Kudos ~ Peace workers, newsmakers
               & whistleblowers

"There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time. This expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium, and be lost. The world will not have it."
                                                                                                                           
--Martha Graham

"The heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the next."
                                                                                                    
--Helen Keller


Home
About us
Cultural Creatives
Being Peace
Journey Within
Nonviolence
Dialogue
Transforming World
13 Grandmothers
Shamanism
Cost of War
Oil & War
Corporations & War
Withdrawing Consent
God the Economy
Doublespeak
Empire
Kudos
Inspirations
Earth
Animals
Sacred Feminine
Woman's Womb
Equality for All
Elections
Stories & Features
Expressions
Simple Living
Introversion
Album
Afghanistan
Palestine/Israel
Face of Iraq
Links
Contact us

** Search this site **

 

Meet Afghanistan's youngest female rapper, Sonita Alizadeh

Sonita ...brides for sale

 

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
                                                                   
                                                            --Howard Thurman

 

Videos, audios...

Somewhere in America
3 girls raise the bar for limitations on the education system

 

 

Malala Yousafzai Nobel Peace Prize Speech 121014

Malala On Peace, Drones and Islam Oct 2014
on her day-to-day life, her ideas for combatting terrorism and her dream of being Prime Minister

FULL Amanpour Malala Interview Oct 2013

 

K P F A

Vital Voices

Global Leadership
Awards

Peace X Peace

 

Articles

An Economic Agenda for America: 12 Steps Forward 120214 Bernie Sanders

Sundance Film Review: ‘The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz’ 012414

 

"Roxanne-Dunbar-Ortiz has defined the term engaged intellectual through a life spent
on the frontlines of the past four decades of social struggles. She has never abandoned
her roots through the process of becoming one of the most respected Left academics
in the United States."
--James Tracy

Derrick Jensen On Resistance Radio With Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz -- 01/05/2014

 

 


Maryam Alkhawaja

We Are the Giant: Bahrain’s Top Family of Activists Pays
Heavy Price for Challenging US-Backed Gov’t
012414

On a mission: Maryam Alkhawaja wants to tell you about oppression in Bahrain 082513

With Father and Sister Imprisoned, Exiled Bahraini Activist Maryam Alkhawaja
Condemns Ongoing Abuses
051013

As Obama OKs Weapons to Bahrain, Neurosurgeon Tortured by Regime
Faces Trial for Treating Protesters
051512

 

Native Daughters

 

Amy Goodman The Lab Magazine 071113

 

Good News Broadcast

Positive News

WikiLeaks

National Whistle-
blowers Center

Afropedia Channel

 

Robert Fisk --
The Independent, UK

Free Bradley Manning

Public Citizen

Daniel Ellsberg

BrainwashingAmerica

FireDogLake

Trade Watch

SpinSanity

Project on Govt
Secrecy

Rolling Stone

Independent Television
News (UK

Jen Sorensen -
SlowPoke Comics

 

 

Videos, audios...

Al Gore - Past, Present and 'Future'

Audio from KQED Forum w/ Michael Krasny 021213

Amy Goodman: Journalist 012813

The Yes Men Fix The World
the yes men democracy now

"Running from Crazy": Mariel Hemingway Tackles Family History
of Suicide, Mental Illness in New Doc
012813

Vandana Shiva Talks Food Sovereignty 013113

Martin A. Lee - A Social History of Marijuana

Audio from KPFA Letters and Politics 012813

At Sundance Film Festival, Documentaries Shine Light on Overlooked Stories of Global Injustice 012413

Ron Glass, UC Santa Cruz professor - Ideas of Paulo Freire Part 1

Part Two of interview with Ron Glass @ 00:35:40

Audios from KPFA Against the Grain with C. S. Soong 011613 & 012313

Aaron Swartz’s Partner, Expert Witness Say Prosecutors Unfairly Targeted Dead Activist 011713

 

Articles

 

 

Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and
Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times

 


Malala Yousafzai Announces Malala Fund to Support Girls' Access to Education 020413
Malala Yousafzai speaks for the first time since she was shot in the head by the Taliban
in October 2012 for her advocacy on behalf of girls' education.

