EDITORS’ FORWARD Dear Readers, We are ever so happy for the publishing of our second issue of SONDER, especially at a time like this when the impact of self-isolation requires creative solutions for maintaining connections with the rest of the world and for personal learning and growth. The economic conditions of life are being dismantled rapidly across the globe during COVID-19 and we are already seeing the way our cities are changing. There are people sitting outside in streets that they would otherwise only pass by. There are fewer cars than humans. Busyness is now defined by the number of different animals singing outside our windows hustling for food, discovering the space that has opened for them to breathe. Although our gathering spaces have temporarily dwindled into small rectangles of friends, family and comrades on our computer screens, community organizing has manifested itself in impressively fast mobilization of mutual aid groups, solidarity economies, the DIY production of PPE for frontline workers, and more. It has proven that the means of sharing skills, resources, and care is vast and imaginative. It has also proven that self-organized urban practices that exist outside of the framework of capitalist profit are necessary for the sanity/survival/ freedom of city dwellers. The so called ‘rebellious city’ that we are focusing on in this zine exists only in contrast to the status quo, whose very constructs are being challenged to a degree we have never seen before. So once this is all over, let’s fill our towns with humans not cogs in the machine. Let’s channel our desire towards more connection and more self growth rather than capitalist productivity and consumerist culture. This pandemic is shedding a light on how socialist ideals are not impossible but are actually necessary. Solidarity and Care, Angelos and Talia
COVER ART This issue’s cover was created by the Autnomous Design Group (ADG), an independent collective of designers, artists and creatives opposed to capitalism and authoritarianism. Their art is reconfiguring the leftist aesthetic and they offer ongoing support to a range of groups and movements with their ultimate goal being the mass dissemination of ideas through the street in order to change life. Follow and support them @we_are_adg on Twitter and Instagram and check out their website www.weareadg.org
1 Moscow, RU 2 Athens, GR 3 Hong Kong 4 Athens, GR 5 New York, USA 6 Athens, GR 7 London, UK 8 Montreal, CA 9 Toronto, CA 10 Rio de Janiero, BR
CONTENTS 1. Queer Spaces and Vernacular Rebellion in Moscow- Ada Wordsworth 2. Exarchia- Francesco Santoleri 3. The Yellow Economy: Buying Justice With Money- Yip Win Yan 4. Meanwhile: EU Chief Says Greece is Europe’s Shield in Migrant CrisisMegan Yates
5. New York Rent Strike Art- NYC Artists 6. Justice for Zak/Zackie: A Story of Queerness and Grief- Penelope Cappa 7. Why Do Elephants Keep Developing? Emile Scott Burgoyne 8. A Visit to Montreal’s Native Friendship Center- Ruby Harrop 9. HOLDING HORIZON: Queer Spaces Now ?/!- Darian Razdar 10. Rebel Rio- Dalia Silvestri
Queer spaces and vernacular rebellion in Moscow
The history of rebellion in Moscow goes back generations, and is a key feature of the city’s identity. Part of this has been commodified; the irony of metro stations in an police state bearing names such as Kropotkinskaya, after the anarchist thinker Kropotkin, and Profsoyusnaya, meaning trade union, is difficult to miss, and the Moscow city government constantly attempts to craft its own narrative of the city’s rebellious history. Yet, from the 1905 revolution to Pussy Riot’s now infamous performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in 2012, Moscow has featured as a centre point for anti authoritarian protests, and this tradition is showing no signs of abating. One area in which Moscow’s rebellion is most clear is in the queer underground. Russia’s anti-gay laws are famous, and the assumption of many foreigners is that LGBT people simply cannot live in Russia. Whilst going further into the rural parts of the country, there may be some truth to this, it vastly misunderstands the huge subculture present in Moscow. In my six months here, I have experienced different areas of the Moscow subculture, from the more mainstream - a queer pub quiz, held in a popular gay bar in central Moscow twice a week - to the truly underground queer BDSM scene. Whilst the latter perhaps constitutes a more typical understanding of the term ‘rebellion’, in reality both are breaking boundaries in the institutionally homophobic state. On my first weekend in Moscow, I attended a queer boat party with others from the quiz, and met a man who had married his husband in Denmark, and raved about him as the love of his life. Most people at these events don’t want to talk about politics, and say they have no interest in it, yet it is clear that the mere act of existing and thriving as yourself in this environment, so totally designed to be hostile, is a rebellion against the regressive politics of Russia in 2020. However, like in many other countries around 6 The Rebellious City
