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After India and China, Indonesia was the biggest new nation-state to emerge in the mid-twentieth century. Consisting of thousands of islands large and small, it sprawls roughly the same distance as that from Washington, D.C., to Alaska, and contains the largest Muslim population on earth. Yet, on our mental map of the world, the country is little more than a faraway setting for earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. The political traumas of post-colonial Egypt, from Suez to el-Sisi, are far better known than the killing, starting in 1965, of more than half a million Indonesians suspected of being Communists or the thirty-year insurgency in Aceh Province. Foreign-affairs columnists, who prematurely hailed many revolutions at the end of the Cold War (Rose, Orange, Green, Saffron), failed to color-code the dramatic overthrow, in 1998, of Suharto, Indonesia’s long-standing dictator. They have scarcely noticed the country’s subsequent transfers of power through elections (there was one earlier this month) and a radical experiment in decentralization. The revelation that, from 1967 to 1971, Barack Obama lived in Jakarta with his mother, a distinguished anthropologist, does not seem to have provoked broadened interest in Indonesian history and culture—as distinct from the speculation that the President of the United States might have been brought up a Muslim.

Indonesia’s diversity is formidable: some thirteen and a half thousand islands, two hundred and fifty million people, around three hundred and sixty ethnic groups, and more than seven hundred languages. In this bewildering mosaic, it is hard to find any shared moral outlooks, political dispositions, customs, or artistic traditions that do not reveal further internal complexity and division. Java alone—the most populous of the islands, with nearly sixty per cent of the country’s population—offers a vast spectacle of overlapping cultural identities, and contains the sediments of many world civilizations (Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern, European). The Chinese who settled in the port towns of the archipelago in the fifteenth century are a reminder of the great maritime network that, long before the advent of European colonialists, bound Southeast Asia to places as far away as the Mediterranean. Islam is practiced variously, tinged by the pre-Islamic faiths of Hinduism, Buddhism, and even animism. The ethnic or quasi-ethnic groups that populate the islands (Javanese, Batak, Bugis, Acehnese, Balinese, Papuan, Bimanese, Dayak, and Ambonese) can make Indonesia seem like the world’s largest open-air museum of natural history.

As Elizabeth Pisani writes in her exuberant and wise travel book “Indonesia Etc.” (Norton), this diversity “is not just geographic and cultural; different groups are essentially living at different points in human history, all at the same time.” In recent years, foreign businessmen, disgruntled with rising costs and falling profits in India and China, have gravitated to Indonesia instead. About half the population is under the age of thirty, and this has stoked excited conjecture in the international business media about Indonesia’s “demographic dividend.” And it is true that in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, once known for its ferocious headhunters, you can now find gated communities and Louis Vuitton bags. But the emblems of consumer modernity can be deceptive. While Jakarta tweets more than any other city in the world, and sixty-nine million Indonesians—more than the entire population of the United Kingdom—use Facebook, a tribe of hunter-gatherers still dines on bears in the dwindling rain forests of Sumatra, and pre-burial rites in nominally Christian Sumba include tea with the corpse.


This coexistence of the archaic and the contemporary is only one of many peculiarities that mark Indonesia as the unlikeliest of the nation-states improvised from the ruins of Europe’s empires after the Second World War. The merchants and traders of the Netherlands, who ruthlessly consolidated their power in the region beginning in the seventeenth century, had given the archipelago a semblance of unity, making Java its administrative center. The Indonesian nationalists, mainly Javanese, who threw the Dutch out—in 1949, after a four-year struggle—were keen to preserve their inheritance, and emulated the coercion, deceit, and bribery of the colonial rulers. But the country’s makeshift quality has always been apparent; it was revealed by the alarmingly vague second sentence in the declaration of independence from the Netherlands, which reads, “Matters relating to the transfer of power etc. will be executed carefully and as soon as possible.”

Indonesia, Pisani writes, “has been working on that ‘etc’ ever since.” To be fair, Indonesians have had a lot to work on. Building political and economic institutions was never going to be easy in a geographically scattered country with a crippling colonial legacy—low literacy, high unemployment, and inflation. The Japanese invasion and occupation during the Second World War had undermined the two incidental benefits of long European rule: a professional army and a bureaucracy. In the mid-nineteen-fifties, the American novelist Richard Wright concluded that “Indonesia has taken power away from the Dutch, but she does not know how to use it.” Wright invested his hopes for rapid national consolidation in “the engineer who can build a project out of eighty million human lives, a project that can nourish them, sustain them, and yet have their voluntary loyalty.” Indonesia did have such a person: Sukarno, a qualified engineer and architect who had become a prominent insurgent against Dutch rule. For a brief while, he formed—with India’s Jawaharlal Nehru and Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser—a kind of Holy Trinity of the post-colonial world. But Sukarno struggled to secure the loyalty of the country’s dissimilar peoples. In the service of his nation-building project, he deployed anti-imperialist rhetoric, nationalized privately held industries, and unleashed the military against secession-minded islanders. He developed an ideology known as Nasakom (an attempted blend of nationalism, Islam, and Communism), before settling on a more autocratic amalgam that he called Guided Democracy.

By the early nineteen-sixties, Sukarno was worried about the military, which had been developing close links with the Pentagon, and he sought to establish a counterweight by strengthening the Partai Komunis Indonesia, at that time the largest Communist party outside the Soviet Union and China. But a series of still unclear events on the night of September 30, 1965, led to his downfall: several members of the military high command were murdered, provoking a counter-coup by a general named Suharto. The new rulers, Pisani writes, unleashed “a tsunami of anti-P.K.I. propaganda, followed by revenge killings.” The military zealously participated in the extermination of left-wing pests, and, as Pisani points out, “many ordinary Indonesians joined in with gusto.” Various groups—big landowners in Bali threatened by landless peasants, Dayak tribes resentful of ethnic Chinese—“used the great orgy of violence to settle different scores.” In Sumatra, “gangster organizations affiliated with business interests developed a special line in garroting communists who had tried to organize plantation workers.” The killings of 1965 and 1966 remain one of the great unpunished crimes of the twentieth century. The recent documentary “The Act of Killing” shows aging Indonesians eagerly boasting of their role in the exterminations.

