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PIEDMONT LEFT REVIEW The Triad's Socialist Magazine

Dec 2017 • Issue 1 • Volume 1


CONTRIBUTORS: Editors: Garrison Clark Tom Neas Writers: Matthew C. Brown  Taylor Briggs Garrison Clark Eric Ginsburg Alex Macmillan Joel Sronce

Piedmont Left Review is a monthly online magazine dedicated to bringing socialist and leftist perspectives to the politics, culture, and art of the Triad, NC, and beyond. All contributors, editors, and designers donated their labor to make this project possible. If you are interested in submitting a piece, helping out with design, or have ideas please shoot us an email at piedmontleftreview@gmail.com


CONTENTS:

Essays North Carolina and the Price of Neoliberalism by Garrison Clark Bits & Pieces A New Vision for the White Oak Mill by Eric Ginsburg Two Tennessee Towns Turn Back the Far Right by Alex Macmillan Interviews Joel Sronce/Kickball for Kaepernick by Garrison Clark Culture The Quarter Roys by Taylor Briggs In Space No One Can Hear You Scream by Matthew C. Brown An International Sports Resistance: #TakeAKnee Reaches Berlin by Joel Sronce

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NORTH CAROLINA AND THE PRICE OF NEOLIBERALISM By Garrison Clark This is the first installment in a multi-part series that will cover the ways in which neoliberalism has affected NC.  North Carolina in many ways is a posterchild for neoliberalism in America. A state that once was sustained by thriving textile and furniture industries forced to face the new economic order of post-NAFTA and the end of history. Only Michigan lost more jobs in the neoliberal turn than North Carolina to trade and automation. Yet the workers of the state, turned out from the mills and shop floors, would find greener pastures in the booming tech industry of the Triangle, buoyed by the retraining and education opportunities found in our world class colleges and universities. Or so the story goes. Peel back the layers and underneath you’ll find a much different reality than what was sold. Hunger and poverty have increased at alarming rates, while more North Carolinians find themselves evicted or incarcerated than they did at the end of the Clinton era. Much of the misery inflicted on the working class in state has been attributed to the rise of an ultra-

ultra-reactionary NC GOP, who took power in both houses of the state legislature in 2010 and were led by the disastrous governorship of Pat McCrory, father of the “bathroom bill.” While the NC Republican Party has led a particularly egregious and deadly class war on the working peoples of the state, the neoliberal turn occurred mostly under the watchful eyes of Democratic Party governors and legislatures.


Neoliberalism

Jobs

Neoliberalism in its most basic form is a return to the laissez-faire economic policies that characterized liberalism in its early stage. Standing in contrast to the Keynesian model of state intervention in capitalist economies, neoliberalism preached privatization and deregulation of industry to spur growth. This economic school of thought took hold after the stagnant growth and high inflation of the early 1970s, which the Keynesian economist were unable to account for, and culminated in the neoliberal administrations of Reagan in the US and Thatcher in the UK. While Keynesian ideas had found a home in the Democratic Party for a large portion of the 20th century, the loss in three consecutive presidential elections in the 1980s pushed the party to embrace the free market as the solution to the nation’s economic and social ills. This gambit seemed to pay off with the 1992 election of Democrat Bill Clinton, who pursued a policy of market liberalization in both the United States and abroad, through the shrinking of the welfare system in 1997 with TANF and the opening up of trade policies through NAFTA in 1994 and successive free trade deals. With an ascendant US economy throughout most of the 1990s fueled by a booming tech industry and a lack of alternative economic systems with the collapse of the USSR in 1991, it appeared that the embrace of free market had won out as the sole economic path. The consequences of this turn in economic thought did not show themselves immediately and proved to have a much different result for the working class of both the US and North Carolina.

The story of the decline of North Carolina’s textile industry, the core of the manufacturing base of the state, is very much the story of US trade policy. The industry began to see layoffs and consolidation in the 1980s, but with the signing of NAFTA in 1994 and other free trade deals the once thriving textile sector went into freefall. With China entering the World Trade Organization in 2002, there was little to be done to save the textile factory as a source of lifelong employment for the state’s working class. It is hard to overstate the painful degree to which the industry contracted- between 1997 and 2002 alone, North Carolina lost 100,000 textile jobs and a further 70,000 in the apparel industry. Median income fell by nearly 9% in the same period, as laid off workers struggled to find jobs to replace the ones they thought they would be working for life. Retraining, the miracle tool held up during the free trade debates by neoliberal politician and economists, could only manage to place workers into lower paying and more precarious sectors- it could not recreate the employment opportunities that the manufacturing industry provided. In 1999, even as this process of deindustrialization was taking its toll, North Carolina had a lower unemployment rate and less families in poverty than the national average. Only 6 years later, nearly 12% of NC families were impoverished and 1 in 14 workers unemployed. Over the same period the state GDP increased 15% to 447 billion dollars in 2005. The policy decisions that brought North Carolina to this point had less to do with Raleigh and more to do with Washington and New York. Political 


leaders at the state level spoke out against trade policy that would very clearly lead to a decline in NC jobs and our elected representatives in Congress voted against free trade deals in large numbers. Stopping here would give you the standard line in the debate about trade policy- that politicians at the federal level sold out the American worker with bad deals and if we didn’t sign onto NAFTA, if we didn’t allow China into the WTO, all the manufacturing jobs would have remained. This analysis does not paint the full picture. The free trade deals that decimated the textile and overall manufacturing industry of North Carolina were not deals that failed or bets that were poorly placed- they worked exactly how they were designed to. Cone Mills and other textile manufacturers, like thousands of other US firms, simply moved their operations to countries where they could pay their workers less and where workers were provided less protection for hours and condition. This so called “race to the bottom” is a primary feature of capitalism, one in which firms maximize the productivity of workers while keeping their wages as low as possible. This is an inherent mechanism of market based competition and one that exerts a strong force in prying open labor markets for exploitation. While it is certainly possible that trade policy could have been kept more protective for a few years more, it seems unlikely that the levers of power would have been unable to resist the power that capital can bring to bear. It is also clear that while little could be done to stop or blunt the initial blow

to North Carolina’s economy done by NAFTA and similar deals, the misery that followed could have been dampened by state level intervention. Yet those who suffered found themselves completely ignored by policymakers in Raleigh or found their suffering to be a new market for capitalization by the very same forces that had eliminated their jobs in the first place. In the immediate aftermath, workers who were previously in the manufacturing sector had to take jobs that paid less than their previous ones and this new group of workers increased the labor pool for sectors like the retail industry or service sectors jobs, giving firms in these sectors more power over their existing workforces. Firms had more power to keep wages low, to ignore worker protection laws, and to extract as much surplus value as they possibly could. This shift also affected and continues to affect all of the workers entering the workforce after- the manufacturing jobs that could have possibly offered a livable wage are no longer there and were not replaced by jobs offering comparable incomes. Food Insecurity When the USDA first began regularly reporting on food insecurity in the US in 1995, North Carolina was tied for 25th in the nation with 10.9% of its residents struggling to put food on their tables. The state was faring better than many of its southern neighbors which consistently ranked low in poverty metrics and was also below the national average of 11.9%. Manufacturing jobs were beginning to tick down but the bottom had yet to fall out for the industry. As the large scale layoffs began starting in 1999, 


food insecurity began to rise for the state up to 11.4%, good for 20th in the country. After the recession of 2001 and the collapse of textile jobs in North Carolina, food insecurity stood at 13.8% for the period of 2002 to 2004, 8th worst in the country. This represented a massive and rapid shift in the quality of life for the working class of the state and one that had occurred in decade in which food insecurity had decreased nation-wide. While the numbers fluctuated to varying degrees over the intervening years, North Carolina has never recovered from this swift fall. The very deindustrialization and economic restructuring that had pushed the working class families of the state in such a precarious position in the first place continued their cold calculating logic on the United States as a whole and exacted a heavy price. As of 2016, 15.1% of NC families now struggle to secure enough food to eat, which translates to 630,000 households who are grappling everyday with how to secure the most basic necessity of life. The vast majority of these households have children and nearly half regularly skip meals just to survive. The price paid by children facing food insecurity is enormous- higher cognitive problems, poorer general health, higher rates of anxiety, and higher rates of asthma.

to a 2017 report by Apartment List the national eviction rate stands at 3%, while North Carolina court records show that the state average is 6.8%. Median income is the best predictor for eviction so it is little surprise that the decline in income in the years between 1997 and 2002 coupled with the stagnant growth in the decade after has led to NC to such a high rate of eviction. North Carolina has seen its rent, mortgage, and utilities costs increase over the same period, in line with national trends, which only further exacerbates working class families’ ability to pay for housing costs and avoid eviction or foreclosure.  Between 1997 and 2002, per capita housing and utilities cost in the state increase by nearly 25% while median incomes declined by 9%. From 1997 until 2016, per capita housing and costs increased by 98% while median incomes only increased by 0.5%. Evictions create feedback loops of impoverishment: they threaten families’ abilities to secure housing in the future, create risk of job loss and make future employment more difficult, and put an immediate strain on families’ overall financial situations. They leave lasting impacts- single mothers who are evicted are two times more likely to report struggling with depression years after. And the children of those mothers are twice as likely to suffer from poor health.

