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9′ “‘1””..4″”‘,/ &Ate., Austin’s Largest Selection of international Folk Art, kl Silver Jewelry and Textiles –T E 5 C:10 r4.. CD , S TRADING COMPAN16 FOLK ART & OTHER TREASURES FROM AROUND THE WORLD It \\90,OPEN DAILY 10-6 44 l 209 CONGRESS AVEAUSTIN 512/479-8377 never set foot in. This was my first taste of university lifealthough I was taking college courses in prison. I immediately immersed myself with the prison movement, going into McNeil Island, to Shelton Reformatory in Walla Walla State Prison. And I began an association with El Centro de la Raza, a civil rights, human rights, social service agency that was very much at the forefront of the struggle in the Northwest for Chicanos, Latinos, migrants, students, and they occupied an abandoned schoolhouse. And I was taken there by Dr. Sommers to meet the people, and I immediately fell in love with all of them. And of course the people there were very much involved in supporting the [American Indian] fishing rights struggles and the Asian struggles in the Northwest, which had to do with organizing unions [Alaska Cannery Workers] around the salmon fisheries. So we began to involve ourselves with anti-Marcos [Ferdinand Marcos] workFilipino youth. And that brought us in contact with these folks who were engaging Marcos directly. We sent four brigades between ’75 and ’80. And then in Nicaragua. In 1973 the popularly elected government of [Chilean President] Salvador Allende was toppled, and we opposed that. We took on the ITT stockholders meeting in Seattle and disrupted it. While continuing our local work, we moved into solidarity with another union, a union of African Americans, very progressive, which later became a minority union: United Construction Workers. Then as a result of the fishing rights struggles, I became acquainted with the American Indian Movement, and that’s what I devoted my time to up until returning to Austin, where my work is now mostly youth-oriented, arts work, immigration, environmental. TO: In 1999, Seattle was again on the world stage with the mobilizations against the International Monetary Fund, bringing up many of these same issues you are talking about: the analysis based on local conditions, anti-capitalist, the inspiration of movements abroadacross the land borders or across the oceans or the street. How are these movements related? RS: Whether it’s called colonialism or neoliberalism or globalization, globalizing of the economy, it’s still the same machine at work, gobbling up humanity. Whether in Seattle or East Austin or south of the border, south of the river, we’re up against the same opposition. I think all we can do is learn from how they treat us all the same, “they” meaning the state, the university, the prison system, the military. People can quibble and talk about “but aren’t you being harsh?” Seems pretty clear to me that some grandma fishing on the river for subsistence is no different than an immigrant taking all kinds of risks to come to make a living for their family. TO: So you come back to Austin in the early ’80s, and we are now in 2006. What has changed, what hasn’t? RS: What stayed the same is that people are still going to jail from the East Side. In Austin, very few Chicanos are recruited to the University of Texas. It’s a building we look at from across the great divide. So that hasn’t changed. What has changed is the onslaught of gentrification invading the West Bank, our West Bank. Condos galore. Affordable housing for anybody except for the natives that lived there for over 60 years. There was a new movement, so to speak. New faces, new language, new concepts to learn. And so I wanted to learn. And so I aligned myself with people who knew. Young people, and that being a struggle in and of itself because I wanted to work with young people. Young people wanted to work with me, but we have that big generational divide that both sides perpetuate. A lot of old fogies think youngsters have nothing to contribute, and a lot of the youngsters think they were immaculately conceived and nothing was here before them. I’m 72 years old, I have not been broken by any system, and I reiterate: I commit the remainder of my days to helping expose that machine that almost ground me up, that tried to grind me up, and that has ground so many of our people up, and that continues to grind them in larger numbers each year. TO: The recent count is more than 2 million people incarcerated, and the number of people in the criminal justice system is steadily reaching 7 million. How do you see the current crisis of incarceration for people of color and, most recently, with immigrants? RS: A whole new set of prisoners. That is the end result. Who is going to prison today? Young black and brown people with the number of women ever on the rise, and poor white people. That’s who’s going to prison and filling these jails. One important thing about the war and torture is that every day we are finding out more and more that the methods of torture and the whole introduction of torture as another tool of repression are U.S. imports, imports from U.S. prisons. Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and Bagram are all products of yankee-doodle penology. Standing on that barrel with the hood, brother you tell people in Huntsville about that one. Ours was a barrel you stood in. Handcuffed to the bars all the way up to your tiptoes. So that’s what I meant, I guess to answer your initial question. That’s what a backyard form of colonialism means to me. Alan Eladio Gomez divides his time between Austin and Ithaca, New York. Originally from Corpus Christi, he is an assistant professor at Ithaca College. 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER SEPTEMBER 22, 2006