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July 2009

The Police Beat

  • Officer Justin Barrett. Boston, Massachusetts. The Boston Police Commissioner recently suspended and moved to fire Boston patrol cop Officer Justin Barrett, after being forwarded a racist-ass e-mail that Barret wrote in response to Yvonne Abraham’s Boston Globe column criticizing Sergeant James Crowley for his stupid arrest of Henry Louis Gates. All the news stories have mentioned how Barrett stated I am not a racist, but I am [prejudiced] towards people who are stupid and repeatedly described Gates as a banana-eating jungle monkey. Some also mentioned active patrol cop Barret’s statement that, had he been in Crowley’s place, he not only would have arrested Gates but would have pepper-sprayed him in the face. None of the mainstream media articles I’ve read so far have mentioned that active patrol cop Officer Justin Barrett also complains that Your defense [4th paragraph] of Gates while he is on the phone while being confronted [INDEED] with a police officer is assuming he has rights when considered a suspect. He is a suspect and will always be a suspect. (Brackets in original; emphasis mine.) Or that, alongside the violent racism and explicit totalitarianism, he adds some crude misogyny, writing to the immediate target of his letter, Yvonne Abraham, that You are a hot little bird with minimal experiences in a harsh field. … You have no business writing for a US newspaper nevermind detailing and analyzing half truths. You should serve me coffee and donuts on Sunday morning. He later repeats the joke about coffee and says that you just need to get slapped. Officer Justin Barrett, when not a racist, sexist, police-statist patrol cop, is also a veteran of the United States government’s Army; he felt comfortable forwarding his racist, sexist, police-statist e-mail to a few of his buddies in the Boston police force and several of his buddies in the Army National Guard. Since the story hit, Barrett has complained to the media that in the uproar over his repeated use of the phrase banana-eating jungle monkey, People are making it about race. It is not about race, and that, although he made a poor choice of words, I didn’t mean it in a racist way. I treat everyone with dignity and respect. His lawyer says that he plans to fight to hold onto his cop job at the upcoming hearing.

  • Disorderly conduct. Patrolman Robert Lang, Patrolman Jared Bock, and Patrolman Shawn Panchick. Brackenridge, Pennsylvania. Three white patrol cops in Pennsylvania are being investigated by another local government’s cops in response to allegations that they beat and robbed a three black teenagers who they arbitrarily commanded (why?) to clear off of a friend’s front porch where they were hanging out late at night. I don’t know whether or not the allegations of robbery are true — one of the victims, Kyle Dudley, claims that he was beat down and robbed of his watch and money by a group of cops possibly different from the three who originally responded to the call, which makes it hard to compare stories — but I do know that, whether or not those allegations are true, the story that the cops all agreed on for their report is more than enough reason to call their conduct belligerent, violent and stupid. Cops have exactly no business singling out black teenagers to be hassled, or for forcing them down and arresting them on a disorderly conduct beef simply for refusing to obey arbitrary bellowed commands that they leave a private residence where they have been invited to hang out with their friends, or a neighborhood where they are hanging out on public property. And once again, it is clear that disorderly conduct charges are the sheepdogs’ favorite threat for making that the sheep stay just where they’ve been herded, regardless of whether or not anyone is actually doing anything that would threaten anyone’s rights even in the slightest.

  • Cops are here to keep us safe. (Cont’d.) By sideswiping our cars while they tear down the road at 20 mph over the posted speed limit with no lights and no sirens on. Then by concealing information or flat-out lying in the accident report and to the media about how fast they were going, until they finally reveal, a couple days later, that the accident was, after all, clearly the fault of the cop’s speeding. Where have I seen that before…? I guess his victim is lucky that he wasn’t doing 100; if he had gotten himself hurt or killed in the crash he caused, she probably would have been arrested for reckless driving and smeared as a cop-killer all over the local papers.

