Getting to the root: Where do our missing girls go?

The #missingDCgirls have woken us up again. Black cis and trans girls & women reported missing across the country number close to 75,000. 37 of the cases in DC – all Black and Latinx – reported since January remain unsolved.

In the past few weeks, spikes in disappearances of young women of color – and notice of them – in the Metropolitan DC area sparked widespread concern and consideration about the status quo. 

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BAM FI understands minority to mean all people of color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amidst statements that this is only a spike in reporting, Derrica Wilson finds the community’s fears to be valid. Wilson is co-founder of and a spokesperson for Black & Missing Foundation (BAM FI), an organization working to spread awareness of and locate missing people of color. Viewing the chart above, keep in mind that the rate of those missing must be viewed relative to the size of the population. The US is 73% white, so it’s clear, about a quarter of the population – Black, Asian, Native, Latinx – is disappearing at an alarming rate.

As people who care and for those who see ourselves in this – how can we provide for and protect missing cis and trans women and girls of color in the US?

This is happening currently, every day.

 

Why? How?

Some will be runaways seeking refuge, or fleeing abuse. The girls missing from DC have drawn our attention to missing youth in particular, and rightly so. Cis and trans young women ages 11 to 17 make up approximately 75 percent of the runaway population. The National Runaway Safeline also reports that a range of 1.7 to 2.8 million runaway and homeless youth live on the street each year.

Runaways list abuse as a major reason for running. That trauma is something they will need help building themselves up from – as we all would. Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse still widely affects minors between the ages of 12 and 17. If they don’t have a safe place or trusted advocate to turn to, running away becomes a real option. They’re only human.

Look to support organizations like Covenant House, a homeless youth shelter and center of advocacy in DC. Sasha Bruce Youthwork engages and prepares young people to stabilize with work and social support. Seeking Shelter’s strong list of sheltering and transitional services covers 15 cities across the US, including DC.

We could all support these community hubs in our local cities, by donating time and resources as we are able. The Public Defender Service for DC provides a Directory of Youth and Family Services amongst other resources for navigating the DC Justice System.

 

They can be led astray

Black and Latinx youth are particularly vulnerable to predators via social media. People have always been enticed by the promise of romance. It’s often difficult to distinguish from what we may be really seeking like autonomy, self-love. Teens, statistically, have a harder time with that difference, especially when they are being manipulated or groomed.

At the same time, social media postings of missing kids can help bring them home faster. That’s especially true for teenagers. Their peers are more likely to see the alert and can notify police and those searching of any information they have. Derrica Wilson of BAM FI encourages us all to pay attention to missing persons reports and outreach efforts on social media.

Maybe we could more intentionally build with the young people around us. If you’re interested in volunteering try mentorship, get out in the community. They need to be listened to – as they all do. Life lacks stability sometimes, and it can be extra difficult as a young person. We don’t need to have it all together to share an ear and some experiences.

 

Seeking safe spaces

Some are afraid to disclose their personal beliefs and preferences, for fear that family would take issue. It’s the pregnant teenager, or someone struggling with expressing their sexual and/or gender identity. Teens are new to finding their place in the world and though they are resilient, sexism, racism, and transphobia are turning their insides too. So they run away when they can find no one to turn to without fear of judgment, or worse. And to whom? Where? The reality is, as Kimberly of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) says, “outside of community, there are no safe spaces”.

 

And to whom?

It’s on track to be the most violent year on record for trans women of color. Casa Ruby and organizations like it around the country provide that sense of community and care for individuals in need of safe spaces and solidarity. As the only Bilingual Multicultural LGBT safe space in Washington, DC, Casa Ruby offers companionship, along with access to hot meals, emergency housing referrals, legal services counseling, and support groups. We have to support these beacons for young people. They are right there at the intersections of identity, quality of life, and safety.

 

Speak up

While we’re on connections – language can go a long way. In every day you can instill the use of Latinx in place of Latino or Latina, to support awareness, visibility, and acknowledgement for the gender nonconforming. It’s an extension of using “they/them/their” instead of assuming “his/her” identification amongst LGBTQ+ and allies. You can invite a safe space with your presence and help others do the same. It’ll continue to spread through conversation, verbal and written communication, and social media. (No excuses – the APA just recognized “they” as a singular pronoun.) I may have digressed there, but it’s about willingly shifting to a more inclusive society, starting with the narrative.
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Keep an eye out

We must be vigilant, we know some will have been abducted. People are calling on transparency in the way local and federal officials take action and #findourgirls. Black lawmakers are calling for the FBI and Justice Department to help police investigate the missing in DC. However, even police have been arrested for human trafficking. It’s a disgustingly lucrative business.

Human trafficking has become the second-fastest growing criminal industry in the United States. Activists and organizations across the country and world fight the forces perpetuating slavery and trafficking, both domestic and international. Based in DC, FAIR Girls prevents the exploitation of girls worldwide through prevention education, compassionate care, and survivor-inclusive advocacy. Courtney’s House provides outreach and protection for children and minors who are victims of domestic sex trafficking in the greater DC area. You can find many other active Housing Resources and Emergency Shelters at the District of Columbia Office of Disability Rights.

 

What now?

We must support the watchers. High attendance to “Where Are They Now?”, the March 22nd forum on the missing in DC shows a community mobilized, and passionate about the cause. They are at the heart of this in Ward 8, and authorities should recognize and include them in finding solutions for preventing and protecting against this.

Where Are They Now?, forum held March 22nd, 2017.

 

The public has to be more aware, inclusive, and active than ever in this time of heightened violence against people of color and the lgbtq+ community, redundant mainstream media, and building institutional oppression. Part of the response to the recent burst of black and latinx girls disappearing in DC is termed as a “perceived increase”. It feels a bit dismissive, like these lives will pass from mattering in the public eye.

We must stay raising awareness about our missing cis and trans young women of color and issues facing them. Since there’s always been a significant disparity in how much they are reported and efforts to find them, we’ve got ground to cover, wouldn’t you say?

So let’s say their names, keep an eye out for others, and integrate living, thriving safe spaces wherever we can. Maybe then we could find them before they ever go missing.

 

 

Support Black & Missing Foundation in providing equal opportunity for all missing. If you’re in the DC area in May, join their Hope Without Boundaries 5K Run/Walk fundraiser.

If you relate to this, and want to share here, contact us.

 

Illustrating Monsters in Human Nature with Mananiko Amarilla

Mananiko Amarilla Kobakhidze lives and studies as a graphic designer and illustrator in Tbilisi, Georgia. At 25, she shares the belief that we all encounter and harbor inner selves as often as other human beings. Her work accentuates these beings – and ways of being – in familiar form, inviting us to see we all experience them. We asked her to share her thoughts on giving life to our monsters, and share a bit about her process for some of our favorites:

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So, you work with physical printmaking, as well as graphic design, photography, and illustration. Is that right? What medium have you been playing with most these days?

It all started with  photography, long before printmaking and illustration. I tend to make very graphical and defined colors, movement was a key, not “poetic beauty” or “fine art” (painting). Then I passed all exams to art school and there was less and less time for photography, eventually I became obsessed with book illustration and poster design and graphic design. Drawing in any expressible way is my playground today.

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What influences do you feel most often growing up and now studying in Georgia?

Hm, think I stay aside of cultural stuff and that’s why I think my illustration or works are sometimes not fully understood, I just don’t like to be in step with the flow.

We share your love for Stranger Things, and people rave about various components – the font, the soundtrack. What makes the show meaningful to you?

The 80’s are my favorite :)) It’s like the era of color in the 21st century. Dresses, accessories, music everything – the show is like my favorite 80’s ^_^

What other narratives, media, or creators inspire you?

Ballet, music, movies, books, people in the streets, sounds, everything. It’s like a tickle for my brain and then everything expresses itself on paper.

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Stop watering dead flowers, girl
How long have you illustrated? Have you created any self-illustrations?

I’ve been drawing since childhood, mostly I was “just drawing”. After Academy it became more serious. So I’ve been illustrating for 6 years I guess 🙂 Mostly they all are my self-portraits, inner self ones, from what I see and hear.

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Lost Space Invader
There’s such rich feeling in your work. Are characters based on people you’ve encountered?

They all are real, just they all are reflections of what I see, and there’s a part of me in them as I said before.

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“Monsters” keep making an appearance so I have to ask, can you describe the characteristics that invoke that for you? What makes for a “monster” in this world?

Monsters are friendly characters, if you remember Where the Wild Things Are? “There should be a place where only the things you want to happen, happen” – Maurice Sendak. Those monsters are things to happen and a place is my paper. They are really friendly, just a real side of every human being, which we shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid of. We hide monsters and sometimes, they are much more beautiful than we think they are.

