Sleepless in Chicago

I wish I was a heavy sleeper,
not so easily stirred by
pigeons at my window or
ravens at my heart.

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#ShutDownChi

This is a “found poem,” composed of words and phrases seen on signs at various actions in Chicago on April 1, 2016 as part of a one-day Chicago Teachers Union strike.

Mr. Rahm the Rat Mayor,
Mr. Burns/Rauner Governor,

Go furlough yourselves!
Why do you want children to suffer?
You can’t put students first when you put teachers last.
Teachers make all other professions possible.

We pay our taxes, you pay for schools!
Fund schools not prisons.
Fund mental health not corporate wealth.
Fund black futures.

Tax the rich.
Stop the cuts.
Stop deportations.
Stop cheating our children.

Dumbledore would never let this happen!

We’re no fools. You’re the ones killing our schools!
Broke on purpose.

Class wars.
The unions strike back!
The force is strong in CTU.
¡El pueblo unído jamás será vencido!

We demand:
Fair contract now!
Equitable funding for ALL schools!
Elected school board now!

Sincerely,
Chicago

P.S.
Sorry for the inconvenience–we are trying to save the world.

 

OXI Means NO

55% youth unemployment
45% of retirees living below poverty line
35% rise in suicides
$2.5 billion in profit made by the IMF on loans to Greece

But the thirst of a leech is unquenchable.

The other day, I broke down sobbing as I was heading into work. Scanning my Twitter feed for updates on Greece as I do on the CTA every morning lately, I looked out the window and saw a man on the sidewalk of Chicago literally on his knees begging for help. As I got off the bus, I stumbled down the street until I found a place where I could curl up into the fetal position and weep.

Why do we allow ourselves to be ruled by leeches?

Later that week, negotiations broke down between the Greek government and its troika of “lenders”. After five months of negotiations with the newly elected Greek government, the troika refused to budge, insisting that Greece sign a new memorandum that was virtually the same as the last, one that would deepen the austerity measures which have driven the country into a deep depression.

But Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras refuses to sign and instead calls for a national referendum on the leeches!

Cue the most vicious propaganda campaign of fear-mongering and lies to ever hit airwaves. A VOTE FOR “NO” IS A VOTE TO LEAVE EUROPE! SYRIZA WILL TURN US INTO A THIRD WORLD COUNTRY! IT’S EUROZONE OR ZIMBABWE! (Never hurts to fan the flames of racism while you’re at it). Most polls show the “YES” vote with a narrow lead throughout the week. Banks remain closed, with capital controls restricting withdrawals. The media exaggerate lines at ATMs, using footage from other countries and claiming them to be Greece. “NO” rallies get 1 minute of coverage for every 6 minutes given to “YES.” Newscasters break down in tears on television lamenting the fate that awaits their proud country should the people vote “NO.”

July 5, 2015: Shattering all expectations, scoffing in the face of crocodile tears and poisoned lies, 61% of the people vote OXI! No to leeches and fear!

I cried tears of joy that day. I felt in my bones that day the blood of courage and resistance running through me, passed down from pappoudes who fought against the Nazis, who fought with the partisans, who survived the junta, who chased the American dream, who brought me here today.

Tomorrow, the Greek parliament will vote on a preposterous proposal, a financial coup d’etat aimed at stripping the Greeks of everything they have, from property to pride. The fact that Tsipras has even allowed this proposal to be put to a vote is a defeat in itself, one that had the masses of people who voted OXI last week reeling in the confusion and bitterness of betrayal. Even still, they did not miss a beat. Protests in the streets and a 24-hour general strike will take place tomorrow. Against false leaders and leeches alike.

You see, the thirst of a leech is unquenchable, yes. But its intestines are finite. And we have them outnumbered. And the strength of the human spirit cannot be bled dry. And we will not stop until justice is served. And it is not a threat, it is cause-and-effect, when I say (and you repeat): From Chicago to Greece, no justice no peace!

Arts to Oppose NATO

Hi friends! Sorry that I haven’t been writing more frequently. I definitely have a lot to say, especially after attending the amazing People’s Summit at Occupy Chicago this weekend. But my ability to focus and compose my thoughts into words is still lacking. For now, I will let you know about an event I am honored to be performing at this Friday, International Voices for Humanity & the Planet: An Evening of Arts to Oppose NATO. I will be reading my poem “Hear No Evil” in three languages! There will be many other amazing artists there, so if you are in the Chicago area, please come by! And spread the word!