Saturday, July 28, 2018

Upcoming: Tommy Jordan
Ice Cream
Self-released, 2018

I scream, you scream, we all scream because of ICE.  Well anyone that recalls having a heart does, and Tommy Jordan’s debut album Ice Cream seeks to remind us of childhood’s innocent sensations, even if it is often by acknowledging that our adult lives are an activated charcoal black soft serve merely dotted with neon hundreds and thousands.  Originating in the appropriately frigid extreme Northern Tier of Bellingham in Washington State, Jordan scoops out contemplative hip hop that sits somewhere between sleepy half-confidence and woke self-awareness.  The living ghost of Ghostpoet appears amidst the pianos of Dear God, while the appealingly awkward instrumentals of early Gorillaz creep out of the cold on Rosie.  Between the fuzzy drums and chimes of Oliver Queen, the boxy, chippy electro of Ride On and the muted nighttime beats on the title track, Tommy Jordan understands that he doesn’t fully understand the role of the fortunate white man in building a world fit for everyone, acting in a scene built and sustained mostly by others that he nonetheless feels a profound connection to.  But he’s going to try and figure it out.  Injected with a healthy understanding of the unhealthy working grind and some killer soaring female guest spots, Ice Cream is 35 minutes of supposedly empty calories that leave you feeling strangely full.

Ice Cream will be available on Bandcamp and Soundcloud on August 13th.  Preview tracks can be heard here.

Thursday, July 26, 2018


“ICE’s criminal power does not make us powerless criminals”
-- Banner dropped on Department of Homeland Security wall

An Occupy ICE camp set up shop last Thursday outside Tampa’s Department of Homeland Security office (Immigration and Customs Enforcement is a component of DHS).  It joins the growing list of Occupy ICE campaigns looking to abolish the agency in Oregon, New York, California, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan and Washington State.  The camp currently comprises around 15 tents stretching the full length of the front of the DHS building.  A memorial to victims of immigration enforcement violence of candles and flowers surrounds a tree, and many an icey pun seeks to cool participants down.  An impressively organised welcome centre is stocked with food, books and supplies, and the camp is by now well prepped for the Afghanistan-like conditions of wildly fluctuating Florida weather.  Maybe here we could also get a reputation for killing empires.

2017 saw a 76% spike in ICE arrests in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands over the previous year, the highest percentage increase in the country, up to a total of 6,192.  During the first Obama term, the same region experienced over 10,000 arrests every year and over 15,000 during two of the years.  Trump may be ramping things back up, but it was a man in a blue tie who laid the recent groundwork.  Over 2.5 million people were kicked out of the U.S. during Obama’s time in office, more than the total number for the entire 20th century.  Earlier this year a coalition of activist and civil rights groups issued a travel warning for immigrants and people of colour thinking of going to Florida, recommending particular caution at Greyhound bus stations and airports.  The state is also notably dangerous because Customs and Border Protection (ICE’s sister agency) operates checkpoints and stings within 100 miles of borders and coasts -- something Florida has quite a lot of.

Locally, Hillsborough County -- along with every county that surrounds it and 13 others in the state -- have made agreements with ICE to hang on to immigrants in local jails even if they are not charged with a crime.  This gives ICE time to come snatch the person up, and pay the sheriff’s office for their trouble.  Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri helped ICE to draw up the plans in a way that wouldn’t get them sued for civil rights violations.  If he did a good enough job the program is intended to be rolled out nationwide. When they announced all this in January, the sheriffs probably didn’t expect such a collaboration to be the political flashpoint that it has now become.

The Tampa camp intends to stay open until ICE agents -- currently earning an average of $61,600 a year -- are out on their arses.  If it seems unreasonable to demand the closure of a government department, consider that ICE has only existed since March 2003; life, and many deportations, went on before it.  Getting rid of them would at least slow down a machine that is acting with increasing impunity and at this point even going after green card holders.  There are also multiple other agencies making freedom of movement difficult in this corner of planet Earth.  Upon realising that the agency isn’t yet even old enough to drive (other than buses into Mexico), it’s worth extending the thought process when considering the legitimacy of the relatively new phenomenon of mass control on immigration and borders in general.

As of earlier this week, trouble and tension at the encampment seems minimal, although police have been using low-level intimidation tactics such as making late evening visits for no particular reason.  Local officials are likely considering the current political landscape in light of the Trump administration’s controversial “zero tolerance” policy at the border, not to mention the agreements sheriffs have already made with ICE.  The camp is technically on a strip of grass just beyond the DHS perimeter, lowering excuses for eviction, but it is clearly “occupying” a place in the public eye that the state would rather do without.  Employees in the building work from 7 - 3 during the week, so on select days the campers are using early morning “soft block” tactics on the driveway -- this involves continuously walking across it rather than stopping, so as to allow migrants through to their appointments. 

