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Announcing a New Irish Organization in the San Francisco Bay Area

A chara (friend),

May Day Greetings!

We’re excited to announce the formation of a new Irish Diaspora organization, the Irish Diaspora Decolonization Alliance – Bay Area (IDDA). 

The purpose of Irish Diaspora Decolonization Alliance – Bay Area is to build an Irish political, cultural, social, and educational community in the Bay Area and beyond, united by anti-racism, socialism, feminism, LGBTQ++ liberation, accessibility, climate emergency and sixth mass extinction activism, and dedicated to the decolonization of peoples and living beings in reciprocity with Indigenous Nations on whose land we live and operate, as well as other Black & Indigenous / People of Color (BIPOC) communities.

Why IDDA?

For most of our history in California, Irish organizations have at best ignored, and at worst zealously participated in, racism and colonization. Many of our community spaces have been, and continue to be, explicitly or implicitly centered around white supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity, and cisgenderism.

IDDA aims to change these relations—to connect, build, and extend a new kind of Irish Diasporic political and cultural community around intersectional and decolonial liberation principles rather than norms of cisheteropatriarchy, whiteness, and collaboration with settler and imperialist states.

IDDA has been developed as an idea over the last five years between about a dozen Irish folx in the Bay Area, with advice from cairde in Ireland and across the Diaspora. We are building on the Irish Statement in Support of #BlackLivesMatter, our 2018 Dialogue About Indigenous-Irish Relationships and Building Solidarity on Ohlone Land, and the Irish statement delivered at the 50th Anniversary of the Indians of All Tribes Alcatraz Occupation Sunrise Ceremony. During this pandemic we have formalized this organizational framework through intensive debate, discussion, and collective labor. 

Each of us currently has solidarity and support commitments to anti-racism, anti-imperialism and decolonization (in which most of us are positioned as ‘white allies’), as well as commitments to labor struggles, feminist and LGBTQ++ liberation, environmental justice, peace and other liberation movements. While we initially came together as Irish people to support #BlackLivesMatter, #SaveTheWestBerkeleyShellmound and the Alcatraz Sunrise Ceremony, we’ve found we share a much broader set of political commitments informed by the global indigenous liberation movement and Irish republican socialist internationalism. 

We have no interest in abandoning our current political commitments, but we’re also frustrated by single-issue support efforts, and we envision being part of an organization which will amplify our individual work and situate it within a broader and more interconnected political project. As proud Irish people, we believe that being Irish is a major factor which informs our broader commitments to decolonization and provides a strong basis for such a community building project.

About IDDA

IDDA imagines a space where we do not have to choose between being Irish and fighting whiteness, between being Irish and being a Person of Color, between being Irish and being Queer, between being Irish and being feminists—a space where we can be our whole selves and link our commitment to learning about our Irish culture and history with our commitments to social justice.

IDDA is independent of any political party and open to all who generally agree with its Points of Unity & Specific Statements of Support and Solidarity. We recognize that we’re far from having the capacity to work on all of these ambitious principles simultaneously, but we none-the-less announce them clearly as a guide for our collective efforts. As the great Irish socialist James Connolly once said, “Our demands most moderate are – We only want the Earth!” While the founding members have agreed upon these organizational principles by consensus over the last year, they are not set in stone. We welcome all help in improving our organizing principles and, more importantly, building the capacity needed to help realize them.

We invite all Irish people in the Bay Area—whether by birth, descent, adoption, marriage, civil partnership, residency, or participation in Irish communities; whether socialists, anarchists, Irish republicans, anti-racists, anti-fascists, trade-unionists, environmentalists, peace activists, anti-imperialists, or feminists; and regardless of age, gender, religion, skin color, ability or sexual orientation—to join us in building this new Irish political, social, and cultural organization honestly, courageously, and respectful of differences.

We invite you to join us at our next General Meeting. If you are interested in attending or joining IDDA please contact <join (at) decolonize.irish>.

If you are not in the Bay Area but would like to build with us, please let us know. We currently have several members living outside of the Bay Area, and we’d be very open to more, as well as discussions about holding conferences or building new chapters. We look forward to stronger global Diaspora relations, alliances, and coalitions in the future.

