2016

To know what I know, to see what i see

To understand how things could be.

To want to shake it out of people

Their truth

To coax from the patterns that fall in between the pretty little flowers, their salvation.

Terrifying to have finally arrived at the peak of the mountain, awaiting others’ arrival.

To stock every piece of belly and love in their successes, to be shaken with despair when they are disappointed.

I can see the path, identify the pass, on the ridge, from the edge.

To be the one that remains, after all those fallen before me, a lottery absurd. I would like to collect the cut peonies into a bundle, safe and dry. On a shelf, no vase, no urn. No box, no burial, high up where no thing or time can touch you.
It’s ok,

I knew what things were even if you didn’t.

Interview on Gender

Questions:
What is the importance of gender, biological sex status, and sexual orientation to you versus in mainstream culture?

Mainstream culture works to separate, classify and categorize things – in the name of capitalism. The gender binary is another mode of that division. Gender, ability, other identities, are fluid – which is difficult to measure and market for.

Detail when (at what age, why etc.) you first started questioning gender, gender identity and gender expression.

I’ve always wanted to do “as much as I could” and there was pushback from my family, as I was doing things that “girls shouldn’t do”. So I was restricted/forbidden because I was read as female. I read myself as gender-neutral, and still do. I was/am also asexual for long periods of time. I seek to accomplish things that are unrelated to gender. The projection of a female identity onto who I was and who I am continues to the present. I think partly because I have long hair. It’s really frustrating. I don’t consider myself as female but have to keep reminding those around me that this is my identity (gender non-binary).

Tell me about your journey to deciding to use they/them pronouns.

***include when exactly you started feeling that he/she pronouns were not appropriate and exactly when you decided to use they/them pronouns.
Even though I always considered myself in between genders or categories, more like a robot or blobby creature, I only started using “they/theirs” in 2014 as a result of being told I was a “cool lady” all the time. It was irritating people constantly pigeon-holing as this gender, so I had to start asserting that I wasn’t and am not a lady. People forget a lot, and that’s okay, but it’s that initial assumption/insistence that really gets to me.

Why do you personally use the pronouns they/them?

So that “language” finally reflects the way I consider and know myself.

Who did you inform about this decision and how did they respond?

My immediate friends, my housemates, my teenage sister, the people communicating with me the most at the time.

Do any of your other friends use they/them pronouns and if so, when did they decide to use those pronouns and why?

Yes, many friends do, but I can’t speak to their experience.

How has it affected your everyday life?

It feels nice when people get it right, like I fit in my skin, or like they know me properly. And when people forget or misgender me, it kind of reminds me that they don’t know me so well, or maybe they don’t understand me. The same goes for my name. I’m known as “Anna Vo” or “Vo”, so when someone calls me “Anna” it suggests that don’t know me very well.
It’s semantic, but representative of a real social/emotional connection.

What kind of reactions do you receive from people when you explain what pronouns you’d like to be called?

Usually people are pretty accepting of it. Some people are accepting of it, but then don’t practice it. Different levels of engagement I guess.

What is masculinity and femininity to you?

They are false constructs based on historic performances of our ideas of gender. Sometimes they are words used to describe something aesthetically. Which are also ideas based on old paradigms/constructs.

If you could make society gender-free, what would you change first and why?

What would I change first? You mean a global society? I think there are less rights in some societies for girls/daughters – like female circumcision, shame killings, less choice about life directions, entry into certain fields of study, birth control – so I would erase the gender restrictions around gender-based laws and customs.

If society was gender-free, how would that change things?

I think this is answered above, but on top of that, I think people would stop performing to the things they think are expected of them. It’s that allegory of a flea being able to jump like 12+ inches, but once kept in a jar for long enough, it can only jump the height of that jar. People often fulfill only what they think they are limited to.

