Selected Articles

Check my regular contributions to Black Perspectives.
I also write often for Truthout. You can see my articles here.

“Criminalizing the History of U.S. Radical Underground Movements”
Truthout | August 22, 2015
It is easy to criticize from the safety of historical distance. Yet this history is an active part of our present.

“Beyond Innocence: US Political Prisoners and the Fight Against Mass Incarceration”
Truthout | July 24, 2015
Before and alongside the war on drugs, mass incarceration was built through the wholesale repression of radical movements — especially in communities of color.

“Getting the Money Out of Prison Reform”
Truthout | May 28, 2015
As prison reform makes its way to the center stage of American politics, we will need to ensure that the social change agenda is not determined by financiers, however sincerely motivated they may be.

“Malcolm X’s Challenge to Mass Incarceration”
Al Jazeera America | February 21, 2015
A half-century after his murder, Malcolm X may still be one of our best guides for making sense of American racism, an evil that once again roils the country. Malcolm X’s enduring influence owes in part to the truth of his metaphors, his way with words and the relentlessness of his criticism — in particular, his depiction of the United States as a prison.

“America’s fortress of blood: The death of George Jackson and the birth of the prison-industrial complex”
Salon | September 7, 2014
In 1971, activist George Jackson was mysteriously killed in San Quentin prison — a tragedy repeated time and again.

“From Freedom Summer to Black August”
Dissent | August 19, 2014 (also in Truthout28 August 2014)
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Freedom Summer … Commemorations of the momentous civil rights campaign appropriately highlight the black political participation that has grown as a result of those heroic voter registration efforts and seems symbolically reflected in the two-time election of the nation’s first black president. There is another anniversary of black protest this year that has received less attention. Thirty-five years ago California prisoners founded Black August, a holiday to pay tribute to African-American history in the context of an ever-expanding carceral state.

“What’s Behind the Hunger Strike at Northwest Detention Center?”
(with Angélica Cházaro)
Seattle Times | March 19, 2014
We do not often look to prisons and detention centers to understand the social and political needs of our generation. But we should. Some of the most passionate advocates for fairness, justice and human rights are incarcerated.

“Let History’s Records Reflect the Struggles from Below Inside the Empire: Roundtable with Dan Berger, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Michael Hardt, and Fred Moten”
Polygraph no. 23/24 | Winter 2013/2014
A roundtable discussion based on a discussion of The Hidden 1970s, intersectionality, and the legacy of 1970s social movements. The discussion originally occurred at Duke University in September 2010.

“Marilyn Buck’s Playlist”
Polygraph no. 23/24 | Winter 2013/2014
Fugitive freedom as political praxis engages a dialectic between repression and liberation: it finds avenues for liberation in regimes of repression, but it does not resign itself to finding freedom only in sites of repression. It does not abandon the hope of “winning,” of revolution as both journey and destination. It keeps pushing for, reaching toward, a collective freedom yet unknown. It does not turn radicalism from counter-hegemony into fugitivity, but rather sees the development of freedom within fugitive modes of being as a necessary step toward developing and deepening counter-hegemonic political projects. If, as poet Martín Espada writes in “Imagine the Angels of Bread,” the “abolition of slave manacles began as a vision of hands without manacles,” then it is not surprising that those catalyzed to act by the sight of chained ?esh, those whose hands are manacled and whose imagination is assaulted through con?nement, have themselves been so imaginative.

“Social Movements and Mass Incarceration: What is to be Done?”
SOULS vol. 15, iss. 1-2 | Summer 2013
This article reads social movements into the story of the American carceral state in two ways. First, rather than see mass incarceration as emanating only from the war on drugs, I locate it within a broader framework of political repression of radical movements. Second, I argue that there is a new social movement against imprisonment on the rise. This burgeoning movement pursues what I call a strategy of decarceration that combines radical critique, direct action, and tangible goals for reducing the reach of the carceral state.

