Valentine’s Day Action

Update 28/2 8pm: Ah, some context might be useful since you can’t read the description on YouTube from over here!  Heh, my bad.


Valentine’s Day sometimes brings chocolates and sometimes flowers. But Valentine’s Day in Oakland, California, brought angry women out to the Mi Pueblo supermarket in the heart of the barrio. There they tried to speak to the chain’s owner, Juvenal Chavez, not about love, but about the sexual harassment of women who work there.

Mi Pueblo worker Laura Robledo’s story, in her own words:

Hello, my name is Laura Robledo. I am a single mother of three children. Last October I started working for Mi Pueblo Foods at the McLaughlin Avenue Store, in San Jose. Recently I was suspended and later-on fired for alleged misbehavior.
During the first few weeks of employment, a co-worker began to sexually harass me on a constant basis.

The company allegedly conducted an investigation on this matter finding no apparent cause for disciplinary action against the alleged harasser. It seems that the individual that harassed me still works at Mi Pueblo. This makes me feel humiliated.

I believe management fired me because I decided not to remain silent. There could be more women that have been sexually harassed but are too afraid to speak up.

Last December I attempted to hand deliver a letter to Juvenal Chavez, the owner of Mi Pueblo Foods. But I was stopped by several male security guards at the entrance of Mi Pueblo headquarters in San Jose. In this letter I challenge Mr. Chavez to talk to me in person so I can tell him what it really means for female employees to work at Mi Pueblo Foods.

On Valentine’s Day, 2013, supported by members of local group Dignity & Resistance; workers organizing in Walmart retail stores; and union members and staff of UFCW, Laura again tried to deliver her letter, and again security guards blocked the way. Undeterred, workers and community members will continue finding ways to fight not only sexual harassment in Mi Pueblo Foods, but also discrimination against African-Americans, e-verify attacks on undocumented workers, and attacks on workers who wish to form a union at Mi Pueblo.


If I could instantly acquire two new digital skills, they would be:

Knowing How To Code

Knowing How To Make Good Videos.

As it stands, I know zero about the former, and above is my latest attempt at generating media from an action around the Mi Pueblo Grocery fight, an ongoing campaign that I’ve been working on for some months here in Oakland.

Learning, slowly learning.

The action was nice, if a little gender-simplistic.  (Queers and gender-nonconforming folks, if they can get work at all, also face hella sexual harassment on the job; it’s not just women.)

Still, the fierce women trabajadoras in the video inspire me.

Moving, patiently and persistently.  Patiently and persistently.

Miso Soup


Tonight a friend who lives nearby, and who I haven’t seen in a while, came over to spend time because there’s been some violence in their house and they are feeling unsafe there. After we talked and drank tea and worked quietly at our computers, they left and I made myself an easy dinner: miso soup with sweet potato, spinach, and red onion. It reminded me of this poem, shared with me a few years ago.

Ame ni mo Makezu
by Kenji Miyazawa

not losing to the rain
not losing to the wind
not losing to the snow nor to summer’s heat
with a strong body
unfettered by desire
never losing temper
always quietly smiling
every day four bowls of brown rice
miso and some vegetables to eat
in everything
count yourself last and put others before you
watching and listening, and understanding
and never forgetting
in the shade of the woods of the pines of the fields
being in a little thatched hut
if there is a sick child to the east
going and nursing over them
if there is a tired mother to the west
going and shouldering her sheaf of rice
if there is someone near death to the south
going and saying there’s no need to be afraid
if there is a quarrel or a lawsuit to the north
telling them to leave off with such waste
when there’s drought, shedding tears of sympathy
when the summer’s cold, wandering upset
called a nobody by everyone
without being praised
without being blamed
such a person
I want to become

It sounds appealing, in a way, to melt into the “woods of the pines of the fields,” to become free from suffering by squarely facing pain, by knowing pain intimately, every day. To be “called a nobody by everyone;” to barely exist; to exist as friendly landscape, as natural shelter.

But is there a place here for community of emancipation?

Problems in this poem are either small enough to impact as an individual (through personal sacrifice, like The Giving Tree), or so huge (pre-industrial weather, no thought of a ‘climate change’ to reverse) that there is nothing to be done. What about the problems in the middle? Small enough that human action can have some impact, but big enough that it takes many many many humans, properly coordinated, to do it?

Isn’t that another way of feeling like a “nobody?” Seeing patterns of harm, knowing they can be stopped, but being unable to do it yourself, or even with your intrepid cohort?

I know the point is an attitude, an orientation toward the inevitable harshness of life. We feel, we cry, we try our best. We allow ourselves to be permeated by what exists, because this, as much as the ability to control or affect our environment, is part of our highest potential.

But I don’t know. I like to be effective. Don’t you?

A Love Song For Valentine’s Day After A Long Flight

Sometimes when you get home after a day of airplane travel, haggard and tired, you’re still buoyed up by a song.

“Blame It On My Youth” I learned just yesterday, thanks to my friend and award-winning jazz musician Kavita Shah, who just released her debut album featuring Lionel Loueke (one of my favorites!), and whose version of this tune (she arranged it herself) is just gorgeous.

Check out more of Kavita’s amazing work, and give a love song to yourself today, some kinda way!

Bro-ciological Study


Bro-Dependency is a new Comedy Central miniseries of shorts about two dumb bros, and it’s brilliant. I, a reluctant TV watcher (so addicting! nothing else in my life gets done), have so far replayed the first video, “Tacos,” three times. For me, the show could intellectually, culturally, and humorously rival Awkward Black Girl. From the casual racism and misogyny lying around like dirty gym socks (a mess both subtle and potent), to the obnoxious yet painfully fragile hetero-masculinity of its two heroes dudes, BD’s pitch-perfect acting, strong writing and sharp editing capture those ineffable qualities of bro-ness immediately recognizable to anyone who’s ever attended a frat party and felt like strangling themselves with a resistance band.