Just did this interview for maga/zine from Barcelona and Taipei

Translated version here

Hello thanx for helping to make this possible, i think this going to be interesting for people in taiwan/chinese speaking place…

1. You were in a band in Australia, can you tell something about it, was it just a punk group or it has an idea to speak about the problems in society?
I was in a few bands in Australia, but there was one that went for a longer time than others, and we got to tour South East Asia, which was important for me, to be around my own people.
It was called Crux, a hardcore punk/d-beat band. I joined it because I was invited to be in the band, and because I thought these three white males wanted to build a relationship or friendship with me, but that didn’t really end up happening. It was a way for me to sing about things that I couldn’t talk to anyone about in a white-dominated anarchist and queer scene in Australia.
The lyrics talked about rape, sexual assault, child abuse, racist beatings, racist “radical” communities, immigration and the Vietnam War and it’s effect on my family, experiences from my life as a non-white child of immigrants in a very racist country. The band was a way for me to talk about these things. Because no one would listen or try to understand if I talked to them directly in a conversation about that stuff. And instead of being heard, I got criticized a lot for being a “female frontperson” in a band by other feminists. It was a shitty time (10 years, 2000-2009) in my life. Things are much better now that I am away from all that bullshit in Australia 🙂
2. you were also active there, what are the thing you have participated. Were you part of the anarchist book store? If yes, tell something about this bookstore and what they do.
I was involved in organizing events at one anarchist bookstore (Jura) and I worked at another (Black Rose). Both were very different collectives, with different communities, and also located in different neighbourhoods. One was more labour and union-focussed, and the other one was maybe more direct action focussed…
It’s difficult to talk about in a small paragraph – there were very obvious power structures, even in a non-hierarchical, anti-authoritarian environment. I think this happens very often in collectives and in organizing with groups. There are always dominant or controlling people… it’s weird and very uncomfortable, haha.
3. were you also of other political group, and what did they do?
In Australia? I think I was mostly studying fulltime and working 3 jobs, so I didn’t really involve myself in any other groups besides those two collectives. I put on workshops about feminism and racism and inclusion in community organizing. I organized some DIY fests. I put on some punk and noise shows, I ran my record label, I was involved in a political performance and dance group, that was meant to be fun and funny. In the last year I lived in Australia I got a spinal injury so I was not so active in the public any more, because I had to stay in bed almost 24 hours every day.
As soon as my spine healed, I moved to Berlin and London and definitely got more politically active. More autonomously, more creatively. My ideas had momentum, people were getting involved finally, it was really exciting. Around gentrification, housing, sexuality, community accountability and anti-violence mediation/transformative justice. Was very very involved in two social centres, Ratstar and Offmarket. They were located in neighbourhoods of colour and my main concern was being open and transparent (and free) for local families and residents. I also helped start SQUASH, a squatter’s housing organization that achieved a lot and I believe still exists. I am really proud of that time and the type of community inclusion that was achieved through those projects.
4. being an immigrant offspring do you face discrimination in the movement, do they give you this Orientalism that tell you what/how you are supposed to act/be? how do you find your position in this? you were born in Aus actually, so you didn’t really have the same culture/education system that your parents have, was it every get frustrated to self define? I am a chinese teacher now in spain, i spoke to alot of people who told me their chinese friend refused to learn chinese, and normally have a period of time in their teenage deny being part a chinese family. how do you look at these things?
