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Upcoming Local Events

Thursday, August 16th

Friday, August 17th

Saturday, August 18th

Monday, August 20th

Friday, August 24th

Wednesday, September 12th

Saturday, September 15th

Monday, September 17th

Monday, October 15th

Global IMC Network

Community Emergency Response Rally

August 14, 2018 by pegjohnston

On the afternoon of Saturday, August 11th, at the corner of Laurel Ave and Schubert St (Between Rec Park and Horace Mann Elementary School), several white police officers stopped and detained two young Black teenagers.

A 13-year-old girl was a placed in handcuffs, with witnesses at the scene describing officers forcefully lifting her off the ground after she was restrained. She was accused of spray painting a nearby wall. The girl was in distress, which prompted multiple residents to stop and document the interaction. She was later released to her parent after spending nearly a half hour in handcuffs.

A 14-year-old boy with developmental disabilities was also inexplicably stopped, searched, and taken into custody while observing the event. He was pinned down by three officers before being handcuffed and locked in a police van, where he repeatedly banged his head on a security panel as officers stood by.

Additional officers arrived on the scene, escalating the situation with the children and frightened witnesses observing the incident.

A first-hand account of the incident can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/perma link.php?story_fbid=1021283087 8591140&id=1364063380

Join our community in demanding justice for these two children abused and assaulted by Binghamton Police.

Friday, August 17th @ 5:45pm
Corner of Laurel Ave & Schubert Street
(GPS: 104 Laurel Ave, Directly across from Rec Park)

Forthcoming Actions:
•Video Released to Public
•Issuance of Press Release & Formal Demands
•Bystander Intervention Training on 8/27/18 (location TBA)

https://www.facebook.com/events/296799827750508/

PLOT: Progressive Leaders Of Tomorrow

August 10, 2018 by pegjohnston

PLOT stands for Progressive Leaders of Tomorrow. We are based out of Binghamton, NY, but our initiatives and members exist throughout the Southern Tier and surrounding areas.

WHO WE ARE:

PLOT is a collective of advocates, artists, and agitators organizing around issues of race, class, gender, and state violence through an anti-capitalist lens. We seek to empower, uplift, and ultimately liberate the most marginalized members of society—including and especially those who are Black, queer, trans, disabled, cash poor, women and/or non-men.

Since its inception in 2014, PLOT was intended to serve as a radical alternative to existing grassroots coalitions and organizations in our area. Initially conceived as a vehicle for cultivating young organizers affiliated with Citizen Action, PLOT has grown into an independent, multi-generational entity accountable to ourselves and our respective communities. PLOT is not formally affiliated with any established organizations, although we frequently collaborate with various groups and individuals when our objectives align.

WHAT WE DO:

Our methods are rooted in prioritizing justice over unity. We believe without justice there can be no unity. This requires challenging those with privilege to acknowledge the ways they are complicit in oppression.

Some have dismissed this approach as “divisive” and “alienating”—especially to white community members—but we view it as necessary. Our intention is to create a culture of high-quality accomplices willing to put their bodies and resources on the line in the pursuit of justice. Doing so often requires undermining the fragility and defensiveness of conditional, would-be allies.

As PLOT has grown, so too have our directives, strategies, and ideologies surrounding radical social justice and community organizing. Some of PLOT’s recent initiatives include: Anti-racism seminars, public demonstrations & rallies, reparation re-distribution, food & hygiene drives, community gatherings & parties, film screenings, coordination for Juneteenth & other local events, political education, and various social media campaigns. This summer, we also launched our first Black & Minority Owned Restaurant Week, which succeeded in engaging residents to support Black and PoC-run spaces throughout the Greater Binghamton Area.

Additionally, PLOT hosts bi-weekly public meetings to coordinate our efforts, gauge our progress, check in on members, and practice fostering safe, healthy, and inclusive environments.