  • Fun for ages 7 to 70. Unnamed patrol officer, Knoxville, Tennessee, and Deputy Chris Beize. Austin, Texas. In Knoxville, a government cop, who had important business to do Investigating reports of some neighbor kids getting into a fight, has been accused of trying to coerce a 7 year old boy into talking more candidly by handcuffing the child and cussing him out, while the boy was crying and asking for his mother. The 7-year-old was not involved in the fighting and was never suspected of, or charged with, any crime. Officials refuse to so much as disclose this dedicated public servant’s name, but they promise that the matter is being Internally Investigated.

    Meanwhile, in Texas, Deputy Chris Beize tasered Kathryn Winkfein, a 72-year-old great-grandmother, twice during a routine traffic stop, after she refused to sign a ticket and he decided to escalate the situation by ordering her out of her car, instead of just mailing the damn thing to her home address. Beize claims that she swore at him (which is not a crime) and that she pushed him into oncoming traffic (no she didn’t; the dashcam video clearly shows that he lunged over and grabbed her and shoved her back several feet, when she tried to de-escalate the situation by sidestepping him to get back to her truck). Then he blasted her with a 50,000-volt electric shock from the taser, and then tasered her again while she was lying on the ground. Then he arrested her for resisting arrest. His superior officers in the paramilitary chain of command have defended Beize’s hollering belligerence, physical assault, and torture by repeated electrical shocks, against an unarmed, 4′11″, 72-year-old great-grandmother who never threatened any physical harm and was guilty of nothing more than a moving violation and contempt of cop, as an appropriate reaction to a dangerous situation. By the by, when Beize is not busy shocking the hell out of elderly women, he is a taser instructor for the local police.

  • Officer Morris Taylor. Springfield, Missouri. Officer Morris Taylor, a cop formerly on the Springfield, Missouri city government’s police force, is facing misdemeanor assault charges for beating John Sedersten, a prisoner under his authority, after Sedersten had been restrained and booked in the Greene County Jail. The story’s in the news because Sedersten, the victim of the beating, recently decided not to testify against Taylor in the criminal case, on advice from his attorneys, because of the danger that his testimony will open him up to lines of questioning that the government can use against him in his pending criminal cases. Sedersten is pursuing a separate civil lawsuit against Officer Morris Taylor for the beating; apparently he’s just not particularly interested in working closely with the same government office that is trying to lock him up in other cases, particularly not for so minor a vindication as a misdemeanor assault conviction. Even without his testimony, apparently portions of the assault are recorded on video.

    Besides having spent 11 years in local government police forces, Officer Morris Taylor also has experience in dealing with prisoners from working as a government soldier in the U.S. government’s war and occupation in Iraq.

  • Deputy Marcus Smith. San Joaquin County, California. San Joaquin County Sheriff’s deputies stopped a car on a routine traffic stop near Manteca; Charles Inderbitzen was riding in the car. Inderbitzen was ex-con out on parole, and believed that he had a warrant out on him, so he got nervous around the cops. He tried to leave the scene without the cops’ permission; even though the police had no reason whatever, at this point, to suspect that he had committed any crime, or even (since he was not the one driving the car) of even the most minor civil infraction. But government cops in America aren’t actually interested in dealing with crimes; they are interested in targeting suspects, and are more than willing to summarily declare you a suspect sort of guy based solely on your failure to follow their arbitrary bellowed commands, or your decision to try to leave the scene when they are present. So a gang of police chased Inderbitzen down, cornered him in a back yard, drew their guns on him, and ordered him to get on his knees and put his hands on his head. After Inderbitzen complied with their orders, with several cops pointing guns at him and while physically at their mercy, Deputy Marcus Smith hopped the fence, kicked Charles Inderbitzen in the gut, punched him in the back of the head, kicked him two more times in the stomach, and then punched him about 5 or 10 more times until Inderbitzen was beaten unconscious. I guess he’s lucky they didn’t taser him to death instead.

