Meet a Progressive: Investigative Journalist Dawn Paley
Dawn's journalism is her contribution to building a more just world.
Dawn Marie Paley is an investigative journalist and author based in Mexico. Her first book is called Drug War Capitalism (AK Press, 2014), and her second book is called Guerra Neoliberal: desaparición y búsqueda en el norte de México (Libertad Bajo Palabra, 2020).
Photo by Murray Bush - Flux Photo
What inspired you to start working for progressive social change?
I first got involved in environmental issues as a teenager, my parents lived across from a small forested area that was slated to be logged. I began organizing with my neighbors to end logging in the area.
In my early 20s, I moved to the city of Vancouver and got involved with independent media markers, we co-founded the Vancouver Media Co-op before the 2010 Olympics in the city. The call out for that convergence was "no olympics on stolen native land" and we were part of movement media covering the anti-colonial and anti-capitalist resistance to the Olympics.
Rents surged the year after the Olympics and many folks were priced out of the city. It was around then that I moved to Mexico, at that point I was already researching for my first book Drug War Capitalism. I've been here ever since, mostly working as a journalist and researcher.
What do you identify as the top issues progressives must confront nationally (in Mexico and/or Canada) and globally?
To me the most exciting movements taking place right now are connected to the abolition of police and prisons; ending prohibition and fighting for a safe supply of narcotics; organizing by women and trans folks against state and macho violence –including enforced disappearance– and Indigenous struggles for autonomy and land back. I think these points of mobilization are really powerful because they confront systems that have been failing communities for centuries in a non-reformist way. There's so much else going on that's inspiring as well, so it's a hard question to answer!
What types of organizing and projects are you working on right now?
Over this last bit, to be honest I've mostly been resting and hanging with my partner and cat, hoping to recharge my batteries after a couple of pretty stressful years. I'm slowly working on researching for a new book, and coordinating translations and an English newsletter with Pie de Página, an independent media outlet in Mexico City. You can sign up for our twice monthly newsletter, which features original translations and news and analysis on events in Mexico, here.
How can folks get engaged and involved?
Getting involved locally is so important, and I know Cyril does a great job of pointing to ways for folks in Bucks County to plug in to ongoing local activism. There's so much organizing going on. Definitely it's worth supporting the struggle in defense of Wedzin Kwa however you can, there's also folks in the US organizing in direct solidarity with family members of the disappeared in Mexico. Those are just a couple of examples...
Which journalists, writers, podcasts, and publications do you turn to for information and inspiration?
This is a really big question. This year I've read and enjoyed Miriame Kaba's excellent book We do this 'til we Free Us, and Harsha Walia's Border and Rule. I also love to read novels. The last one I couldn't put down was The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste.
In terms of podcasts, recently I've mostly been listening to Victor's Children from Winnipeg, which does a deep dive on the roots of socialist thinking and organization; The Fire These Times, hosted by Joey Ayoub, which features interviews with really smart folks and anti-authoritarian perspectives on a variety of global issues; and Crackdown, which is a podcast on the drug war made by drug user activists in Vancouver.
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Thanks for reading! I look forward to your feedback and suggestions. And most importantly, keep organizing!