Eviction Debt In step with the rest of the US, North Carolina has seen its eviction rates increase as families struggle to pay ever higher rents and gentrification entices landlords to push out low income residents. But the degree to which it has risen is stark. According

Nationwide, household debt began increasing at a large rate around 1980 due to both deregulation and the need for a method to sustain and grow consumer spending in the face of stagnating incomes. Debt payments


as percentage of disposable income reached a high of 13% before declining after the Great Recession. North Carolina, like the rest of the country, increasingly found itself relying on credit to supplement the stagnation of wages and income growth in the face of rising prices of goods and services.   In 1999, NC residents carried a per capita debt of $20,760. By 2005, this had increased by 70% to $35,360. While seemingly a massive growth, this trend was in line with what was happening nationally. However, this increase coupled with the decline in NC incomes over the period created a squeeze on disposable incomes as debt payments grew, evident in the rise of credit card debt in the state. Per capita credit card debt grew 28% between 1999 and 2002.  Auto loan and mortgage debt per capita also increased over the same period and followed national trends during the decade after. Student loans per capita, relatively low for NC in 1999, increased 981% by 2016. Debt, while relatively common as a feature of modern life under capitalism, can make a households economic situation more precarious and more fragile in the face of financial shocks. Large service payments towards debt cut off portions of income that could be used to respond to medical crises, job loss, and other life events that require an immediate use of cash. Increased student loan debt combined with stagnant income growth and poor job prospects results in a tightening budgets to the degree that many individuals cannot save for retirement and cannot purchase a home. Debt 

service payments as a percentage of income are now at the same point they were at the end of the Great Recession- a massive risk that could have devastating impacts for NC families when the next recession hits. And for many lower income members of the working class, especially POC, access to credit can be limited in the first place which results in an even more precarious household financial situation, where moderate financial shocks can lead to food insecurity, job loss, and homelessness. Health In addition to the steady income provided by the manufacturing jobs of the textile industry, so too did these jobs provide access to health insurance benefits for NC families. As these jobs left and workers found themselves pushed in to other sectors, the working class of the state had an increasingly more difficult time securing affordable healthcare. From a low of 14% uninsured rate for the period between 2000 and 2001, North Carolina saw its uninsured rate climb to a 17% average between 2002 and 2003. The state had gone from having a better rate of coverage than the national average to one of the worst. By 2012, before the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the rate had reached 17.8%. Parallel to this increase in the uninsured rate, per capita healthcare expenditures in the state increased by 68% between 2000 and 2012. Loss of access to healthcare can have immediate life or death consequences for those who need extensive health services or individuals who face 


catastrophic health events. But a sustained and growing lack of healthcare access also results in long term consequences where serious conditions that could have been addressed by that access go unchecked and worsen. While North Carolina had seen its infant mortality rate decrease steadily since 1980, this trend reversed in around 2012 and the rate began increasing to 7.2 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2016, with a rate of 13.4 for black infants in NC. Overall mortality rates, which had decreased over the same period began increasing again after 2012 reflecting a growing national trend- the opioid crisis. Part 2 will appear in the January issue. Garrison Clark is an organizer in Greensboro and a member of DSA


BITS & PIECESÂ


A NEW VISION FOR THE WHITE OAK MILL By Eric Ginsburg

At this point, we should know better. Despite North Carolina’s longstanding attempts to woo businesses here, those jobs we so covet always seem to disappear. It’s long been state policy to align closely with industry, to bend over backwards to kiss the shoes of capitalists who “create jobs.” We somehow believe will actually let us kick the football. Our predecessors could possibly be excused for being enamored with the idea that manufacturing could save us. If we keep our wages low and our workforces docile, they thought, we could draw heavy industry away from the North where costs are high. And they were right, at least in the short term. But inevitably the snake-oil salesmen picked up again, moving yet farther south, on their perpetual race to the bottom. It’s harder to forgive today’s false prophets, the ones who extol the same tired language of bringing back “good jobs.” It’s like we, collectively, have a rotten ex who’s moved on but who, we convince ourselves, would be totally different this time around. It will be better this time, we deceive ourselves, citing no evidence and reciting the word “jobs” like a mantra. By the end of the year, Greensboro’s White Oak textile plant will close. The machines will fall silent, no longer

rocking the wooden floors as they crank out denim. The facility’s operator, Cone Denim, will no doubt move production to one of its existing factories in Mexico or China, following the same pattern of the Piedmont’s industry titans over the last several decades. Some of us were foolish enough to think something might’ve changed, that a market for American-made products could prop up the selvedge denim mill. Not so. Labor didn’t save us, either. Plenty of people who long ago saw the owning class and the larger economic system for what it is placed their hopes in organized labor. But the national unions only made what could be called a half-hearted effort to organize North Carolina textile (or the South at large), despite unceasing dedication from workers from Gastonia to Greensboro. Some of those workers gave their lives to that struggle, pushing up against not only the operators of the area’s mills but also the Klan. Five were gunned down in 1979 — the Greensboro Massacre — and locals were all too happy to shield their eyes, disavowing these communist labor organizers as outside trouble.  But had the labor movement somehow succeeded in organizing


North Carolina’s textile industry, what then? If White Oak had been solidly union territory, who among us believes that would’ve prevented Platinum  Equity — the private, Beverly Hillsbased firm that owns Greensboro’s International Textile Group and by extension Cone Denim — from shutting it down and moving abroad? That’s not to say that things might not have been considerably different with robust unions at Revolution, or Proximity, or White Oak, or others. And it isn’t to say that all operators are exactly the same. But how stupid are we to try the same thing over and over again, lying to ourselves that this time we’re the final station rather than a stop along the way? White Oak is closing. The cigarette industry that propped up WinstonSalem is gone. Furniture is on its way. Dell unplugged and left. We’ve been asked to believe that enticing an auto manufacturer to a nearby megasite will once again save us. And maybe, to some extent, it would be a reprieve. But it isn’t too difficult to imagine that one day we’ll be having this same conversation, just with the names switched around. We’re falling for the same dull pick-up line. It’s just too predictable. If a manufacturer arrives, some of us bow down. Then some of us try to agitate to improve conditions, to install a union. Maybe the union loses, like at Boeing in South Carolina, or maybe the ending changes. Neither scenario does much to change the permanence of the facility, just like the story we’ve already seen play out in Detroit. Concessions can be won, gains can be made, but the power ultimately remains in the same hands.