  • Oops. Our bad. Deputy Matthew Paul. Seattle, Washington. Christopher Harris was trying to get away from a group of King’s County police (or rather, a gang of beefy, heavily armed strangers, dressed all in black, who didn’t bother to identify themselves before they started hollering and chasing after him late at night). Turns out he didn’t actually do anything wrong (they were chasing him because a witness fingered him as having been involved in a bar fight; the witness was wrong). But rather than risking the possibility that someone possibly might get away from the cops (even when he had no way of knowing they were cops, who had every right to leave the scene, who posed no physical threat to anybody, and who, at the very worst, was suspected of some minor-league drunken fighting), Deputy Matthew Paul, who outweighed his victim by about 100 pounds, decided to put an end to things by waiting until Christopher Harris slowed down to a walk, and then body-tackling him so hard that he knocked him eight feet into a wall, slamming Harris’s head into the concrete so hard it put him into a coma. The story’s in the news because Deputy Matthew Paul’s coworkers in the King County government’s prosecutor’s office have announced that, as far as they’re concerned, Deputy Matthew Paul did not violate Christopher Harris’s rights and the only personal consequence that Deputy Matthew Paul will face, for putting his falsely accused, completely unarmed and physically harmless victim on life-support, is having been given a paid vacation from his job for a while during the investigation. According to the county government, It’s a tragic incident. Well, oops. I guess he’s lucky they didn’t just shoot him in the back instead.

  • Non-Lethal Force (Cont’d.) Unnamed officer, Officer Debra Lynn Indovina-Akerly and Officer Charles Watson. Swissvale, Pennsylvania. Last summer, a 37 year old unarmed black man named Andre DeMon Thomas was extrajudicially electrocuted by a gang of three Swissvale cops, who tortured him with three 50,000-volt electric shocks, handcuffed him, and, after he was handcuffed, kicked him, punched him, and crushed him until he vomited, passed out, and died. They were electrocuting him, incidentally, For His Own Good, after he begged neighbors to call the cops to help him out. He was unarmed; he wasn’t acting aggressively; none of the neighbors felt threatened by him; he was never at any point charged with any crime at all by anyone; he seemed disoriented and terrified, and he wanted the cops there to keep him safe. But in cop-think, being terrified and disoriented means acting erratic, and acting erratic in the judgment of a cop, even if you pose no threat to anyone and even if you have not been so much as accused of committing a crime and even if you are yourself seeking help, is reason enough for you to get Served and Protected good and hard until you are physically subdued. Or dead, whichever comes first. [And]((http://radgeek.com/gt/2009/06/22/the-police-beat-3/) yet again, it became necessary to kill Dre Thomas in order to save him. The case is in the news again because the family has filed a lawsuit and the coroner’s autopsy report, which revealed deep and widespread bruising all over Thomas’s body, contradicts the Medical Examiner’s initial report absolving the cops and claiming that Thomas died from a mythical made-up condition called agitated delirium.

  • Gang cops (Cont’d.). Gang Strike Force, Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Seven victims of racist shakedowns by a multi-agency paramilitary Gang Strike Force in the Twin Cities have filed suit against the members of the Strike Force, the city governments that put it together, and the boss cops who commanded it. The Strike Force was permanently shut down earlier this month after repeated complaints about the cops on it making improper seizures, which is to say armed robberies under color of law, of money and property from innocent people with no connection to gang activity, but who happened to be immigrants (hence easy targets). If only we had some warning, had some way of knowing, that an elite gang police unit with an unlimited mandate, overwhelming force, and extremely broad legal powers to roust people and take their property with minimal legal accountability, might end up just acting like the baddest gangsters on the block. But who could possibly have foreseen that? It’s not like anything like this has ever happened before.