the world, the queer scene in Moscow tends to be focussed around alcohol; gay bars and clubs are in abundance, however for younger members of the LGBT community, there is a gap where they are often unable to access the support they need. This is, of course, compounded by the so-called ‘gay propaganda law’ in Russia, which makes it illegal to ‘promote LGBT lifestyles’ to underage people. I spoke to one seventeen year old queer, non-binary person about their experiences, forming a community. AW: are there any queer spaces in Moscow for under 18s? Rodya Rudenko: Despite our infamous “gay propaganda among minors” law that makes it difficult to create an openly queer space without an 18+ age limit, some locations that are pretty safe and normally attract a certain crowd definitely exist - trendy instagrammable cafes in the city center, creative spaces such as “ARTPLAY” or “Garage”, bookstores and libraries. There’s this sort of stereotypical collective image of an artsy Moscow teenager who hangs out in these hip downtown places, reads either philosophy books or www.thevillage.ru/ and is never seen without a slightly dirty tote bag and a pair of Doc Martens. And I feel like “wokeness” is a major part of this subculture, partly because gen Zers everywhere are more tolerant, fluid and open in terms of identity and expression, especially those who are more creative/well-rounded. And these teens aren’t always queer, but somehow when I’m surrounded by them in these spaces it feels like my gender and sexuality almost doesn’t matter at all, I don’t feel this pressure to act a certain way, “hide” my queerness or label myself, justify myself. Also, I find that feminist and/or vegan spaces, like, for instance, “Kotomka drinks” are most likely to be queer-friendly for obvious reasons. But still,
I don’t feel completely protected in these places, nor do I always feel like I’m among “my folks” if that makes sense. These coffee shops or museums aren’t necessarily designed for meeting new people, they don’t normally host LGBT+ events or have resources for queer people, they are more like “friendly” spaces where you can meet your date or chosen family for coffee. AW: does the act of being LGBT in Moscow feel like an act of rebellion? RR: there was this really bad day where iI got called a faggot like 5 times for having pink hair (mind you, it was not the suburbs I live in, it was Kuznetsky Most which is probably considered like the heart of Moscow). On days like this I feel rebellious; shit people say to me, moments where I realise how deep-rooted homophobia is in a post-soviet environment and how it’s planted in people’s heads actually give me strength now and make me want to speak up and take action. living as a queer person in a country like Russia, every single thing I do becomes a rebel act dyeing my hair pink and walking around like that, arguing with a homophobic woman in a clothing store. Being openly and visibly LGBT+ in an environment where it can get you in trouble is rebellious. AW: do you feel part of a collective history of rebellion in Russia, or of something separate and individual?
RR: yes, and no. Not in a stonewall riot way; I don’t think the community united enough for that. Ksenia Sobchak, this journalist who also happens to be the only presidential candidate in the 2018 election that supported LGBT rights (out of 7!!), did an interview with Russian gays which was kinda problematic, because she was like “here’s the Russian LGBT community! 7 cis gay rich white men!”, but they did make some good points. One of them was that there’s not really a united community right now, we’re separated from each other, because I feel like many queer people in Russia don’t associate themselves with LGBT, stay silent and don’t speak up for their rights because they wanna be integrated in this cisheteronormative society, not be rejected by it and not feel like they’re making the straights uncomfortable. Although, at the same time I do feel like I’m witnessing history in a way. When the first gay marriage (registered abroad) was recognised here , when the Chechen gay purge was happening and Russian celebrities/media people whom I assumed to be conservative, spoke up about this crazy thing that was going on despite the risk of losing their reputation. when I see communities like the Russian LGBT+ network, when I read articles on o-zine. ru [a Russian gay culture and news website]. But the biggest moment for me probably was seeing drag queens (for the first time in real life) on a big stage in the very centre of moscow at the Charli XCX show at the end of last year, then seeing them walk out of the venue to a round of applause and get in their taxies. That felt very surreal and utopian; I couldn’t believe this was Moscow and not like, Amsterdam or Berlin. Another moment was being front row on a SOPHIE concert - seeing her and her girlfriend, both super strong trans women holding hands to a cheering audience also felt like it was happening somewhere in Europe. So to conclude, I think these small things that separate groups do really contribute to the big picture, if that makes sense, but I do feel the need to have a sort of big voice, an icon that people can follow, and we lack that now. I really wanna be part of this history when I’m 18 and can do activism!! 7
The Rebellious City
Francesco photographs and reflects on the neighborhood of Exarchia, Athens on the night of December 6, 2018, the decentennial commemoration of the murder of Alexis Grigoropoulos by police, a young student in the area. These demonstrations also mark 10 years since the generalized revolt that encapsulated Greece in 2008 As the night starts shaping Exarcheiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s streets in shady-tinted corners, I try to seize all these images saturating inside my mind: the 6th of December, in Athens, is stained with young blood. It used to be just another date up until the evening of 2008, when a 15 year old student was shot dead by a police officer after an altercation with a group of kids in Exarcheia. The news shocked the city and, within a few hours, demonstrators took it to the streets of Athens. Soon enough, this escalated to widespread rioting in the whole country for the following weeks. Since then, every 6th of December one can see the stars getting sporadically erased in Exarcheia's nocturnal sky by sudden, bright flashes. Just, they're not fireworks, but molotov cocktails.
