitly please recommend it.  And as far as deprogramming the police like that’s really important like 1) we need to just tell people to quit and get a new job! But you know it’s not always that simple you know. So I think that’s a really big obstacle, I don’t really know how to approach it. I’m really fortunate that my dad was like a rebel and a rocker and didn’t follow in his dad or his brother’s footsteps because I would be having a different conversation right now. But I don’t really know and if there’s people with experience with that that might be a really good point of organizing in South Philly and in other places as well. 

Adryan: Yeah I don’t have an experience with it directly but from what we know about deradicalization movements to try to get like..I think the overarching term is “hate group” but like what we know this tradition was to try and recruit people who were fascists Nazis whatever organizations to try and recruit them out. So what we know about cop culture, fascist culture, being like in the heart of whiteness and genocidal beliefs is that isolation of what is perpetuated by capitalism.  You know we’re not trying to pathologize people who join these movements because there’s definitely people with mental illnesses, like myself who were never involved with that but there is something to say about coming at this compassionately. And like you know when we are looking at ourselves as Italian Americans in this work you know those of us who are white Italian Americans or just you know other white settlers, other non-Black non-Indigenous people like particularly white people because it’s like our mess and helping to clean it up is definitely like the work of racial justice.  While we are centering Black liberation and Indigenous liberation we can, you know, do the work that was never really theirs in the first place in the sense that when we are having these conversations we are not coming at them with like we may feel resentment, we may feel frustration and anger over time because if anyone has tried to deradicalize a family member it’s hard work, it’s exhausting. And you know Samantha and I have had conversations with other, you know, white leftists who are engaging in this work. There were a lot of narratives around um you know around the 2016 election how do we talk to our families about Trump. And I was like well, we gotta talk about capitalism we gotta talk about you know in order to talk about white supremacy we definitely need to have this class analysis and also recognize that not everyone is going to listen to us. I definitely think that’s a liberal talking point that is well intended um but my queerphobic family, not gonna listen to me. However there are definitely people in my life who maybe I’m not related to who might be sympathetic to these views who maybe aren’t aware of the full decisions they’re making and opinions that they are taking. So part of the work is having this compassionate radical love in this movement in the sense that we are seeing people as not good or bad people we are seeing them as people who do good and bad things. Because all people do good and bad things. But you know really having these deep conversations and being authentic and having vulnerability that’s part of the healing work to bring us together. So definitely when we are coming to these people we need to meet them where they’re at and acknowledge that yes we were once people who did not have the same beliefs but use that for your power and say hey I might have these frustrating conversations and the person really might not get it but you know months from now that will be changed to years. And also at the same time you know, older folks may never get there and also radically accepting that’s okay too and if we can have conversations with younger people too, you know Samantha mentioned at the beginning the younger people really will be the ones who become us who come after us and I think it’s really important that we provide context that we provide education especially in a way where like antifascist education, abolitionist education is very distant for people. Especially for white Italian Americans and other settler communities who you know maybe 100 years ago when our families got here had faced tremendous difficulties that you know being I think third generation, I’ll never be called a wop on the street, I’ll never be denied a job because I’m Italian American. I get to go to education where my grandfather you know he read a newspaper every day he loved to read he loved learning, he was very rich in education and never got a chance to go past beyond 8th grade. So you know I’m very honored to be able to have that opportunity and I’m definitely not taking it for granted. I’m trying to use this power and this knowledge to really speak to other people. I think we’re about at our time, is there anything you want to add Samantha? 

Samantha: Just to conclude, again I’m so excited that we’re having this conversation and that so many people tuned in. Oh my god I’m just really grateful because I’ve always been that weird girl that people are like “why does Sam talk about Italian stuff so much? Why did Sam get a degree in Italian, what’s that gonna do?” So I feel like this is a synthesis of the studying I’ve been doing for the past decade of my life. And I think it’s really important. I also want to say that you know, looking to Italian radical history and our ancestors it really informs why I am involved in organizing and you know even though I’m not a prolific organizer like Adryan but it’s what has driven me over the years you know. Learning about Sacco and Vanzetti you know like I said made me understand the struggle for Mumia Abu Jamal and the MOVE organization and political prisoners. I remember hunger striking for Khader Adnan who was a Palestinian hunger striker like years ago and thinking of the letter Nicola Sacco wrote to his son and it made me cry. This is you know what draws me to this movement and you know sometimes it’s hard because you have to you know go against your family your community. You know in South Philly I get treated like a freak when I talk about this stuff. But you know it’s like the quote from the letter Sacco sent his son that’s like the really beautiful Woody Guthrie [Pete Seeger] song where he says “but remember son don’t use all yourself  down yourself just one step to help the weak ones and the victims. They are friends of yours and mine the weak ones that fight and sometimes fall for the conquest of joy for all”. And the end of the song which is from the letter goes like “in the struggle of life you’ll find, you’ll find more love and you’ll be loved also.” So you know sometimes we might be alienated from our ethnic communities or our blood family but in the process you find love and solidarity with people who you don’t know. So not to end it on a woo-woo kumbaya note but you know I do this for my ancestors but also for my Black friends and neighbors and classmates the Indigenous people whose land we’re living on, my immigrant best friends who include me in their culture and their community so you know it might be scary but there’s a whole world you can discover if you leave the corner so I encourage it. 

Adryan: I think that was a great note thank you for speaking to that. Thank you so much to you for joining me. I think it’s great because you know I learned a lot myself from this. I’m sure I’m not alone and I think I can always be doing a better job at learning more about this history because you definitely have to go out and seek it for yourself and I am just so incredibly grateful to be able to have you here and to really have a vehicle and a platform for what you’re saying so I’m really thankful. And we had a pretty great audience here today, it was very engaged, we had lots of questions. We didn’t even get to all the questions so definitely Samantha if you’re willing to I want to address some of the questions after we can come back to them and also people feel free, people who are commenting definitely feel free to engage in the comments and definitely keep having them. Like we definitely should be having this conversation. I think it’s really important. And yeah another plug for Philly REAL Justice to donate is there especially for Indigenous 215. You know we definitely want to keep it compassionate but we also ware being militant here too in the sense that when we practice our values and are giving back to Black and indigenous organizers who are you know out there every day, I think that’s really important. We might do this again, I don’t know. We might regroup after this one see how it went. I mean I think it was great, there’s a lot of people saying it was great but also you know I want to open up for constructive criticism. If you think we could have done something better definitely let us know you know. You can reach out to Samantha or myself but also if you message me on my journalist page I can be in touch with Samantha and we want to, you know, improve ourselves because we’re, again, lifelong students and this canon of abolitionist work of antifascist work is all of us. We’re not experts we’re definitely learning. We really appreciate everyone for not only watching but asking questions, engaging telling their friends so thank you. And also we might try to do this again, I know there’s some questions about the mob, not even going to get into it but uh haha there’s a lot I could say, especially about the mob and the FBI. But ANYWAY we’ll end it with the key here, spread the good word of abolition, spread the good word of antifascism spread the good word of radical Italian history, of Black liberation and indigenous liberation to anyone who will listen to you. Not arguing with fascists that is a ground rule. However you all have coworkers you all have friends you all have well…you know relatively speaking you may not have coworkers you may not be working but you know you get the point, anyone who will listen to you. So thank you again. I think this is where we’ll end it. You have anything else to say Samantha? 

Samantha: No, Grazie a tutti buona notte! 

Adryan: Alright everybody thank you so much for tuning in keep in touch stay engaged. This recording will be archived on my page so please feel free to share it. I know that we’re going to get a transcription going but thank you so much and definitely keep the conversation going