This bloodletting inaugurated Suharto’s New Order—an even more transparent euphemism for despotism than Sukarno’s Guided Democracy had been. Suharto offered people rapid economic growth through private investment and foreign trade, without any guarantee of democratic rights. Styling himselfbapak, or father, of all Indonesians, he proved more successful than other stern paternalists, such as the Shah of Iran and the Philippines’ Ferdinand Marcos. One of his advisers was a close reader of Samuel Huntington’s “Political Order in Changing Societies” (1968). The book’s thesis—that simultaneous political and economic modernization could lead to chaos—was often interpreted in developing countries as a warning against unguided democracy. Suharto, accordingly, combined hard-nosed political domination with an expanding network of economic patronage. In effect, he was one of the earliest exponents of a model that China’s rulers now embody: crony capitalism mixed with authoritarianism. He benefitted from the fact that the massacres had not only disposed of a strong political opposition but also intimidated potential dissenters among peasants and workers. According to Huntington, the historical role of the military in developing societies “is to open the door to the middle class and to close it on the lower class.” Suharto, together with his relatives and allies in the military and in big business, pulled off this tricky double maneuver for more than three decades, helped by the country’s wealth of exportable natural resources (tin, timber, oil, coal, rubber, and bauxite).

During the nineteen-seventies and eighties, Jakarta expanded from the low-rise city of Obama’s childhood into a perennially gridlocked glass-and-steel megalopolis. But with economic growth came a revolution of aspirations and an increasingly politicized public. In 1998, after the Asian financial crisis exposed the fragile foundations of Indonesia’s economic gains, Suharto’s autocracy finally collapsed. His successors have cautiously permitted elections and press freedoms, but they have struggled to find a formula that can attract investors, who seek high quarterly returns on their infusions of capital, without alienating the poorly paid or unemployed masses. Stalwarts of the Suharto regime—both ex-generals and monopoly industrialists—have reinvented themselves as manipulators of electoral politics, and disillusionment with democracy runs high.

The country’s innate centrifugal forces have been strengthened by the abrupt decision, in 1999, to devolve political power from Java to the provinces. As Pisani puts it, “In the space of just eighteen months, the world’s fourth most populous nation and one of its most centralized burst apart to become one of its most decentralized. The center still takes care of defence, fiscal policy, foreign relations, religious affairs, justice and planning. But everything else—health, education, investment policy, fisheries and a whole lot more—was handed over to close to 300 district ‘governments.’ ”

Many of the new administrators in the provinces—popularly known as “mini Suhartos”—are adept at siphoning off the funds and resources at their disposal. The country’s old problems of poverty, inequality, and environmental despoliation have become more daunting amid the euphoria generated by faster economic growth and the enrichment of a tiny minority. The elections earlier this month revealed a deepening confusion over what kind of country Indonesia should be. One of the two main Presidential candidates was Suharto’s former son-in-law, Prabowo Subianto, a former general accused of committing many human-rights abuses in the nineties, who was backed by most of the political and business élite. Though he is an oil magnate these days, Prabowo tried to direct mass rage and frustration against foreigners who are “pillaging” Indonesia. His ultimately victorious opponent was Joko Widodo (widely known as Jokowi), who has enjoyed a spectacularly rapid rise since 2012, when he went from being the mayor of his home town to governor of Jakarta. Jokowi was the first Presidential candidate since Suharto to have had no ties to the dictator. The son of a carpenter, he has a record of supporting small businesses and the urban poor. The election results show the huge appeal of his call to a “mental revolution” and “bottom-up” governance among young Indonesians discontented with top-down modernizers.

Pisani is an exceptionally resourceful observer of the ongoing battle to define Indonesia. She first visited the country more than thirty years ago, as a backpacker; she returned as a journalist in 1988, just as public disaffection with Suharto was starting to bubble. In 2001, three years after Suharto was forced out, she was on hand to witness the country’s fumbling attempts at political reform, or reformasi, and stayed to see its first direct Presidential election, in 2004. Her book, a product of more recent and extensive travels, benefits from this long view, and also from her fluency in Bahasa Indonesia, the one language that most Indonesians can communicate in.

Seeking the unconventional and the little explored, Pisani seems to have deliberately ignored Bali, whose terraced rice fields, gamelan ensembles, and matrimonial opportunities were commemorated most recently in “Eat Pray Love.” Exposing herself to motorbikes and dingy buses on bad roads, leaky fishing boats and unreliable ferries, she traces a long, meandering route through the islands on the periphery—Sumba, Maluku, Sulawesi, Sumatra, and Kalimantan—before arriving in the old core of Java. She creatively uses the travel book’s discursive form, its built-in tendency toward the random. Her journey is structured by curiosity, and quickened by a sense of wonder and discovery. The information that a shaman was called in to catch a woman-eating crocodile on an island off the coast of Sumatra prompts a typical response from Pisani: “I resolved to go to Haloban to talk to the Crocodile Whisperer.” Such wanderlust can border on the masochistic in a country that is, as one of Pisani’s friends points out, “hard on the bum.” Pisani, however, is always game for fresh experience, whether watching votes being bought at a local election in Aceh or looking for the optimum distance between a twenty-four-hour karaoke bar and a smelly toilet on the five-day ferry to Maluku.

More remarkable, she never fails to situate her often meticulously ethnographic depictions of distinct peoples and cultures within a larger picture of a fast-changing country—one in which a system of patronage connects district officials and their local supporters to one another and to Java, and the modern capitalist economy is everywhere, raising incomes on the remotest islands while also despoiling them. Indonesians, Pisani finds, all partake of a collective life at various levels—family, village, neighborhood, region, and country—no matter how diversely they worship their gods or make and dissolve marriages. Indeed, much of rural Java still resembles the island that Clifford Geertz, Indonesia’s most astute American observer, saw in the nineteen-fifties. But the old bonds are fraying. Pisani writes, “This spirit of solidarity may not survive the pressures of the modern economy, much less the wholesale move to that other Java, the McDonald’s, Indomaret, toll-road, gated-community Java that is gobbling up the island, bite by bite.”

A much cited report by the McKinsey Global Institute claims that “around 50 per cent of all Indonesians could be members of the consuming class by 2030, compared with 20 per cent today.” It’s tempting to see Indonesia as a typical “traditional” society in which an increasingly individualistic middle class will bring about a secular and democratic nation-state. But Pisani’s knowledge of the country’s innermost recesses leads her to challenge the boosterish speculations of “pinstriped researchers at banks in Hong Kong, committees of think-tank worthies, or foreign journalists.” She counters McKinsey’s projections with some simple facts: “A third of young Indonesians are producing nothing at all, four out of five adults don’t have a bank account, and banks are lending to help people buy things, not to set up new businesses.” Meanwhile, the self-dealing activities of the country’s political and business élites—“raking in money from commodities, living easy and spending large”—do little to spur real economic growth.