Even if you don’t/can’t agree with all aspects of our ambitious inter/national program, we remain interested in standing and organizing with you in support of any of these struggles, and participating in spaces where our role as Irish people in global decolonization can be debated, discussed, and increasingly developed. For general inquiries, please Direct Message our social media accounts or send an email to <contact (at) decolonize.irish>.

If you’d like to receive our future announcements, please subscribe to our social media accounts: Facebook (@decolonize.irish), Twitter (@idda_ba), Instagram (@idda_ba), or join our public announcements email list by sending an email to <idda-ba-subscribe (at) lists.decolonize.irish>.

Why May Day?

We’ve chosen May 1 as our launch date for three reasons. First, today roughly corresponds to Lá Bealtaine on the ancient Irish calendar, a festival of purification and renewal when the hearths in individual households would be relit from a sacred communal fire. Today we seek to relight the fires of social justice in the hearts of all Irish people. Second, in Irish history, May 1, 1169 marks the beginning of the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland. Today we celebrate 852 years of our people’s resistance to English settler colonialism. Finally, May 1 is celebrated around the world as International Workers’ Day in commemoration of the Haymarket massacre in Chicago. In this new Gilded Age where wealth inequality is rapidly expanding and the material conditions of the people are rapidly deteriorating, we salute workers around the world who have been keeping us alive during this pandemic, and we particularly salute those workers who have also taken action to resist a capitalist order which continues to kill us.

Some Analysis of Our Current Historical Moment 

This past year has shown a very clear picture of how deadly this capitalist order is.  At the time of this letter, worldwide nearly 3 million lives have been lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the US, many of those who have died and who have been disproportionately affected  were “essential workers” such as farm workers, factory workers, nurses and medical staff whose employers, and the consumers who benefited from their labor, valued production and profit over safety and life. This inequality has been laid bare as we see people evicted in the middle of a pandemic and unemployment at record highs. People wait in food lines while billionaires line their pockets on the backs of “essential workers.” While jobs are lost and workers struggle, the stock market soars to record numbers and profits for major corporations are at all time highs. A select few have profited from this pandemic and, like always, the workers have borne the heaviest burden. On this International Workers’ Day we honor the lives lost and appreciate the workers who have kept us safe and sustained us during this pandemic. 

2020 also saw a major global uprising against anti-blackness. Centered in the U.S. and reverberating around the world from Britain and Ireland to Oceania, this uprising has had far reaching social consequences which continue to unfold. After centuries of struggle in Ireland and across the Irish Diaspora—by cairde like Olaudah Equiano, Tony Small, Rachael Baptist, Tom Molineaux, Frederick Douglass, Charles Lenox & Sarah Parker Remond, John Roy Lynch, William H. Yates, Margaret Murray Washington, W.E.B. Dubois, Marcus Garvey, Claude McKay, Cyril Briggs, Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Haywood, C.L.R. James, Paul Robeson, Ray Keogh, Alex Haley, Muhammad Ali, Dick Gregory, James Baldwin, Kwame Ture, Angela Davis, Jude Hughes, Ishmael Reed, Emory Douglas, Christine Buckley, Phil Lynott, Rosemary Adaser, Kader Asmal, Paul McGrath, Tim Brannigan, Mick & Patrick Dodson, Stan Grant, Cuthbert Tura Arutura, Mariah Carey, Samantha Mumba, Edmond Lukusa, Lucky Khambule, Raven Aflakete, Stafford Scott, Stuart Lawrence, Keina Davis Elswick, Emma Dabiri, Annie Price, Tommy McCarthy, Wuraola Majekodunmi, Kirsten Maher, Zainab Boladale, Lydia Gratis, and the recent development of organizations like the Association of Mixed Race Irish (AMRI), #IAmIrish, African American Irish Diaspora Network (AAIDN), Black Pride Ireland, Rooted In Africa and Ireland Network (RIAIN), and Black And Irish—the active and organized participation of Afro-Irish and other Irish youth of color in this uprising has created major cracks in hegemonic Irish whiteness and opened new and exciting possibilities for reinventing Irishness away from whiteness. We look forward to building in solidarity with our Afro-Irish elders, new generations of Irish youth of color, and all Irish people of conscience to accelerate this process.