Of course! Ever since I was 11 or 12 I was being told by white people how I should act, how I should talk to my family, how I should run away from home, reject my culture. When I got older and became an anarchist, I got criticised for helping my parents with accommodation, because they couldn’t really pay their own rent, and then when I was in a hardcore punk band, I got criticised for studying architecture, even though I was using that knowledge/education to work for free in Asia to build buildings for schools and orphanages (not getting rich!!!). I had people who grew up owning horses, telling me, someone who grew up in government apartments in gang territory in Sydney, that I was a capitalist. There was no understanding from my peers about what it was like growing up under the poverty line, just their shitty white middle-class opinions. People will always find a way to talk shit, and in Australia, it was a criticism of my culture and race and the choices I made, without anyone trying to understand why I might act in a certain way. It was like my being Vietnamese or Asian or working class was invisible, like it didn’t exist. Except when punks and anarchists and partners made racist and sexist jokes about me being an Asian girl. It was really fucked up and it is the reason I only talk to 3 people from Australia, even though I spent most of my life there. I feel like I gave a lot of my energy and time in that place, and it was a hostile, racist environment full of insecure, mean, and scared people.
On the question of self-definition – I now give lectures and workshops about internalised racism, the white gaze, etc. I think white supremacy is so strong, and the force of assimilation is so intense that people are full of shame or embarrassment with internalised racism for a long time, especially growing up. Especially if people around you are telling you you are inferior because you don’t have white values, white aesthetics, white habits and white opinions. It’s very complicated and I write and talk a lot about this, because it’s different for different people, and has different effects. I remember a time when I wanted to be white – my 14 year old sister now asks me why she isn’t white like her friends – but I am so happy that I am older now and am really proud of all the cool shit being Vietnamese gives me. And I don’t give a shit about the white gaze, and I don’t give a shit about assimilating, anywhere. I definitely am not changing how I act  just to make some spoiled white people comfortable.
(PS. I wasn’t born in Australia!)
5. I had read an article about the gender issue in Aus, that the people normally being rejected if you say you are feminist, the spanish comrade like to say “feminazi this and that…” to make joke also define that they are gender-aware but reject the feminist as the center of the idea. But really this can be another way to look at machista, do you see similar thing in Aus or Berlin, or in the states?
I don’t like to make general statements about the different places I’ve lived in (but I do and I will) – I think patriarchy and white supremacy exists everywhere, in different forms. I think power structures are very very strong and sometimes hard to break, especially in white or male dominated spaces/situations. I would say that in every place there are people that are suspicious of new ideas, or people that are different, and there are people that make no time to hear other perspectives. There are people who hold the power and do not want to give it up. As a result you get exclusion, elitism, and alienation. This can be around gender, race, ability, physical and mental health, and poverty/money. People in different countries/places admire and reward status and power, and exclude people they think are not “useful” or have social capital. People are stupid and fucked up everywhere. People can also be wonderful and kind everywhere. Those are the people I’m looking for to be around 🙂
6. Can you describe the difference of the movement in these 3 places. and how is the sexist/ racial situation within the movement?
You can read the previous answer about the similarities in each movement. People and activists being protective about power and control.
With the race situation, it changes depending on how many immigrant communities are in each city/country; and what people are accustomed to historically. In the States the conversation around anti-blackness is almost synonymous with the word “racism” because of how fucked up the United States has been to African Americans, and also to Native Americans, whereas in Australia the conversation about Islamophobia and hate crimes around West Asian people is more common, because there has been so much violence against Muslim and West Asian people in Australia in the last 15 years. There is also dialogue around state violence against Indigenous Australians – Aboriginal people because of the fucked up way Australia was colonised.
Living in Berlin, there is less discussion about native people, and more about the history of Fascism, and current Fascists, locally. And there is a little bit of acknowledgement about anti-immigrant racism. But the main focus becomes about anti-Semitic and Nazi politics, because of local history, of course.
So, yes, all dialogue and analysis exist everywhere, but main focuses depend on the history of each place.
7. Being anarchist is really difficult to deal with the reality of capitalist world, we have to either get a real job or we would need to recycle and squat all life, it sounds almost impossible to continue living in such way, as to say outside of the system, but in a way living by surplus of the capitalism, do you also see the difference between the day to day life of anarchist in the place you had been. and how are yourself struggling in the system while be able to afford a basic living?