She is equally dismissive of the ideologues who claim that Indonesia is in the ever-expanding evil empire of Islamic extremism. In much of Indonesia, religious practices are still syncretic. In Christian Sumba, she finds the islanders adhering to the ancient Marapu religion, “guided more by what they read in the entrails of a chicken than by what they read in the Bible.” Muslims show no sign of repudiating the wayang, the shadow-puppet theatre based on the Hindu epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Though it’s true that orthodox religion seems increasingly attractive to urban Indonesians, this is largely because religion “is a visible badge of identity which suits the need to clump together, so very pronounced in clannish Indonesia.” A few fanatics attacking Christians and Muslim minorities, she argues, do not represent the majority, who seem indifferent to what other people believe. Religious political parties, faced with declining vote share, have moved pragmatically toward the center. However, a more hardheaded analysis would show that intolerance of religious difference has grown since the fall of Suharto and the advent of democracy. As Pisani admits, “Bigotry does produce votes.” In order to achieve electoral majorities, politicians have pulled all kinds of stunts—from rash promises of regional autonomy to legislation making women ride motorbikes sidesaddle and protests against Lady Gaga.

Indonesia’s political development has had other unexpected outcomes. In a country where once only an élite few could benefit from corruption, many more people are now on the take. Pisani argues that it’s possible to see widespread corruption as a kind of “social equalizer.” In Indonesia’s long-standing system of clan patronage, people look out for members of their extended family or village, awarding them money, contracts, or jobs. Decentralization has empowered many more people to do favors than was previously the case, which in turn gives them a greater investment in maintaining the political status quo. Thus, corruption plays a crucial role “in tying the archipelago’s mosaic of islands and disparate peoples into a nation,” Pisani writes. “Patronage is the price of unity.”

Coming from one of the mini Suhartos, this would seem a cynical rationalization. But Pisani recognizes, as Richard Wright did, that a collective project sustained by voluntary loyalty is crucial to an artificial nation-state like Indonesia, especially when there is a widening abyss between wealth and misery and only a weak national ideology. In Indonesia these days, as in many post-colonial countries, welfare is rarely conceived as a national project, as it was during the idealistic era of Sukarno, Nehru, and Nasser; it is every man for himself. Pisani fears that this new culture of global capitalism has rapidly hollowed out beliefs and institutions that once gave meaning and direction to millions of lives, and replaced them with little more than an invitation to private gratification. High economic growth sustained over several years might eventually help Indonesians aspiring to become free, self-motivated individuals in the modern world. As for the rest, she writes, “the deeply rooted village populations of Indonesia have always lived fairly close to subsistence and millions remain contented with that life.”

Pisani is adamant that not all Indonesians can be or ought to be committed to the modern adventure of realizing individual freedom through material success and possessions in the metropolis. Her experience among the premodern communities of Indonesia has made her alert to the painful and often futile sacrifices that their members make for the sake of an imagined better life: how “the all-encompassing security of a shared culture gets sold off in exchange for individual fulfillment.” A pragmatic conservatism also explains the lack of a sizable Indonesian diaspora in the West. Emigration to foreign lands looks too arduous when, “by drifting to another island, you can unlace the stays of place and clan, you can learn new dances and try new foods.” Pisani’s views are similar to those of Ann Dunham, Obama’s mother, whose anthropological field work among Javanese villagers made her argue for the economic viability of rural craft traditions among subsistence farmers, and against the bias in all modernizing ideologies toward urbanization.

Pisani hopes, somewhat wistfully, that Indonesia’s “next Etc.” may be a “collectivist culture without the feudalism.” This seems even vaguer than the country’s original declaration of independence, in 1945. Indonesia cannot avoid a reckoning with its present and future challenges by trying to retreat into its past. Of all the historical forces that have worked upon its diverse peoples in the past century—maritime trade, imperialism, development, and despotism—the economy and the culture of globalization may turn out to have the most profoundly ambiguous effects. Halfway through her journey, Pisani begins to worry that she is trying “to write a book about a country that has ceased to exist.”

Such uncertainty seems widely shared in many other post-colonial countries. Nationalist ideologies, forged to bring consensus to new heterogeneous societies, have long been in decay. Electoral democracy has lost its moral prestige. Old-style military despots are back in power in Thailand and Egypt. However brutal, they seem to lack the conviction and the resources to build a new national project. Authoritarianism itself has ceased to be a bulwark against disorder in many places, most dramatically in Syria and Iraq.

Indonesia is hardly immune to catastrophic breakdowns, as the anti-Communist pogrom showed. But, like India, it has been relatively fortunate in evolving a mode of politics that can include many discontinuities—of class, region, ethnicity, and religion. Indonesia can’t avoid or prevent severe conflict, but it can weather it without falling apart. The Indonesian archipelago is unlikely to descend into the violent secessionist anarchy currently on display in the Middle East and North Africa. However, what it still needs, as Geertz once argued, is a “structure of difference within which cultural tensions that are not about to go away, or even to moderate, can be placed and negotiated—contained in a country.” Such a reconfigured national consensus, or a way of doing without one, seems equally imperative in the case of Hispanic immigrants in America, Muslims in France, Palestinians in Israel, Tamils in Sri Lanka, Kurds in Turkey, and Tibetans in China. The old question—what is a country, and what is its basis?—has become menacingly relevant long after it appeared to have been settled. In that sense, it is not facile to wonder if we are all Indonesians now, facing the perplexities of a shattering old order. ♦




africans against appropriation

July 27, 2014





gaza 01

Anonymous said: Where do Afro Palestinians fit in with the struggle? They also face racism from other Palestinians and are often not considered Palestinian enough nor that they have the right to be in the land despite many of them being in the country since the Islamic conquest. What is their position and who is rallying for their rights?


First, Afro-Palestinian have always fitted in the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle for national liberation they participate in resistance and mobilizations against the occupation. The first Palestinian woman to organize a commando operation in “israel” was Fatima Bernawi and she is Afro-Palestinian.I don’t know where you got that Afro-Palestinians “don’t have the right to be on the land” they are indigenous to the land just as any Palestinian. I suggest you look at these links to resources i provided below to learn more about the community and their struggles and aspirations. 

Video: Ali Jiddah Afro-Palestinian activist from Jerusalem 

Afro-Jerusalmite Society: An Afro-Palestinian organization based in Jerusalem 

Article: Black, Proud and Palestinian

Photo Portraits: Portraits of Afro-Palestinians from Jerusalem and Jericho 

Articles about Afro-Palestinians in Gaza:

Here & Here 

Darg Team Palestinian Hip-Hop group group from Gaza that is made up of Afro-Palestinian members (The second article above talks about them)

Reema Morgan Afro-Palestinian singer from Gaza

The crisis of solidarity: Using ‘’their plight” to score political points by Budour Hassan 

This is a great article although Budour discusses Eritrean and South Sudani refugees in “israel” she also writes about Afro-Palestinians.