For example. On first look, Anderson’s laugh-cry (which was so effective in “Tacos” that it seems to have become a running joke for the series, with somewhat diminishing returns) might just seem to paint him as hollow and shallow. But I think this is more about nurture than nature: the sociology of bro-ness, beyond individual vacuousness. These guys spend so much time mocking and belittling what’s painful to others (like harassing the young man on the bike, or — personal-experience beef — laughing off feminism and spouting constant rape jokes) that when something deeply painful happens to them, they have ZERO IDEA how to handle it gracefully.

And although the idiocy is clear, it’s not so absurd or totalizing that we can write these people off. We, too, have our own avoidance maneuvers. Whether our veneer consists of sarcasm or spiritual materialism, when we focus overmuch on commanding, controlling, and dominating what’s around us we become kinda clueless in the face of internal crisis.

More thoughts later, maybe, but for now, can’t wait to see where this show goes. Mad potential, yo.



board the train (made it this time, again thanks to dana and victor). the conductor looks at my ticket, burlington to boston with a 3+ hour layover in springfield, mass. he says, “you know, it’s up to you, but you might be better off taking the bus from springfield to boston: it’s just a few blocks from the train station, and leaves every hour. not trying to drive business away, but it sucks to have to wait around so long.”

people can be so KIND.

Why Today Was A Win

1. host-friends took me hiking in snowy wilderness preserve and helped me stay upright despite my hazardous “fake snowboots.” (DKNY, soles like sea glass, years-ago gift from california mom worried about cambridge winters.)

tottering along, i think of ani difranco:

when i look down
i just miss all the good stuff.
when i look up
i trip over things.

but i don’t mind looking down, concentrating on not falling. it’s a walking meditation, a game of balance punctuated by laughter, just as good a time as any.

2. after three days and four nights snowed in with them, host-friends are still not sick of me. he calls me “honey;” she shows me how to use a dip stick. they both teach me about art. their lovely house is full of tales; the soot of courage sticks to the walls. this couple is sharp and bright, with a base of warmth (like host-friend’s diced vidalia onions and cilantro on top of our paprika-and-pepper black bean stew).

this morning host-friend Dana lightly cursed her empty bottle of insulin (type 1 diabetic). brightly, as if on cue, Victor took the refrigerated reserve and warmed it in between his palms. “if it goes into your body cold, it hurts,” Dana tells me.

3. reading well-historicized analysis (a draft, a sapling) of revolutionary organizing methods, thoughtfully written in criticism and kindness. joyful joyful. makes me think hard; makes me grateful for people with whom to think and with whom to Do — people with whom to truly attempt. i read in my host-friends’ library nook, on a great lilypad of a chair.

4. weeks of dry, indoor-heated air have given me lips of eucalyptus bark. host-friend Dana gifted me a stick of raspberry balm from the amazing goodie basket that she keeps stocked in her guest room, but i was already so far gone that the stuff didn’t do much good. today, however, revealed a godsend tube of medicated blistex hidden between couch cushions.

5. brief moment of anonymous public crying, at a cafe. output salt of tears helps to balance input salt of delicious poutine (made vegetarian with butternut squash gravy). anonymous public crying makes me feel old and young at the same time.

Interdependence Days (as black and mixed women care for one another)

Romare Bearden, “The Conversation,” 1979

like when your neighbor texts you because she knows you’ve been gone from the apartment going on two weeks, and is concerned that your car might get a street-sweeping ticket.  touched, you say Thanks so much, I was gonna ask someone to move it for me, but maybe u could, and use it to do laundry or summ?  and she says Sure I. Can   Move it for you, and it would be great if i could do my laundry. Lol time to wash the blankets and pillows. (you can hear her South Carolina laugh.) and you tell her how to get the spare set of car keys from the drawer of your nightstand — Heads-up so you’re not too shocked, there’s a vibrator in there along with a floral-patterned hammer and other important tools, lol.

Lol, cool, she says.  Oh and I hope you’re out of danger of that storm.


you think of Audre Lorde and the histories of black and mixed women caring for each other, the complexities of having access to a car, not having access to a car, to light-skin privilege, to thin-body privilege, to neighborliness, to a neighborhood where neither of you grew up.

you think of Silvia Federici and the work and planning that goes into keeping a household, from watering the plants to washing the pillows to checking on neighbors to planning the porch-evening-six-pack-of-beer thank-you, which you know your neighbor well enough to feel confident that she will enjoy.

Out Of Doors In Vermont

IMG_4363At 2am, after driving 11 hours straight on a cold and thankfully snowless night, I arrived in Vermont to a sharp and loving sign on the door of my friend Dana’s house.  Before going to bed with the front door unlocked, Dana had convinced her partner Victor to turn up the heat so that I “wouldn’t become a Katie popsicle.”   Logistical kindnesses, plus the magic of Dana’s grandmother’s down quilt (go to bed chilly; wake up toasty) … I am indeed a lucky one.

Hard to believe it’s my final semester of grad school at Goddard, in Plainfield, VT.  Some of you might even remember when I started, three years ago.

On campus, between preparing for my portfolio / thesis semester and keeping up with work for Turning Wheel, it’s been heavy on indoor and computer time.  Grateful that the blog pushes me to get outside, even with my cold-wimp self.

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