Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Refugees and Immigrants

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

Immigration Activists try Freedom Rides

"Dreams Across America" is a Freedom Ride on Amtrak for immigration reform. Starting with 100 legal immigrants in Los Angeles and ending with 429 in Washington, DC, the focus is more on dialog and changing attitudes than specific legislation (though the timing coincides with last ditch efforts to salvage the immigration bill.). It is an ambitious, fresh approach after the backlash of the large rallies we saw earlier.

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

New Media and Dynamic Nonviolence

Cell phones ousted Joseph Estrada. and True Majority use the internet implement campaigns, engage audiences (watch the OREO movie), and set agendas. The internet reshaped political activism.

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.

Stay Awhile
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.

Another way to be one with the struggle

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 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.

Less than 60 seconds to weeping

Whether you are anti-war, or support the troops, or both, this tiny film by Hillman Curtis is universal in its message.

Click Soldier to view the movie.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

What's up in the Jewish Progressive DC Community?

You're progressive . . . you're interested in things Middle East and Jewish . . . what to do for a thought-provoking, theatrical experience? Hear former DC Avodah director and current Theater J board member Minna Scherlinder Morse talk about a new play (that I HOPE has nonviolence as a theme), Pangs of the Messiah, and a roving Peace Cafe. Check out Theater J's blog for more information.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Organizing for POLITICAL change or organizing for POCKET change?

Monday's Washington Post has a very interesting piece about a split in the pro-life movement. Seems the alliance between evangelicals and Catholics is divided on whether or not to consider the Supreme Court's ruling on partial birth abortion a victory. The article describes the split between those who feel victories will come as small wins versus those who feel that celebrating the ruling is really misleading pro-life supporters. This second group turns their ire towards Focus on the Family, claiming they've used this particular Supreme Court battle as a fund raising tool rather than pointing out that the ruling upholds a restriction on a procedure, and doesn't put an end to late term abortions what so ever. In the meantime, Planned Parenthood has had a bit of fund raising success itself. The ruling seemed to galvanize pro-choice supporters into getting serious.

The question is not so much pro-life, pro-choice here. The question goes to the core of a coalition sharing objectives and vision. Rifts such as these, particularly when public, weaken coalitions. So how is it that seemingly like-minded organizations may not be the best collaborators? Coalition partners need to have a critical eye towards the gap between actions and mission. But of course a savvy organization will use issues as a platform for fund raising. Ironically, wins can mean a drop in resources, and losses can mean a boom.