Our guests on this episode of Queering Left are activists Page May and Debbie Southorn. Our focus with them will be their work and organizing with young people, particularly #NoCopAcademy. The No Cop Academy campaign is a youth led effort supported by community organizations across Chicago that want to see $95 million invested in communities rather than in a new police training academy on the West Side.
Page May is an activist, organizer and co-founder of Assata’s Daughters, which creates a space where Black youth can learn political education from Black women and gender non-conforming people.
Debbie Southorn works for the American Friends Service Committee and is a founding member of We Are Dissenters, a new group activating students towards anti-militarism and anti-war organizing on college campuses.
Page and Debbie talk about the limitations of representation, how identity is co-opted and commercialized, and the relationship of prison abolition and queer politics.
Jeanne: Welcome to Queering Left, a podcast from Crossroads Fund. I’m Emmanuel Garcia. I’m Jeanne Kracher and we are the hosts of Queering Left. Crossroads Fund is a public foundation in Chicago. We provide funding to community organizations, activists and movements who are working for racial, social and economic justice. For more information, please visit our Web site: crossroadsfund.org.
Emmanuel: Our guests on this episode of Queering Left are activists Page May and Debbie Southorn. Our focus with them will be their work and organizing with young people, particularly #NoCopAcademy. The No Cop Academy campaign is a youth led effort supported by community organizations across Chicago that want to see $95 million invested in communities rather than in a new police training academy on the West Side. Page May is an activist, organizer and co-founder of Assata’s Daughters, which creates a space where Black youth can learn political education from Black women and gender non-conforming people. Debbie is the co-founder of the city’s Black and Pink chapter and is a founding member of We Are Dissenters, a new group activating students towards anti-militarism and anti-war organizing on college campuses.
Page and Debbie talk about the limitations of representation, how identity is co-opted and commercialized, and the relationship of prison abolition and queer politics.
Page: Hello, my name is Page May. I am a Black woman from rural Vermont. I’m a youth organizer, abolitionist. Those are my key things and the key words of my search.
Debbie: My name’s Debbie, I am queer, white, gender non-conforming, really just not that into gender. Just turned 30 so starting to feel this new decade. Also, I identify as an abolitionist and that’s core to who I am and how I move through the world. I have recently become more of a youth organizer. I’m excited to be here talking with y’all for sure.
Emmanuel: Wow, lots to celebrate. In that vein a little bit, I’m thinking of, you know, this podcast “Queering Left”, and the genesis of thinking around bringing new voices together was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. I’m just curious to know how you celebrated Pride Month this month and Stonewall, if at all.
Page: It rained. It rained. And I remember being like, take that Lori Lightfoot.
Debbie: We were very glad that she got rained on as the Grand Marshal. I think in past years, Pride has been an important sort of flash point and sort of site to contest, like, what is queer struggle, right? I think in a lot of ways, these days, I don’t engage with Pride as much because it feels like an in-your-face corporate, commodified, strange celebration that doesn’t feel connected to the history of a police riot led by trans women of color as the first Pride was going to a police station where members of the Black Panther were being held. We also inherited this from Queer to the Left, and ACT UP and other queer organizers who for the past couple of decades have really said, no, we want to reclaim this. We want to own this history. In 2015, both of us were part of and Page helped organize and lead this this action called Blackout Pride that really stopped the Pride parade in Chicago in order to take time and bring attention to what this march is supposed to be about. And to literally stop, for at least 17 minutes I think it was, the sort of steady stream of commodification that kept happening. I don’t know if you want to jump in and tell more of where we stopped and why.