Malala Fund

 

 

 

 

" In the summer of 2010, a foreign intelligence officer offered me cash in exchange for classified information. I turned down the pitch and I immediately reported it to the FBI. So, the FBI asked me to take the guy out to lunch and to ask him what information he wanted and how much information he was willing to give me for it. They were going to put two agents at a nearby table. They ended up canceling the two agents but they asked me to go ahead with the lunch so I did. After the lunch, I wrote a long memo to the FBI — and I did this four or five times.

It turns out – and we only learned this three or four weeks ago – there never was a foreign intelligence officer. It was an FBI agent pretending to be an intelligence officer and they were trying to set me up on an Espionage Act charge but I repeatedly reported the contact so I foiled them in their effort to set me up."              -- John Kiriakou

Ex-CIA Agent, Whistleblower John Kiriakou Sentenced to Prison While Torturers He Exposed Walk Free 013013
Ex-CIA agent heads to prison for torture leak 012513
CIA whistleblower faces jail term - ITN (UK)

See full length documentaries here:

"Torturing Democracy"

"Taxi To The Dark Side" - Documentary
This 2007 Oscar-winner examines the death of an Afghan taxi driver
at Bagram Air Base from injuries inflicted by U.S. soldiers

 

!!!!!!!!!!!!

President Obama: Pardon CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou

~~~~~~~~~~~~

'US a police state, Obama consciously allows torture' – CIA veteran John Kiriakou 020113

The Bizarre Kiriakou Sentencing:
Secret Evidence, Dropped
Charges & New "Facts" Never
Charged
012613

CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou, Sentenced to 30 Months in Jail, Wears Conviction as ‘Badge of Honor’ 012513

En EEUU encarcelan a los que
denuncian las torturas

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Matt Taibbi - 'Zero Dark Thirty' is Osama bin Laden's Last Victory Over America

Marjorie Cohen - "Zero Dark Thirty" torturing the facts

 

Kirk Nugent - Answer The Call, I Need You To Remember

Patch Adams - Transform 2010 - Mayo Clinic

CCSF OPEN - PSA Spring 2013
City College of San Francisco: An Important Question
Our District colleges are currently in the midst of investing a huge
amount of time, energy and money in preparing for another accreditation by
the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC),
which accredits two-year colleges in California and Hawaii. Sanctions
imposed on colleges by the ACCJC in recent years have far exceeded the
total sanctions by all other accreditation bodies in the country combined.
Who actually runs the ACCJC? What is the basis for the huge number of
sanctions they have been imposing? What laws govern the decisions taken by
ACCJC and who oversees their actions? These are some of the many questions that were taken up in an eye-opening report, titled
ACCJC Gone Wild

Alexia Foundation - Stories that drive change
Alexia Foundation

Ira Shapiro - The life and times of George McGovern

Audio from KPFA Letters and Politics 102412

Interview with Ralph Nader

Audio from KPFA Letters and Politics 101612

 

Will You See This Movie? 'The Yes Men are Revolting'...and Are Starting Up an Activist Network 111312

Tender Tribute to a Beloved Mother 092712

Shauna Crockett-Burrows 1930–2012 053012

Marie Colvin - Final dispatch from Homs, the battered city 021912
- Marie Colvin - A Tribute

10 Things You Need to Know About Native American Women 020512

 

 

 

1 Giant Leap - Trailer

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi with Burmese Community in SF Bay Area 092912  (Aung San Suu Kyi's comments begin at 0:21:20)

Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala on Third-Party Politics
with Bill Moyers 090712
Green Party 2012 Presidential Campaign

Bill Moyers keynote at Public Citizen's 40th Anniversary Gala

Prison Bridges - theme exploration: healing
Suraya Susana Keating
Prison Bridges Theatre

Ecuador Grants Julian Assange Asylum; U.S. Seen as "Hidden Hand" Behind U.K. Threat to Raid Embassy 081612

A People's History (The 20th Century) - Howard Zinn [1/53]

Christiane Amanpour - International War Correspondent
Amanpour CNN

Vital Voices 2012 Human Rights Awards - Rosana Schaack 060612

Shauna Crockett Burrows 042912
Shauna Crockett-Burrows 1930–2012 053012
Positive News

From Prison to Parliament: Burma Pro-Democracy Leader Aung San Suu Kyi Wins Seat in Landmark Vote 040212

Part 2: Former NSA Employee Thomas Drake and Jesselyn Radack on Obama Admin. Whistleblower Crackdown 032612

TED -- Myshkin Ingawale: A blood test without bleeding

"El Libro-Traficante" Tony Diaz Defies Ethnic Studies Book Ban with Caravan to Arizona 030912
Wet Books: Smuggling Banned Literature Back Into Arizona
Libro Traficante

U.S. Faces Challenge to "Drug War" as Latin American Countries Mull Decriminalization, Legalization 030912

Nada Bakri, Widow of Anthony Shadid, on Her Husband’s Life and Posthumous Memoir, "House of Stone" 030812

Author Walter Mosley on Writing Mystery Novels, Political Revelation, Racism and Pushing Obama 022712

Ameena Matthews -The Interrupters PBS 021412
An intimate journey across the violent landscape of our cities