“Prisons, State Budgets, and the New National Freedom Agenda”
[with Isaac Lev Szmonko and Layne Mullett]
Truth-Out | 16 July 2013
Something new is happening in the realm of American criminal “justice.” After more than three decades of dramatic increases in incarceration, the popularity of prisons is sharply declining. Alarm about the human rights implications of imprisonment is growing as economic crises have raised new concerns about massive expenditures, including the billions spent annually to keep people in cages. And people are taking to the streets in response.

“Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and Mass Incarceration: An Interview with David Gilbert on Contemporary Social Movements”
The Sixties vol. 5, iss. 2 | December 2012
An interview with former SDS and Weather Underground member, as well as longtime political prisoner, David Gilbert about contemporary social movements. This interview was published in The Sixties and republished in Organizing Upgrade.

“The Prison and Its Metaphors” [PDF coming soon]
Chromatikon Yearbook VI: Yearbook of Philosophy in Progress | December 2010
This paper examines the use of the prison as a strategic metaphor through which groups can name their feelings of “unfreedom.” Since the 1970s, the prison has helped various individuals and organizations describe the oppression they face. Its metaphoric usage derives from the prison’s normative invisibility: the fact the prison remains largely unseen allows us to project onto it the horrors we wish to challenge by invoking the prison. While I outline the broader utility of this metaphor, I focus specifically on its use as a metaphor for racial oppression. As the U.S. prison population disproportionately comprises people of color, especially black, the metaphor of the prison meets its material salience. The metaphor of imprisonment is therefore of greatest use to racial justice pursuits, precisely because it is ceases to be purely a metaphor in the lives of millions of black and Latino people.

“Constructing Crime, Framing Disaster: Routines of Criminalization and Crisis in Hurricane Katrina”
Punishment and Society | October 2009
Abstract: “This article argues that the media frames utilized in the first month after Hurricane Katrina legitimated punishment as disaster policy through lurid reports of individual crime. The application of prevailing state policies led to a quick embrace of punitive policing and incarceration, and journalistic routines ended up supporting this process. Although journalists openly expressed their disgust with state neglect, news conventions nonetheless criminalized much of the New Orleans population and suggested militarized policing and imprisonment as fundamental to restore order. Lacking credible sources, reporters relied on rumors and helped create a racialized ‘looter class’ that aided state efforts to regain control through existing policies of mass incarceration rather than mutual aid or state welfare.Even though various media outlets recanted the more extreme elements of this coverage, the tropes they employed created a lasting effect. Building off Stuart Hall et al.’s (1978) analysis of a moral panic over mugging in 1970s England, this article examines both the conventions and consequences of this crisis coverage. The result, I argue, bolstered the existing crisis of incarceration.” (The most downloaded article in Punishment and Society in 2010)

“Rescuing Civil Rights from Black Power: Collective Memory and Saving the State in Twenty-First Century Prosecutions of 1960s-Era Cases”
Journal for the Study of Radicalism | Spring 2009
The current moment is a pivotal one in shaping how society perceives the history and impact of the black freedom struggle. … [These cases are] being reopened in a post–civil rights world that has seen an immense retreat from racial justice … these cases constitute spectacular intervention by the state in how the black freedom struggle is remembered.

“Defining Democracy: Coalition Politics and the Struggle for Media Reform”
International Journal for Communication | Winter 2009
The corporate consolidation of media has sparked a national bipartisan coalition struggling for media reform. This article attempts a critical overview of this phenomenon by analyzing its works and words to date. I argue that media reform has activated large numbers of people around vital but seemingly esoteric issues, and, in the process, has synthesized communication research and action for the democratic control of media policy. But this battle also exposes several potential limitations. In particular, I examine the populist nature of the media reform coalition’s attempt to be a “nonpartisan democracy movement.” Such an approach assumes an inevitable progressive basis to bipartisan coalition not demonstrated by historical examples. Further, this organizing model prioritizes formal institutional decisions at the expense of what is perhaps the media’s greatest power: their ability to shape meaning through content. I conclude by analyzing several alternate models of media activism which join policy with production and forcefully articulate media reform as a vital component of broader struggles for social justice.

