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On Saturday of the RPI gathering, Bristol ABC will be hosting a workshop focussing how prisons criminalise people on basis of class, ethnicity, gender,sexuality & political affiliation.

Here is the description:

Prisons are tools of social exclusion that remove and silence the criminalised other, often defined as such by gender, ethnicity, economic status or political affiliation. We can see this at work in the UK today, with people of colour being over-represented in the prison system, the growing number of women and young people being given custodial sentences, and the disproportionately long sentences meted out to political activists. This destroys our communities while keeping individuals isolated and vulnerable; communities and individuals are criminalised, excluded and disempowered.


Prisons reinforce the state and capitalism’s oppressive agenda: hierarchical, patriarchal, racist, heterosexist, homophobic, and imperialist.

In our workshop, we will explore the factors that increasingly contribute simultaneously to the criminalisation and victimisation of communities. We will also discuss ways of defending against the criminalisation and overpolicing of our communities to oppose the growing “prison society”.


At the RPI gathering Sam Lamble, who is also involved in the Bent Bars Project will be facilitating an anti-racist space audit.

For some background on the workshop, we asked him some questions about it. Here are the answers.

Why is it important to explore how the types of spaces we use prevent or enable participation & engagement?

People often assume that physical spaces are politically “neutral” — that politics are about what people do in a space or who occupies a spaces, rather than the actual spaces themselves. But the spaces we occupy are never neutral — all spaces have particular histories, structures, and patterns of use, which infuse those spaces with specific social, cultural, and political meanings. The meanings that become attached to particular spaces can reinforce hierarchies, entrench particular ways of doing things or create barriers to access. So its important to consider how social arrangements of space can affect who is welcome, who is excluded and what kinds of political limits exist in that space.

What is an ‘anti-racist space’?

Acknowledging that we live in a racist society means identifying the ways that racism is socially organized. Because space plays a major role in the organization of social, cultural and political relations in our communities, the physical locations that we inhabit can have an enormous impact on the organization and maintenance of racism. Antiracist spaces are those in which people deliberately use, arrange, and create space in ways that disrupt, challenge and dismantle racial hierarchies.

Anti-racist audit sounds a bit clinical?! Isn’t an audit something accountants do?

I think we should reclaim the idea of audits in a more radical way! Audits are really about evaluating where you are at, checking in to see if you are meeting your goals or aims. Sometimes activist communities get so busy moving from one urgent issue to the next, that we don’t stop enough to “‘take stock” of our work, and evaluate whether we are actually following through on our goals. So the the idea of an anti-racist audit is a way of checking on ourselves — how are we doing in terms of anti-racist work? Are we doing anti-racism work effectively? Could we be doing things better? Doing an “anti- racist space audit” is about critically evaluating the spaces we occupy and the spaces we use and asking whether we could be doing more to infuse those spaces with an antiracist politics.

What should people bring along with them to get the most out of this workshop?

It would be great if people could bring photographs of the spaces they regularly use for organizing. Take a photo of the building from the street, from the main entrance, inside various rooms, etc. Photos are not necessary for the workshop, but they will certainly help with the workshop exercises. You might also want to bring some of the logos/graphics or images that you either use in those spaces, or use to represent your group/organization/community.

Finally, any reading/ viewing or listening tips for people coming to the gathering?

For white folks who are attending the workshop, I recommend Paul Kivel’s book “Uprooting Racism”. If you can’t find his book, he has a website with some good resources (though North American focussed): Guidelines for being Strong White Allies: guidelinesforbeingstrongwhiteallies.pdf

Folks might also check out the Challenging White Supremacy Website (this one is also US/North American focussed, but has some great resources)

Also, here is an excerpt from the Anti-Racist Spaces Guide, which I’ll be using in the workshop:

Individual Challenges for White People Confronting Racism

Confronting racism can be a challenging process. Individuals may find that anti-racism initiatives invoke intense emotions. Fear, guilt, shame, avoidance, defensiveness and anger are common responses among
white people to discussions about racism.

These feelings often arise from white people’s fear of losing the benefits of white privilege, but they can also emerge from well-intentioned motives that still perpetuate racism. For example, many white folks feel they are unqualified to do anti-racism work so they expect others to take the initiative or ask people of colour to “teach them” about racism. Certainly, most white folks have much to learn about anti-racism, but rather than asking people of colour to do the work for them, white people need to educate themselves.

Anti-racism work does involve listening to, learning from, and working in solidarity with people of colour, but this needs to happen on terms that don’t replicate patterns of expecting people of colour to always be the ones addressing racism.

