Category Archives: art

New Film! “Clean In: How Hotel Workers Fought For a Union—And Won”

What happens when the working mothers employed as housekeepers at a Harvard-owned hotel decide to “lean in” for higher wages and better working conditions? ¿Puede la solidaridad femenina unir a las clases?

In celebration of International Women’s Day, and in solidarity with today’s Women’s Strike, The Nation Magazine has released my long-in-the-making collaboration with Sarah Leonard about a group of immigrant working mothers who sought to unionize their Harvard-owned workplace – and in doing so asked Harvard’s first female president & Sheryl Sandberg “which side are you on?”

Their story shows us what a “feminism for the 99%” might look like.

CLEAN IN is a 21min video essay featuring music by bilingual political punk band Downtown Boys and Puerto Rican shoegaze band Un.Real. It’s a companion piece to Sarah’s long-form essay, Housekeepers Versus Harvard: Feminism for the Age of Trump.

Regardless of whether or not you are striking today, I hope you might find some time to read Sarah’s essay and watch CLEAN IN.

Spoiler alert: unlike 99% of labor stories, this piece has a happy ending! It’s a genuinely inspiring tale of how creative organizing and cross-class solidarity can achieve real, concrete, material (and nonmaterial) improvements in the lives of working people.

Happy International Women’s Day!
¡Feliz Día Internacional de la Mujer!

PS: This project emerged out of a socialist feminist reading group which has deeply informed how I think about both feminism and the economy. In honor of today’s strike, members of that group have collaborated on A Women’s Strike Syllabus. Check it out!

Over a Year of DIY Bernie & Down-Ballot Graphic Design

In September of 2016, Kingston for Bernie began by choosing the issues we thought were most important & creating a flier.
Reverse side of the first issues flier. People had no idea that the party registration deadline was so soon, and the official campaign did nothing to warn us! It was an entirely grassroots effort at the state and county level.
Ulster for Bernie coordinated petition signing parties around the county & we used the same graphics for events in multiple cities.
Cover graphic for the Facebook event.
Kingston for Bernie’s biggest event.
One of a handful of quick & dirty fliers made to publicize important dates. The issues flier went on the reverse.
This was printed as a double-sided 1/2 sheet.
Another double-sided 1/2 sheet. Never ended up handing this one out because it was information overload – why is it so damn complicated to vote?
BBQ in the park after we lost the primary
Beginning of the GET DOWN (BALLOT)! campaign.
Our one victory! Blasted this out over facebook and email the night before the days leading up to the election.
Poster for our second party
Facebook cover image for second party
Trying to tie the Teachout campaign into the bigger movement
Trying to remind people how much power is available at the state level
publicizing GOTV events
Despite best intentions to make this viral, it never took off and he got over 1,300 votes on the Green line.

A video guide to “Rahm’s Accomplishments”

I excerpted a couple short clips from “The School Closure Playbook” to help illustrate some of Rahm’s Accomplishments:

  • Shutting down 49 schools in predominantly minority & low income communities in 2013. “Hey Rahm, let’s face it. Your policies are racist!”

  • Forcing parents & students to plead with the school board to not shut down their schools. (Fun fact: the Walton Family Foundation funded these “community meetings” as a PR move to make it seem like the communities actually had some say in the matter. They didn’t.).

  • Manufacturing a budget crisis to justify school closures — and funneling hundreds of millions of dollars a year ($422 MILLION in 2013 alone) away from public schools & other municipal programs, and into a secretive slush fund he controls via “Tax Increment Financing.”

  • And don’t forget his buddies like Juan Rangel, campaign manager of his first mayoral run. Despite millions of dollars in state funds, Rangel managed to run the UNO Charter Network into huge amounts of debt (though his cronies in construction and maintenance did alright). He was forced to resign amidst the scandal, and later the SEC charged him with defrauding investors. (In this country, investors occasionally see justice. School children, not so much).