Page: Yeah and that was so long ago. I remember that was the first action that I had ever sort of been what would be considered a tactical coordinator, where folks were getting arrested. We’d been planning it for weeks and the Supreme Court lifted the ban on marriage or whatever. A lot people were outside folks, I remember, were telling me, don’t do this. This is not the time to protest at Pride. I thought about it. I talked to folks about it and we were all like, no, this is the exact time. It’s even more important now that we push the definition and our imagination of what we’re demanding for things that are beyond marriage and actually look at how people are being impacted. We ended up stopping at the Center on Halsted and calling out the particularly like through policing the violence that that Center participates in for Black and brown, trans and queer folks that try to enter and utilize its services and end up meeting a wall of criminalization. We held it for 17 minutes and had a speech that talked about all of the many ways that queer struggle looks like housing and access. That there’s so many other things that other than just marriage that we need.
Emmanuel: One way that I think about this year in particular in the way that people have talked about it, is that Pride, given the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, that we have our first Black lesbian mayor, Lori Lightfoot and people were super excited. She was the Grand Marshal. To me, it was interesting that you brought up that it rained because I was at home, celebrating in my own way. I’m just curious to know what your thoughts are on this representation that we have as People of Color, as queer people.
Page: I want to acknowledge, I did appreciate that it was the 50th and wanted to try to ground myself in that and appreciate that. That was not missed but it also wasn’t what I saw being celebrated when everywhere I looked, including into my phone, it was like rainbow flags everywhere. I think that one of the things about the commodification of a thing is it has to be comfortable, it has to be desirable. It’s not comfortable to know that 17 Black trans women have been murdered this year. That’s not comfortable. So that’s not a part of what is being put in front of us and what is for sale. That’s the thing, that to me wasn’t Stonewall. That was the evolution of the commodification of a thing. I understand why folks want to go there. I understand how important it can be and how beautiful it can be to feel seen. There’s a difference between a thing being visible and like our lives being visible. It’s bringing up the shutdown that we did in 2015. I remember people what they saw was a Black, it looked like a mostly Black delegation or troop in this parade that we had gotten in through. I won’t say how we made it into the parade officially, but we were in the parade and we all have black shirts on. The non-Black folks were more in the back. People were chanting Black Lives Matter and everyone sees us and they get all excited. Everyone’s freaking out, like oh, my God, the Black folks are here. Everyone’s cool with it. But then we do what Black Lives Matter does and people lost their minds. Throwing stuff, spitting on us, trying to hit people. Black Lives Matter as a t-shirt? As a t-shirt, we’re cool with it, as a stamp that you can put on, “Black Lives Matters” is here. But we don’t want your protest. We don’t want the actual struggle. I didn’t see the struggle in this. Lori Lightfoot,to me, does not represent (us). She is of the police. She doesn’t represent the resistance that’s there. I think there’s a much smoother way to talk about all of this but representation is very complicated. I’m thinking about TV shows like “Pose” that are so important in part because of what having that representation means. Also because they complicate our stories of what it means to be alive, and a human, and a family. We don’t want to lose that, that storytelling and being a part of the stories of what it means to exist. That makes a fuller story. Ultimately, it’s about making people comfortable. And we need much, much, much, much more leaning into what makes us uncomfortable if we’re going to actually get freer and not just have more and more and more rainbows around the table.
Jeanne: Yeah, it’s kind of an interesting, always a tension. When I was in ACT-UP, we published a couple of anonymous broadsides, which I guess that makes them not anonymous anymore. But where, we’d say burn the ribbon, that kind of burn the pink ribbon or the red ribbon and that kind of thing, because the red ribbons, everybody’s wearing them at every single thing to signify that they supported people with AIDS. So there was his comfort zone in the commodification. I think it’s a complicated thing. My friend Debbie Gould wrote a book about the AIDS movement and one of the things that she she sort of tackles in there is this idea of people being embarrassed by putting themselves out there in and doing things that stop traffic or, you know. They’re down with, “Well, it’s really great that people are out there yelling and people are fighting for us but could you not yell so loud?” In ACT-UP, we were sort of embraced around taking those risks and then we rejected the next day for taking those risks by people within the community. Could you talk a little bit more about that? Also maybe as it relates to the No Cop Academy organizing as well.
