Rest in power, Monica Roberts

Monica Roberts, the original TransGriot, just passed away. She was an absolute titan. In the early blogging days I heard about her pioneering work, telling stories of people that hardly anyone was even thinking about at the time, especially online.

She received a lifetime achievement award at the Creating Change conference that I attended in January this year in her home state of Texas, where she was very well known and respected in politics as well as the queer community. At the conference there was always a flock of people around her. Everyone knew who she was and adored her.

Tragically, there are not enough elders in the trans community, even less Black trans women. She meant so much to so many people. She is absolutely one of the great giants on whose shoulders today’s leaders stand.

This video gives a good introduction to her.

Header photo by me of Monica speaking through a megaphone at a rally for Black trans lives at Creating Change 2020 in Dallas, TX.

NEVER AGAIN Ice Out of Alamance

Graham 9 Update

Here is a personal statement and an update on the Graham 9 – the group arrested at a Never Again Alamance protest last November.

On our first trial date, one member (who was charged with “masking” if you can believe it) received a Prayer for Judgement. The rest of us are charged with failure to disperse. Two had trials and were convicted. Those judgements will be appealed. The rest of us (including me) are now scheduled for trials in November and December.

The Burlington Times News wrote a quick story about the gathering we had before the trial with supporters, who came to walk us to court. They included an excerpt of the comments I made that morning as well as very thoughtful remarks from my co-defendant Xavier Adams.

Here is the full text of my statement:

I grew up next door in Orange County, and I’m here to stand with my neighbors both new and old who have had enough of the childish tantrums, violent threats, and racist intimidation in Alamance County.  Sheriff Johnson must go, and he can take all the city and county officials that coddle racists and arrest racial justice supporters with him.

I am old enough to remember life before ICE. I was 30 when the planes struck the twin towers on September 11. To many of us at the time, the whole idea of a Department of Homeland Security smacked of nationalism and violence. And sure enough it has grown to become a source of xenophobia, violence, and human suffering for nearly 2 decades now. ICE is our gestapo: terrorizing communities, abandoning people in concentration camps, and tearing families apart.

As a Jew and as an American, I have a moral obligation to stand up for the rights of all people, not just those who look or act like me.

As a parent I have an obligation to try to make this world a better place for my son and all the kids he’s growing up with in these unfortunately historic times.

And as the descendant of immigrants who were also demonized and ghettoized and exploited, I know that today’s immigrants are my siblings coming to the United States for a better life just like my ancestors did.

So when I learned last year that Terry Johnson was not only terrorizing women and people of color of Alamance County with his authority but also taking money from ICE to lock up innocent migrants in the Alamance Detention Center, I knew I had to come to Graham and join with others in calling out his racism an in humanity.

This summer in Graham demonstrations have continued for civil rights, Black lives, and freedom. Unfortunately we’ve also seen a lot of ugly white supremacy on display. Many around NC and around the country have looked on in horror as Alamance County officials have not only allowed actual neo-Nazi and neo-Confederates to swarm the streets and intimidate people, but in fact have arrested peaceful demonstrators who had the audacity to simply disagree with racist symbols and policies.

Absentee ballot in a mailbox

Vote by mail now, while you still can

Given Trump’s on-going incitement of white supremacists to intimidate voters at the polls, is anyone still wondering why they should vote by mail?

I put my ballot in the mail on Monday without even leaving my house. It was picked up by a mail carrier (working so late that they were wearing a headlamp). Today, Wednesday morning, I got a text from http://northcarolina.ballottrax.net that it’s on the way to the Durham County Board of Elections! So easy. The hardest part was finding an adult to “witness” my absentee ballot.

screenshot

The BallotTrax system is reliable and safe. Certainly safer than I feel about going to vote in person. If you don’t think Trump’s pals will find more ways to make voting harder, riskier (because of COVID) and scarier (because of white supremacists) in the next month then you are definitely not paying attention.

Why tempt a very uncertain future when you can safely vote from home? Republicans want you to to not trust the USPS, but mail carriers are on our side. They’re working their butts off to make sure our votes get delivered and BallotTrax (thanks to NC’s excellent Attorney General Josh Stein) ensures ballots will be counted.