What if instead, we marshaled our resources in a different way? Instead of expending every effort to attract, worship, and ultimately mourn these “good jobs,” what if we built our own, together? What if economic development looked like helping former workers from White Oak reopen the plant and collectively own and operate it? I’m not talking about state-owned industry. I’m suggesting that the equation is different when a business is not just locally owned, but collectivized. That if we, where possible, aim for self-sufficiency rather than endless dependency, the ending might be altered. Worker-owned businesses are not a silver bullet. There is no such thing. It is certainly possible that a worker-run White Oak plant would’ve run aground, ultimately leaving us in the same position. But it’s not ridiculous to think that the decision to fire almost 200 people would’ve gone down much differently. Maybe it’s a pipe dream, a naïve concept especially in this period of late capitalism. But it’s a hell of a lot better than the fallacy we’re being asked to believe in spite of our experience. Eric Ginsburg isn’t a socialist, but he’s naturally skeptical of authority and refuses to accept prevailing wisdom. That’s probably why he became a journalist. Find out more about him at eric-ginsburg.com. 


TWO TENNESSEE TOWNS TURN BACK THE FAR RIGHT By Alex Macmillan Anti-racist overwhelmed white nationalist forces in two Tennessee towns on Saturday, October 28, outnumbering the fascists in Shelbyville and compelling them to cancel their event altogether in Murfreesboro. Both towns had been on edge since neo-Nazi groups announced plans for what they hoped would be a repeat of the violence and terror carried out in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, where scenes of street fighting ultimately gave way to murder by motor vehicle. But anti-racist forces from across Tennessee and the region bravely mobilized to say that the white supremacists weren't welcome. In Shelbyville, where the day's first event was scheduled, hundreds of antiracists more than doubled the 150 or so white nationalists who gathered behind a heavy cordon of police protection. When the Shelbyville event ended, the anti-racists made their way to the site of the next protest in Murfreesboro, where an even larger crowd of counterprotesters--more than 1,000-had assembled to confront the white supremacists.

But the neo-Nazi groups canceled-making the announcement via Twitter--and the far right never mustered more than 30 or so, again with heavy police protection. The antifascist gathering protest turned jubilant as word spread that the white nationalists had abandoned their own rally. Many of the same far-right groups behind the events in Charlottesville had spearheaded plans for the Tennessee rallies under the banner of the Nationalist Front--which acted as an umbrella for several groups, including the National Socialist Movement, Traditionalist Worker Party, League of the South, White Lives Matter, American Vanguard and the Klan. After failing to mount credible rallies in Boston and the San Francisco Bay Area in August, some among the white supremacists advocated a retreat from their strategy of mobilizing in liberal strongholds, opting instead to hold rallies in smaller towns in red states where they would find a more sympathetic audience and more cooperative police departments.


Indeed, they may have found friendlier police--according to reports, police in Shelbyville made anti-racists leave behind anything that could be used as a weapon or even for self-defense while the racists were allowed to assemble with helmets and shields. But the people of Tennessee proved no more inclined to welcome the white supremacists than their bluestate counterparts. Originally branded as "Unite the Right 2.0" to position it as a sequel to the Charlottesville demonstration, organizers eventually changed the name to "White Lives Matter." Featured speakers included Matthew Heimbach, leader of the Traditionalist Worker Party, and Michael Hill, president of the League of the South. The demonstration in Shelbyville, a town of 21,000, was deliberately located near housing projects that are home to a large immigrant and refugee population. Brad Griffin, a member of the League of the South, explained that the motivation for the rally was twofold: First, to criticize Trump for not politicizing a recent shooting at a Nashville church by a SudaneseAmerican man, and second, to "protest the ongoing problem of refugee resettlement in Middle Tennessee." In the last 15 years, about 18,000 refugees have resettled in Tennessee, which is less than 1 percent of the state's population.

In Murfreesboro, a city of about 100,000, Middle Tennessee State University President Sidney McPhee issued a statement cancelling a number of university events and outlining plans to lock residence halls and apartments for the weekend ahead of a rumored torchlight rally on the university's campus. The event flyer encouraged male participants "to wear something similar like some combination of a white or black polo and khakis," and for women to dress modestly, a trend activists also noted in Charlottesville and apparently an attempt to give a respectable veneer to a violent ideology. The White Lives Matter rally also tried to capitalize on the findings of a recent poll showing that a majority of white Americans believes white people face discrimination. But according to Nashville resident and anti-racist protester Eric McDermott, the showing by the neoNazis was nothing short of pathetic: "There was one guy draped in a Confederate flag and wearing Air Jordans, which--the irony does not fail you...There was three of them for about an hour and then four or five more of them trickled in...a total of maybe 10 people on the Nazi side of things. One guy had a sign but I couldn't really see it...Their turnout was so low that it seems to me like we accomplished something by showing up."


A number of anti-racist groups in Middle Tennessee came together to organize the counterprotests, including the Tennessee Anti-Racist Network, Statewide Organization for Community Empowerment and Surenxs en Acciรณn, as well as national organizations and networks such as Stand Up for Racial Justice and the Democratic Socialists of America. Local churches and faith communities also joined forces to show solidarity against the white nationalists. Two local interfaith groups, Shelbyville Loves and Murfreesboro Loves, also hosted family-friendly cookouts with banner- and sign-making activities for community members and counterprotesters. While the white nationalists shouted the infamous Nazi slogan "Blood and soil" and other chants like "Closed borders, white nation, now we start the deportation," counterprotesters responded with "Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!" and "No fascists, no KKK, no racist USA!" "I'm furious that these Nazis think they can come to Middle Tennessee to recruit so they can terrorize and intimidate immigrants, refugees, and communities of color," Candice, a counterprotester from Nashville, told Socialist Worker. "We need to stand up and fight these guys back."

Unfortunately, notably missing from the counterprotest coalition was the Black Lives Matter chapter of Middle Tennessee, which released a statement saying, "We believe that gatherings of neo-Nazis and Klansmen like these distract us from the destructive ways systemic white supremacy rallies against the lives of Black and Brown folks in Middle Tennessee and this country every day," adding that "we believe that these rallies are times for white people to step up." Activists noted a sizable police presence with snipers on roofs, drones and helicopters in the air, and barricades and checkpoints on the ground. Most of the police presence was directed at anti-racist activists as opposed to the white nationalists. In sum, the day was a major victory for anti-racists. The large size of the counterdemonstrations, the inability of the white supremacists to mete out violence or injure the targets of their fury, and the broad-based coalition that was able to mobilize to defend these small cities from the far right all contributed to this outcome. Roaming white nationalists did spark a fight after taunting a biracial couple in Brentwood, Tennessee, following the rally, but there have not been other reports of violence or major conflict.


Candice, the activist from Nashville, said she was encouraged that there was a strong showing from the local community and also that it appeared "most of the counterprotesters had traveled from nearby cities like Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville." Knoxville anti-racists made a particularly strong showing in Murfreesboro and Shelbyville, having had to defend their city from the far right this past August, overwhelming the racists with roughly 3,000 counterdemonstrators compared to a few dozen white supremacists. This sort of regional solidarity is crucial when any town or city comes under attack, and the left also must adapt its strategy to build power within rural working-class communities now in the sights of the far right. "We don't want to do anything that makes [the far right] look good," David Clark, a member of Shelbyville Loves, told reporters. "They're here to recruit our neighbors, and we love all our neighbors." Working-class communities such as Murfreesboro and Shelbyville dislike hate groups as much as major metropolitan areas, and building local united fronts against hate needs to be a crucial component of any anti-racist strategy to beat back the rising tide of reactionary sentiment across the country--by empowering working people everywhere to fight for a better world for themselves and their neighbors.

Originally published in Socialist Worker. Alex Macmillan is an organizer in Greensboro.


