Interviews for Resistance #4: Legba Carrefour and #DisruptJ20

In addition to the massive Women’s March on Washington planned for Saturday, January 21, organizers from around the country with leadership from D.C. residents are planning a “festival of resistance” on Inauguration Day itself. Interview #4 looks into what to expect all day in D.C., and what’s already gone down this week (think queer dance party at Mike Pence’s house).

One of the actions we are doing, the permitted one at Columbus Circle at noon on Friday, we are doing that as a festival of resistance. We have got a flatbed truck with dancers from a local gay club, a bunch of drummers, I think a student marching band or two. I think the role of celebration is really important because a lot of people after the election were very down on themselves. I think it is important to remind people that there is a lot of joy in politics, actually, when you take politics to the street.

Up at Truthout.

Up at The Baffler, with audio.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. Previous interviews here.


Interviews for Resistance #3: Erin Mahoney

The strike remains one of the most powerful weapons that ordinary people have, and one feminist organization has decided to try and build on recent women’s strikes in multiple countries to take a similar action in the U.S. I spoke with Erin Mahoney of National Women’s Liberation:

We have got nearly 5,000 signatures so far and they are coming in by the hundreds every day, of women signing up to say that they will be striking from doing emotional labor in their household. They will be striking from their paying jobs. They will be striking from fake smiles, from making things run smoothly, from laundry to childcare—a whole host of different things that they are striking from. It is really moving to see the reasons why people are striking and also the breadth of work that they are striking from.

Up at In These Times.

Up at Truthout.

Up at The Baffler.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. Previous interviews here.


Interviews for Resistance #2: Mariame Kaba

Mariame Kaba is a longtime organizer and educator around prisons, police, and criminalization whose current project is Fight4Medicare.

We are going to have to figure out ways to create community-based free clinics, things that are going to be on the side of the defend and protect side of this equation while we are fighting on the expansion side. That is really important. That is where a lot of the most important organizing has already been taking place, and will continue to take place, on the state level. People in Washington state are pushing for a ballot initiative for single-payer. People have tried to do it in Vermont. People have tried to push a Colorado ballot initiative for single-payer, which lost huge. That gives us an opportunity to think about, “What was it in the messaging, what was it in the lack of political education, what was it in the organizing strategy that made people reject it in an 80/20 split?” Learning from those individual state ballot initiatives will help us to build a stronger set of campaigns in individual states around the country. I think that is a great opportunity for us as the federal government space is going to be foreclosed to many different kinds of demands in the moment. We are going to have to be more strategic about how we operate at the local and state levels. That connects, eventually, to talking about the carceral state and prisons. Anti-prison organizing, as well, is mostly a state issue.

Up at Truthout.

Up at In These Times.

Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. Previous interviews here.


Interviews for Resistance Launch!

Since the election, I’ve been flooded with questions about what happens next. People who, before November, thought that protesting was useless are now declaring themselves part of the resistance. And yet when you peruse social media, the most pervasive vibe is fear, often coupled with despair.

Thanks to years of being a labor and social movement beat reporter, I also see lots of people who are organizing, who are fighting, planning, and raising hell. But their stories were getting lost under the persistent drumbeat of horrifying news.

With that in mind, in the continuing spirit of Necessary Trouble, I’m launching a new project. Partnering with several excellent news organizations, I’m doing a syndicated series of “interviews for resistance,” which will be available as articles and as podcasts, with organizers, agitators, troublemakers, and thinkers about what comes next. These are people who have already been doing the work that has just become more necessary than ever, around the country, and they will cover a wide range of subjects and geographical locations.

There is an alternative to despair. Resistance is more than just sharing the scary news.

My first interview is now up, with Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson and Ungovernable2017.

We need to recognize that in a number of different instances, folks who actually want to see something different constitute the majority. There were the majority of people who voted against Trump if you just look there. On a deeper level, this is something that I think we need to look at more profoundly and try to address: the 50 percent of voting-age adults in this country who typically don’t vote. I don’t think that is apathy; or not all of it. I think there is a growing dissatisfaction with the façade of democracy. People feel that “Whoever I vote for, nothing fundamentally is going to change. Their economic policy is going to be what it is. A lot of the fundamental questions around society are not on the ballot. We are restricted from being included in any serious discussion of democracy and what we can vote on, so why should I vote?” I think that is begging for some more fundamental, deeper and systemic change that I don’t think the electoral strategy and the electoral focus that we — in this case being the left — have been so oriented toward touches upon.

Up at Truthout.

Up, with audio, at The Baffler.