The protesters are always looking for others to relieve them as people come and go according to their abilities.  The more people present and staying overnight, the less likely the camp is to be broken up.  Non-perishable food, offers of transport and conversations beyond a car horn honk are also welcome. The building and camp are located at 5524 W Cypress Street near the airport. A Facebook group is here.

* * *


Here’s a postscript that shows the self-important mindset of some of the most powerful gatekeepers of our border system.  While at Tampa International Airport to catch a bus home from the camp, yer Radical Beat reporter was hit with a years trespassing warning for the crime of quickly and discreetly drying his feet in a quiet corner.  The situation could have easily snowballed into something more serious.  TIA is publicly owned by the county.  Tourists must be made to feel welcome (even as immigrants and local pedestrians are not) and god forbid that they see potential signs of poverty or bad weather here in magical funtime sunshine land.

We learned last year that masses converging on airports are politically feasible.  They deserve attention for their role in the deportation and border systems -- Miami International, for example, is one of the hubs used by Ice Air Operations.  This is to say nothing of the aviation industry's crimes on the climate and noise pollution.  Fuck the border, even if it’s located around an airport.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign
Thursday, May 31st - Thursday, June 13th 2018
Kensington, PA - Washington, D.C.

Diary, Part 4

June 9th

I can only imagine the amount of fantastic band names that have come and gone over the decades here in the heart of the empire. D.C./Baltimore quartet Capital Offender for example, who fit the fun colourful aesthetic of the surroundings right now with punk flavoured rock and roll. One song that I think is called We’re Gonna Fight is almost a 7 Seconds cover (latter day note: I might be talking out of my arse here, but what the hell). The good time death-themed flirtations continue with a second Virginia visitor, Torino Death Ride. Vocalist Richard is delivering his classically smirking post-hardcore vocals into a corded telephone. I like it, as it provides a good old muffle. After all the logistical mobile faffing this morning, going back and forth between here setting up this stage and our previous base in Baltimore, I’d be happy to carry such a forgivingly limited device around.

I didn’t come all this way to just listen to the excellent regional sounds though. Musician-activist Infinite Skillz is here with St. Pete posi hip hop (see also Shadcore, who recently released a new album). Skillz plays some of his strong numbers such as Black Burbon and Everything, but makes the decision to cut off the beat to one of my favourite songs by him (the high-fluting Headband Game). Our movement-supportive soundman Jimmy is also messing with his beats in a semi-amusing fashion. The crowd is not moving much but it sounds great to me. What I get is an impression of restlessness caused primarily by the winding down of Pride rather than apathy towards the artist himself.

Infinite Skillz would be the last scheduled performer of the evening. Unbeknownst to those involved however, the night would be far from over for some. Twerk stage invasions, vicious showers of both rain and cornmeal snacks, a completely trashed Dupont Circle following a consumerism-focused Pride, and a nightlong equipment guarding vigil (our original plan to occupy the park was delayed until the following day due to the size of the parade crowd), made for a wild end to yet another emotional day of the campaign. At least we’ve made it, in a manner of speaking. To “kind of” make it is the best most of us can expect to achieve.

* * *
June 10th

For the second time during this trip I find a spider living in my hair while taking a shower. And for the second time, I spare its life. Empathy is a muscle that you must exercise, and these past ten days have been a boot camp in it.

Easing us further into an organic and tender day is Philadelphia’s Eddie Somerset. Eddie has more than earned his spot on this stage, having marched and done security with the Poor People's Campaign for the last 4 or 5 days. Now he’s letting loose from those necessary rigidities with a Barry White instrumental-inspired cover of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, a fantastic combination track that I had been enjoying on the march route without knowing it was from one of our own. His delivery is somewhat spoken word anyway, as found on other numbers from his Surviving The Struggle album. Somerset is followed by spoken-word stalwarts Leroy Moore and Tiny of Poor News Network, delivering representations of the Krip-Hop Nation (musicians and artists with disabilities) and the Poor People's Pun Party, soon to be celebrated in full in the ashes of crapitalism and gentriFUKation.