You can read about Fatima Bernawi here beginning on page 10:

Daughters of Palestine Leading Women of the Palestinian National Movement by Amal Kawar

Article about Majed Abu Maraheel the first Palestinian to compete in the Olympics back in Atlanta in 1996 who is Afro-Palestinian.
















When the Union’s the Enemy:

An Interview with Cleo Silvers

Cleo Silvers, a former organizer with the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, discusses racism in the labor movement.



auto workers strike

In 1973, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health issued a report on the auto industry estimating that workplace diseases alone were responsible for about sixty-five deaths a workday — more than 16,000 a year.

The numbers were shocking, but they gave some explanation for the dramatic upsurge in wildcat actions over the preceding half-decade — what historian Jeremy Brecher calls the “labor dimension of the Vietnam War era revolt.” The report also substantiated a claim made thereafter by labor activists: the number of autoworkers killed and injured surpassed the number of American soldiers killed and maimed in any year in the Vietnam War.

In the five years after 1968, workplace grievances inundated the union bureaucracy as newfound expectations of decency and dignity invigorated a generation of American industrial workers. The New York Times reported that the young workers entering the labor force were “better educated and want treatment as equals from the bosses” were opposed to “work they think hurts their health or safety, even though old-timers have done the same work for years,” and “want fast changes and sometimes bypass their own union leaders and start wildcat strikes.”

In the auto plants of Detroit, where an all-white management and union leadership confronted a darkening workforce, these grievances often assumed a racial edge. Of all the rank-and-file caucuses that formed in this tumultuous period, perhaps none was more militant than the League of Revolutionary Black Workers.

Founded in 1969 to unify several black caucuses that sprouted up amid a strike wave, the League worked to organize independent black power within the labor movement for the explicit purpose of socialist revolution. A far-fetched goal to twenty-first century American ears, in that raucous denouement of the New Left, the League — and its short-lived national equivalent, the Black Workers Congress — advanced its cause in the political space opened by the UAW’s shortcomings on working conditions and racial inequality.

For black autoworkers, upward mobility in the plant was a rarity; as Nelson Lichtenstein writes in his biography of Walter Reuther, “Black workers called the skilled trades ‘the Deep South’ of the UAW.” And though most auto work was dangerous, it was black workers who bore the brunt of the industry’s hazardous tasks. In his 1976 book Auto Work and Its Discontents, labor activist B.J. Widick quotes one company official as saying, “[S]ome jobs white folks will not do; so they have to take niggers in… It shortens their lives, it cuts them down but they’re just niggers.”

Despite its work funding the Freedom Riders and the March on Washington, the UAW was guilty of its own institutional racism. By 1962, it had failed to elect a single black member to its twenty-two-person executive board, despite the fact that African-Americans by then composed a quarter of the Detroit membership. By 1968, there were still just two. Locked out of union leadership, their workplace grievances ignored, many activists turned to organizing wildcat actions.

This was the context in which the League of Revolutionary Black Workers was born. Though it would quickly collapse amid competing visions of black power, the League’s emergence underscored both the institutional limits of the post-war labor movement, especially in regards to race, and the consequence of that failure: a generation of activists alienated from their union. As Lichtenstein notes, “whatever their politics, DRUM’s [a League precursor] founding cohort constituted the same species of ideologically motivated cadre who had animated the UAW in its heroic youth.” Rather than incorporate this cohort, the UAW rejected their racial grievances and condoned managerial repression of shop-floor agitation.

One of these cadre was Cleo Silvers, a former social worker with VISTA in Harlem who had organized with the Black Panthers and Young Lords before turning to independent rank-and-file organizing. I recently spoke with Cleo about her time with the Revolutionary Union Movements in both New York and Detroit during the early 1970s.

You came to New York City as a social worker with VISTA, after which you began working at Lincoln Hospital. How did you end up in Detroit organizing autoworkers?
I met Jim [Forman] and several other friends in the process of the work that I was doing with HRUM, the Health Revolutionary Unity Movement, which was about organizing independent organizations of workers in the health care industry. That came from the struggles initiated at Gouverneur Hospital, at Lincoln Hospital, and several other hospitals in New York City.

The major struggle for hospital workers was around the issues of increasing education needs of the workers, bettering working conditions, and, not only that, the workers in the hospital industry also fought around patient issues.

HRUM actually began as a result of the Think Lincoln Committee, which was a coalition of community people, members of the Young Lords and the Black Panther Party concerned with hospital conditions. At the time I was a community mental health worker at Lincoln Hospital, which was so bad that people would be left in the emergency room for 72 hours and not be seen.

If you didn’t speak English it was almost impossible for you — they didn’t have translators — it was almost impossible for you to speak to your doctor. A woman who came to the hospital for a saline abortion was killed on the surgery table. There were people who went in for surgery and had the wrong kidney extracted. The people felt in the community that they were being used as guinea pigs.

We set up a patient complaint table in the emergency room. This is how we really got to understand what the conditions were inside the hospital. Patients would come to us with their complaints, and we would document them and compile them until we had a stack of complaints that you would not believe. And it didn’t take us a long time to acquire that many coming from the people in the community. It was really a horrible set of conditions inside that hospital for the patient.

Were you a union member at this time?

I was a member of 1199, but 1199 saw us as a bunch of troublemakers inside the union. We were young. We were arrogant. We knew that we were right. We knew that what we were fighting for was something that was going to be positive for the community. It was going to be positive for our class, for the young people coming up behind us, because we were fighting for better conditions.

We were fighting for a more equal distribution of the resources in society in general. We were fighting for an end to police brutality. We were fighting for the basics — for the right to be treated as a human being, the franchise, the equal ability to have access to all the things the society has to offer. We were kind of tough guys, in the sense that we demanded that they hear us. We wouldn’t go into a union meeting and not be heard. If they refused to call on us we would just take over the microphone and make our case to the rank-and-file that was in attendance at the meeting.

In the process of building our organization, we had learned about DRUM and the League. We began doing political education, and we were beginning to recognize that the working class had a role in society that was greater than most people understood. I was the co-chair of HRUM, and during one of our meetings with Jim Forman and several of the League workers — at that time I believe they had developed into the Black Workers Congress — there was a vote that I should take my organizing skills that I developed here in New York City, with HRUM and with several of the other organizations, and go to Detroit and organize in the auto plants.

When I got to Detroit I got set up in the home of Mike Hamlin, who was the chairman of the League. I met and studied with the Central Committee, which included General Baker, John Watson, Ken Cockrel.

