Thursday, December 6, 2007
On Friday, November 30th, the Community of Sant'Egidio, a worldwide Catholic movement (I lead the prayer group here at Georgetown) organized the fifth annual World Day of Cities for Life--Cities Against the Death Penalty. 700 cities across the world participate as a sign of their moral alliance against capital punishment. In many of these cities, symbolic monuments are illuminated as a sign of the city's commitment to bringing and end to the death penalty across the world. The Washington Community of Sant'Egidio gathered Friday night at St. Stephen Martyr Church in Foggy Bottom to participate in solidarity with the rest of the world in a "prayer for life in death row."
In other important news about the death penalty, the state of New Jersey is growing closer to becoming the first state to legislatively abolish capital punishment since it was reinstated by the Supreme Court thirty years ago. After a legislative committee heard testimony yesterday, eight Democrats in the state Senate Budget Committee gave majority approval to a measure to end the death penalty. The repeal will go before the entire Senate soon. Both Gov. Jon Corzine of New Jersey and Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts back this repeal, so it is expected that it will become law. Although it was before a budget panel, the debate focused heavily on questions of morality and deterrence. Many religious leaders and civil-rights activists spoke out in favor of the repeal.
What with the current staying of executions until the Supreme Court rules in the Baze v. Rees case, it is definitely a time of optimistic hope for opponents of capital punishment.
How do you think opponents of the death penalty can best act to bring an end to capital punishment? Do you identify more with principled nonviolent actions (à la the Community of Sant'Egidio) or do you think more pragmatic, legalistic methods are better? Or perhaps they work hand in hand.
On December 5th in Pretoria, South Africa, hundreds of citizens marched with shirts with the slogan across the chest "50/50 No Compromise / No Going Back" in order to promote equal gender representation in government. The activists marched from Sammy Marks Square to the Union Buildings in an attempt for the government to sign a memorandum promising a stronger effort for gender equality in the government. The march went over quite positively with government officials, as the memorandum was received by Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad and signed by local government deputy minister Nomatyala Hangana. These government officials, among several others, even joined in on the march along with several organizations including Gender Links and the Women's League of the African National Congress.
As to the campaign's goal of creating a completely equal gender ratio in government positions, Minister Pahad remarked, "There is no reason why there shouldn’t be a 50/50 balance in government." Not only women participated in the march, as many men and youth also took part, supporting the cause and enjoying the entertainment provided by singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka at the Union Buildings. The march was not, however, only directed at gender equality in government but also at violence against women and children in Africa, about which minister Hangana stressed education as a solution: "To curb the levels of violence against women and children we’d like to see children be taught against women abuse."
Overall, the march seemed to be a success as a part of the 16-day campaign.
The event is covered by an article in The Times.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Sunday, November 25, 2007
This week (Mon., Nov. 26- Fri., Nov. 30) on campus is Gender Liberation Week, sposored by GU Pride and cosponsored by Diversity Action Council (DAC), The Office of LGBTQ Community Resources, The of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Action (IDEA), Take Back the Night, MEChA de Georgetown, the GU AIDS Coalition, FOCII, the Lecture Fund, and the College Democrats. The purpose of Gender Liberation Week is to address issues facing transgender and intersex communities, and gender norms and feminist issues. I reccomend checking out the invite on Facebook for more info on what events will be going on.
I think the issues being addressed affect a lot of people outside the gay community, and there will be some interesting events. I think GU Pride events have been very well done (and numerous!) this year, so I am looking forward to walking through Red Square this week!
Sunday, November 18, 2007
On 18th, the civic police of Cleveland, Ohio, collected no less than 421 guns in 5 hours from their citizens- the police held the one-day event where citizens could exchange their guns with 100 dollars' worth of a ticket with which they can purchase gasoline.
They turned the jump in oil prices into advantages of preventing gun-related crimes.
When I heard of this news, I simply thought that those who did not know what to do with their unnecessary guns decided to trade them with the tickets. The deeper I think about this news, however, I started wondering those people might be too poor to buy expensive petrol and the police was seeking a way to prevent crimes comes from poverty.
Though it was not mentioned where the resources had come from and I guess it was tax, if 100 dollars could save one person's life, it is incredibly cheap and I'm so curious how many guns would be collected if this kind of event was take place throughout the US.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Among the slackers, kids who are tardy to class, and kids with “attitude problems,” fourteen-year-old Cazz Altomare joins the merry band in detention…for the unthinkable crime of hugging. In Bend, Oregon, Sky View Middle school officials have implemented a school rule banning hugs in an effort to create an “environment that’s focused on learning, and learning proper manners.” But if this middle school truly is interested in providing an environment conducive to learning, why would it strive to implement a rule stunting emotional growth?
Sadly, Sky View Middle School is not the only school that has enforced such a policy. In Oak Park, Illinois, Oak Park Middle School has cracked down on the hugging problem because as principal Victoria Sharts states, “Hugging is really more appropriate for airports and family reunions.” The ban on hugs is part of the school’s new “comprehensive” campaign to stop bullying. As a part of this plan, and to stop the apparent inappropriateness of any physical contact whatsoever, Oak Park has decided that even high-fiving in the hallways will be frowned upon.
