Journalist, newspaper creator, war correspondent, filmmaker, bar owner, cannabis farmer and activist. These are just a few titles that the 46-year-old Ana Nogueira has claimed in the last two decades. She phones me from a California cannabis farm called Redwood Terrace, where she’s been working on and off for the previous fifteen years and where she says she moved to be “with the love of her life,” something she tells me with what sounds like a soft smile. In 2006, Nogueira started working at a farm there called Redwood Terrace, which she now co-owns. She needed a way to fund what would eventually become a slew of political work without using corporate sponsors.
Back In 2001, Nogueira would get her first apartment in Bushwick, over on Starr Street, between Irving and Wyckoff Avenue. Her landlord had rented her a single floor between two stories that belonged to an army tent factory.
“When the factory rolled a big cart of army tent material upstairs, it sounded like an airplane landing. When they dropped the material on the floor above us, little bits of debris would drop down on us,” Nogueira remembers. She and her landlord converted the floor into five lofted rooms and Nogueira would invite her friends to live, collectively with her. Each paid $400 in rent.
While my interest in Nogueira stemmed from some of her later work, it quickly became transparent that Nogueira has been institutionalizing what some would call radical politics for quite some time.
Nogueira’s story began thousands of miles away in Johannesburg, where she was born. At the time, Nogueira and her mother were living in a church. Rocked by protests against the apartheid system, the city was a dangerous place; their home was robbed three times and Nogueira recalls the sound of shots ringing out in the neighborhood often.
She tells me that she never forgot about her time growing up in South Africa. On the phone, she recounts seeing that the Black nannies her family hired were forced to live separately from their husbands and children. Their work status gave them the right to live in Johannesburg, while their families were forced to reside in Soweto, a nearby black suburb. It reminded her about some of the racial injustices she says she would later see in New York. Her mother later moved there by using a connection with a family friend to secure a job.
“Being born in South Africa was the original radicalization for me,” Nogueira tells me.
Nogueira’s first foray in activism was as a college journalism student at SUNY Purchase in the mid-90s. Leading the newspaper as its first editor-in-chief, Nogueira wrote about police brutality and rape, among other sensitive subjects on campus.
“We were heavily censored by the journalism department director and I waged this big campus-wide fight against her,” says Nogueira. The director of the department told her: “I can get you a scholarship to Columbia School of Journalism, or you are going to keep fighting this fight and you’ve got nothing,” Nogueira remembers.
Nogueira turned that offer down and instead applied for a small $500 grant from the Puffin Foundation to start her own newspaper in New York, which she went about doing in 2000. Eventually called the Indypendent — originally called the Unstated, after a protest staged at the United Nations — they still put out a regular free print issue and count over 100,000 readers, according to its website.
“I’d worked at more corporate newspapers in Massachusetts, and working at a place like the Indypendent was life-changing for me,” says Mike Burke, a Democracy Now! producer who co-founded the paper with Nogueira.
While she was busy planning her newspaper, protests were erupting around the world in opposition to late 1990’s trade policies. Nogueira was a part of that movement too, associating the paper with a website called Indymedia that invited activists from around the world to post their own news by sharing photos and movie clips — a novel idea at the time.
“It was the first place that anyone could upload their own stories, their own pictures, their own videos,” Nogueira told me. Her face lights up with the memory. “And it mushroomed and ballooned, because during all these protests; CNN would be saying one thing, and then Indymedia would be showing another. Like, the police really did use rubber bullets and tear gas on peaceful protesters. So we were able to tell the counter-narrative.”
In 2004, Nogueira was among the activists who needed a method of communicating with one another amid the protests surrounding the Republican National Convention that year; in real-time they coded and deployed a new online service called TXTMob. The idea was that activists on the ground would be able to communicate rapidly as the circumstances changed in front of them. Among those so-called ‘hacktivists’, was Evan Henshaw-Plath, a friend of Nogueira’s who went on to create some of the formative code used by Twitter.
Amid the “War on Terror,” Nogueira pitched herself as a war correspondent for Democracy Now!
“I wanted to show Amy [Goodman] this could be done. I told her I needed $500 a week to do it. She was like, go do it. She also sent me a satellite telephone. She really hooked me up,” says Nogueira, who had been one of the radio program’s first video correspondents. She would go on to independently produce and co-direct a feature-length documentary called Roadmap to Apartheid, which would go on to win an editing award at the Milano International Film Festival in 2012 and was picked up by Journeyman Pictures a year later. Narrated by the novelist Alice Walker, the movie looks at Israel and South Africa through the lens of apartheid and tries to bolster support for the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.
Nogueira says the globetrotting left her exhausted, leading her to return to Bushwick. The neighborhood was changing and gentrifying. Nogueira decided to open a bar: the Starr Bar.
Ingrid Romero, a Bushwick native who is also a member of the collective that runs Mayday Space, told me that attending an organizing meeting at the bar let them reclaim their space in Bushwick. “In 2015, I was invited to an organizing meeting at Starr bar which led me to learning about and eventually working at Mayday and coming back to a community my family was gentrified out of,” said Romero, who uses they/them pronouns.
These days, the bar is a museum of archival relics from countless protests. When you walk inside, you’ll see original artwork from events like the People’s Climate March, Occupy Wall Street, the Black Lives Matter rallies, the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, and more. Ten percent of the bar’s proceedings go Mayday, which tends to direct guests over to Starr.
Mayday Space itself is a small organizing hub that acts as a home for various mutual aid work groups in the neighborhood, like Bushwick Ayuda Mutua’s food and essential goods drive, among other left-leaning causes.
Ienna Fernandez, the project manager there, tells me that “if you mention ‘mayday space’ to most organizers, people know it.”
When Nogueira talks about the space, she namechecks some of the people she says were most formative to the creation of Mayday, like her partner McNair Scott and with whom she founded Starr Bar, as well as Mayday alums, like Sandy Nurse, who now sits on City Council, and Lucas Shapiro, who now runs a group called Align New York.
More recently, Nogueria has moved out west, where she’s back at Redwood Terrace, the cannabis farm she started working at over a decade ago. She tells me that she began her relationship with the small farm in Humboldt county years ago as a means to support herself.
“We’re all basically struggling to survive here,” she says, blaming recent hardships faced by small weed farms in the wake of marijuana’s legalization in the state on “larger corporations,” like the private equity-funded Glass House brand.
“The whole industry is falling apart, especially for small farmers. I wouldn’t even say we’re threatened, we’re simply dying,” she says.
For Nogueria, the struggle brought a familiar calling.
“They’ve just out priced us and outgunned us,” she said. She’s now hoping to pivot the farm’s businesses toward becoming a new retreat space maketed at artists and social justice groups.
Top image taken by Eliana Perozo.
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