The Yellow Economy: Buying Justice with Money
Yip Wing Yan
There are many things money can’t buy justice often being one of those. In an ironic twist, however, the marketplace is where many Hong Kongers turn to for the justice they want. In the so-called Yellow Economy, Hong Kong consumers boycott pro-establishment businesses and patronise “yellow shops”. Building the Yellow Economy is no small work: It takes a slew of information to classify a yellow shop and a customer population willing to spend time searching. Why are people enthusiastic about a market that seems so inefficient and anti-competition? While reasons abound, the yellow economy is arguably the justice many protesters seek for Hong Kong: a community that supports democracy and does not hinge its success on submission to Beijing.
Just like the leaderless democratic movement itself, the Yellow Economy does not have a set of rules for its participants. Some set the “rules” as “Black for Construction, Red for Decoration, Blue for Boycotting, Yellow for Purchasing”. “Construction” is a euphemism for full-scale premise vandalism as the one in Fig. 1, while “decoration” refers to milder forms of vandalism such as paint pouring. While colour meanings are not universal, broad consensuses prevail. Generally, “black” refers to high-profile Chinese enterprises (e.g. Bank of China), businesses whose owners are allegedly linked to attacks on protesters/ wider local community (e.g. Best Mart 360). “Red” refers to all Chinese enterprises and chains whose
Fig. 1 Best Mart 360, classified as a “black” shop because of its owner’s purported link to the mobsters of the 731 train attack. (Source: Wikimedia, Studio Incendo) 10 The Rebellious City
owners are vocally against the protest (e.g. Maxim’s Caterers). “Blue” mainly represents local businesses operated by the so-called “blue ribbons” who are pro-establishment or pro-police. The category “yellow”, while taking the centre-stage of the Yellow Economy, is not void of ambiguities. Supposedly, a shop is labelled as yellow if it sides with protesters in the ongoing anti-government movement. Still, some consumers question whether the label should be stamped on shops sourcing from pro-establishment suppliers, or shops with a protester-friendly owner but pro-establishment staff members. Many consumers rely on lists compiled by individuals who have addressed the ambiguities subjectively. These lists exist as websites (e.g. NeoGuideHK, hkshoplist) and apps (e.g. WhatsGap, Eat). With informative maps as such, consumers can find yellow shops easily when they are out. Likewise, yellow shops can refuse anti-protest customers. The apparent ease masked the arduous work behind the scene: map creators have to track the stance of shareholders/ owners, follow up on reports of shop staff berating protesters, check whether shops have provided material support for protesters, to name a few. It is not all jolly well for consumers either. Even with user-friendly apps, there might not be a yellow shop in walkable distance. Some yellow restaurants might be less of a delight to the palate than the deep-pocketed chains. Why then are consumers still so keen to participate? If low transaction costs and high-quality products are what make an economy efficient and competitive in orthodox economics, is this an ultimately unsustainable economic model? Why are consumers so keen to find a yellow shop? Again, as a leaderless movement, the Yellow Economy drew participants with different motives. Three reasons often come and columns: providing for protesters, supporting businesses and punishing shops.
Many protesters identify themselves with one of the two camps: radicals or moderates . A motto within the protest community, “climb a mountain like brothers, each with his own effort”, encourages each camp to strive for five demands in their own ways. To a certain extent, participating in the Yellow Economy is how moderates can “buy” their way to these end goals. Many yellow shops have supported protesters with donations and free meals. One cha chaan teng, for instance, is known to provide skills workshops to help youth protesters find jobs. To many moderates, these shops are akin to crowdfunding platforms which can channel their “donations” to the protest frontline. Many yellow consumers also want to support small businesses vis-à-vis large, often chinalinked businesses amidst an economic downturn. The Individual Visit Scheme, enacted in the aftermath of SARS to bring more mainland tourists into the city, boosted local sales on the expense of business diversity. High rents booted out mom-and-pop stores in favour of luxury brands catering to mainland consumers, or big corporations that often have a stake in the Chinese market. Patronising local businesses is hence a way for consumers to “buy” the fairness they saw lacking in a distorted market. Lastly, the yellow economy is a reactionary response to the so-called “red economy”. Many claim that since Hong Kong’s handover in 1997, big businesses have betrayed their conscience by holding their tongue on local politics in exchange for Chinese market access. During the movements, pro-China businesses doubled down on their support while companies defiant to Beijing faced sweeping punishments. Many consumers see the Yellow Economy as an overdue opportunity to “buy” the punishment in a system that has long favoured proestablishment corporations.
