Coalition Against Gentrification-Columbia Prison Divest Joint Statement on Columbia’s Response to Raid in West Harlem
On June 5th, Columbia students received an email from Vice President for Public Safety James F. McShane, informing us of the arrest and indictment of 100 “suspected gang members” in West Harlem in “one of the largest gang arrests in New York City history”. McShane argued that these mass arrests, which involved years of surveillance and militarized police tactics including helicopter patrolling, are parts of the process to “make our city and community safer”. Further, McShane stated that “Following these arrests, we are actively supporting an enhanced police presence in West Harlem and increasing our public safety personnel and patrols in and around Columbia buildings in Manhattanville. We will continue to do everything possible to keep making our campus community even safer.” On behalf of Coalition Against Gentrification (CAGe) and Columbia Prison Divest (CPD), we want to express our deep disagreement with the forms in which McShane, and by extension, Columbia, are responding to the raid and the idea of “safety” that they are promoting.
Firstly, we object to the tone in which McShane wrote to the Columbia community regarding what is fundamentally a tragic and violent series of events in the housing units closest to Columbia University. The violence that has taken place in the past years in Manhattanville and Grant Houses has taken a deep toll on a community which Columbia University, despite being only a few blocks away, does not know or understand, making it highly inappropriate for Columbia to judge what safety for these communities means. Not only this but it is clear that the university is not actually concerned with the safety of community members, as McShane goes on to emphasize his commitment to “keep making our campus community even safer.”
Even more disturbing is the idea that this arrest makes Columbia students “safer”, for two reasons:
Firstly, it creates an idea that the main source of insecurity at Columbia comes from the “outside”, an outside depicted in racialized terms that reinforce the projection of danger on poor communities of color. In fact, the majority of acts of victimization of Columbia students come from within Columbia’s gates, as evidenced by the statistics around sexual violence, and the violence that the administration itself enacts by failing to take this violence seriously.
Secondly, it creates a zero-sum idea of community, in which Columbia students are safe at the expense of the community around us. We believe that the application of militarized and systemic violence on the West Harlem community does not make Columbia students safer, and that the rhetoric that says it does instrumentalizes the concept of “our campus community’s safety” and underlying racist fear to justify violence imposed on others.
Underlying this mutually exclusive rhetoric around Columbia students’ safety is the very logic behind gentrification, to which we profoundly object. This logic is based on the premise that the well-being of a neighborhood is incompatible with the people who originally live there, particularly poor people of color. For that reason, the “cleaning-up” of a neighborhood, in which “safety” is a central component, consists of criminalizing the original inhabitants and dispossessing them of their housing, jobs and rights.
Hence, the people of West Harlem are being dispossessed over and over. Under Columbia’s expansion, the University began to buy up apartment buildings in the area, displacing the first wave of residents before the speculative frenzy to follow. Since 2004, real wages have fallen, domestic rents have risen, and ground rents for local businesses have grown dramatically in expectation of a new influx of more expensive stores. As thousands are being displaced, and stores are succumbing to rents that appropriate up to 95% of monthly revenues, many more local youths find themselves out of work (unemployment amongst people of color below 30 in Manhattanville is hovering around 70%). This has culminated in an extremely difficult situation for young people. For the last decade leaders in West Harlem from Grant Houses, Manhattanville Houses, Coalition to Preserve Community, and The Mirabal Sisters have advocated for policy reforms to improve these conditions.
Rather than address the structural problems that it has a part in creating, Columbia’s response has been to support the increased police militarization of the area, delineated in McShane’s letter, a police presence that has proven to be racist and to deepen the inequalities of race and class in the neighborhood and city.
As students, we object to the use of a dishonest representation of “our safety” as a tool to perpetuate violence on West Harlem residents. We do not feel safer when our university is inflicting violence on the community around us. Instead, we call on Columbia to cease justifying its violence and expansion with our safety. If Columbia is serious about decreasing violence then it must stop supporting and contributing to increased policing, cease its own violent practice of expansion and attend in meaningful ways to the real causes of violence within the Columbia community. We demand that Columbia fulfill the promises it has made in its community plan and organize its relationship to the West Harlem community around principles of support for the community’s health, independence, and well-being instead of favoring actions that increase violence and poverty.
Misgendering is violence. Misgendering perpetuates violence. It is a deliberate act to cause harm, pain, and suffering. Intentionally misgendering someone is what people do when they cannot enact violence upon a person psychically. They resort to words and phrases they know cause anguish and turmoil. That is the very core of intentional violence, to cause harm. Intentional misgendering is nothing less than violence.- source (via the-last-homely-url)
Tomorrow TALK will be tabling at the Brooklyn Zine Fest hosted by the Brooklyn Historical Society from 11am-6pm!
"The Brooklyn Zine Fest is a yearly exposition of self-published magazines in the greatest borough in the greatest city in the world. Expanding to two days, BZF 2014 will be held on Saturday, April 26th and Sunday, April 27th, 2014 (from 11am to 6pm both days) at Brooklyn Historical Society at 128 Pierrepont Street (corner of Clinton St.) in Brooklyn Heights. This third annual event will showcase approximately 150 writers, artists, and publishers from New York City and beyond over two days.”
Last night, TALKmag attended the Barnard-Columbia Take Back the Night march, speakout, and rally at Barnard College. Morgaine Gooding-Silverwood delivered the speech this year and, following in our tradition of publishing the TBTN speeches, we’ve reproduced her entire speech for those of you who missed it! What better way to report on the event, we think, than letting those who attended and spoke, to speak for themselves:
TW: Sexual Assault
First of all, I want to thank the organizers for extending me this honor, and thank you to everyone here, students, administrators, survivors, allies, family and friends. I also want to acknowledge those who couldn’t make it tonight. Your existence is revolutionary. Thank you for refusing to crumble or disappear in the wake of unspeakable trauma.
