Interview with Evaluate What You Tolerate! Organizer, Vanessa by Nicole X

Evaluate What You Tolerate

Evaluate What You Tolerate! is a recently released music compilation consisting of two volumes in tape or mp3 form and a zine. The project was created with the intent to work against white supremacy, racism, and hate.

Everything about the compilation is centered in the San Francisco Bay Area—it’s where the concept arose, it’s where the bands live, and it’s the home of the Anti Police-Terror Project, the organization that will be the final recipient of the funds.

I recently spent some time talking about what spurned this work, what kept it going, and where it might lead.

Nicole: Where were you/what were you doing when you decided to undertake this project?

Vanessa:
I was pretty depressed about the excruciatingly harsh realities as of late like the Oakland Police Department sex scandal, fucking Nazi empowerment campaigns, Jason Stockley not being convicted for first degree murder, and the eleven million people who Trump wants to deport and started thinking about what I do when I’m not in the streets and how white supremacy just doesn’t show up on the weekends.

Then, the Anti Police-Terror Project’s (APTP) #defundOPD campaign popped into my head—and I thought about how cool it would be if Bay Area punks raised money, a bunch of money, for APTP in 2017. Also, I guess after the Berkeley and SF clash with Nazis and racists (I’m not going to give their group names ‘cause I don’t want to validate them in the slightest), I was left with—“What now and what community am I part of that I can pull in?” I was in Oakland, on stolen Ohlone Lands.

Nicole:
Is this your first time organizing a project that includes a compilation and zine?

Vanessa: It’s the first time I’ve put together a comp, but I wasn’t alone in putting it together. Many people took pieces and ran with them. Thanks to all the bands and the people who are collaborating on the zine. It wouldn’t have been possible without Krytoff and Adam from APTP, Nicole Velouria, Dan Goetz, Austin Montanari, Morgan True, Annie Banks, Nicholas Taplin, April G, Hether at Wax Idols, Caroline Borolla, Max Nordie, April G, Naomi Lava Mazy, Dan Goetz, Julia Booz and Grace Ambrose at MRR, Sheena Benavente, Kenn Pseudo,  Nicole Everto, Unity Press, and Andrea Wolf. A huge thank you to Ida Belisle (@Sly___Ida) and E.M. Ramirez who made the cover art for both volumes. This list will definitely be incomplete by the time it prints.

This isn’t the first time I’ve made or collaborated on a zine. Evaluate This Zine! will discuss community resistance against white supremacy and capitalism, mutual aid efforts in the wake of climate change, stories from the antifa, and other inspiring projects across the continent that tackle colonization and transphobia. I hope people will be inspired by how many of us are resisting and agitating or at least—for those most affected—find some solace in what their comrades are doing to make our own worlds and safer spaces.

Nicole: Did you learn any lessons during the course of this project?

Vanessa: It’s not a lesson, but everything came together so fast because everyone was just immediately onboard after I asked. It was like the opposite of punk time… But, seriously, I think most people on the comp are either directly affected or know someone who is directly affected by this colonial dumpster fire. They wanted to throw down and show support after Charlottesville and because Nazis were mobilizing.

Nicole:
That might be the first, and definitely the best, story I’ve heard about when something didn’t happen on punk time! What advice would you give to someone considering doing the same thing?

Evaluate What You Tolerate

Vanessa: Organizing is impossible on your own and everyone you know has something to bring. Asking people to collaborate is probably the first step and then leaving space for other people’s thoughts and ideas is the next.

Sometimes stuff works out and sometimes it doesn’t—it usually doesn’t—but that doesn’t mean you should stop trying to smash the state cause your ego’s all hurt. Also, go to new meetings and try to meet new people who are doing stuff in the community. Lots of groups need extra hands and you’re not going to know where your skill set could really be needed unless you put yourself out there.

This is less advice, but, as communities are continually targeted, kicked out, deported, and viciously murdered, supporting groups on the front lines of injustice and community care is an obligation. It’s our responsibility to work every day to dismantle structural oppression and support mutual aid efforts that put community health, education, and self-defense first. I challenge everyone who opposes the systematic oppression of our friends and families to get involved where they are and create radically different alternatives to [amerikkka].

Nicole: Why did you choose the Oakland-based Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP) as the recipient?

Vanessa: This is probably best as a list:
They’re working towards defunding the OPD.
I see the APTP crew at every demo. They also lead many.
They train people on how to conduct independent, rapid response investigations into incidents of police terror.
They work to end state-sanctioned murder and violence perpetuated against Black, Brown and poor people.
They work to create a strong and sustainable community support system.
They’re a group of concerned and committed institutions, organizations, and individuals.
They’re a Black-led, multi-racial and multi-generational coalition.
They put out the #ReclaimMLK day call to action.
They’re not bullshit, compromising centrist liberals.

Nicole: It sounds like it was important that it be a group led by people on the front lines of gentrification, colonization, and white supremacy. Can you talk more about that?

Vanessa:
Because they know the most about it and have the right to self-determination. It’d be shitty to participate in something that perpetuates the same systems of oppression that you want to dismantle.

Nicole: What impact do you expect or hope to see beyond the Bay Area, if any?

Vanessa: I hope white punks do more. I hope this inspires other punks to make their own compilations where they are. I hope some fifteen-year-old picks the comp. up and it makes them feel like they’re not alone in their anger and loneliness in this corporate hell. I hope this gives people some inspiration to keep making stuff even though the constant stream of bullshit continues. I hope new relationships and projects come out of this between communities—white supremacy is not unique to this moment in time. I hope our international solidarity with people who are affected by globalization and white supremacy everywhere transmits through.

Nicole:
What role do you think punk plays in the current political climate in the United States? Do you think that has changed?

Vanessa: That’s a tough question because I don’t like to define what is or who is punk. What I will say is that many punks are antifa. Many are directly affected. Many do harm reduction work. Many live and work outside the system and society every day—and try to create safer spaces that are based on consent, accountability, and support. Punks are so uncompromising on making something out of shit and fighting back at all times, and I don’t think that will ever change ‘cause this globalized corporate monopoly game sucks and hurts.

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Nicole X lives in Oakland where she spends her time immersed in anything involving music, mental health, and/or libraries