Up Against The Wall Motherfuc**er

root - Posted on 09 April 2009

PNN interviews the author, Osha Neuman, revolutionary lawyer, artist and long-time civil rights activist.

Readings: Wednesday, November 19, 2008 @ 7:30 P.M. Modern Times Books in San Francisco

Thursday , December 4th @ La Pena in Berkeley

by Vivian Hain/PNN ReVieWsfoRtheRevoLuTioN

Editors Note:

Osha the lawyer, practiced revolutionary legal advocacy so I could be “free” of the Prison Industrial Complex today. Osha, the artist showed me art truly rooted in the revolution. Osha the activist lives and breathes change. Osha never sold out or souled out, never got pimped and played, always remained hand-made. His story should be a bible, a guidebook for all budding activists, that you can actually make change happen by continuing to “be the change”.
...Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia, author of Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America

Vivien: Can you tell me a little about your new book Up Against The Wall Motherfuc**er’?

Osha: Though it has not been easy finding a publisher unless you’re a ‘bling-bling’ celebrity, I have received a lot of positive feedback about my book, which is my memoir honoring the anger and the passion of the 60's, including the pitfalls of the politics during that time. These days, many publishers feel that progressive books are not big sellers and today, most smaller progressive book publishers are struggling to publish books. It’s also that it’s either publishers don’t really know how to put a book like mine on the shelf, because they may feel it doesn’t fit neatly into a box or that a book like mine may be too complicated and personal. It has been a struggle, taking me several years to find a publisher. The book title is the name of the radical group I was a founding member of from 1967-68 on the lower Eastside, which also derived from a Leroy Jones poem called Black People, which tells about ‘just taking it’, that “all the stores will open if you say the magic word, up against the wall motherfuc**er, stick em’ up!” This was during a time when there was a lot of discontent in the United States, a time when the civil rights movement and an anti-war/anti-draft movement were at their peak, so it was the right time for us to create a social movement. It was a good time to create a mass social revolution, especially when there was such a huge drop-out rate of white people not fitting into the boxes, refusing to live a stereotypical life. Things got very intense during this time and we were considered ‘freaks’ though we were quite radical and militant, constantly fighting with police and creating riots.

V: Why didn’t you sell out, get comfortable and become a yuppie?

O: Although I grew up in a middle-class family, I was never one to have an appetite for having a lot of material stuff. That has never really mattered to me, as I am very minimal in nature, I am an artist and I am committed to representing and being on the side of the real people who deal with injustice committed upon them. I really enjoy the work I am doing, yet on the other side of the coin, it can be complicated at times. I am not in it for the money, I am happy with what I am doing in my life.

V: What is your take on the whole notion of ‘pimpology’ in what you see going on today in the context of others ‘selling out’ & getting ‘played and pimped’?

O: I suppose a part of me understands some of the painful experiences from my own families’ past experience, making me drawn to people who are going through struggle and adversity in their life, it’s my identity… My parents were German Jewish refugees who survived a divided world of fascism. I also see a similar dynamic of this sort here in the USA, in the constant scapegoating and in breaking people down in lawless ways. I stand strong with my resistance, representing the people from the bottom like houseless and poor folks, who in my opinion are the most solid in their lives. It’s also the crazy energy involved in the politics, while looking at history back in the 60’s, because they were thinking about the future and in how to create new social movement in dealing with fighting the system.

V: What is it deep within you that keeps you fighting for poor folks like me and Tiny, co-founder of POOR Magazine?

O: Becoming a lawyer has enabled me to level the playing field in fighting the big institutions. I am very impassioned doing this work in every way. Well… I really wish I knew, but I do know that it upsets me when injustice happens to people with no power who are being abused by people with power, being taken advantage of. I have also had my own personal experience with this in the past.

V: Tell me a little about the revolutionary advocacy you have done providing legal help to houseless folks and some of the other stuff you are doing with COPWATCH and POOR Magazine?

O: I am impassioned about the work I do with groups like COPWATCH, who are a very small, but great organization where I help facilitate legal training workshops. I am also active with POOR Magazine as a board member, supporting POOR in every way that I can. In addition, I also work with East Bay Community Law Center, providing free legal services to very low and no income people, including working with law school students in operating legal clinics for this community and help run the self help center CLAS, Community Legal Access Site, representing houseless folks who need legal help by providing legal help and fighting policies around houselessness throughout East Bay cities such as Berkeley, Albany and Oakland. We have been operating for one year now, creating a sense of civil disobedience by forcing change and creating possible action through this program with legal advocacy.

V: What would you like to see happen with your book?

O: I have a vision of a better world full of people who are a lot more free and happier without creating destruction on nature. I feel that what we do to the most vulnerable tells us a lot about the kind of people we are. In searching for thoughtful examination of all the unanswered questions from the 60’s about how to do radical politics, you can't learn from the past if we don't honor that complexity, as the past is still very much with us today.

Check out Osha’s upcoming book release events:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008: 7:30 P.M.
Reading and Talk
Modern Times Books
888 Valencia Street
San Francisco

Thursday, December 4, 2008: 7:00 P.M.
Gala Book Release Celebration - Music/Food/Talk/Rare Archival Footage
La Peña Cultural Center
3105 Shattuck Avenue
$10 gen. $5 students w/ID & seniors
A Benefit for MECA, the Middle East Children’s Alliance


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