up in interviews material support Hong Kong’s Trade Secretary once commented small and local that the Yellow Economy will not last because pro-establishment of its myopia and exclusivity, while state media People’s Daily called it the “shame of Hong Kong economy”. The barrage of scathing remarks 11
seems to be triggered by a series of business debacles. Best Mart 360’s (in Fig. 1) market cap vaporized by almost 60% since May 2019. Shares in Dairy Farm, a retail chain boycotted as the parent company of Maxim’s Caterers, have fallen almost a fifth since the movement began. Sasa cosmetics, a darling of mainland tourists, is planning to close 20-25% of stores. The chronology of events makes a compelling case for the Yellow Economy’s impact. Without a rigorous analysis, however, it is hard to isolate the effect of the boycott from that of a decline in mainland tourist visits. The jury is still out on whether the consumer movement is doomed to fail economically. Yellow customers did not completely turn a blind eye to poor quality shops: there are supporters who believe yellow shops must also compete by quality and pressure the proverbial black sheep to improve by giving them candid reviews. The clear though sometimes subjective labelling also helps prevent Akerlof ’s asymmetric information problem, where the buyer is worse off by having less information than the seller. While some argue that the time spent searching yellow shops could increase transaction costs, this is not much different from reading reviews on Openrice, Price or Google which Hong Kong shoppers already do frequently. As far as competition is concerned, it is hard to see political stance differently from a brand image many companies construct. To call this classification anti-competition would be the same as calling apps that locate vegan restaurants market-unfriendly. To be sure, the Yellow Economy seems to be less about resorting to autarky than about supporting the ongoing democratic struggle. Sourcing supplies from mainland China seldom precludes a protest-sympathizing shop from being listed yellow. More importantly, yellow shops provided the space for likeminded pro-democracy diners/ buyers to connect as a community. It is in building such social capital that the city’s protests remain agile and alive. Yellow Economy’s sustainability thus hinges on the strength of bond within the protest community. 12 The Rebellious City
In a way, the Yellow Economy is built in response to a populist need to “buy” the justice absent elsewhere in a system that heavy-handedly crushes opposition and unscrupulously lines the pockets of pro-establishment elites. If one takes a relativist approach, accusations at the consumer movement can appear flimsy. For instance, consider the accusation of how the Yellow Economy distorts the market, when the retail industry is currently shared between a handful of conglomerates; or the condemnation of shop destruction when no police officer has been charged for their documented brutalities. Of course, one can also eschew such whataboutism and decry yellow shops for their discrimination or the vandals’ arbitrary targetpicking. Will the Yellow Economy strengthen the pro-democracy community at the expense of more polarization in the city? The community space created can reinforce an echo chamber that has little tolerance even for neutrality. To put a brake on this slippery slope, consumers might first have to be convinced that justice can be found without them digging into their wallet.
Meanwhile: EU chief says Greece is Europeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s shield in migrant crisis by Megan Yates
I am privileged enough to take a break. I am pale enough to be where I want to be. At home safe working on my place and who I wanna be. I can afford therapy at home safe in a place built on the systematic repression extortion and slaughter of others. Repeatedly throughout history this place has never been our own. Yet here I am watching mothers fathers brothers sisters and kids get shot down as if they are encroaching cockroaching on this land that we can never call our own. I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t believe in borders Not these ones. This fortress of ignorance is what needs to be shot down. To drown.
NY RENT STRIKE - HUELGA DE RENT
14 The Rebellious City
The folloing page displays artwork produced in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, used on flyers and social media platforms to circulate the call for a city and state-wide rent strike. These pieces were made by various artists in and around NYC, and were used by tenant organizations and housing rights groups in the ongoing campaign to cancel rent and mortgage payments in this period of unemployment and economic instability. After a moratorium on evictions passed, tenant organizations are now demanding that governor Andrew Cuomo secure a suspension of rent, and a means of housing the homeless. Many New Yorkers are afraid that the eviction moratorium is not a strong enough action to take, as landlords are still demanding of the payment of rents at the end of the month, and can resume evictions after the moratorium is lifted. There is much tenant organizing happening at the building-level, as more and more people cannot afford rent. This will build and expand the necessary infrastructure to challenge the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s housing crisis beyond the extent of the virus. Due to social distancing, the organizers of the rent strike have had to change their modes of reaching out to tenants- no longer is it feasible to knock on doors and hold meetings in person, but rather, organization has to happen virtually, through social media, call-services, and building-wide group messages. These graphics are a part of an ever-evolving activist toolkit that seeks to bring forth creative solutions to bring tenants together. -TC
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Zoe Chronis (bottom left and right, background), Amy Khoshbin (bottom middle), Dani Castillo (top left middle and right).