Page: Yeah, I mean, we’re constantly told that there’s a right way to fight for liberation and that it’s the quieter way. Right. I strongly suspect and in my experience have felt like Americans especially really want there to be a process. That’s sort of the myth of how we do things. At the end of the day, and even in the way we tell history, yes, things can get messed up. But, at the end of the day, the law and the government will do the right thing. That’s how we tell the story of Martin Luther King is that he just had to convince and get enough power to influence the white leadership. Eventually, they did the right thing and passed these laws and now racism isn’t here anymore. That’s just not true. That’s just not how things have happened at all. The reality is that it’s really complicated how we get free. That there has to be a disruption and a defiance. There are many, many different tactics and many different strategies and many, many different roles that we need people to play but, at minimum, you have to have defiance. The rejection of it and a saying of “no.” You have to have legal pushes and you have to have people that are doing inside of schools, that have people that are doing at every level. But if you do not have it at the level of the street, at the level of saying “no”, you’re not going to get there. Oftentimes, those folks help to normalize or make seem more centric or “legitimate” -air quotes are being used – the folks that are maybe more in the middle. But you have to push left. To me, that’s a huge part of how I understand my queerness. It’s an acknowledgment of where society wants you to be, the expectations, and the quote unquote, “rules.” Instead of fighting to be included in that box, I’m saying fuck that box. NO one’s life should be dependent on whether or not they are accepted into this box. I think that what’s significant, too, especially when you’re talking about gender politics, that there is a way of just existing that people are saying is not right. And that’s powerful. That is a form of saying no and rejecting and pushing past what is being told we’re supposed to do or how we’re going to actually get free. With the example of No Cop Academy, which is not an explicitly queer campaign, you have this moment, I remember, where we were trying to do a train takeover and we get there and the cops were already there and they’re like, you can’t do this. If you all have an issue, you need to take it to City Hall and testify there. Then we go to city hall, I think the next day, maybe a couple of days after that, we get there and they’re all like, this is not how you do this. If you want to make a point, you got to go out there and you got to build power. I was like, stop telling us what to do. We’re doing it right, because you know you’re on to something when people start telling you you’re doing it wrong, that’s how you know that you’re actually making something better.
Debbie: To go back to your question of Lightfoot and this question of representation right now, I do actually think we have to be really hyper-vigilant right now that – as grassroots movements in Chicago – we have each other’s backs in remembering that dissent and disruption and protest are never about the personality in charge. It’s actually that we see the source of our power in each other. Elected officials have to do what they feel accountable to. It’s not just that we do everything all day long so we can get the right people in office and then we’re done. We tried that. We thought that’s what we did with Obama. And then, whoops. The wars didn’t end right. Even though, so much anti-war sentiment got swept up into his election campaign. I think we’re in a really interesting moment where for the last eight years, our opposition was clear. It was Rahm and Rauner. Two bad white guys. Right now, we have to sort of shift our understanding of the power structure that it isn’t actually about a personality. It’s about a system and the system is always adapting to make it harder to fight. We have some careful but important work to do as young, queer organizers – with a clear racial politic – to make sure that we don’t fall for the trap of good advocates but bad activists. Or if we if we just play by the rules and wait our turn and ask for permission, then we’ll get things because Lightfoot had 75 percent of the vote. No. We’re still gonna be out here.
Jeanne: I want to ask something about humor because I was involved in a lot of anti-imperialist movements and I was never involved in a movement that was as humorous as ACT-UP. And the trying to bring some sense of queerness and some sense of performance and art. I felt when I was watching some of the actions that were being done with the aldermanic candidates that I felt that, again. I felt this sense of, oh, this is really playful and at the same time, it’s really serious. It’s got multiple messages to it. So could you talk about that campaign and some of that work you were doing around some of the queer aldermanic candidates?
Page: This was officially as individuals and not at all affiliated with our organizations.
