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SF Pride Trans March

6.27.17 I followed The Degenderettes through the march from Dolores Park through the Castro to the Tenderloin. They are a crew of misfits, clad in black and painted in skull makeup, puppeteering a giant cardboard skeleton monster. There are smiles and kisses in the street, tits out, dancing, and an anger, a heat of revolution and riot. Onlookers smiled and applauded. Police lined the streets but were non-violent towards us. Everyone marching is pissed, in-love, sick of the state of things, ready to fight. The energy is thick, happy and furious. My favorite banner read: Not Gay As In Happy But Queer as in Fuck You.

Free Atena

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This year the young activist artist Atena Farghadani’s went on trial after she was arrested in Iran for drawing political cartoons of the parliament. In a tradition almost as old as illustration itself, she drew her government as animals (“insulting members of parliament through paintings” and “spreading propaganda against the system,”), and now she’s facing over 12 years in jail.

The greatest sources of information have been the Cartoonists Rights Network International (@CRNetInt on twitter) and Amnesty UK (@AmnestyUK) for following her progress. We gathered over 30k signatures for her appeal, then watched in horror as her attorney was arrested for the “indecency” of publicly shaking her hand. She’s gone on hunger strikes and been put through invasive tests, and we’ve yet to hear any good news about her situation. Search for her name on twitter and you’ll see countless postings as people spread the word of her sentencing and that she’s still in jail. Don’t forget. This woman is in jail for her drawings.

It’s been nearly a year. I drew Atena several months ago to spread the word, but was saddened shortly after to see that the Amnesty UK had taken down the signature page for her petition. What do we do now? She is in the hands of the Iranian government, and just sharing and talking about this case seems to be all we can do. Earlier this year, artist were drawing cartoons for her. #Draw4Atena #FreeAtena

Farghadani’s case is just one of many. Page through the Amnesty’s website and you’ll see countless political activists who are facing similar trials. Start writing letters. Attach yourself to one case and you’ll start to feel the anguish and helplessness of the situation. I don’t know what to do except keep looking, keep updated, keep talking about it. Realize that the ability to draw and write what you feel isn’t always a free right. Throughout time freedom of speech has been given and taken away. But it’s an incredibly powerful tool. Fight for it. Use it well.

Charlie Hebdo and Free Speech

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What a terrible way to start the day. I knew it was bad when I saw all my favorite artists begin posting “Je Suis Charlie” on Instagram. Yes, I found out through Instagram, and soon I was reading The New York Times in horror. I’m not sure if it’s my fear that the attack against free speech is going to get worse before it gets better, that artists always get targetted during the darkest times, or that satire absolutely infuriates humorless factions with guns. But when cartoonists and journalists are targeted, whether they were political satirists or not, it feels like a direct threat to everyone who holds a pencil, draws pretty/disgusting things or has a story to tell.

Here’s an article about the four cartoonists who were killed today.

Here’s the Cartoonists Rights Website.

Here’s some social media coverage on BoingBoing.

If you look on twitter #jesuischarlie, you’ll see an enormous outpouring of artists, all sad and horrified and all determined to upkeep free speech and draw.

One of my realizations at the end of 2014 was that I usually get quiet when difficult subjects come up and get lost in my own little world of making beautiful things. But making beautiful art /IS/ power, in the face of violence, oppression and fear, we have to make beautiful things. I stand by my contemporaries who have the fight and balls to look politics, religion and terrible things in the face and draw them.

We need publications like Charlie Hebdo, and the writers and artists behind them, to challenge, reveal and instigate. To make people laugh at the uncomfortable.

For now I feel sad, but I picked up my pen and drew my first self-portrait of the year.

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