[00:00:00] Malkia: My name is Malkia Amala Cyril/ And I give my permission to broadcast and edit this interview. Thank you so much.
[00:00:08] Dmae: And just so you know if you say something later wanting you know like in if you think back on it next week and go oh you know maybe I don’t want that. Just let me know.
[00:00:17] Malkia: OK. OK.
[00:00:19] Dmae: So I was reading a little bit about your work background. I was just wondering what is your position now. Is it a the Center for Social media or social justice?
[00:00:30] Malkia: My organization is called the Center for Media Justice and…
[00:00:34] Dmae: I was just wondering what your position was.
[00:00:36] Malki: So the organization is the Center for Media Justice and I am the co-founder and executive director and also co-founded the Media Action Grassroots Network.
[00:00:46] Dmae: Wonderful wonderful. What is it that you focus on specifically?
[00:00:51] Malkia: So we’re building a movement of the unheard to transform media and digital policies ensure fairness and freedom for people of color in a digital age.
[00:01:03] And right now we’re working heavily on issues of surveillance and digital privacy working a lot on issues of net neutrality and free speech online working to protect communities of color from harassment or censorship or mine. Those are some of the things that we’re working on right now.
[00:01:22] Dmae: I wanted to ask a little bit more about your personal background and I understand that your mom was part of the Black Panthers in New York.
[00:01:33] Malkia: Yes she was my mom was a was a Black Panther in Brooklyn and Harlem I mean in the New York chapter. My father was also a Black Panther. He was a panther actually in Oakland and moved over to New York. My father was a member of the B L.A. Black Liberation Army and my mother was a member of the Black Panther Party.
[00:01:56] Dmae: And what did they do you know for the Black Panthers?
[00:02:00] Malkia: Well mom my father I don’t really know him so I can talk about my mom no. My mom was an editor had the newspaper. She coordinated the breakfast program and she was often the person who provided housing and jobs to many of the Panthers who you know after coming out of jail or you know you know people worked as Panthers full time. So a lot of times they didn’t have apartments they didn’t have you know other kinds of jobs because they were working full time as activists for no pay.
[00:02:41] And so my mom was support many many many different people as they did that. So they are often joked if anybody was going to have an apartment and a job was going to be Janet Cyril. So that was that was her role.
[00:02:55] Dmae: I think that often especially now there may not be as much remembrance from you know newer generations. And sometimes the Black Panthers may have been misunderstood. I was just wondering what you think. Do you think that they’re misunderstood now in history or what’s the most misunderstood aspect of the Black Panthers.
[00:03:15] Malkia: Black people and black communities are misunderstood largely. You know the trope of criminalization has followed black community as deliberately as a result of white supremacy for centuries.
[00:03:32] And so black leaders or black activists who rise up who resist and who stand in opposition to white supremacy in opposition to how colonialism manifests in this day and age they’re definitely going to be misunderstood they’re going to be you know stereotyped by by mainstream media which happened to the Black Panther Party.
[00:03:56] They’re going to be you know they you know how they say talked about as sure as you’re born and that that’s a song. Anyway the point is that black communities at large are stereotyped and criminalized and black activists are just a manifestation of that it’s not it’s not that the Black Panther Party in particular was criminalized.
[00:04:24] No they weren’t criminalized any more than Malcolm X was criminalized any more then ultimately Martin Luther King was criminalized. These all of these black activists were the subject for example of J. Edgar Hoover’s you know COINTELPRO counterintelligence program. All of these black activists were were stereotyped in mainstream media. So was the Black Panther Party misunderstood. Yes absolutely. As a result of deliberate misrepresentation.
[00:04:57] Dmae: What was it like for you as a child of an activist during that time.
[00:05:03] Malkia: Well you know they call us the Cubs. And for me for my younger sister and for many of the people that I grew up with who were in my generation whose parents were Panthers It was terrifying. On the one hand knowing that our parents were subjected to you know regularly subjected to illegal searches and seizures regularly subjected to wiretapping. You know it was scary. It was scary growing up knowing that those people who you call your uncles and aunties some of them were living in prison and might be in prison for the rest of their lives. It was it was scary but it wasn’t only scary. It was also amazing. It was outstanding too. You know instead of going to all kind of, I don’t know, whatever stuff regular kids did, we went to court. We went to court on a regular basis.