Debbie: So we’d been right in the grind of No Cop Academy, trying to fight this cop academy for being built on the West Side for about a year and a few months now. Remember when we started this campaign, we thought it would be a few months. We were like, this will be a great way to teach young people about what a campaign is. We had no idea what the city’s actual process was for any of this. It was actually in part because Chance the Rapper saw our first train takeover that Assata’s Daughters was doing with young folks, re-tweeted it, and then came and testified at city council that the campaign got so big, so fast. So now we’re just in it and we’ve been going full paced, like full steam ahead for over a year, acting every day like we’re in a rapid response campaign. And the elections are a week away now. And mind you, we on our own, outside of No Cop Academy, tried to figure out how to engage with some of the electoral stuff because obviously this became an electoral issue, which, again, we never expected. A lot of folks on their own were throwing down for different campaigns or trying to run little anti campaigns. We were out here being like “Emma Mitts, hates youth, loves cops.” Turns out that’s not nearly as inspiring for getting people to go to the voting stations as like Democratic Socialists running for office and revving up the engines. But anyways, it was about a week out and we’re like, we’re just so exhausted and we realize so many of us are so queer. Even though a lot of the campaign feels pretty queer because of how we do disruption and how we refuse to play in respectability politics, we haven’t done anything that explicitly just lets us feel like flaming homos and lets us call out these queer Alderpeople who are on the wrong side of this and it’s bullshit. As part of this “Stop Lightfoot” stuff that was happening, again, it wasn’t through any particular organization, it was just a bunch of us who know each other and were fed up. Also, I think needed a release for some energy in a way that still felt targeted. We decided to go after Cappleman, Deb Mell and Ray Lopez to just say, you’re on the wrong side. Some amazing artists made t-shirts. So it was, “Queers against Cappleman”, “Dykes against Deb Mell” – I personally just wanted it to say “Dykes Against Deb” and then wear it myself. I thought that would be very awesome – and “Gays Against Lopez”. Of course, as soon as we got to Cappleman’s office – we didn’t get inside of any other offices because they locked the doors – but we got into Cappleman’s and we threw glitter everywhere. We put stickers everywhere. There wasn’t really a plan either. We were just like, “we’re gonna yell a lot and we’re gonna go find you”. “Where are you? Why isn’t there anyone in here?” Eventually they call the cops on us. So we leave slowly, but still are going to just like make a mess. I still remember Tressa Feher, she goes, “Why aren’t you going after Tunney?” I was like, good point. Tunney, too. He is also on the wrong side of this. Part of it was he hadn’t been as vocally against it. Cappleman was on a certain committee. Mel was in a tough race. Lopez was also in a ward where we had a lot of his constituents. I just thought it was pretty hilarious that even the opposition was like, “but what about that gay?” Yes. Them to. We’re coming for all of you, biding his time. It was interesting, too, because Deb, Mel, then right after that, at the next city council meeting, you would think, right, when we, like, throw glitter at you and tell you you’re a bad gay, that that would alienate someone. That’s what we’re always told is disruption doesn’t work. She literally came running to us and was like, “hey, you guys, you guys, hey, good to see you. I think there’s a misunderstanding. I’m with you guys.” Of course, our our young folks are like “BYE!” We talk for a second and then she did end up voting with us. She was scared about her election. It was lots of other things.
Jeanne: It was the glitter.
Debbie: I just say that to say that not being disruptive and in your face and actually disrespectful doesn’t actually mean you get people on your side. People move when they feel confronted and threatened, not when they feel pandered to. I was actually very surprised. I thought we were going to lose them all even worse.