2020 was also an unprecedented year of mainstreaming trans-Atlantic solidarity between Irish and American Indian peoples through the massive outpouring of Irish support for the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund and the Ireland Lacrosse team’s moving act of solidarity with our Haudenosaunee relatives. These two acts and their reception have demonstrated that the masses of Irish and American Indian people desire stronger relationships between our peoples and we in IDDA look forward to building principled and lasting international relationships on the basis of shared decolonial interests in the years to come. But while these symbolic acts are impressive and inspiring and indicate a strong mandate for building stronger relationships between our peoples, we recognize that any meaningful process faces an uphill battle against the grain of history. Irish people at home and abroad have benefited significantly from the colonization of American Indian lands over four centuries. Many of us in the Diaspora are alive today because of our ancestors’ participation in this massive genocidal campaign. Making amends and reparations will require many generations of difficult work, but as the old saying goes tús maith leath na hoibre (a good start is half the work), and this journey of a thousand miles begins anew for us with the formation of IDDA.    

The past year has also seen a huge rise in horrific attacks on our Asian relatives here in the Bay area and around the world which remind us of the shameful Irish role in the 19th century Chinese and Asian Exclusion movements. In the context of a pandemic which happened to emerge from China and the ramping up of imperialist anti-Chinese bluster, we stand with our Chinese and Asian relatives against these terrible attacks.

As Irish Diasporans in the U.S., we feel a particular responsibility at this time to resist further associations between Irish pride and U.S. imperialism, and to ensure that further Irish attempts to cultivate the U.S. state as a buffer against British imperialism at the expense of people oppressed by the U.S. state do not go unchallenged. While we recognize that Ireland and Irish people have benefited significantly from collaboration with U.S. white supremacy and imperialism, we contend that the advancement of Irish people at the expense of other colonized and oppressed people will never lead to the liberation which generations of our patriot ancestors envisioned. Ní neart go cur le chéile. We proudly stand shoulder to shoulder with other colonized peoples and call on all Irish people to do so as well.

Míle buíochas as do smaoineamh air, agus táimid ag tnúth le an gluaiseacht a fhorbairt,
Thanks for your consideration, and we look forward to building the movement,

Alish, Cáitlín, Delia, Emer, Fómhar, John, Maitiú, Nadya, Sé & Sean

Críoch / Ends


[Descriptive caption:] Video opens with an image of the IDDA logo with text in bold white bubble letters reading “Irish Diaspora Decolonization Alliance – Bay Area.” The video cuts to a scaled black and grey background featuring a gold and green Starry Plough constellation. A traditional Irish hornpipe called The First of May begins playing. Voice and text: “Indigenous people and the earth have been robbed in the name of power and profit.” Background changes to an image of a wall in Maddens Bar, Berry Street, Belfast City Centre, featuring a portrait collage of modern Irish heroes including Roger Casement, James Connolly, Che Guevara, Mairéad Farrell, and the ten men who died on hunger strike in 1981. Text and voice continues: “As members of the Irish diaspora, we come from a land that was colonized and we know what it is to be oppressed.” Image changes back to the scaled black and grey background featuring a gold and green Starry Plough constellation. Text and voice continues: “We want to use that empathy to undo injustice wherever we now live.” Background changes to an image of a section of a mural painted by Homies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth (HOMEY) in the San Francisco Mission District depicting Palestinian people of various ages breaking through a wall. The wall has aerosol art images on it and lists the names of many nations and peoples including Ohlone, Aztlan, Iraq, Palestine, Haiti, Roma, Maori, East Timor, Afrika, Afrikan Diaspora, Philippines, Moro, Chamoru, and Ireland. Text and voice continues: “We embrace all who are displaced, disempowered and struggling.” Image changes to black background featuring the IDDA logo and website “www.decolonize.irish” in bold white bubble letters. Text and voice continues: “Click on the link below and like and share this video. Join I.D.D.A. in building a powerful constellation for change.” Music continues as background returns to the original image featuring the IDDA logo with text in bold white bubble letters reading “Irish Diaspora Decolonization Alliance – Bay Area.” Music ends. Video ends.