through the eyes of those fighting to sow peace and security

“All There Is”: Love Stories from the StoryCorps Oral History Project with Founder Dave Isay 021412
StoryCorps

Change for a Dollar

Kateri Walker - Holy Prison and Racism (two videos) and other speakers
RED MAN Films - changing the world one film at a time

 

 

Arundhati Roy: 'I know I have to finish my next novel – one day' 101711

Arundhati Roy on ‘Walking with the Comrades’ 110111

Farewell to the Utterly Unique John Ross 2011

Iqbal Masih and Craig Kielburger: Two children against child labour 1997

Elliott S. Dacher, MD - A Precious Life

William Kamkwamba - Malawi windmill boy with big fans 100109

Eduardo Galeano returns with “Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone” 052809

Behind the Scenes with Michelle Obama

Hazel McCallion, 88-year-old mayor of Mississauga 022609

Suraya Pakzad - Voice of Women in Afghanistan 043009

Susan Chernak McElroy:  Animals as Teachers & Healers

YouTube Symphony Orchestra

Harry Belafonte on Bush, Iraq, Hurricane Katrina and having his conversations with Martin Luther King wiretapped by the FBI 013006

Arundhati Roy: Do turkeys enjoy thanksgiving?

Percy Schmeiser: David to Monsanto's Goliath

Harriet Tubman

 

Arundhati Roy -- Tribal Naxalites and Occupy Wall Street

Audio from KPFA Against the Grain w/ Sasha Lilley 111411

BOATLIFT, An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience

Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement Address

David Glick Film - 1942 Immigration of Jews to South America

Almudena Bernabeu and Mitch Jeserich on Prosecuting the perpetrators of the 1989 Salvadoran massacre of the six Jesuits

Audio from KPFA Letters and Politics 081911
Almudena Bernabeu

Voces Contra El Poder: Mas Alla De La Oscuridad (Obra)

What Are We Capable Of?  THIS IS ANONYMOUS 070911

You can't be neutral on a moving train - Noam Chomsky &
Howard Zinn
060611

Ida Keeling - 95-year-old Sprinter - Running Strong 022211

Michael Moore Goes to Norway & Visits a Prison of the Future

Jack Shenker, the Guardian's reporter in Cairo, was beaten by police alongside protesters last night. He recorded the experience as they were driven in the dark through the city 012611

Julian Assange: Why the world needs WikiLeaks 071910

Aqeela Sherrills -- Gang intervention - the Reverence Movement

Audio from Sacred Awakenings

Takashi Tanemori , Hiroshima survivor, on Forgiveness

Parker Palmer -- When your Heart's Work has broken your Heart

Audio from New Dimensions Radio
Parker Palmer -- Center for Courage & Renewal

Howard Zinn (1922-2010): A Tribute to the Legendary Historian 012810

Howard Zinn, Bringing Democracy Alive 033010 @ 0:17:00

Pranav Mistry, The Thrilling Potential of SixthSense Technology 11/09
TED -- Riveting talks by remarkable people

International Women’s Media Foundation Honors Israeli Journalist Amira Hass with 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award 102909

Maureen Orth, her school in Colombia, $100 laptops, etc.
Wish upon a Hero
Regneration of Cells
YouTube Edu
Free online access to top-tier university lecturers

The State of the Union: Molly Ivins 042408
Molly Ivins Speaks at Tulane 041304

 

 

Diane Wilson, Texas shrimper, turns outlaw over chemical plant pollution 110305

“Peace is not a field of flowers. It’s hard work.” - Despite personal tragedy, Aqeela Sherrills seeks peace on the mean streets of Los Angeles.

Cynthia McKinney: "We Should Export Dignity Not Dictatorship" 012105

Gavin Newsom - What shaped the man who took on homelessness, gay marriage, Bayview-Hunters Point and the hotel strike in one year 012305

Our Debt to Bill Moyers 121004

OPERATION LION HEART - Reunion 123004

The Life and Times of Noam Chomsky : A Brief History of America's Leading Dissident 112604

15 To Life: Artist, prisoner and author Tony Papa tells how he painted his way to freedom 110804

Arundhati Roy - Life Comes Between a Firebrand and Her Fiction

Helen Thomas Takes On White House Over Iraq

Celebrating Chilean Poet Pablo Neruda

Her tale was brutal, sexual. No one believed a slave woman could be so literate. But now Harriet Jacobs has reclaimed her name

Rev. Billy and the Church of Life after Shopping

Mumia Abu Jamal Speaks to Democracy Now! From Death Row

 

Kudos 2003     

 


      Erika and Antonio ("Tony") A Love Story That Lasts Forever

In Memory of
My Mother, Little Mom
Erika Redl Trentacoste
June 15, 1919 to September 27, 2012

It was Abraham Lincoln who said, "All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother." I could not have said that better, for I feel exactly the same way. My mother had an enormous influence on my life. She affected my philosophy, spirituality, code of ethics, and the very work I do each day.

I loved my mother's sunny optimism and hungry curiosity about the world around her. She was still small when Charles Lindberg succeeded at making the very first transatlantic flight. Later she got to see man walk on the moon and recently, to marvel at the Curiosity Rover land and explore Mars. She saw the widespread use of the telephone, television, air conditioning, microwaves, all the way to present day, with the advent of personal computers, Wi-Fi, the Internet, smart phones, and social media. She wanted to know about the newest invention, and read newspapers, and watched TV news daily to her very last day.