“Navigating the Crisis: A Study Groups Roundtable”
[with Chris Dixon, interviews with the Activist Study Circle, Another Politics is Possible, the LA Crew, and the New York Study Group]

Upping the Anti | issue 8 (Spring 2009)
Our moment is marked by both crisis and possibility. Economies are plunging worldwide, and ecosystems are in undeniable danger. State repression is expanding, and the US, Canada, and Israel continue to wag wars of occupation. In this context, the recent US presidential election tapped into a reservoir of popular energy for change. However, mass movements in North America continue to be relatively demobilized. The left itself is in crisis and lacks clearly defined visions and strategies. Although progressive sympathies now run high, progressive options – let alone radical ones – are few.

“An Even Newer Left”
The Nation | July 16, 2007
It is a scene perhaps best captured in fragments rather than full sentences. Organizers. Housing. Immigrant workers. Vision. Prison abolition. Puppets. Speeches, newspapers, fliers, banners, flags, books, shirts. Laughter. Dance parties. Water. Media. Fundraisers. Collaboration. Resisting state and interpersonal violence. Imagining. Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, ghetto, barrio, reservation. The city. Youth. Networking. Strategy.

“Radical Citizenship in Wartime, from Vietnam to Iraq”
Toward Freedom | 1.17.07
Just as in the Sixties, the frontlines of political struggle within the U.S. today emerge from the South and from those whose citizenship is in question. In the 1960s, the confluence of geography and precarious civic status came most notably from African Americans. That is just as true today, particularly the struggles from New Orleans and elsewhere in the Gulf Coast for a people’s led reconstruction after such criminal governmental neglect and the ensuing neo-liberalism characterizing the state’s efforts at rebuilding the Gulf Coast as a tourist playground.

“Testing the Limits of Dissent in the Green Scare”
Z Magazine | Winter 2006 [Also in BreakTheChains.info December 17, 2006]
One of the biggest post-9/11 criminal cases involves the prosecution of 14 radical environmentalists on a slew of charges for property destruction (mainly arson) and conspiracy.

“The Weather Underground and the American Radical Legacy”
Toward Freedom | 8.29.06
And yet the fundamental lessons about the need for audacious resistance to the ubiquitous crimes of structural injustice, the recognition that politics is both local and global, and that privilege not only exists and helps shape political consciousness and material relations but affords people who have it with a tremendous opportunity to be engaged in vibrant struggles—these are the contributions and challenges that the Weather Underground and others helped make to the American radical legacy.

“Ten Questions for Movement Building” (with Andy Cornell)
MRzine | 7.24.06
Also in Toward Freedom | 7.27.06
The following ten questions emerge from our analysis of the political situation based on our travels and meetings with activists of a variety of ages and range of experiences.

“Building a Political Prisoner Support Movement”
Toward Freedom | May 23, 2006
Political prisoners, if largely unacknowledged, are at the crux of debates over incarceration. Their presence testifies to the ongoing legacy of social problems, which in itself is central to the cycle of crime and punishment. As the anti-prison movement continues to grow in strength and stature, the question of political prisoners demands attention because these movement veterans remain part of current endeavors for social justice. [Also published in Left Turn, May-June 2006].

“Two Prisoners Named Williams”
The Nation | 14 December 2005
The memories Stanley Tookie Williams and Richard Williams invoked were, it would seem, more than the government wanted to deal with. But the issues their lives and deaths raise–the specter of Black Power, anti-imperialism, personal redemption and political commitment–will not be buried with them.

“Mark Felt’s Other Legacy”
The Nation | 6.22.05
Before throwing a ticker-tape parade in Felt’s honor, we would do well to first attend to the activists Felt helped incarcerate and pay reparations to those who were placed under surveillance, robbed or otherwise harassed on the orders of “the guy they used to call Deep Throat.

Ephemera: From May 2000 to December 2003, I co-edited the quarterly radical newspaper ONWARD with Rob Augman. A complete collection of the paper is housed at Interference Archive (and perhaps elsewhere).

Leave a Reply