What sort of work was the League doing in Detroit?

One thing was the book clubs. The reason those book clubs were necessary was that there were lots and lots of white people who were activists who were interested in supporting the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and the Black Workers Congress, but of course if you weren’t black or a person of color you could not be in the organization.

The League got me a job. The companies would have these cattle calls for workers to come into different plants, based on what they needed. There happened to be, when I came into the city, a call for workers at Dodge Truck. I was taken over, and I got hired on at the Dodge Truck plant in Warren, Michigan, which is right outside Detroit.

The racial composition in the plant at that time was about 70 percent African-American. There were Arabs. A very strong Arab community in the Detroit metropolitan area. There were Latinos, but that was a very small group. So the struggle inside the plant took all kinds of turns.

There was one struggle that was very interesting between the Arabs and the African-Americans. The African-Americans used to call the Arabs “camel jockeys.” The activists, the Marxists, came together and began to encourage the black workers to recognize that if they don’t want to be called a nigger, then you don’t want to call those Arab workers, who are your comrades that are on this line working with us, camel jockeys. Slowly, we began to build very strong relationships, and when it came time to take a plant-wide action, all of the workers who we built relationships with were involved and supportive, and took action along with us.

What sorts of issues did people organize around?

There was the paint shop, where workers had very little to support their breathing. They didn’t have masks that were very good, and the masks were overused, and the workers were breathing in paint and of course dying as a result of breathing in this paint. Speedup was the other important thing.

I worked in two areas. It was a filthy job, where you put the frames onto the line, and then you have several bolts and nuts that you had to attach to the frame. My second job was installing brake fluid cups. Brake fluid is a corrosive, and it would corrode my hands and feet. They gave you one pair of vinyl gloves per week and one apron per week and one pair of boots, because the brake fluid was running onto the ground, and it would eat through that stuff.

And I had been harassed by foremen. You know, foremen’s thing with women, that’s another issue. There weren’t a lot of women in the plant, and those that were there were always being harassed, whether you were black or white or whatever. It was not unexpected for a foreman to come up to you and say, if you sleep with me I’ll give you a better job.

Were there any deaths at the plant?

Absolutely, yes. There were several. One worker was crushed by a huge motor. The motors are very, very big, and they are extremely heavy. The really big guys were responsible for moving the motor around and dropping it into the shell of the truck, and one guy got crushed by a motor. There were people that lost hands and other limbs on the line because management would never stop the line when they were asked. Sometimes you could get stuck, and the thing is to stop the line. But managers would not stop the line. And you would be fired immediately if you were a worker on the line and you stopped the line.

What was the union’s role at the plant?

The UAW actually had a low profile at Dodge Truck. They had their votes, they had their meetings. We attended a few meetings. But the work that we were doing, with so many workers, you start to build relationships with so many workers. We didn’t really have time to fool with the UAW. Some of them were like, “yeah the UAW, they’re not shit, they ain’t doin’ this or that.”

But the point was that the UAW only fought for you if you were in the plant and your hand got cut off, then they would come and stop the line, you know, negotiate with management, that kind of thing. Or the workers in the paint shop decided, this is too much today. We’re breathing in too much of the fumes from the paint, we’re not going to do this anymore. Then the union would come down and try to negotiate with the workers to go back to work.

Did you witness a lot of shop floor activism disciplined by the union?

Absolutely, yes.

How did that go?

They would be like, you know, “you guys are fuckin’ up!” And really that’s what they’d tell you. And we’d say, “you’re fucking up by not demanding quality conditions, decent conditions, for us, for the workers. So don’t come over here tellin’ us we’re fuckin’ up. That’s not us, that’s you.” So there was back and forth all the time between us.

Were you aware of the work the union had done to support the Civil Rights Movement?

That’s before the period in which the League of Revolutionary Black Workers took place. So yes they did progressive things, but that was way back in the Civil Rights Movement. You see, the development of the League came on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement, as a result of workers not wanting to be nonviolent, and recognizing that it was important to organize on a class basis. The Civil Rights Movement was done on a racial basis. The struggle for equality and justice inside a town like Detroit was fully based on working class awareness.

What sorts of actions did the workers take against poor conditions?

There were heat walkouts, several every year. In the summer inside the plant it would get up to 120 degrees, and our position was that once the temperature was over 120 degrees that is not a place for human beings to be working in.

Management would not shut the plant down. They would expect us to continue to work. But even workers who didn’t agree with us did not want to be working in [a] 120 degree auto plant. It wasn’t that difficult. We would go all around the plant and say, “It’s very hot today, once it hits 120 degrees we’re all leaving.” Everybody would leave. Who wants to be there? It was led by us, the young members of the League, the young black workers, and supported very heavily by the Arab workers, and some of the white workers too.

That’s the other thing that was going on. When you are working in a place like an auto plant, it is very difficult to maintain prejudice, because we’re all in the same boat, we’re all doing the same thing, and you get to discuss. “Here I’m standing next to you on the line.” “Well I don’t like you!” “Why you don’t like me? We have to care about each other!” And you have to watch each other’s back.

So that’s one of the most important things. You want to see prejudice and racism obliterate itself? Give a group of people a job to do where they have to share the responsibility and the labor. I think that’s one of the great things I learned inside the auto plant.



Andrew Elrod is a writer in New York.









photo by Alex Lear

photo by Alex Lear





our sister is thin. she is leading her whole family down the street. her four year old is just ahead of her. she and her little man, two year old malik, walk hand in hand behind skipping and giggling sekou. she is not paying any attention to things in the streets: the cars, trucks and busses whizzing by in both directions. they had missed the bus they needed. the evening was nice. warm. so why not walk and why not take a short cut down napoleon avenue, a thoroughfare what used to be one of white folks’ big streets?


a camera swung innocently on her hip beneath the medium sized windbreaker, which enveloped her. although out of sight, the camera was at the ready because she liked to shoot. most of the time without film. she would “see” a scene. compose an artistic comment from a chance encounter. but not being able to afford as much film and processing as she would shoot if she had the green to match her ambition, she would just flash the camera and capture the still in her mind’s eye, the image frozen in her brain as the sound of the shutter-click indicated the shot was complete. some people did not understand taking pictures without film. they either were not deep into art or else they were not poor. but poor artists know, you’ve got to practice your art anyway you can.


cause she was on a family outing. listening to her boys be themselves. actually coming back from standing in line paying a bill and headed to the house that barely qualified as shelter, not to mention was a poor stand-in for a secure and loving place she could accurately call home. because her braids were in place and would not need rebraiding for another three or four months. because the essential bills were now paid. and she did have thirty dollars in her pocket for two weeks of food. because sekou was singing “space is the place…” his favorite sun ra song — oh, she was proud that sekou dug ra. i mean, what parent would not be proud of a four year old with the sensitivity to embrace sun ra? because she was making sure she was walking slow enough so that malik could keep up but fast enough so that sekou would not outdistance them. because malik was just getting over the flu and she kept hugging him from time to time both to cuddle and to take his temperature. because she was enjoying her kids. and had taken fifteen shots of them already today. the last one a little shaky because she didn’t use a flash and the shadows were getting long, which meant shooting at a slow shutter speed and her hand had shook a little as she focused on the look in malik’s eyes and saw the man whose seed spawned malik. the hand shake was not out of hate or even any particular rememberance of love or passion, but rather because this little man looked so much like that big half-a-man and she could not help but wonder would little man grow to become the whole man that the older man was destined never to be. she knew that was her task. to somehow teach these little sweet knuckleheads to become men, somehow, in the absence of a steady man on the scene. if you are a young woman. attractive but not gorgeous. black in color and consciousness. poor as a welfare queen, except not even food stamps stuffed into your bra. proud in the classic “we may not have much but we’re going to make it” way, estranged from your birth family because you have become, some-terrible-how, exactly what your upbringing and college education was supposed to prevent: a poor, single mother of two, head of household, fatherman long gone. if you have struggled with being a statistic for three or four years running. cooped yourself up. did odd jobs here and there. hung on by a thread. managed to hold on to your decency — i.e. declined to live off of ocassional dollars left on the bedside by dawgs who liked the way you jocked their dick — managed to stay physically clean of diseases (and you have found the easiest way to suffer sexual deprivation is to do without completely, except, of course, for the casual hand job in the tub or a particular good spliff of reefer every other week or so), so you’re clean and have managed to hold on to your pride. no begging back to mama. no buckling under to stern papa’s patriarchal nonsense. if you were wearing synthetic clothes even though you prefered cottons and wools. payless sneakers when rockport walkers were really what you needed, especially given that you walked most places you had to go–a buck a throw to ride the bus added up to a tremendous deficit in the pocketbook, and besides, it was usually three bucks to ride because it was cheaper to take family outings then to even think about paying one of the kids in the block to be a babysitter, besides what sense did it make to let kids who were little more than babies watch your babies? if you had finally sold some photos to some magazine for less than you hoped but for as much as you could expect, cashed the money at the corner, paid your electricity bill, paid the rent, and still had thirty dollars and change left over to buy food for two weeks until next payday, because of all of that, if you were shooting a photo of your youngest son and you saw the last man who dispassionately screwed over you staring out of your son’s two year old eyes, your hand would quiver too. all of the above is why her hand shook a little trying while squeezing off that slow-shutter-speed shot.


because of ruminating on all of that and because she just never would have expected it, she wasn’t paying attention to the brother walking toward her until he stopped in front of them. went down into his pocket and began pulling out a pistol that was so long it seemed like it took two hours for him to keep extracting it from its hiding place. he just kept coming up, up, up with that thing.


why was he showing her his gun? was all she could think of at first.


brother was tall but not overly tall. just regular ghetto brother tall. tall enough to be playing ball instead of pulling a gun on her. was moderately attractive, except she did not pay too much attention to his looks because she was faced with the fascination of a lethal weapon about to be aimed at her chest. he maybe weighted as much as her whole family — sekou was no more than forty-some pounds, malik was only about twenty-nine pounds, and she weighed ninety-eight pounds wringing wet — she had weighed herself the last time she took a bath at her girlfriend’s house, her girl friend, whom she hadn’t seen or talked to in months now, kept a scale next to the tub, so when she stepped out, it seemed like the obvious thing to do, to hop on the scale and give it a go, the scale registered ninety eight and a half pounds, she had deducted half a pound for the water dripping off her and for the towel she was clutching and rubbing across her body as she dried herself — so 98 plus let’s say 30 was 128 plus say 45 was 163, no 173, yeah, he looked to weigh 200 or so pounds. shit. he didn’t need no gun to rob her. he could have been like most men and just threw his weight around. but she couldn’t help paying attention to that gun.


a gun is a funny thing when it’s aimed at your chest, when it’s in the hands of somebody who doesn’t give a damn about your life, when it’s loaded and maybe also loaded is the person holding the piece. a gun is funny in the macarbe sense that even though she was a statistic of poverty she had never thought of herself as eligible to become a statistic of homicide until she was confronted by a little piece of specifically twisted metal, phallic shaped and capable of spewing a metal projectile that can rent flesh, shatter bone and easily cause fatal harm.


we had embraced when we met, the huge of my bear hug almost wrapped completely around her twice, my right hand on my left elbow, my left hand vice versa, her living flesh encased against my chest, i could feel her breathing, her small breasts, the slenderness of her back, the top of her head not fully up to my chin, she didn’t look sick or anything, or feel weak, but no one would mistake her for being at the top of her game, she had a semi-nervous gesture when i asked how she had been, both hands went to her hair and tugged the braids back on her head, hands over her ears like she didn’t want to hear the question, and she looked down, away from me, before answering that she was just kind of coming out of seclusion. while she made those silent sad gestures, i was thinking about her children being sequestered in a cramped shotgun double, and, of course, trying to be a bit sensitive, i didn’t ask how she was caring for her kids, i mean i was just another man who was not going to support her two young negro males, and if you ain’t going to solve the problem what right do you have to tell a young mother that she ought to take better care of her kids, doesn’t she know that every day she gets up, dresses them, feeds them, as best she can? i guess if i were she i too would have been in seclusion. and then she tells me that she almost got killed.


but that’s life in the waning moments of the 20th century, everybody is almost getting killed, life, especially in new orleans a recent statistical murder capital of metropolitan america, life is murder. i could tell from the quiet, unhysterical, deliberate, clearly ennuciated, without eye contact at first but then the quick glance up into my eyes, i could tell that life is sometimes death from the way she said the word for the day around our way: killed. i could tell this was not an exaggeration.


you know the old saying, what goes up must come down? it’s not the lift off that’s scary, nor the arcing descent, what is scary is surviving the crash. i’m beginning to understand the anxiety of survival. sort of like how it felt surviving the middle passage. what am i living for? how come i’m still alive? when friends and kin fall all around you, you wonder why you’re still standing. in this case, i was also wondering how she was still standing.


i mean it was difficult visualizing her on the sidewalk, pulling malik close to her with a firm hand that just moments ago was leisurely linked to his little palm. or how did sekou, big eyed and backed back against her thighs, how did he look while some original gangsta practiced his mayhem tactics on this family trio. sister got less than nothing–all the cash she will beg, borrow, earn and steal this year will not cover her annual debt, and some hardleg is trying to jack her up. what a tremendous disrespect for life this is. what kind of parasite would ripoff a whole family whose liquid cash is probably less than the cost of the bullets and the gun being used to rob them?


sister laughs nervously as she relates to me how big the gun was, pantomiming the gun being pulled on her, coming up out the dude’s pants, she uses her hand with finger and thumb stiff at a perpendicular angle and just keeps raising her hand higher and higher until it’s over her head. i imagine when all the money you’ve got is thirty dollars and it’s secreted on your person, and your two young boys are scrunched up against you silently waiting for you to do something, and there’s this big dude standing in front of you about to rob you or whatever, i imagine, at that moment, the gun do look like it will keep growing in size, bigger and bigger and bigger.


“i told him, you know you wrong for that. you see my kids…”


i could not imagine being bold enough to tell a robber he’s wrong for robbing. but beneath the stress of crisis, she rose to protest the moment of her assault.


“i had to tell him, man, you wrong for that. and then i kinda instinctively backed toward the street. before i knew it, we were standing in the street. a car came along. the driver hit his brakes. leaned on his horn. swerved around us and kept going. i was yelling at the car: stop, stop. the dude hollered at me: give me your money or i’ll shoot you. but by then i was standing in the middle of the street, my arms around my kids and then another car was coming. they was just going to have to hit me and my boys, or stop. fortunately the car stopped. i jerked on the passenger front door but it was locked. roll down your window, i begged. help me. please. help me. i pointed at the dude at the curb: that man is trying to kill us.”


i watched her unconsciouly re-enact the escape as she narrated the scenario of resistance to assault. the unsentimental starkness of her words connected me to her like a fishhook in the flesh, each syllable held fast and pulled me closer because it hurt to back away from her. when i had asked how she had been, i had no idea how near she had come to not being and how out of it i would feel as she related to me the tale of her near demise.


although each one of her quiet words conjured up an image in my mind, everything i was thinking was abstract compared to the knot of feelings wrenching my gut as i stood transfixed by the mesmerizing sight of her pantomime, her body jerking through the survival motions: the desperate pulling at the car door, her braids thrashing as she frantically grasped for an opening; the fearless pointing at the assailant, her arm extended, ending in an accusatory finger aimed at some spot to the right of me; the protective collecting of her children, the hugging of open space with right arm and left arm, the hunching over, making a shield out of her body. i was hearing her words with one mind and watching her body with another mind, and both minds were marveling at what they witnessed. she sang and she danced. her words were warrior song, her motions, warrior steps. and yet she was unarmed, all she was doing was defending, defending her right to be, to be woman, to be mother, to be walking down the street with her children. you know we’re in bad shape when a single mother and two children are viewed as easy prey, when a literally poor woman who obviously doesn’t have big bucks can’t take a family stroll through the afternoon without one of her brothers pulling a gun on her, threatening murder, demanding her money or her life.


i was simply standing there listening to her story, painfully aware that i was doing nothing but listening. she was not only doing the work of telling the tale, she had also first done the work of surviving the murderous maze of choices facing her that fatefilled afternoon. when a robber puts a gun in your face, most people’s minds shut down and they become incapable of making calculated decisions, incapable of making any decision. most people freeze up and simply do what they are told. but this sister in the flash of a few seconds figured out how to be a survivor. threaded through the labyrinth of violence and somehow found a path to avoid the palpable possibility of getting murdered. this sister refused to go silently into the book of urban armed robbery and homocide.


i was emotionally exhausted as she continued the story of a murder that didn’t happen. since she was here telling me about it, i knew that the story did not end with her murder, but as she revived the terror of the moment with the sound of her voice and the intensity of her movements, i felt the helpless chill of realizing just how fragile we all are in confronting the callous brutalities of contemporary life.


even though it would have been a tragedy had she been shot, the greater shame is that there was nothing, absolutely nothing, unbelievable about this story. if i didn’t know it before, i knew it now: the realities of late 20th century new orleans had predisposed me to accept murder as a normal way of life. i wondered what i would have done had i actually been a witness to the attempted robbery. how would i have reacted if i were a passerby? would i have driven away, like the driver of the first car that almost hit them, or would i have simply stood motionless as a tree witnessing a black on black lynching, a black man assaulting a black woman?


“it was an older black man at the wheel of the car that stopped. i pounded on the window. i looked over my shoulder at the dude standing on the curb with the gun still out. please, help us, i shouted. the man unlocked his door. i pushed my kids in first.”


then she addressed me. reminded me that i was not innocently an uninvolved spectator. by directly addressing me, she did not allow me the simple escape of observing her as though she was a television or a movie screen. she reminded me that i, a man, was looking at her, a woman. what was the relationship of my manhood to her? as “a man” i could be a perpretator or i could be a helpmate. she reminded me that manhood was no abstract choice. day to day, incident to incident, relation to relation, one on one, one to many, one to none, each man had to choose how he related to each woman. i didn’t say anything as she interrupted the narrative flow, looked directly at me and made a parenthetical remark as she continued. what could i say?


“man, it was some shit like in a movie. it was happening so fast. but what was i going to do? i didn’t want my kids to see me getting shot or nothing. or whatever that man with the gun intended to do to me.” the awfulness of “whatever” hung in the air like the scent of foulness in a slaughterhouse. i said nothing and just waited for her to hurry up and get away from the man with the gun.


“at first i was going to tell the kids to run but they wouldn’t move. they just kept clinging to me. so when i pushed them out into the street, they kinda was resisting. but it was the street and maybe getting run over by a car or else standing still and getting robbed and maybe getting shot. lucky for us, a car stopped. so after i got the kids in the car, i jumped in behind the kids. the man who was driving asked me what was wrong. i said just drive please. please drive. and he drove off. i didn’t even look back. to this day i couldn’t really describe that dude to you, but i can still see that big-ass gun.”


and then it was over. she stopped talking. went into herself for a second or so to lock down whatever emotions that retelling and reliving the tale had set loose.


once she was back to the present, she looked up and into me in real time, swung her attention to my presence and calmly met my gaze without the terror of the past beclouding her bright brown eyes. she was no longer back at the scene of the crime, she was now standing in safety before me, a slight, very slight, smile creasing her face. silent. and then she said: “i’m alright now, but i been kind of staying inside, yaknow.” and then she giggled nervously. i mumbled something about being glad that she was ok, and then recognizing that i had nothing substantial to add, i changed the subject.


days later, i find myself facing the question: what are you going to do about it? it’s over but it’s not over. murder marches on. armed robbery careens through our community unabated. no matter how i twist the combination of causes and effects, proactions and reactions, i don’t come up with any great new insights into the problem.


in terms of dealing with our very real social problems, i am a beggar standing lonely outside a banquet of the damned. i don’t possess any secret solutions or even any short term suggestions. but i know i must say something. so i raise up these few words and shout out to all my brothers: hey, my brothers, if you see a young sister, reed thin, dark skinned, walking down the street with two big-eyed kids, hey, please don’t fuck with them. and brotherman, if you find them in trouble, please help them. that’s the least a human being can do. help, and, most certainly, do no harm.


—kalamu ya salaam











osunlade 01


Life On A Houseboat

01 Rancido “104″

02 K Civ “Misty Swamp” (Frisbee’s Oasis)

03 Pedro Aguiar & Himan “Rocket Science”

04 Cuebur Feat. Vikter Duplaix “I See You”

05 Steve Paradise “Zultan” (Steve Paradise Mix)

06 Soule Villian “Soul Seekers (Yous’souih O Mix)

07 Pedro Aguiar & Himan “Record Legs”

08 Francesco Chiocci “Afuture”

09 Adesse “Baayi Adesse”

10 Clendon Toblerone “Mystics Of Thaquitz”

compiled and mixed by Osunlade
recorded in North Holland










straight black coffee


Straight Black Coffee

This is a set inspired by the one and only BLACK COFFEE. I’m looking forward to be playing along side this gentleman on NOV. 15th for the LIBERATION 1 Year Anniversary in Rotterdam, NL. If you’re in the area make sure to come out and experience his inspirational performance.



Thank you guys for your time and ears. I really appreciate it.












lindenwood review

TLR5 Flash Fiction Contest–No Entry Fee

We are happy to announce our Flash Fiction Contest for Issue 5 of The Lindenwood Review:

  • No Entry Fee. 

  • Winner receives $50, publication in Issue 5 of The Lindenwood Review, and three contributor copies. 

  • Honorable Mentions receive publication and three contributor copies of TLR5. 

  • Contest entries will be accepted 6/15/14 through 11/15/14. 

  • All contest submissions will receive a response by December 30, 2014. Issue 5 will be published by June 2015. 
  • Email your story as a Word document attachment Type Flash Fiction Contest in the subject line. Include a brief bio in the body of the email. 
  • Length Requirement: 50 to 750 words. Stories over 750 words may be considered for our regular fiction section. Stories under 50 words will not be considered for publication. Include word count on your submission. 
  • Up to three flash fiction pieces may be submitted per writer. Attach each story as a separate Word document. 
  • We allow simultaneous submissions, but please contact us immediately if your work is accepted elsewhere. 
  • We welcome submissions from both new and established writers. Please note that current Lindenwood University students and faculty are not eligible to submit work to The Lindenwood Review. (LU alumni are eligible to submit.) 

  • For more information about our journal, visit our website. Regular submission guidelines for TLR are available here (fiction, poetry, and personal essay, accepted 7/15/14 – 12/15/14). Writers who enter our contest may also submit work for our regular issue submissions (beginning 7/15)For more information about Lindenwood University’s MFA Program, with both in-class and fully online options, visit us here. 

  • Questions: Contact the Editor, Beth Mead, at TheLindenwoodReview@lindenwood.eduor














Morton Marcus Memorial Poetry Contest

September 1, 2014 

Entry Fee: 




Sponsored in collaboration with Santa Cruz Writes, a prize of $1,000 and publication in phren-Z is given annually for a poem. The winner is also invited to give a reading at the fifth annual Morton Marcus Memorial Reading at Cabrillo College in November. Christopher Buckley will judge. Submit up to three poems of no more than five pages each with a $15 entry fee by September 1. Call or visit the website for complete guidelines.

phren-Z, Morton Marcus Memorial Poetry Contest, 184 Kenny Court, Santa Cruz, CA 95065. (831) 476-6835. Jory Post, Cofounder.











creative non-fiction


Deadline: September 22, 2014

For an upcoming issue, Creative Nonfiction is seeking new essays about WAITING. We’re looking for well-crafted true stories of delays, postponements, and pauses that explore and examine our relationship with time.

The theme is open to interpretation. Maybe you’re waiting tables or you’re on a waiting list; you could be waiting for the bus or the bell or a friend or a phone call. Maybe you’re waiting for a diagnosis, or for your ship to come in, or for Godot. Maybe you’re expecting. Maybe your story isn’t about you at all; maybe it’s a true story about a town under siege, or a scientific experiment, or a lady-in-waiting … However you approach the subject, we can’t wait to read your work.

Submissions must be vivid and dramatic; they should feature a strong and compelling narrative and reach beyond a strictly personal or anecdotal experience for some universal or deeper meaning. (Put another way: something should happen, and it should matter to readers.) Our readers also like to learn new things: tell us something, whether it’s about the history of clocks or how the mind processes time, or maybe about how waiting-period laws vary from state to state. We’re looking for well-written prose, rich with detail and a distinctive voice; all essays must tell true stories and be factual accurate.

Creative Nonfiction editors will award $1000 for Best Essay and $500 for runner-up.All submissions will be considered for publication in a special “Waiting” issue of the magazine.

Guidelines: Essays must be previously unpublished and no longer than 4,000 words. There is a $20 reading fee (or send a reading fee of $25 to include a 4-issue subscription to Creative Nonfiction—US submitters only); multiple entries are welcome ($20/essay) as are entries from outside the United States (though due to shipping costs we cannot offer the subscription deal).

You may submit essays online or by regular mail:

By regular mail Postmark deadline September 22, 2014
Please send manuscript, accompanied by cover letter with complete contact information including the title of the essay and word count; SASE or email for response; and payment to:

Creative Nonfiction
5501 Walnut Street, Suite 202
Pittsburgh, PA 15232

Online Deadline to upload files: 11:59 pm EST September 22, 2014
To submit, please click the appropriate link:

Reading fee + 4-issue subscription ($25; US submitters only)
Reading fee only ($20)









super selected

MAY 21, 2014






Art. Julie Mehretu.

Abstract Architectural Imagery.





Julei Mehretu is best known for her amazingly large scale paintings and drawings. She was born in Ethiopia, raised in Michigan, educated in Senegal and Rhode Island and now lives and works in New York.

(Stadia I)

(Stadia I)


(Stadia II)

(Stadia II)





(Excerpt Battle Track)

(Excerpt Battle Track)



(Black City)

(Black City)




See more works here and here.