Archive for November, 2019

This wonderful documentary on the life of our liberation warrior Sylvia Rivera was put together by Jerimarie Liesegang the mother of the Ct. Transgender movement. Enjoy and remember we are still in a fight for our very lives. We need more Sylvia’s in the world today.

This wonderful article about a great poet came from Freedom Socialist.

Roque Dalton
The life and tragic death of a Salvadoran revolutionary poet
Sukey Wolf
October 2019

Roque Dalton

Salvadoran radical Roque Dalton has quickly become my favorite poet of the 20th century. By turns, his writing is lyrical, pragmatic, intimate, angry and self-deprecating. He was known by his friends as a man who laughed a lot — at the absurdity of life under a dictatorship, at the vagaries of the human condition, and at himself.
Born in 1935, Dalton was the illegitimate son of a U.S. coffee plantation owner and a Mexican single mother. He was educated by the Jesuits, courtesy of his father. He blamed their hypocrisy and support for the status quo for his break with Catholicism. One of his first political acts was a high school valedictory speech blasting his teachers for their tacit support of the school caste system by which poor children were demeaned.

Among his first poems is one about his experience in kindergarten as a child from a lower-class family. Dalton describes it as
…where I took
my first steps in society
smelling faintly of horse shit
“Peasant!” Roberto called me
… and he gave me a hard shove …

This experience came to define Dalton. The rest of his life was devoted to the exploited, harassed and abused.
Fifty years of dictatorship. The world-wide depression of the 1930s led to the collapse of the Central American coffee market, causing great suffering. At the time, the Communist Party (CP) of El Salvador was organizing among workers, teaching them about the gains of the Russian Revolution and the right to strike. The party called for a mass demonstration on January 22, 1932 to demand better pay and working conditions. When indigenous peasants staged an insurrection in western El Salvador on the same day, both uprisings were attributed to the CP. Mass arrests as well as a ruthless military genocide against communists and the indigenous population followed. In short order, four percent of the population was wiped out by state violence. Afterwards, military juntas ruled until 1992.

This was the world Dalton was born into and fought until his death in 1975.
The early years. While at university, Dalton formed a group with other writers known as the Generación Comprometida or Committed Generation.
Their philosophy was that to be an artist one must be a practicing revolutionary, actively intervening in the class struggle instead of just observing it.

In 1960, Dalton joined the Communist Party and was arrested within a few months. He was sentenced to die, but ironically a military coup, which freed many prisoners, saved his life. After this, Dalton went into exile, first in Mexico and later in Cuba and Prague.
The poet finds his voice. Dalton produced fourteen books of mostly poetry in his life. The poems with explicitly political content are alive in a way that much poetry like this is not. A perfect example is his poem “On Headaches” in which he proclaims:

It is beautiful to be a communist
although it causes many a headache.

Later he concludes, “Communism will be, among other things/an aspirin the size of the sun.” Rather than theorizing, Dalton is giving us his lived experience wrapped up in the fanciful image of a giant pain pill and the ideas come alive.

In a poem about Karl Marx by the same title, the poet says:
… from the fever, like a small world
of light in the endless nights
you have corrected God’s lame work
you, so guilty of giving us hope.

Again, instead of offering the reader propaganda or polemics, Dalton goes right for the gut in deceptively simple language. This simplicity extends to another poem that is all in the title — “Advice Which is Now Not Necessary Anywhere in the World Except El Salvador” — in which he counsels:
Don’t ever forget
that the least fascist
among the fascists
are also
fascists.
The ideas are complex, but he breaks them down to elemental clarity.

Not all Dalton’s poems are about the class struggle. He has some beautiful love poems of which my favorite is “Nakedness.” In it he writes:

When you undress for me with your eyes closed
you fit in a cup next to my tongue
you fit between my hands like my daily bread
you fit beneath my body more neatly than its shadow…

A death too soon. In 1973, Dalton returned to El Salvador from exile in Cuba. By then well-known, he was determined to join the guerrilla movement against the military dictatorship and underwent plastic surgery to avoid being recognized. He joined the People’s Revolutionary Army, known by its Spanish acronym ERP. This group later joined the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), a military front of guerrilla organizations.

A strong proponent of armed struggle, Dalton nonetheless developed differences with the ERP leadership over forging links with mass organizations. Joaquin Villalobos and other leaders of the ERP advocated a coup-d’état strategy instead. They accused Dalton of being an agent of the CIA and Cuba, and Villalobos himself executed Dalton four days before his 40th birthday. After the civil war, Villalobos went on to become a right-wing radio commentator in England.
Sadly, this poetic genius was taken from us too soon. Fortunately, he left us his poems to read and enjoy, to inspire and inform us.

