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NADYA TOLOKONNIKOVA BY JONAS AUKERLAND

Voices of dissent

Chautauqua offers lessons in activism

by Caitlin Rockett “We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it.” —Edward R. Murrow

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or nonbinary activist and author Jeffrey Marsh (they/them pronouns), mere existence becomes an act of political dissent, whether they like it or not. “People who hate my guts based on looking at me or based on who they think I am, they won’t let me be nonpolitical,” Marsh says. “I have a quote unquote political Twitter to them because me just existing is a political act.” It’s “unfortunate,” Marsh says, that queer lives get politicized, but Marsh leaned into it. A gentle demeanor ­— nurtured by a 20-year Buddhist practice — drove Marsh to step into their role as a leader in nonbinary identity education and justice. Authenticity became Marsh’s 28

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battle cry, kindness their strongest expression of dissent. Just in time for election season, Marsh will join three other scholars and activists on Sept. 28 at Chautauqua for “The Politics of Dissent,” a one-day educational summit on how to respond to the pressing societal issues of our times. When the event programming staff at Chautauqua talked about developing a one-day event for experts to dissect hot-button issues, Mark Nicolella, general manager of public events, knew right off the bat who he wanted to include. “I’d had the idea to try and bring in Nadya [Tolokonnikova] from [political art collective] Pussy Riot to do a standalone speaking engagement here at Chautauqua this summer,” he says. “So we kind of married those two concepts together to flesh out what is a full day of pretty cool speakers.” In August 2012, Tolokonnikova and bandmate Maria Alyokhina — both new SEPTEMBER 12, 2019

to different prisons, Tolokonnikova was mothers just barely into their 20s at the released in December 2013. time — were sentenced to two years’ “After I showed that I could really imprisonment for “hooliganism motivated stand for myself, then my life in prison by religious hatred,” according to The really changed,” she said in an interview Guardian, after an anti-Putin Pussy Riot with NowThis News. “It’s the same with performance at Moscow Cathedral of activism, the same with protesting, that Christ the Savior. Both were sent to you cannot just push the button and penal colonies, Alyokhina to Perm, Tolokonnikova to Mordovia. Both are everything will just change in a second.” She has not forced labor camps JEFFREY MARSH, COURTESY OF THE ARTIST reserved her critilocated near cism for Russian Siberia. president On Sept. 23, Vladamir Putin. In 2013, 2016, Pussy Riot Tolokonnikova released a song penned an open called “Make letter about the America Great abhorrent condiAgain”: tions of the prison “Let other and began a hunpeople in / Listen ger strike in proto your women / test. Stop killing black “My brigade in children / Make the sewing shop America Great works 16 to 17 Again.” hours a day,” she wrote. “From 7:30 Modern-day civil rights activist a.m. to 12:30 a.m. At best, we get four Reverend Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou can hours of sleep a night. We have a day speak to America’s grisly history of muroff once every month and a half. We dering unarmed young black men. The work almost every Sunday.” author/musician/theologian was arrested After being hospitalized and moved I

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