Crowd of protesters facing sheriffs deputies and riot police

Challenging racism and saving souls in Alamance County

Ten months ago, I joined hundreds of Jews, immigrants, and our friends in Graham, North Carolina to say “no more” to the the cruel, racist, and unnecessary practices of ICE and to call out Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson‘s enthusiastic enforcement of their white supremacist agenda. I was arrested at that demonstration, along with nine other lovely human beings.

In the months since then, two things have become even more clear than before. One, our government has no regard for civil rights, human dignity, or democracy and will stop at nothing to promote the interests of the rich, white, and powerful at the expense of everyone else. And two, there are some people in and around Alamance County that will happily and shamelessly attempt to shut down peaceful dissent if it in any way challenges their racist assumptions about the world. (Alamance County is the home base of neo-confederate ACTBAC.) But we’ve also learned that there are even more people in and around Alamance that believe that Black Lives Matter and that protest is patriotic, and they’ve been bravely showing up in the streets of Graham for the past several months.

When I drove to the Never Again protest on November 24, I wasn’t aware there was a Confederate statue in Graham. I learned later that the Sheriff had sent his troopers to the town square to protect it from the imagined threat. Meanwhile, we were four blocks away attempting to peacefully march to the Alamance Detention Center so that we could say the Mourner’s Kaddish, sit shiva, and observe other Jewish rituals in remembrance of the many people who have died in ICE custody. Unfortunately, the racist Sheriff Terry Johnson would not allow this to happen. Ironically, once we were arrested we were transported by the county directly to the same detention center that they prevented us from walking to!

Ruby getting arrested in Graham, NC
Photo of me (Ruby Sinreich) being arrested by Officer Ellis of the Haw River Police Department at a protest against ICE and Sheriff Terry Johnson in Graham, North Carolina on November 24, 2019. Photo by Anthony Crider https://www.flickr.com/photos/acrider/49118904508/

As Jews we have a special responsibility to remember the horrors of government-backed xenophobia, the dangers of draconian law enforcement, and the nightmare of illegal incarceration and family separation. When we say NEVER AGAIN, we must mean it. We cannot idly watch the actions of federal, state, and local government as they gradually but steadily march toward fascism. Those of us with privilege are called to spend it now in many forms of resistance large and small to stop the gears of authoritarianism, save people’s lives, and in doing so, save our own souls.

This summer, nonviolent protesters speaking out for Black lives and against the Confederate statue were arrested on a public sidewalk. (The ACLU of NC sued the town of Graham over their anti-protest ordinance and won.) And in recent weeks, as we have learned about a tragic and predictable COVID-19 outbreak at the Alamance detention center, people speaking out for health and human rights were arrested for such nonexistent offenses as swearing in the presence of a police officer.

It’s now undeniable that Alamance County officials have a racism problem, and that elected leaders are not concerned about the health or human rights of their residents. Alamance has the biggest prison COVID outbreak in the state of North Carolina with over 100 cases (out of just about 400 incarcerated people), far surpassing big cities like Charlotte and Raleigh. Thankfully the wonderful people of Down Home NC are working to free as many people from this nightmare as possible by raising bail funds.

In this new context of weekly demonstrations for and against racism in Alamance County, the town of Graham’s reactionary attempts to squelch free speech, and the increasingly grim reality of living in an uncontrolled pandemic stoked by racism, toxic masculinity, and ignorance, the nine of us arrested in Graham last November are scheduled to have our second appearance in court next week! You can show your support for us by donating to the Alamance Mass Bail Out.

Never Again Action in Graham (2019 Nov)
Enjoy scrolling through this album of Tony Crider’s excellent photos from November 24, 2019 in Graham.


The organic shape of a city with splotchy watercolor spots overlaid

Ongoing Pandemic

Ongoing Pandemic
by elin o’Hara slavick
August 2020

This is not the time for poetry.
Words deny me.
I deny words.
The world does not need fragments.
It is screaming to be whole.

