On Anarchism

and the importance of keeping the fight fed.

We’ve had one day of protest so far here in Old San Juan (though it seems people are out again today, Sunday). Tuesday’s demonstration was for Black lives, for trans lives, and against discriminatory changes to the civil code signed into law by an unelected governor who is part of the same administration of Ricky Roselló fought against last summer during two weeks of sustained, unrelenting protest. To have experienced the elation of that governor’s resignation only to see what can happen when hands are changed but systems aren’t has been a disappointment, to say the least, but watching the protests across the U.S. from afar and seeing “abolish the police” become a rallying cry for the mainstream left has been emboldening. To see the police continue to be violent and receive, still, so much support from elected officials and the public alike has been maddening. 

I’ve given money where I can: to Sunnyside Mutual Aid, in Queens, which is providing food to their community, which has been hard hit by Covid-19; to The Okra Project, which provides meals to Black trans folk; to the People’s Kitchen Collective in Oakland, which provides meals, workshops, and a free breakfast program inspired by the Black Panthers. This document provides a guide to mutual aid and bail funds in need of material aid, put together by students at Fordham University (my alma mater). 

Keeping people fed is key. I’m reminded of an interview I did with Cindy Negron of Casa Vegana de la Comunidad during last summer’s protests in Puerto Rico, when they were handing out food: “It is a tool to keep fighting until we see results. You cannot fight the government on an empty stomach. We are giving gasoline to keep the flame of the demonstration.”

That idea brings me back to Soy Not Oi!, one of the most famous vegan ’zines. On the back of the original copies distributed by AK Press, it says, “Over 100 recipes designed to destroy the government.” The tongue-in-cheek sentiment, in line with the text’s playful yet unabashed anarchist ethos, didn’t mean that cooking would destroy the government, but that the fight must be sustained through food. That’s why food is a weapon, as Ghetto Gastro is saying; that’s why Food Not Bombs has been in existence for 40 years, demonstrating that it has been a conscious choice of our government and society to choose war over ending hunger.

The significance of sustenance to fights against violent authority has never been lost on Black communities, as Amethyst Ganaway wrote this week in Food & Wine:

One food justice activist was Georgia Gilmore, a Black woman who fed civil rights activists and leaders in her Montgomery, Alabama, home. After losing her job as a cafeteria cook because she participated in the Montgomery Bus Boycotts, Gilmore opened her own doors at the suggestion of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders. Georgia Gilmore not only fed the leaders, she helped start the Club from Nowhere, a covert baking club that would sell church cakes and use the money to fund protests. 

Common threads between anarchist thought and ongoing Black liberation struggles are not a coincidence: As writer Kim Kelly has explained in Teen Vogue and, more recently, the Washington Post, despite the common conception of anarchism as simply the enactment of chaos, it is actually a radical leftist ideology built around “abolishing institutions such as prisons, police and the military, which they hold to be inherently oppressive. Anarchists are by definition anti-capitalist, anti-racist, and directly opposed to all other forms of bigotry and oppression.” 

There is a history of Black anarchism, and contemporary thinkers like Marquis Bey are taking an intersectional approach to a tradition that hasn’t classically treated race and gender with the same seriousness as class. While Russian anarcho-communist Peter Kropotkin coined the term “mutual aid,” it has long been in action in Black communities

(None of this suggests a purity of ideology or a natural affiliation, but it has been interesting to watch mainstream liberals suggest anarchists do not have an inherent interest in Black Lives Matter. Whose interests could be served by such misinformation?)

As I have been thinking about protest, and food, and struggle, and the ways in which our interpersonal actions replicate and reinforce the need for state power, I’ve been re-reading Sarah Schulman’s Conflict Is Not Abuse. In the introduction, she writes, 

“It is clear from history that progressive cultural and political advancement is not natural or neutral and does not occur on its own momentum. … Any pain that human beings can create, human beings can transcend. But we have to understand what we are doing. This transformation also requires a critical mass, a small, effective, focused, and inspired group of people who can combine clear moral thinking with the taking of responsibility, as expressed through direct challenge to brutality and organized action.”

Right now, that critical mass is actually massive. In whatever way you can, keep it fed.

This Friday’s paid-subscriber interview will feature Victoria Bouloubasis, a journalist and filmmaker based in North Carolina. We’ll discuss her work on immigration and dispelling myths about the Global South. Subscribe here.

For Tenderly, a piece on an old vegan book that is wildly problematic but was greeted by the vegetarian press in its day as a refreshing and well-written manifesto!

For Time magazine—in print in the June 15 issue, as well—I wrote about why I don’t see the Covid-19 pandemic as marking a real shift in the American relationship to meat. I like an occasion to tell people in a major general-interest magazine about how beef is deeply tied to white cishet identity and settler colonialism.

I’m working on yet another piece about meat and trying to become more well-rounded in my knowledge beyond factory farming, thus I’m reading Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production by Nicolette Hahn Niman.

For reasons that I’ll explain when I am able, I have spent a couple of weeks extremely stressed out and exhausted. I’ve cooked nothing exciting! It’s so sad! But I’ll be back to my Instagram Live baking show this coming Wednesday, making a mamey cake. Not many people will be able to follow along with this, I know, but let me have my fun with tropical fruit.

Give money to the Homeless Black Trans Women fund.