[00:06:03] My first poem which I wrote when I was 5 was about the Haitian boat people and it was I wrote it I recited it to my mom and she took the notes as I sat on her shoulders at a protest you know about Haitians being turned away by the Coast Guard in New York. And so you know the experience of growing up with a parent who was determined to ensure that her children would understand why the conditions for black people were the way they were and that we would not blame ourselves for those conditions. We would see clearly who the responsible parties were and then we would work to change.
[00:06:43] So growing up as a Panther cub meant that I was in a very deliberate way given I think Agency given will given the understanding not only not only the ability to analyze and understand the conditions but the will to change them. And I think that that’s something that our educational system actively denies to black children every day. And I feel very blessed very lucky to have that in my life.
[00:07:14] Dmae: Well that was that was great. What you what you just said what an incredible childhood you had. And I liked the idea of the poetry to you know your first poem carrying you through your life. I. Were there very many Asian-Americans were you were growing up at all or was there a community?
[00:07:35] Malkia: Oh no. No. I mean you know New York Brooklyn was highly segregated. You know for example you know if you maybe if you lived on Sunset Park you know you might see some Asian folks but in Bed-Stuy the only Asian people you’re going to see is if somebody’s going to a store. Right. And there was a lot of tension.
[00:07:57] You know in black poor black communities people did not understand for example anything about zoning laws anything about you know how banks were were particularly discriminating against Asian Asian business owners by placing you know by only giving them loans to do business in black community. You know what I’m saying like all of the forces behind the tensions between blacks and Asian communities in New York City were were largely unseen. And I think deliberately so. So they were not very many Asian people living where I lived in Bedford-Stuyvesant which was the largest black community in the country actually at the time.
[00:08:43] Dmae Was there very much tension between the two communities?
[00:08:46] Malkia: There was tons of tension between blacks and Asians. And in Brooklyn in particular and I know that that was mirrored in many large cities throughout the nation.
[00:08:58] You know besides the economic divide that that that we would that we witness and experience right with Asian people being perceived as business owners. Right. And black people being perceived as welfare recipients. And that’s the relationship right that that emerge. So you have this perception of Asian utility. You know Asians being useful being good. Basically you might say good niggers right house niggers and then you got black people being bad being criminal being useless and therefore caged as criminals or cage and prisons. And that dynamic that those tropes. I think both served white supremacy well in the 80s in the 70s when I was growing up and they serve white supremacy well today. So was there tension. Absolutely. There was also interesting co-operation particularly a relationship to the police. But but but more attention than cooperation.
[00:10:10] Dmae: Can you give me an example of that cooperation?
[00:10:13] Malkia: Well I can tell you about my experience which is different than I think most other people’s experience in my neighborhood. My house was called the International House you know and my mom they call to the professor. My mom was the first person to have a computer on our block. She worked at LaGuardia Community College and one of the things that she did was she would engage and invite women from all over the world to come to stay at our home you know. So we would have you know Indian women who are coming in from London for example staying at our house. All kind of people you know me from all over the country and all over the world excuse me.
[00:10:52] And one of the things one of the reasons for that is that one of my mom’s very good friends and someone who I grew up loving and knowing as my auntie as Yuri Kochiyama and I was spend you know many many evenings in her Harlem apartment. You know which was just full to the brim of paper. I never seen nobody house with that much paper before. But she just had newspapers and all kind of papers in her house. And you know we would sit there under the table listening to their meetings and along with the other kids.
[00:11:30] And because of that relationship because of that friendship. You know I think that and not only that friendship but that was one of the more informative ones. My mom’s perspective was that of an internationalist. And so my house was full of Asian people but that was unusual. That was an unusual experience that was not a typical black experience for anyone that I knew.
[00:11:57] But I will say another you know so. So that’s my experience of kind of like co-operations through really the remnants of the of the Black Panther Party. The Black Panther Party for all you know everyone talked about how nationalist the Black Panther Party was. But in fact it wasn’t nationalist at all. It was an internationalist organization very much so. You know the Black Panther Party was all about collaborating with the Asian left the Latino left.
[00:12:32] You know the white left Native American indigenous left all across these lines and borders. And so you know so so the the the trope about this narrow cultural black nationalism that I think mainstream media and law enforcement attempted to paint the Black Panther Party as was really to disrupt those opportunities to disrupt those points of collaboration and alliance building that was so very effective. The other point of collaboration that I’ll say is obviously you know children who you know. On the one hand talk much less you know repeat what they what they hear from television or their parents but also you know in the schools I went to I was tracked early on into AP classes a vast place by my mom that the school didn’t track me. Miles was very clear that you need to be in these advanced classes and in those advanced classes where a lot of Asian kids.