INTERVIEWS


INTERVIEW: JOEL SRONCE By Garrison Clark Kickball for Kaepernick is a Greensboro based event centered around creatively boycotting and discussing the NFL through kickball games. Joel Sronce is an organizer at K4k. Garrison: How did Kickball for Kaepernick get started? Joel: Well, I was at this event and it was a tribute to Dick Gregory, the comedian activist who died a few months ago, in Winston-Salem at this place called Triad Cultural Arts. We were talking about Kaepernick, and I was sort of personally thinking about whether and how I would do my own boycott because I think that even if it’s in your own little way you should put pressure on the people who are making these shitty decisions. Someone at that event said “you shouldn’t just not watch the NFL on Sundays, you should spend that time with a kid. Like you should get to know a kid and spend time with them and mentor them.” And I thought “That’s a great idea, to make your boycott a little more intentional and active rather than just passively not watching.” So it got me to thinking that we should really do this publicly. We should have a public 

boycott that says none of us are watching the NFL. And not only are we not watching the NFL, we’re out here in solidarity with Kaepernick. But we’re also going to use this time to plug into local activism, come together and exchange ideas. And it really is kid-centered. I make handouts every week that are kid-friendly, that are about athletes and activism and why Kaepernick and the NFL are having their dispute, and whose shoulders Kaepernick is standing on: athletes who have been activists in the past. What has the response been like from city residents? So we do it in Center City Park downtown, which I’m glad we’ve been able to because it’s a very public space, and if we did it out in Hester Park [located on the outskirts of town], no one would be coming by to see what was happening. It’s been really positive so far. We haven’t had anyone come wag their finger at us or say “You’re doing the wrong thing.” None of that has happened. And maybe it will and maybe it has happened to certain people on social media but I haven’t really heard about it. So it’s been really cool so far. Just a little background, I had the idea and I reached out to a couple of people, a comrade in ISO and some other people I knew from activism: events and other 


"AND NOT ONLY ARE WE NOT WATCHING THE NFL, WE’RE IN SOLIDARITY WITH KAEPERNICK."

things. People I thought would be really into the idea and able to help with it. And so often it’s their kids and then their friends and their friends’ kids. It’s that community but almost every week we’ll have people walking around in the park and saying what is this and can we play kickball and sometimes they’ll stick around and listen to the conversations we have. Every week we seem to sort of reacha new family, a new person and occasionally I’ll have someone text me “is it happening this week?” and stuff like that.  It fluctuates up and down, in terms of who all can come out for whatever reason, but the response has been really good so far. It’s been all on the positive side. So compared to standard boycotts and protests, how does the centering of a kickball game differ? What are the differences in organizing and responses compared to say picketing or boycotting? That’s a good question. So one thing is that there are no real eyes on us, meaning we’re not doing this to intimidate the people who we’re boycotting against. We’re not right outside a factory or something like that. It’s a lot more about solidarity with one another and building local activism than it is about trying tolike we don’t hope to single handedly or  

even assume that we’re part of a bigger version of this kind of thing that’s going to bring down the NFL. So I think that fact, the fact that the main goal is solidarity and conversation, is what makes it a little different. And it’s also fun. It really is. And the kickball part of it, I think kickball is a great sport because it’s easy for all ages to play together and it’s non-gendered. It makes everyone look forward to it. Whereas protests are serious and they don’t really have that element of fun that seems to continue to bring people back every week. And one thing we also do, this isn’t a direct response to that question, is we’ll make these signs. Like, have you seen any pictures of it? Yeah. Kids will make these signs and we’ll stick them in the ground, sort of like electionsigns. And that’s cool too because they’re able to use their creativity to express themselves. It’s nice that kids who are more interested in doing that than playing kickball have that chance as well. And we made shirts one time!  


"REMEMBER, KAEPERNICK’S ORIGINAL PROTEST WAS NOT ABOUT BEING ANTIFLAG, NOT ABOUT BEING ANTI-ANTHEM OR ANTI-MILITARY. IT WAS ABOUT POLICE BRUTALITY."

Awesome! So talking with participants, have the comments of Trump or NFL owners come up? Have they changed anything about the approach? I’m thinking specifically about recent comments made by the Houston Texans owner [Rob McNair] about the “inmates running the prison.” The NFL protests become a lot more politicized than at the beginning of the season. So it’s interesting because that’s sort of ballooned like crazy this year. A lot more into the mainstream. Which is great. But yeah I sort of assumed that Trump’s lunacy would allow for fodder for conversation. And we definitely address the things that he says. Parents can bring their own censorship if they want but that’s very rarely the case. They’re usually very comfortable and even excited for the opportunity to have their kids be part of discussions about the things the president said. Like he called the players “sons of bitches and wouldn’t it be great if they got fired for disrespecting the flag.” So like A.) Why is he doing that? What is he trying to get out of that? And B.) What has happened to the conversation? Remember, Kaepernick’s original protest was not about being anti-flag, not about being anti-anthem or anti-military. It was about police brutality. And the fact, he said “There are bodies in the street and

people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Where else to draw attention to that issue except during the anthem because it’s going to raise attention. So why are Trump and so many owners trying to move away from that conversation? Why do they have that intention in moving this conversation away from police brutality and systemic oppression to the flag and being patriotic/unpatriotic? And it’s great because kids have been grappling with these issues. There was a high schooler who had a lot to say, a middle schooler who had a lot to say. And they know it’s wrong. I think it’s great to be able to see that engagement in kids and almost try and foster this kid led discussion because it needs to be a space where it’s not like “Mom says don’t watch the NFL” but “I really want to know why this is happening” and not only why the original protest happened but how it’s turned into this sort of tug of war about the actual intent of what’s been happening. I think that’s a good segue into this next question. What do think the role of politics in sports in the US is? Both at the national level and locally.   What do you mean by that? 


"YOU HEAR PEOPLE SAY “SPORTS ARE INTEGRATED AND THEY’RE THIS MERITOCRACY,” BUT THEY’RE REALLY NOT.."

Well, seeing the backlash to the kneeling protest, it is sort of a cookie cutter response. “Politics does not have a place in sports.” People go to sports to get away from politics and everything. And for many people, it’s more unimaginable to have politics involved in sports at the local level. So given that, where politics fit in with sports? There’s a lot to talk about but I’ll try to keep it short. Obviously the same problems that are in greater society and culture work their way into sports. We can be talking about race- only one NFL owner is nonwhite, except for the Green Bay Packers who don’t have one owner. Michael Jordan is the only black owner in the NBA. And so you hear people say “Sports are integrated and they’re this meritocracy,” but they’re really not. There are still obviously issues of race, and misogyny- I’ve heard women’s sports get about 3% of the coverage on ESPN. They are very political arenas. People want sports to just be entertainment; they want to go home and only worry about how their team is doing. It’s a kind of respite in that way. But I think that it is an unbelievably powerful force in our country because so many people watch and pay attention to it. And we’re fortunate to have people like Kaepernick because to be on that level in sport and

still risk the end of your career, to still have the courage to make a political statement and risk the consequences, which he is suffering now, is a huge deal. And sports are also commodities. The NCAA is a great way to look at that. The people at the top are making seven figures. Billion-dollar TV deals. And none of the players are making any money, in any sport. A really important thing as a socialist is to highlight the player-owner, worker-boss relationship because the comment that McNair, the Houston Texans owner, madewe don’t want the inmates running the prison- but as socialist we do want the inmates running the prison. Obviously that language is fucked up, but what many people want to see- Dave Zirin [left-wing sportswriter], us- is that we want to see the workers, the athletes come together and say “We have the power here. You, the owners, don’t go put on a uniform and amaze people with your physical genius. We do that.” That’s what socialist want, is for people in any profession to do that. We people at any layer of society to say “wait a minute, you can’t just jerk us around like this. We are where the power is.” The way that we’re currently set up is through capitalism, and questioning and fighting that economic and political system at any level is a necessity.


"WE SEE A 16-YEAR-OLD KID LIKE JOSE CHARLES GET ASSAULTED BY THE POLICE AND THE MAYOR AND THE CITY COUNCIL DON’T STAND UP FOR HIM. WHAT IS THAT? THAT IS THE VERY THING THAT KAEPERNICK WANTS TO ADDRESS."