Hahahah this is a really really big question, and something I am always dancing around depending on what I can afford in each city/place. Right now (in the USA) I work 65 hours a week to pay rent and food, and am always broke for some reason. This is not an ideal life, I have no social life or relaxation time, but I also don’t have a choice because if I stop working then I won’t have a place to live. I don’t even know what “outside” of a system is – does that exist? Can that exist? Everything is connected, no?I think it’s possible to live without money, but only with trade and mutual aid. But you are still in some kind of a system.

To squat or live off the surplus of a system is not living “outside” of it. There is still dependence on it.

To boycott something implies that there is a consumer structure there to reject. It really depends on one’s priorities. Is the priority to REJECT something? Then, why? Why is the rejection of something a definition or reason for living?

Is the priority social justice? Is it mutual aid? Is it destroying government? Is it equal housing for all? Is it hedonism? Misanthropy? Survival? Is it principles, or people?
I think part of being an autonomous unit is deciding for oneself, or deciding for your “group”, your goal, and your most important priority.
And then live by it.

The Sun Never Sets, and more workshops

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Last week I facilitated a workshop for feminists of color in Seattle. It was part of a Women Of Color event that I organized with 3 other people, that centered around art and performance. I wanted this to happen because I constantly am appalled and pissed off by how creative outlets, art press and media still invisibilizes and excludes people of color. Manual labor, work and non-conceptual/non-intellectual stuff still seems like the expected territory of POC and the working class, and expression, art and most stages/platforms STILL feel like the exclusive playgrounds of white people, unless the race factor is a novelty, essentialist point, or fetishization. This is also reflected in music and dance performance, even though all artforms belong to everybody, and historically, popular music and dance we recognize today in mainstream media was brought to fame through oppressed POC, creating these in times of struggle and poverty.

Anyway, this stage and exhibition was for women of color only, and so was the workshop. 700 people came to the event, here follows some photos.

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I’m also facilitating this support work for social workers next week, and more things are in the works 🙂

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Talking/reading in Chicago, March 2014

My new zine blog – http://www.annaxvo.tumblr.com

RoughCutz(1)

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS, CHICAGO

13 March 2014 at 3:30 – 6pm at Hull House

Zine Readings and Workshop

Featuring:

Anna Vo (Fix My Head and The Swan The Vulture)

Sarah Rene (Native Punx Unite)

Osa Atoe (Shotgun Seamstress)

Nyky Gomez (Skinned Heart)

MC’ed by Mimi Nguyen (Race Riot)

We are all women zinesters of colour. We all collect stories based around PoC/identity. We are all focussed on the personal, economic, social and political struggles of PoC, and have somehow centred it around a punk identity or ethos.
(further description and fliers to come)
 

CHICAGO ZINE FEST

15 Feb 2014

1:30-2.30pm

Zines, Punk, & Reclamation: A Discussion for People of Color

How are zines an aid in the reclamation of our cultural and expressive practices, histories and identities as people of color, both in and out of punk cultures? What forms do those acts of reclamation take? How do we hold cultural and chosen communities together, or not? How do we navigate the clashes and the connections between them?

This open discussion will be facilitated by Osa Atoe of Shotgun Seamstress zine. Also present will be Nyky Gomez (Brown Recluse Distro), Yumii Okafor (Slash Em Up zine), Mimi Nguyen (Race Riot, Slander zines), Suzy X (Malcriada, Mallgoth Chronicles zines) and Anna Vo (Fix My Head zine).

xFWPx (and other) EUROPEAN AND USA TOUR 2014

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MORE DATES AND TOURS TO BE ANNOUNCED AS THEY GET CONFIRMED
xfepx bei ruth
05.04 xFWPx. soli-party @Bei Ruth, Berlin
17.04. xFWPx, Friend Crush, Still Breathing @Schokoladen, Berlin
18.04.xFWPx, Friend Crush, Still Breathing @Rock Café Marilyn, Nová Paka
19.04.xFWPx, Friend Crush, Still Breathing and Girolamos Walk @Café V Lese, Prag. AS PART OF PRAGUE ANARCHIST BOOKFAIR, fuck yes!!!!
20.04.xFWPx, Friend Crush, Still Breathing and Jenkem Warriors @ekh, Wien
21.04.xFWPx, Friend Crush, Still Breathing and Coffee Shower, @Sub Graz. 8010 graz, kaiser-franz-josef-kai 66, Graz
22.04.xFWPx, Friend Crush, Still Breathing @Salzburg
24.04.xFWPx, Friend Crush, Still Breathing @Podrum, Rijeka http://www.rijekadiyhcpunk.blogspot.de
25.04.xFWPx, Friend Crush, Still Breathing @AKC Attack (former squat Medika), Zagreb
26.04.xFWPx, Friend Crush, Still Breathing, Growing Rats, Sick Crab, G.U.B., AK47, ANTIFA XIII FEST @Klub Gromka, Ljubljana http://www.klubgromka.org/index.php?mode=program&id=3816
30.04.xFWPx, Friend Crush, Kenny Kenny Oh Oh, Iron, and more @Kopi, at Noc Walpurgii Festival
29.05. xFWPx, Respect My Fist, Anna Vo, @B32, Maastricht, Netherlands
30.05. xFWPx, Respect My Fist, Köln
31.05. xFWPx, Respect My Fist, Leipzig @ besser als scheisse QueerFeminist Festival
07.06. xFWPx,  Friend Crush, Ari, Leah King and more @ ANTI FEE FESTIVAL, Göttingen, deutschland
10.06. xFWPx, Grand Detour (FR) @ Tiefgrund, Berlin
14.07. xFWPx, with Labryse, Body Betrayal, Slouch @ New Scowling house, Portland, USA
18.07. xFWPx, with Slouch, Coprot, Stressors, Happy Diving @ The Nuthole, Seattle, USA