Everyone marveled at her darling disposition - young and spirited in a way that is hard to describe. Besides the nickname I gave her of Little Mom, sometimes I would call her Little Cuteness, and other times, Little Peanut, as she was quite tiny. She had a way that made you want to come up and give her a big kiss - always grateful for little things you would do for her that really required no thank you at all.

She was deeply philosophical and religious in her own way, and she also had a solid practical sense about life that formed the underpinnings of all the decisions that she was to make in life. She didn't stress over facing hard facts - she dealt with life's hardships in a very matter-of-fact way. She also displayed an unshakable sense of humor that remained steadfast in the face of even the most difficult conditions. She gave all those qualities to me.

My mother had very modest beginnings. Born the youngest of five children of German parents who had come to America, the family quickly moved to upstate New York when she was 5, in 1924. They had to move because my grandfather's doctor suggested he build a "sleeping porch" to help bring relief to his tuberculosis, a leading cause of death at the turn of the 20th century. Sleeping porches were commonly used in those days, for it was thought at the time (and still somewhat undisputed today) that fresh cool air improved the condition of lungs and brought relief to TB suffers. In those days, air conditioning was not available.

Times were hard in those days - the Depression was in full swing by the 1930's - and because my mother's family lived in a small town, my highly educated and skilled grandfather, an engineer from Germany, had problems finding well-paying work to support his family of five children. My grandmother started a small garden and raised chickens in a small hen house on the property to bring in extra income and also experimented with grafting fruit trees. Grandma's techniques came to the attention of Cornell University. Grandmother was invited to submit papers on her research, which grandma did file, by the light of kerosene lamps after her children were asleep.

My mother had problems with seeing chickens the family was raising slaughtered, so to this day, my mother refused to eat any chicken. She ate turkey once a year on Thanksgiving only to please us. The town that she lived in was so small that her school was a one-room schoolhouse that housed many grades. At home, before doing homework, she and her siblings would do chores, such as to fetch buckets of water from the creek at the bottom of Ice Cave Road where they lived, to be sure the household had enough water.

Additionally, once old enough, all the kids chopped wood throughout the year to ensure that the family would have enough fuel to last through the winter (even though they had other forms of fuel, too). The idea of my little Mom, then a young girl, wielding an ax is a picture in my head that is incongruous to her delicate femininity, but she assured me that chop she did. She used to tell me that she would also tap the maple tree sugar sap in March that her mother would boil down to make maple syrup for the pancakes my grandmother would cook up on their wood-burning potbelly stove.

At 18 she saved enough to move back to New York City, leaving behind the small town where she had spent most of her childhood. She found work as a governess for the children of some of the most powerful and wealthy families of New York. She said she always loved going to Horn & Hardart for dinner, enjoying putting coins in the slots to get her meal. She loved the excitement of the big city, but inside her always remained a bit of the country, too. Open any of her personal books and a beautiful autumn leaf would fall out, or a pretty spring flower that she had pressed into that book.

My aunt Harriet, one of the five children (actually, the oldest), was devastated to hear her favorite sister - my mother - was planning a move to New York City. In an effort to stay in close, she suggested they both take a correspondence class so that they could call each other to go over their homework. My mother, always the avid student, loved the idea. "What will we study?" she asked - my aunt said "Astrology." My mother was floored. "Are you kidding?" My aunt was persistent. My mother was excellent at math, and my aunt Harriet said she needed her to help her calculate the natal charts they would be required to do. My mother loved her sister Harriet - she was her favorite - so she agreed to help her by studying astrology, but promised to show her sister why astrology didn't work. They took astrology courses for eight years.

The rest, as they say, is history. My mother became quite a scholar in astrology, for upon close inspection she became fascinated with its inner workings, and how it could be used to find solutions to tough problems, but also to use to take advantage of beneficial trends. She never did consultations and readings for strangers, but concentrated her time on the further study of her new hobby.