The Dischord family still cast a heavy shadow over this city, excitingly for a fanboy like me. The church helping us out while we’re here, St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal, employs the services of Ian Mackaye’s dad Bill, and to this day still puts on punk gigs. I spent some time over at legit 80s-born D.C. hardcore store Smash Records (no affiliation with The Offspring), picking out the latest release from Red Hare, and I keep hearing excited murmurs from my punk associate Shea that members of The Teen Idles and Fugazi are all over the place, including in our next performers The Delarcos. Their bassist Nathan was in fact in Teen Idles and is one of the founders of Dischord.  And The Delarcos, it turns out, are very easy to mix up with their friends in Rise Defy,
 who were supposed to originally play today but pulled out, and whose bassist Klaus appears to have been a member of Dead Kennedys at some point.  Not that that is relevant, but this is a seamless correction of a case of mistaken identity, and you will never know there was an incision.  While The Delarcos boom out a cover of Jericho by The Clash, a bunch of us are frantically bringing in food, furniture and possessions from our illegally parked truck to occupy the park. Punk as fuck.

My most anticipated act of the weekend is the militant hip hop duo Rebel Diaz. They’re the kind of artists who delight whether they’re preaching the good fight or preaching the good rhymes. You’d never know they were a duo today, as they share half their set with friends, such as Ferguson organizer Tef Poe, King Capo on the likes of La Patrulla (The Patrol), and a singer who I think was from Jacksonville named Chi (sorry, journalist of the year here) who made use of a beautiful Miles Davis sample. The ensemble’s raw talent clearly connects with the more modest crowd that has gathered today. Viva Fidel becomes Viva Puerto Rico along with a declaration that the underarching hurricane is that of America itself. Rebel Diaz appear to have two upcoming releases: Multiply with Tef Poe, and América vs Amerikkka featuring lead song Y Va Caer, that I initially heard on Democracy Now! even if for some reason none of our two week protest was to be found there.

Karma comes quickly for Rebel Diaz when Yet More D.C. Hardcore act Never Submit invite them back onstage for a multi-ethnic, multi-genre crossover of defiance. I love seeing the political punk/rap convergence continue to spread, those founding documents of the Radical Beat. “Blank checks for bankers!” wails vocalist Scott. Babies With Rabies and The Screws continue the thrashing about soundtrack into the early evening, accompanied by the sound of incredibly makeshift structures being haphazardly hammered into place throughout Dupont Circle. The things that activists like to do to relax before a big action are really weird…

* * * 
June 11th

We sweep the plentiful night rain out of our temporary village and head off to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Earlier this year the department announced proposed changes to subsidised housing rules, now waiting to be approved by Congress, that quietly kick the American poor in the face once again.

The Make Affordable Housing Work Act (named because presumably, kicking poor people in the face is complementary to Making America Great Again) includes some of the following ideas: increasing rent from 30% of a recipients post-deduction income to 35% of their total gross income; increasing mandatory rent minimums from $50 to $152; changing the definition of “elderly” from 62 to 65; allowing the implementation of work requirements; and removing a households elderly or disabled status if there is someone in the house who is neither, even if that person is a full-time student.

These proposals will affect the vast majority of the 5 million households that receive federal housing assistance. 89% of these households include seniors, children or people with disabilities. It’s already difficult to get this assistance due to a lack of funding, with an average wait time for Section 8 housing vouchers of 2 years. As usual, the reason for these belt-tightening facekicks -- as described by HUD Secretary and useful idiot Ben Carson -- is to give an “incentive” to poor people to get off their arses and earn more money. Because we unwashed masses hadn’t thought of that option before.

About 30 PPEHRC participants arrived at HUD to demand a meeting with Carson to point out that these measures are going to make more people homeless, miserable and sick, and to suggest that the department stop spending $31,000 a pop on dining room furniture for Ben’s office. A standoff began at the security checkpoint, and within a short time agents from the Department of Homeland Security arrived -- which is a reasonable response to residents wishing to speak to the government representative that is supposed to work for them.

Most of the crowd was eventually herded outside reluctantly, with PPEHRC National Coordinator Cheri Honkala sitting down and refusing to move. It took the guards an immense amount of time to figure out how to lock the door to their own workplace, suggesting that the concept of open government is more present in the bricks of the building than its inhabitants. Eventually, after a slew of false compromises, Honkala was hauled off to the cop shop for the all too familiar crime of existing in an inconvenient place.

At the exact time that this was happening (completely coincidentally, of course), the tent city in Dupont Circle was being visited by other fuzz, including a park ranger. We had a permit for the vigil that they demanded to see in physical form along with its holder (who was at the HUD action). They ordered us to remove the ground pegs from our tents, as that would ensure they remained symbolic rather than an encampment (which is illegal), and to comply with other basically innocuous things of little consequence. Despite being such good law-abiders, we were evicted from the park 10 hours later for not meeting the requirements of our permit. From beginning to end, the cops throughout this campaign made sure that all of our previous conceptions of them remained fully intact. At least we had Ian Mackaye's dad to help us out for the last night of bands.