WHY WE DO IT:

The work being done by PLOT is being done all over the country and the world. We believe changing the status quo of oppression must first occur in our individual lives, our homes, families, schools, and neighborhoods. By employing self-reflection, survivor-centered healing, transformative conflict resolution, and community accountability, it is our intention to create an atmosphere that empowers and uplifts the most vulnerable among us. And until that atmosphere exists, we seek to prioritize the survival, dignity, and humanity of marginalized people—both in our communities, and beyond.

Ultimately, our message is one of hope, not despair.

We believe in growth and the potential for people to change under the right conditions. We believe existing systems of oppression need to be deconstructed and replaced with radical and inclusive alternatives. And we believe that compromise at the expense of oppressed people is not a valid or acceptable path to liberation.

All of us at PLOT look forward to learning, growing, and healing with our communities in the weeks and months ahead.

Sincerely,

-Progressive Leaders of Tomorrow

For details on how you can get involved with PLOT, please check out our Community Calendar at www.BinghamtonPLOT.com

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RSVP to our upcoming PLOT meetings (please read event description and guidelines prior to attending): https://www.facebook.com/events/2027313770621927/

 

Witness to the Revolution: Review

July 29, 2018 by pegjohnston

Witness to the Revolution: Radicals, Resisters, Vets, Hippies, and the Year American Lost Its Mind and Found Its Soul by Clara Bingham
Review by Andy Piascik

Witness to the Revolution: Radicals, Resisters, Vets, Hippies, and the Year American Lost Its Mind and Found Its Soul by Clara Bingham is a valuable contribution to further understanding and popularizing the radical upsurge of the 1960s. The book is an oral history and we hear from well-known figures of the time such as Ericka Huggins, Tom Hayden and Robin Morgan as well as others like Vivian Rothstein, Wesley Brown and Jan Barry who did significant work mostly behind the scenes in one or more of the movements that together made up The Movement. Though the focus of the book is the one-year period from the summer of 1969 to the summer of 1970, the interviews cover ground going back much earlier and thus provide many important insights about context and individual development.

The primary focus of Witness to the Revolution is the movement against the war in Vietnam. There’s a great deal about the white Left as well as the counterculture and nothing about free jazz, DRUM, AIM, Stonewall or Black Arts. This was a conscious choice. The author explains in an Introduction that Witness to the Revolution is “a selective history” and the book “touches only lightly on the black experience, feminism, and the music scene” because there “just wasn’t room enough in one book.”

Even within that dramatically reduced landscape, Bingham covers a great deal of ground. Many of the seminal events of that one-year period are explored in depth: the Chicago Conspiracy Trial, Kent State, the Resistance, the extensive activism at the University of Wisconsin up through and including the bombing of the Army-Math building, Woodstock, Jackson State, the expose of the massacre at My Lai, Altamont, the Pentagon Papers and more.

Vietnam Vets
Some of the best sections of the book are the stories of the Vietnam veterans who came home and built organizations in opposition to the war. They did so as they often struggled with serious physical and psychological problems while having to live the rest of their lives with memories of atrocities they observed and sometimes participated in. As the interviews reveal, some vets found a degree of healing through activism. Others expanded popular awareness of the true nature of the war by shedding valuable light on war crimes by way of investigative reporters like Seymour Hersh.

Throughout, Witness to the Revolution repeatedly underscores how much vitriol some had to endure as elites attacked both the messengers and the message in the student, vet, Black Power and anti-war movements. Even as late as 1970, when many in the upper levels of government, business and planning had concluded that Vietnam was lost, those who showed that the war was not a righteous cause gone awry but consistent with U.S. foreign policy different only in scale were spied upon, harassed, imprisoned and killed.

Popular Power
As elites today move dramatically to make dissent ever more costly and dangerous, it is  inspiring to read of the courage and endurance of those from an earlier time of discord. Fundamental to the success in stopping the war as well as resisting attempts to suppress dissent were the existence of massive movements of a galvanized population that was in many ways at war with its own government. One of the book’s biggest strengths is that the power of the collective Movement is always present even when it’s not front and center. And while Witness to the Revolution was published before the ascension of Trump, the thread linking the popular power of the time to the tasks we confront today is inescapable.