Part of this self-education process involves addressing feelings that prevent active anti-racism work. Some common feelings are outlined below.

Denial and Defensiveness: avoiding responsibility

“I’m not racist.”

“I have friends who are people of colour.”

“I do anti-racism work.”

“I don’t see colour. I’m colour blind.”

“Racial discrimination occurs because of a few bad people.”

“I don’t know why people of colour are so sensitive / divisive /
angry all the time”

“I’m so tired of people imposing their ‘politically correct’
agendas on me.”

Denial and defensiveness enable us to blame others for racism, rather than taking responsibility ourselves. Whether or not you are racist is beside the point; because we live in a racist society, confronting
racism is everyone’s responsibility. It may feel hard not to be defensive, particularly as no one likes to be accused of racism. But engaging in anti-racism means learning to listen, take seriously and respond respectfully when issues of racism are raised, particularly by people of colour.

Fear: excusing inaction

-Fear of offending people, saying the wrong thing

-Fear of not being accepted by white people when dealing with this issue

-Fear of not being accepted by people of colour when dealing with
this issue

-Fear of our own stereotypes, prejudices and complicity with racism

-Fear of dealing with strong emotions

-Fear of conflict we won’t be able to deal with

-Fear of not having all the answers

Fear can become an excuse for inaction. Keep in mind that anti-racism is an ongoing learning process – everyone is going to make mistakes along the way. Learning to accept criticism is an important part of anti-racist work. While it is important to be careful about the things we choose to do and say, it is often better to make a mistake and learn from it, than to do nothing. Inaction is a form of complicity with racism.

Guilt: preventing action

White people often let their guilt about racism become a force that prevents action. Anti-racism goals then get sidelined when white people simply “confess” all the ways they are guilty of racism or
acknowledge their privilege without actually changing behaviour. While such confessionals may make white folks feel better initially, this is not an effective means to address racism. It is not enough to
simply note one’s privilege; it is essential to change behaviours and challenge institutionalized racism.

Transforming difficult feelings into positive change is a key part of anti-racism work.

Things to keep in mind:

Accept that anti-racism work is likely to invoke many strong feelings. Rather than avoiding these emotions or feeling guilty about them, it can be helpful to work through these feelings in productive ways, which lead to social change.

Try not to take things too personally; you did not create racism. Taking responsibility for your role in perpetuating racism is different from blaming yourself.

Hosting regular anti-racism discussion forums within your organization can be helpful in addressing difficult emotions. You may choose to divide these forums into caucuses of white and non-white groups. This does not mean that mixed discussions are not helpful, but don’t assume that people of colour want to deal with white people’s fears and anxieties.

There are lots of great books, web sites and resources that can help white people work on these issues.

Educate yourself!

Remember – it’s okay to make mistakes! As long as you don’t keep repeating the same patterns, making mistakes is an important part of the learning process.

Patent Fever


This short work-in-progress documentary takes a fresh look at the controversy surrounding patents and access to medicines in the country hardest hit by HIV: South Africa. Patent Fever documents both the progress on access to treatment and the new under-reported explosion of HIV-TB co-infection that threatens to undermine it. The film draws on previously unseen archive footage and the personal testimony of key players – including Vuyiseka Dubula, the new inspirational head of the Treatment Action Campaign – to narrate the latest twist in the decades long global fight against AIDS.

Check out the trailer for Patent Fever here.

The filmmakers will be present at the gathering and we hope to get discussion going about the issues addressed in the film.

We hope that many people from around the UK will be able to come to the RPI gathering.

For this to happen we know that you need to know there will be somewhere to lay your heads at night.

Rest assured that this is all taken care of (but sleeping bags are a must!).

To book yourself into the free crash space please email

Race &feminism: learning from history will be facilitated by terese j; anti-racist
feminist history researcher-activist-super-geek.

She is also working on the Outwrite
exhibition, which will be at the gathering, and a member of FAF’s history activism group

A good zine makes life worth living. You gotta love a zine!


As part of the gathering, we’re compiling a zine. We will put it in your hands when you get here. We would like it to provide resources & starting points for discussion. … & we need your fabulous & fierce contributions to make this happen!

Possible topics include:

* personal narratives – How do these issues affect you? How have you
seen them play out within DIY/queer/feminist communities?

* practical suggestions – What can you do when you’re faced with your
own privilege (or when someone else points it out to you)? What does
it mean in practice to be an ally? How & when do you confront people
with their own privilege in a way that keeps you safe? Other ideas
could include privilege checklists or other tools to get folks

* required reading – What books, articles, zines do you feel are
crucial to understanding identity issues & the ways in which they
intersect? Tell us about them & why you recommend them. Also don’t
forget relevant projects that we should be supporting & working with.