Honkala was thankfully released that evening, but has as of this writing been charged with unlawful entry and a stay away order for HUD, with a D.C. Superior Court date set for August 7th at 9:30am. If you’re in the area, consider going to show your support.

* * * 

This Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign began in 1998, and has done bus tours, extensive marches and summits in most of the years since. But if you didn’t know any better (like me until recently), you’d think the modern “Poor People's Campaign” began about 9 months ago in the run up to the 50th anniversary of the campaign that Martin Luther King was organising in 1968 when he got mysteriously assassinated. In late May, a line was added to the older groups’ Wikipedia page that could have led an observer to believe it had been incorporated into the new organisation (though it was not stated outright, and seems unlikely to have been malicious). Grumbles abound in our camp that the new campaign is being funded by deep cooptation-oriented pockets rather than the poor themselves, and that the civil disobedience that resulted in over 2,500 arrests during its recent month of action was pre-orchestrated with law enforcement. I’ve not been able to find details of these charges though, even in the independent media.

It's hard to look at some of the coverage of the other campaign - which culminated in a huge rally on Saturday, June 23rd - and not feel small in several senses. The rhetoric of being grassroots, self-funded, legit, feels righteous, but the slickness of a big mainstream campaign hits different kinds of legitimacy buttons. Maybe we should just throw the towel in, do what the Wikipedia incident implied, and merge into their group, get shinier placards. It’s hard enough to fight capitalism without fighting alleged astroturf campaigns as well. It seems fair to say that neither approach has all the answers. We’re often good on the left at eating our own, looking for traitors while the right searches for recruits. It’s hard to know where to draw the lines. We’ll see which wing has staying power in the years to come. The intimate relationships that this group provides seems to have been priceless for many involved. And there will always be a place in social movements for that. In fact, you might say it’s fundamentally the main goal.

* * * 

The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign is currently running an effort to raise post-march and pre-other-action funds. Anti-capitalists having to raise money: it might still be a juicy quip for the pinstripe crowd, but to us it’s a great indicator of the rock-up-a-hill backwards priorities of this sort of economy. You don’t see the people fucking the world up having to hold bake sales!

Anyway, in the spirit of empowering art, community, good times, symbolic support and physical support, we have the Keepin’ It 100 Concert Series. It’s a cool idea that will allow anyone involved in local music scenes across the country to support the PPEHRC. You take an upcoming event (or create a new one) and affiliate it with the campaign. You pledge to donate at least $100 from the event, 99 other musicians/promoters do the same, and the movement stays 100% grassroots. It’s advertised for July, but I’m sure they wouldn’t mind any later contributions.

* * * 
Part 1 of this series is here.
Part 2 is here.
Part 3 is here.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign
Thursday, May 31st - Thursday, June 13th 2018
Kensington, PA - Washington, D.C.

Diary, Part 3

June 7th

I wake up on the floor of another church gym coughing up some blood. Woke up in the night to some of the various horrific noises of the human body. More sore. More unable to open my eyes. Bollocks to poverty.

Although we aren’t walking the full 140 miles between our two goalposts, this daily trek is a physically demanding task for anybody. It’s a tragic irony that people who do physically demanding work are often de-incentivised from doing exercise on their own terms. “I spend all week pushing pallet jacks around, why would I need or want to work out?” That’s if they have the time outside of work to even consider the option. While employment can provide some helpful physical activity, it’s more often than not doing more damage to the individual than good, as their body is just a tool in someone else's financial portfolio. When you choose to do something for your own flesh and blood -- for the one thing in the world that you should, beyond all else, be able to call your own -- you can tailor the routine to what you need, not what your employer or landlord needs. It also doesn’t have to be the money pit that it is generally depicted to be. I like to run, partially because I can do it looking like a total slob. And I do. I can smell the roses and slump down on the couch after with a mild sense of satisfaction. I’m no health expert, but if working out helps me to get through my working day a little easier, I consider it a partial, individual and immediately deployable tactic worth pursuing.

* * * 

As alluded to in an earlier entry, among the many fashionable hats that our longboarder friend Curtis wears is that of official Naked Lunch absurdist narrator. These moments always have the potential to be both gut-crushingly hilarious and silence-shatteringly irritating. Frankly, the potential for him to decide he’s going to have an actual naked lunch never seems to be that far off. At least he is extremely attractive.

