By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
In D.C. on April 9, several thousand people, many of them religious, formed a human chain around the Capitol building as part of Jubilee 2000's worldwide effort to convince wealthy governments to cancel the debt of impoverished nations. At the rally, Braddon, wearing a bicycle lock slung from her neck to symbolize the chains of debt, admitted that the "ignorance level" made it difficult to draw people to the protest, "but it was an important decision to come, particularly on a Sunday, a day of worship."
Mace Anderson lives with his partner in his childhood home in the Wakefield section of the Bronx. They are an interracial couple, both HIV-positive, both volunteers at Riverside Church, which they joined in 1983 when the progressive firebrand William Sloane Coffin was the pastor. Anderson heard about Jubilee 2000 through Bread for the World, a lobbying organization for the poor and hungry. What disturbs him the most is that as an African American "you're at the top of the pyramid compared to my fellow Africans, who are considered the lowest of the low." Although he helped arrange for a busful of congregants from Riverside to go to D.C., he says he's had trouble getting more African Americans involved because so many other issues, like police brutality, claim their psychic energy and attention. "It's difficult to make that leap and say, 'Imagine, walking five miles for water.' People can't relate to that level of poverty."
Anderson brought his niece and brother to the Jubilee 2000 rally in D.C., which he says was "a wonderful day of community and solidarity. For the first time, I really feel part of a worldwide movement." But he grows impatient when he hears church people niggling over nuances and numbers related to world poverty. "Children are dying every day and half the GNP is paying off debt, and the other half is never making it to the people. Those are facts, so my solution is cancel the debt. Write a letter. Lobby your congressman. Pray. People take the power they have for granted."
Resides Corona, Queens
Occupation part-time student at Sarah Lawrence, part-time bookkeeper
Luna Villota says that at 14, she cried when the American flag was burned on TV. Although she was raised in Queens, her family is from Ecuador, and when she refused to speak Spanish, she was sent there for a summer to learn. "There was massive poverty and unemployment. Revolutionaries took me to the countryside and said, 'This is what the U.S. does.' " By the end of that summer, she identified herself as a communist. Her relatives have since sent her letters testifying to the skyrocketing prices and the difficulty of finding work. "My family there is affected by IMF and World Bank policies. This is what I'm fighting for," she says, although she now identifies more with Foucault and anarchism than communism.
Villota had stopped doing political work by the time Seattle happened. Emboldened by the unleashing of a global movement, however, she got in touch with Direct Action Network (DAN), one of the principal organizers for Seattle and D.C. DAN's structure is nonhierarchical, with decisions made by consensus and "not about power trips." Villota is one of the few people of color at the weekly meetings, and although the movement has been criticized for being too white, she is committed to "bringing all this knowledge that I get from DAN to people of color and teaching about the values of anarchismto not depend on the state to solve our problems. I think people of color settle for less because they've gotten so used to having so little." After D.C., she hopes DAN's focus will be directed toward police-brutality issues.
Resides Oakland, California
"I was raised by democratic socialists who believed in electoral politics," says Sascha Scatter, "but my political education happened amidst the Tompkins Square riots of the late '80s." After finding a community among anarchist squatters on the Lower East Side, Scatter decided to forgo college and became obsessed with riding freight trains. The details of his wanderings across the country and through Mexico often end up in one of his zines, which combine adventure-travel tales with thoughtful observations about the global economy. Now, after a life as a "mangled" New York City kid and hobo, he has learned how to farm organically and is starting up a community seed library for local gardeners in San Francisco's East Bay area.
Scatter organized "tactical communications" in Seattle for two weeks prior to the protests. He was tear-gassed seven times. His mission in D.C.: Guerrilla gardeningactivists planted trees, vegetables, and flowers on abandoned lots and lawns. His point: self-sufficiency. As Scatter sees it, there's plenty of foodit just doesn't get to the people who need it. Multinationals take over land and create a "monoculture of fields," like cities filled with corporate chain stores. "If you look at the history of agriculture and the World Bank, they continually try to give technological solutions to problems fundamentally political and sociological," Scatter says. "In this day and age, growing your own food and saving your own seeds has become a revolutionary act."