We haven’t necessarily gotten to that level of discussion at Kickball for Kaepernick but I do want to get there. And I also want to connect the story of Juana Tobar Ortega [local undocumented resident who has been in sanctuary since earlier this year] to K4K because I don’t think her case is very well known. And I want to ask these kids: why does Juana have to do this? She has lived here for 25 years, she’s a part of her community and has kids. Why does she have to live in a church? Because I think in ISO and probably DSA as well, it’s really important to talk about overlapping oppressions. It is important to understand the similarities of police brutality against African American communities and other state violence against undocumented communities. Who are putting these communities in these situations and why? Why can’t she go home, why does she have to live in a church? And it’s a local story. We can tell the kids that a few miles away from here Juana is living in a church and hear what they have to say. They won’t try and give a moral validation of it but they will try and analyze the systemic problems that are affecting Juana, or Jose Charles, or others. Has there been any connection between the issues at stake in the kneeling protestpolice brutality and oppression against communities of color and instances of 

those issues here at the local level? The Greensboro Police Department has had several high profile instances of brutality and systemic discrimination, such as Jose Charles, so I’m wondering if in discussions at Kickball for Kaepernick if that connection is talked about? We have yet to address specific local cases, like the high profile cases you alluded to. But it’s not lost on the kids, the majority of whom are kids of color. It’s not lost on them that what Kaepernick is talking about, and then what the other kids are talking about, is the role of police in our lives and police brutality. That’s something we discuss. So it’s not like these things are happening in Kaepernick’s world and not here. We recognize through shared experience that the things that he is talking about are very much worth fighting for. Because we see a 16-year-old kid like Jose Charles get assaulted by the police and the Mayor and the City Council don’t stand up for him. What is that? That is the very thing that Kaepernick wants to address. And we support him, not only because of the sacrifice he is making but because we want to address the same problem in our communities. I wanted to talk briefly about some of the handouts that we have been discussing at Kickball for Kaepernick.


"I’M HOPING TO CREATE DISCUSSION AND TO HAVE THE KIDS GRAPPLE WITH THESE QUESTIONS."

Sure, absolutely. The first one we used was on other athlete activists, made specifically for the kids. We discussed Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, a MuslimAmerican woman who holds the Massachusetts state high school scoring record for either boys or girls. She played college ball at Memphis and then at Indiana State, becoming the first college player to play in a hijab. But she couldn’t play professionally because FIBA had a rule that you couldn’t wear head coverings, even though no one had been injured by head coverings. Because of her activism, gaining all these signatures, and teaming up with other Muslim-American athletes, FIBA was ultimately pressured to pass a rule that permitted  head coverings. So after reading this with the kids, we asked: how was she successful and is there anything we can learn from her? And we’ll try to get the kids to understand how her work and her solidarity with other athletes helped to create change. We also looked at the Greensboro Sit-in and the legend that a group of NC A&T football players joined on one of the days of the sit-ins and formed a flying-v around the activists to protect them. We asked the kids how they felt to know that this happened here in our city and to know 

that athletes were involved. And finally we talked about Jesse Owens and about how Adolf Hitler didn’t shake his hand at the 1936 Olympics after Owens won gold. But then Owens came back to the US and FDR didn’t send him a telegram or anything like that. By the winter, he was racing against a horse for money. And there was a quote from Barack Obama that said “I want Kaepernick and others who are on a knee, I want them to listen to the pain that they may cause.” And we wanted the kids to answer the question:Is what Obama said fair? With these hand-outs I’m hoping to create discussion and to have the kids grapple with these questions. What can folks do to help support Kickball for Kaepernick and how can they connect with y’all? We have facebook events every week and the events are on Sundays at Center City Park in downtown Greensboro. The FB event for this week was Kickball for Kaepernick Week 8 so they can find the events by searching that way. With the winter coming up, I’m personally happy to bundle up and go out there, but with a lot of kids we probably won’t be having much in terms of events. But I think looking into joining us every Sunday at 1PM or through social media connecting with me and others just to talk is beneficial too.  Joel Sronce is a writer in Greensboro, a member of ISO, and a contributor here at PLR. 


CULTURE


REVIEW: THE QUARTER ROYS  by Taylor Briggs Last month, Greensboro’s own The Quarter Roys dropped their debut album, entitled If You Think I Should. Mixing elements of psychedelic, progressive rock, rock n’ roll, bubblegum, and jazz stylings, this album nods to a varied potpourri of sounds with surprising cohesiveness and pop sensibility. Transitioning seamlessly from Beachboys-like “ew-la-las”, to tasteful jazz licks, to drifting, dreamy guitar solos, to driving riffs delivered with Ramonesesque intensity and distortion, The Quarter Roys take listeners on a fun, trippy, and engaging adventure that sometimes veers out of its lane, but never crashes off the side of the road. For this reviewer, the most outstanding track is Fool’s Errand - a lighthearted, toe-tapping ‘60s pop-like song well-tailored for radio play and dance party playlists. Also noteworthy is the album’s ballad, Sometimes, which delivers heartfelt lyrics to a tender and rhythmically intricate melody. The closing track, Don’t Come Around, is highly reminiscent of The Beatles. It makes for a solid anchor – lyrically and musically playful, and impossible to not headbop to at least a little bit. “I would say that we chose to use the genres and sounds that we used on our album because they represent the point of making music the most – it’s about artistry, and we feel that people who inspired us express the human experience best, and 

that to me is the point of art.” - Ethan Golden The Quarter Roys, made up of Ricky Perez (drums), Nick VanBuskirk (bass),Logan Butler (guitar), and Ethan Golden (guitar/vocals) came together here in Greensboro and have been playing together for a little over half a year. “Nick and I met in high school and formed a fusion jazz group. Everyone except for Ethan was in the jazz program at UNCG. Nick invited Logan to join the jazz group. I decided later I wanted to form a rock group. Through a mutual friend I met Ethan and discovered that we idolized the Beatles equally. I was really impressed by his songwriting and lyrics – pretty blown away actually. My mindset was that if we formed a band we would be a super group, no doubt.” - Ricky Perez In talking to the band, it’s evident that they take their craft seriously. Most of the members (with the exception of Ethan) are music students at UNCG. Stalwart in their ambitions, The Quarter Roys view playing music together not as a pastime, but as a hopeful and feasible career going forward.


“We want to make it our legacy – the music we make as the Quarter Roys. I was in Poe Palace and it was the first band that I feel I aligned with artistically, but I didn’t get the sense that that was what everyone was trying to do with their lives, and it is what I want to do with mine. If I feel that way I need to play with people who also feel that way. The rest of the Quarter Roys possess the passion and dedication that I feel for it. Naturally, being in the band together was a good setup.” - Ethan Golden Though based in Greensboro, The Quarter Roys have played in various cities in NC. They take pride in Greensboro as a welcoming and creative community. Members Golden and Perez, along with their friend Jacob Brunner,have spearheaded an artist support group called the Greensboro Collective in hopes of fostering an even stronger sense of solidarity between local creatives. “I love Greensboro - I think the spectrum of characters here is wide and interesting and it seems like no matter where you lie on this spectrum, one thing that brings us together is that we like art. Greensboro seems like a sleeping beast that is just waiting to wake up.” - Ricky Perez Still, as has been expressed by many (or more accurately, most) local musicians in our community, they spoke briefly about the gap between creative talent and viable venues to host local and touring acts in Greensboro. “Greensboro is already a pretty supportive musical community, but I

feel like if there were more venues that supported the art that artists make instead of just the performance as background music it would be more beneficial for artists and also help us network. I think that mobility – “where do we go and what do we do next?” – is a big part of the experience for artists.” - Nick VanBuskirk Though pointedly influenced by some highly recognizable artists, The Quarter Roys’ sound is uniquely and thoughtfully pieced together, culminating into a cohesive sound all its own – fresh and relevant, but also reminiscent of a bygone musicalera. They will be playing themselves in an upcoming local theatre performance – “Two Times a Charm,” which will take place nightly from January 22 - 25 at 7:30 in the Elliott University Center auditorium on UNCG’s campus. If You Think I Shouldis available for stream and download at thequarterroys.bandcamp.com Instagram: @the_quarter_roys Facebook: facebook.com/thequarterroys Taylor Briggs is a musician in Greensboro and a member of DSA


In Space No One Can Hear You Scream BY MATTHEW C. BROWN

If you approach Alien (1979) as a

Many Sci-Fi films involve either the

single, stand-alone film, which you

invasion of Earth or human vessels by

should, then the film’s intentions are

extraterrestrials, or the script is

magnified. It is a story that inks

flipped so that humanity is cast as

Humanity in its place in the universe:

the invaders. Whichever way the

as miniscule specks in the vast dark of

meeting of worlds is portrayed, we

space-time. It traps Humanity in a

are really being invaded by ourselves.

bottle with a spider of its own making.

