ich bin ein berliner… i am a jelly doughnut

Tonight while walking the “countryside” in berlin (a long walk around kruetzberg, that includes part of the old wall and a park where a canal from the Spree river was diverted long ago), my dear friends Bergit, Martin and i talked of our lives in the past 2 years…. I learned that martin is a real Berliner as in he has lived here his whole life…

The end of autumn is here and in the fading light and growing cold, we talked of trauma (personal and community), and we talked of change and our work in various projects. A lot has happened in 2 years in our lives and I realized how much I have missed them. These amazing people that I visit again and again who have dedicated their lives to changing this rotten ass system. The last part of the walk Bergit and I took alone to gorlitzer park in the dark. She said something that really struck me… something about how we (anarchists, punks, leftists, queers etc.) are reluctant or scared to talk about personal trauma yet we all have experienced it on some level… while at the same time, many of us work on these projects that have trauma (personal and community) at their root. We tend to work on trauma in the abstract, trauma is something that happens over there to the less fortunate. She told me that she respected me so much not only for sharing my life with them so honestly, but also for being so open to listen. She said that the work of buildingbloc, (when we were here 2 years ago), changed her life in some way…
… the last part of our walk I told her how much I feel she has to offer her community here… bringing her own personal experience to share.. how much hope and strength I get from knowing them… it’s a lot really… not abstract in the least… I feel really lucky to have these people in my life.. all of them!… berlin is becoming a second home of sorts…. “ich bin ein berliner” (i am a jelly doughnut)

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erinyen anarcha-feminist collective

check out this amazing collective from berlin!

erinyen anarcha-feminist collective

Although anarchism is, in theory, inherently feminist, the reality is often quite different. Erinyen was created out of a need to bring issues of dominance, alienation, lack of control and masked hierarchy more into the anarchist sphere as well as for creating a place to share information, struggles and ideas. We hope with this platform and the magazine we contribute to more solidarity, understanding and change on all levels, regardless of gender, sex, age, ethnicity … and so on.

CESTA! undercovered…

undercovered-lexa-logo-modi1

hey all you artists.. wanna apply for an amazing collaborative arts festival in the
beautiful hansel and gretal forest of Bohemia cz republiki. heres your chance!
CESTA

CESTA’s 13th Arts Festival of International,
Interdisciplinary Collaborations
August 2009

Hidden and naked. Protected and endangered. Forgotten and targeted. The duality
of undercovered is inescapable – the concealed to the unveiled, the censored to the
recognized. The current unprecedented access to information encourages
discovery, yet we attack the conspicuous. We guard our histories, and suffer as the
ignored. We pursue knowledge to achieve progress, yet illumination creates
shadows, and definition creates margins. When do we seek protection through
visibility and when through anonymity? In our quest for recognition and
representation, what do we discard or overlook, and why?
For UNDERCOVERED, CESTA invites artists in all disciplines to collaborate in
creating works implicating this duality through their choices of artistic content,
process, or discipline.

CESTA’s festival themes and parameters of cross-national interdisciplinary
collaborations represent the center’s commitment to improving communication
through creative expression. We base our selection of artists on a review of
applications resulting from our annual open call. Applicants request CESTA to
connect them with one or more collaboration partners or apply as a pre-formed
collaboration group .

For UNDERCOVERED all final festival collaboration groups must be:
1) Cross-national: more than one nationality
2) Interdisciplinary: more than one artistic medium
3) Collaborative: conceptualizing and creating interdependent artistic work
AND must contain work created exclusively for UNDERCOVERED.

Festival Application Deadline: December 19, 2008
(postmarked)

UNDERCOVERED festival schedule
On-site collaborations in
progress:
August 1-26

Presentations of participants’
past work:
August 13-18

Seminars, workshops and
educational programs on the
festival theme:

August 13-18

Final presentations of the
collaboration groups:
August 28-30

Daily reviews of the
presentations:
August 29-31

Festival closing forum:
August 31

LAST RAMONE STANDING WINS!

Deuschtland is a place where obscure punks can still make a living….. where punk drummers can still make a living..

Marky Ramone is a d.j?…. who knew? ……… john langford of the mekons, (one of my favorite bands of all time)  once said in a radio interview, something like…. marky-ramoneit was the era of “the least common denominator” the conservatives and the fascists had Reagan and Thatcher and we had THE RAMONES!

weißer mann…..

my presentation in berlin went really well!!! I presented with my friends alex and sandro. The evening lasted 4 and half hours after all the questions… I was blown away by peoples interest and their genuine inquisitiveness…. It’s a very different scene here with ideas and conversation, and time for both… longer attention span? I dunno? There were about 45 people in attendance, which is a giant crowd in berlin for a presentation, as there are lots of presentations/ parties/ meetings almost every night of the week all over the city. I didn’t expect so many people to show up! Thanks to Abolishing Borders from Below for all their work in making these events happen… super!

Alex presented an overview of roma life in the different countries she has traveled to, with a short slide presentation. It was great and made me realize how what i experienced was such a very small, specific slice of Roma culture. One thing that Tito brought to the former Yugoslavia was a home for many people. The Roma in Kosovo live in communities (in houses) and this is definitely not true in all other parts of Europe. Alex’s presentation showed the diversity of roma life and the class divisions that also exist within the culture. Stereotyping of roma people is common, and by showing the diversity of roma life it was a good way to break those sterotypes.

