Neal Shirley & Saralee Stafford Authors of Dixie Be Damned: 300 Years of Insurrection in the American South (AK Press)
Originally published in Mountain XPress
Xpress: What was the inspiration for Dixie Be Damned?
Shirley & Stafford: We researched and wrote the book over a period of about three years, whenever there was a break from the other parts of our lives. It was a labor of love, guided by our own participation in social struggles in the South. We’re not professional academics, so for us this was a long process of learning how to write and research. But we also benefit from that nonacademic position, in that it helps us to ask questions and observe tensions that sometimes get glossed over by the academy’s more institutionalized approach. We were also inspired by our own family histories — too often our ancestors painted a mythological, genteel image over the explicitly racialized violence that occurred during colonialism, slavery and Jim Crow, while burying the stories of resistance in those times.
Why did you choose to highlight the stories you did?
We wanted to highlight inspiring stories of resistance and revolt that we had heard little-to-nothing of, while also challenging the idea that a demand for participation in democracy via citizenship is the primary avenue for social change. An example of that is our focus on two different struggles that take place immediately after the Civil War: one led by an all-black grouping of former slaves in the Georgia lowcountry, another by a cross-racial bandit gang in Robeson County, N.C. In both situations, people who had been dispossessed and oppressed by the plantation economy led attacks on that system while simultaneously rejecting the legal processes, labor contracts, industrial projects and court systems being imported by Northern “liberators.”
Why is it important to highlight these stories from across history?
It’s a history of the present. We’re all living with the outcomes, the shortcomings and the repression of these uprisings. For those of us actively involved in social movements, this is absolutely apparent. The modern prison system emerges as an outgrowth of, as well as a response to, struggle against the convict lease system, which was itself a solution to the problem of figuring out how to keep controlling and exploiting black people after the Civil War. The story is similar with modern police forces, which in the South stem directly from early fugitive slave-hunting posses. Every neighborhood we live in that’s occupied by police, every friend or family member dealing with the law or courts — we’re all dealing with this, and the lower we are in society, the worse it is.
As individual participants in struggles that have tried to carry this legacy forward — and just as people living in this difficult world — the fear of repression and failure is constant. Both of us struggle at times with a deep despair around these issues. The writing of this book has been helpful; it’s inspiring to learn about the ways people before us have rejected these systems, found their courage and fought outside and beyond the bounds of law and property. We can do that again.
What do you think contemporary Southern society can learn fromDixie Be Damned?
We grew up being told that the South is a passive, conservative place, a land that time forgot, and that the only antidote to this is a certain kind of liberal, capitalist “progress”. Those are two false narratives. We actually have this incredible inspiring history of resistance in the South that rejects and challenges both those stories. This is where whiteness, as a marker and producer of political and economic domination, originates, and (not coincidentally) this region is, in some ways, the historical heart of global capitalism. But it is also a place of creative resistance and resilience against oppression. We hope to inspire others to look into Southern history outside of the academy and paid professional world, with an eye toward sharing stories of resistance and liberation.
Any upcoming promotional efforts or shows to publicize the illustrations and book?
We’re on tour right now and coming through Boone to talk at Appalachian State University on Oct. 21 and 22. After that we’re heading up the East Coast for another week of tour, then coming back home to friends and work and projects back in Durham. We’re hoping to do some joint events with Phil and his incredible artwork when we get back: one in Chapel Hill and one in Durham. In mid-November we’re participating in the Howard Zinn Bookfair in the Bay Area, and then giving a talk at the Duke Coffeehouse on Nov. 20th.
Taking Risks: Feminist Activism and Research in the Americas (SUNY, 2014; 2015)
Session: 3:00-4:00pm in Frida Kahlo Room (Room 213)
Taking Risks offers a creative, interdisciplinary approach to narrating the stories of activist scholarship by women. The essays are based on the textual analysis of interviews, oral histories, ethnography, video storytelling, and theater. The contributors come from many disciplinary backgrounds, including theater, history, literature, sociology, feminist studies, and cultural studies. The authors discuss the underground library movement in Cuba, femicide in Juárez, community radio in Venezuela, video archives in Colombia, exiled feminists in Canada, memory activism in Argentina, sex worker activists in Brazil, rural feminists in Nicaragua, and domestic violence organizations for Latina immigrants in Texas. Each essay addresses two themes: telling stories and taking risks. The authors understand women activists across the Americas as storytellers who, along with the authors themselves, work to fill the Latin American and Caribbean studies archives with histories of resistance. In addition to sharing the activists’ stories, the contributors weave in discussions of scholarly risk taking to speak to the challenges and importance of elevating the storytellers and their histories.
Julie, editor of the book, will read her essay “Mother’s Day” which discusses her decision to prioritize family, quality of life, and ultimately activist scholarship over professional stability and status.
Marisela will read from her chapter, “Navigating the Cuban Ideological Divide: Research on the Independent Libraries Movement.”
They also invite conversation about activist scholarship and the place of researchers and professors in advancing social justice agendas.
Julie Shayne’s bio:
Julie Shayne is author/editor of three books: Taking Risks: Feminist Activism and Research in the Americas (editor), They Used to Call Us Witches: Chilean Exiles, Culture, and Feminism, winner of the Pacific Sociological Association’s 2011 Distinguished Scholarship Award, and The Revolution Question: Feminisms in El Salvador, Chile, and Cuba. She is a Senior Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington Bothell and Affiliate Associate Professor of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies & Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Washington Seattle.