We are seeing into our own eyes, our

There is nowhere to go, and the

own mind. We create these

chances of escape are as minute as

projections of ourselves as visitors

our place in the universe. Yet

from other worlds because we have

somewhere inside the silent scream

not yet been face to face with an

that is Ridley Scott’s Alien, questions

extraterrestrial species to show us

resound; empirical and philosophical

how the “alien other” would actually

questions of great importance about

proceed or interact with us.

what it is to be human or alien and how we should proceed in our collective future.


Sci-Fi stories like these are cautionary

never been topped. Certainly the

tales that beg us not to perpetrate the

other films that many believe make

horrors of our human past and

up an “Alien franchise” have not been

present on other worlds and species

able to reach the heights of

in space (not to mention each other

intellectual and philosophical terror

here on earth). Though they are over

that the original film achieved, and I

the top sometimes and often are

include in that Ridley Scott’s most

poorly executed B movies, they are

recent returns to that universe,

intended to be lessons in humility not

Prometheus (2012) and Alien:

to be taken lightly.

Covenant (2017) .

The concept behind Dan O’Bannon

The film begins as the Nostromo, a

and Donald Shusett’s original story

commercial mining vessel, whose

and screenplay for Alien is that of a B

mission is being funded by the

monster film, something that had

Weyland-Yutani Corporation, is

been done before many times over

returning from an expedition. When

and had thusly confined the Sci-Fi

its crew is awakened from stasis, far

genre to the niche realm of the

before their destined arrival on Earth,

laughable, obscure, and second rate;

by “Mother”, the ship’s central

but what Dan O’Bannon really wanted

computer, the crew nervously goes

from Alien was to find a way to make

about asking , “Why?”. It seems that

a B monster film with A+ production

somewhere in the fine print of the

value. If that is all O’Bannon wanted

crew’s mission contract there is a

from Alien then he should be proud,

stipulation that states that they must

were he still with us, to see that the

investigate any distress signal, or

resulting film far surpasses just

alien lifeforms they come across, and

brilliance in artistic technique. The

if the crew members do not assist in

film’s continued stature in the Sci-Fi

said investigation, they forfeit their

genre, much like the “facehugger”

payment (shares). Mother has

inserting its Xenomorphic spawn into

detected a distress signal coming

Kane’s stomach, cannot be detached

from the planetoid Acheron (LV-426),

from any debating of the greatest Sci-

thus the crew must go down to the

Fi films of all time, nor, in fact, the

surface of the planetoid.

greatest films of all time, lest it render the debate wholly deceased.

During their search the crew finds the petrified corpse of a large

Alien set a high bar for Sci-Fi writers

humanoid alien with a hole in its

and filmmakers, a bar which has

chest. They also find a hive of eggs,


and the occupant of one of these

creature, the Xenomorph, that

eggs latches itself onto the face of

terrorizes the ship, but there is more

one of the crew members.

at work here.

When the rest of the crew brings his

The concept of the “alien inside us” is

still living body back to the ship,

also at play. An example being that

Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is faced

the creature gestates inside the

with an ethical dilemma. If she opens

stomach and then bursts out, killing

the door to them, she risks

the host—On a symbolic level this

contaminating the shuttle and the

represents the doppelganger of

rest of the crew including herself, but

humanity being born from out of the

if she does not open the door half of

human form. It kills the old human,

the crew, including the captain, will

as if shedding its skin. In reality, the

die. Protocol states she should not

process of traveling at length

open the door to the contamination,

through space-time will shape

but in the heat of the moment, Ash

humanity in different ways

(Ian Holm), the ship’s science and

intellectually, adaptively, and

medical officer opens the door to the

evolutionarily. This killer creature

crew outside, contaminating the

bursting forth from our bodies is an

shuttle in the process.

immediate and literal representation of that biological and intellectual

Ash’s seemingly very human act of

change, as the creature has no

empathy and compassion for the

morality and is entirely parasitic.

crew members outside is revealed later to be a highly calculated, pre-

The more subtle and artistic turn in

programmed action in accordance

the writing of the film and the real

with his ulterior mission given him by

thesis of the film, though, is that the

their employers (Weyland-Yutani

“alien inside us” is actually Ash, who

Corp) who placed Ash, an android, on

is our own (humanity’s) creation, an

the ship to guarantee the capture of

entity that has already infiltrated or

any extraterrestrial species at the

contaminated the ship.

expense of any and all crew members. There are many themes that are

If one sees the Nostromo as a

explored surrounding this moment

representation of the female body

and those ensuant.

and “Mother” as the human mind, one can see Ash as a foreign agent

The film very subtly asks us, “What is

that allows for the breaking down of

alien?”. The obvious answer is the

the body’s defenses.


You then see Ripley as the

concisely twists the “alien” entity

personification of the mechanical

back on humanity. Ash, an android,

womb that is the Nostromo, and the

built by the corporation in secret to

bridging of biological and the

carry out a secret mission is

mechanical which represents

not human but appears to be to the

Humanity’s movement away from its

crew. Even his one seemingly human

initial form to a mechanical and

act of letting the crew through the

amoral form. This is a theme that is

door along with the creature is in

explored through H.R. Giger’s erotic

compliance with his prime directive.

biomechanical production design.

Much like the creature that he lets

There is also, very prominently, a

onto the ship, Ash is completely

thematic exploration of Julia

amoral and mechanical in his actions

Kristeva’s feminist responses to

and programming. The lesson and

Sigmund Freud’s ideas about

thesis here being we must deal with

sexuality. Something one can read

our own demons that we bring with

more about in Barbara Creed’s The

us before introducing ourselves to

Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism,

other extraterrestrial ones.

Psychoanalysis, but that I do not have space to explore the complexities of

For a long time now we have been

here.

able to see the beginnings of our

The script’s approach to the character

corporate future in space, the same

Ash and the revelation that he is an

corporate future that is portrayed in

android is one of the key elements

Alien. Companies like Space-X come

that separates Alien from your typical

to mind in this respect. Weyland-

Hard Sci-Fi film. No film so subtly and

Yutani is a fictional version of some


such massive corporation (Weyland

is undeniably central to the film.

Corp was valued at $218 trillion before its hostile takeover of Yutani Corp),

While Sci-Fi fantasy films and stories

one which represents the rate of

such as George Lucas’ Star Wars

expansion and exploitation that is

(1977) and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s

natural and inevitable within

Dune (which though brilliantly

capitalism. Xenopedia states that,

realized was never truly executed)

“Weyland-Yutani is consistently

take place in imagined galaxies far

portrayed as exhibiting the worst

away from our native Earth, Alien,

aspects of corporate profiteering,

deals in known science here in our

willing to sacrifice decency and life in

galaxy and uses that knowledge to

the endless pursuit of profits.” The

project Humanity into the future. The

term to use is no longer globalization

film falls in the sub-genre of Hard

but universalization, and we must

Sci-Fi, a genre whose boundaries are

take care not to let the face of

blurred by many Sci-Fi worlds and

humanity be primarily corporations

works. It is a sub-genre of cautionary

bent on imperial pursuits like

tales and warnings about missteps

resource acquisition because we will

we might take as a species in the

undoubtedly be perceived as a threat

future; a sub-genre which is always

to any conscious life forms we come

being added to and needs to be

across and the employees of such

explored further in order to usher in

companies are and will be subject to

the Human future that we truly

the highest degree of exploitation.

desire in space and here on Earth. Alien is a perfect example of that

The relationship of the Weyland-

genre dealing practically, although

Yutani Corporation to the crew and

darkly, with Humanity’s interstellar

Ash’s presence as an android spy on

future.

the Nostromo suggests that capitalism and its corporate system

That said, Alien, is not completely

represent a part of the “alien other”

perfect. The final product, though it

that we must tame in ourselves. The

does not treat race unfavorably,

way the film unfolds suggests that a

places a woman in a powerful

lack of trust and empathy coupled

leading role, and features white men

with Capitalistic and imperial pursuits

being overpowered and consumed

leads to Humanity evolving past

first before others, could be more

morality and allowing its darkness

intersectional. As we move forward

and myopic vision to consume itself.