By banning hugs and other forms of affection, the schools teach students that physical displays of affection are unnatural. They create sterile environments devoid of caring and love. In a society that already is largely disconnected with its feelings and is preoccupied with things like reality TV, video games, and alternative reality simulations, schools need to promote true emotional responses instead of the shallow responses fostered by technology. If more schools continue to enforce this ridiculous “no hugging” policy and treat displays of affection as a criminal offense, children of the next generation will have a better relationships with their cell phone than with other human beings.
This clip is 22 News' coverage of the policy banning hugs in Forest Park Middle School in Illinois.
Monday, November 5, 2007
On October 25th I attended a memorial service at the Longworth House Office Building for the late Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife, daughter, and three staff members whose lives ended abruptly in a plane crash five years ago in Northern Minnesota. At that time Wellstone was in the final chapter of a heated campaign to keep his seat in the Senate for a third term. But a movement greater than just some politician and his family went down with that small aircraft on October 25, 2002.
Few political figures have the human ability Wellstone did to truly represent the people who elected him. Standing 5'5" tall, Wellstone was known as a fiery debater, defender of the weak, and strong voice for those who are not always heard in the discussions of America's welfare. He was a champion of laborers, the mentally ill, victims of domestic violence, Native Americans, children, immigrants, environmentalists, and peace activists. A Democrat representing Minnesota, Wellstone refused to vote along party lines when his conscience told him otherwise. He was the only senator up for reelection in 2002 who voted against a US attack on Iraq. He concluded his October 11, 2002 speech with a genuine thank-you to his staff for not trying to convince him to vote otherwise. (Iraq Speech clip:
Wellstone emerged from Academia (Carleton College of Minnesota, more precisely, http://www.carleton.edu/) in 1990 to run against 2-term incumbent Rudy Boschwitz. His campaign had little funding (by the end he was outspent 7 to 1), he was largely unknown, and his was widely dubbed a long-shot campaign. Yet Wellstone's clever television advertisements (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbmMlTsKo30), and signature big green bus helped get his name out. And his compassion and honesty, apparent in even a simple greeting, helped gain him the support that won him the election.
Being in the presence of Senator Wellstone's friends and former staffers that day, I was once again reminded of my own brief exchanges with the senator who made such an impact on my own life. Paul Wellstone and his wife, Sheila, are my heroes because they symbolize real change through American politics--the way our democracy should be. Paul once said that politics is about improving people's lives. And I know he really truly felt so.
"Never separate the life you live from the words you speak." His words.
For more information on the nonprofit organization carrying on the Wellstone movement go to: http://www.wellstone.org
Saturday, November 3, 2007
Women and Men United in the Fight against Gendered Violence
For more information, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or visit our Facebook group page at http://georgetown.facebook.com/group.php?gid=11023075715, where you will also find links to all of the TBTN Week events on the column on the right-hand side of the group page.
Monday, Nov. 5th
Open Mic Night
8-10pm, Uncommon Grounds
Come enjoy a wonderful night of spoken word pieces, poetry, songs, and more, including a performance by Harmony! Bring your own amazing lyrics, spoken word, poems, testimonies, stories, etc... to share! Performers receive free drinks. And be sure to try out TBTN's Drink of the Month at UG. And add a Shot of Charity to your drink to help out House of Ruth.
Tuesday November 6th
How to Be An Ally to a Survivor
8-9pm, Village A Community Room
1 in 4 women will experience rape or sexual assault during their college careers. 1 in 8 males will experience rape or sexual assault during their lifetimes. Will you be ready if it happens to someone you know? Learn how to be a prepared and supportive friend by listening to a panel of experts (including GU’s Sexual Assault & Health Issues Coordinator Jen Schweer, GU’s Assistant Director of Residence Life Christy Anthony, Joe Vess from Men Can Stop Rape, and a representative from the DC Rape Crisis Center) and engaging in meaningful discussion. Mouth-watering cupcakes from *CakeLove* and drinks will be provided, so bring a friend and your appetite!
Wednesday, November 7th
Gender Motivated Violence and Perspectives
Co-Sponsored by GU Pride & LEAD
7-8pm, McShain Small
An expert panel will be addressing the important issue as related to local campus events, nationally, and globally. Don’t miss being a part of this very important discussion. Snacks and refreshments will be served.
Thursday, November 8th
“Tough Guise” Documentary & Dinner
Co-Sponsored by GUMARR
6:30-8:30pm, Village C Alumni Lounge
Thursday nights were practically made for eating take-out and watching a movie. TBTN, in a most appropriate (and kind of adorable) conjunction with GUMARR (GU Men Advocating Relationship Responsibility), is hosting (A FREE!) dinner and a movie. Bangkok Bistro will be catering! Jackson Katz's "Tough Guise" is a documentary which examines the media's role in encouraging violence as an expression of masculinity. I would venture to say that "Tough Guise" is about how and why guys are taught to be tough. This "real men are tough" idea has a profound impact when it comes to gender-motivated violence and sexual assault. A discussion will follow the film.
