Gil Fagiani Papers

Dublin Core

Title

Gil Fagiani Papers

Subject

Community organizing
Drug detoxification -- Lincoln Hospital -- Logos -- Spirit of Logos
Immigrants and migration -- Italians
Individuals -- Anderson, Kirsten -- Bailey, Bruce -- Bild, Gene -- Doyle, Terry -- Duffy, John -- Fagiani, Gil -- Huggins, Ericka -- Lebron, Lolita -- Lenin, Vladimir -- Lisella, Maria -- Mao, Zedong -- Marcantonio, Vito -- Newton, Huey -- Rotondo, Gerald (Gerry) -- Seale, Bobby -- Stalin, Joseph -- Taft, Richard -- Tracey, James -- Whalen, Bill -- Whitney, David
Labor movement and trade unionism
Mental healthcare -- Bronx Psychiatric Center
Music -- Boogaloo -- Doo-wop -- rock and roll -- salsa
Neighborhoods (The Bronx, New York) -- Bedford Park -- Kingsbridge -- Hunts Point -- Longwood -- Norwood -- Westchester Square
Neighborhoods (Manhattan, New York) -- East Harlem (El Barrio)
Radicalism -- anti-imperialism -- Black Panther Party -- communism -- Communist Party U.S.A. (C.P.U.S.A.) -- drug detoxification, community control -- Irish nationalism -- Irish Republican Army (I.R.A.) -- New Communist movement -- policing, community control -- Puerto Rican independence movement -- Spirit of Logos -- White Lightning -- Young Lords Party
Poetry
Publications -- The Communist -- Forward Motion -- Italian-American News-- Masses & Mainstream -- Mainstream -- Political Affairs -- White Lightning

Description

Gil Fagiani (1945–2018) was a poet, translator, essayist, short-story writer, memoirist, revolutionary, father, husband, and mental healthcare worker. During the first half of the twentieth century, his Italian immigrant family had settled in a small Italian community situated around Villa Avenue in the Bedford Park section of The Bronx. However, Gil's father was still in the military when Gil was born in 1945. As a result, Gil was not born in The Bronx, but the family soon resettled to their old Bronx neighborhood after his birth. By the time Gil was six, his family had relocated to Stamford, Connecticut, as part of the steady stream of white families leaving The Bronx at that moment in time. Nevertheless, when Gil was in his late teenage years, he made the conscious decision to resettle in New York City, first in El Barrio as a community organizer, then, as he developed a worsening heroin addiction, in The Bronx as a part of Logos, a state-run residential "therapeutic community" for recovering heroin addicts at Lincoln Hospital.

According to his own reflections, Gil had already identified as a revolutionary when he was living in El Barrio. However, it was at Lincoln Hospital, as a part of Logos, that Gil and other recovering heroin addicts became a part of a wider movement at that time for community control over drug rehabilitation programs. In one of the most dramatic expressions of this movement, in the Fall of 1970, a group of Young Lords, Black Panthers, and radical doctors and healthcare professionals at Lincoln Hospital took over a wing of the Nurses' Residence and established the Lincoln Detox Clinic, which ran as a community-controlled detoxification treatment center for eight years—until Mayor Koch effectively shut it down in 1978 by putting the program back under city control. In 1971, Gil and other members of Logos, for their part, broke off from their therapeutic community at Lincoln Hospital to form Spirit of Logos, which sought to give back control to residents over their own rehabilitation in the context of explicit political consciousness-building (something Logos had strictly avoided). Within a short amount of time, Black and Latino members of Spirit of Logos wished to form their own caucuses, to organize amongst their own communities, and the white residents of the community formed the White Lightning Section of Spirit of Logos.

It was from this grouping that White Lightning emerged as a revolutionary organization specifically aimed at organizing the poor and working-class white communities of The Bronx. Because of its background, White Lightning focused much of its attention on combatting both the heroin epidemic and the emerging "War Against Drugs" in The Bronx. Like the Black Panthers and Young Lords in New York City, White Lightning drew much of its theory in this struggle from Mike "Cetewayo" Tabor's pamphlet, Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide. As Cetewayo and others at the time argued, there was no feasible way that common street pushers could get the massive volume of heroin into places like The Bronx on their own. The tremendous influx of drugs into urban communities in the 1960s and 1970s had to come from elsewhere, with the assistance of others richer and far more powerful. It seemed curious, to say the least, that the U.S. government at the time had involved itself so intimately in the geopolitics of areas of the world—Afghanistan and Southeast Asia, for instance—where much of the global opiate trade was situated. At any rate, like Cetewayo and others, White Lightning saw the heroin epidemic as part of a larger strategy of U.S. imperialism to pacify resistance in urban areas like The Bronx—at the cost of massive human suffering. Those who did not die from overdose or street violence as a direct result of heroin could be easily rounded up and thrown into prison on minor possession charges, kept in punitive rehabilitation programs, or be manipulated to infiltrate and inform on resistance movements.