There are anecdotes and surprises both amusing and moving. It’s hilarious in the extreme, for example, to imagine Mick Jagger’s reaction to the vision some had of the concert that became Altamont, as recounted by Peter Coyote, as that of a collective experience where the Rolling Stones would be one of five acts performing simultaneously on separate stages. We also hear poignantly if indirectly from Stephanie Fassnacht, the widow of Robert Fassnacht, the graduate student killed in the Army-Math bombing. Bingham also provides important history of organizations and efforts such as that of the Diggers that deserve more attention and which may stimulate greater exploration by others.

Bingham’s introductory qualifier notwithstanding, it is still unfortunate that she excluded important pieces of the history of that time. This is especially so since she devotes so much space to the sorry tale of the completely marginal Weather Underground. Lots of people worked to stop the war in Vietnam even if that may not have been the specific focus of their activism; couldn’t we have heard something from some combination of Elizabeth Martinez, Mike Hamlin, Frances Beal and Dennis Banks? Maybe a little something about the August 29th Chicano Moratorium, which was within the time frame Bingham covers and drew upwards of 25,000 people to the streets of Los Angeles?

Instead we once again get page after page of Mark Rudd, Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers. Rudd’s regrets and likening of himself to a police agent are to his credit; too bad the Weather Underground’s story couldn’t have been left at that and some space been granted to the original Rainbow Coalition, say, that was working at the same time and in the same city where Rudd and his comrades were carrying out the senseless Days of Rage. Juan Gonzalez is quite visible and not difficult to locate; wouldn’t it have been more valuable to hear him on his experiences both as a student activist at Columbia and as a leading figure in the Young Lords?

Stories That Need to Be Heard
Witness to the Revolution contributes a great deal to our understanding of the movements of the 1960s despite this weakness. The book gives voice to people from that time whose stories absolutely have to be heard and amplified as elites continue to distort, ridicule and de-fang the movements of opposition while also re-writing history, such as in the Pentagon’s recent official account of the war in Vietnam. The importance of recording the stories of movement participants is underscored by Bingham’s mention of those subjects who have died since she interviewed them, a number that has increased since.

Lessons for Today?
Among the lessons of the book that seem to apply to 2018 are, one, the need to utilize a variety of tactics; two, the need to resist and organize against as many of the attacks coming from the Trump Administration and the ruling class in general as is possible; and three, the need to establish alliances between those working on all of the many issues.

On the first point, we must continue to organize the kind of rallies, protests, strikes, and sit-ins that have been much in evidence since Trump’s election, right on up to actions that may include mass civil disobedience. The diversity of tactics including the willingness of many thousands to risk arrest or even violence at the hands of the police is one of the biggest strengths of the activism Bingham covers in her book. Similar efforts today should be supplemented by holding public officials accountable such as has been done at town hall meetings throughout the country as well as by challenging Trump allies in elections with candidates, preferably people who are a part of the emerging movements but who at minimum reflect the views and values of those movements.     

That we need to be present and organizing around all of the many issues is probably self-evident. The ever-growing movement in opposition to police violence against black people and the resistance at Standing Rock against the North Dakota Access Pipeline can serve as examples of how people from different parts of the country, different races and whose main activism may be on some different issue, can come together as needed to oppose a particularly dangerous threat. It wasn’t enough, not nearly enough, but that can change, just as happened over a few short years in the period covered in Witness To the Revolution. Since ecological collapse and nuclear war are among those threats, the sooner we can get more of what we need up and running the better. The recent coming together of a large number of groups tackling a wide spectrum of issues throughout the country in a new coalition called The Majority is a positive development in this direction.  

Given the scale of the trouble we face, we need more books like Bingham’s. Such resources will be of great value as we confront challenges the only antidote to which is the construction of popular power on a mass scale. Witness to the Revolution is testament to how much such popular power can accomplish even in the most daunting circumstances.   
 
Andy Piascik is an award-winning writer whose most recent book is the novel In Motion.  He can be reached at andypiascik@yahoo.com.

