The History of the Pink Bloque
The ladies of the Pink Bloque initially knew each other through involvement in the punk and independent music scene, or through organizing for Ladyfest Midwest Chicago. Some were actively involved in radical politics; others were interested in politics but had never been active; all of us were looking for a more creative way to enact our political beliefs. We found some of the radical left's '60s protest tactics and didactic rhetoric alienating and ineffective at engaging the larger public- so we decided to make protests more fun and more visually engaging by using the sounds, images and lingo of contemporary corporate popular culture.
Many of us paid a lot of attention to [and sometimes participated in] different resistance projects like Reclaim the Streets, the Department of Space and Land Reclamation, Critical Mass, and the Bread and Puppet Theatre. We were inspired by their practices of taking up public space for both celebratory and political purposes. We also read a lot about how groups ranging from the Suffragists to ACT Up used popular performance and culture to convey their messages to the public. In 1999 the anarchist black bloc was making news for its direct action tactics at the anti-World Trade Organization protests in Seattle. The coverage of these actions re-introduced the notion of "protest" into US popular discourse while shifting the image of a protester from 1960's hippie to 21st century anarchist. In the year 2000, thousands of protestors in pink took to the streets for the anti-corporate globalization protest surrounding the meeting of the International Monetary Fund in Prague, adding another evocative image to our notions of what protest looked like. Inspired by this spectacle, we chose to adopt pink as our signature color.
Our first date was in November of 2001 at a protest against the bombing of Afghanistan. We wore pink. There were thirty other people clad in drab colors and two wizards. We felt uninspired and ineffective. Then, in March of 2002, we decided to step it up.
At the Pink Bloque's first official meeting, we were introduced to Darrin Hensen, choreographer for such popular acts as Britney Spears and N'Sync. His $29.95 video promised to teach us to dance just like these stars! With this promise in mind, we decide that choreographed dance routines would become our protest tactic. Other important Bloque traditions materialized at this gathering: meeting and eating, finding the cutest pink clothes around, and making the streets of Chicago safe for roving dance parties. Oh yeah, and we also did the usual meeting kinds of things, like talking about process, tactics, and points of unity. The Pink Bloque decided that our approach to revolutionizing radical politics would combine cute outfits, astute social/political/economic/cultural criticism, catchy slogans inspired by pop music, and dance routines, dance routines, dance routines - in short, we brought the radical booty shake to street protest and demonstrations!
The Pink Bloque had our coming out party on May Day 2002. We expected a huge crowd for our party, but there was a dismal protester turnout that day. We set up camp by ourselves in front of City Hall and started dancing to Donna Summer's "She Works Hard for the Money." Although we did not have a "choreographed" routine, we cart wheeled into the hearts and minds of Chicago's downtown lunch crowd and by deploying "tactical flirting" to keep police at bay, we were able to hand out flyers about wage inequality. The action was nothing like we expected...but it was a success for us despite the unfortunate camel toe pants we were all wearing. We were pleased by the crowd's reaction and so we began to plan future actions.
We decided to enlist more booties to get down - the Bloque party began to grow. At the first open meeting six new people joined. Later, as more Bloquers moved away for love or school, we held a few more open meetings, which garnered us more members and consequently new friends.
With much media attention we began doing workshops and thinking up bigger and better actions. We also got out of the streets and into the classrooms and cultural centers to talk about what it was we were attempting to do. Because of these workshops and presentations we had the opportunity to articulate how our political theory and cultural practices came together to make up the well oiled dance machine that was the Pink Bloque. In the spirit of high school motivational speakers, one of our members decided a cute mnemonic device rife with wit and exclamation points would be a sure-fire way to get people to remember and internalize the motives and methods of Pink Bloque performance theory...so we created "The Six P's", later to grow into the 7 P's.
In the summer of 2003, many of our friends in bands [i.e. Justin Timberlake] were setting off on tours at the same time that the US government was pushing the wack quotient in foreign and domestic policy way overboard. We decided that we would go on tour and share our love of the dance and our hate of the UnJustified US policies put forth in the USA PATRIOT Acts 1 and 2, FCC deregulation, as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the US supported occupation of Palestine. We wanted to tour the East coast and complete our journey, like so many cultural and political sideshows before us, at New York's historical anarchist community center, ABC no Rio! Because we did not have major [or even indie] record labels paying for our vans or outfits, and we were not selling tickets to throngs of fans at stadiums, we had to do some serious fundraising to finance our trip.
After the tour some of us were interested in the potential for organizing larger dance actions. While continuing to do smaller, local actions we planned ahead to The March for Women's Lives in April 2004 in Washington, DC and for the Republican Convention in NYC the following August. In order to facilitate a larger dance action, we put a dance instructional video on our website and promoted that people learn it and meet us first in DC and later in NYC. Many people practiced the dance from the on-line video and met us to "Take a bite out of the right!"
After spending lots of energy and resources organizing for these national actions we were all experiencing protest fatigue. We no longer wanted to stage our actions within larger, permitted demonstrations. We felt that our autonomous actions were more effective because they contained an element of surprise. As any military strategist or "Punk'ed" producer can tell you, the element of surprise is key to effective tactics.
However much we wanted to continue, our energy was waning and members kept moving away or planning to move away. We talked about getting new members but no one seemed to have the energy to organize another open meeting. We finally had a "coming to Jesus" with each other in which each member had a chance to speak and say how they felt about the future of the Pink Bloque and their own ability to stay involved. Although we agreed that audiences liked what we did, some of us no longer found our tactic innovative or creative to participate in. Some members wanted to keep going and others felt that it was time to break up and start booking appearances on The Surreal Life along with other performance-as-protest has beens. No one can claim we were drunk with success [despite occasionally being drunk with alcohol]. We weren't interested in perpetuating ourselves just because we had support. Success for us ultimately was not about recognition. Success for us was finding a way to stay politically involved and finding ways to effect social change. We are all now looking in different directions. Our final action was getting together to write this zine, because if we don't write our own histories, no one will.
~Written by the Pink Bloque, updated by Rachel Caidor and Dara Greenwald 2005.