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Sea monsters are still alive
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Der Himmel Uber Berlin
Could you translate this caption? What inspired this?

It was a school assignment to make posters, so I did this one based on Der Himmel Uber Berlin (“The Heavens/Sky Over Berlin”, “Wings of Desire”). I think this was my first attempt to make a monster, to show one and to tell a story about angels hiding from us, not seen.

What were you envisioning as you designed this poster of Trump? What do you think might come next?

Well, it’s going to be an everlasting, idiotic political game he’s going to play and I think the whole world is just TRUMPED because what the United States does influences every single country. If a crazy non-political, selfish man is going to rule a country full of possibilities it’s going to be a disaster. I tried to make it a bit funny that way.

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We’ve talked about street art in Tbilisi before, and the shift to street marketing you witnessed. How do you think artists can collaborate with businesses toward profitable and genuine work?

Most of the artists are denying paid jobs, but it’s still hard if you want to make a living out of what you do. So you have to compromise, between paid work and what’s really a reflection of oneself.

How do you balance professional and personal expression in your design workflow? What makes it difficult? Where are some natural intersections?

Sometimes I do a very boring job, but I still try to make intersections between what I really want to express and do and what I’m doing at my job or other paid work. It’s a miracle if you are paid for your art and a great pleasure, but mostly I feel framed if I’m not working for myself. So I hope it will change, or I will change it. But there are some places for “crazy people” like me :))

 

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Keep up with Mananiko on Instagram or via Tumblr.

 

Women’s March NYC: Signs for the next steps

According to the Associated Press, over 500,000 people marched on Washington, DC on January 21, 2017, and the New York Times reports that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office counted 400,000 people marching in the Big Apple. Marches took place, not only in cities throughout the United States, but around the world, bringing that number to 2.9 million. Although this global show of resistance was sparked by the election of Donald Trump and was christened the “Women’s March”, as I made my way across 42nd Street and up Fifth Avenue in New York City, I found myself amidst a sea of protest signs running the gamut of issues.


Reproductive rights seemed to be at the forefront, but slogans focused on gay rights, climate change, immigration, healthcare, police brutality and a general “fuck you” to misogynists everywhere were also on display. 

To me, the day was a cathartic, pre-emptive strike against an administration which has consistently promised to go right on the intersecting issues where sense of reason and heart go left.

In our own words

Below, the words of just a small handful of the women in attendance in New York City give a snapshot of the atmosphere of hope and sisterhood I experienced:

“My name is Bonnie Heller, I live in Manhattan. I’m a neighbor of Donald Trump’s. We’ve known him for many, many years. He has never done anything to help his city, so I don’t understand how he would ever help this country. Plus the fact that he’s a misogynist, racist asshole. So that’s about it.”

“My name is Carly Lissak, and I’m here because I don’t think anyone should feel that they are represented by someone who doesn’t believe in who they are or [the reasons] why they should be seen as equals. Also because I’m scared. I know that we are the pillar of the free world and when the face of the pillar of the free world is mentally unstable it’s just not good for anyone. Also this is an emotional outlet to feel better.”

“We are here to fight for our rights!” – Gia

“The reason why I joined the Women’s March is because I believe this day will be crucial and will go down in history. As an American female I have realized throughout my years of adulthood that there are so many right we take for granted each and every day. I protest to say ‘no more’. I protest because I am aware of what is at stake. I protest in the hopes that they don’t strip us women of our rights. I protest in hope that the planet does not go to shit because of some in-denial narcissist of a president that believes it’s all a hoax. I want my children and my children’s children to have the future they deserve. Ultimately, I protest because that’s all that we have left [in order to] fight back.” – Daniela

“I march because I need to use my voice to speak up for those that America is refusing to hear.” – Andrea

“If I didn’t care about this country I wouldn’t be doing this.” – Overheard on the train ride home


These words are nothing without continued action

Here are some links to help you get involved with just a few of the organizations empowering and connecting people to fight for the issues addressed at the Women’s March. Every action counts and the way forward is all about intersectionality.

Planned Parenthood

GLAAD

Black Lives Matter

Greenpeace

The first step forward in the Women’s March 10 Actions / 100 Days is to start contacting your senator about the issues that matter to you. They’re offering printable postcards to get you started and I’ve got some of the messages seen on signs in NYC for inspiration:

No human being is illegal.

Presidential does not mean bully.

I’m pro-woman. He’s a con-man.

Love trumps hate.

We shall over comb.

Eyes on the state.

Hands off my rights.

Respect existance or expect resistance.

Black lives matter.

Science is real.

Made in ‘gina.

It’s time to ovary act.

Conversion therapy is going to be lit.

 

Pie Face Girls: Angry, Attentive, and Anti-HB2

We started off discussing Monsanto on slightly damp benches. Dani’s disdain for the company’s careless disruption of the natural flow of things quickly shifted into the group’s deep appreciation for the deliciousness of ugly fruit, specifically blood oranges from earlier in the summertime. “GMO OMG.”, she recommended, “It’s on Netflix.”.

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Pie Face Girls at Tactile Workshop for The Hopscotch Oasis. Dani on guitar, Tiffany on bass, Klay on drums.

I ran into the Raleigh-based band at The Hopscotch Oasis, a day party for the festival hosted by Tactile Workshop. Perfectly comfortable, super sweaty, and thoroughly entertaining on the half-pipe stage, they let us know right off the bat, “we are an angry band.”  Throughout the show they chatted openly with us about the festival, giving context to songs about catcalling, birth control, and white male privilege via Tinder. They also paid homage to the anti-HB2 banner displayed by Grayson and Tina Haver Currin and verbally harangued Gov. Pat McCrory. Everyone seemed to feel at home tucked away in the lush little backyard of Tactile Workshop, talking about real, impolite, human things. It was refreshing. North Carolina’s citizens, reputation, and economy remain marred by HB2, the discriminatory, anti-LGBT legislation passed with shady swiftness earlier this year. In the state’s capital, Hopscotch was a 3-day, 3-night invitation to explore music venues and vibes that felt worlds away from the North Carolina state legislature and wary of standing in its bigotry-tinged shadow.

Hey, Pat, happy Hopscotch. #hopscotch16

A photo posted by Grayson Currin (@currincy) on

 

At the Hopscotch Oasis that Saturday, Klay put it precisely – “Hopscotch is evil because they make you choose.” Hailing from Durham, I have spent a sporadic, limited time in Raleigh, and rarely spent it frolicking and Hopscotch was a great chance to bop around the city and its venues. I imagine it was that much harder to choose from this year’s impressive lineup while listed on it, to play three shows throughout the weekend. Pie Face Girls pulled through it, though. The band wistfully recalled Big Freedia and Erykah Badu, noting that in addition to favorites and legends like those, Hopscotch curates a strong, eclectic range of genres. Festival-goers could check out any artist for a solid show, and “it might push you outside of the zone that you anticipated,” Klay pointed out. Keep in mind, 40% of the 120-band Hopscotch lineup is local. Pie Face Girls made a point to shout out the experimental noise of Patrick Gallagher out of Carrboro, NC and all the artists they played with throughout the weekend, including Durham’s JooseLord Magnus at The Hopscotch Oasis. I missed JooseLord’s performance, but observed the mutual enthusiasm they had for a future collaboration following the show and immediately wanted to get to learn more about them both.

So, Pie Face Girls met me in Raleigh for an interview and as we discussed the challenges of navigating the vast Twitter community and the process of building ideas into action, we landed on a conversation about how the band are growing into themselves. Tiffany described this past year as the one where she realized that they could truly spread their reach and stand on their own, though “in the beginning, it was fun and games.” Now, they are looking to sustain themselves with what they love, acknowledging that it takes time.

Their straightforward statements, like those in “Fuck You, I’m Pretty” and the mantra, “Dick is Dead” really resonate with people – at The Hopscotch Oasis, it was like one big conversation. At the same time, Dani pointed out, entrepreneurship and marketing demand their own skills and are necessary for growth. Seeking that growth can feel farcical after years of creating and performing solely for the love of it. Surely, they do not want to sell out, but I’d assume that would be difficult for the members of Pie Face Girls – authenticity is part of their essence. Defiant honesty and self-knowledge course through their sound; their presence is a cool, collected indignation that reminds you, “if you’re not angry, then you’re not paying attention.

They are definitely paying attention.

The group posted up at Ruby Deluxe’s NC Pride Dance Party in Raleigh to register voters a few days after we talked, and has played alongside NC Music Love Army to raise money for efforts against HB2. The Love Army performs in protest, and “in support of sane governance for North Carolina”. Proceeds from these shows go to community and advocacy organizations Equality NC, LGBT Center of Raleigh and Now or Never NC.  Pie Face Girls recently played the Official Afterparty following Come Out and Show Them: A Benefit to Take Back Our State. The proceeds from that festival went to Common Cause NC, Democracy North Carolina, Southerners on New Ground and Come Out and Show Them’s efforts to keep activist artists’ shows in the state in order to redirect the funds for the work of repealing HB2.