Friday, November 9th
Vigil and Rally
Co-Sponsored by GU Pride
6-7pm, White Gravenor Esplanade
Listen to survivor’s stories, rally against gendered violence in our community, and join us in a candlelight vigil to conclude TBTN Week. Speakers include students, faculty, and administrators, and the night includes a performance by GraceNotes.
This week is a wonderful opportunity to make your voice heard and show your support in the fight against violence. I encourage all of you to come check out the great events we have planned!
Friday, November 2, 2007
All of the shows that we love to watch could be over around the holidays if the Writer's Guild of America decides to follow through with the strike that they have said is a possibility on November 1st. The writer's contracts run out on October 31st and the WGA, along with all of its member's support, has announced that they might decide to strike after the contracts end. Many shows, including NBC's Heroes have been rushing to film as many future episodes as possible before November 1st. Another result of the strike is that stations will need to find fillers for all of the primetime spots. It is suggested that they would probably begin to air more sports, reality shows, and reruns.
There are many reasons for the strike, but the general idea is that the writer's are not being given enough credit and payback for their work. Shows do not compensate writer's for things like episodes viewed on the web and dvd/itunes sales. Also, the issue of reality shows being unionized has been raised. One of the biggest complicators is how traditional tv is going to combat with new-media, like webcasts and youtube.
It is suggested that if the writer's go through with this strike, the damage could be dramatically worse than the strike in 1988, which cost the industry an estimated $500 million. In the writers defense, I do have to say that because they have such a huge network of people who are influenced by them, this strike will almost surely result in change. Best of luck to them, and all my hopes that they sort out this issue sooner than later!
Friday, October 26, 2007
The story of the Armenian Genocide:
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
But, you out-of-towners just don't get the security challenges at the Capitol. Not even thinking of terrorism, there was a crazy man who shot two people and killed them, including a Capitol policeman. These folks work very hard, are nonpolitical, and are just trying to keep people safe. Sure, the Capitol has real symbolic significance. But Monday morning? Staffers (not congressmen and women) are rushing to get to work, and you're blocking traffic with a nonsensical chant?
Please . . .
Friday, October 19, 2007
In order to get my fill of the Dalai Lama, I yet again extended myself and made an effort to see his Holiness on October 17th. For what its worth, the effort included an hour and a half bike ride to and fro to the Capitol and countless drops of sweat. While the Dalai Lama was supposed to deliver his speech "at about" 2:30pm, he did not get to the podium until a quarter after 3:00pm. Somewhere after this time, he delivered a speech. It may have been exhilarating, enlightening, or even heartwarming, but James DiPietro will never know, for he had to ride his bike back to Georgetown University to attend class like the good student he is.
Now of course the speech is most likely viewable online, as everything is, but to be honest, I am quite disappointed and do not care too much about the speech anymore. I am tired of concerts, meetings, speeches, etc. always commencing late. If Grammy Award winner Kitaro, Tibetan dancers, and Richard Gere are to perform/speak at 2:30pm, then just say that on the flyer. Additionally, one would think that Richard Gere would be able to put some sentences together that have some meaning instead of "I see the Tibetan supporters up front, are there any in the back?" While the day was meant for peace, unity, awareness, wisdom, understanding, and communication, I only encountered these principles amongst the mass of people in attendance. Still, it was a great thing and tear jerking to an extent to see so many people gathered for the cause of non-violence. However, I wish the Dalai Lama, or the scheduler of the ceremony, could have been more prompt or honest, respectfully. On the bright side, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden has some nice pieces and I advise anyone to go and check them out.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Molly and I went to the West Lawn of The U.S. Capital Building to listen to the address by Dalai Lama today. It was a ceremony of his receipt of the Congressional Gold Medal.
The weather was so beautiful today and the white color of the building was shining against the blue sky.
First we listened to a congratulatory address by Richard Gere and Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, following some traditional Tibetan music.
Dalai Lama finally showed up more than one hour behind of the schedule, being screed by an umbrella colored in red and white, gathered by VIPs in black suits and under close guard.
The notable first word from His Holiness The Dalai Lama was...
"Wait a second."
And he wore a sun visor which was the same color as his religious costume!
The way he talks reminded me of my kind grandpa.
He was such a humorous and warmhearted person, I felt.
The main things he was addressing were the appreciation for the presentation of the medal and the message that if the Tibetan problem could be solved in non-violent way, which is the only effective solution based on the historical experience, it would mean a lot not only to the Tibetan but to the people around the world trying to gain right and free as a hope and as a good example.
The word which I keep in mind is that non-violent principles are attainable in our own lives.
"My article will appear on the Washington Post this weekend. So please check it!"
This was the conclusion of his address.
Sat dawn on earthy smelling loan where birds and squirrel were playing around, listening to the warmhearted grandpa.
It was really peaceful space there.