  • Detective Keith Alfaro. San Antonio, Texas. A couple years ago Detective Keith Alfaro of the San Antonio police department got himself involved in what the media at the time dignified as a poolside scuffle with a teenager. By which they meant that he punched an 18 year old girl in the face, then, after he knocked her down, got on top of her, put her in a chokehold, and, according to an unrelated witness, pummeled her black and blue while she was on the ground. After Alfaro ran away from the Sheriff’s Deputies who responded to a call, Vaughn had to be taken to the hospital; she still couldn’t open her jaw for weeks after the attack. The reason he did this was that she told him to put out a cigar he was smoking; the community pool had a no-smoking rule. Tamara Vaughn claims she asked him politely; Alfaro claims she copped an attitude, got up in his face, dared to say some vulgar words in his hearing, and tried to swipe the cigar out of his mouth. Apparently, even if we grant his story to be true, Detective Keith Alfaro believes that that’s good enough reason for a grown-ass man to throw the first punch, then beat the living hell out of an 18 year old girl while she’s lying on the ground, and that doing so was totally defensive … It was her own actions that forced me to take those measures. Perhaps that’s also what forced him to answer her request that he not smoke a cigar at a non-smoking pool by telling her to take that East Side attitude back over there; maybe that’s also what forced him to call her a nigger and a half-breed while he was beating the hell out of her, or to tell Vaughn, who is a lesbian, that You wanna look like a man, I’m gonna treat you like a man.. Detective Keith Alfaro testified that his problem was not with her race but with her attitude (you know, the East Side kind), and that She though she was talking to a child, … She thought she was talking to someone she could bully — not an adult family man. Apparently Detective Keith Alfaro believes that an adult family man deals with tense social situations by punching 18 year old girls in the face and dislocating their jaws. In any case, this adult family man bragged in an online profile for an Ultimate Fighting website about his countless street KO’s.

    The story is in the news again because Keith Alfaro finally ended up going to trial this year on a misdemeanor assault rap, along with some resisting and evading arrest for having run away from the Bexar County Sheriff’s deputies. And just today, after the judge refused to allow Bexar County prosecutors to tell the jury about the online bragging about street fights, or about the numerous existing complaints against Alfaro in his internal affairs file (complaints which, of course, never endangered his position with the San Antonio Police Department, until he got into a fight on another police agency’s turf), the jury voted to acquit Alfaro on the assault beef. They convicted him on the misdemeanor evading and resisting arrest charges, because apparently busting up an 18 year old girl’s jaw is OK, but they’ll be damned if they’ll let anyone get away from the po-po.

  • Rapists on patrol. Officer Feliciano Sanchez, Los Angeles, California. (Possible trigger warning.)

    Officer Feliciano Sanchez, formerly hired muscle for Los Angeles County’s Bell Police Department, recently plead guilty to using his police powers to abduct a woman he had detained on a traffic stop, drive her to an isolated location, and then flashed his gun and coerced sex from her before he would let her free. Bell Police Department Captain Anthony Miranda says he is shocked to hear that a male cop might use his government-granted legal powers and his arsenal of deadly weapons to intimidate and violently coerce sex from women who come under his power. He says that he’s in disbelief because he’s never heard of such a thing before. Well, I’m not. I have.

  • 18 shots for running a stop-sign. Officer James Arnold. Fort Wayne, Indiana. The city government in Fort Wayne, Indiana just spent $335,000 of other people’s money in order to cover Office James Arnold’s ass after he shot an unarmed immigrant named José Baudilio Lemus-Rodriguez 18 times, after Lemus-Rodriguez refused to pull over for a routine traffic stop for running a stop sign.

    Fort Wayne Police Officer James Arnold, by the way, was just four months on the force when he lit up Lemus-Rodriguez’s car; before that, he had years of combat experience as a United States government Marine fighting for the U.S. government’s occupation and counter-insurgency operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards refused to file any criminal charges; the city hired on a PR flack to declare Arnold’s actions objectively reasonable. The city’s main concern in settling the family’s lawsuit, besides using taxpayer money to cover Officer James Arnold from any personal legal liability for his lethal actions, is apparently as a bribe to ensure that the objective video record of the objectively reasonable shooting remains permanently concealed from the public.