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Tiffany, Dani, and Klay at Ruby Deluxe, handing out sexual health resources and getting people registered to vote.

Another way you’ll find Pie Face Girls in the mix could be a collective or record label for musicians in marginalized communities to come together – queer artists, trans and cis female artists and artists of color. North Carolina does not offer that in music production yet and the corrupt politics of this state only reinforce the need for such a space. As the idea grows, they are seeking collaborators that want to make a similar impact. Klay and Tiffany joked about whether they were included in the plans, and without missing a beat, Dani confirmed. At one point, she looked at them, then to me and said, “your fam is your support system.” They were quick to thank multiple bands, community members, and artist-activists for encouraging them from the beginning and as they’ve grown thus far, shouting out the staple Raleigh venue, Kings.

I had to ask, then, about the label on their ReverbNation profile from earlier on, “Do it your damn self”. It’s an empowering message, and at this point, it seems they are building on that spirit. that led them to record everything on their own in order to get their messages out into the world, then kept them performing and bettering themselves, but now with an explicit appreciation for collaboration. They are consciously taking themselves more seriously than ever and embracing the process.

Pie Face Girls take the impact of the craft beyond themselves as well, working with Girls Rock NC to guide young musicians as they lift their voices and build community through music. Dani helps to facilitate Teen Axn League, a team of female and trans youth, working year-round in conjunction with Girls Rock NC, to create safer spaces for teens in North Carolina, through organizing an overnight feminism and music summer camp every year.

When I asked about what is next to come, Dani stated, “as long as I can be an activist, I’m happy. As long as I can fight for the shit that matters in this world…because there’s a lot of shit to fight in this world.” Pie Face Girls’ raw yet inviting nature and open participation in activism come at a welcome time, when women’s rights and LGBTQ rights are threatened intensely at the state level, particularly in North Carolina. It is also a time when local policy implications are largely lost amongst the presidential election melee. Musical forces out there spending quality time with young people making their way, and encouraging the groups who fight hateful legislation and advocate for their communities and the voice of the people shouldn’t be taken for granted. Participation matters, especially in local and state politics, and at the community level.

“At the end of the day it’s about intention,” they stated in agreement – and I think that’s true for all of us. The volunteering we do, the creative statements we make, and the collaborations we are a part of demand we pay attention to the why of it all. Pie Face Girls are setting out to “reach as many people as we can… and get to the point where other people will load our gear,” Tiffany clarified with a laugh. They are working on tours through the South and the Northeast, and the logistics of an album set to come out in 2017. Experiencing the passion and talent they put into the music, and the way their engaging personalities drew people in after the show at The Hopscotch Oasis, Pie Face Girls are well on their way with some real, quality statements. Stay tuned.

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Follow Pie Face Girls on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

 

 

Upcoming Shows

October 14-15  Manifest Music Festival, downtown Chapel Hill

October 22  Jon Lindsay album release party, Kings Raleigh

October 27  Local Band Local Beer, Pour House Raleigh

November 19  Kosher Hut Raleigh

November 25  Smashfest, Scrap Exchange Durham

Messages from a movement: Charlotte, NC rises up together

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On this hot, sunny Saturday in September, the people of the Queen City and beyond marched together in protest to denounce and heal from the killings of Keith Lamont Scott and Justin Carr, to resist the presence of the National Guard throughout the city, and to exercise freedom of speech and assembly in statements against systematic violence and institutionalized racism.

Charlotte, like Ferguson and Baltimore, was declared to be in a “state of emergency”, in response to looting, violence, and property damage perpetrated by a few on the first night of demonstrations. Since then, the messages of this movement were again obstructed by the sensational media focus on “rioters”, and complicated by the conflicting accounts of these two cases. Instead of engaging with the community’s calls for transparency, accountability, and other demands of the people of Charlotte, it was decided to militarize the city by bringing in the National Guard.

Media narratives tend to place property above people, confusing various forms of resistance to state-sanctioned violence with criminality. Reverend William Barber III is a leader in North Carolina’s efforts to preserve civil rights and improve quality of life, who states:

“This is what democracy looks like. We cannot let politicians use the protests as an excuse to back reactionary “law and order” measures. Instead, we must march and vote together for policies that will lift up the whole and ensure the justice that makes true peace possible.” – Why We Are Protesting in Charlotte

Channeling my own intentions in joining the people in peaceful protest, formed by the sense of unity that I’ve experienced at vigils and community discussions, amongst people in solidarity with the movement for black lives, justice, and institutional reform, I went to Charlotte to document what we really have to say (or write, in this case).

It is said that this is a movement, not a moment. So, here’s a bit of what democracy looked like that day.

 

Speaking truth to power

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Accountability

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Solidarity and allyship

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Resistance

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Looking out for our fellow citizens

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The sign on his left reads, “United States Congress must pass a law that all police officers in every state in America must have, once a year, ongoing education and training required under federal law in order to serve with a weapon in public.”

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Visit Charlotte Uprising for more information on their demands, partner organizations, and ways to get involved.

The End of Silence, revisited

‘Life is full of noise and that death alone is silent… nothing essential happens in the absence of noise’.

Noise: the Political Economy of Music, Jaques Attali (1985)

What meaning is in a sound? To hear the rattle of gunfire from the comfort of your stereo speakers, is our imagination transported to a distant war zone, or do we listen to such a noise as simply that, a singular audible event which fails to infer a semantic meaning outside of the situation from which it is been listened to? Instead we stare at the lifeless, cold speaker cones, bewildered at the loss of a visual source. The invention of recording technology allows us to strip a sound from its original context, disrupting the ephemeral nature of a noise and transforming the vibrations of the world into sonic subjects that can be revisited at a later date. Throw in samplers, synthesisers and the near endless potential of digital manipulation, we are able to get further and further away from the source of origin, complicating our attempts to understand a musical abstraction, to make sense of our emotional response to a transplanted sound. Does this technological chasm between a sound and its source leave us with simply a barrage of meaningless noise?

Matthew Herbert’s 2013 release, End of Silence, is a record that asks us to confront such questions, and many more, challenging our perceptions of recorded sound. Having pressed play, a hubbub of distant cheering voices and alerting whistles vie for attention against a rumbling white noise that quickly swoops into dominance, exploding from the speakers and perforating the space between the listener and the recording, before dissipating into an uneasy quiet, a sonic detritus that bubbles under the fallout of the devastating sound that hits you after only five seconds into the piece. That sound is a recording by photographer Sebastien Meyer, who captured the moment a bomb falling from a pro-Gadaffi plane hit the ground in Libya, during the battle of Ras Lanuf at the height of the troubles in 2011. What you hear in End of Silence is the noise of terror that resulted in the death of civilians, a 5-second sample that serves as the sole sound-source for the album. Over three tracks, that sample is disintegrated, contorted and mutated, exploring the depths of horror contained within, turning the explosion into a haunting beat, the whistles and cries of urgent fear as awkward melodic loops. This is Herbert attempting to ‘freeze history, press pause, wander around inside the sound’, stretching and slowing down the event in order to better make sense of it, acting as the antithesis to the ceaseless 24-hour rolling news coverage that desensitises us to the world’s atrocities. It is as if Herbert is searching for a resolving silence inside the sound-clip, a moment of quiet to contemplate the tragedy. Yet just as soon as the music lulls into relative calm, the deafening explosion returns with a cacophony of noise, an aural onslaught to reassert the terror of the sonic subject.

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Matthew Herbert, Yann Seznec, Tom Skinner, Sam Beste

Recorded over three days, Herbert and his band improvised with and around the fragmented sounds that Herbert had prior manipulated, a sort of live electronic jam that maintains a human element that is often lost in programmed electronic music. In order to acknowledge the distance between the performance and the actual event, microphones were set up outside of the studio, capturing a gentle birdsong for the beginning of ‘Part 2’ that is quickly shattered by the noise of the explosion once again. Despite the safety and quietude surrounding Herbert’s studio in the Welsh countryside, the terror encapsulated in the sample remains omnipresent. A minute before the final track comes to a close, we are hit one final time by the 5-second recording which abruptly breaks into an uneasy silence that hauntingly lingers until a few digital bleeps bring it to an end. That silence is as shocking as the explosion itself, offering a poignant finish to a record that will linger in your memory long after listening.