Please back me up! hahah
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
According to the UN and World Bank, 1 billion people lived in extreme poverty worldwide, and according the the US Census, approximately 12 percent of Americans- that's 36.5 million people- lived below the poverty line in 2006. Poverty can be cause and consequence of violence. So, if poverty is so widespread, can we really talk seriously about eliminating violence without eradicating poverty?
Observance of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty began twenty years ago in Paris, France when over 100,000 people gathered to hear a reading of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognize and honor victims of poverty. The main purpose of the day is to draw attention to the international problem of poverty.
The UN Department of Public Information and UN Millenium Campaign are again sponsoring their annual event STAND UP AND SPEAK OUT against poverty. Last year, they set the world record when 23 million people participated around the globe.
At Georgetown University, OurMoment will be hosting Stand Up at 1pm in Red Square. "Stand Up" with millions of other people around the world in solidarity against poverty, and make an impact by showing you care.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Sponsored by Take Back The Night
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October 9th-12th, 10am-4pm, Red Square
Did you know that around the world at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime? And that in the United States, 5.3 million women are abused each year?
Take a stand against domestic violence by stopping by our table in Red Square this week, and pledging your commitment against it through participating in a visual and interactive campaign. Stop by to also get buttons and purple ribbons in honor of October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and show your support for this important cause.
For more information, please contact us at email@example.com .
Friday, October 5, 2007
On that note, what inspired me to write this post was a few actions by both the Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in the last few days. On Tuesday, October 2, the Texas Criminal Appeals court stayed the lethal injection of a man scheduled for death on Wednesday the 3rd. This action by the court, according to the NYT, signals an 'indefinite halt to executions in Texas.' If you're like me, you'll do a 'double-take' and read that again, Texas indefinitely halting the death penalty... it's about time.
Yet, the Appeals court hasn't released any information regarding what led to their decision and how the 5 to 4 vote was split between judges, yet it's safe to say that this action is a direct consequence of the Supreme Court's decision to grant a writ of certiorari and consider whether or not death by lethal injection is a form of cruel and unusual punishment, thus unconstitutional under the 8th Amendment.
This drastic and incredibly significant decision on behalf of both the Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Appeals could have resounding impact in the process of the criminal justice system throughout the country, and might finally, decide that the death penalty process is both cruel and unusual and incredibly racist.
What I thought makes this case interesting is the fact that the lawyers are not trying, it seems, to abolish death penalty as a whole, at least not openly. They are specifically attacking the method of lethal injection and provide staggering statistics abouts in ineffectiveness. The Texas Court of Appeals gave the district attorney in Texas, Tim Curry, and the state's director of criminal justice, Nathaniel Quarterman 30 days to respond to claims outlined by the inmate's lawyers stating that the chemicals used in lethal injection do not provide a quick and painless death, but rather, 'paralyze[ed] the condemned inmates while they painfully suffocate.'
Based on information I received from the NCADP, lethal injection can be incredibly painful, especially when time is spent searching for viable veins and chemicals are not properly introduced into the blood stream. There are records of people laying on the table for 30 minutes to an hour, quietly saying, 'it's not working.' That plea should be taken as a direct attack on the use of the death penalty as a 'deterrent' for crime, something which has never worked anyway. See the NCADP website for a story on 'Nine Botched Executions' and read for yourself how inhumane this practice is... especially the part where the blogger mentions that the chemicals used in lethal injection were banned from use on animals because it was proven that it was not quick and painless, are we at a point where human pain is less significant than an animals pain?
Hopefully this will stimulate some discussion about the death penalty and it's tragic consequences and keep watching the news to see where the Supreme Court and Texas court go next!
Also, on a side note, The Nomadic Theatre group on campus is performing the acclaimed play, 'The Exonerated' this month. Here is the information, I strongly suggest everyone attend and see for yourself how unjust the system is.
Nomadic Theatre’s first show of the 2007-2008 season, and the very first production of the Georgetown school year, “The Exonerated”.
October 17th at 8pm *This show will be followed by a talk back with Shujaa Graham, an exonerated death row inmate and anti-death penalty activist.
October 18th and 19th 8pm
October 20 at 2pm and 8pm
October 21 at 7pm
Sentenced to death. For crimes they didn’t commit. Sentenced to years behind bars. Ripped away from wives, husbands, children. Jobs. Lives left behind. Imprisoned by a racist and unjust justice system. Thrown behind bars in cruel and brutal prisons. Raped. Abused. Alone. For crimes they didn’t commit.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
But I sometimes wonder if, because we focus so intently on these troubling examples of violence, we sometimes forget to question the forms of violence that have become almost acceptable in our own country, such as the death penalty. I volunteer in the Prison Outreach program at Georgetown, which has led me to become involved in the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP). They often send out emails asking members to petition on behalf of people who are soon to be executed. I regularly click on the links included in the email and submit my petition, but it was beginning to be merely automatic, and I was unsure if I was even helping the cause at all. However, today the NCADP asked members to do something a little different, and a lot more creative. In mixing up their strategy, I think they will be much more effective.