I can’t begin to explain what it means to be standing here tonight. After all, it was here, three years ago, at the post-march speak-out, where as a first-year I first openly discussed my own sexual assault.
Talking about my attack was terrifying. There was no script, just a microphone, a makeshift wall for anonymity, and my memories—memories that I had avoided revisiting for years out of both fear and guilt. Guilt because I felt that my trauma was invalid, since I had been drunk, flirtatious, and was able to escape my attacker before his nonconsensual groping of my upper body lead any lower.
This Thursday, April 14th, Take Back the Night is having their annual march and speak out to end sexual violence and rape culture. The rally starts at 7:45pm right outside of Barnard Hall and will last until 10pm. The guest speaker will be Morgaine Gooding-Silverwood, a Columbia University student and activist.
The Speak Out is after the rally at 10pm in the Event Oval in the Diana Center (LL1). This is a safe space for the students and community to anonymously share their stories.
For more information, check out the FaceBook event: http://tinyurl.com/TBTN2014
See you all there!!!
photo courtesy of Columbia-Barnard Take Back the Night
Add this to your calendars!!! On April 16 the BCRW will host Historical Perspectives on Domestic Worker Organizing, featuring Elizabeth Quay Hutchison and Premilla Nadasen. They will look at the changing labor relations of domestic service over the course of the 20th century.
Check out the event here!
From C-SJP’s facebook group:
Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine Statement Regarding Barnard Banner Removal
On March 10th, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine hung a banner on Barnard Hall. The banner was placed after members of C-SJP went through the required bureaucratic channels and processes in order to give voice and presence to our week-long events as part of Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), a global period of action and awareness-raising that has been occurring throughout the world for the past ten years. This morning we awoke to find that our banner – which simply read “Stand for Justice, Stand for Palestine,” and featured the logo of our group (the silhouette of historic Palestine) – has been taken down by the administration of Barnard College after they caved to pressure from other groups. Barnard administration offered no explanation, and no warning that they planned to remove our banner.
Columbia SJP is a student group at this university—no different from any other group—and has equal access to the same platforms and resources that are made available to all students. Barnard College students went through the necessary banner placement review process, which included clearly stating the banner’s message in advance. Had our request been rejected, it would have been an act of censorship and an infringement on our freedom of expression as a student group at this university. The fact that our banner has been taken down now is a direct violation of our freedom of expression. The removal of our banner this morning has left members of Columbia SJP, Palestinian students on campus and other students that are often marginalized and silenced, feeling that Barnard College does not follow its own anti-discrimination policies. We are alarmed to know that ‘Palestine’ and ‘justice’ are not acceptable in Barnard’s educational space and that certain voices are discriminated against by the College.
We do not equate the State of Israel with all Jewish people, and we staunchly believe that making such a conflation is anti-Semitic itself. Not only does the population of Israel include many non-Jews, but increasingly Jews across the world (and in SJPs) affirm that the state of Israel’s discriminatory policies do not speak for them. Oppressive and violent policies of any regime, particularly one as closely and lucratively supported by the US as the Israeli regime of military occupation, should be criticized freely without censorship or backlash. As a group with members from multiple ethnic and religious backgrounds, what we are speaking of and calling for is justice and equality for all peoples. Students for Justice in Palestine is a diverse anti-racist group; our national movement’s platform states that we are against all forms of discrimination, which includes anti-Semitism. However, on this campus we are unable to even utter the word ‘Palestine’ without being called anti-Semitic. This kind of accusation only works to silence our voices and to silence our respectful engagement with our community. It tells Palestinian students on campus that their university discriminates against the presence of the name of their country in its public space.
We have seen President Deborah Spar’s recent statement, which attempts to explain Barnard’s actions: “We are removing the banner from Barnard Hall at this time and will be re-examining our policy for student banners going forward […] Barnard has been and will remain committed to free speech and student groups will still have the ability to flyer and promote their events throughout campus, but until we have had time as a community to discuss the banner placements on Barnard Hall and better define a policy we will not be hanging student banners on Barnard Hall.” Lionpac has stated that they “believe that the banner space is not appropriate for any political message, by any student group,” and that “the banner was not taken down in order to suppress a particular political viewpoint.” These explanations are not consistent with Barnard’s previous record. It is disturbing that it has not been Barnard’s policy to remove political messages in the past and that it elects to remove only this particular political message, and changes rules only in response to this banner. This behavior suggests that there is, in fact, a suppression of our voice.
Our banner aimed to publicize the events and conversations we are having this week as a student group, and we are outraged that our attempt to engage in meaningful and productive conversation about justice and solidarity with Palestine was faced with such backlash. Claiming that the existence of this banner is unacceptable is tantamount to declaring that Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine as a group should not exist, since the content in question is nothing that is not already part of our name and in our logo, as we have already stated. This does not stray so far from saying we should not be able to book Low Plaza or that we should not be able to organize events. This attack denies our voices and space as students on this campus, and we will not stand by as this happens.
It is our hope that Barnard College understands the great importance of protecting students’ freedom of expression. For years our group has contributed to the richness of this campus, provoking critical thought and conversation. We insist that Barnard Administration hear our voices and return the banner to its place. We also ask for a meeting with the administration in order to discuss the repercussions of this act of silencing on our community.