with Sci-Fi projects, particularly in a

That is certainly one throughway that

very white-washed film industry,


it is important that we pull focus to

Sci-Fi and entertainment, but it is

the many other oppressed

important for our growth as a

perspectives in Sci-Fi. There are

species to accept the facts and foster

incredible Afrofuturist and Astro Black

workable ideas and solutions in the

stories that already exist and need to

face of the immensity of space-time.

be released as films/TV to wide

There is no sound in space, and the

audiences. These are stories that

situation and our relationship to

project all of us into the future in an

space is much more serious than

equitable light, working together, and

films like Star Wars would have us

living for one another and the spirit of

admit. The reality is that space gives

scientific discovery. Though films like

us many things to fear. We cannot

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

afford to fear ourselves as well. It’s a

and Rogue One (2016) and other

sobering thought to be sure, but our

prominent TV/Film ventures like Star

future depends on our creativity, our

Trek: Discovery (2017-) are opening up

ingenuity, and our brave face. As we

spaces for intersectional characters

boldly go to brave the vast darkness

and storylines in space, a majority of

it is important to remember the

the iceberg is still underwater. Ava

reality of the situation of which Alien

Duvernay is slated to bring Octavia

warns—in space no one can hear you

Butler’s work to the screen, and that

scream.  

can’t happen soon enough. But as we move forward I do hope that Sci-Fi

Matthew C. Brown is a film buff in

writers, whoever they may be, will

Greensboro and a member of ISO.

approach our imminent space future practically and realistically. I do not wish to stifle creativity, and space fantasy has its place, but we also need to grow up and work together keeping the horrors and cultures of our ancestry in mind here in the present to project ourselves equitably into the future.     In Sci Fi Fantasy films that we love, one can hear laser blasts and explosions echoing unrealistically within the vacuum of space. Those films have their place in the world of 


An International Sports Resistance: #TakeAKnee Reaches Berlin BY JOEL SRONCE

In the monumental Olympiastadion

But a chill ran through me as I stared

in Berlin, where Hitler once bristled at

at the austere platform protruding

the unanticipated triumphs of

from the stands.

African-American athletes, something

The balcony itself has surely changed

happened eighty years later that

since the 1936 Olympics — whether

Trump, too, did not intend.

pockmarked from Soviet machine guns during an attack at the end of

Someone in our group tapped me on

the Second World War, or altered

the shoulder and gestured toward the

under the years of British control, or

stark concrete balcony on our right.

polished in the stadium’s 21st

“That’s where Hitler watched,” he said.

century renovations to represent a

Suddenly I felt its shadow.

reunified Berlin.

It was a clear, breezy day in the early summer of 2012. Sunlight soaked through the transparent panels in the roof of Berlin’s Olympiastadion, gilding the verdant pitch and the bright blue track surrounding it.


Yet regardless of its changes, the

I spent the spring and summer of

rostrum remains a trace of what, and

2012 in Berlin, studying at the Freie

who, the entire “Reichssportfeld” was

Universität — or Free University

once constructed to honor. A terrible

(imagine that!) — where I made

past maintains the structure’s former

friends from all across the Continent.

command, demanding remembrance

Surprisingly, Sebastian Bommell, a

of its consequence — a trace directly

roommate for my four months in the

stenciled off a hell that was.

city, became my only lasting German companion — at least the only

Shadows of the Third Reich stalk the

friendship that continues to this day.

city of Berlin, as does the troubled

Apart from our trip to watch Berlin’s

past of any place: unhealed wounds of

Hertha BSC in the Olympiastadion,

prejudice and hate that have not fully

we enjoyed a summer of great

been pried from our world. Of late, in

soccer. Our friends and I followed

fact, such wounds have been

Bommell to watch-parties for

renamed, salted, and sponsored.

Germany’s UEFA European

Berlin is haunted by those ghosts, not

Championship run — once even deep

as shockingly commemoratory as our

in the woods of a park — each time

Confederate monuments, but eerie in

joining hundreds of rabid viewers

their proximity to the present day.

and consuming Berliner Weissbier by

One of my living grandmothers was

the kiloliter. Germany shut out its

already twelve when Hitler stood here

group competition, only to be bested

upon his balcony and nearly all the

by Mario Balotelli and the Italians in

one-hundred thousand in attendance

the semi-finals in late June.

joined him, believed him, raised their

Back in the United States, Obama

arm in his salute.

and Romney had begun their billion-

Enlivening this image now is the rise

dollar dance. The country rumbled

of fascism found not only in the

with social unrest in the year

United States — in Charlottesville, in

between the murder of Trayvon

Portland, in Richard Spencer’s ‘Hail

Martin and the birth of the Black

Trump’ speech that followed the

Lives Matter movement, rising in the

November election — but throughout

wake of the acquittal of Martin’s

Europe as well.

killer, George Zimmerman. That

Yet where there is prejudice there is a

summer Colin Kaepernick trained

resistance, one that spans history and

during the offseason, the one

continents — one that includes the

preceding his move into the starting

world of sports. On grounds that once

role in which he would lead the San

belonged to evil, solidarity can

Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl.

conquer.


The balcony in Berlin’s

not unlike the Olympic cleansing

Olympiastadion was an intentional

that has continued to this day in

part of the building’s original design

host cities such as Atlanta, London

for the coming 1936 Olympics,

and Rio de Janeiro.

perhaps the most famous sporting event in history.

But as for the Games themselves, a hero emerged that Hitler did not

When Hitler and the Nazis came to

expect. African-American track star

power in 1933, they chose to use the

Jesse Owens dominated in the

Games as both a pulpit for Nazism

Olympiastadion, winning gold

and a dazzling veil to cloak their

medals in the 100, the 200, the long

growing crimes of Aryan supremacy.

jump and the relay. Such success

Author Jeremy Schaap describes the

had never been seen before, nor

‘36 Games as “a fascist fantasy come

would it be again until Carl Lewis in

true.” Well before the Olympics began,

1984.

the Nazis used them as a chance to send propaganda throughout Europe,

According to Zirin, “This infuriated

including one poster that depicted

Hitler. He refused to be

Hitler’s face, along with the harrowing

photographed with Owens or even

words, “I summon the youth of the

acknowledge the existence of the

world.”

man who stole the games. The Americans ought to be ashamed of

In his book A People’s History of

themselves for letting their medals

Sports in the United States, political

be won by Negroes, he said. I myself

sportswriter Dave Zirin notes, “The

would never shake hands with one of

Nazi pomp and circumstance

them.”

launched the kind of over-the-top nationalism associated with the

Indeed, before Owens received any

Olympics today. The Nazi Olympics

of his medals — in fact before

also saw the birth of the kind of stark

African-American high-jumper

repression associated with the

Cornelius Johnson received his gold

Olympics, as governments have

medal on the Olympics’ first day —

attempted to cleanse cities for an

Hitler had left the stadium.

international audience.” Zirin describes how Berlin police detained hundreds of Gypsies and put them in internment camps, a process


The only thing you could do better is

“Going to the White House is

if you see [players protest], even if it’s

considered a great honor for a

one player, leave the stadium, I

championship team.Stephen Curry is

guarantee things will stop… - Donald

hesitating,therefore invitation is

Trump, Sept. 22, 2017.

withdrawn!” — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23,

The snubbing of Owens’ achievements

2017.

shines a light not only on Hitler’s racist fury, but on the racism

**

consuming the lives of even successful American athletes of color

More than eighty years after Owens’

when they returned home.

triumph, a few seasons after

Owens, whose own political history

Kaepernick’s Super Bowl loss, the

raises some eyebrows, once noted:

quarterback sat during the playing of the national anthem during a 2016

“When I came back to my native

preseason game. No one noticed. He

country, after all the stories about

sat again the follow week, and no

Hitler, I couldn't ride in the front of

one noticed. Finally, during his third

the bus. I had to go to the back door. I

week of protest, the act gained

couldn't live where I wanted. I wasn't

national attention. Kaepernick

invited to shake hands with Hitler, but

addressed the media in the days that

I wasn't invited to the White House to

followed:

shake hands with the President,

“I'm going to continue to stand with

either.”

the people that are being oppressed,” his statements included.