* or… your brilliant suggestions here!

Please send contributions to by no later than April 15, 2009.

We look forward to receiving your scribbles, drawings & photos…

Deaf and disability awareness – with Marion and Lani – will be taking place on Sunday morning at the RPI gathering. here is a little bit of what to expect….

How can we make our events more accessible to deaf and disabled people?

It is easier than you might think!

In fact, attitudes and lack of awareness create the biggest barriers for deaf and disabled people.

We will discuss practical strategies for improving accessibility which don’t require a lot of money or specialist knowledge.

We will also talk a little about the social model of disability and the history of deaf and disabled movements. What can we learn from them?

We will be drawing on experiences of living as and working with disabled people, but we are not experts!

Please feel free to discuss your own ideas and experiences, so that we can learn from each other.

On Saturday 25th April at the RPI gathering, Abher Behn – mother, writer, sound artist, printmaker and
proud dilettante – will be facilitating a workshop on Street Activist Coalition Building Across the Margins. Here is the description….

*“Now we must recognise differences among (wo)men who are our equals,
neither inferior nor superior, and devise ways to use each others’
difference to enrich our visions and our joint struggles.”*

Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider


Street and community activists use face to face engagement as a tool to
action change, raise awareness about social justice issues and the
atrocities of state and nation.

If, as “progressive” activists, we confront many issues in solidarity with the
marginalised communities they affect,why are the groups fighting for social
justice still so lacking in diversity?

Why are we are still struggling to embrace and include difference within
activist groups?

Why are the decisions of autonomous non-hierarchical activist groups still
being dominated by white straight able bodied privileged men, in said and
unsaid ways despite the rhetoric?

The anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist/feminist movements of the last 20 years
have worked hard to be truly “inclusive”, to avoid the political replication
of a rightwing exclusionary demographic (from which the leftist vanguard
suffered to its detriment) and essentialisms, but are we really succeeding
in doing this? In the very act of “including” we are announcing that there
is “another” to include, someone we place outside of the socio-economic
history of activist organisation.

If we continue to deny difference we deny access, despite the declarations
of an open door and so our potential for movement and transgression remains
a contradictory theoretical construct.


In this workshop we will discuss and map the language of oppression and
“inclusivity”, how identity and privilege work complicitly with
race/gender/class/ableism in an immediate and destructive way in our lives
as activists and community organisers. How in trying to sustain our
communities and tackle local, global and personal oppressions we need to
find ways to challenge the behaviour, language and actions of the self and
one another beyond tokenistic gestures of tolerance and acceptance.


Books that have informed the putting together of this workshop, deal with
community building both experientially and theoretically across the margins,
analyse class/race/able-ism/gender/privilege and are accessible and cheap to
buy second hand.

*Skin * Dorothy Allison
*Speaking sex to power * Patrick Califia
*Black women, writing and Identity: Migrations of the subject* Carole Boyce Davies
*Pedagogy of the Opressed* Paulo Freire
*Where we stand:Class matters* Bell Hooks
*A Restricted Country* Joan Nestle
*Yonnondio * Tillie Olson
*Chelsea Girls*Eileen Myles
*Zami: A new spelling of my name* Audre Lorde
*Paradise* Toni Morrison

On Saturday 21st March, a bunch of queers with a frilly anarcho-queer banner joined the contingent of resistance protesting the detention of over 3,000 innocent people – including young children – in the UK’s ever growing detention estate at Pennine House, situated just outside of terminal 2 at Manchester Airport.


There was also a protest at Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedford

Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Y. Davis asks the question that most people think can never be answered in this society, where imprisonment is seen as central to conceptions of justice. In her careful analysis, Davis foregrounds the prison as a racist institution and outlines how prisons criminalise people on the basis of race and class.

She also demonstrates how the Prison Industrial Complex – the exploitation of prison labour by private corporations – is a central oil which keeps the wheels of global capitalism turning.


If prison abolition seems to you like an idea only reserved for crazy people, Davis points to historical examples such as slavery and the civil rights movement in America as two places where there was great resistance to their ending – but where today we can’t imagine a ‘civilised’ society where such blatant, institutionalised racism visibly flourishes.

Davis offers a convincing, reasonable and suggestive argument for the decarceration of people. Although based in the history of the US, her book is an important starting point for anyone wanting the tools to think – and act – outside of the box on these issues.