Page: I think a lot of effort is made to pull-in people into things that seek to like convince others of our humanity and of our worthiness. That we belong in the box again. I think organizing and protest has a lot of stereotypes or connotations people have. One of which is that you’re sort of angry and ineffective. I find over and over and over again something so transformative and powerful and enticing more than anything else. Where, when you let go of how do I show them my humanity – which usually means respectability – How do I show them that they should want me and that I’m good enough? When you let that go, what you come up with can be way more powerful. For a lot of people, I think especially Black people, especially queer people, especially Black queer people, Black young people – you as a young Black person in Chicago are not a person. You’re just told what to do. You’re told when you can go to the bathroom. You’re so managed. It makes it really hard. I meet a lot of young folks who are very skeptical of joining a thing because they’re so used to adults coming and being like, “I have a program that will help you. You’ll get a career.” They know that’s bullshit. They know that the world is not fair. They know that the chances are things are not going to be much better. Most people are pissed. Most people are really angry. Most people are dealing with way more than they should have to and this has been going on for a very, very long time and yet in spite of that, we manage to find joy and connection and family and love. When you can bring that energy into your protest – when it’s not about how do we show them. You convince them by building power and that’s real. It’s polarizing and creating a threat. It terrifies people to see folks that have let go of this myth that if you just do this enough, if you just dress differently, talk differently, act differently, walk differently, listen to music, that it’ll be OK. When you let that go, I think you find way bolder, more creative actions that are not only more effective at scaring your targets, like the Deb Mell’s, but also they make people feel more human. You can see that and you can feel that even if you weren’t there. It does something. I think about it all the time, what it would have meant for me if I had been 12 and seen these things happening. How differently that would have made me feel? All I saw growing up was MLK with his fist in the air and the microphone below. Those are the only images of Black power that I was given. That’s not the same as seeing young Black people throwing glitter and screaming and getting kicked out and flipping off the CPD. Those are the images that I think help to shake things a lot, even if you don’t win the the campaign or the demand, they shift something in a huge way.
Emmanuel: Talking a little bit about that shift and the work that No Cop Academy has done and working with Black youth. How do you understand an organizing victory when you don’t have – I know in the case of the personal stuff that was outside of No Cop Academy – how do you support young people in thinking about a victory in the absence of one?
Page: In Assata’s, we define power as the ability to control circumstances or to make things happen. Do we have more power than when we started? Maybe you have more people and they are better organized. If Rahm wants to make the cop academy get built and he wants it done by the end of 2018, we didn’t let that happen. That means we challenged his power. We did. He lost power because of the power that we built. He could not make things happen the way that he had wanted them to happen. He could not control all the circumstances. I think there’s a lot of different ways that we can tear down, you know, quote-unquote their power. There are a lot of ways we can build up new power that challenges those things. A lot of the controlling of circumstances that’s required means that you go along with it. You think it’s normal. That’s why moments where people are like, “this is not OK. This is not normal or acceptable.” That’s important. That helps shift power. That’s a win. If you have more people that understand campaigns and how they work. If you are a person or if you and your friends see an injustice, what are the things that you can do to challenge it? What can you make happen? If more people have a better understanding of their options, that to me is a win.