“To me, this is something that has to

In the weeks that followed, NFL

change. When there's significant

players on many teams began to

change and I feel that flag represents

kneel or raise a fist in the air during

what it's supposed to represent, and

the anthem. The protest spread to

this country is representing people

high-school teams and coaching

the way that it's supposed to, I'll

staffs, cheerleaders, marching bands

stand.”

and more.

The next week, after talking to a

**

former Green Beret, Kaepernick decided to kneel. “... as we talked

After the 2016 season ended,

about it, we came up with taking a

Kaepernick became a free agent. As

knee,” Kaepernick said. “Because there

the weeks and months into his free

are issues that still need to be

agency went by, the quarterback

addressed and it was also a way to

wasn’t picked up.

show more respect to the men and women who fight for this country.”

Despite overwhelming evidence that Kaepernick belongs in the NFL —

That week, Kaepernick was joined by

coming off the 2016 season with 16

49ers teammate Eric Reed.

touchdowns and only four

After the game, Kaepernick unveiled a

interceptions — he has been denied

plan to donate $1 million to charities

employment. It’s clear that this isn’t

that focus on racial issues. Later that

because of talent or work ethic, but

afternoon, Jeremy Lane of the Seattle

because he began to express the

Seahawks — the first non-teammate of

political truths that threaten the NFL

Kaepernick — sat during the national

owners and their exploitative game.

anthem.

Evidence of the deliberate shuttingout of Kaepernick abounds, such as

“I wasn't trying to say anything. Just

seen in Bleacher Report’s Mike

standing behind Kaepernick,” Lane

Freeman’s tweet, “144 quarterbacks

said after the game.

have thrown 200 or more passes in the year when they turned 29. 143

Three days later, US Women’s Soccer

were on NFL rosters when they

star Megan Rapinoe knelt, expressing

turned 30. Kaepernick is the only one

both solidarity with Kaepernick and

not.”

frustration with a country that doesn’t protect all her liberties as a member

The NFL owners, conservative 1-

of the LGBT community.

percenters to be sure, colluded


against Kaepernick in a move that

people of color. Even as the owners’

might one day be brought to court.

contribution to such causes exceeds

Not only has Kaepernick’s career been

chump-change, these issues will

taken away, but the meaning of his

persist.

protest has been severely threatened. As Trump, Pence and others attempt The desire of the owners and the

their own collusion over their

Trump administration to stamp out

approach to the protest, it’s clear

the players’ ability to draw attention

that the right-wing’s attempt is one

to political issues — hoping to tug the

of age-old political exploitation —

protest’s meaning away from state

using a fear of social disorder and

violence and into a conversation

civil disobedience to mobilize a

about patriotism — is a form of

conservative agenda, scapegoating,

racialized social control. Just like the

and white racial resentment.

police brutality that sparked the first NFL protest. Just like mass

For the fascist regime that revelled at

incarceration: the locking out of

the opportunity to host the 1936

millions of African Americans from

Olympics, the surrounding (and

opportunity, public benefit and

momentarily suppressed) agenda

achievement.

was much of the same. But in the monumental

**

Olympiastadion in Berlin, where Hitler once bristled at the

Colin Kaepernick has been kept out of

unanticipated triumphs of African-

the NFL, but protest has not. Players

American athletes, something

continue to kneel, raise their fists,

happened eighty years later that

organize, and demand concessions

Trump, too, did not intend.

from the teams’ owners, even after the NFL’s nearly $90 million pledge to

In the weeks following Trump’s racist

social justice projects.

comments toward the NFL protesters

As athlete-activists have expressed,

— “Get that son of a bitch off the field

there is an enduring, intentionally

right now, he’s fired. He’s fired!” — in

constructed schism between the

which he attempted to mobilize the

ideals the flag is supposed to

ill-will of a largely white audience

represent and the devastating

against protest executed almost

experience of police brutality and

entirely by African-American players,

oppression that plague millions in this

the momentum of the resistance

country — particularly, of course,

against him went international.


Just before their October 14 home

“I didn't know who started the

match against Schalke, the players for

protest,” he told me later.

Hertha BSC gathered on the pitch at

“But as a leftist I do support the

the Olympiastadion. They linked arms

message, especially since the right

with one another, and, to the surprise

wing becomes stronger in Germany

of everyone watching, they knelt in

during the past few years — all over

solidarity with the NFL protest.

europe it does. Some people seem to

“Berlin is colourful,” the stadium

not remember what happened

announcer called out to the 50,000

during the Second World War.

fans in attendance, according to ESPN FC. “Hertha BSC stands for diversity

“So I welcomed the Hertha team to

and against violence. For this reason,

kneel, because everybody watches

we are joining forces with the protest

soccer in Germany. Even the right-

of our fellow American athletes to

winged idiots.”

take a stand against discrimination. For a tolerant Berlin, both now and

Hertha BSC steht für Vielfalt,

forevermore.”

Toleranz und Verantwortung! Für ein

My old friend Sebastian Bommell first

Berlin, dass auch in Zukunft

heard about the kneeling that

weltoffen ist! #TakeAKnee #hahohe,

evening on "Sportschau," a German

the team tweeted with a picture of

SportsCenter of sorts, as I understand

the players kneeling.

it.

(Hertha BSC stands for tolerance and responsibility! For a tolerant Berlin

Though he didn’t know the context,

and an open-minded world, now and

Bommell was thrilled to see it.

forevermore! #TakeAKnee #hahohe).


It wasn’t the only time in the recent

politics, Bommell said, “I always

months that protest has worked its

enjoyed playing basketball with you,

way into the world of German soccer,

Simon and the [bigger] Sebastian

Bommell said.

from Berlin. This is still one of the best examples for me: why sport is a

He told me about a game between

good way to learn about each other.”

China’s under-20 men’s soccer team

He’s right; sports are. And so is

and the German club TSV Schott

protest.

Mainz. It was one of 16 friendlies the young Chinese team had scheduled

Since Bommell told me about the

against lower clubs in Germany.

Tibetan flags at the match, I’ve

According to the Guardian, four

learned more about their history

Tibetan refugees and two Germans —

than I’ve ever done before. Not for an

part of the Tibet-Initiative Germany

article, but in order to know which

group — unfurled Tibetan flags while

side I’m on.

attending the match, protesting the

Hertha BSC forward Salomon Kalou,

Chinese occupation and oppression of

who hails from the Ivory Coast, said

their homeland.

that their collective action was a stand against the presence of racism,

The Chinese team refused to continue

white supremacy and discrimination

the match, which was broadcasted

surrounding any sport.

live in China, and walked off the pitch for 25 minutes. The remaining games

"Taking a knee has nothing to do

have been postponed.

with the [American] flag, but rather showing that we are one as people

The Hertha BSC act of solidarity was

and that we going to rise together,"

brief, and under-reported. In the most

Kalou told ESPN FC. "A human heart

negative light it was irrelevant, even a

is too tiny to have a place for hate,

marketing push — saving face against

because hate is such a horrible thing

potential critics.

to put in your heart.”

But no, this matters. Bommell and thousands more might

In the minds of those exiting the

now take a look at who Kaepernick is,

stadium, perhaps their struggle was

at his protest, at where he has

legitimized, or their worldview

donated $1 million, and at the

challenged, or lengthened.

reaction to it all. These are entry

Perhaps they walked

points into a fight for a better world.

contemplatively down one of the

When our correspondence left

main streets outside the stadium,


one renamed in 1984 to a moreworthy recognition, a more-fitting commemoration: Jesse Owens Allee. Joel Sronce is a sports writer in Greensboro.


Dec17 Vol 1 Issue 1  

First Issue of the Triad's Socialist Magazine!

Dec17 Vol 1 Issue 1  

First Issue of the Triad's Socialist Magazine!

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