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Radical Cheerleaders | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

Radical Cheerleaders

Radical cheerleaders. Must be a lefty fantasy, right? Nope. Cheerleaders may be wholesome symbols of America like apple pie, the flag and Bill Bennett (before May 2003.) But now cheerleading has gone political.

Instead of waxing poetic on behalf of the Oakland Raiders or the hometown Lakers or Clippers, a Los Angeles-based team called "Radical Teen Cheer" has been recently livening up political protests and rallies across Southern California. "We're teens, we're cute, we're radical to boot!" they chant. Another favorite: "Who trained, who trained bin Laden? Who armed, who armed Saddam Hussein?"

As the Guardian's Duncan Campbell reports, radical cheerleading teams--among them the Dirty Southern Belles in Memphis and the Rocky Mountain Rebels in Denver--are cropping up in dozens of US cities, twirling pom poms of protest for diverse causes from gay rights to anti-sweatshop organizing to calls for a humane US foreign-policy.

Many of the twenty girls on LA's Radical Teen Cheer hail from a Latino working class neighborhood in East Los Angeles. "Cheerleading is just our way of getting our message across," team member Natalya told Campbell. Another teammate said people had accused them of being unpatriotic, and a couple of girls had to give up due to family pressure. "But we love our country," she said.

As far as I know, Emma Goldman never shook any pom poms. But she always said she didn't want to be part of any revolution if she couldn't dance. So, I have a feeling if she were around, Emma would be shaking it with Radical Teen Cheer, the Dirty Southern Belles and the Rocky Mountain Rebels.

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