Friday Femme Fatale: Iran, Valerie Jarrett & Video Game History

The picture this week is by Marcia Yerman who is trying to raise awareness about women in Iran being killed and raped for protesting. Her caption for the photo reads:

Women who have taken part in demonstrations are now being executed. However, according to the prevailing conservative version of Islamic law being enacted in Iran, a virgin can not be killed. Currently, the women who took part in the opposition protest who have been arrested are being "married" to prison guards...who then consummate the marriage through rape. The women are then killed.

Thanks to Marcia for keeping us awake and in touch with this issue. Here are the rest of links for this week's Friday Femme Fatale. Lots of interesting articles to read!

My most embarrassing & kick ass moments of Blogher

Ah, Blogher fumes still rumbling thru my veins...

So Florinda mentions TWICE my most embarrassing moment of Blogher. She asked me for an autograph on the Ms. magazine that I just handed her. I laughed and saw she was dead serious. It was extra funny because my husband had just been teasing me the day before about "When is your signing at Women & Children First?" But Florinda was serious and since I love her so, I took her pen, my pen?, and signed my name under my photo. I meant to write a peace symbol and then my name. But it came out as [Peace sign], [heart] and feminism.

Then came my favorite sluts...I gave them a copy of the magazine before the panel started. After I composed myself from signing Florinda's copy, one of them asked me to autograph their copy with a fushia Sharpie. More nervous chuckling.

By now my dear readers, you should know that while I'm excited about all the stuff I do, I am also a horrible promoter. I'm currently fundraising to hire Cinnamon for that role. I'm only a few thousand short, so someone give me a huge ass book deal! haha...Seriously thou, I'm awful at it, thou I am getting better. But the thought of anyone wanting my autograph is too overwhelming for me to really comprehend, so it pushes me to being more embarrassed than anything. I guess cause I just don't know how to handle it.

So what was the most kick ass moment of Blogher? Introducing friends to Gloria Feldt. I mean, hello!? How many years have I been getting mass emails & snail mail from her about Planned Parenthood? And because of the Progressive Women's Voices program, I know her well enough to introduce her around. Oh, yeah...now that's bad ass.

But it helped show me (and it should you too) that we're all experts at something (thanks Katie) and well, blogging is one of the things I'm an expert at. I might not be a Forbes Power Mom blogger, but I know a thing or two about this medium. I also love, love, LOVE connecting amazing women to each other. I am the human LinkedIn/Friend Finder. And honestly, I love it because I can talk until my neighbors come home about you and this other amazing woman. And yes, that means I don't have to talk about me! Perfect, eh?

So if you ever pay me a compliment and I get all "aw, shucks..." that really is how I am. And while it is embarrassing, it's also pretty fab too. Thanks.
Tagged with:

Pen-Elayne on the Web 2009-08-01 02:38:00

Friday Cat Blogging (™ Kevin Drum)

Datsa's so cute and demure when he sits on his paws:



Amy's cute, of course, all the time:



Tomorrow should be a traumatic day, as we'll be at Mom's most of the daylight hours, back home pretty late feeding them. So we expect they'll be super-needy on Sunday.

Pen-Elayne on the Web 2009-08-01 02:36:00

Silly Site o' the Day

Weird and humid and too revved. I feel stupid and contagious. I feel like having some fancy fast food (via Mark Evanier), but maybe I don't fancy it after all. Perhaps I just need another lie-down.
Tagged with:

If everybody in my blogroll is covering it, then by law I must cover it too

Okay, not everybody, but quite a few folks:

This is what they’re all talking about:




Suggesting that Hillary Clinton drink Mad Bitch beer is offensive and sexist, I agree. But frankly I’m distracted by another issue: sweet god in heaven, what the fuck is the purpose of this thing? Does the Washington Post have a comedy channel now? Is Richard “I’m a funny guy” Cohen in charge of it?

Something is seriously wrong at the Post, people. I cannot believe that this video was written, shot, edited, and uploaded without someone along the line saying, “you know, this is maybe not quite as mind-blowingly hilarious as we thought it would be.”

I have to go bake a peach cobbler for my mother, but I’ll be back to discuss.