Herbert’s musical explorations into sound have taken many tangents over his prolific career, from experimental house to big-band jazz, but with End of Silence, he appears to have crystallised the potential to utilise the medium of sound as a ‘new frontier in storytelling’. I first came to be aware of Matthew Herbert’s work via a professor’s suggestion to listen to his reworking of Mahler’s 10th symphony, an intriguing work that re-recorded Mahler’s final completed orchestral movement. Herbert instils a ghostly, haunting presence through manipulating the original sound source, as if Mahler’s aura has been stirred from the dead within this recomposition, having been unsettled by Herbert’s temporal alteration, placing a mirror between light and darkness, life and death. Mahler Symphony X was followed by Herbert’s One trilogy, a collection of albums released over two years that were constructed from utilising a single source of sound, taking as subject himself, a performance in a nightclub and the life of a single pig, from birth to slaughter. These records worked to construct a narrative through sampling, and with End of Silence, Herbert has further narrowed his scope and in doing so highlights the incredible capacity of sound to hold a vast complexity of meaning.

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Listen to The End of Silence on Bandcamp

Yet what story is told in End of Silence? Listeners unaware of the album’s concept, the origin of its sound source, would be left feeling relatively cold to a record that is essentially a barrage of noise and fragmented bleeps. We can only take the word of the photographer, of Matthew Herbert, as to the horrific circumstances from which the album is derived, without which the powerful political value of the album would be lost. But what meaning may this album hold for those who have bared witness to the trauma of being in a conflict zone, who have heard the sound of a bomb explode?  We may suggest that End of Silence has appropriated a highly sensitive subject and packaged it as musical entertainment, ultimately making music out of the sound of death from a position of relative privilege, another case of cultural imperialism making profit at the expense of lost and forgotten voices outside of the western world. Its political value becoming masked by Herbert’s musical ego that serves to dismantle the sound beyond recognition to display his prowess at sonic manipulation. However, this is undue criticism, as the album has prompted important discussion, it does force us to confront and remember the violent atrocities that occurred in Libya, and indeed in other nations suffering from similar conflicts.

 

End of Silence highlights the potential for electronic artists to utilise sampling to create a form of protest music that takes real sound bites of actual events as its subject, forcing us to confront surrounding issues through sonic excavation of the sample. With Herbert’s album, the instrumental, abstract nature of the music may be ambiguous in suggesting how listeners should respond to the political message, but through this ambiguity, more

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Regarding the Pain of OthersSusan Sontag (2003)

questions can be asked, our ways of listening and seeing the world can be challenged as opposed to reading off an already-written script. Susan Sontag once wrote, ‘photographs are not much help if the task is to understand. Narratives can make us understand, photographs do something else – they haunt us’. In a similar sense, Herbert’s use of sampling in End of Silence functions in a similar manner as to how Sontag perceives photographs work in representing pain and tragedy. We are not told how to feel, yet we are forced to confront this sonic representation of violence in a way that encourages greater introspection alongside attempts to make sense of it in regards to the music’s outward reality. Through its abstract form, we can explore the subtle nuances of meaning and emotion that lie beneath the ability of language to symbolise or express, not working towards an explanation, but instead haunting us.

 

 

What is so fascinating about this piece is how Herbert uses recorded sound to construct a complex rhetoric through exploring that sample. It serves as a unique voice in the representation of modern conflict, and in many respects, the album has managed to capture a representation of a specific historical event that otherwise may have been forgotten. As a sonic artifact, it holds significant political weight in itself. But through Herbert’s manipulation of the sample we are asked, as listeners, to interpret that sound in a self-reflective manner that is eternally present, and not just as an objective historical incident. That is the beauty of sound recording and of creating sample-based music; as each time we listen, it echoes (but is not limited to) the past, whilst also asking us to re-evaluate the meaning of that sound through its present contextual frame, and to interpret its relationship to our own experiences.

 

You can read Noise: the Political Economy of Music in full, here.

“Only we can tell our stories”: a review of “The Square” and “Winter on Fire”

When the Egyptian revolution occurred in 2011 and the 2013-2014 Euromaidan protests followed in Ukraine, unless you were on the ground experiencing the catastrophic political turmoil, it was difficult to begin to comprehend the true sequence of events or how the people were responding to them.

Luckily, there is film, and people use film to make documentaries, to tell these stories. Sometimes, they are brave and take their cameras into war zones because they actually care about showing other people what is happening in their country. The filmmakers of  both“The Square” and “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom,” assumed that bravery to chronicle the events surrounding both revolutions.

The cultural differences between the two countries are stark, it’s true, but the common element within both of these films is that they show people of all ages taking refuge in a central gathering place, a square that already holds cultural and historic significance. They claim it as their own, camping there for months in spite of the barrage of militancy exercised against their calls for accountability and independence from the government.

In 2011, around the time that the Arab Spring was taking place, I was in Berlin conducting interviews with different people there and in Egypt for an anthropological research paper about Egypt opening its border with Gaza. One of them, Mohamed Shoukry, a real estate agent living in Alexandria at that time, offered incredible insight into the situation depicted in “The Square.”

“A lot of people are in the political sphere who never appeared before the revolution. Their intention is to root out the corruption in Egypt, but this will take some time,” Shoukry said. “Even though now we may have been able to cut off its head, it has strong roots.”

“The Square” starts off with a bang, a gripping sense of immediacy that spares nothing on the imagination of the violence waged against the protesters who called for President Hosni Mubarak and the military to be deposed. We are introduced one by one to the activists playing a central part in speaking out against the oppressive Mubarak regime, a spectrum including reserved British-Egyptian actor and activist Khalid Abdalla and a bright, young idealist named Ahmed Hassan.

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Ahmed Hassan in “The Square.” Photo credit: Netflix/Noujaim Films

 

The footage of Egyptian-American director Jehane Noujaim being chased by the military for documenting the event will render the audience shaken, and as the announcement of Mubarak’s concession is proclaimed, the fear and anxiety felt for the activists melts into joy. But wait…it’s not that far into the film now, right? Exactly. This is what makes “The Square” unpredictable and the emotional energy of its characters captivating.

The motif throughout the film is a vibrant mural depicting the success of the revolution in colors representative of the people’s joy toward Mubarak’s ousting. However, this is when the Shoukry’s insight helped place the revolution in greater perspective. The protesters optimistically  retreated from the square, in pursuit of something resembling a democracy and someone resembling a responsible leader. That optimism is challenged, however, when the military seizes control shortly after the resignation of Mubarak. He was going to stand trial for the murder of peaceful protestors in this time, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. However, his acquittal for this crime caused the protesters to return to “The Square”, and a new chapter in the film chronicles their growing despair.

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Protesters, including a man holding tear gas cannisters, chant slogans and wave national flags during a rally in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Nov. 25, 2011.

 

Magdy, another activist and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, brings an interesting dynamic to “The Square”, particularly when the Islamic group expands political leverage and influence after Mubarak abdicates office. The other activists, who are not particularly religious, are shown in the film as being on fair terms with Magdy. As The Brotherhood assumes growing power, however, and becomes increasingly brutal and militant toward the secular protesters, the relationship between Magdy and the other activists complicates.

The Armed Forces offer to supply The Brotherhood with weapons and political power within the government if they betrayed the revolutionaries. There are other sources, however, specifically one in the Washington Post, that claim The Brotherhood was portrayed inaccurately in the film and their image distorted falsely by the cosmopolitan activists in Tahrir Square.

“Politics is not the same as revolution. If you want to play politics, you have to compromise,” Abdalla says.

At the same time, he points out how The Brotherhood was the only strongly organized group amongst the crowd, and as the enthusiasm died down,  it became evident who the players were: The Brotherhood or the old regime, now fronted by the military.

“It was a war in the square, not a revolution,” declares one of the other activists.

In 2012, when Morsi is “democratically” elected president, the growing agony is chronicled in the mural with a big, blood red line painted over his face. People take to Tahrir Square once again, and the protest exhibits an alarming new energy in communicating their rejection of another violent and oppressive leader.

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Work by graffiti artist Abo Bakr on a street near Tahrir Square in Cairo as seen in Jehane Noujaim’s documentary, “The Square.” Credit: Courtesy of Noujaim Films

At one point in the documentary, he states, “Enough of this. All the politicians are failures.” Walking in the middle of a (surprisingly) empty street in Cairo, he makes a metaphor of himself, declaring “I’ve decided to walk in the middle of the street. The cars can do what they want.” He asserts, “I will stand my ground, enough walking cautiously on the side.”

In contrast to the optimism at the start of the film, it is this point when the growing tide of pessimism returns, with Abdalla stating that the rebels’ mistake was “in leaving the square before the power was in their hands.” The Brotherhood had been working alongside the military regime and took power, which enhanced Magdy’s visible anxiety about which side to invest allegiance in.

