Left Forum 2017: Opening Plenary


Left Forum 2017 Opening Plenary 
"Challenging State Repression"
June 2nd @ 7:15pm

We are excited to announce 3 outstanding additions to our opening plenary!

Joining us virtually for a special introduction:
Oscar Lopez Rivera

Joining the panel of speakers:
Sekou Odinga

Molly Crabapple


*Pictures and more information on all 3 below*

As crony capitalists and corporate behemoths work to suck the last iota of profits and resources from a planet in crisis, they make intensified use of strategies like border walls, militarized policing, surveillance, incarceration, deportation, and the racism that garners support for them, to repress and re-channel dissent. But today we also see the rise of movements that challenge these repressive institutions and discourses, linking them with the exploitation they enable and with racial, gender, and class politics at home. Join us as we explore these obstacles, as well as, the movements and strategies that have been employed to challenge them.

Featured Speakers

Oscar Lopez Rivera (Special Introductory Speaker):

Puerto Rican community activist Oscar López Rivera has been widely recognized as the “Mandela of the Americas” since several Latin American heads of state bestowed that title upon him at the 2015 Organization of American States summit. At age 74 and after more than thirty-five years behind bars, upon release on May 17, 2017, Lopez Rivera had the distinction of being the longest-held political prisoner in the history of Puerto Rican-US colonial relations. Born in San Sebastian, Puerto Rico in 1943, López Rivera moved to the US with his family at age 14. As a young adult, he was drafted into the US military and sent to fight in the front lines of Vietnam, where was awarded the Bronze Star for heroic service. Politicized by his experiences in Vietnam and the active social change movements he encountered upon his return home to Chicago in 1967, Lopez Rivera became involved with many community empowerment groups—eventually helping to found the award-winning alternative Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School. Along with his brother Jose, López Rivera also helped found Chicago’s Puerto Rican Cultural Center. Aware of the developing revolutionary processes in Puerto Rico and throughout the world, he eventually decided to join the clandestine movement.

Arrested in 1981, López Rivera (and his colleagues arrested in 1980 and 1983) declared themselves to be anti-colonial combatants entitled to the protection of international law, challenging the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts to criminalize their efforts against colonialism, a crime against humanity. Once imprisoned, López Rivera faced years of torture which he has termed “spiriticide,” including sensory deprivation, more than twelve years of solitary confinement, and subjugation to the super-maximum security practices of the prisons-within- a-prison at Marion and ADX Florence. López Rivera nevertheless became a prolific writer and a proficient artist, painting portraits and tributes to his native homeland. López Rivera has authored countless articles which have inspired many generations; in the last years before release, he helped produce two books of writings, Between Torture and Resistance (PM Press, 2013), and Cartas a Karina (CAK Project, 2016). A transcendent figure in contemporary Puerto Rican life, Oscar Lopez Rivera’s plan for life after prison is to develop the Fundación Oscar López Rivera- Libertá, which will deepen the unity and work for decolonization which has been the cornerstone of his entire life.

Sekou Odinga (Speaker):

Sekou Odinga is a Muslim, citizen of the Republic of New Afrika, former member of the Black Panther Party/Black Liberation Army (BPP/BLA), and for 33 years a u.s. held Political Prisoner of War. Sekou helped establish and was a leader of the Party’s Harlem/Bronx chapter before being targeted by the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. He escaped arrest and trial as one of those targeted in the 1968 New York Panther 21 case. Forced underground, Sekou was sent to Algiers to help establish the Party’s international section. In the mid-1970s, he returned to the states and continued to struggle underground until his capture on October 23, 1981. Convicted in both state and federal court, Sekou served twenty-eight years in federal prison on two counts of the federal Racketeering Influence Conspiracy Organization ACT (RICO) and the liberation of Assata Shakur. In 2009, he reached a mandatory release date and was "paroled" to New York State to begin serving a 25 to life sentence for the attempted murder of six NYPD. Five years later, a legal victory resulted in a parole hearing and his November 25, 2014 release from Clinton Correctional Facility.

Sekou continues to work on behalf of and advocates for the release of more than a dozen u.s. held Political Prisoners of War from the revolutionary movements of the 1960s and ‘70s. He is a founder and member of the Northeast Political Prisoner Coalition, and has spoken on panels, at conferences, and on university and college campuses across the country. He has been featured in and contributed to numerous anthologies, including the forthcoming Look for Me in the Whirlwind: From the Panther 21 to 21st Century Revolutions (PM Press, 2017), and has been interviewed extensively in print and radio. Sekou is available for public speaking on various topics, including political/mass imprisonment, the Black Liberation struggle, and more.

Molly Crabapple (Speaker):

Molly Crabapple is an artist and writer living in New York. Her memoir Drawing Blood was published by HarperCollins in December 2015. Her work has been described as “God’s own circus posters,” by Rolling Stone, but beneath the lavishly detailed surface, it engages injustice and rebellion.

Because of Molly’s 2013 solo exhibition, Shell Game, a series of large-scale paintings about the revolutions of 2011, she was called “an emblem of the way that art could break out of the gilded gallery” by The New Republic. In 2015, Molly Crabapple was awarded Yale Poynter Fellowship, and received a Front Page Award for her art of rebel-held Aleppo. Her art also earned her a 2014 Gold Rush award, and she was shortlisted for a 2013 Frontline Print Journalism Award for her internationally-acclaimed reportage on Guantanamo Bay.