Justice for Zak/Zackie: A story of queerness and grief Penelope Cappa
September 21, 2018 is the day Zak Kostopoulos (also known by their drag name, Zackie Oh!), a prominent human rights defender, HIV activist, queer activist and performer, was killed in Gladstonos street, in the center of Athens. While trying to get out of a jewelry store that they had been trapped in, they were violently assaulted by two men, one of which was the owner of the store. Police that arrived on the spot then arrested and handcuffed near-death Zak, further assaulting them in the process. Zak died on the spot, as a result of these two assaults. Local media framed the incident as the death of a knife-wielding junkie who was trying to rob the store, despite there being no signs of burglary or attempted theft, no drugs or alcohol found in Zak’s system and no evidence of Zak having wielded a knife.
The owner of the store was portrayed as business owner trying to protect himself and his property and police brutality was referred to as necessary violence, despite footage of the two lethal beatings – which was shown in the media for days – clearly showing an unarmed, disoriented and harmless Zak being kicked and beaten to death. The perpetrators of the assaults walk free to this day as no court hearing date has been specified yet, and police officers participating in the assault still are in the police force. In many ways, Zak’s violent death shook the greek LGBT community to its core. The mere thought of someone - let alone someone so many of us knew and loved - being beaten to death in broad daylight as a few dozens of bystanders idly watched was (and arguably, even with eighteen months having passed ever since, still is) hard to stomach. The post-
Photo 1: From a protest in Athens with a banner saying “Rage and grief, Zackie will be missed”
18 The Rebellious City
mortem vilification and slandering of their name in the media and social media alike, the blatant disregard of police authorities for gathering relevant evidence and punishing officers involved in the assault, as well as the unwillingness of judicial authorities to bring the case to court, added insult to the injury. From the first moment up to this day, the systematic effort to paint Zak as “other”, “lesser than”, “dangerous” and even somehow “deserving it” due to their their non-normative identities - HIV positive, visibly queer and fem, drag queen, self-proclaimed slut has been glaringly obvious and bordering on hate speech - a painful reminder of the fact that one too many intersections of oppressed identities can get you killed. The message to greek LGBT people was loud and clear: even with same-sex unions and legal gender recognition being legislated (albeit, both of which with several limitations) in the previous years, we have a long way to go to achieve anything resembling social acceptance, and even more so for our most vulnerable and marginalized siblings. For many local LGBT advocates and activists, this expedited a shift in perspective and politics that was already in progress: from lobbying for pro-LGBT legislation - often employing respectability politics in the process - to pushing for social acceptance, from approaching intersectionality in a theoretical and distanced manner to lived experiences of different aspects of queerness gradually taking a front seat role, from negotiation to confrontation as the weapon of choice. A few months later, the rise to power of New Democracy, with what seems to most as an extremely conservative agenda and a close to extreme right rhetoric, further reinforced this change of perspective Almost immediately after the news of Zak’s death became known, people took it to the streets to demand justice for their violent murder and what looked like an attempted cover-up on the part of the police. It was easy to draw a parallel between the murder of Zackie, the killing of teenager Alexandros Grigoropoulos by a police officer in 2008 and the deadly stabbing of immigrant Shehzad Luqman and antifascist Pavlos Fyssas by Golden Dawn members in 2013, all above incidents being manifestations of the rise in police brutality, racism and fascism that came with the greek austerity crisis. With that in mind, anarchists and antifascists sided with the queers, with the first demonstration (of 19
many) being organized via the greek indymedia website and drag queens protesting on the front line. Likewise, the initiative “Justice for Zak/ Zackie”, that was shortly afterwards created by close friends and family of Zak, has consistently advocated ever since not only for justice for their case, but also against fascism, racism, police brutality and for immigrant rights, and is present at every antifascist and feminist event. Arguably, this rapport created between the LGBT and the antifascist movement could, in the long run, help transform them both.