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Protests against American support towards the Egyptian military were not included in the scant media coverage  of the Tahrir Square uprisings. Credit: presstv.ir

When Morsi is ousted and sentenced to death, a sense of joy waves over the activists. Hassan, our charismatic guide, is revived from his dip into disillusionment at the news of the Muslim Brotherhood’s power play.

Hassan even calls up Magdy and speaks to him in a kind, jocular tone, showing that he did not want their relationship to be punctuated with the tension that had imploded between them when The Brotherhood had seized power.

The tone of the documentary, however, portends the uncertainty and volatile spirit of the events that have continuously been influencing the energy of the people. At the end, the film returns to Abdalla, whose serious, pensive demeanor stands out against Hassan’s fierce optimism.

“When you don’t have your rights, when you’re taken to the front, when you’ve been lied to, when you’re killed, things become pretty clear,” Abdalla conveys in a direct, sober manner.

Although, in the light of the context of Morsi’s ousting, this statement can be viewed as a victory, there is something about Abdalla that indicates he is not certain that Egypt will not continue to be politically volatile.

Red paint is shown dripping on the Converse of an artist working on the mural, a metaphor for how the young revolutionaries are influenced by secular culture and want to change the social and political mores of the country to align with ideals rejected as Western.

However, as returning to the mural throughout the film reminds us, there will be constant changes in the story of one of the greatest revolutions in the history of the world. With the Egyptian military in power, the story of whether or not the people remain as optimistic as they are portrayed at the end of the film remains fairly obscured at the moment.

 

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Anti-government protests in Kiev January 25, 2014. After two months of primarily peaceful anti-government protests in the city center, new laws meant to end the protest movement sparked violent clashes. Deadly violence erupted on both sides. © Maxim Dondyuk

 

“Winter on Fire” chronicled the November 2013-March 2014 protest that occurred in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev after then-President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an association agreement deal with the European Union, ultimately moving the country further into Russia’s circle of influence.

The documentary, directed by Russian filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky, also places one in the middle of the action right away, showing how thousands of people who believed in Ukraine as a European nation took to Maidan (Independence) Square, a beautiful nexus in a capital symbolic of the ancient world (aligned by a medieval gate and an opulent cathedral) clashing with the modern, as fast food restaurants and hotels have popped up nearby.

It is once again the perfect place, as Tahrir was to Cairo, to symbolize the change that the people were waiting and looking for. After centuries of being tied to Russia under the Kievan Rus empire and beyond, they were hoping to become a modern, politically stable country.

The documentary is ultimately, I think, a bit more detached from the participants than “The Square” is. It feels more restrained and not so involved in their lives from the start, as you are not invited to know an integral set of activists. Here, the stories are magnified in-depth little-by-little as the film goes on.

That being said, the film, recorded by Ukrainian protesters, is a powerful testament to the joy and movement that was summoned forth when these events occurred and the people came together. Having travelled in Ukraine and other former Soviet countries, one of the most distinct characteristics of the people was their melancholy demeanour. Years of starvation, suppression, economic peril and corrupt governments leave the region besieged by continually grey skies and an underlying lack of hope. That suffering is and will continue to be prevalent radiates and looms outward amongst the thin, cobbled corridors of their broken cities.

The wonderful part of this film is that as the momentum gains, the people realize that this could be the opportunity they have waited and secretly hoped so long for and the hope begins to appear in their eyes. People of all ages gathered at Independence Square, a majority of them dressed mostly in black parkas but with a few colourful grandmas, speaking different languages. Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, the non-religious: they were all there.

There was another group the film did not cover: those people who internalized nationalism the most. After speaking to a friend of mine who had insider knowledge of the Maidan protests, I learned that nearly all the fighters on the “front line” were members of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi and right-wing parties. The movie, he said, left this fact out: that while the crowd was mainly a composition of people fighting for universal equality, there were also seedier elements that existed. These groups are, in a way, to the Maidan what the Brotherhood was to Tahrir.

It was, at its core, a peaceful protest, a loud call of disagreement with the government for giving up their chance to break away from the fringe status they maintained between Europe and Russia. There is a saying in Europe that I heard frequently: Poland is 10 years (development-wise) behind Germany, and Ukraine is 10 years behind Poland. This agreement would finally have kick-started Ukraine’s course into the European trajectory.

With snow falling on Independence Square, the atmosphere grows explosive as some protesters begin behaving violently. One of the peaceful activists opines that the Ukrainian riot police force (known as the Berkut) has planted people within the crowd in order to bring forth a reason for them to attack.

The cellos and violins that frame the events appropriately capture the restless melancholy throughout the film. The snow falls harder on the ancient square. The sparrows linger on the bare tree branches. An impending sense of doom lurks throughout the crowd, and an ancient church bell that had not been rung since the Mongol Tartar invasion in the 1240s grips everyone in its timbre.

Sure enough, the Berkut storms onto the square, descending like a swarm of locusts. Armed with iron rods, they attack, beating people viciously on the ground. A woman is shown leaning back against the tree. The blood stains on her face against the white wool hat she is wearing stand out as a pronounced metaphor, a taint against the purity of her idealistic behavior.

“Who gave birth to you, a mother or a wolf?,” one of the protesters asks, referring to the relentless brutality displayed by the Berkut.

There is, however, a discrepancy between how much blame the film levies on Yanukovych as the sole perpetrator and other factions of persecution taking place that were not mentioned.

“They paint Yanukovych as this blood-sucking demon of pure evil, but they miss the people who actually orchestrated a lot of the violence, like the people directly in charge of the Berkut police,” says Anton Guz, a graduate student pursuing a degree in peacebuilding and conflict transformation at SIT Graduate Institute in Vermont.

As the film goes on and the winter moves further along, the steam continues rising up from the make-shift kitchens and fires that the protesters have started in order to keep what has now become somewhat of an island alive. The supplies that became the fuel for the Maidan island were not revealed in the film. Specifically, volunteer drivers were bringing in medical supplies to the fighters and taking people to the hospital, as the roads to Kiev were blocked. There was a mass outcry of support for the protesters in Maidan, one of which, called AutoMaidan, was based in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, a hub for nationalistic Ukrainian support.

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Morning on Hrushevskoho street after the night of flaming tires and Molotov cocktails. Protesters again constructed barricades and prepared Molotov cocktails before a night battle between protesters and police, which already had become a usual thing. Kiev, January 25, 2014 © Maxim Dondyuk

The support and supplies brought in from various parts of the country fueled the ongoing struggle against the winter and the cold history that Ukraine did not want to continue to freeze itself into.

My favourite moments in the film, showing the peoples’ sense of humour and heart in the midst of a dim situation, were their responses to various bans placed on them by Yanukovych, one of which was ‘no helmets.’  They answered by putting on pots, pans, flippers, masks of all shapes and colours. It was quite unusual to see little babushkas roaming around this dystopian war zone with pots on their head, and the film juxtaposes this all-too-real-its-surreal element quite strongly throughout.

Guz was born in Ukraine and is quick to point out some aspects of the film that he found problematic, specifically Ukraine’s all-too-relevant relationship with Russia.

“I think that’s a nuance that’s dangerous to forget, since the master manipulators in this situation live in Moscow, not Kiev. But also, surely it’s important to actually name the culprits behind the violence, right?,” Guz said. “Where are they in the movie?”

The film shows the people walking over snow-covered pictures of Yanukovych as they enter a cathedral, where bodies of the dead are being carried. A slow, solemn heavy chant rises from the crowd paying final respects to friends and family members who have died.

In order to understand this scene and the context of the movie, it is important to keep in mind that Yanukovych was a tyrannical, greedy ruler, and one that was under orders from Russian president Vladimir Putin to not allow Ukraine to strengthen relations with Europe. However, he used his relationship with Putin as leverage, deceiving Putin into thinking that he had control of Ukraine and its affairs while subsequently working behind the scenes to strengthen relations with the EU.

The Yanukovych-Putin relationship is 150% a crucial element of the politics framing the backstory behind the revolts, as is the massive history of oppression and tyranny that Ukraine has endured at the feet of Russia. It is no question that anyone who is interested in global affairs and who wants to learn about the Maidan events in 2014 will walk away from the film with a greater understanding of what it means to be a country caught between two significant powers, but nevertheless, they would have benefited even further had more context been provided.

“The movie could have empowered people who saw it to go out and convince everyone that Ukrainians beat incredible odds, showed amazing bravery and resilience, and transformed their own society in the space of a few months,” Guz said. “The movie could have showed that while people are arguing whether the EU is worthwhile because of minor economic quibbles, people in Ukraine laid down their lives for the mere chance to join it. It could have enlightened people in western and central Europe to the crazy shit that threatens them and people like them only a few hours away from where they live.”