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DON’T MISS…


Tomorrow, August 1, Unthank Park, 510 North Shaver St.

Pre-march rally at 5pm, march at 7pm, celebration at 8pm.

This is the first year that Trans march has its own, seperate event, rather than being a part of the Dyke march.  So it’s super important for everyone to get out and MARCH!

Check out tht Gender (Free) For All website!

 she-flyer

And after the celebration, head over to Crush for She, a fundraiser for In Other Words!

Tagged with:

Remembering Our Roots…


I acknowledge the importance of blogging locally, but sometimes something is just too sweet not to write about.  Especially when one of your best friends is on the inside track and answering phone calls from Dorothy Allison.  So, without further ado…

Bloodroot logo

a feminist (read: lesbian), vegetarian restaurant and bookstore, formerly a feminist (read: lesbian) collective.

If you are EVER in Bridgeport, CT (who knows…life takes us unexpected places), you MUST go to Bloodroot.  It’s like stepping into a time warp.  Well, not exactly, but close.  ’70s lesbian feminism is alive and well at Bloodroot: it lives in the ancestral photos on the walls, on the shelves of the bookstore, and in the persons of Selma and Noel, the two original collective members who serve as the matriarchs of the Bloodroot of today.  While it might not have the edge or humor of contemporary queer culture, Bloodroot’s brand of collectivist feminism clearly has staying power: the restaurant is now in its 32nd year, and is still thriving.  These women have stuck it out, and are living the ideals they set forth in their first feminist cookbook, The Political Palate: “Feminism is not a part-time attitude for us; it is how we live all day, everyday. Our choices in furniture, pictures, the music we play, the books we sell, and the food we cook all reflect and express our feminism.”

And they have a lot to show for their 32 years: 6 published cookbooks, a zagat award, and the friendship of Adrienne Rich, Gloria Anzaldua, Dorothy Allison, and many others.

So just remember (as if you needed reminding): community matters.  Writing poetry and groundbreaking essays is all good and well, but sometimes it all starts with friends in the kitchen.

If you’re not going to make it out to the East Coast anytime soon, you can experience Bloodroot in the comfort of your own kitchen!  Either check out some free recipes on their website, or splurge on one of their amazing cookbooks:

bloodroot cookbookbloodroot cookbook 2

The first is vegetarian, and the second is vegan!

A brief history of Bloodroot (written by aforementioned friend)

K. Baxivanos

“Selma Miriam sought a women’s center and a feminist community. Disinterested by federal loans or grant money, the Collective desired to support activities at the imagined center as a feminist business. Although no woman had experience in a professional kitchen—indeed, few cooked regularly—a restaurant and bookstore was conceived to fund the Collectives feminist salon. A windowless, waterfront machine shop at 85 Ferris Street was selected during the autumn of 1976. With money saved from landscape design and a loan from her mother, suffragist Fay Davidson, Selma was able to purchase and mortgage the $80,000 property.

The Collective, at the suggestion of animal rights activist friends, decided to serve only vegetarian fare. Committed to separatist feminist practice, the group hired a female electrician, carpenter, and later an accountant and a lawyer. The machine shop interior was rebuilt and furnished with at sale purchases. Advertisements for the opening of a feminist Restaurant and Bookstore circulated in the winter of 1976 and the new business greeted customers in March, 1977. Selma named the restaurant Bloodroot after a native northeastern wildflower that grows in a manner reflecting the collective’s organization. The plant has a slow spreading, rhizomatic root system that supports several vertically furrowed blooms, each stamen independent yet fundamentally connected.

Samm Stockwell, Betsey Beaven, and Selma Miriam (formerly Bunks) lived together at 29 Hiawatha Lane and worked full-time at Bloodroot. The women committed to the practical and political dimensions of a feminist work collective, shared equally cooking, cleaning, and a mission to explode Patriarchy. Members of the collective formed intense partnerships: as lovers, friends, coworkers, and political interlocutors. Departures, ideologically and geographically, were profoundly difficult to manage. Pat Shea’s decision to leave the feminist enterprise in 1984 was particularly difficult.