19.07. xFWPx, with Carrion Spring, Sky Above And Earth Below, Walter and Perry, Dérive @ Hollow Earth Radio

20 April-14
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WORKSHOPS:

RACE, GENDER AND PRIVILEGE IN LEFTIST COMMUNITIES AND IN HARDCORE PUNK

Facilitated by Anna Vo

At Noc Walpurgii Festival, Berlin

April 30, 2014

1700
1.5 – 2 hours

Political and cultural history is recorded and written by dominant cultures, and as a result it is not commonly known that Anarchism has Eastern roots, and “punk” started before 1977 in various continents, outside of the UK and USA. This workshop runs through some examples of non-Western, non-white origins of both subcultures, and moves onto a discussion/workshop about how assumptions about continuing a “white”, male, hetero, middle-class dominated environment means making other, marginalised groups invisible. This workshop outlines how socially, politically and historically, certain communities are invisibilised or excluded.
Everybody welcome.

May 14th, 2014

1900

Makamiki, Helsinki, Finland

RACE, GENDER AND PRIVILEGE IN LEFTIST COMMUNITIES AND IN HARDCORE PUNK

May 29, 2014

ZINE READING from THE SWAN THE VULTURE

About race, gender, assimilation, racism and tokenism in organising, working and playing in bands. Following will be a discussion/workshop.

B32, Maastricht

May 31, 2014

(WHITENESS AND MALE) PRIVILEGE IN PUNK

(workshop in English)
At QueerFeminist Festival, Leipzig

I will read out a list of privileges that white male-socialised people have, in the environment of playing music, or making “punk”
The list is here: https://annavo.wordpress.com/zines/2012-white-male-privilege-in-punk-rock/

And then would like to see what discussion comes out of that.

I would like to talk about the invisibility of People of Colour and immigrants in punk and leftist scenes in Germany.
And the assumptions, prejudice and racism that commonly occurs in situations.
I will talk and/or read about my experiences as a feminist Vietnamese punk living in Berlin.

Hochschule workshops

Upcoming speaking dates

ARTICLE ABOUT OUR SEATTLE EVENT IN THE SEATTLE GLOBALIST

Race Riot! zine tour touches down in Seattle

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REMAINDER OF RACE RIOT ZINE TOUR DATES

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(Links at http://poczineproject.tumblr.com/raceriottour)

10/30 – Moorhead, Minnesota 

+ ACADEMIC PARTNER:MINNESOTA STATE UNIVERSITY MOORHEAD

FACEBOOK INVITE FOR MOORHEAD EVENT

10/31 – Minneapolis, Minnesota

DETAILS FOR MINNEAPOLIS EVENTS

11/2 – St. Louis, Missouri – Gya Community Arts Gallery

FACEBOOK INVITE FOR ST. LOUIS EVENT

11/4 – Louisville, Kentucky

FACEBOOK INVITE FOR LOUISVILLE EVENT

11/5 – Nashville, TN

11/7 – Atlanta, Georgia (GSU and WonderRoot Community Arts Center)

+ACADEMIC PARTNER: GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY (Faces of Feminism and BlackOUT)

FACEBOOK INVITE FOR BOTH ATLANTA EVENTS 

11/9 – Montgomery, Alabama

http://hiphopandpunkfeminisms.weebly.com

12/5 – Speaking/reading at CONFERENCE ON HIP HOP AND PUNK FEMINISMS – THEORY GENEALOGY PERFORMANCE

University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign

ALWAYS WAS, ALWAYS WILL BE, ABORIGINAL LAND

ALWAYS WAS ALWAYS WILL BE ABORIGINAL LAND, DOWNLOAD HERE

(to print, print double-sided on US LETTER SIZE paper, flip on short edge)