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Markiyan Matsekh plays the piano for riot police in Kiev, 7 December 2013. (c) Andrew Meakovsky, Oleg Matsekh and Marikiyan Matsekh

 

As a girl in the middle of the square plays a piano painted the colours of Ukrainian flag and snow continues to fall on the ashes of the Euromaidan, the documentary resides to ending the story on a tidy note. The ending summary does mention Yanukovych’s flight to Russia, the subsequent annexation of the Crimea by Putin and the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine, but it doesn’t touch over the chaos and bickering that is continues to take place within the new Ukrainian government.

Both documentaries are raw and incredibly well-filmed. While “Winter on Fire” ultimately opts for a slightly cinematic feel with the way it is tidied up at the end, “The Square” leaves things just as raw and un-ended as at the beginning of the film. Both, however, serve as hallmarks of courage and bravery to share with the world how hard people around the world are fighting for their freedom.

 

Check out LensCulture for more photos of the Ukrainian revolution and Egyptian revolt.

Canadian band Autopilot takes their ambient rock to the road

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“Searching for what we hope to find. We’re just crooked lines,” sings Canadian band Autopilot on their latest release, Hurricane.

Based in Saskatoon, Saskachewan, the band, composed of guitarist and singer Marlon Harder, bassist Colton Fehr and drummer Jose A. Fuenzalida, are about to wrap up an extensive North American tour that has taken them all the way from Baltimore to Los Angeles. For Autopilot, being on tour can be strenuous but also rewarding, as Harder points out.

“The whole thing is that you get up and you have to make long drives all the time. When you tour Canada, nothing’s close for the most part,” Harder says. “Even in the States, we’re only getting maybe three to five hours of driving but we’ll be on an eight-hour day in the van and that gets really tiring real quick.”

Harder is quick to point out, however, that touring is one of the most worthwhile experiences a band can have, saying that it’s the best feeling ever when you play a show and get to meet different bands in addition to new people.

It seems the idea of the road or escape is one of the motifs that the band is becoming known for, as the cover for their previous album ‘Desert Dreams’ features a bus on a lone road in the middle of nowhere.

Being on tour gives the band time to escape the cold climate of Saskatoon, which Harder points out is actually conducive to perfecting their craft.

“The climate we come from is pretty cold, so we spend more time playing because there’s not a whole lot to do when it’s minus-40 outside. So you spend more time writing and recording and rehearsing, trying to progress a little on what we’re doing,” Harder says.

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The band’s sound has progressed extensively, from being aggressive, initially, and reminiscent of emo, to become ambient and melancholy.

As of late,  the band has been utilizing a new technique for distortions – a bow on the guitar..

“To progress our sound more, we came up with new sounds on guitar and new effects,” Harder says. “The two songs that came out were kind of close, kind of styled together, but we have quite a bit of other songs we’re working on and I think there’s a whole new sound. We’re still called Autopilot, but it sounds a bit different from other stuff we’ve done.”

Their tour concluded on November 26th in Saskatoon, and afterwards, the band has plans to sit down in the bitter cold and release their latest album, which they are currently writing on the road.

“As soon as we get back, we’ll be doing vocals for December and possibly part of January. Then, we’ll be planning the next two tours and the exact release date of the album,” Harder says. “It’s all I do all day, just focus on this. It’s a lot of fun. It’s better than going to a shitty day job.”

Listen here:

Cypherpunk Hammy Havoc’s take on privacy, open-source society, and true self-sustenance

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Hammy Havoc is a multi-faceted cypherpunk writer based in Liverpool, United Kingdom. We had to have him tell us more about how he – and others – can practice what he preaches; cypherpunks are advocates for social and political change via strong cryptography and privacy-enhancing technologies. Cypherpunk principles tie in directly to his workflows as CEO of Split An Atom and Previous Magazine, Co-Founder of Voidance Records, and producer as The Orion Correlation (he makes all of the stems for his music available to download for free so that anybody can remix it as they see fit – soon, he’ll be open sourcing the project files themselves).

No doubt, he has cultivated a self-made, open-source approach, which extends to his conceptions of the social contract and citizens’ rights to privacy. With the recent passage of the Investigatory Powers Bill in the UK and consideration of Rule 41 in the US, these ideas hold particular import. In the US, January marks a shift from the current, subtly enforced police surveillance state, to an administration driven by archaic allegiance to “law and order” and fascist groupthink actively working to normalize suspecting and violating the rights and security of the “other” for sake of said order. At the end of the day, Hammy shares, the implications we have to consider as our lives and livelihoods are increasingly integrated to the use of technology and access the Internet are always personal, public, and political.

When did these issues of privacy and security become personal for you?

When I first started being censored in countries I had never even visited– then countries I had, followed by the UK, where I currently live. Writing and talking about concepts that scare governments like real freedom of press and speech, with permanence of information through decentralization, are things that individuals and organizations with a specific agenda would like to kill.

Share with us how your understanding of these concepts manifest politically. Did the politics of security and privacy pique your interest initially?

I’m fortunate enough to have been using computers since I was two years old when my parents put me in a computer class in New Brighton; I’ve been online since I was four years old. I’ve seen a lot of things change with the internet over the years, some for better, some for worse. I was abused as a child at my first school, since then I’ve had a very keen sense of whether or not something made me feel uncomfortable, and some of the changes with technology have made me feel very uncomfortable.

In Germany, there are already banks who will not give you a mortgage if you aren’t on Facebook; they want to research the financial background of people you know as well as yourself, and this is used in their decision. That’s an abuse of information and privacy right there. This is just the start of a scary spiral.

On censorship and control:

Facebook began censoring me a few months ago when I started showing people the ways in which they were under surveillance; they actually suspended my account until I went to the press after Fortune Magazine, The Sun and The Huffington Post picked up on one of my opinions. Very recently, Twitter has started to censor me as well, just for recommending software and hardware that respect privacy and freedom.

There are more security cameras in Britain than anywhere else in the world, yet the places that actually need them, like schools and university campuses, either don’t have them or don’t have enough of them to catch thieves, rapists and other unpleasant individuals. Ironically, rights being taken from us and privacy being invaded is supposed to protect us from these problems, but the data being gathered isn’t being used effectively by the people who gather it. Recently, an activist called Deric Lostutter hacked his university website to gather incriminating evidence on two rapists, and has been getting some media attention—he is facing sixteen years in prison for hacking, whereas the two rapists are walking away with no punishment. Lostutter shouldn’t have been forced to hack their website, the university should have had been able to provide the evidence themselves as it was their own system. This is the society we are living in; where hackers are treated as being more dangerous than murderers, rapists, and pedophiles because they have the capacity to change society, as well as the world.

Would you be okay with a country where your son or daughter could be facing a decade in prison for something as simple as copyright infringement, probably even inadvertently through YouTube, or sending their friend a song or film? That could be the reality you’re about to be living in with the Digital Economy Bill.

What does a more digitally free/open-source society look like? Any artistic or literary references come to mind?

Decentralizing all infrastructure.

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Hammy Havoc recommends The Minority Report if you’re trying to envision the nightmare of a society that searches for patterns in your data to draw a conclusion of your intent. The short story was originally published here in Fantastic Universe in 1956. Source: Wikipedia.

In terms of likening it to literature, you can have a mixture of George Orwell’s 1984 and The Minority Report with pre-crime, or you can choose to attempt to make the future more akin to Libertatia at a minimum. If people want to understand what’s happening right now, then look to the documentary We Live in Public, about a project taking on surveillance through art in 1999. Liken the commune to Facebook, and you’re most of the way there with the analogy.

These tools protect whistleblowers. You may have nothing that you ever need to hide from the government, the police, your employer, or even your spouse, but certain algorithmic correlations can be made with this data. If there’s a murder with garden shears and you unfortunately bought a pair just before it was committed, then you’re on the suspect list, and you could quite likely be falsely accused and fitted up with the crime by correlating other data gathered on you because statistics now matter more than truth and justice.

“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say,” is a currently infamous quote by Edward Snowden that perfectly summarizes society’s general attitude towards privacy. In my opinion, Snowden deserves a presidential pardon, without a shadow of a doubt—as do several others.

Ironically, rights being taken from us and privacy being invaded is supposed to protect us from these problems, but the data being gathered isn’t being used effectively by the people who gather it.

In another direction, I’ve been hearing and reading more about open source coding projects that have an element of civic engagement – crowdsourcing (usually locally) the capacity to make government information / public data more accessible via a mobile application. What are your thoughts on the viability of those efforts and the connection between participation, transparency, and access to information?

Wikipedia works phenomenally well as a crowdsourced encyclopedia. Imagine if that became decentralized; the necessary donations to operate would be far less, and Wikipedia could have guaranteed permanence within society.