Personal webpage http://www.julieshayne.net/
Taking Risks http://www.sunypress.edu/p-5884-taking-risks.aspx
They Used to Call Us Witches https://rowman.com/ISBN/0739118501
The Revolution Question http://rutgerspress.rutgers.edu/product/Revolution-Question,2223.aspx
Marisela Fleites- Lear’s bio:
Marisela Fleites-Lear teaches Spanish and Literature at Green River College. She has a PhD in Romance Languages and Literature from the University of Washington and an ABD in Philosophy from the University of Havana, Cuba. She is a Cuban American born and raised in Cuba, living in the USA since 1992. Her research and publications examine the construction of images of Cuban women from the perspectives of literary, gender and cultural studies.
Jerry Mander speaks in the Harriet Tubman room at 1:45.
Seven Arguments for the Elimination of Capitalism…
In retrospect, that’s the title Jerry Mander says he should have used for his latest book “The Capitalism Papers: Fatal Flaws of an Obsolete System,” but it describes exactly what his book and his talk at the Howard Zinn Book Fair are about. The nationally renowned social critic and author says that while many people recognize something is desperately wrong with the world’s economic system and even see that capitalism is failing, they have been reluctant to go so far as to say it’s the system itself that needs to go. Even popular critics of global capitalism such as Thomas Piketty and Robert Reich talk about reforming and fixing it, but Mander feels they aren’t willing to bite the bullet and acknowledge it’s time has passed and argues capitalism itself is inherently flawed and is doomed to fail.
Mander will argue that even progressive movements and activists have been too slow to publicly name the most fundamental problem of our time – that there can be no solution to the planet’s environmental crises, or the overwhelming challenges to democracy, fairness and community, other than the immediate recognition and assertion that capitalism must be replaced as soon as possible by new economic forms. He says “Green capitalism” is a dangerous, ridiculous joke, is impossible to achieve and that “democratic capitalism” is a contradiction in terms.
Mander cites a long list of intrinsic structural ingredients of capitalism that cannot be reformed but which are crucial to its survival. These include the necessity for constant growth and expansion on a finite planet; the constant pressure for profits at all costs to feed fixed hierarchies; a built-in dedication to amorality and self-interest rather than the common good; the resistance to any recognition of intrinsic rights for nature and our own need for that recognition; the need to control government and media, et. al. To speak of reform of these tendencies is a contradiction in terms. Mander will give particular importance to the role of media in this mix.
In addition to these fundamental issues, Mander will also lead a discussion on some of the primary ingredients that could be crucial to include in any new economy that serves democracy, equity, and the survival of the planet, rather than corporatism and oligarchy which can only lead inevitably to “wars, environmental destruction and misery everywhere.”
Jerry Mander is the founder, and Board Chair of the International Forum on Globalization (IFG) which played an important role in organizing of the 100,000 strong street protests in Seattle in 1999 that shut down Doha Round of the World Trade Organization (WTO). He was trained as an economist in the 1950s, became a successful advertising executive but left that industry to create ads for non-profits such as Greenpeace, The Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood. He is the author (or co-author) of nine books including the international best-sellers “Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television” and “In the Absence of the Sacred.”
San Francisco’s WritersCorps program has been empowering youth through creative writing for 20 years by placing writers in schools, community programs, and juvenile hall for 3-year-long writing residencies. This panel discussion will focus on using creative writing with youth as a liberatory, and even transgressive, educational method. The panel of three current WritersCorps teaching artists – Sandra Garcia Rivera, Harold Terezón, and Annie Rovzar – will be moderated by WritersCorps training coordinator Minna Dubin. Panelists will discuss techniques they use in their workshops, including how they teach information through interactive, non-traditional practices, ways they honor varying experiences in a group, and how they hold and acknowledge intense emotions in the classroom. We will have some great resources and free merchandise to give away.
KANSAS BROWN: Staged Reading
Check the program page for the exact time and room location.
One of our favorite authors, Terry Bisson returns to the Howard Zinn Book Fair with a staged reading of his screenplay, KANSAS BROWN, the story of John Brown’s pre-Harper’s Ferry campaigns in Kansas. Narrated and directed by the legendary Peter Coyote, KANSAS BROWN dramatizes the battles of Osawatomie and Black Jack, plus the massacre in the Swamp of the Swan. Historically accurate picture of the great abolitionist inspiring and leading the free-state forces and preventing Kansas from entering the Union as a slave state. Precursor to the Civil War (1855).
Peter Coyote is an Emmy-Award winning narrator of over 120 documentary films, including Ken Burns, National Parks, Prohibition, The West, the Dust Bowl and this year’s acclaimed The Roosevelts. Mr. Coyote has written a memoir of the 1960’s counter-culture called SLEEPING WHERE I FALL which received universally excellent reviews, appeared on three best-seller lists, sold five printings in hardback was re-released with a new cover and afterword in May, 2009. A chapter from that book, “Carla’s Story”, won the 1993/94 Pushcart Prize for Excellence in non-fiction. His new book is THE RAINMAN’S THIRD CURE: AN IRREGULAR EDUCATION.
Terry Bisson published his first novel in 1981, and has been a working science fiction writer ever since. His classic novel Fire On The Mountain, imagined a world where John Brown and Harriet Tubman has sparked a successful revolution. Politically he was part of the New Left, associated with the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee.