Microcosm Publishing Interview with the Team Colors Collective!
Team Colors is an awesome activist collective with members stretching across the US. Their latest venture is in publishing. Winds from Below: Radical Community Organizing to Make a Revolution Possible (Eberhardt Press) and Uses of a Whirlwind (AK Press) are out now and available here and here, respectively.
Q: Tell us a little about Team Colors…
Currently the collective is made up of Conor Cash (Tucson, AZ), Craig Hughes (Queens, NY by the time you read this), Stevie Peace (Minneapolis, soon to be Chapel Hill, NC), and Kevin Van Meter (Portland, OR), though we often work with other friends and organizations. As a collective our purpose is to examine current struggles, organizing, and movements, and to share findings that in turn better radical practice and build radical movements. Though each of us has had or is in the midst of academic training (i.e. grad school), we pull predominantly from our own experiences as organizers and active participants in revolutionary struggles.
Team Colors initially arose out of a decade-long organizing project in suburban Long Island, New York, that involved three of the collective’s current members. In organizing among DIY punk folks, hardcore kids, and related communities on Long Island–and in successful ways–we felt that we had developed a framework and set of experiences for examining how other organizations and projects functioned. This paired with an interest in militant and co-research–that is, research on militant activities and research produced in the encounter between the research team and those looking to produce knowledge about their communities and struggles. This focus brought us to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, where we met our fourth collective member.
The collective sees its role as examining struggles and circulating them, but not in a way that is removed or above or in ideological conflict with them or aspects of them. As organizers ourselves, we feel that it’s important to describe and share how an organization or campaign actually functions. Too often, organizers and activists give the “press release” version of their work: you read a short article on Indymedia or in the radical press that lists what’s great, what’s succeeding, including “orgasmic moments” of resonating power and potential, but what you miss is an in-depth description and analysis of how a particular organizing project works. We certainly need press releases and positive outlooks on our work, but we also need documents and media that reflect the complexity of organizing and struggling in the United States today.
Additionally, we feel it is important to ground our politics and practices in our own life experiences, and we all have different interests that come through in our collective publications, including issues of class struggle, care work, and struggles around care. Each of us, and us as a collective body, have gone through some pretty traumatic experiences: state repression; a violent racially motivated attack; watching a friend and partner pass away; dealing with mental health and post traumatic stress disorder. We believe that unless movements address in real ways the mental and physical health issues, chronic pain, trauma, grief, and related experiences and realities of its members and surrounding communities, then they aren’t grasping the substance of life and the purposes of our struggles. Similarly, we are deeply frustrated by very problematic and lacking discourses on class and class dynamics around the Left. In our view, it is class struggle (in its multitudinous forms) that drives our history and present, and it is in the working class’s ability to recompose and renew itself and build power that we will get beyond the exploitation and domination of capital and state.
Q: You have two new publications coming out. Tell us a little about them.
A: Our first new publication concludes a two-year research project into radical movements in the United States. This began with an on-line journal called “In the Middle of a Whirlwind: 2008 Convention Protests, Movement, and Movements,” and has developed into a collection just out through AK Press, called Uses of a Whirlwind: Movement, Movements, and Contemporary Radical Currents in the United States (Whirlwinds).
The book collects over thirty voices from farms, forests, bookstores, streets and street corners, homes, and corporate chains (among many other spaces) so that they resonate with each other and share their stories. It is our intent that readers find this collection as simply one step forward in their organizing work, to encourage reflections about the complexities and cycles of struggle and examinations of their organizing.
As we wrote the introduction to Whirlwinds to help set up the context of the collection, we found we had a lot we wanted to bring forward but no space to do so. We wanted to examine the past thirty years of struggle–of this cycle of struggle, of capital’s response to it and the state violence used against it, and how this has developed into the current situation radical movements and communities face. So instead of straining to fit such a large amount of material into an already ambitious collection, we decided to place it in a separate pamphlet, called Wind(s) from Below: Radical Community Organizing to Make a Revolution Possible.