[00:13:35] And so me being one of very few black people and they being where there were more Asian people but still in a minority in relationship to the number of white folks in those classes together we kind of bonded you know as people of color in those classes and it was the first time that I actually felt that identity as a person of color. Instead of simply as a black person and that that was important to me as well.
[00:14:06] Dmae: What an amazing background and upbringing you had. I can just on a personal level I’m just curious as you’re watching I’m like from your perspective as a child what was she like.
[00:14:22] Malkia: Yuri was brilliant. She was passionate. She would curse you out and she would hug you up. She was extremely passionate. She. She loved her people and her people were so many different kinds of people. Her people was the left and she had a particular commitment to black lives.
[00:14:48] I think in part because she understood very deeply in a way very few others do that MOTM a model minority framework or stereotype is is built on the back of a criminal minority stereotype the two stereotypes can only exist in relationship to one another.
[00:15:12] And so she understood that I think very early before the the the the interrogation of the model minority concept became something that was happening on a regular basis. I felt like she was doing and so she wasn’t I don’t I didn’t find her to be like hugely like an academic but she was deeply brilliant full bodied brilliant and she understood these these ideas of thing before many of the people did.
[00:15:43] DMAE: Well thank you for that memory. I just think your upbringing was so amazing. How has that affected the work that you do today?
[00:15:54] Malkia: Well you know being a parent the cub but not just any parent that being my mother’s child, I’m an internationalist too. In fact my mom my mom was vicious about her internationalism. I remember being a child maybe about a something like that nine you know and it was the times it was the 80s actually was a must have in the late 70s early 80s. And my mom sent me to the store to buy her pack of cigarettes. You know that’s how we did it. Brooklyn. And I went to the store and came back and had some type interaction with the store owner.
[00:16:38] And I called him an A-rab and my mom said you did what. And I said get that A-rab he did this that and the other thing and my mom said oh OK. So she took my hand. We went back to the store and she said tell them what you told me. Not us just stood there.
[00:17:00] I was stuck. You know she said no. Call him what you just called them to me when we were back at the house and I knew it was wrong. So I couldn’t say it. I started crying. And she was very serious she had no sympathy. She said no no no. If you feel you can use the term A-rab in private you should be very comfortable to use it in public and if you’re not comfortable using it in public you certainly shouldn’t be using it in private.
[00:17:25] And that’s how she was you know she constantly corrected and made it clear that human rights belong to everyone that dignity belongs to everyone and it was my responsibility to give that to every single person I met regardless of their background. So I think that that that just made it clear to me when my fight is for all people.
[00:17:49] Number one number two my mother was a Marxist. And so she also imparted to me the importance of a class analysis and being able to understand for example why you know living in a digital economy today how that affects our our ability to know how it affects justice how it affects fairness how it affects the political landscape. It matters right. Class Matters. She was someone who you know some of my first books were you know friends were reading “The Wretched of the Earth” (by Franz Fanon) and reading poems by Langston Hughes in Liberation bookstore, sitting on her lap.
[00:18:29] And so she imparted to me the importance of history and the importance of geography and all of this has shaped you know my consciousness my commitment to black communities today and my commitment to other communities of color today my belief that you know my understanding of the relationship between the land and liberation of all these are things that my mother gave to me.
[00:18:55] And the last thing that I’ll say in terms of how has shaped how my upbringing has shaped my consciousness and who I am today is because my mother was not just a panther was not just an internationalist was not just a Marxist but she was also a writer. She was a poet. She was a lover of words. She was a lover of music she believed in art. And for that reason I found my home in fighting for media justice finally for digital freedom. You know fighting against you know fighting against those that would take away the free speech you know human rights of communities of color that that’s where I found my home. That’s what I believe. That’s where I do my work. And she is the reason why.
[00:19:43] Dmae: Amazing. Thank you for that. Good words to live by. Definitely I am. I was wondering you know you grew up with the idea of fighting white supremacy and you have been devoting all your life to this and has wondering has the fight against white supremacy changed over time for you?
[00:20:07] Makia: Has the fight against white supremacy changed over time? I think that white supremacy one of its characteristics is its enduring nature.