During that time, my mother met my father at a dance in New York City, but the way they met was so charming, I must tell you about that meeting. I had heard the story many times, but my sister and I loved it so much we would pretend we had completely forgotten the story so that my father would recount it again with his trademark enthusiasm.

The AT&T telephone company would have special dances for their employees at the Hotel Astor in Times Square, and they were called the Pioneers Dances. These parties were known to be special, and intended only for telephone company employees, but as the story goes, if you came looking like a good kid - clean, neat, and presentable - the guards at the door would look the other way and let you in.

My father noticed my mother one night. As he would tell us, he had seen her once before, and noticed she had come along with the same girlfriend. He told us he was instantly smitten with my mother - 5'2", chestnut hair, and eyes of blue. That night, he got up the courage to ask her to dance. He was Italian American and looked a little bit like Sean Penn. As he told us, she turned him down. (At that point my sister and I would howl in disbelief as we glanced at my mother, "You said no?" My mother would just laugh and nod, clearly enjoying the recounting of this tale.)

Undaunted, my father went back to the friends and the brothers he came with. (My father was the oldest of seven siblings, and four were boys.) He asked Joey, his friend, if he had a pencil and paper. As my father would recall, Joey replied, "Why do you need pencil and paper? This isn't school, this is a party!" My father insisted. Joey suggested, "Go talk to Sal - I think he has a pencil. I think Pete has a piece of paper" My father got what he needed. These were the precise words my father told us he wrote:

Dear Miss,
This is my son's reference. He is a good boy.
Yours truly,
His Mother

My father then folded up the paper into a tiny square and went back across the dance floor and handed it to my mother. She was a little bewildered, and asked, "What is this?" He replied, "I know you don't know me. This is my mother's reference." Still a little confused, she unfolded the paper and read it in the dim light - and laughed. Smiling, my father asked, "Now that you have my mother's reference, will you dance with me?" Still laughing, she said yes. What was to ensue was a love affair that would last their entire lives.

My father, Antonio, worked with my grandfather in an Italian specialty store on Manhattan's Upper East Side at the time. My grandfather and great uncle owned the store, so at the time my parents first met, my father was young and working as a junior helper. (My father was still just learning the ropes of running a business that dealt in highly perishable foods in the hopes he would eventually take over the store with his younger brother, Charles, my uncle, which they eventually did much later.)

When my father heard that my mother had fresh farm eggs to sell him, he jumped at the chance to sell those eggs, for it was a good way to get to know my mother.

They dated 10 years before marriage. She was modern in every respect - she wanted to enjoy her independence and first learn to be self-supporting. She would laugh and tell us, "Your father kept asking me to marry him, and I kept saying 'No - and that's final!'" Even though they dated a full decade - she was 28 when she married - it's important to add here that my father was her first love and only love. She never dated anyone else, for she knew in her heart that he was the one for her.

She was modern and far ahead of her time. Why did she keep refusing my father's proposal to marry? She wanted to get to know herself, and experience some of the fun and sights of the city. She also wanted to experience supporting herself first - unheard of in her day. She always gave me the advice, "Get married when and if you want children. If you are not ready for children, wait until you are ready, for otherwise, there is no point." I have to say, I agree with her view.

She asked my father to promise that if they were to marry, that all their children would go to college. In her day, not everyone went to college, and if any child went, it was assumed it would be only the sons. She wanted to be sure if she had girls they would get to go, too. As luck would have it, my parents would have two daughters, my sister and me. I have a BS degree in business, and my sister would get her Masters degree too, in business. (Coming from an ever-practical family, we both chose a major - business - that would lead to a solid job.)

I am getting ahead of myself, however. After my parents were married, I was born first, and then my sister came along several years later. I was born with a severe birth defect that baffled doctors, so she was hesitant to have another child until doctors could decide what was wrong with me. But time went on, so she gave up trying to find out the answer. Astrology told her that the mystery of my illness would not be discovered until I was fourteen. Rather than wait, they went ahead with another baby a few years later, and my sister, Janet, was born, completely healthy.

