“The core tenets of anarchism are autonomy, mutual aid, voluntary association, and direct action. These are all positive things.”– Jen Angel
Beloved long-time social justice activist, anarchist, and owner of Angel Cakes bakery, Jen Angel died on Feb. 9, 2023. Jen passed on after three days on life support following critical injuries in an apparent robbery outside of a bank in Oakland, CA.
For over 30 years, Jen Angel was a visionary influence and pioneering participant within multiple movements and sub-cultures that have significantly informed and shaped our world today. Jen has been a tremendous inspiration to me personally, providing a model of a life well-lived off the beaten track, in pursuit of a new, better, and more just world. Ten years ago, we founded an activist media project together.
Her involvement in punk rock and independent publishing in the 1990’s helped to codify the DIY ethic that has defined radical sub-culture. This work then fueled the Global Justice and anti-war movements of the early 2000’s and infused the anarchist politic that characterized this era of activism and gave way to Occupy Wall Street in 2011. These movements were a catalyzing force behind contemporary fights for racial justice, police abolition, climate justice, economic justice, and queer and gender liberation. Jen, through her projects, passion, and drive has been a throughline in these social movements over decades.
Jen founded the social justice event production organization Aid & Abet. Jen was the co-founder and publisher of Clamor Magazine, a bi-monthly alternative magazine published from 1999 to 2006. In 2013 Jen co-founded Agency: an Anarchist PR Project, which promotes anarchist ideas to the public through commentary, media relations, and educational campaigns. Following media relations work we did together during the Occupy movement, Jen and I teamed up and created Agency. The mission and infrastructure she made possible continues to endure. The project marks its 10th anniversary this year.
“There’s this misconception that anarchism means chaos. But the term means ‘without rulers.’ We don’t expect people to organize for us. We organize for ourselves.”– Jen Angel
Anarchism was especially important to Jen, as was anarchist publishing. She was a PM Press author and part of the organizing collective for the Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair for many years. She was involved in planning the 2023 book fair at the time of her passing.
As an anarchist, Jen did not believe in state violence, carceral punishment, or incarceration as an effective or just solution to social violence and inequity. This message has been a core part of our work, as Jen’s family and friends, to respond to media interest in her life, and the circumstances that led to her death—especially because her case has been classified as a homicide. The outpouring of mutual aid, solidarity, and care for Jen, her family, and friends is a resounding demonstration of the values Jen believed in.
If the Oakland Police Department does make an arrest in her case, the family is committed to pursuing all available alternatives to traditional prosecution, such as restorative justice. This is what Jen believed in. It’s critical that stories referencing Jen’s life should not further inflame narratives of fear, hatred, and vengeance. Jen opposed the use of public resources for policing, incarceration, and other forms of state violence that only perpetuate the cycles of violence that resulted in her death.
Jen believed in a world where everyone can live a dignified and joyful life and worked toward an ecologically sustainable and deeply participatory society in which all people have access to the things they need, decisions are made by those most directly affected by them, and all people are free and equal.
Jen Angel’s legacy is one that contains multitudes, among them was a deep commitment to safety and dignity for everyone. Rest in power, dear friend.
Ryan Only is from Washington, D.C. and has worked professionally in media and communications since 2002 and with many anarchist, radical, and cooperative projects since the 1990’s.