Debbie: I love that response. I mean, I think we’re still asking this question. Are you closer to the next fight when you finish this one? When I think about No Cop Academy and when we have done reflection and we’ve talked about what did we win, I think in addition to all the things externally, it’s what did the experience mean for the people involved, too, is really important. There are so many young people who got a taste of what’s possible and can take that with them now to every other space that they go to, every other school that they’re in, every other injustice that they encounter. There’s dozens and dozens of young people who saw themselves as No Cop Academy and as this robust, powerful thing that exposed all of the contradictions of what the city says it does versus what it actually does. And to me, it’s not quantifiable, but that in and of itself is the win that makes it so that I can sleep at night. Then there are the other wins of like this became an electoral issue in a huge, huge way. And Rahm’s not in office anymore. We can’t claim that in its entirety but certainly we were part of this guy not being able to rehabilitate his image post-Laquan. We got into office all these new aldermanic candidates. We now start from the jump with a slate of 10 aldermen who have backgrounds in community organizing. I actually do believe part of why these elections were as contentious as they were, were partially it was the national political climate and partially it was because this campaign was so galvanizing for so many young people. Even for some of the aldermanic candidates who decided to run, it was because of what they were seeing with this campaign. That’s a win. Divesting from the police. We have economic justice groups that a few years ago wouldn’t really touch the idea of reducing police spending. That was controversial and scary. From the jump, that’s actually common sense to more and more people. That’s part of how we’re gonna be able to invest in the kind of social programs we need. There have been so many wins and we have to be real that there are also losses. That organizing most of the time is actually losing. We lose more campaigns than we win. Page and I have talked about how we have this skewed sense sometimes of what’s possible because we came into our own politically in this moment of a huge opening in the movement for Black Lives, when we won reparations here in Chicago. Dante didn’t get fired but he resigned. He’s the police officer who killed Rekia Boyd. There was partial win after partial win after partial win in this way that’s not actually how it is most of the time. We built a robust-ass campaign and still at the end of the day, in the final vote, it was like thirty six to eight. That eight was beautiful and incredible because when we started it was forty-eight to one. That growth took blood, sweat and tears actually literally, police did, like assault some of our young people who bled as a result of their willingness to put themselves out there and fight for this on the day of the votes, actually. I just think that that’s important to acknowledge that even with all the power we built, still the power structure is as big as it is.
Jeanne: If you could talk just a little bit about where queers fit into Black radical tradition and where queers fit into an abolitionist framework, I think that would be fantastic.
Page: They fit into the tradition both in terms of like actual people: Bayard Rustin or Audrey Lorde. They’re a part of of the tradition as individuals, as people, as both that we know of and that we don’t. And we cannot understand the history of how Black people got free if we refuse to see the ways that Black queer people and Black trans people participated. Not that not that we’re free right now but the ways that we have fought for liberation. When I think about queer politic and the word abolition, sometimes I mean a different thing than what I’m hearing other people talking about. I think that it is not that every Black person is queer. Of course. I think that it does mean a specific identity. I think that anti-Blackness has targets: Black sexuality and the ability of Black people to create family. Those are those are parts of what make us human and, thus, anti-Blackness being an unhumanising people. Of course, those are things that that come under attack. Black people historically have always been denied, whether through slavery or through the prisons and the foster system in all the various ways that institutions seek to oppress us, our sexuality and our ability to create our desired family structures has been deemed impossible or has been denied. That’s a part of what it means to be Black, is that natal alienation. Not being able to control your access to your lineage,where you come from or what happens to your descendants. That is true for Black people now and absolutely was true for enslaved people. The Black radical tradition is a queer project in a lot of ways because it seeks to assert our right to define our own sexuality and how we make families and how we love and who we love. That doesn’t mean that every black person gets to be out here now doing whatever. Dave Chappelle just got in trouble for something. He doesn’t get to use certain words as a straight man. I think that is a site of our struggle. I think there’s so much more to say there. I feel uncomfortable with like how little I’m saying and how little I’m supporting my argument. In terms of abolition, I think it’s this question of what are we seeking to actually abolish? Because I know at the point of hearing the word abolition, knowing what the prison industrial complex was, on some level and hearing this word abolition, that word made me uncomfortable because it reminded me of slavery. I was like, don’t I don’t want you to call me a slave. That’s not where I’m at. I bring that up because I think most folks when they say they’re an abolitionist, myself included, half of the time at least, I’m saying of the Prison Industrial Complex. But there is this clear connection to slavery in that word. Even though you can abolish lots of things, and we have abolished many things, there is a tie there. I feel it viscerally. I think that’s actually that connection is important and not something that we should suture. We’ve abolished slavery but clearly, it didn’t end. That wasn’t enough and if we abolish the PIC, do we actually think that’s going to be enough? What we are actually seeking to abolish is anti-Blackness, is slavery and the ways that it has evolved. That is, again, if you can understand the Black radical tradition and a part of that means that anti-Blackness is explicitly fucked up. It limits sexuality and expression and all of these things. Gender is a site of anti-Blackness. I think when we talk about abolition and how it connects to queer politics, that’s one thing that I think is important for us when we’re thinking big picture to look at. But then there’s been so many amazing books and brilliant people that talk about the queerness of abolition. I don’t know if you want to say more.