Basically, instead of merely sending out petitions to state governments protesting a sentencing, NCADP is launching a massive YouTube campaign on behalf of Troy Davis, called the "Troy Davis Innocence Matters Video Project". Troy is on death row in Georgia for a murder that he almost certainly did not commit. The NCADP says, "Troy was sentenced to die despite the fact that seven of the nine people who testified against him at trial have recanted their testimony. (An eighth 'witness' is missing, while the ninth is thought to be the real killer. No physical evidence whatsoever tied Troy to the crime.)" Troy has an appeal before the Georgia Supreme Court this fall, so in support of him, and because his birthday is October 9th, NCADP is asking people to submit YouTube videos wishing him happy birthday as well as defending his innocence and advocating for a fair trial. This creative campaign will not only show solidarity with Troy, but it will also serve to question and draw attention to the larger problems surrounding capital punishment. I think newer media and technology are finally being used as nonviolent and effective tools against a violent, flawed justice system. I suppose we will just have to wait and see if this strategic campaign is actually successful. Definitely check out the campaign, and if you are opposed to the death penalty, think about becoming a member of the NCADP! Also, feel free to sign the petition demanding justice for Troy.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
This entry by no measure is meant to count as "my" blog entry. However I wanted to alert all of you to the actions developing on campus in the next couple of days relating to events in Burma. The following messages are from my friend, Emma. She left Burma with her family several years ago again is now mobilizing the Georgetown community to respond to recent events in the region.
"Please show your support for the monks and people of the military-run country of Burma this Friday in a very simple way:
WEAR A RED TOP THIS FRIDAY!!!!
PLEASE LET AS MANY PEOPLE AS YOU CAN KNOW ABOUT THIS!!!!!!"
"Reaching a degree of fervor and boldness that hasn't been seen for nearly 20 years, the people of Burma are SERIOUS in their desire be freed from military rule. They are holding PEACEFUL protests, forming protective chains around tens of thousands of Buddhist monks marching through Rangoon and Mandalay chanting for democracy and dialogue.
HOWEVER, a military crackdown may unfortunately be imminent, they have imposed a CURFEW, forbidden the RIGHT TO ASSEMBLE, and are reportedly ordering monks' robes in order to incite violence within the protesters (so they'll have an excuse to use violence).
Help us keep the world's attention on Burma and the actions of the military!!! The more people who know about the events of the country, the better. Please take the time to PUT ON A RED TOP THIS FRIDAY, and tell anybody you know about it. PLEASE INVITE PEOPLE TO THIS EVENT, we need your help!!!"
A summary of events is here, and a petition requesting the UN to take action is here. Further news can be found at The Irrawaddy.
Friday, September 21, 2007
The huge anti-war marchs of the weekend may have been compromised by the online advocacy. Read Marc Fisher's wonderful piece and our changing ways of political action. As the week started, it wasn't all about arrests. In this piece by Paul Duggan, we see how protesters communicate with authorities and choose their strategies.
There was a magnificent concert, headlined by Miss Aretha herself, demanding R*E*S*P*E*C*T and raising money on September 18th to establish the MLK Memorial on the National Mall. The Washington Post had a piece on the nonviolent message of David Cronenberg's very violent Eastern Promises.
Yesterday, both the Senate and President Bush condemned Moveon.org's full page ad blasting General Petraeus as "General Betray us." Was the ad strategic? It seems to have backfired and now the organization is using it's scarce time and resources scrambling to defend its actions.
Yesterday was an especially busy day. The civil rights movement may have experienced a rebirth with a huge outpouring of support demanding fair treatment for the Jena 6, a movement largely built under the inspiration of a drive time radio personality. Over 100 students at the University of Wisconsin protested against Haliburton at their school's career fair. Around 1500 monks in Myanmar continued their month-long protests against the government. A religious symbols, their marches have brought fewer reprisals than other actions. To escalate their actions when the government missed a deadline to apologize, they will refuse to take alms from soldiers and other government officials: a very public act of shaming.
Today and every third Friday, United for Peace and Justice is sponsoring a Moratorium Campaign to end the Iraq war.
All these actions. Any proposals? Any solutions?
Thursday, September 20, 2007
"Hello, this is ______________ from _______ (town). Can I please speak with your foreign policy legislative assistant, ________________?"
"I'm calling to encourage Rep. ________________ to co-sponsor H. Res. 618 on the plight of Afro-Colombians, a bipartisan resolution introduced by Rep. Donald Payne. Afro-Colombians are an extremely marginalized and vulnerable sector of Colombian society, and are one of the groups hit hardest by the ongoing violence, internal displacement, racial discrimination, and social and economic exclusion in Colombia. Co-sponsoring H. Res. 618 will help to honor Afro-Colombians for their contributions to society, and encourage the Colombian government to do more to end the discrimination, marginalization, and violence against them.
(If message) To sign on as a co-sponsor, please contact Stephanie Gidigbi in Rep. Payne's office at 5-3436.
If they would like to see the full text of the resolution, please offer to email it to them. Click here for the resolution.