Sandro presented on the current situation in italy… (in Rome and in Napoli). A story of violence, eviction of entire communities and deportation with the support of the Italian state. Its really fucking horrible… incredible racist… and it seems that very little of the Italian public is organizing to stop it….

after a break for cigarettes and club mate (the drink that single handedly keeps the berlin @movement alive and functioning) we had a long question and answer period.  Some of the toughest questions for me were about working for an international ngo, and cultural imperialism. One person kept trying to make the point, or ask the question about me being a white boy (weißer mann) in a community that is not mine and how did that change the community or the integrity of roma culture…. Great questions which I have thought about a lot.         berlin-presentation

I realized, that for me, there is a way in which my own analysis of many things went out the window when I was in Kosovo…. That being there in the midst of the daily trauma, discrimination and poverty…  I just tried to focus on the kids I was teaching and give them as much love as possible. Things were at such a survival level much of the time that all my questions of how I was changing “roma culture” by being there, or by teaching English faded to the background. Oh gawd!  does this make me a bleeding heart liberal?

My students were obviously happy that I was there and the love was mutual. The education center itself really took off in my time there and became a  wonderful place for the kids. Its not that my questions weren’t there, they just didn’t seem as pressing when in the midst of everything. I not saying this is right or wrong… just that it was…

One of voice of roma’s first projects, 7 years ago, was intensive English classes for about 50 students. Many of these folks now have jobs in ngo’s, as translators for the very large international community in Kosovo or with kfor and the united nations.. I know some of these folks and there are supporting large families with their incomes. Learning the english language has changed their lives for the better.. they told me so again and again. Unemployment in the roma community in kosovo is around 90%, speaking english is one of the few opportunities that folks have for employment.

I realized my own “cultural imperalism” one day towards the end of my stay in Kosovo. I wanted to do an evaluation with the students in both of my classes. Not just an evaluation but to give them the opportunity to speak about the things that they wanted from their education center. I definitely had a motive of trying to empower the students and to give them the feeling of ownership in the education center… noble goals maybe? We spent a lot of class time on these questions. I took notes on everything the students said. I had the feeling, half way into the first evaluation, that the kids in my classes had never been asked questions like this before. That maybe I was way outside a cultural context for them. I got a lot of blank looks, a lot of kids just repeating what their classmates had already said.  The adults really control the kids worlds and its not normal for them to step outside of that and speak for they want…   I started to feel that I was imposing something on them that I thought was a good thing for them…. was it?  is this appropriate? I am still asking myself.

“S O L I D A R I Z E”

solidarize

“Solidarize” is a word as it is translated to english from a very dear polish punk friend living in berlin… to show solidarity… to be in solidarity… SOLIDARIZE!  As in; “We can solidarize with the polish coal miners”

im meeting today with my friend alex who has worked all over central and eastern europe with roma community. She has been doing interviews with roma sex workers for her thesis. wendy did an extensive interview with her and it will be up on her blog soon!  wendyvinaigrette.wordpress.com

Alex will be presenting with me on Friday, as well as Sandro who will talk on the current situation in italy, where the racism against roma people has recently been open and violent. I am a little anxious about presenting here in berlin, as my work in Kosovo is more about education and personal relationships… and less about a political analysis of the roma “situation”. Many people commented in belgrade that they were really moved by my presentation because it was so personal and heartfelt… that they could see the love the kids have for me and I for them. I’ll just try and be real and hope it translates…. Im not really prepared for those anarchist smarty pants questions about politics, or about what is the way forward for roma rights. my work in kosovo is much more about ‘solidarizing” and mutual aid… I always make it clear from the beginning that I cannot and will not speak for the roma people.   i am a very political person, of course I have opinions that I can share about the politics of the region if anyone is interested…. but as a visitor to a place that is not my own, its difficult for me to speak from that political place of whats the best way forward… i have alot of questions….

HELLO gender

crass1

..…. N5
I awoke to the kitchen table discussion this morning that Obama has won the election and is now commander..  I answered with a weak, pre- caffeinated “ that’s good news”, and boy anarchist, (in the house project im staying at) snottily said “it wont change the system”… well duh I thought, was I born yesterday punk?… put em up! .. …. im from amerika….  im just back from kosovo …and Count Grumpula is my name… jeeezz….  give me a coffee…

bethanien

bethanien

Berlin is dream- like in all its grey, cold, melancholic beauty.. I bought a second hand coat today and I feel protected inside its black furriness. I am with veronica at the Morgenrot café, a collectively run café in prenslauerberg, (a heavily gentrified neighborhood that had its squatting heyday long ago) (think Valencia street on a Saturday night) ..She works here as a member of the collective. Wendy and I will be giving a presentation together here on the 10th.  The flyer for the event says “Solidaritat und Selbstorganisation in der Praxis”…(solidarity and self-orgainization in practice). .. I personally think that “Hookers, Gypsies, Harm Reduction, and War” would have been a sexier title …  and gotten more people to come, but either way, I would definitely come to this event if it came to my  town!!!!!

hello-genderposter2

Anarchy in all its many forms is beautifully alive and well in Berlin,. From the squatting/ house project, to the collective café, anti-fa actions, low price vegan kitchens (volk kuchen), magazines, queer collectives, women’s collectives, anti gentrification actions, fight clubs (self defense), punk rock, techno, and black metal gloriousness, anti g8 organizing, kicking fascist ass, getting your ass kicked by fascists, football, wagenplatz (caravan squats), print collectives, meetings and more meetings, drinking and more drinking , solidarity work, defending your home,  talking about ideas …..  and lots of dogs…

i think there are more “punks” per square meter here than in any other place in the world?…  and punk dogs shit… a real “punk willage” so to speak… it takes a willage i guess…wagenplatz

Tonight I ate with some friends at a bigger Turkish restaurant on the corner of Gorlitzer park. I have eaten here many times. You get a lot for the price, its popular and its always crowded. Our discussions are long, fun and intense… There is an item on the menu called “vegetable plate”…  even though it comes with very few vegetables… it has been dubbed by my friend Lipa as “ the so called vegetable plate”.. i walk up to the counter and order it with its corrected name every time….