emerging drag scene of Athens. As time goes by though, it sometimes feels like they are gradually turning into a mere symbol in the public mind. With songs, poems, theater plays and performances being written for or inspired by their death, their face being sprayed on walls and printed on t-shirts, their name coming up in social media threads as a greek queer version of Hitler analogies and “where were you when Zak died” turning into some sort of “where were you when MJ died”, it sometimes seems like the memory of their death is antagonizing that of their life. However, through the pain, loss and So far, a multitude of activities relevant to Zak’s collective trauma, there stands the opportunity case have been organized, ranging from panel for our queer community to be built anew, discussions on the sociopolitical implications stronger, wiser and with the determination of their murder to fundraising and awareness to withstand, until justice is served. events such as concerts, parties and queer performances, to the point where it is nearly impossible to count them all. Particularly during the first few months, thre was a strong need on the part of the queer community to mourn our loss in the context a safe space. Our collective grief in many cases offered valuable insight on the ways that our lives are intertwined, as well as on our need to build more nurturing and supportive communities. Additionally, to this day there has been a consistent need to reclaim our visibility in public space. Zak-related street art is fairly easy to find in the center of Athens - most notably a huge graffiti near the Exarchia square, while stencils with Zackie’s face and the word “murderers” are sprayed at all times across the front of the store they were trapped in. At the same time, the online community has played a key role by partially debunking the “junkie with a knife” narrative, anonymously submitting additional footage of Zak’s murder and even pressuring a key witness that the police claimed to be “unable to find” to present themselves in order to testify. “Rage and grief, Zackie will be missed”, is one of the most popular slogans in protests held for Zak (Photo 1). And indeed, Zak is being achingly missed, as a friend, a beautiful person with a strong presence in queer Athens, an eloquent human rights advocate, an influential social media persona, a drag queen of the new, 20 The Rebellious City
Why do Elephants Keep Developing?
Emile Scott Burgoyne
a five-part documentary series following five-part documentary series thea ‘regeneration’ of Elephant & following Castle, London the ‘regeneration’ of Elephant & Castle, London billionaire property developers, dumbass politicians, morally bankrupt university billionaire property developers, dumbassVS. politicians, morally bankrupt university working-class local community fighting to save their area VS. working-class local community fighting to save their area
watch click here: watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQ2M6_vQo2s&t
<< WATCH HERE >>
When I think about resistance to colonialism and capitalism in cities I tend to think of protests and direct action but actually there are perhaps more meaningful activities happening on a more personal, fundamental scale. This is the Native Friendship centre in MontrĂŠal, a non-profit, non-sectarian community centre which I recently visited for a communal dinner and film screening.
22 The Rebellious City
A visit to Montrealâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Native Friendship Centre Ruby Harrop
Although I should note that my interpretation is from the position of a white European in North America, the work they do here is hugely significant for building an anticolonial movement that works to create spaces for indigenous people in urban areas like MontrĂŠal, especially where a large portion of the homeless population are indigenous.
In the context of settler colonialism where the hegemonic force of the Canadian state has worked (and continues) to almost entirely eradicate indigenous nations, spaces that work on a practical level to nurture culture, languages and improve the quality of life for urban indigenous people, as well as building solidarity with the rest of the community, is inspiring and incredibly important. Forces of oppression like colonialism can seem very abstract but I think this proves there are concrete, everyday ways to resist and rebel. 23
HOLDING HORIZON: Queer Cultural Spaces Now!/?
“The present is not enough. It is impoverished and toxic for queers. . . Let me be clear that the idea is not simply to turn away from the present. . . The present must be known in relation to the alternative temporal and spatial maps provided by a perception of past and future affective worlds.” - José Esteban Muñoz  “That’s just how I was raised, like, just go and fucking do it.” - Rosina Kazi  Right now, Toronto is in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurants and bars are all closed, you can’t convene in groups, we’re being advised to shelter in place, the borders are locked, and many of us are self-isolating because we recently traveled internationally, are immunocompromised, or are showing symptoms. And the worst of the outbreak hasn’t even hit yet. We’re waiting. In the meantime, many of us are out of work, we’re cut off from our loved ones, we’re uncertain and apprehensive. No one knows what the situation will be three months from now, let alone how we’ll make April rent. It’s in times like these that we fall back on community. Those of us who are queer, disabled, (im)migrants, Black, Indigenous, and/or people of colour – we, in particular, are learning that our communities mean something. We matter to each other here and now. The tremendous crisis that this pandemic has triggered is familiar territory for many us. For us, the world is constantly in crisis. For many, the end of days has already come and gone. And still, we and they survive and endure. Queer cultural spaces in Toronto know how to respond to crisis. We’re always living different degrees of crisis and, usually, responding with mutual aid and solidarity. In a particularly hard time like this, I rejoice to see Toronto’s queer cultural spaces enacting mutual aid and solidarity. At Unit 2, we’re organizing meal and grocery deliveries with folks who have been a part of a series of community dinners over the past winter. Unit 2 affiliates also started a Discord online forum 24 The Rebellious City
for us to remain social and connected while physically distant. At the same time, Buddies in Bad Times lives up to its name by canceling all programming until the start of May 2020 and paying all of their employees full wages through the rest of March and all of April. On the other side of the village, Glad Day, Glad Day immediately began offering 50%-off food and drinks for “LGBTQ2S artists, performers, and tip-based workers, no questions asked” once the pandemic escalated on March 12th.  Glad Day Lit, the bookshop’s non-profit sibling, simultaneously launched an ambitious and necessary campaign to raise $100,000 for the same artists and workers, as well as for the struggling bookshop itself. The efforts of these spaces during this heightened time of crisis will inevitably save lives. Buddies, Glad Day, and Unit 2 save lives by way of erotic knowing and experimental being. These are erotic ways of knowing that make clear to us that our survivance is shared, and experimental ways of being that encourage us to take risks and act on intuition in the face of such an existential threat. In this essay, I reflect on the urgent and insurgent qualities of queer cultural spaces in Toronto in relation to Queer Studies theories of queerness as horizon. I, also, show how this urgent insurgence qualifies the imperative to plan queer people and places. My intervention comes from the frontlines of grassroots queer life and urges us to understand queerness as a particular social world taking shape at the scale of the here and now.