Molly is a contributing editor for VICE and has written for The New York Times, The Paris Review, Vanity Fair, The Guardian, CNN and Newsweek. Her published books include Discordia (with Laurie Penny; Random House, 2012) on the Greek economic crisis and the art books Devil in the Details and Week in Hell (IDW 2012). Molly has been called “equal parts Hieronymus Bosch, William S. Burroughs and Cirque du Soleil,” by The Guardian; “THE artist of our time” by comedian Margaret Cho, and “a brilliant and principled artist” by BoingBoing. She spent four years as the staff artist of The Box, one of the world’s most lavish (and notorious) nightclubs. Molly has taken her sketchbook from burlesque halls to refugee camps, always with a skeptical eye for power.

Molly is the illustrator of Matt Taibbi’s New York Times bestseller, The Divide. She has collaborated with Spike Jonze to create backdrops for the 2013 YouTube Music Video Awards, and with Esperanza Spalding on projections for her concerts. She created art for Patton Oswalt’s DVD, Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time.

She regularly speaks to audiences around the world, at institutions such as The Museum of Modern Art, The London School of Economics, and Harvard and Columbia Universities. Her works are held in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Barjeel Foundation and The New York Historical Society.;

Linda Sarsour (Speaker):

Linda Sarsour is a working woman, a racial justice and civil rights activist, every Islamophobe’s worst nightmare, and a mother of three. Ambitious, outspoken and independent, Sarsour shatters stereotypes of Muslim women while also treasuring her religious and ethnic heritage. She is a Palestinian Muslim-American and a self-proclaimed “pure New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn!”. She is also named among 500 of the most influential Muslims in the world, most known and well respected for her intersectional coalition work and building bridges across issues of racial, ethnic and faith communities.

Sarsour has been active in many organizations including the Arab American Association of New York, The Justice League NYC, and she is a co-founder of MPOWER Change and Muslims for Ferguson. She has been at the forefront of major civil rights campaigns including calling for an end to unwarranted surveillance of New York’s Muslim communities and ending police policies like Stop and Frisk. She was co-chair of the 2017 Women's March, as well as, the Day without a Woman protest and strike. She has won numerous awards and honors include being named a “Champion of Change” by the White House. Sarsour was introduced to New York Times readers as a political force who, in their words, is “mixing street smarts, activism, and her Muslim identity” and profiled on the front page of the New York Times Metro Section as a “Brooklyn Homegirl in a Hijab.”  

Laura Flanders (Moderator):

Best-selling author, Laura Flanders interviews forward-thinking people about the key questions of our time on The Laura Flanders Show, seen weekly on KCET/LinkTV, FreeSpeech TV and in English & Spanish on teleSUR (also available as a podcast). A contributing writer to The Nation magazine and a regular guest on MSNBC, she is the author of six books, including The New York Times best-seller, BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species, and Blue GRIT: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians. The Laura Flanders Show aired on Air America Radio from 2004-2008 prior to which Flanders was the founding host of Your Call on public radio in San Francisco, and founder of the mediawatch program, CounterSpin. She has a long record of media appearances, from Real Time with Bill Maher to The O’Reilly Factor. For more, follow @GRITlaura or visit LauraFlanders.com. 

Glen Ford (Speaker):

Glen Ford is a veteran of more than 45 years in broadcast, print and Internet journalism. A former Washington Bureau Chief and White House, Capitol Hill, and State Department correspondent, Ford co-founded and hosted “America’s Black Forum,” the first nationally syndicated Black news interview program on commercial television. He also launched and owned the radio syndications “Black World Report,” “Black Agenda Reports,” and “Rap It Up,” the first national hip hop music show. He has worked as a radio newsman in Washington, Baltimore, and Atlanta, Columbus and Augusta, Georgia, and produced over 1,000 radio and TV commercials.

In print, Glen Ford has edited or served as staff reporter for three newspapers, two of them dailies; was national political columnist for Encore American & Worldwide News magazine; founded The Black Commentator and Africana Policies magazines; and authored “The Big Lie: An Analysis of U.S. Media Coverage of the Grenada Invasion” (IOJ, 1985).

On the Internet, Ford co-founded BlackCommentator.com in 2002 and BlackAgendaReport.com (BAR) in 2006. He is currently executive editor of BAR, a weekly magazine of “news, commentary and analysis from the Black left.” Along with co-host Nellie Hester Bailey, Ford hosts and produces the weekly, one-hour Black Agenda Radio program on the Progressive Radio network. He also produces two weekly radio commentaries that air on approximately 40 radio stations.

Jeremy Scahill (Speaker):

Jeremy Scahill is one of the three founding editors of The Intercept. He is an investigative reporter, war correspondent, and author of the international bestselling books Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield and Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He has reported from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Nigeria, the former Yugoslavia, and elsewhere across the globe. Scahill has served as the national security correspondent for The Nation and Democracy Now!.

Scahill’s work has sparked several congressional investigations and won some of journalism’s highest honors. He was twice awarded the prestigious George Polk Award, in 1998 for foreign reporting and in 2008 for Blackwater. Scahill is a producer and writer of the award- winning film Dirty Wars, which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award.


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