I first met Naomi Finkelstein at an event before the Poor People’s Campaign’s 40 days of moral fusion action this past summer. They are one of my favorite people to organize with because there’s never a dull moment.
Here is Naomi in their own words.
Tae: The “We Shall Not Be Moved” video is about bringing people together across the identity-based lines of division that have traditionally been used to pit us against each other. Can you share with us how you identify, what you need from your co-conspirators for social justice, and who you’re committed to standing up for?
Naomi: I am a non-binary, fat, transracially adopted, poor, disabled, Latinx, Ashkenazi Jewish queer survivor from the South Bronx.
I was homeless for two years as a teenager because i was queer. I am a survivor of sexual assualt. I stand with survivors and i believe them.
I was a union member. I am an anti fascist. I live my life by the slogans, “an injury to one is an injury to us all,” “nothing about us without us,” “silence equals death,” “si se puede,” and in Yiddish (my first language) “genug ist genug. Enough is enough.”
I will stand with and fight for imigrants. Muslims. Queers. Black folks. Poor and working class folks. I will not cross a picket line. Trans folks, especially Black trans women. Disabled folks. Palestinians. And because I am from the South Bronx, I must say Puerto Ricans who were my neighbors. Homeless folks and queer youth. Prisoners. This week especially, I must say I stand with Jews. (Except Woody Allen. I disavow Woody Allen.)
On Social Justice Role Models
Tae: Who are your social justice role models and influencers? Who would you most like to hear “you’ve done well” from?
Living: Dorothy Allison, Dolores Huerta, Bishop Dr. William Barber II, Bishop Yvette Flunder, Qwo Li Driskoll, Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza, Bernice Johnson Regon, Assata Shakur, Angela Davis, and Aurora Levins Morales.
Tae: What information do you consider when deciding which initiatives, ballot measures, and candidates to support?
Naomi: Did poor people give input on the position? How will it impact poor people. POC, queers, and trans people? Is it breaking any treaties with the Native American Nations? How will it impact disabled people?
Are the rich stealing Social security or medicare or medicaid public housing or voting rights, which are the birthrights our grandparents fought for? Is this about actual policy change or is it a band aid? How will it impact the earth?
On the Bottom Line
Tae: When it comes to the constant onslaught of outrage from this regime, we all have to consider our own personal bottom lines. What would you get arrested for? What would you put your safety on the line for?
Naomi: At this point I say without being hyperbolic, I will give up my safety to continue to build Jewish community. I leave my house everyday an openly queers non-binary disabled person who wears a yarmulke. I put my safety on the line everyday.
And I will die. I will go down resisting fascism with my last breath.
Tae: What gives you hope in these troubled times?
Naomi: When I was in my 20s, I heard Bernice Johnson Regon say, “sure we were afraid. When we were afraid we sang. If we became more afraid we sang louder.”
I believe we are not the first nor the last to fight for freedom.
Lesbians help save my soul.
Poetry runs through my head, and lines of books.
I know how to both endure and get by because of my grandmas.
Because I’m adopted, I know that being related isnt really about blood. Its about loyalty.
Good people, everyday in a thousand ways, are resisting. I got a lot of hope when the elder women at Standing Rock endured such hardship to resist. When disabled people risk death at tbe Senate for healthcare.
I daven every morning. Everyday before i leave the house, I put on my tallis and pray, and I sing. Sweet Honey in the rock. Ferron. Klezmer. I sing. Ask my ancestors help.
And no shit, my cats keep me going. They work overtime.
My neighbors too. All such decent people.
My buy nothing group gives me great hope.
Finally, the fire in Rev. Cecilia Kingman’s eyes when she offers backup at the Poor People’s Campaign gives me hope.
As part of the launch of the “We Shall Not Be Moved” music video, I’m asking members of the cast and crew five questions about identity, voting, social justice, and hope. I’ll be posting these on my blog in the coming weeks.