In 1980 the Bloodroot Collective organized a feminist press (Sanguinaria) at the restaurant to publish The Political Palate cookbook. The cookbook offered both seasonal vegetarian recipes and a feminist manifesto, including essays on pornography, sadomasochism and dieting, and quotes from women’s fiction and poetry. The Second Seasonal Political Palate and the Perennial Political Palate followed in 1984 and 1993. The latter cookbooks offer reflections on collectivity and work, vegetarianism and nature. Popular vegetarian, feminist and eastern publications reviewed each. In 2007, with the assistance of vegan chef Lagusta Yearwood, the Bloodroot Collective The Best of Bloodroot: vegetarian Recipes and The Best of Bloodroot: Vegan Recipes; this time with Anomaly Press.

Many of the feminist concerns raised in the cookbook series have been explored further by Selma and Noel in popular lesbian publications such as Heresies, Lesbian Ethics, and Sinister Wisdom, and in vegetarian magazines.”

Noel, Selma, and Betsey at Bloodroot.  Photo credit Robert Giard.

And for a little local history…Check out Women’s Studies in Feminist Bookstores– All the Women’s Studies women would come in for an interesting article about the emergence of feminist bookstores and Women’s Studies programs in America in the 1970s.

“A Woman’s Place,” Portland’s first feminist bookstore, was founded in 1973, two years before the Women’s Studies was established as a field of study at PSU.  Always ahead of the curve.

Remembering Our Roots…


I acknowledge the importance of blogging locally, but sometimes something is just too sweet not to write about.  Especially when one of your best friends is on the inside track and answering phone calls from Dorothy Allison.  So, without further ado…

Bloodroot logo

a feminist (read: lesbian), vegetarian restaurant and bookstore, formerly a feminist (read: lesbian) collective.

If you are EVER in Bridgeport, CT (who knows…life takes us unexpected places), you MUST go to Bloodroot.  It’s like stepping into a time warp.  Well, not exactly, but close.  ’70s lesbian feminism is alive and well at Bloodroot: it lives in the ancestral photos on the walls, on the shelves of the bookstore, and in the persons of Selma and Noel, the two original collective members who serve as the matriarchs of the Bloodroot of today.  While it might not have the edge or humor of contemporary queer culture, Bloodroot’s brand of collectivist feminism clearly has staying power: the restaurant is now in its 32nd year, and is still thriving.  These women have stuck it out, and are living the ideals they set forth in their first feminist cookbook, The Political Palate: “Feminism is not a part-time attitude for us; it is how we live all day, everyday. Our choices in furniture, pictures, the music we play, the books we sell, and the food we cook all reflect and express our feminism.”

And they have a lot to show for their 32 years: 6 published cookbooks, a zagat award, and the friendship of Adrienne Rich, Gloria Anzaldua, Dorothy Allison, and many others.

So just remember (as if you needed reminding): community matters.  Writing poetry and groundbreaking essays is all good and well, but sometimes it all starts with friends in the kitchen.

If you’re not going to make it out to the East Coast anytime soon, you can experience Bloodroot in the comfort of your own kitchen!  Either check out some free recipes on their website, or splurge on one of their amazing cookbooks:

bloodroot cookbookbloodroot cookbook 2

The first is vegetarian, and the second is vegan!

A brief history of Bloodroot (written by aforementioned friend)

K. Baxivanos

“Selma Miriam sought a women’s center and a feminist community. Disinterested by federal loans or grant money, the Collective desired to support activities at the imagined center as a feminist business. Although no woman had experience in a professional kitchen—indeed, few cooked regularly—a restaurant and bookstore was conceived to fund the Collectives feminist salon. A windowless, waterfront machine shop at 85 Ferris Street was selected during the autumn of 1976. With money saved from landscape design and a loan from her mother, suffragist Fay Davidson, Selma was able to purchase and mortgage the $80,000 property.