Dinosaur Mural in Residence at Johnson City Factory

July 19, 2018 by pegjohnston

Members of the Dept. of Public Art installed a mural on the factory at 19 Avenue B in Johnson City. Master Muralist Bruce Greig created a mural in panels that gives the illusion that a dinosaur is inside the factory looking out.  “It’s a playful mural that brings new life to this factory,” according to Peg Johnston of the DPA. 

Johnson City has recently announced the first phase of a renovation to save the building. “This mural brings attention to the possibilities for this building and the development possibilities for Johnson City,” said Johnston.

For more photos see our facebook page at Dept of Public Art and listen to story on Radio Bundy 99.5 FM.  The Dept of Public Art has created many murals in the Floral Ave. Park to the delight of the children and families who use the Park.

For more information see www.deptofpublicart.com, on Facebook or contact us at deptofpublicart@gmail.com.

 

English Country Dance Classes

July 10, 2018 by pegjohnston

Want to learn elegant, exuberant English country dancing? Classes offered by the Binghamton English Country Dancers start September 12 at Christ Church in downtown Binghamton. Very reasonable admission. Excellent calling/teaching and live music. No partner needed. Beginners welcome. See attached for more information and do join us! Try the first class free.

ARTISTS!!! Be Part of LUMA Projection Festival!

July 8, 2018 by pegjohnston

At this year’s LUMA Festival, September 7-9, 2018, local artists will have the opportunity to see their images projected on the Atomic Tom's building.  LUMA will project 30 images generated by artists using a template or outline of the building. “We want LUMA to be a celebration of the Arts in Binghamton and a chance to showcase artists, including those that work in more traditional media like painting and drawing,” said Joshua Bernard, co-founder of LUMA Festival. The process is called "Mural Mapping."

Interested artists will receive a template of the building at 196 State St. (Atomic Tom’s) Binghamton on canvas, paper, or in a digital format. They can paint, draw, color, or collage on the template. “Images should tell a story using the building and the best images will have a lot of detail because the images will be so big,” according to Peg Johnston of the Dept. of Public Art and the Cooperative Gallery, co-sponsors of this project. Using registration marks on the template, the LUMA team will be able to exactly size each image to appear on the building. Each submission must be accompanied by an entry fee of $15 and form (attached below) to cover material costs, as well as name, address, email, phone, image title, and price. Thirty images will be selected for projection and for an exhibit at the Cooperative Gallery 213 opening on First Friday in September. Original images may be offered for sale with the usual 20% gallery commission. LUMA will have the digital rights to images for the 2018 Festival and for promotional purposes; the artist retains all rights to original works, reproductions, and digital images after LUMA.

Templates are available at the Cooperative Gallery 213 State St and the deadline for receipt of final art work will be August 24-25th. To reserve a canvas template, email deptofpublicart@gmail.com. Download fillable form below.

Entries will be accepted at the Cooperative Gallery 213 State St. on  Friday, August 24 3-6 pm and Sat August 25th at 12-4 pm and payment (cash or check) will be accepted at that time. For digital copy or further information contact DeptofPublicArt@gmail.com.

