On the one year anniversary of his passing we republish this biography of former Black Rose/Rosa Negra member Pablo Barbanegra. This is excerpted from The Pablo Barbanegra Reader, a collection of his political writings. Pablo Vive! Que En Poder Descanse!
Pablo “Barbanegra” Avendaño was born on October 1st, 1983 and raised in a working class family, his parents having immigrated from Argentina before his birth. He was the oldest of four brothers and grew up in Southwest Miami, colloquially known “La Sagüesera.” Pablo graduated from G. Holmes Braddock High School where he developed and engaged his interests in reading, politics, sleeping (developing the nickname “the Bear/Oso”), partying with friends as well as listening to and making music (rock and hip hop primarily)and was part ofa hip hop group called Soul where he wrote politically themed and socially conscious lyrics.
Pablo attended and graduated from Florida International University (FIU) in Miami with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. Here he began his involvement in political activism, as one of the founding members of the FIU chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS). Alongside other student organizers, he engaged in solidarity work with employees at the University of Miami in collaboration with Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Pablo also worked to organize with campus custodial workers who ended up unionizing with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). During this time he also supported efforts to organize mobile home parks in collaboration with South Florida Jobs with Justice.
During his last years in college and following his graduation, Pablo was a core organizer of the Miami Anarchist and Radical Study Group (MARS) in 2007-2008. That year he was part of the discussions in the Fall of 2008, leading to the founding of Miami Autonomy and Solidarity (MAS) – a libertarian communist,and later explicitly anarchist communist political organization in May of 2009.
After working in the non-profit sector briefly, Pablo transitioned in 2010 to becoming a history teacher in Miami Dade County Public Schools, working at the very high school he graduated from (Braddock). There he became involved in workplace organizing, participating with a network of rank & file teacher activists that worked both within and outside of the official union, United Teachers of Dade. As a teacher, Pablo often went above and beyond to create a curriculum infused with critical pedagogy and radical history which was not easy as a new teacher. The demands he put on himself and resulting sleep deprivation led him at one point to fall asleep at the wheel while driving home. Luckily he was not seriously injured but this led him to transition to South Dade High School and move with his girlfriend from her parents house in Miami Gardens to Homestead the following year.
Through MAS and the workplace network that he developed, he promoted and participated in a county-wide autonomous educator “sick-out” in 2010 that contributed to Governor Charlie Crist vetoing the reactionary education bill that Florida’s congress had passed. However, due to overwork and burnout as a new teacher taking on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes, he ended up leaving his job as a teacher at the end of his third year.
Outside of his work and workplace organizing, Pablo engaged in writing (some of which is featured here in this reader) and organized, facilitated and presented at film showings, community presentations and workshops on various social justice and radical topics, including a presentation out of town at the 2012 Los Angeles Anarchist Bookfair. He also worked with students at his former college, FIU, engaging with them in student organizing trainings, leading some to participate in developing FIUs “Florida Student Union.”
With the emergence of the Occupy movement in 2011, Pablo became heavily engaged in Occupy Miami in collaboration with his political organization, MAS, as well as alongside friends and comrades. He helped to organize the logistics surrounding and personally led the opening general assembly of Occupy Miami as they set up the encampment at Government Center. Pablo also continued organizing with contacts in Occupy Miami to argue for a focus on activity in participants’ workplaces, communities and schools. On the national level Pablo played a key role in the “Build Power, Show Power” campaign which attempted to leverage the momentum of occupy to promote workplace and community organizing and call for a May 1st general strike in 2012.
Through MAS, Pablo contributed to a year long process which lead to the merger of several groups into what became known as Black Rose/Rosa Negra (BRRN) Anarchist Federation.
In 2013, after leaving his work in Miami-Dade County Public School, Pablo decided to relocate to Philadelphia where his brothers, mother and family had already relocated. He moved in with his family in South Philadelphia while he transitioned to the city. Pablo worked as a bar back and at a local gym before moving on to his work asa bike courier. His younger brother Bryan had worked for yearsasatranslator within the Philadelphia court system and otherwise. For years Pablo discussed getting his certifications for this trade.
Politically, Pablo remained involved at a distance from Philadelphia with the Miami BRRN local while healso became involved in anti-police organizing through the Trayvon Martin Organizing Committee (TMOC). Though later Pablo stepped away from BRRN -as the distance made his work in the Miami local difficultand due to disputes with members from the New York City local – Pablo continued his political study, organizing and activism within Philadelphia. Just before his death he had joined and became involved with Philly Socialists engaging in various community organizing, such as their ESL classes program, but while maintaining his ideological affinity for anarchist communist politics.
On the evening of May 12th, 2018 – the day before Mother’s Day – Pablo accepted a bike courier gig that would offer extra money for working in inclement weather at night, app based food delivery service Caviar. In the darknessand rain of that night his tire became lodged in a storm drain leading to the fatalaccident which took his life. Pablo was 34 years old. He was full of life and love. He influenced and deeply touched the lives of so many. His many close friends, comrades, family members and loved ones will forever miss him, but carry him with them as they were all deeply influenced by his beautiful heart, mind and life.
We hope that you enjoy this reader of some of his political writings that only touches the tip of the iceberg of his work and ideas that those who knew him were lucky enough to experience and learn from. To honor his life — taken too soon — we ask you to consider how to live your life as truly as he did, driven from the deepest faith in and connections to a heart full of love and ideals of freedom, equality, solidarity and liberation.
-By Friends of Barbanegra, July 22nd, 2018
The above biography is excerpted from “The Pablo Barbanegra Reader,” a collection of Pablo’s political writings collected by friends and comrades in Miami.