Any particular strengths or weaknesses of this one in particular?
Today's Washington Post has an excellent piece covering the history and development of national support for the 6 black students who originally faced attempted murder charges, as opposed to white students who have had no charges against them.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
There are people living in the old oak trees on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley.According to the New York Times, protesters took to the trees in December 2006, hoping to forestall the construction of a $125 million athletic center, which would require that the university demolish the venerable oak grove. The university has not remained unresponsive to the protest, installing a chain link fence on 29 August 2007, and seeking a court order to eject the protesters, on grounds of health and safety threats. Unfortunately for the university, the fence has aroused widespread support for the protesters throughout the community, with supporters gathering to throw food and other supplies over to the beleaguered advocates.(Save the Oak Grove Mini Documentary courtesy of YouTube)
Activists say the university cannot knock down trees older than the community of Berkeley. University officials say their new athletic center must be near their football stadium. The City Council says the site slated for building is unsafe, due to its proximity to a seismic fault. Conservative bloggers say the "hippies" just don't like football, and the change will be good for the university. ("Instead of smelly hippies and fulminating Marxists, images of celebrating frat boys, cute and sexy cheerleaders, and heroic athletes dominate media mentions of Berkeley," writes Thomas Lifson of the American Thinker blog.)
Despite criticism, the community of Berkeley has largely rallied around the activists. “This is remarkably unified,” said protester Zachary Running Wolf. “You’ve got the affluent people living in the hills, who normally wouldn’t mix with the food-not-bombs people or the anarchists or the Native Americans or the environmentalists. It’s pretty wild.”
Meanwhile, the conflict continues. The university's case against the protesters will be heard in Alameda County Superior Court on 1 October 2007, after the City Council has brought its suit on 19 and 20 September. Are the "hippies" being unreasonable? Is the university being unsensitive to the environmental and historical value of the trees? Or are the protesters fighting a losing battle in the changing social atmosphere of Berkeley? The courts will decide, but in the meantime, the activists remain in their trees.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was born in South Africa on October 7, 1931. He grew up in a segregated country where he was considered a second-class citizen. He was educated in the Bantu system, which was the inferior schooling designated for black communities. Though he had hoped to go to medical school, his family was unable to afford it, so he followed in his father’s steps by teaching after his graduation from the University of South Africa in 1954. He later began his theological studies and in 1960 he was ordained as a priest, after which he furthered his education in England. From the late sixties through the mid seventies he held a series of positions in South Africa and England, finally settling with his family in South Africa in 1976, first as the Bishop of Lesotho and then in 1978 as the first black General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches.
Archbishop Tutu’s political activism began in ’76 when he returned to South Africa to witness the Soweto riots, which were a series of protests against the apartheid education laws. His focus was peaceful social change based on reconciliation, which he explains in depth in his book God Has A Dream. In 1984 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role as a unifying force in the active, peaceable fight against the apartheid government. In 1986 he was elected the first black-African Archbishop of South Africa. To date Archbishop Tutu has held a series of positions in international peace and reconciliation movements and has been awarded a series of honorary doctorates and prizes for his work in social activism.
Tutu’s wife, Leah, of fifty-two years and his four children have been an inspiration to his continued work for the betterment of the human community. Early in his career he was deeply inspired by the examples of Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and the Dalai Lama. As he worked toward toppling the oppressive South African government, he also drew on the example of Nelson Mandela, who had been angry and violent upon his incarceration and was transformed by his experience into one of the greatest moral leaders in history. The greatest inspiration for Tutu has been his relationship with God, as developed through his academic and spiritual training, his reading of the Bible, his experience living in God’s world and practicing His principles in his daily living.
God Has A Dream is a book written by the Archbishop (with Douglass Abrams) as a collection of his observations and experience regarding affecting non-violent change for a more peaceful, equal, loving future for the human family. The book is divided into chapters, each dedicated to a particular aspect of Tutu’s experience with and reflection on the non-violent transformation of his country’s socio-political system.
Tutu’s book focuses very clearly on several themes, using a series of descriptions, ideas, experiences and stories to illustrate these points. Primarily, he seeks to impart his vision of God’s dream for us. The entire book revolves around the relationship between God and humanity, our various responsibilities and the various possibilities in light of the state of the planet, as well as our willingness to partake in God’s ideal. His foundation is clearly in his religious training, though it is certainly not limited to his interpretation of the Bible. He uses Scripture to support his ideas, more by weaving the myth into his reality than by depending upon direct scriptural guidance.
That the foundation of the book is rooted in religious ideals is both a strength and a weakness. Because of Tutu’s emphasis on ecumenical understanding, this book will speak to anyone who has a fundamental belief in God, whether they be Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or otherwise. He periodically addresses the question of theology in his discussions and makes clear that his ideas will work for anyone who chooses to live by them. His philosophy is not one that depends on a certain kind of religious commitment or denominational devotion. He is more concerned with the unity of humanity than with the propagation of Christian ideals. At the same time, the book is replete with references to God and Christianity. While that is his experience, and must necessarily be a part of his memoirs, it could turn away those who outright reject religion an ineffective or even harmful in conflict resolution. Tutu’s solution is simply to ask that everyone who can do so have an open mind.