Emotions are something that are naked here often, both the euphoric and crushing. Hugs, tears of joy, apologies, mutual feelings of appreciation from those not often listened to. Painful family drama, intoxication, arguments and short tempers and raised voices out the arse. While putting forth efforts to avoid feeding negative stereotypes of the working class, we don't pretend to be beyond human. We demand human rights because we're human. These flaws prove it. These attributes belong to people of all social standings. All that is different is the details, such as tax bracket of drug choice and the square footage and privacy of the theatre.

On this voyage I’ve seen humans that are homeless, disabled, with addictions, and otherwise scuppered by society, being security stewards to keep us all safe from traffic, leading the march line, driving support vehicles, arranging and granting entertainment, picking up street rubbish, raising donations, forgoing sleep to guard equipment, risking eviction, providing childcare for one another, and every other thing that is necessary for a large group of people to survive on the go. That’s how you build community, where everything we desire begins.

* * * 
June 8th

I’ve been resisting subscribing to it to minimise goal-derailing drama, but there is a definite split in the group. I wanted to chalk it up to some activist ego and emotional parenting, however it is now undeniable that things have taken a bad turn. There seems to be an effort to ignore the fact that we left a vulnerable individual behind, to the point where no push is being made to share information about what happened despite requests. It is the opposite of the urgency that the situation should arouse. Almost needless to say, this sort of behaviour is exhibited by the economic system we’re struggling against. Bittersweetly, at least we are talking about someone that’s used to fending for themselves. We hope for Ezra’s safe return to St. Pete, or wherever he chooses to go.

* * * 

It’s certainly been no mistake by the route planners that we’ve seen a wide variety of neighbourhoods on this march. We’re not the ones that need convincing about the damage of an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor (currently at its highest level since the 1920s, by some measurements). But it is a thing made more sobering when you see it as bricks and mortar and not facts and figures. The few miles heading into Baltimore sum things up perfectly. Million dollar houses with no visible signs of life other than the labourers doing the upkeep on them suddenly give way to a city where one of our participants’ wheelchairs gets stuck in wet tarmac because it wasn’t marked.

* * * 
June 9th

History will have to judge whether having our opening fest day on the same day as the D.C. Pride carnival was a misstep or genius. It’s definitely fun though! Thousands of people, issues intersecting, it’s nice to feel a semblance of solidarity after such a long week. The participants are supportive and enjoying our sound system but largely occupied (hah) here in the park. Even for Florida transplants, it is incredibly hot. The empty fountain in the middle of Dupont Circle laughs at us. Climate change is simultaneously a Chinese hoax and an anti-gay punishment from God. Don’t forget.

Conveniently sounding like The Queers with hints of the early hardcore of Bad Religion, the first of many consistently good bands today is Virginia’s No Dead Monsters. It’s hard to say how much of the crowd this applies to but those at the stage seem happy with the less typical Pride fare on offer. It’s not all about new wave and Europop. So it continues with locals XK Scenario, who describe themselves as a prog-hop act, coming with all the funky bass and foreboding heaviness of Rage Against The Machine and some H.R. from Bad Brains vocals. They get such a cool description because I’m also choosing to believe that they’re named after the website

Speaking of Bad Brains, D.C’s own I Against Eye (they’re bringing the mantle back home since that Dutch band that was on Epitaph for a number of years broke up). A storm eye threatens to appear as singer Rael The Legend yells “Kick out the jams motherfuckers!” The Chinese must realise that they can’t compete with the power of an LGBT crowd moshing through bubble machines to the sound of grind metal, and the storm never materialises. “D.C. hardcore forever!!” The band hands the mic over to the participants, and a homeless man that we recruited to help us hand out flyers the previous evening is now letting you know what the fuck is up amidst the furious bedlam. I defy your band to have a more punk set than this.

The grassroots shakeup of Rainbow Capitalism rolls on like so many corporate floats, with more local hardcore in the shape of Ruin By Design (there’s a reason this place is Mecca for fans of this music). In between Circle Jerks stylings (fnarr) the band are bigging up PPEHRC, and the local Food Not Bombs group that has just arrived with free food for whoever wants it. I like to imagine that they were playing their track Decoys on Parade just as a giant float from our Black Mirror overlords at Facebook goes by. Amusingly, Ruin By Design are followed by speakers from the Socialist Workers Party, and a change of pace in the form of Curtis on the beatboxes of steel.

Why is VisitBritain -- the UK government tourism body -- handing out shit here? Is this part of Theresa May’s increasingly desperate Brexit strategy to keep the economy from being fucked?

* * *
Part 1 of this series is here.
Part 2 is here.