[00:20:17] So I think there are there are a static shifts it looks different it feels different. There are no water fountains labeled white and colored anymore. Today they are labeled woman and man and those who don’t fit those characteristics can’t go in you know white supremacy changes his face but it don’t change his heart. It don’t change the structure don’t change his bones. It’s the same beast (?).
[00:20:49] And so you know people are always talking about how we have to find new ways to fight. But I think that they’re not new under the sun. Really. I mean the way that the way that enslaved Africans fought white supremacy at a time when their ability to fight was limited is just as valid as the way our Enslaved our enslaved Africans were imprisoned right now are are fighting white supremacy despite you know limited mobility and limited freedom. I think that you know the economy has shifted and changed. You know there are there are things that are different I guess as what I’m saying.
[00:21:34] But the the core relations of power they haven’t changed they haven’t changed at all. I mean the fact is right now the reason an authoritarian president like Trump could rise to power today is because of white supremacy’s enduring nature. It’s because white nationalism is at the heart of this nation’s founding.
[00:21:57] It’s at the heart of of every policy every every rule book that structures how we run this country and not only this country if I’m going to be an internationalist in terms of resistance and oppression that I have to also have an international understanding of of of how the suppression came to be the nature of colonialism the fact that Europe stole so much from Africa so much from India so much from East Asia so much from what has now considered to be the Americas in order to produce the kind of wealth that it has today in order to produce America.
[00:22:42] So I think like that history is is manifested. So when we when we ask the question has white supremacy changed? No it ain’t change. Change is makeup. You know it changed. It changed the color of his hair. But but it’s still the same b.s?.
[00:23:01] Dmae: Would you would you talk about the early days? I mean I want to talk more about you know the future and the response to the current administration but for right now I’d like to just kind of focus on the early days of the Black Lives Matter movement and and how were you involved in it and how it all how did it all coalesce well?
[00:23:22] Malkia: You know it’s hard to say about. It’s hard to talk about the early days of the Black Lives Matter movement because well when I say BLM I’m talking about the black liberation movement and that’s been around for a very long time. Black lives matter. The work that happened in the uprising in Ferguson and the uprisings that have happened in Baltimore, in Chicago and all over this country the birth of the Black Lives Matter network all of these things are part of a long lineage of black resistance and fighting for liberation. So I don’t I don’t think about it quite in those terms you know the early days of the Black Lives Matter movement. But I know what you mean.
[00:24:10] So what I say is this in 2012 you know when Trayvon Martin was killed and George Zimmerman was acquitted for his murder. Black Lives Matter formed a national network. But before that Michael Brown had been killed and the people of Ferguson rose up in response to that killing. The fact is that you can look back to Watts and you can look back to every black urban Rebellion Across the history of this nation.
[00:24:49] They’ve all been in response to the murder of a young black person or a black person. So I think that that that the that one there are no early day is only the latest day. Yeah. And two it was it was painful. You know how technology and rebellion cross paths to reveal the systematic murder of black bodies by law enforcement a systematic murder set of murders that have been going on for a very long time.
[00:25:31] But technology helped to show it to a larger audience. And in 2000 between you know 2010, 2011, 2012 technology really did its work. Right. Mobile phones began showing to a very wide audience how easy it was for a black person to die at the hands of law enforcement or at the hands of vigilantes playing law enforcement. In the case of Michael Brown and George Zimmerman. So it was painful it was a painful beginning right. It was chaotic, It was out.
[00:26:09] It was amazing to watch the people of Ferguson people who these are not professional activists. These were not people who were paid in any way by nonprofits to stand out in that weather and risk their lives and their freedom fighting for their lives and their freedom. These were just angry people who wanted some justice. And so that for me was extraordinarily inspirational. It was it was incredible.
[00:26:46] And from there you know there are places across this country where there are where there’s a lot of nonprofit and organizing infrastructure. Many organizers decided to go to Ferguson and try to be of service try to bring some of what we’ve learned through organizing campaigns in the past to that space.
[00:27:09] Some of that was well received. Some of it wasn’t but I know that the fact is the folks in Ferguson have gone on to win real victories. And I think that out of out of that rebellion came a realization that we needed to do more and that it wasn’t about one place one city right.