Thanks to my partner publications for taking a chance on this project: The Progressive, In These Times, Truthout and the Baffler. Thanks to Laura Feuillebois for her transcription skills. Thanks to the Nation Institute, for the backing that makes it possible for me to do this work. And thank you to everyone who fights.


A Diary of Protest for the Days to Come: Review at The Indypendent

Michael Hirsch at the Indypendent had the first post-Trump-election review of Necessary Trouble and concludes that trouble is, yes, even more necessary:

Perhaps, but we knew a Clinton administration would be no springtime in paradise. Neoliberalism is an uninspiring alternative to Trumpism, and the neoliberal order is cracking up, even if it is doing so in a manner few imagined possible. A finely written book such as Jaffe’s is not just a palliative of hope: The stories she reports of people building power through struggle offer a healthy direction forward.

Read the rest at the Indypendent.


The Revolution Will Be Intersectional: Labor Journalist Sarah Jaffe Writes of a New Radicalism

The excellent Katie Klabusich reviewed Necessary Trouble at Rewire. This came out before the election, but remains relevant:

As someone who got involved, in part, because I could see that I wasn’t the only who was frustrated and wanted better, Jaffe’s thesis that this is a “new time” resonates with me.

If she’s right—and I think that she is—we’re at a precipice, which the outcome of next week’s election will only amplify.

“Anger continues to simmer just under the surface, and occasionally, when enough people are angry enough to overcome their reasons for holding back, it explodes,” writes Jaffe.

Read the rest at Rewire.


25 Nonfiction Books for Anger and Action

Literary Hub posted a list of 25 nonfiction books for the Trump age. If there’s one thing that’s been making me feel better in these last few days (aside from the sight of high-school students organizing walkouts around the country, in Phoenix and Omaha as well as Berkeley and New York) it’s that I seem to have written something that people find useful in this moment.

There’s other great stuff on here (my labelmate Ari Berman on voting rights and Angela Davis; The New Jim Crow and Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind and probably the only time I’ll make a literary list alongside James Baldwin) and a few that I’d quibble with. So I also made my own list on my Goodreads page.


From Black Lives Matter to the Fight for $15: Why Americans Are in Revolt: Interview at The Nation

Astra Taylor gave me an excellent piece of book-writing advice early on in the process and at the end, she’s here to interview me for The Nation.

AT: So do activists need to give people in power paths to be heroes, not just villains?

SJ: I think it’s important to tell the story the right way. Seattle’s socialist City Council member, Kshama Sawant, has this great line in the book where she says, to paraphrase: “If you tell people this fairy tale that the benevolent leaders sat down and granted the workers of Seattle a $15 minimum wage, not only is it a profoundly disempowering narrative, it’s actually wrong. You miss the fact that there’s a fundamental conflict between the rich bosses and the workers who work for them, and there’s actual organizing that went on to win it.”

Read the whole thing at The Nation (or in your print magazine!)


Movements, Not Presidents: The Nationwide Fight Against Neoliberalism: Review at Common Dreams

Jake Johnson at Common Dreams reviews Necessary Trouble and picks up on some really great threads, like the below:

While examining this space, Jaffe recalls, she met an emergency medical technician, there generously offering her services to the protesters.

“So far we’ve given out lots of Band-Aids,” she told Jaffe, “because everyone has blisters, lots of cough drops because nobody has a voice.”

Perhaps inadvertently, in her description of the nagging physical ailments that accompany tireless protest, this unnamed EMT nicely underlined the political reality that drove thousands to join the burgeoning movement in the first place.

The public has long been without a voice—at least, without a voice powerful enough to justify America’s official classification as a representative democracy. While democratic forms remain, any lingering residue of the popular will has long since been driven out of the political process. The results, while devastating, have not been entirely surprising.

Read the whole thing at Common Dreams. One of my favorite reviews thus far.


The Fight Against Austerity Started Here: Excerpt at The Nation

The excellent folks at The Nation (who published my first-ever piece of labor journalism) have an excerpt from Necessary Trouble up, as the book continues to roll on.

The [Teaching Assistants’ Association] had already planned a rally for Valentine’s Day, in a preemptive strike against likely cuts to the university, and Hanna was deluged with emails asking her to come home. She was observing the popular revolution that had begun in Egypt in the winter of 2011, part of what came to be known as the Arab Spring. But the attacks on the union and the university were serious enough that she returned just in time for the February 14 action. The TAA led a crowd of marchers up State Street from the university campus to deliver a thousand valentines protesting Act 10 to Walker at the Capitol. It was an impressive showing, but marches were common enough in Madison that few expected this one to be different. Jenni Dye, a lawyer based in Madison, was downtown eating brunch and saw the protesters. “I thought, ‘Oh look, another Madison protest.’”

Read the rest at The Nation.