URGENT Queer Studies has a problem with the present. Since José Esteban Muñoz’s seminal text, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity, hit the shelves in 2009, to speak of the queer ‘here and now’ elicits questions and critique from Queer Studiers. Muñoz’s argument in Cruising Utopia is entirely persuasive: the “stranglehold” of “straight time” is one that constricts queer life to its current violated positions. For Muñoz not only is the present “not enough,” it is “impoverished and toxic for queers.” This leads him to assert that “we are not yet queer,” that “we have never been queer,” and that “if queerness is to have any value whatsoever, it must be viewed as being visible only in the horizon.” For Buddies, Glad Day, and Unit 2, that horizon is here and now. These queer spaces produce different kinds of queer culture in order to hold the horizon where queerness resides in the present. If we weren’t able to hold this horizon, we couldn’t imagine responding to our current conditions with such care, risk, and solidarity as we are today. Surely, we will fail and are failing. Surely, we are and will not be enough. But for us not to know, do, and be with our practiced eroticism and experimentality in the current situation would be untrue to current queer conditions and a disservice to practices honed with each other. There is an urgency to queerness. Designer and publisher of QUEER.ARCHIVE.WORK, Paul Soulellis folds together Muñoz’s queer futurity and Halberstam’s queer art of failure into what he calls “urgentcraft.” Soulellis understands urgentcraft as: “using what’s available to deliver an important message that needs to be expressed quickly . . . a practice of becoming that begins in the right now, and stretches way out into the future, a way to work together that’s at once slow and urgent in the face of immediate crisis.” Evaluating our surroundings in Toronto right now, Paul is absolutely correct in his reorientation of queer praxis as urgentcraft. The urgentcraft of queer space-making in Toronto today appears as
last-minute bookings for performers at Unit 2 and our hodgepodge, though effective and affective, efforts to quickly mobilize food and other goods to our community members facing acute hardship during the pandemic. Urgentcraft appears as Buddies decided to shift its programming calendar – to completely halt programs and close the venue in an effort to mitigate the spread of the virus. Urgentcraft appears in how rapidly Glad Day mounted a campaign to fundraise for the immediate survival of queer, trans, and 2 spirit artists, performers, tip-based and gig workers, and its own store. Buddies, Glad Day, and Unit 2 continue to adapt to a rapidly evolving situation while mobilizing their communities to address our ongoing realities.
INSURGENCY Along with urgency comes insurgency. To be insurgent is to contest authority, defy dominant logics, and transform existing conditions. Insurgency isn’t always justice and equity-aligned — take for instance right-wing insurrection in liberal democracies the world over. That being said, the insurgency I see happening on the ground in Toronto’s queer cultural spaces is one that prefigures broader social worlds where all sorts of people can access the benefits of community accountability and care. When Unit 2 organizes mutual aid projects in a time of escalated crisis, we defy the dominant logic of charity. Charity automatically assumes that a few will always have resource wealth to distribute to the many who don’t. Mutual aid, while not exactly the opposite of charity, sources community assets to redistribute among the most relegated parts of a society dictated by the myriad faces of capitalism. Mutual aid right now – sharing food, communing digitally, distributing resources and information – is an insurgent cultural practice of queer survivance.When Buddies canceled their programming until (at least) May 1st, they also decided to pay every employee for the hours they would’ve worked through March and April. Because of the theatre company’s insurgent history, Buddies has been able to build multiple funding streams to support their multifaceted
and provocative work. The insurgence that led to diversified funding also put the theatre in a good position to compensate their employees even during a temporary closure. Not only does Buddies have the capacity to compensate while closed, they made the deliberate decision to do so – in direct opposition to the capitalist logic that tells employers to only pay for hours extracted from their labourers. When Glad Day first announced 50% off food and drinks for LGBTQ2S folks, and then launched the Emergency Survival Fund for this same community, their organizers transformed the chaos of uncertainty into the chaos of power. Glad Day is leveraging its position as a beloved community cultural space in the name of queer survivance – that of the bookshop and those who call it home. Glad Day is not capitalizing on crisis, they are organizing through crisis to redistribute funds to where it is most urgently needed. In so doing, the bookshop is flipping the script in how to respond in an escalated moment of panic – not by hoarding, but by redistributing funds and resources and transforming conditions of queer possibility. The urgent insurgence of