This article and other information about Freedom Socialist can be found on line at: https://socialism.com/fs-article/the-life-and-tragic-death-of-a-salvadoran-revolutionary-poet/?fbclid=IwAR0bIIdTFJXtPFWUom9MIZof6S2h5GHayW7xbEDA2SNL5Fql4WlP1Zs0iB0

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Posted: November 20, 2019 in In Remembrance

Hello to all

Important things have been happening in the background and a rumbling is heard. I am very proud to announce that Jerimarie Liesegang has finished her video documentary on Sylvia Rivera. The documentary Sylvia Rivera Was More Than Stonewall is one of the few possibly the only one that looks at the complete life of this Revolutionary Transgender Warrior. Twenty years ago I was honored to introduce Sylvia at the Ct. Stonewall Congress and to this day hold her dear in my heart. What fun myself, Regina Dyton, Tim, Paul and a few others had visiting with Sylvia and her family outside as we smoked and laughed and then laughed again. Sylvia indeed as a revolutionary Trans leader whose words ring true today. Sylvia who believed in a multi issue revolutionary movement where all of us were and are included. Sylvia who fought hard for her people in the Trans community and was thrown off the bus, and under the bus so many times.

We need more Sylvia’s in our movement today. If there were we all know the one issue or issues only of a LGBT nature would not exist. We would understand and see the connections with all other communities and not only act when it involves a LGBT person. We would understand fully that when the bombs drop on the people of Palestine it is our issue. We would know that when Democrat or Republican deports immigrants it is our issue. We would fully understand that when people all across this country can not afford medication that is needed, or a home to live in it is our issue. We would fight back when the least among us are hurting and become one with all. This I believe is what Sylvia Rivera would do as she proved over and over again this is what must be done. This was the inspiration that pushed us towards a new day before a wrong road was taken so many years ago. We must, let us repeat that we must move back to those days when we fully understood that we are here, there, and everywhere so there for all issues are our issues. It is the only way we will survive.

Anyway there I go again up on the soapbox but wanted to give just my little introduction to Jeri’s video.  Of course this type of work is best viewed on full screen for a full viewing pleasure. While you are over at the Ct. Trans Archive page check out all the work that Jeri has been doing lately as she posts and gets her archives in order to send down to CCSU.

My best to everyone
Richard Nelson

P.S A birdie told me a new Ct. movement documentary is now in the works. It’s good folks really good or so the birdie saw.

The documentary is found here:

Full Length (cradle to grave) documentary on Sylvia Rivera

Posted: November 11, 2019 in Call to Action, Fight Back

Before moving to Hartford Ct. I lived in the woods of The Maverick, nine miles outside and over the mountain from Woodstock NY. (1) I lived in what I called an elegant shack the last place going up the mountain. The only modern convenience that I had was electricity. Very rustic living to say the least. It took me one time, one winter morning to understand why the outhouse seat was not attached after what seemed like leaving have the skin on my ass behind on the cold seat. The toilet seat then took up residence behind the woodstove where I cooked, and melted snow to take a bath. Clean water for drinking and cooking was courtesy of the artist I worked for in the summer and in the winter from a woman I did odd jobs for including babysitting her two year old. She was an herbalist and from her I learned about the wild herbs and their healing powers. We collected in the summer, dried the herbs in the old studio at the back of my shack. Screens of Red Clover blossoms, Queen Anne’s Lace seeds, Plantain, tied together in bunches, Yarrow, Tansy, Peppermint, Nettles, Comfrey from the garden. Susan and I would go on nature walks up the mountain and over following old trails. An old farm was our destination long since abandoned where fields of Dandelion awaited us and many of the herbs that Susan used grew in the area. In the fall I picked apples from the abandoned orchard and made applesauce.

During my years on the Maverick I heard many stories about Hervey White and the “good old days” of the artists that gathered there, the festivals, the free love, the feeling of living freely from the powers that tried to tame the creative spirit on the other side of the mountain and in America. Hervey White intrigued me as a revolutionary Socialist, artist, free thinking creative person. Lucille Blanch an artist who came to the Maverick as a young artist and who was still going strong painting daily live in a little white house with a “host of daffodils” growing all along her stonewalls and around her yard. “Just dig up the bulb and throw it, it will come up again,” was her direction in thinning out the plants. I worked for her doing odd jobs and helping out where I could.  But in all my talks with quite a number of folks who lived on the Maverick or who had been living in Woodstock for years no one ever mentioned that Hervey White was a Bisexual man. At the time when he was alive it was a “open secret” or so some say.