[00:27:31] This was happening in every city in every place in the Black Lives Matter network kind of in a parallel way was born and the Black Lives Matter network you know has chapters across this country. You know it’s unique in part because it it carries the legacy of the Black Panther Party forward the Black Lives Matter network speaks for and is of those who are pushed to the margins of even black movements. Right. So queer folks, trans folks, women, children, you know those who are who are poor, those who are in prison. You know this is not about a narrow cultural nationalism.
[00:28:19] This was this the political moment that we were in in 2012 wasn’t out was a moment where many different things were able to converge You know those who were technologists who were eager to use those tools to expose these human rights abuses and those who were living on the street you know queer and trance you live in on the street who were victims of those human rights abuses who had historically been left out of movements for black liberation we’re now able to be at the forefront.
[00:28:58] So this this moment that we were in in 2012 where we saw the breakdown. I would say the breakdown because the systems were doing exactly what they’re set up to do. But what we saw the failure of the justice system you know so obvious. So it’s in such raw form and at the same time it emboldened those who have been pushed to the margins so far to the margins that there was nowhere left to go.
[00:29:30] So they moved to the center and I think that that’s something that was just it was an amazing time. I will say that it was an amazing time and it continues to be an amazing time today.
[00:29:43] Dmae: Do you think that I mean it sounds like the movement has been very intentional about remembering the lives of black women and black trans people. Do you think this international consciousness you know has played into how effective the Black Lives Matter movement has been?
[00:30:02] Malkia: Yes I mean the Black Lives Matter network and the movement for black lives in general is an internationalist movement. It’s not just internationalist though an ideology it’s literally an international movement meaning that you know we’ve got a chapter we’ve got chapters in Canada we’ve got chapters in in the UK that chapters throughout Africa there are chapters in Brazil. I mean there are chapters all over the world. And I think that it’s it’s important to note that right internationalism is one thing as an ideology but actually having it it’s a national movement where Black Lives Matter is the chant you know on the streets in in in London.
[00:30:52] That matters that matters because what we know what we know we know as well as every or every other black person every every person all over the world. If you really if you really interrogated everybody knows that Black has been constructed as the worst possible thing you can be in every society and every culture in every part of this planet if you out in the sun you know if you are I don’t care what city you in. In any city in Asia there’s a dark there’s a darker set of people who are considered lesser.
[00:31:33] Right? There are darker people all over the world that are considered lesser because Black has been framed as the worst thing you can be. And and so you know racism is international white supremacy is international and anti-blackness is international. So the resistance against those things has to also be international.
[00:31:57] Dmae: I I think that’s incredible that it’s all over the world as far as a movement. And I certainly didn’t realize that. So thank you for telling me that. I was asking about the intersectional consciousness about including more women, including trans people in the movement. I think it’s interesting that you know there are so many women involved in fact wasn’t it founded by women?
[00:32:23] Malkia: Absolutely. That the Black Lives Matter network was founded about three women two of whom are queer. And I think that that matters. I think that though what’s true is that you know the rank and file of the Black Panther Party was largely female.
[00:32:40] And that’s not known you know to most people. It was just the public leadership that was more male but the rank and file membership was more than 75 percent women. So women have been leading black liberation movements from the beginning. You know saying Harriet Tubman lives on. We’ve been doing this for a very long time. I do think that the inclusion and as frontline leadership of queer and trans people is is a brand new thing. And I think that it’s an absolutely critical thing because queer people been shaping these movements for a very long time. But they’ve been at different leadership.
[00:33:25] So I think that that is an incredibly powerful and incredibly important thing mostly because of this is not not not for some essentialist reason you know it’s because the further you are to the margins if we can ensure those at the furthest, furthest out, right? Furthest in the margins, get their rights, live to to their highest dignity their best potential.
[00:34:00] All of what they deserve they are able to have. Well guess what. Everyone else will get that too. And that’s that’s a targeted universalism as a concept of targeted universalism and it’s the idea that those with the least if you served them, actually everyone gets served. If you serve only those with the most then most people get left out.
[00:34:25] So I think that it’s not simply about the inclusion of clear and chance people in leadership. It’s not it’s not again it’s a centralist issue it’s not because we’re queer or because we’re trans is because we have been denied our basic human rights as black people and that and that as black people who are queer and trans, when we are lifted so are all other black people. That’s that’s where it’s at. That’s the essence of why inter-sectionalism matters. It isn’t because just everybody needs to be included. It’s because those with the least can ensure that that more and more people get what they need.