His major strength lies in the method of his approach. Throughout the book Tutu offers not only his opinion on past experiences, but also provides a solution for current and future conflicts. He address is not a pie-in-the-sky look at the world. He concretely recognizes the faults and difficulties we face as a human community and proceeds to explain a method of transformation and reconciliation that has worked in similar, seemingly-hopeless situations of oppression. A very clear example of this practical attitude is the postscripts, which he dedicates to a list of international organizations and their contact information as well as a series of questions and reflections for the reader to address oppression and non-violence in his/her own life. Both of these are simple and direct ways in which the reader can bring his words to life, hopefully further affecting non-violent change throughout the world.
The most obvious weakness of his work is that his argument for reconciliation is a radical step away from the common retributive justice upon which most world-wide judicial systems are based. In order to put into affect his ideas about compassionate reconciliation (which is notably different from turning a blind eye to injustice), the entire social structure of every country would have to change beginning with the individuals calling for a new judicial paradigm. This would create a shift in the government that would allow a new form of justice to reign. The difficulty is that our systems are so deeply-rooted in our socio-political structure that we would have to restructure society in order to create this kind of change. People who enjoy the benefits of outright and structural violence would have to be willing to give up their positions of power, probably due to a massive revolution (ideally a peaceful one), forcing a shift in power. This great social transformation wounds like a beautiful ideal of peace and equality, but when applied to the grand scheme of social corruption, it appears to be an awfully overwhelming task.
Upon reading Archbishop Tutu’s God Has A Dream I certainly felt inspired. His speech flows beautifully and gracefully, leaving the reader with a sense of floating through another world in the hands of a trusted guide. His journey through racism, theology, violence, apartheid, peaceful revolution, reconciliation, and beyond is a powerful story that encourage hope and motivation towards transformation. I deeply admire Tutu’s willingness to speak his mind, though his opinions may not always be popular, though his solutions may not seem simple or easy, though his ideals may seem lofty. I have often heard people question his certainty, labeling it as arrogance. (This has particularly been the case regarding his speeches on Rwanda and Israel.) I wonder if his experience and promises are truly universal or if the people who do not yet believe simply lack the understanding that is required to live such a life of transfigured suffering.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Put on your Marching Shoes!!
Thousands of Americans from across the country agree with Lantos and will be expressing their frustrations this weekend in DC.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
One organization, ColorofChange, is hosting an online drive for others to contribute to the defense fund and express their concern for the Jena 6 to Govenor Kathleen Blanco, another form of non-violent mobilization!!
Thursday, September 6, 2007
The School of Americas is located in Fort Benning Georgia and teaches military techniques to Latin Americans. SOA Watch explains in more detail:
"Over its 59 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Assassins."
Every year thousands of people show up at Fort Benning to protest the operation and many participate in civil disobedience. Witness for Peace, where I worked, organizes events all weekend.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
My son's school has a pool that the YMCA had been running until this week. It was too costly, and the pool that had also been used to the elementary school's PE program, was closed indefinitely. The PTA and other school elements asked folks to show up at a City Council meeting with signs reading "SAVE OUR POOL," hoping that the City of Takoma Park would act.
He wanted to go! He made a sign, trying to decide whether to say "Our pool" or "The pool" (he's very literal) and just before rushing out of the house, I was trying to think about what could add a little umph to this action. What was symbolic? What would be attention getting?
SWIMSUITS! Let's go in our swimsuits! I asked my son if he'd do it, and this child, normally very concerned about what his peers think, immediately said, "Sure." Then I felt guilty and thought that if he was willing to do it, I should be. So we both donned suits, goggles, and towels. Not a lot of places to put a camera, so the picture was taken at home.
At the meeting, we were the envy of all the other activists. "Great idea!!" "We should have worn bathing suits!" "We're lamenting the fact that we didn't think of that!" We got a lot of approving smiles,even had our pictures taken. If there's been press, I'm sure we'd have been in the paper, but alas, I think no media was called. The City Council praised the twenty or so "young activists" who turned out (there's a "Young Activists Club at the school run by one of the city council members) and explained how they'd need cooperation from the Montgomery County Council and school board. This wasn't just a city decision. A couple dozen people, many kids, spoke on the matter, including my son!
The debrief on the way home emphasized WHY we'd worn the swim suits, how a visual communicates as much if not more than words, and how an action has to be visually appealing to attract media. And how most Americans haven't spoken in front of their city councils, let alone a 10 year old! I hope this helped him get over his fear, to see how easy action can be. And it would be nice to save the pool, too.
Friday, August 31, 2007
According to The Washington Post, the students have now been greeted, this first week of class, with subpoenas from the Secret Service and although not arrested at the time of the protest, have now been charged with several offenses including crossing a police line. They have accepted a plea deal to pay a fine of $100 each and will have an arrest on their record, but not a conviction.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Is it working? Channel 7 reports that county leader claims the boycott of perceived anti-immigrant businesses will backfire. (Click here to see the video.) Prince William County Chairman Corey Stewart has called the boycott "foolish."