I loved that my mother was always my staunch advocate, always believing in me, even when the rest of the world seemed against me. Every child needs an advocate - without one, I feel the child would grow up to feel weak and defenseless in this world. My birth defect caused excruciating pain whenever I got a sudden attack, and once it had struck, would last 6 to 8 weeks, one or two times a year. When I was well, I was near perfect in every way, but when an attack would come I was not able to move an inch in the bed. I had different names for pain, in the same way Eskimos had made different words for snow. White pain was the worst and made you want to leave your body, so badly did you want to get away from it. It was worse than red pain or blue pain - it gave you the feeling mustard was in your mouth.

Doctors could not diagnose the problem, and therefore would angrily accuse me of making up my illness so I could avoid going to school. Some doctors suggested I needed a psychiatrist. All of this was preposterous and very hurtful - I would come to identify with the vast number of people accused and unjustly sent to jail. It was hard enough to be in pain, but not to be believed was even worse. The Board of Education would ask, "What kind of illness keeps a child out of school for six weeks at a time and has no name?" Talk about pressure!

I remember one day, as I lay in bed, her putting on her black suit, her red lipstick, her lady-like purse, and black leather gloves and heels, to take the subway to Brooklyn to fight my case with the Board of Education - officials again were demanding answers. She was smart, and could talk circles around anyone who debated her, but did it in a way that was kind and very feminine. This was evident in her gestures, the tenor of her words, and the softness in her big blue eyes. I would be on pins and needles until she got home, but once in the door, she would say we were OK for now, but that the day was coming where we would have to get to the bottom of my mysterious illness.

As things turned out, she was right about the timing of the mystery being solved about my leg - at 13 and 11 months, I had the attack of my life and I was not healing. I waited, but it was not to come. I had to have exploratory surgery. By now I was old enough to do so, so I held my breath and said OK, let's do it. I was tired of never knowing whether the day would end happily or in agony with an attack.

Doctors found the problem was severe malformation of my veins and arteries that would simply turn to tissue paper and cause massive internal bleeding spontaneously from time to time. Something as simple as being excited about my birthday or Christmas would set it off. There are only 47 cases on record - I am the only person to survive surgery, for it is so treacherous. During the surgery, my brilliant surgeon, an orthopedic specialist and protege to the chief of staff at the time, expected to do a simply cartilage surgery but I disagreed. I was feeling a volume of thick liquid suddenly drop into my leg, something like glycerin, or the consistency of chocolate syrup. (What is closer to blood than chocolate syrup?) My doctor, who was to become one of the most famous doctors in the world in time, and who was even knighted by the Queen of Sweden, was faced with several harrowing surgeries on me.

He had to find a way to keep me from bleeding to death and at the same time save the left leg from amputation - the place where all my circulatory problems were based. When I woke up from surgery, I realized that I had become paralyzed from the knee down that year, but my doctor promised to get the leg working again. I was later to break my femur (thigh bone) four times because so many of the vessels were removed, the bone was starved for nourishment. My doctor got a rod in, but I died on the table during the surgery and he somehow managed to get me back.

I could have never recovered without the brilliant skill of my doctor, but it was also my mother's love that would get me back on my feet, quite literally.

Little Mom was not going to trust my recovery to hospital food so each day she made homemade meals that she kept hot by jumping into a taxi to the hospital. She did this during the whole time I was a patient, 11 months straight. I had many blood transfusions and too many close calls on my life to recount. The hospital staff had me on tilt tables, parallel bars, and wearing big metal brace to my hip - and then I was back in the operating room for more surgery, a skin graph and other procedures. My mother remained my cheerleader - I did none of this alone - and I walk today because of her indomitable spirit and willingness to keep me going, even when the pain was crushing, and interns were telling me privately not to bet the farm on my recovery. (They were wrong, she was right.)

