Mourning Peshawar

Signs and candles lie outside Geisel Library on UCSD campus

Signs and candles lie outside Geisel Library on UCSD campus

UCSD students held a vigil Wednesday as people around the world mourn the massacre of children at a school in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Whatever your politics, it should be a common point that the most innocent and defenseless are off-limits in any conflict. When children are reduced to a statement of brutal conviction, all justice and humanity is destroyed.

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Limousine glass

All I would like
is a chance to voice my dreams
without my words being muffled
by limousine window glass

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Eternal autumn

Earth,
wrapped in eternal autumn
decays, all that grows, all
that is built, is on the road
to oblivion
falling to the soil
nourishing the seeds of
futures yet unbuilt
for what is autumn
but a distant relative to
spring.

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On which we trace hearts

At the appointed time
thunder stands tight in formation
marching forth
to intrigue those indoors
and terrify those left scurrying
in rain-splattered streets

what separates
our fear and love of nature
is a pane of foggy glass
on which we trace hearts
and the initials certain others
before they fade, and
blue skies return

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Black Lives Matter: San Diego in solidarity

Protestors stage a die-in in Balboa Park, San Diego. December 13, 2014. Photo by Andrew Mackay

Protestors stage a die-in in Balboa Park, San Diego.
December 13, 2014.
Photo by Andrew Mackay

Saturday afternoon brought a couple hundred activists together in San Diego, in solidarity with the much larger Millions March NYC, which had in 50-60,000 protestors in Manhattan. What has been happening is a crescendoing grassroots movement against police violence and racial injustice. The killing of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and many others have stuck together and strengthened a social movement. It is encouraging to see people connecting these incidents into a broader realization: that the justice system in this country isn’t giving justice to communities of color.

The march was long, probably too long for those that aren’t cut out for extended walking. Turnout was good, larger than a similar event last week in a different part of downtown. I came in solidarity and part of Socialist Alternative- we ended up having eight members involved, which is a great showing given the newness and size of the San Diego operation. We provided water and distributed information about our public meeting in Ocean Beach on the 19th. It was exciting to see Stephane, a member who is also an immigrant from Belize and a Marine vet, asked to speak at the rally.

Stephane speaks to the rally in Balboa Park. December 13, 2014. Taken by Andrew Mackay

Stephane speaks to the rally in Balboa Park.
December 13, 2014.
Taken by Andrew Mackay

What was less exciting was a woman interrupting his speech repeatedly, which caused him to lose his place and ultimately not give the end of his planned remarks. That a black man speaking to a rally that says Black Lives Matter would get heckled, it was unbelievably rude and insulting. It was heartening to see many people, including other speakers, come to him later in the march and talk, and to sympathize. Staying united is vital, and it was good to see cross-group support.

Several die-ins occurred, including in front of a highway ramp (the Patrol were out in legion to make sure the march did not attempt to block the freeway) and on the trolley tracks in downtown. Community support was strong- most were at least curious if not interested or supportive. It shows the value of street protest- sometimes issues have to be brought in person to the population at large.

The most powerful image for me was this picture below. I missed it initially, and only saw it later when going over these pictures. In this mass die-in at an intersection that led to I-5, two men, one white and one black, hold hands high in unity. That is solidarity- standing together, and seeing the power that each of us can give to the movement- if we rise above ego and self-interest. This is a fight for black Americans to assert their rights and strength. Let them lead the way.

A die-in before an on-ramp to I-5. December 13, 2014. Photo by Andrew Mackay

A die-in before an on-ramp to I-5.
December 13, 2014.
Photo by Andrew Mackay

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Upon windshields

Raindrops fall like seed
from an upturned sack
to smash upon windshields
of a thousand travelers
awaiting with earnest hope
a dry, welcoming home

in tomorrow’s breaking dawn
only weeds, briefly revived,
alongside still puddles will stand
in testament to the storm

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313: Black Lives Matter and the UC system

Thursday evening had a vigil and open mic on UC San Diego campus, hosted by the Black Student Union. Moving beyond the individual cases of Eric Garner and Mike Brown, it looked at extrajudicial violence against black Americans as a whole.

Candlelit vigil for black victims of police violence, UCSD campus.  December 11, 2014.

Candlelit vigil for black victims of police violence, UCSD campus.
December 11, 2014.

313 is an estimate of how many black individuals were killed by police, security, or vigilantes in 2012. In truth, we have no idea how many blacks are killed each year who were unarmed and/or not a threat. One speaker said that her cousin died in police custody- though the official cause of death was brain aneurysm, he may have been bashed in the head with a police baton.

The open mic was beautiful, heartbreaking. Many members of the Union spoke, as well as allies (including some from the medical student action the day before) of Latino background, standing in solidarity.

A running theme is that the black community nationwide has the same struggle as black students at UCSD. Less than two percent of students on campus are black, by far the lowest of any UC campus. This stems in part from the feeling that the community does not welcome that sort of diversity, and also the feeling that the admissions office is biased against admitting black applicants.

In closing, a list of individuals (many far younger than I) were read out, killed by police in the past two years. Members of the Union broke down in sobs, clutching once another. It struck me how utterly alone they must be on campus. You could fit the entire black freshman cohort in one mid-sized conference room. They face the indifference of students who do not relate to their struggle and may have anti-black prejudice themselves. The Union is crucial because it’s what keeps the shared identity intact, despite forces that wish to tear them apart.

Racism knows no bounds- it affects university students as much as low-level drug dealers or single mothers. No matter how accomplished or agreeable someone is, they can still be stopped, searched, intimidated, and harmed by police who only see skin color.

UCSD is a microcosm- the lack of outrage on campus reflects a lack of outrage in larger society. Seeing medical students take action mattered because a normally uninterested group showed up and acknowledged their place in stopping police violence. Seeing allies show up at the vigil is the same. There is no way to stop the pain from these mass injustices than to eliminate them. Ignorance and denial are no solution, merely a way to disrespect the dead and minimize the mourning.

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