Open-source works, there’s no denying it now. The Recount Magazine website runs on an open-source content management system; as do the majority of sites I have anything to do with.

Any improvements I make to the source code of a piece of software, I can then submit for inclusion in the repository of the project for others to benefit from, and vice versa. This is what the likes of Jeremy Corbyn are getting at when he says that the government would open-source any software or hardware that they create using taxpayer money.

If a government is truly for the people, and by the people, then transparency is an absolute necessity, but the British and American government give with one hand, and take with another. The Investigatory Powers Bill (“Snoopers’ Charter”) and GCHQ’s DNS firewall are to supposedly protect the public, yet I feel that if these things are allowed to happen then more harm will happen because of it. The government can attempt to stop would-be terrorists from communicating online, but the reality is that any radical with a few brain cells to rub together probably discusses plans in-person to avoid the surveillance that has already been happening for years on end through PRISM, and even old-school wiretapping.

I believe that if the UK didn’t interfere in countries and with cultures they don’t understand then we wouldn’t have this apparent terrorism threat. There’s always money for bombs and bullets for the British government to meddle elsewhere, but there’s never enough money to get people off the streets in Britain, provide an education system that competes with Africa, China, and other previous third world countries, or to make sure that our disabled populace isn’t forced into suicide from having their benefits taken from them.

As always, it is the majority who pays the price for the actions of the few. The actions of my country’s government do not reflect my wishes, or the wishes of a lot of people here.

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To other artists interested in utilizing copyleft to distribute their music out there…

Do you, as a creator who spends a significant amount of time and money, wish to be compensated? Can you pay your bills without guaranteed compensation? These are questions that everybody considering copyleft needs to chew over.

Merchandise and partnerships with brands are ultimately the way to make a music career viable in this day and age, and the same applies to any creators considering copyleft.

Streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music are highly toxic, in my opinion, especially when exclusivity creeps into the equation. I feel it is better to give away your music and starve the parasites and middlemen of the industry than to accept $50 per million plays, because realistically speaking, the average artist is going to struggle to even reach $50 let alone break even on a record or pay their bills with streaming alone.

Sometimes it is worth trading convenience and off-the-shelf readiness for the sake of actually having control of your computer. Prevention is better than cure.

The cypherpunk movement has been in existence since the 1980s, for nearly 40 years – who and what from the movement has inspired your advocacy along the way?

Observing the many ingenious ways that individuals and groups have managed to subvert control over the years is something that has, and will always fascinate me. Whether it’s a simple tool, a new method of encryption, or long-range radio, there’s no stopping the movement now.

Richard Stallman is a great inspiration to my advocacy, sacrificing convenience for freedom without compromise. If my career didn’t depend on certain aspects of the internet and computers, then I would be able to commit as strongly as he has. I always choose libre software whenever possible, and if I can’t find a libre tool then I’ll use an open-source one, develop one myself, or ask a commercial company if I can audit their source.

Almost everybody that I encounter ends up changing their workflows after I point out the problems and potential issues. Some even become privacy advocates themselves, such as my girlfriend, Mary Ann Mahoney; she uses an entirely open-source writing workflow that respects her privacy. The fellow co-founder of Voidance Records, Lost & Found, has even begun to replace his workflow with both libre and open-source solutions to match my own. Sometimes it is worth trading convenience and off-the-shelf readiness for the sake of actually having control of your computer. Prevention is better than cure.

What would facilitate people being able to take their privacy and security into consideration in their daily lives? What is the standard for that or some first steps to making it personal, actionable, integrated at home? 

If the general public does not utilize these technologies for protecting their privacy, then the technologies, the ability to opt-out, and their privacy and rights will be taken from them. As criminals and terrorist factions begin to gravitate towards these tools, the negative connotations surrounding a particular protocol or piece of software begins. You only need look at the stigma of BitTorrent and any P2P application to this day to understand this. Even now, we are seeing this with the criminalization of Tor.

The media is associating Bitcoin with Silk Road and other drug marketplaces that have replaced it, but the reality is that Bitcoin is more than just capitalism with a digital currency; it doesn’t matter what you’re buying as long as you’re using it and recommending it. Decentralizing currency is a big deal because it disrupts the status quo of financial centralization with banks, mints et cetera.

What does that look like?

Ditch the modem your Internet service provider (ISP) gave you when you signed up, as it is probably backdoored, and easily hacked by script kiddies— get a high-end one that you can change the firmware on; if you don’t have root then you don’t have control. Build yourself a pfSense or OPNsense firewall/router or buy one that’s already made. Aside from security, you’ll also have a far faster internet connection as a result.

Stop centralizing your information on third party servers like Dropbox and Google Drive. Buy an off-the-shelf solution or a Raspberry Pi to install Nextcloud. That is the absolute bare minimum of convenience and security that the majority of technophobes can manage. This way, if you are ever compromised or hacked, then stopping a transfer of data is as simple as pulling the plug, and physically destroying the data is possible. If you are a whistleblower, then use an air gapped computer alongside Tails. Off-the-shelf solutions like SilentKeys are a great option for this. Make sure that the journalists you leak to are using a system such as SecureDrop, which we’re now adopting at Previous Magazine, meaning that our sources can remain anonymous.

Don’t use fingerprint, eye, or facial recognition to unlock your devices as you can be physically forced into unlocking them by police. Use passwords, and encrypt your devices.

If a business you buy from accepts Bitcoin, try to use it whenever possible. Encourage businesses to accept Bitcoin, or if you run a business, start accepting Bitcoin. Bitcoin may not end up being the answer to financial anonymity and money as a concept, but it needs to be used to gain further acceptance. If small mom-and-pop businesses and giants like Microsoft can accept Bitcoin, then you have no excuse for not offering it as a payment method. My record label, Voidance Records, accepts Bitcoin as a payment method. We even accept it as a payment method at Split An Atom, my integrated marketing agency.

So, as a business person – an entrepreneur and CEO – and anti-surveillance capitalism. Make the business case for companies utilizing PETs.

As a CEO I’ve been recommended to track users in specific ways using specific tools and sell the data to specific organizations to build a larger profile on people, but I have always chosen to respect our customers, and I encourage clients of ours to do the same when we are building solutions for them. If you wouldn’t be okay with it being done to you, then don’t do it to others.

Likewise, security is ever-important; if people are entrusting their privacy to you, then you need to take that responsibility very seriously. When a business doesn’t take the steps required to protect the information of their customers, then they usually lose their trust forever. I’ve had countless emails from companies telling me they’ve been compromised and that I need to change my password on any site that I’ve used the same password on.

Dropbox was hacked in 2012 and they’re still feeling the hurt from that. In September of this year, they reset the password of everybody who hadn’t changed it since then as they discovered their passwords were compromised after the hack all those years ago. I’m currently helping clients to transition away from Dropbox and centralized storage solutions like that. I’m CTO (Chief Technology Officer) as well at Integrated Movements Arts, a London-based personal training and online fitness company. We treat user data with utmost respect as we are dealing with health data, and very sensitive information regarding their bodies. Everything is encrypted to a military grade; we have state of the art security for the confidential information of our users, and this gives us a big edge on any of our competition.

There is a lot of money to be made selling information, but users would rather pay for privacy and an ad-free experience, as is being proven time and time again. Look at Hulu: no free, ad-supported plan anymore.

Remember, if something costs nothing then you are usually the product and your information being mined. If you want to keep secrets then make no digital record of them, and try to keep them in your head.

 

 

They say knowledge is power.. keep up with Hammy Havoc via Soundcloud, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook.

Check out his 2016 EP release here:

Humanity amongst the ruins of constant conflict: Q&A with photojournalist Eduardo Martins

Eduardo Martins is a documentary photographer from Sao Paolo, Brazil and humanitarian at the UN Refugee Agency. You may have seen his work in Vice, Le Point, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde and The Telegraph. Captivated by the depth of his work, he shared what the work conveys about Martins’ perspective and experiences in the field.

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Palestinian masked after clash against Israeli forces, near the border in east Gaza.
It seems like you’ve been privy to some pretty frightening situations. How do you balance your role as an objective observer/photojournalist and wanting to help the people you are photographing?

During my work, there are many moments in which I spend time beyond the camera and end up getting involved with the people I’m photographing. Once in Iraq shooting a conflict, I stopped shooting to help a boy who was hit by a molotov, dropped the camera and helped get him out of the conflict area. In scenes like this, which are common in my work, I stop being a photographer and become a human being. I can not be impartial in these moments.