What do the boycotters think? Hard to know! The organizers' website, with this photo, is under construction and dated 2005. The link to articles is nonexistent. The boycott ends Monday. Lets see what happens.
Monday, August 27, 2007
According to local news, a week-long boycott started today to protest anti-immigrant policies in Prince William County. This photo is from WUSA9.
Click here to see the video from WJLA.
One of the most effective methods to getting people's attention is to make it matter to them economically. Let's stay tuned to see what the outcome is of this action!
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Sunday, July 8, 2007
There's been so much loud nonviolence in the news - the 24 hour "Live Earth" music festival, Cindy Sheehan's threatened run against Nancy Pelosi if she doesn't end the war, and all the chatter by the candidates left and right. On my walk yesterday, I came across a little sign, a small gesture, worthy of note. As we walked closer, we found this tiny corner was dedicated to the fallen of the Iraq war. No political statement, to judgment, simply a remembrance and an opportunity for reflection.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Today is World Refugee Day. Refugees International sponsored a phoneathon to call the White House to recognize and act on behalf of the two million Iraqi war refugees. Yet the call in day was yesterday, not today?! It's early in the day, but so far, only Minnesota Public Radio showed up with any recognition in a Google news search.
So how did the "Dreams Across America" tour make out? I saw no additional coverage, just searched and found this video on The Washington Post web site that shows a rally that looks like others but smaller with no focus on the different message or experience of the Dreamers. A Google news search found small stories as the tour had hit different cities, and an online piece in the Richmond Times-Dispatch did a nice job of explaining the group's purpose. That's it. It's a great idea, but how to get more play out of it?
(Image above by Musigny.)
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Their website is visually appealing, very interesting and consistent with their objective of reaching out and telling stories. The drop down menu on hard facts is a wonderful tactic in dealing with attitudes of those unmoved by the human element, but it needs much more development, particularly the section on contributions to the economy. There are opportunities to build community with people sharing video and text stories. There's a montage segment that brings a tear to my eye - to see the diversity in ages and gender and ethnicity and to see allies represented on this tour is very effective. The site's blog could be another tool, but there's a glitch right now with lots of code showing at the top.
Will it be seen? Will this campaign have a chance to be effective? Having legal immigrants and allies is less threatening, the approach has a chance to touch hearts, but without extensive coverage and timing, where will it go? The Washington Post covered their arrival yesterday. But on local news, there was a piece on graduating children of undocumented immigrants and their hopes for a provision that would allow those with great grades to stay in the country, but nothing on their websites today. The rally will be today. Let's check coverage this evening.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
A virtual world like Second Life is to nonviolence like was to silent movies. As Mr Warner said, it seems a novel idea, but who wants to hear actors talk? Our predictions of technology's implications often fall far short. What can a virtual world that's just a few steps removed from Dungeons and Dragons or the Society for Creative Anachronism contribute?
New networks, new audiences
Activists seek other like-minded souls and virtual worlds offer another venue, another cohort, and another means of interacting. In Second Life, there is interest group for nonviolent communication, a class on democracies, forums encouraging dialogs between Israelis and Palestinians, and five campaign headquarters. (Gravel's is actually funded by his real life campaign as an extension of his future vision.) They have links to position statements and voter registration, and are certainly engaging.
If the idea is to keep one at a web site for a long time, then that certainly happens here. You're virtually walking (or flying) through the headquarters rather than just clicking here and there. Code Pink offers free protest signs with a pumping fist.
There are free t-shirts for your avatar, and a pillar with links to other progressive "locations" in Second Life.
Not everyone is a spokesperson, a Bayard Rustin, or a potential arrestee. Second Life offers another way for people to be involved through artistic expression, building a site, engaging in chats or organizing debates. Virtual national or international meetings can be cheaper and more interactive than conference calls or email exchanges (once the technology is more reliable). In Obama's headquarters, volunteers for Kiva.org were looking at Second Life for ideas on how to bring Kiva to life for even more people. I never would have known about them, had I not been perusing a virtual world. (OK, the next day, a great piece aired on ABC, and 1000 more people lent $100,000. But what if I hadn't seen it?) Now they have a location of their own.
Can we try all 198 methods?
One of the keys to dynamic nonviolent action is practice and although there are wonderfully innovative games that are great teaching tools, virtual worlds affords activists opportunities to role play specific scenarios in specific contexts. Industry is using the virtual world for training and mentoring, why not activists? And who knows? Maybe in the future, we'll use virtual worlds to act out our conflicts, rather than inflicting collateral damage on our own planet? I would just hope that no one has to report to the disintegration chamber.
The point is, we have a new tool. We've actually always had new tools developing all the time. And as with any new tool, we step back, ask ourselves what our objectives are and look at the tools available to us, choosing strategically. Virtual worlds are another method well worth exploring.