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This compilation zine was done with the intent to distribute through the United States and Germany through travels and touring. It was in the hope that it informs people of things that are going on in “Australia”, that they might not have heard about before. There are also immigration nightmares, heinous treatment of refugees, poor conditions in detention centres, institutional and casual racism, but they are not the focus of this compilation. Please research if you want to know more.
The focus of this is the six years of the Northern Territory Intervention and its wider context of systemic displacement, dispossession and genocide of Aboriginal people in Australia. Since colonisation, the Australian Government has been responsible for acts such as the White Australia Policy, and the Stolen Generations, which has been recognised as genocide by international bodies. There are significant disparities in statistics regarding deaths in custody, health, life expectancy, literacy, education, income, welfare, and housing. Please refer to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Year Book Australia, 2012 and <http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/c311215.nsf/web/Aboriginal+and+Torres+Strait+Islander+Peoples+-+Health>
Other ongoing acts of colonisation are the privatisation of Aboriginal land, for purposes of coalmining, logging, oil drilling, uranium mining and seabed mining. You can research these, or others: Jabiluka Uranium Mine, Ningaloo Reef, the Kimberley, mining in the Northern Territory. I will include some excerpts.
In regards to the NT Intervention, I am including letters written by Aboriginal community members, and if you would like to read the Government’s justifications, then you may independently research that.
I am a non-Aboriginal settler coloniser who previously resided on the stolen land of the Gadigal people.
Further reading:
http://www.stoptheintervention.org/
http://www.clc.org.au/articles/info/mining-and-development, Central Land Council
http://www.ccwa.org.au – Conservation Council of Western Australia
http://www.alc.org.au/ – Aboriginal Land Council

ZINE TOUR

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Hi everyone,

After just coming off Broken ‘Ships tour through Germany and the Netherlands, and xfwpx & xbf tour through Germany,

I’m currently on Race Riot! tour through America, starting in New Orleans, going to Seattle, and then circling back around to Montgomery, Alabama.

Austin, TX was tonight, and we are heading to Alberqueque, NM tomorrow.

The dates and more info are here on the poczineproject website

and here is more info about me.

If you can support the tour in some way, by organising a soli- event or otherwise, please do.

We will be doing a Skype workshop/panel after our Portland show, with Berlin Zine Fest, which is going to be very exciting.

The zines I made especially for this tour are The Swan The Vulture No. 4

Fix My Head No. 4, co-edited with Shotgun Seamstress (!!)

and an info zine for international allies about The Northern Territory Intervention in Australia, after 6 years of occupation by the government.

I also brought along the Koori Mail, and some other reading material for those attending the events.

For more info on this, please go to Stop The Intervention, who have regular meetings in Sydney.

If you’re at one of the dates, come say hi.

Much love,

Anna.

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Workshops on Racism, the Experiences of Women of Colour and Inclusive Practices

Had three workshops at NOWSA 2013 at Melbourne University yesterday and today. More info here

Two empowerment workshops for women* negatively affected by racism and the final one today for WOC and allies. A really good discussion by WOC-only for most of the duration of the workshop, and then 10 minutes of questions and discussion with allies. Tears, catharsis, discovery and elation. I am deeply grateful for everyone for attending and thank you for speaking so eloquently, honestly and passionately.

Below are notes written before the beginning of the workshop and while people were bringing up points (ran out of space).

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On a related note, here is the brainstorm from a workshop in late 2012 on mediation between and inclusion of different intersectional identities and grievances in organising for direct actions and events, in the student environmental movement. This was a workshop for ASEN (Australian Student Environment Network).

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Other workshops in 2012 were in Sydney, Berlin, Stockholm and Copenhagen about Racism, Inclusive Practices, Gentrification, and Displacement. Wish I had some photos or notes from those! Talked with an asylum-seeker support centre in Copenhagen in Nørrebro about how they organise and structure their service, and revised some stuff to work more effectively with POCs and the local refugee camps.

Over the last three months I interviewed Vietnamese residents and business owners on Illawarra Rd in Marrickville about the white-washing, development and rising housing prices in the neighbourhood; and the displacement and dissipation of a Vietnamese community that has been in Marrickville for 30 years. When I get some time, I will finish editting of the audio and upload those too. Also, I’ll try to post the accompanying writing that I came up with at the time, about the projected white futures of gentrifying neighbourhoods, how invisibilising current immigrant communities is a systematic strategy to sell property and “upgrade” trendy hipster towns all over the Western world.

Please feel free to write to me and ask me any questions.