At ~2-3 minutes each, I hope the clips may be of use to those participating in tonight’s #OneTermRahm twitter storm. But of course you can watch the full film here.

The School Closure Playbook

Yesterday Jacobin Magazine published “The School Closure Playbook,” a film essay I directed about Chicago’s decision to shut down forty-nine public schools in 2013:

This piece is adapted from two essays from Jacobin’sClass Action” handbook, Kenzo Shibata’s “Disaster Capitalism, Chicago Style” and Joanne Barkan’s “How Mega-Foundations Threaten Public Education.” It features original cinematography by Katrina Ohstrom; music by Rob Warmowski of the San Andreas Fault; and video journalism by Kai-Duc Luong, Heather Stone, and John Sheehan. This project also owes a tremendous debt to BBC filmmaker Adam Curtis, in ways which will be obvious to anyone familiar with his work (and that saying about imitation and flattery).

As I write this, Chicago is about an hour away from deciding whether to re-elect mayor Rahm Emanuel. If he receives less than 50% of the vote in today’s election, there will be a run-off in April. Responsible for appointing both the CEO and school board, Emanuel exercises enormous control over the city’s public schools. His policies of school closures and privatization have had devastating effects on Chicago’s children, yet are being replicated in districts around the country.

This is perhaps the most depressing film I have ever worked on, but also the most hopeful. The soul-crushing hours spent listening to people like Eli Broad and Milton Friedman were more than matched by the inspiration of watching speeches by people like Karen Lewis, Asean Johnson (seriously, watch this!), and Jitu Brown. They represent just a few of the many parents, teachers, students and community members who are working tirelessly around the country, at the genuine grassroots, to bring democracy and justice to public education.

This project showed me that there are real heroes in America today. You may not often hear about them in the media, but you could find them outside in the cold today, knocking on doors in Chicago to get out the vote for an #ElectedBoardNow. And last week you could find them occupying absentee, Christie-appointed superintendent Cami Anderson’s offices in Newark, NJ to demand local control of their schools.

If you are interested in learning more, joining forces, or perhaps sharing some of that green stuff that gets posters printed, GOTV vans filled with gas, and films made, here are some resources:

Watch MONICA: THE MINI-SERIES

Monica: The Mini-Series imagines Monica Lewinsky’s life in 2001 – when she was 27 and living in New York City.

Directed by my talented friend Doron Max Hagay & perfectly cast, Monica is a compassionate exploration of a woman sacrificed to our media’s pathetic obsession with sex, trying to make a life for herself in a society that gleefully condemns a young woman while forgiving and even victimizing arguably the most powerful man in the world at the time. Sympathetic & hilarious — and totally free on the internet — do not miss Monica.

New Adam Curtis: Bitter Lake

I have got hold of the unedited rushes of almost everything the BBC has ever shot in Afghanistan. It is thousands of hours – some of it is very dull, but large parts of it are extraordinary. Shots that record amazing moments, but also others that are touching, funny and sometimes very odd.

These complicated, fragmentary and emotional images evoke the chaos of real experience. And out of them i have tried to build a different and more emotional way of depicting what really happened in Afghanistan.

For amateurs and dilettantes who do not rely on their art for a living, moving to the commons has plenty of upside and little downside. For creative professionals, however, particularly those burdened by economic hardship, the risks associated with transitioning to a non-proprietary business model can feel (rightly or wrongly) prohibitive. Often times, the typical free culture advocate’s response to this concern is to either dismiss it, to reemphasize the moral case for freedom, or to point to others’ success stories as proof that “it can be done.”

We believe these responses are insufficient and miss the deeper point: no matter how feasible commons-based production may appear to those who are familiar with it, for those suffering from the paralyzing effects of systemic money scarcity – unemployment, poverty, overwhelming consumer debt – the free culture response is incomplete at best, and callous at worst.

Our proposal for addressing this issue is to combine the free culture movement’s view of the bitstream economy with the Modern Money view of the monetary economy.

Free Culture? Free Finance by The Modern Money Network (Columbia Chapter)