Hervey White

Hervey White

“I will do what I like and go where I like without money, paying for my living as I go. Good advice has never driven it out of me.”

So begins our story of a man named Hervey White. A socialist, utopian thinker, Bisexual/Gay man, poet, writer, publisher, builder and philosopher on art and what it could be. White along with  Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead whom he had met at Jane Adams Hull House in Chicago, founded the Brydcliff Art Colony in Woodstock ( 2 ) and after awhile White grew tired of the bourgeois notions of art and life, that was dictated by Whitehead saying of him, “He would only employ people he could dictate to,” White wrote later, “and no self-respecting artist would ever stand for his dictation.”  bought a farm in West Hurley and so began the Maverick art colony. A running joke among some old timers I met in the Maverick was that Hervy White came to this side of the mountain because all the water ran down the other side and he thought that at Byrdcliff people took far too many baths. We read this about Hervey White: In 1905, White purchased a farm just outside Woodstock with Fritz van der Loo and Carl Eric Lindin, intended as a rustic haven for the three friends and their families. It quickly transformed into an intellectual meeting place and was named the Maverick; artists, writers, and musicians took up residence in minimalistic houses, usually little more than shacks, built on the property. White’s short-lived marriage to Byrdcliffe printmaker Vivian Bevans ended in 1908. According to Tom Wolff writing Hervey White”s Maverick Community and Its Artists “we learn White’s homosexual leanings, addressed overtly in his writings, are a possible cause. White would go on to build the Maverick into a thriving community with makeshift studios, a printing press, and a steady output of publications devoted to literature and the visual arts, most notably The Wild Hawk and The Plowshare. Hervey White even while espousing socialism lived as an anarchist, living according to his principles and never sold out to the bankers, the elite, the bourgeoise, to pretense, societies expectations of what a person should be. He expressed his love for men. Leaving us to wonder who these men were, these lovers of his. We look over the photo’s of the men involved with the Maverick community and wonder which ones. I suppose we could guess and our gaydar leads us to some of them. Where they only experimenting with the leader, the catch, the cool, were they true lovers or just a one-sided sexual encounter and then they ran back to their wives?

In The Land of Tomorrow Hervey wrote …”Here I sit on this lofty hill beside a ruin of which all archeologists have read, and I am thinking of Marselino, and how beautiful he is, and how he is going tomorrow and I will never look far back into those deep dark liquid love wells more. How surprised I was yesterday to see the difference in the color of our hands when clasped; his, so dark, almost as dark as a negro’s yet having nothing of the smoky greasy black, but a clear bronze.

Both the ruins and the view from this mountain top are grand, but I am tired now and heartsick. Still I will remember all as long as I live. If I forget the heart sickness no matter…I went to the river with them [the other Mexican hands] and as were riding together, he told me again how often he would think of me, he and Catalina [“his intended”] together, and how he would write, and he would be very angry if I did not send him a photograph for I was his dearest friend and then slowly:

‘I care a great deal for you.’

And when I replied that I liked him better than all the others he said simply: ‘I know.’

I could look at him then, and I saw the lines around the beautiful mouth were quivering and drawing, and his throat was writhing. He turned toward me quickly and his eyes met mine. Ah, the shining of those eyes! He smiled; and I saw in every feature that he was saying, “It is hard to bear, but we are strong.”

He was gay when we parted; but the soft tender light was shining in his eyes. As he pulled his horse about and took off his hat waving a last laughing lingering good bye, he made the most beautiful picture I have ever seen.”

The Land of Tomorrow created a stir for it announced White’s homosexuality.

Hervey White as Pan Maverick Festival

The Maverick Festivals began in 1915 as a means to raise money to dig a well for the Maverick community. The festival was conceived as a bohemian carnival filled with communal spirit to be held during the afternoon and evening of the August full moon. A theatrical spectacle began after dark with performances by artists, musicians and local people followed by a costume ball. Attendance at the festival grew and grew and became more and more difficult to control and by 1929 it was reported that over 6,000 people were in attendance. In 1931 White suspended the festival. While living on the Maverick Lucille Blanch told me of the wonderful parties that were held back “when I was young.” This is a picture of Lucille from a festival in 1922. (more…)