Debbie: I think what jumped into mind for me when you asked that question is actually just that I feel like I’ve learned my queer politic because of abolitionists. I’ve learned about power and how to challenge power and also the sites of how power is concentrated because of abolitionists out here making the connections around how these structures and these systems of anti-Blackness also participate in the policing of gender and sexuality. Queer injustice really goes deep into how prisons themselves are sites of sexual violence and gender-based violence and that they reproduce them. Police are out here literally enacting gender-based violence and sexual violence. That carceral ways of being are informed by the legacy of slavery and are in many ways the arms of the state. I want to be an organizer and a person who’s out here living and trying to fight for folks to live their truest, queerest, most authentic selves. These sites of violence and undoing those are essential to collective liberation. I’m not saying that in the clearest way but I can’t separate abolition from queerness. It’s in part because so many brilliant abolitionists are themselves queer but it’s also because the project of maintaining patriarchy and hetero-sexism is all tied up in the projects of maintaining anti-Blackness through policing and through incarceration and through e-carceration. It’s been in learning that and then trying to find ways to disrupt and subvert that, also that I’ve continued to identify with this work. I think in addition to the campaign work that we’ve done and do and that I see as an important site of building power, there’s also this question of how do we make sure people survive in the immediate sense: projects of mutual aid and prisoner support and solidarity projects and opening up your doors when people get out of prison so they have somewhere to sleep. There’s a queerness to refusing to just stay in the class categories that we’ve been sort of thrown into in our lives and making sure that we’re constantly leveraging resources and burning down false boundaries so that more people can survive. I see most mutual aid projects actually as like really queer projects because we’re refusing to stay in the boxes we’re supposed to stay in and instead seeing that, no, actually, like my ability to live my fullest life is dependent on your ability to live years. Those are just some messy thoughts. To me, they’re very inseparable. I feel like folks who don’t identify as queer within abolitionist movements still, in many ways, operate through sort of a queer lens and politic.
Emmanuel: My final question, our final question I should say, unless you have one Jeanne, is where do you want to see the work you’re doing when you hand it off to the next generation, eons and eons from now?
Page: I always tell young folks in Assata’s, one day you are going to be like, Page, you are so wrong about everything. I expect to be pushed. I hope that what to me was so radical and so revolutionary is just like duh, you know. That disobedience and dissent is one of those things. I hope it’s bigger and stronger and more thoughtful and more caring than what I had, as someone who feels like I inherited a very generous community and incredible wealth of knowledge and beautiful things.
Debbie: I hope that people just keep taking beautiful risks together. I think that there are no guarantees. Yes, we fall on our faces a lot. When I have grown the most is when I have risked the most and that risks don’t necessarily mean heckling an elected official all by yourself, though it can and I encourage more people to do that all the time because it usually is more effective than you think it’ll be. Taking a risk can also just be building a new relationship. Every time someone goes to visit someone in prison that has never been in a prison before, that’s a shattering of a disconnection that was never supposed to happen. It takes so much collective risk-taking to start to actually get through all the noise and see each other’s full human potential. I hope that I live and do this work and am in community and in joint struggle with other people in ways that that make risk taking feel more possible.
Page: And I hope it’s not fitting on a t-shirt sold at pride. FACTS!
Jeanne: Thank you for listening to this episode of “Queering Left”. The organizers interviewed represent just one example of the fearless movement building in Chicago that Crossroads Fund is proud to have supported since 1981. Please visit our website for photos, videos and other media related to this episode. For more information on Crossroads Fund and the organizers featured in this interview, please follow “Queering Left” on Facebook and Twitter and sign up to receive email alerts of new interviews at our website: crossroadsfund.org.