Although I wrote the majority of autobiography of a semiromantic anarchist in January of 2019, I spent the previous 37 years of my life writing those poems. The concept of political imagination began developing when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. After the Gulf War, I used a globe to locate countries I heard about on the news: Iraq, Egypt, Iran, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, and Syria. In 1991, the Los Angeles Police Department brutally beat Rodney King while an entire country watched. During my final year of high school (1998-1999), there were four major events that haunt me to this day: the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle (also known as the Battle in Seattle), the Columbine shooting in Colorado, the beating death of Matthew Shephard in Laramie, Wyoming, and the lynching of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas. Then 9/11 in 2001 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. These were my first experiences of violence sanctioned and protected by the state and its interests, both globally and domestically, by the empire of the United States, against marginalized people, but especially targeting Black and Indigenous communities.
But I also witnessed resistance and struggle. In 1992 came the LA uprisings, after the acquittal of the LAPD officers involved in King’s beating. They were precedents for what eventually happened in Ferguson, Baltimore, and Minneapolis. And struggle was happening internationally. In 1994, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) issued a declaration against the Mexican government, against the rise of neoliberalism, and against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). My first memory of a march was the anti-war protests in 2003, against the impending war in Iraq. More recently, in 2016, were struggles against the Dakota Access Pipeline located on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. And now, Black Lives Matter protests are taking place in every state of the US, from Vidor to Atlanta to New York to Minneapolis to Seattle to Los Angeles.
These are just a few of the historical events that influenced my work, alongside poets, writers, scholars, abolitionists, anarchists, and philosophers. A year and a half after the publication of my chapbook, we find ourselves amidst a global pandemic, a struggle for Black liberation, one against the repressive and violent brutality of the militarized police of the United States, and global fascism. Dr. Angela Davis has called for Black Radical Unity that centers Black Radical Tradition, and we should do well to follow that practice, working towards abolition of the police state and the prison industrial complex.
Anarchist Peter Kropotkin wrote in a 1902 essay, Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution, that “besides the law of mutual struggle there is in nature the law of mutual aid, which, for the success of the struggle for life, and especially for the progressive evolution of the species, is far more important than the law of mutual contest.” True to my anarchist roots, a path that came from workers’ rights and Black liberation, that is anti-imperialist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist, anti-colonialism, and in solidarity with global struggles, and in honor of Juneteenth and Martha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Stormé DeLarverie, all donations and proceeds for my chapbook will be offered to Black Trans organizations, who are doing the groundwork and envisioning a safe and secure future for our most vulnerable populations.
I want to thank all the people who have taught me, whom I have learned from, and my Host Publications family for honoring an anarchist principle in making my chapbook free and digitally available to those who wish to read it. I have grown considerably since I wrote that book in 2019 and continue to work towards more learning and reflection.
If we do not find each other in the streets, may we find each other in the future.
Free the people and free the land.
mónica teresa ortiz
Donate to Black Trans Travel Fund here.
The Black Trans Travel Fund is a mutual-aid based organization committed to uplifting the narratives and supporting the livelihoods of Black trans women. Launched in June of 2019, BTTF was developed for the purpose of providing Black transgender women with the financial resources needed to be able to self-determine and access safer alternatives to travel, where women feel less likely to experience verbal harassment or physical harm. We are proud to have already redistributed over $60,000 to Black trans women in need!
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The Marsha P. Johnson Institute (MPJI) protects and defends the human rights of BLACK transgender people. We do this by organizing, advocating, creating an intentional community to heal, developing transformative leadership, and promoting our collective power.
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