queer cultural spaces has everything to do with eroticism and experimentality. All of these places are insurgent on an everyday level, not just in this moment of heightened fear. Performances and relationships forged in these spaces – from the vulnerable and painful, to the pleasurable and ecstatic, and everywhere in between – are what underpin the erotics of insurgency. Erotic ways of knowing, dis- and reorient engagement in these places. Eroticism guides participants toward, what Audre Lorde called, the “expressions of what is deepest and strongest and richest within each of us,” rather than shallow expectations of capitalist culture. As Muñoz discerned, “the liberation of Eros . . . certainly embraces experimental modes of love, sex, and relationality.” Spaces like Buddies, Glad Day, and Unit 2 easily take programmatical and organizational risks, and iterate open-ended processes, that are difficult (if not impossible) to imagine in places 26 The Rebellious City
not organized around experimental ways of being. Queerness is here and now. Queerness cannot only be a futurity because we live, breath, and die queer every day and every night. We touch queerness every time we touch ourselves, when we consent to sense with each other, and when we feel the lifeforce between our selves. The present is irrefutably “impoverished and toxic,” as Munoz said, but it’s also abundant and nourishing. As Munoz wrote, “Queerness is that thing that lets us feel that the world is not enough, that indeed something is missing.” Knowing deeply that something is missing, we are empowered in the present to remake the world in the shape of our desires, and shape futures of many possibilities. I am calling for queer spaces for here and now. Queerness is urgent and insurgent exactly because it is aligned with the erotic and experiment – ways of knowing and being that are deeply attuned to the in-the-momentness of it all. We need queer cultural spaces, and we need them now. We are lucky that there exists a handful of brick and mortar queer spaces in our own backyard, which have long practiced the work of urgent insurgence in diverse and unexpected ways. Today, these spaces are making and remaking queer life – and life in general – in the face of an otherwise uncertain future.
REFERENCES  José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (New York: New York University Press, 2009), 27.  Rosina Kazi (artist and organizer, Unit 2), in discussion with the author, December 2019.  “Emergency Survival Fund for LGBTQ2S artists, performers, tip-based workers and Glad Day,” Glad Day Lit, accessed December 2019, https://www.gladdaylit.ca/.  “Emergency Survival Fund for LGBTQ2S artists, performers, tip-based workers and Glad Day,” Glad Day Lit, https://www.gladdaylit.ca/.  José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (New York: New York University Press, 2009).  José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (New York: New York University Press, 2009), 27.  José Esteban Muñoz, “Introduction: Feeling Utopia,” in Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (New York: New York University Press, 2009), 1-18.  Paul Soulellis, “Urgentcraft,” Queer.Archive.Work, Vol. 3 (2019).  Gerold Vizenor, “Survivance and Liberty: The Turns and Stays of Native Sovereignty,” Revue française d’études américaines 144 (2015), 11-12. Vizenor developed the term ‘survivance’ explicitly in terms of Indigenous North American expressions of sovereignty that fuse ‘survival’ and ‘endurance.’ The term has subsequently been taken up by a range of other cultural studies to explain the more profound aspects of surviving. For more, see Book 5: Ecology vs. Industry: Grassroots Relationality, Queer Survivance, Decolonial Possibility.  Audre Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic,” in Sister Outsider (Berkeley, California: Crossing Press, 1984), 56.  José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (New York: New York University Press, 2009), 136.
What’s a rebellious city in the end? The city in itself, or the people in it? In which ways do people rebel and why? Dangerous Favelas, with their laws and rules to follow, children and younger dealing with the street life To rebel means to face reality, every single day. “Rio de Janeiro is so fucking rebellious” I thought the first time I experienced it so intensely. I remember that day or, well, those days. After 24 hours without sleeping: “What a party”, I said. It ended at 5 p.m., yes 5 p.m. I was picturing these young guys planning it and saying: “Where should we throw the rave this time? Why not a parking lot, why not a big abandoned space?” It’s always the same here. And here..we don’t have the proper structures, well whatever.. Who cares?! The police are corrupted, tough. Do you think it’s bullshit? “Ask someone else” They say. We are against and at the same time we accomplice with them and the law. What law!? It doesn’t exist. When you should just observe the“unofficial and unethical codes”. It works like that here. What can we do? Nothing. Just being a rebel with what we have, and in silence. Well not proper in silence. We struggle a lot, But at least there is great music, drugs, everything that we need. Little Revolutions. 28 The Rebellious City
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