During those teenage years, after I finally got home, I was to be home schooled, so that I could do the 6-hour-a-day physical therapy for three years to regenerate the left leg's nerve that had been damaged by the powerful, extremely tight compression bands that my doctor had use to tourniquet the bleeding. I went from junior high to college, home through all of my high school years, from sophomore to senior year. My mother taught me all that I learned, although the Board of Education sent a teacher two hours a week to my house, and a teacher to monitor state exams on a regular basis. It was during that time I had so much time with my mother, and her influence in me grew. She was always there, step by step to keep me optimistic - I would walk again - and I did.

She never dwelled on the pain of what I was going through but instead painted a picture of what was to come. "Susie, you will have so many new shoes, and so many pretty dresses, you won't know which one to choose. You will be able to travel when you get well too, not like before, when you always had to stay close to home, lest an attack strike!"

I used to say I grew up in Manhattan, but now I just say, "I grew up in hospitals." If you add up all my hospital stays I have had, each of them very protracted, it comes to about seven years in all. To this day, I have had 40 blood transfusions and I hope will not have any more in my life. Even something as simple as giving birth to my first daughter Chrissie turned into a crisis, and required a two-month hospital stay with transfusions and six months in a wheelchair.

When I risked my life to have my second child, Diana, my mother stood behind me. I asked her if she would be willing to take over the raising of my children if anything went wrong during the birth - specifically, if I were not to make it through. She replied, "Of course." Brave soul, my mother!

She asked, "How is your chart looking, Susan?" I answered, "That's a sore point - I have a packed eighth house." (The eighth house rules death, but also surgery). She nodded. "That shows the condition." I looked up at her - "Wait! It shows the condition but not the outcome?" She smiled and said, "Yes. Did the doctors ask you to write your will?" I nodded affirmative, and added I had just seen a lawyer to do my will a day earlier. She explained, "Of course! Had you not had a packed eighth house, the topic of your will would not have even come up." Then she asked, "Do you feel you can have this baby, Susan?" I replied that, despite the doctors' dire warnings, absolutely yes. And I will never forget her steady, measured reply, looking at me with such kindness: "And so you will. The end result lies in your heart and in your determination, Susan, always."

More health bouts would come throughout my life, but she was always there, forever practical - we do what we must to get healthy, and we do not spend unnecessary energy bemoaning why it is necessary - we get on with what we need to do without delay. That way, we more quickly become well.

It was to be my mother's sense of philosophy that I found influenced me the most. I will give you an example of a defining moment that was to forever change the way I would view my life and my place in the universe, all because of her.

One day, when I was about 9 years old, I got an attack at my grandmother's house. It was the end of June, so school had just ended for summer vacation. We had just arrived in the country and I knew I was to be in bed the whole time, until end of August, and by then, summer vacation would be over. I wished I were home in my own little bed, or better yet, well, and sitting on a wooden box outside my father's store in New York City. I loved the heat of summer, for I was not a country child - I missed the city. I was frustrated.

That morning sun was steaming in the window on the second floor of my bedroom; a pale green, leafy tree was brilliantly lit just outside my open window. It was about 11 AM and I could hear my little sister Janet squealing downstairs as she ran around the yard with another neighborhood child.

My mother had just taken an hour to change the sheets on my bed, as she had to carefully push the old sheets under me slowly and at the same time gently pull the new, clean sheet under me too, after removing the old one. It was the way they did it in the hospital, but it took a lot of time. During the 6 to 8 weeks that an attack lasted, I was as fragile as nitroglycerine, but she knew precisely how to gently handle my leg, holding it a certain way by the ankle, careful never to twist it even the slightest, which always rested on a pillow, so not to set off spasms and attacks of unbearable, pass-out pain.

That morning, I felt the need to say something shocking - something that would sum up my frustration. I blurted out, "This old leg! I wish someone else had this old leg!" My mother, by then pushing fluffy pillows into new pillowcases at the foot of my bed, looked up in disbelief. I had never, ever wished my pain on anyone else. "What did you say?" Determined to shock my mother over my frustration with my illness, I repeated what I had just said.

Still wearing her apron, she sat in a chair next to my bed. "Susan, don't you know you were hand picked by God to have this painful illness? What If I told you that your pain might take away someone else's pain in the world?" I was so surprised at this new idea that she had just offered me - that my pain could actually be used for a good and noble purpose. It was so intriguing, that I was momentarily stunned. I asked, "Is that possible?" She replied, "We know nothing about life, Susan. It is, and always will be, a mystery. Anything is possible." Suddenly my entire world changed in a flash, for the better. The very idea that pain could have a positive result in the world, that it was not at all useless, and that I might be able to take away someone else's pain, inspired me deeply and completely reframed my relationship to my illness.