I keep busy
pulling up weeds – each clump the hair of a dictator,
floating in the pool of privilege – wanting everyone to have a pool,
doing laundry over and over again,
cooking for the family so we stay healthy
for the genocide,
walking the dog because it the only time she smiles
and races like a cartoon character down the hall to go out,
her paws circling the slippery floor,
feeding the cat
with her genetically pendulous belly,
observing the fallen white petals on the wet dark pavement,
the broken trees leaning perfectly
up against a tall tree trunk,
the fairytale modernist houses
tucked behind spiky bushes
that almost convince you
that our world is solid.

It has never been good
for the many.
All of this keeps me from the task at hand –
preparing to teach young adults
that art makes a difference
but I am not convinced.
I can cut all the paper in the towering boxes
on my desk for surreal collages,
prescribe antidotes to every disease,
paint masks on all the faces in photographic portraits
but there will always be more paper and nightmares,
pandemics and the need for catharses,
the maskless deniers carrying guns.

I rise early this morning
to move my body with others
on a little screen,
stamp a letter to my mother,
hoping the post office stays open long enough it to get there.
Everything good under threat,
you want to go back in time or forward,
imagining it was or could be better
but here we are –
hurricanes, droughts, floods, cages,
criminals at the helm of this sinking vessel
we all know as capitalism.
Why is the end of the world easier to imagine
than the end of capitalism?
I have stopped trying to understand
because reality defies logic,
gives into the worst.
If there is one thing I have learned
it is that we can not predict the future
but we pretend to change it.


Image: Painting from elin o’Hara slavick’s collection Bomb After Bomb

Five things that Drupal site builders need developers to know

This weekend I was pleased to present a brand new talk at DrupalCamp Asheville. I’ve been wanting to attend this camp for years since it’s the only one in North Carolina. This year my calendar was finally open and I was planning to attend in person, but of course that was not meant to be.

Many Drupal developers consider site builders to be one of the most important types of users they are building for. The project lead regularly talks about how to “Improve the site builder experience” in his state-of-Drupal keynotes. But how well do developers really understand site builders and what we do? I put together this presentation to help people understand the realities and constraints of being a site builder.

Below is a video of the talk. It’s only about 35 minutes long. This was my first time presenting it. If I do this talk again in the future I’ll include more examples to illustrate each point.

https://www.drupalasheville.com/2020/session/five-things-site-builders-need-developers-know

Mapping police brutality

I’m sure this only scratches the surface because it only tracks incidents of police violence that are reported on Twitter but I really appreciate folks (including Durham lawyer Greg Doucette) for putting this together.

See also The Guardian‘s site The Counted, which they created to track police killings in 2015 because no-one else was even doing it.

Pence, McConnell, & Trump

It’s not incompetence

I cannot understand people’s insistence on believing that Republicans are failing because they are incompetent. They are extremely strategic, they just don’t have any intrinsic morality. They will grab all the money and power within reach, and they’ll believe it was right if they don’t get caught.

Even in the areas where they simply lack the skills or capacity needed to govern, that is a strategic choice. They don’t want there to be an effective safety net, schools, public health, transportation network, public safety, healthy environment, or anything that connects us socially or culturally.

People who are poor, sick, isolated, scared, and hopeless are easier to manipulate, especially by authoritarians that appeal to the worst parts of human nature, ie: Republicans.

Rant inspired by this Twitter thread:

simulation results

Quarantine for kids

After screaming into the void for weeks on Twitter about the desperate need for massive testing and rapid social isolation, we are now living that quarantine life. Like many parents I am trying not to terrify my child (and myself), but unlike many parents I will not sugarcoat things. Especially after spending decades talking about how our political leaders are failing us, I am not going to lie about the fact that we are all suffering now because those failures have come home to roost.

I know my child thinks I am going a little overboard with this quarantine business, so showed him a few visuals to help him understand. These were the most helpful things we looked at today.

  1. Washington Post simulator showing the difference in infections between different policies such as partial quarantine and social distancing. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/corona-simulator/
  2. The now-ubiquitous #FlattenTheCurve chart show how rapid spread will overwhelm the medical system. This available everywhere, we looked at https://www.vox.com/2020/3/10/21171481/coronavirus-us-cases-quarantine-cancellation
  3. A young man from Wuhan’s TikTok videos that show his experience in Wuhan (start at the last one). https://www.tiktok.com/@danielouyang