Teachers’ Strikes Past and Present

July 8, 2018 by pegjohnston

by Andy Piascik

            Almost out of nowhere, an inspiring wave of strikes by public school teachers has swept the United States. Teachers in Arizona have just ended a strike on the heels of walk-outs in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Colorado and Kentucky. Similar actions between now and the end of the school year loom in others states.
            Thus far, unity among teachers in all of the strikes has been overwhelming. Participation has been robust, rallies have been large, reports indicate that few teachers have crossed picket lines and the public has been highly supportive. A number of commentaries have noted that Donald Trump carried four of the states where the strikes have occurred, where union members are generally a lower percentage of the workforce and have fewer collective bargaining rights.  
            Among the many themes of the strikes, there are at least two that relate directly to their red-state hue. The first, widely commented on, is that reactionary state governments have been especially aggressive in their assaults on the living standards of the majority of their populations. In the face of dramatic tax reductions on corporations and the wealthy, attacks on workers and unions, and the undermining and underfunding of education and other public programs, teachers who have often not gotten raises for years while working conditions deteriorate, have finally said Enough.
            Another theme is that people’s class allegiances emerge as struggle intensifies, and the fact that some of the striking teachers voted for Trump is almost irrelevant as they engage in actions like the recent walk-outs. The focus on whether the strikers voted for the worse of two horrible presidential candidates is certainly of great interest to the punditocracy but serves intentionally to obfuscate the fact that the struggle between the Super Rich and the rest of us will unfold primarily in workplaces and on the streets, not in voting booths.    
            There have been fissures between union officers and some teachers who believe officers in Oklahoma, for example, were too timid in calling off strikes that had not yet achieved all their objectives. In West Virginia, teachers remained out in defiance of union officers who tried to end the strike. Efforts by nervous officers to curtail or even prevent strikes echo events in Wisconsin in 2011 when workers occupied that state’s capitol building before union bureaucrats shut down the protests and essentially told the workers to go home and find a Democrat to vote for.
The fissures in the teacher unions will not go away and a galvanized rank and file may emerge that can address that timidity. That much of the work in preparation for and during the recent strikes was done outside official union channels speaks well to the possibility for desperately needed changes in union structure and culture.
Another Teachers’ Strike 40 Years Ago
            At the beginning of the neoliberal epoch 40 years ago, public school teachers in Bridgeport, Connecticut went on strike for many of the same reasons. The Board of Education and the Bridgeport Education Association (BEA), the collective bargaining representative of the city’s 1,247 teachers as well as about 100 other school professionals, had been at loggerheads for months. Connecticut law forbade strikes by public school teachers, however, and many Bridgeporters were caught off guard by the picket lines on the first day of school.
            Much like the strikes in 2018, there was widespread public support for the teachers. Hundreds of supporters, including students and their parents, joined the picket lines. At one site, members of a neighborhood group played an especially active role in urging students and parents to either join the picket line or go home.
National Teacher Strike Wave
            Like the strike wave today, the walk-out in Bridgeport was one of many that September. Teachers in Philadelphia, Boston, Cleveland, Seattle and numerous smaller cities and towns saw schools closed because of strikes, and some of those actions lasted for several weeks. It was the Bridgeport walk-out, though, that was the longest and the most contentious, as teachers faced a local power structure determined to crush the strike.
            In what were the early stages of the austerity agenda of the business class, Bridgeport’s teachers had seen wages and benefits lag and classroom sizes grow in the years leading up to the 1978 strike. They had accepted a concessionary contract in 1975, causing salaries to fall all the way to the bottom in Fairfield County (as they are today) and among the lowest in the state. There was also a growing exodus of teachers from Bridgeport to higher-salaried jobs in nearby school districts, another trend that remains in 2018.
            From the outset, the 1978 strike was highly successful. Only 36 teachers, or less than 3%, reported for work on the first day of school and that number dropped in the days that followed. The Democratic mayor and the Democrat-majority Board of Education kept elementary and middle schools open at first by utilizing a small number of teaching aides, substitute teachers and accredited, unemployed teachers, but only 10% of students showed up. The city’s Parent Teacher Association, meanwhile, supported the strike by rejecting a call by the Board that they volunteer in schools and assist scab teachers.
Mass Arrests and Imprisonment
            Arrests began just days into the strike and State Superior Court Judge James Heneby began levying fines of $10,000 per day against the union. As the strike continued, Heneby ordered the union’s officers jailed. The first jailings occurred on September 12th, the fifth school day of the strike, when thirteen teachers were handcuffed and carted off, the men to a prison in New Haven and the women to one in Niantic some 60 miles away. Those arrested endured degradations such as strip searches and being doused with lice spray. Adding further insult, Heneby imposed individual fines of $350 per person per day on the arrestees.