[00:35:09] Dmae: Has that affected the leadership style in the Black Lives Matter movement?
[00:35:13] Malkia: It’s absolutely affected the leadership style and again I want to differentiate between the larger movement for black lives and the Black Lives Matter network which is a very specific organization. Oh OK.
[00:35:26] Dmae: So is the network in in San Francisco then or in the Bay Area?
[00:35:31] Malkia: Like I mentioned earlier the network is an international network. Yeah. And there’s chapters all over the world. But people interchange the words Black Lives Matter because it’s a slogan. And they think oh that means everything in the movement but actually there’s a network called Black Lives Matter that was created after the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012.
[00:35:57] And then there are other organizations many others including Black Youth Project including Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, Dream Defenders. You know Organization for Black Struggle in Ferguson, excuse me, in St. Louis. There are many many organizations in the movement for black lives but Black Lives Matter is one of those organizations.
[00:36:24] Dmae: That helps a lot. So so I guess we were talking about just the leadership style itself?
[00:36:31] Malkia: It’s definitely affected the leadership style of the Black Lives Matter network. And I think of many organizations within the movement for black lives one leadership in this moment is largely decentralized. There are many leaders not one.
[00:36:49] And while some of those leaders are on television more than other for the most part in every city there are leaders at the local level that are being heard that are being seen and that are really doing the work in their own cities. That’s that’s different than what was once true. There’s no single national figurehead. There are many different people in leadership today.
[00:37:18] I think it’s also affected the leadership style in that you know even those who are on television did not purport at least for the most part to speak for those who are not. You know they offer an analysis they offer an approach and a perspective.
[00:37:36] But again many people who are speaking you know on some of these national shows have been making it very clear this is an analysis and a perspective. But if you want to know how queer and trans people feel for example about this issue you need to go talk to them.
[00:37:54] So I think that there’s some real respect I’m going on now that I don’t think as always has always been true. And in the last way that I think it’s affected the leadership style is I think that you know let’s be real cooperation collaboration is is actually a very old approach to leadership with an African and African-American communities.
[00:38:20] And so it’s not a new it’s not something that is new and it’s not something that has emerged directly as a result of intersectional intersectionality. But I will say that having many women in leadership having many queer people in leadership having many trans people in leadership absolutely changes the nature of collaboration.
[00:38:46] It increases the amount of collaboration. It increases the will for collaboration. So I find it to be highly collaborative highly decentralized and more respectful as a result of the intersectionality.
[00:39:03] Dmae: It seems so inclusive and I was talking–I talked with Ellen Choy last week for about Asians for Black Lives and it seemed like there is some quite a bit of support and cooperation within you know different ethnic groups in you know of ways. I just wanted to localize it to the Bay Area that Black Lives Matter network has turned to allies like Asians for black lives. I mean for support has that you know how do you work together?
[00:39:36] Malkia: Yeah that’s a great question. So when members of the Black Lives Matter Bay Area team you know stopped some BART trains I don’t know if you remember that right at the West Oakland station. And they put their their freedom on the line for four for not only for black liberation but you know this was on Black Friday. So this was also for all workers or low wage workers and Asians for Black Lives. From that point forward became an integral part of the defense committee process.
[00:40:14] So Asians for Black Lives hosted many rallies. Asians for black last was an incredible solidarity team for for these individuals that have put their freedom on the line and because obviously once you’ve taken that kind of civil disobedience it’s been difficult to do more after this wretched because now you’re in court right. And you’re on trial for the crime so awful what the court is calling a crime.
[00:40:47] And it was because we had the solidarity of Asians for Black Lives also Bay Rising which was at the time largely white folks you know who were state who were standing in to offer solidarity and others who were able to really stand up and be a frontline for those folks that have put themselves on the line.
[00:41:12] So that kind of solidarity thing while we have in the Bay been cultivating that I think for decades you know whether it’s you know the work of the Chinese Progressive Association or others where we have worked closely you know I mean on various campaigns this level of activity like solid their act of solidarity in the face of civil disobedience. I feel like it’s something that really emerged during this time. And I felt like it was it was necessary. It was right and it is the result of a long standing effort at collaboration.
[00:41:57] So I guess what I’m trying to say is it didn’t come out of the woodwork. It didn’t emerge from nothing. It wasn’t just a well-meaning Asian people it was like Let’s do this right now.