The Collective, at the suggestion of animal rights activist friends, decided to serve only vegetarian fare. Committed to separatist feminist practice, the group hired a female electrician, carpenter, and later an accountant and a lawyer. The machine shop interior was rebuilt and furnished with at sale purchases. Advertisements for the opening of a feminist Restaurant and Bookstore circulated in the winter of 1976 and the new business greeted customers in March, 1977. Selma named the restaurant Bloodroot after a native northeastern wildflower that grows in a manner reflecting the collective’s organization. The plant has a slow spreading, rhizomatic root system that supports several vertically furrowed blooms, each stamen independent yet fundamentally connected.

Samm Stockwell, Betsey Beaven, and Selma Miriam (formerly Bunks) lived together at 29 Hiawatha Lane and worked full-time at Bloodroot. The women committed to the practical and political dimensions of a feminist work collective, shared equally cooking, cleaning, and a mission to explode Patriarchy. Members of the collective formed intense partnerships: as lovers, friends, coworkers, and political interlocutors. Departures, ideologically and geographically, were profoundly difficult to manage. Pat Shea’s decision to leave the feminist enterprise in 1984 was particularly difficult.

In 1980 the Bloodroot Collective organized a feminist press (Sanguinaria) at the restaurant to publish The Political Palate cookbook. The cookbook offered both seasonal vegetarian recipes and a feminist manifesto, including essays on pornography, sadomasochism and dieting, and quotes from women’s fiction and poetry. The Second Seasonal Political Palate and the Perennial Political Palate followed in 1984 and 1993. The latter cookbooks offer reflections on collectivity and work, vegetarianism and nature. Popular vegetarian, feminist and eastern publications reviewed each. In 2007, with the assistance of vegan chef Lagusta Yearwood, the Bloodroot Collective The Best of Bloodroot: vegetarian Recipes and The Best of Bloodroot: Vegan Recipes; this time with Anomaly Press.

Many of the feminist concerns raised in the cookbook series have been explored further by Selma and Noel in popular lesbian publications such as Heresies, Lesbian Ethics, and Sinister Wisdom, and in vegetarian magazines.”

Noel, Selma, and Betsey at Bloodroot.  Photo credit Robert Giard.

And for a little local history…Check out Women’s Studies in Feminist Bookstores– All the Women’s Studies women would come in for an interesting article about the emergence of feminist bookstores and Women’s Studies programs in America in the 1970s.

“A Woman’s Place,” Portland’s first feminist bookstore, was founded in 1973, two years before the Women’s Studies was established as a field of study at PSU.  Always ahead of the curve.

A Woman’s Right to Choose…How Much?


My support of the right of women to obtain abortions has always sprung from my belief that women (and people in general) should have the utmost control over what happens to their bodies. This belief has always made my stance on abortion easy to delineate: for me, no one should be able to control a woman’s body for the benefit of a potential human being who has not yet come into living being. However, I must admit that the issue of pre-implantation trait selection threw me for a loop. Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) already exists that allows us to screen for genetic diseases and even to choose the sex of an embryo before implantation in the uterus; it does not seem far-fetched to assume that we may soon have technology that will allow us to choose for other traits in our future children, such as height, skin color, or perhaps even sexual orientation. While many may say that technology will not be advanced enough to control for such traits until far into the future, it is still an interesting thought experiment to think about how far a woman’s right to choose extends; does the right to choose only encompass a woman’s right to determine if and when she has a child, or does it also encompass a woman’s right to choose, as much as is scientifically possible, what type of child she has? While selecting against embryos and fetuses that have major genetic disorders is relatively uncontested (but even here, there is no consensus), is it appropriate for women to be able to choose what non-essential traits their child has? If a woman really wants a light skinned, brown eyed, six-foot tall male child, and technology is available that would enable her to select for those traits, does supporting reproductive choice mean we must support her decision to have precisely that kind of child? There are so many arguments for and against this, and there is such potential for abuse of this technology, that I anticipate my ambivalent stance on this issue to continue for quite a while. 

 

-Tina Sinha

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