            Angered by the arrests and the teachers’ subsequent treatment, treatment that one arrestee later called the most humiliating event of her life, the strikers turned out to the picket lines in ever larger numbers and with greater determination and militancy. One result was that the city and school board were forced to abandon efforts to keep any schools open. With all 38 schools closed, another 115 teachers were arrested in the next few days. In all, 274 were arrested during the strike, 22% of the total in the city. As prison space became scarcer, many of those in the later waves of arrests were packed onto buses and taken 70 miles to a National Guard camp that was converted into a makeshift prison.
Standing Firm to Victory
            As the confrontation continued into late September, and with all of the other strikes around the country settled, the mass arrest and imprisonment of Bridgeport’s teachers was drawing international attention and causing local elites and city residents as a whole great embarrassment. Despite the arrests, jailings, fines and some tense scenes on a number of picket lines, the teachers stood firm. Finally, on September 25th, after 14 school days, the teachers union and Board of Ed agreed to accept binding arbitration. All teachers, some of whom had been locked up for 13 days, were released from prison. The final terms of the agreement were largely favorable to the teachers.
New Legislation: A Setback?
In the strike’s aftermath, the Connecticut legislature passed the 1979 Teacher Collective Bargaining Act that mandates binding arbitration when teachers and the municipalities they work for are stalemated in contract negotiations. While some observers saw the law as a victory for teachers, it was still illegal for teachers in Connecticut to strike, as it remains today. In addition, a number of changes to the law since 1979 such as one that allows municipalities but not unions to reject the decision of an arbitrator, have weakened the bargaining position of teachers.  
Chicago
No militant strike wave or reinvigorated workers’ movement followed the strikes of 1978. Rather, it was capital that escalated its offensive, one that continues to this day. Probably the most noteworthy strikes by teachers since 1978 came in Chicago where teachers walked out for nine days in 2012 and for shorter durations several times afterwards. The Chicago actions gained significant victories and illustrated to a country where strikes have become rare that they can be incredibly effective.
The 40 years from the Bridgeport strike to today precisely cover the period in which we have seen the most radical upward redistribution of wealth in human history. There is much gut-level support for radical change on many issues including the state of education and the conditions teachers work under. The wave of strikes may be an important turning point.
            If that is to be the case, continued organizing and coalition-building in the time to come is essential. Striking teachers in 2018 did not face anywhere near the state repression as those in Bridgeport in 1978; there does not appear to have been as much as a single arrest during the strike wave. But entrenched power will push back hard and fast on all fronts, as it always does. The recent strike wave presents a real opportunity for catalyzing the large scale but mostly diffuse discontent among workers toward something more cohesive and better organized. That is an exciting possibility and the thousands of teachers who stepped forward in recent months are well-positioned to make that possibility reality.
            It is of great significance that in the West Virginia strike at least, teachers refused to accept a demand by the governor that improved pay and benefits would be paid for with cuts in much-needed programs for the working class as a whole. Mainstream commentators who regard union workers as nothing more than a special interest group exclusively focused on their own well-being had no idea what to do with that one. Also of note is that, in large part because of the insistence of the teachers, the contractual gains won by some of the strikes included all other school workers and that non-union supervisors in at least several states overwhelmingly supported the strikes. On the down side, the terms of the Arizona settlement that have been made available thus far indicate that teachers raises will be paid for by shifting the burden of several expenditures to the state's working class.
For those who recognize increased class consciousness as essential to long-term social change, the teachers’ rejection of West Virginia elite efforts to conclude the strike by driving a wedge between themselves and the other workers was an important step. Among the challenges now are further development of that consciousness and the further strengthening of the class unity it represents.
One other challenge facing the burgeoning motion among teachers is the fact that the underfunding of education has proceeded at a higher and faster pace in places with higher percentages of students of color, particularly African Americans. Seriously addressing this point and developing strategies accordingly through their unions, in the networks they’ve established and in coalitions they join will go a long way in determining how broad, militant and effective all of those organizations will be. Events of recent weeks are a terrific start.
 
Bridgeport native Andy Piascik is an award-winning author whose most recent book is the novel In Motion.  He can be reached at andypiascik@yahoo.com.

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