[00:42:08] This is part of a longstanding commitment to solidarity black asian solidarity that has been grown here in the Bay as homegrown.And I think that this is something that actually is a model you know should be a model for places across this country.
[00:42:24] Dmae: I think definitely it should be a model just the way a group still work together. Everything that you’ve described about the leadership style for the Black Lives Matter network. I think all of that would make a great model. I hope that you can kind of create a template or something in the future. I know there’s so much to do.
[00:42:43] Malkia: Well Fred Hampton created the template. You know Fred handed our Fred Hampton at a Black Panther Party created the template. You know he already he already laid out how we build solidarity you know. I mean he said we don’t fight racism with racism. We fight it with solidarity and guess that’s kind of the approach that we’ve taken is that you know we fight white supremacy with multi-racial solidarity and .
[00:43:10] And I think that if more organizations can adopt that approach I think that we actually have a chance of winning maybe something big in our lifetime.
[00:43:23] Dmae: One of the things I was wondering about that Robynn (the recording engineer) was telling me that Black Lives Matter, I guess, is it network or just itself has six overarching demands in its platform? I was just wondering about these demands and you know how you see them changing under a Trump presidency?
[00:43:40] Malkia: The movement for black lives which is again a larger set of larger coalition of organizations has created a platform a policy platform called the vision for black lives and the demands in that platform across every issue area.
[00:44:03] So there are demands around education public education. There are demands around housing. There are demands around jobs and living wage. There are demands around media technology and to mass mass surveillance. There are demands across every issue area. The big challenge is that you know one good example here is what you know our demands are around an adequate education you know public education are we see now being eroded not met.
[00:44:45] You know we say we know that that that Trump otherwise known as 45 has promised to end this in the process of advancing school choice instead of advancing a 21st century public education. So you know thats just one way in which the current administration is devolving black black freedom is eroding civil rights not just for black people but for all people.
[00:45:20] And and you know education is only one area. The same is true in the health care system. We already know that Trump care will deny millions of people health insurance. My wife has has cancer. I don’t– you know I am opposed to Trump care not simply on an ideological level but on a personal level because it will affect our family.
[00:45:45] So. So there you know on every issue whether we’re talking about the cuts that he’s made to the HUD Housing and Urban Urban Development you know whether we’re talking about the the rules that he intends to pass or the executive orders that he’s already at that he has already put out there to strengthen protections for police while weakening any investigations into police corruption and violence.
[00:46:15] I’m at the Justice Department like on every level every single thing that the movement for black lives has attempted to when he is committed to eroding and not simply him but a Republican Congress, a Republican White House, is attempting to erode. So we have our work cut out for us.
[00:46:39] Dmae: Do you feel even more motivated now because it does feel like we’re going backwards?
[00:46:44] Malkia: Do I feel more motivated now? No I don’t I don’t feel I don’t feel any less committed to struggle than I did because Trump was in office and I don’t feel any more committed to struggle than I did before Trump was in office. Because like I said White supremacy is an enduring beast.
[00:47:07] Trump is just the latest face. It is a, he is a, him and his administration is a dangerous face no doubt. Him and his administration absolutely changes the game is not exactly the same. I don’t want to be confusing and make it seem as though it is it’s not.
[00:47:30] But it’s also not wholly different either. And I think that it’s really important for us to understand that that even President Obama who I voted for both times you know he was the face of white supremacy that these are structures not individuals. They’re not about personalities They’re about power.
[00:47:54] And so we this is a marathon you know. And so I don’t feel like I need to go crazy and and put myself in harm’s way or danger or do anything that doesn’t allow me to understand I’m trying to work beyond the four or eight years we might see.
[00:48:13] TRUMP I’m trying to do this work for a long time just like I’ve been doing it for a long time. So for me and I don’t feel more motivated today than I did yesterday and I don’t feel any less motivated today than I will tomorrow I’m motivated for to our freedom and I’m motivated to our freedom every day.
[00:48:32] Dmae: I guess what motivates you. Why are you personally committed to this activism?
[00:48:37] Malkia: Why am I personally committed to this activism? I think number one because my mama told me to and I do what my mom tells me to do. My mother passed away in 2005 from sickle cell anemia. And you know having a genetic disease that you know is going to kill you definitely shapes how you live. And part of how she lived was urgently and she was very clear with me and my sister that if you fight for freedom you ain’t doing nothing. So. So that’s number one. I’m committed to it because my mom told me to.
