Were I to strip all historical and political qualities to which Thanksgiving necessarily requires attention, I might say that today is a day that begs reflections of gratitude. The story I want to tell is one that has required no new reflection, because it has lingered in my thoughts daily since it happened. Though it is often on my mind, I have not told this story often, only because I know my words cannot do justice to the exemplary acts I wish to relate.
I just heard last night that my dear friend, Joel Olson, died. I’m still very out of sorts with all of this, and I feel much more comfortable writing philosophy and politics than about my personal experiences and feelings. But, reading other people’s stories about Joel has helped me make it through the day and maybe someone can benefit from reading some of mine. I’ll add some pictures as I come across them.
When I was almost done with my undergraduate studies at Kent State, I decided when I finished that I’d move to Arizona. Friends in Anti-Racist Action and the Anarchist Black Cross Federation put me in touch with a few people in Phoenix. Joel was one of them. We began communicating about our mutual interests in critical race theory and he offered to give feedback on my honor’s thesis. I was linking up theoretical and historic developments in revolutionary anti-racism and critical race theory with feminism and attacks on gender essentialism. He gave me very helpful input.
Not long after submitting my thesis in December of 1999, I traveled to Arizona to find an apartment and meet some folks doing political work there. I met up with Joel, John Quintos and some others who were part of an anarchist study group at Chez Nous, a classic rhythm and blues bar (that was later torn down to make room for a bank). This meeting led to some new friendships; a few of us later wrote the Bring The Ruckus document together. Continue reading