Both of these projects are interventions. We are intervening into the current state of radical organizing and revolutionary struggle, and pointing toward exciting developments as well as the impasses that are limiting these potential struggles. One thing we want to stress, and we hope it comes off in our work, is that radicals need humility. We don’t have all the answers, we cannot understand all the complexities of life and the conditions of peoples’ lives through ideological lenses, we cannot presume that we are correct and that those who don’t agree with our politics are somehow immoral, ignorant, or corrupt. But we can walk together, ask questions, and create new ways of moving and living.
Q: The pamphlet’s being printed over at Eberhardt Press, who we love and support with all our heart. How’d you guys get hooked up with Charles at Eberhardt.
Since Kevin moved to Portland, OR two years ago, all of us have become fast friends with Charles and Eberhardt Press. But actually this is not how we encountered him and his unique and incredible printing work. Three years ago, we were looking to print a small run of about 350 cookbooks as a memorial and tribute to a friend who had recently passed away, and current “Green Scare” political prisoner Daniel McGowan pointed us in Eberhardt Press’s direction. (On that note, Team Colors would like to strongly suggest that those reading this take a moment to write a postcard, short letter or send zines to Daniel (www.supportdaniel.org) or another imprisoned activist (www.prisonactivist.org). It is these notes and printed materials that allow their lives to continuously flow into ours, and is among the best ways to show support for someone behind bars.)
Q: Tell us a little about what happened at the US Social Forum that took place between June 23-27th in Detroit?
Team Colors organized two workshops, a panel discussions, and a collaborative book party during the USSF (www.ussf2010.org) in Detroit at the end of June. We hosted a panel on radical research (with Chris Dixon, Harmony Goldberg, and Michal Osterweil of the Turbulence Collective), a workshop on research for radical movements (with Midnight Notes Collective, Institute of Anarchist Studies, Radical Reference, Frank Edwards and Robin Hewlett of AREA Chicago, Julie Perini, Chris Carlsson), a workshop on care (with SICK: A Collaborative Zine on Physical Illness editor Benjamin Holtzman, Philly Stands Up, Domestic Workers United, and Rockdove Collective), and finally, an amazing collaborative book release party with eight other authors (including Ben of SICK and Justseeds’ Firebrands, both Microcosm titles), co-organized by AK Press, Autonomedia, Black & Red, Fifth Estate, the Institute of Anarchist Studies, Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative, Microcosm Publishing, PM Press, Turbulence Collective, and author Jordan Flaherty. New York based artist Seth Tobocman concluded the party with a slide show of recent work.
All of this was part of a radical track of workshops and events called “A New World from Below” and we will be uploading audio from many of these events on our website as well. Additionally, Whirlwinds was officially released during the Forum and we were super excited about the positive responses we received from new and old friends alike.
Q: Do you have any other book events people can come meet you at?
Team Colors will be doing a national tour for most of the summer and into the fall. Immediately following the USSF we visited, and then Chicago, Madison, and Minneapolis. In July we will be doing events in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Asheville, Nashville, Gainesville, Lake Worth, Hollywood (Florida), Miami, and other areas of the Northeast and South. We are excited to do August events in Portland, the AK Press warehouse in Oakland, and San Francisco, as well as events in the rest of the Northwest later that month. Many of our events will include contributors to the book and other friends. It is the discussions that arise during these events, and from the book, that we hope to learn from and continue to circulate. Our USSF events and tour dates can be found at: http://warmachines.info/?page_id=241
Q: What’s next for Team Colors?
Aside from the book tour, each member of Team Colors has their own interests that they are excited to explore as the intensity of this project slows down in late fall 2010. Stevie will be going to graduate school and pursuing research on radical Asian America. Craig will continue his research on suburban social struggles. Kevin will focus in on issues of care, death, and mourning, and will look to produce a pamphlet and other pieces of writing on these subjects. As for the collective itself, we are always looking at new ways to connect with projects that we love and respect, and share how they function in order to improve radical practice and movements.
Q: Where can people find more info on you guys?
The collective’s website, which includes numerous articles we have published as well as excerpts from both of the books, is at www.warmachines.info. For the website for the Whirlwinds collection, you can go directly to www.whirlwinds.info.