[00:49:19] Number two I’m committed to it because I really understand that my family can go on with it. You know my sister runs a school in New York in Brooklyn called Little Maroons. It’s a preschool that’s focuses on as a child centered African centered school. And my sister is also a member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.
[00:49:46] You know my niece goes to Howard University and you know my other niece goes to temple. My nieces are in college trying to again survive as black women in this country.
[00:49:58] My wife, a black woman in this country, has cancer try to navigate the medical industry. You know we our daily lives depend on the victory of the things that I am working on.
[00:50:12] So I don’t it’s not a amorphous ideological fight for me as I’m fighting for my actual survival. As a queer person you know when I grew up in the 80s as a as a as a butch as a black Butch You know I came out when I was 12 and a half and I’ve had the opportunity. My mom dragged me to the Medgar Evers Black Writers Conference when I was 13 and put me in front of Barbara Smith and Audre Lord and Paula Giddings and black writers of the day and took me to the mike by my shirt and told me to “tell them you’re a lesbian” you know.
[00:50:53] And I did. And she said, “Tell them you want to be a writer.” And I did. And then I had the opportunity to be mentored you know by Audrey Lord. As a result as a result of that that advocacy.
[00:51:05] So there is nothing there nothing in my spirit there’s nothing in my history that would ever lead me away from this movement you know. Even now as we as me or my wife you know worked together a battle cancer stage four cancer. It only brings me closer to the fight for freedom. It only brings me and only makes me want it more because if I win she lives. That’s how I look at it. If we win she gets the best medical care possible. If we win she gets to have everything that a human being needs to survive in the world.
[00:51:42] And the same for my nieces and the same for my sister. And they get to all have what my mom did not get to have. My mom died. We get to live right now and then our children.
[00:51:53] You know the children that we leave behind when we pass on they get to they get to live and get to get to have those things too. So that’s what motivates me that’s why I do this for them.
[00:52:04] Dmae: Very inspiring. I’m just very moved by everything that you’ve said. I’m wondering just for as a final question and again I appreciate everything that you said. It’s been great talking with you. I just wanted to kind of bring it on back to you know the relationship between Asian-Americans and African-Americans and how we can work on it how can we work together better. If you had any advice especially for young activists in working together in across communities within the Asian-American African-American I guess all of the communities. But that’s my focus. What would what would your advice be?
[00:52:47] Malkia: I think my advice would be you know we didn’t get here alone. The systems that oppress us they oppress us all. And let me say it differently.
[00:52:59] You know if Britain had not been able to steal from India it could not have helped finance an international slave trade if Britain did not have the. You know Portugal was not able to you know steal from what we now call the Americas, South America, Mexico and all of these places of Spain was not able to colonize these regions. We would not have have had an international transatlantic slave trade. The point I’m making is that we are all complicit.
[00:53:39] We’re all tied together both in terms of our humanity but also in terms of our oppression. You know we got here together. And the only way we get out of here is together.
[00:53:53] My life depends upon the lives of you know children in Vietnam and in Thailand like the fact of the matter is right now for example every fall, every cellphone you use you know somebody somebody somewhere in some other country put that thing together you know and when it is gone and most likely the that that person was in Asia and when that cell phone gets destroyed at that e-waste is going to somewhere in Africa that the point is that everything we touch right we’re in a global economy but we’re just in a global society.
[00:54:34] Everything we touch touches somebody else. And so you can’t win your liberation by yourself. That’s not possible. You need all of those people who are affected by those systems to stand up together. And the only way you get that is if you stand down for a minute and listen listen to what people’s experiences have been listened to them in their own words in their own languages recognize that colonialism especially in America is very different than how it is every place else in the world.
[00:55:07] The fact is that when I lived in the Caribbean people spoke three four five languages. You know I was the only one who couldn’t understand anything that was going on because I lived in. I was from the United States. We have to understand a part of imperialism is about keeping you done keeping you without your tongue, without your native tongue, but also what nobody else’s either. So you can’t understand what else is happening.
[00:55:32] You know people all over the world can tell you who your president is who the presidents are multiple other countries and we don’t, countries we don’t even know exists. So I think that you know stand down and listen stand down and learn.
[00:55:48] Read books learn geography lesson. And then that listening that ability to stand down in humility will give you the opportunity to stand up together in resistance.