White Lightning also raised questions about the democratic use and control of public areas, especially parks, in New York City, and engaged in campaigns to inform Bronx tenants about their rights and organize them against particularly abusive landlords (of which there were plenty). Some members of White Lightning, looking to the Black Panthers and Young Lords as models, idealized a strict military-command organizational structure. Others wanted to keep decision-making in the organization as collective and lateral as possible, especially given its relatively small size. By 1975, the first group had won out, aligning White Lightning briefly with emerging currents in the New Communist Movement. It also had become increasingly difficult for members of White Lightning who were starting families and entering the workforce at the time to devote large amounts of time to the organization. This is when Gil and others left White Lightning to move on to other pursuits.

Gil, for his part, started a family and began working as an overnight mental healthcare worker at the Bronx Psychiatric Center. He remained in this role for the rest of the 1970s and much of the 1980s. It was near the end of his time at the Bronx Psychiatric Center that Gil met his second wife and lifelong partner, Maria Lisella, who lived in Queens. Gil soon quit his physically and emotionally taxing job at the Bronx Psychiatric Center and moved out to Queens. He began working in a residential treatment program for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts in Brooklyn and worked there for 21 years.

It was during this stage in his life that Gil began to blossom as a poet, memoirist, essayist, translator, scholar, and short-story wrtier. During his lifetime he published eight books of poetry, three chapbooks, as well as multiple essays and translations. Publication of his memoir, Boogaloo Barrio, is pending, as are several manuscripts he left behind, including one that he collaborated on with his wife (and Queens Poet Laureate) Maria Lisella

Gil passed away on April 12, 2018. Fittingly, he is buried between two of his heroes—representatives of the progressive New York Italian-American heritage he embodied—Vito Marcantonio and Fiorello LaGuardia.

Creator

Fagiani, Gil

Date

1940–2021

Format

Mixed media collection

Language

English
Spanish
Italian

Type

Archival collection

Identifier

MS-FAGIANI

Collection Items

"People's Doctor Murdered . . . an unsuccessful attempt to destroy the Lincoln Detox drug program," a pamphlet published by White Lightning/Spirit of Logos, located at 109 East 184th Street

Sacco and Vanzetti, the Italian Ancestors of Bobby Seale and Ericka Huggins, unpublished manuscript by Gil Fagiani

Issue no. 1 of White Lightning, a newspaper published by White Lightning/Spirit of Logos, located at 109 East 184th Street

Unnumbered issue [no. 2] of White Lightning, a newspaper published by White Lightning/Spirit of Logos, located at 109 East 184th Street

Issue no. 3 of White Lightning, a newspaper published by White Lightning/Spirit of Logos, located at 109 East 184th Street

Issue no. 4 of White Lightning, a newspaper published by White Lightning/Spirit of Logos, located at 109 East 184th Street

Issue no. 5 of White Lightning, a newspaper published by White Lightning/Spirit of Logos, located at 109 East 184th Street

Issue no. 6 of White Lightning, a newspaper published by White Lightning/Spirit of Logos, located at 109 East 184th Street

Issue no. 7 of White Lightning, a newspaper published by White Lightning/Spirit of Logos, located at 109 East 184th Street

Issue no. 8 of White Lightning, a newspaper published by White Lightning/Spirit of Logos, located at 109 East 184th Street

Issue no. 9 of White Lightning, a newspaper published by White Lightning/Spirit of Logos, located at 109 East 184th Street

Issue no. 10 of White Lightning, a newspaper published by White Lightning/Spirit of Logos, located at 109 East 184th Street

Issue no. 11 of White Lightning, a newspaper published by White Lightning/Spirit of Logos, located at 109 East 184th Street

Issue no. 12 of White Lightning, a newspaper published by White Lightning/Spirit of Logos, located at 109 East 184th Street

Issue no. 13 of White Lightning, a newspaper published by White Lightning/Spirit of Logos, located at 109 East 184th Street

Issue no. 14 of White Lightning, a newspaper published by White Lightning/Spirit of Logos, located at 109 East 184th Street

Issue no. 15 of White Lightning, a newspaper published by White Lightning/Spirit of Logos, located at 109 East 184th Street

Issue no. 16 of White Lightning, a newspaper published by White Lightning/Spirit of Logos, located at 109 East 184th Street

Issue no. 17 of White Lightning, a newspaper published by White Lightning/Spirit of Logos, located at 109 East 184th Street

Issue no. 18 of White Lightning, a newspaper published by White Lightning/Spirit of Logos, located at 109 East 184th Street
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