Philly & Swarthmore

by undoingborders

In Philadelphia we were hosted by the Wild Poppies Collective and the A-Space, a collectively run anarchist community center in West Philly.

Group in Philly

From an End PARS protest, Philly 2010

Many people in the room were part of a new coalition called Decarcerate PA, which seeks to end the current system of mass incarceration.  They formed to fight new prison/ detention center construction and expansion in Pennsylvania. Right now the state has plans add over 8,000 new prison beds and build two additional facilities.  Also in the room was Hot Pot, a queer API group that spoke some about the fight in 2010 to overturn PARS, a local-data sharing program (much like S-COMM) that allowed federal immigration agents to scrutinize the city’s computerized list of arrests for information like country of origin.

In small group conversations, we were reminded about a 2009 struggle in Philly to keep the city from closing ALL of its library branches.   Like recent examples in Oakland (see this or this), a coalition of librarians, teachers, anarchists, and others joined together to successfully save this community resource.  We also heard, in small groups, a number of people speak to a desire to create more queer-specific spaces to organize in the city.  Some reflected on feelings on invisibility despite the large numbers of queers in all sorts of organizing and movement spaces.

 After the event, over a dozen of us headed out for food, drink and more informal conversation.  As it turns out, we found ourselves among several health care workers and soon to be nurses, queers who view access to quality health care as an important piece of building a world we all fit in.  Community Acupuncture Clinic in West Philly received high praise and Li made an appointment the next day; Li was glad to get affordable acupuncture while on the road.  Thanks Philadelphia for helping us care for ourselves!

In the morning, we ate a delicious brunch with our hosts Layne and Sarah (our third host, Hanako was celebrating her birthday!).

Next, we headed out of the city to Swarthmore College, where we were invited to speak at the opening of New World Border, a traveling art show comprised of prints made by artists responding to the construction of the US/Mexico border wall.  Here’s a fabulous print featuring Selena!

To see more of the prints, go to:  Thanks to the Women’s Resource Center and the Intercultural Center of Swarthmore for sponsoring our visit and to Jusselia for inviting us.

 On campus, we were disappointed to learn that we’d just missed a performance by Las Crudas the night before! We also heard about some great work by a number of people in the room to increase the numbers of and support for faculty and students of color on campus.

 We also talked with Hanna King, a student who comes from Seattle, WA.  There, she was involved with a project called Reteaching Gender and Sexuality and Put This On The Map, a video project led by queer youth responding to Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better Campaign.”  Hanna told us about Dan Savage’s efforts to push out queer youth hanging out in downtown Seattle, and said that their project asks: better for who?  What about us?

This campaign reminds us of struggles in San Francisco, where the same politicians who get a lot of mileage in the gay community out of supporting gay marriage are some of the same people behind laws like Sit/Lie that actively target homeless youth.  In a city where nearly half of homeless youth identify as queer, how is it that anyone behind a law like that can be understood to be pro-gay?  What kind of damage does the single-issue focus of marriage do to our broader queer communities?