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Palestinian in his car in the ruins of Beit Lahiya, north of Gaza Strip.
There’s a strong sense of humanity in your photos. I think particularly of the photo in Gaza with the man in the damaged Audi and also of the barely-visible eyes of one of your female fighters. Do you talk to people before you take their photos or do you prefer to be candid with your photography? Why?

I always try to talk to people, to be able to shoot properly. Sometimes, in certain types of situations, I have to act immediately, so we can not have this kind of communication. But when I can talk and try to know the story of each one, it changes my perception of how I set the scene and shoot.

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Funeral ceremony of a Palestinian child, victim of Israeli Airstrike.
Which area out of all that you’ve photographed did you find most difficult to be in and why?

The most difficult and dangerous place that I’ve photographed was Syria, because it is a place that is constantly in this very serious civil war. It is very hard to work there; the risk of life is imminent. Once, in a conflict between the Free Syrian Army and the opposition forces of the Bashar government, I took a glancing shot. I believe, without a shadow of doubt, the most dangerous place to be right now is Syria.

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Ruins from the city of Aleppo, Syria.
What initially inspired you to take up photography?

I always liked to photograph, then I had a serious illness, so I was unable to work for years. When I was healed, I decided to invest in my humanitarian and photographer side and moved to Paris and started working in the NGO Children’s Safe Drinking Water. From that moment on, I started to travel to places with social problems where I started shooting this reality. I joined the humanitarian work with photography, which ended up working very well.

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Free Syrian Army member with anti-aircraft weapon on the front line in Azaz, Syria.
What is your favourite photo you’ve ever taken? Why is that?

It is difficult to highlight a favorite picture. I have several, but they are the ones that took the most out of me while shooting. Not only the final result, but what I went through to be able to transform the scene into a photograph that conveys something to the viewer. I like a lot of my work in the Gaza Strip, have a great identification with the Palestinian people, and because of that I do my best to do a good job.

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In the month of Ramadan, a Palestinian reads the Quran in the Omari Mosque, in the center of Gaza City.
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Palestinian boy screaming after the clash against Israeli forces, east Gaza.
What is your definition of what constitutes a good photo?

What makes a good photo to me is the power it has to touch the viewer, I believe it’s crucial to bring the feeling in photography, and I try to portray faithfully to the public what I see and feel by clicking a situation.

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The streets of a city in ruins, Aleppo, Syria.
What are your thoughts on photoshop and editing programs that so many photographers currently use? Do you think that these programs contradict the purpose and mission of photojournalism?

I think that nowadays the photographer has many tools at his disposition to help in their work. I personally do not use any program like photoshop; I believe that a good real photographer does not need to edit the image, he does a good job even without these tools. I respect those who use the program, but I don’t see it as part of the development of my job.

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Iraqi refugee boy refreshing with a tank of water, helped by Iraqi Forces.
What made you become involved in the UN Agency Refugee program and why?

At CSDW, we worked at the UN refugee camps most of the time. I worked a lot in the Middle East and met many people who were part of the UN, which turned out to be very positive to open doors and start working with the UN. This year I was invited to work as a humanitarian in the agency. It was a great honor and I immediately accepted their invitation.

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Iraqi refugee in Dohuk refugee camp, Iraq.
What is your mission when you travel to a new place to photograph? What are you searching for or hoping to document when beginning new projects?

I will always photograph places with social problems; I always look for this type of subject. I want to show the public the reality of these places, telling the story through my work, something that can impact and bring a willingness to change to the next. My favorite subjects are definitely conflicts and social problems around the world, so when I have an assignment I always look for places facing these humanitarian issues. My favorite places are in the Middle East and Africa.

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Yazidi refugees in Dohuk refugee camp, Iraq.
If you were to have a personal motto, what would you say it would be and why?

My motto is always where there is chaos there is also beauty, which is what I try to show in my work and in places that have such a difficult reality to be faced. I try to show the good side of each place, people, and situation. Basically, my motto is to awaken compassion within the viewer, touch the heart of each one deeply so that they are moved to make a difference in the places they live through charity and compassion to the next.

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Palestinian children in a car destroyed in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip.
Which photographs(s) of yours has/have generated the most reaction from the public and/or the journalism community?

My work in Syria and Iraq have more prominence in the journalistic media, after all it is more photojournalistic than documentary. But the general public appreciates a lot of my work in Gaza because of the human side that I picture. Finally, I just hope all my work can touch every person in a way, whichever that is.

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Palestinian children selling balloons in the streets of Gaza City.

Follow Eduardo Martins on Instagram to keep up with his captures and travels.

 

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Syrian man who had his leg amputated up the stairs of his home in Aleppo.

Sign up for updates on refugee issues, displaced peoples, and the efforts to help them from the UN Refugee Agency.

 

 

This written Q&A was edited.

Mischievous Minds: A Short Tale

Six hands, six empty pockets.
Two mischievous minds planning to shoplift.
One opposing mind, supposedly mine
yet somehow I find myself fascinated with an object, obviously planning to “cop” it.
I have to stop this;
How can I be considered a leader if I allow others that are rebellious towards authority and immune to rules…
To target me as an object of ridicule & pressure me into assuming a new identity;
It all began when they were able to convince me to skip school.
Apparently, my standards had been set too high. According to my new acquaintances, it was fictitious of me to place myself on such a big pedestal.
—————-{Scene One}—————–
We individually make our entrance to discover that the store is empty yet stocked full of goods.
Snagging an item or so is simple, anything more is intense, yet at the same time, “more is plenty” therefor my jacket & pockets are now full of goods.
I turn the corner and come in contact with a co-worker that from the point on begins following me.
That was a new encounter because throughout my life I had become accustomed to authority hallowing me.
I had yet to know what it felt like to be perceived as just another lost delinquent; With that being said, I was oblivious of the fact that my environment was gradually swallowing me.
I noticed that the co-worker was constantly glancing in my direction, so to diminish the tension, I try to smile.
It wasn’t genuine but I felt like it was an alleviating gesture and maybe it would prevent them from following me to the electronic aisle.
I examine every object that catches my eye until I spot a pair of mesmerizing headphones.
Immediately my thoughts were “…where can I stash it?…my pockets are packed & there’s little to no room in my jacket…” However, there is plenty of room in my casket because in my heart I knew that what I was doing was dead wrong.
—————-{Cut Scene}——————
Six hands, six empty pockets.
Two mischievous minds selling stolen products.
One opposing mind, supposedly mine
but somehow I find myself exchanging an object, obviously planning to make a profit.
I have to stop this:
Placing myself in these predicaments despite knowing the likelihood of falling under the influence of these risky hooligans;
Usually, my decision making derives from good judgement, but that is clearly not the case now, because I have been persuaded to skip school again.
This shift from my former demeanor to my newly adopted ways and tendencies
has transpired due to my alliance with individuals as endangering as enemies.
—————–{Scene Two}—————-
We are inside the convenient store holding a conversation, attempting to resolve our conflict
I was experiencing a great difficulty coping with my paranoid state of mind; the last thing I wanted was to get caught and be labeled as a convict
So I voiced my concern by saying “Im not in fear of getting caught but there is no way we are pulling this one off… it is way too ‘hot’ in here”
Meanwhile, during our dispute, a man approaches us. He then pulls me aside and says “young man your coat looks kind of stuffed, what kind of stuff you got in there?”
“…You have circled around the store several times now; you want to tell me what it is that you are really up to?”
“…I could detect the mischief on your amigos from a mile away, but you…”
“You carry a righteous aura; I sense your brightness. I get the vibe that you are unique, so I suggest you keep away from this crowd or you will end up getting yourself into a wreck [crash]”
“…I have seen their kind before, overtime they become cut throat [slash], so I suggest you tuck your neck [& do it fast…]” Protect yourself, have more respect for yourself because I am certain that if it ever came to life or death circumstances your so called ‘homies’ would cut your neck [in a flash]”
The mans perspective was food for thought; it actually made me stop myself & ask: if these “allies” of mine had my best interest at heart?…& how long could I expect this unorthodox act of mine to last?
Truth is, if I continue walking this path, I will be sacrificing a bright future that is bound to turn into a dark past…
But at the same time, who is to say that I will ever fulfill my potential? I mean, its not like anyone else can fulfill it for me.
Although, I have may have taken a wrong turn in this journey of mine; it has made me more aware of my reality, in which I would go into further depth but that topic is another story.
—————–{Cut Scene}—————–

Guardians of Our Garden

Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
Seeds were planted in the past, time passed & those seeds grew.
They blossomed & became beautiful; They are symbolic & although the plants can be physically taken out the earth, they remain unmovable. 


August 11th 2015 – the birth of a garden.
The first of much to come. 
We will watch as these things take place.
Each day, from the moment the sunrises to the moment the skies darken.
We shall rest, during the evening, in a state of peace knowing that our garden is safe.