"Where would this person be?" I asked her quickly. My mother laughed, and shaking her head, said she didn't know. I replied, "Could it be a little girl in China?" As a child myself, I was trying to think of the most distant culture I could conjure up - in my mind's eye I saw a girl about my age, with shiny black hair made up in braids, in pink Chinese printed silk. She nodded, "Why not?" She said she had to go downstairs to start making lunch but that we could talk about this more later. She gave me an epiphany I would embrace forever.

It would take years for me to fully understand the scope of the idea she had suggested to me. Now I realize she was right (as always) - I feel could never write in the compassionate way that some say I do, had I not suffered myself during much most of my life My columns appear in ten different countries of the world each month (translated) and I am working on my tenth book that will appear in many languages, including my latest, in Chinese. My mother was always prophetic.

I had to beg her to teach me astrology - she refused dozens of times. I simply wanted to know if all the physical therapy would work, and if I had a good chance of ever walking again. It took about 18 months of constant begging her to teach me, to get her to relent. She told me "astrology is not a parlor game - it is real and it is serious. It will require you study with me for 12 years, with absolutely no reading for friends in that time. (I reminded her that not being a student in high school meant I had no friends. I lived home, had a big metal brace on my leg, and was not going anywhere.) She finally agreed.

My mother told me we would study astrology, but also philosophy and religion. We would study how to communicate clearly as well, for she was concerned not only about saying the wrong thing, but also about my saying the right thing the wrong way - and hence, leaving the wrong impression, just as bad. Later, when I was to become known in the field, she said, "I wish I could have written books and columns. It was not to be in my day." I assured her that I was simply writing her books and columns FOR her: "Little Mom, all that I say, and all that I know, is from you - these are truly your books. I am simply writing them down for you."

She taught me the essence of love. Her love for my father survived his death two decades ago. My mother had a remarkable habit of talking clearly in her sleep. Her present day aid of six years, Annie, would occasionally tape those nightly episodes so we could hear what she had to say. Nearly every night for years, in her sleep she would talk about her need to rush home to cook, to set the table, and prepare a meal for father. I recently listened to some of Annie's tapes of my mother's nocturnal "meetings" with my father in her dreams.

Her conversation with my father might have centered on a world event, the motions of the stock market, or about the new law that was coming before Congress. (My mother's mind chewed on weighty subjects). At other times, she would talk in her dreams about her four grandchildren or other family members. It was her way of digesting the things she heard and wanted to think about a bit more, and those dreams also seemed to serve the purpose of remaining close to my father.

Who is to say she did not have a mysterious window to the unknown, a way of reaching my father each night as she dreamed? As she used to say, we know so little of life, why we are here and what we must do while we are here. She always said the ways of life are mysterious, and she would remind me that we were but soldiers of God, awaiting our next assignment. She always encouraged me, even as a child, to begin thinking early about why I felt I was born, and how I could make my best contribution to the world, on a little or big scale. One was not necessarily better than the other. She never sought fame (although I think I did give her a measure of that), but she did strive to be the best she could be, and to give all to us, her family.

She lived her life generously and showed me we could always give to others, even when we had very little of our own to give. When my father and my mother heard of someone old in the neighborhood who needed to move because the rent had become too high or because the building was coming down, they would go out of their way to find that neighbor or customer a new apartment. I was 20 and just graduated from NYU and looking for my own place, but my parents kept giving away choice, affordable apartments to everyone who needed a new place.

I finally say to them, "What about me, can't you help me?" My mother and father would remind me the person they had helped was old, or in pain, and they were more deserving of their help. I actually found their reasoning touching and irrefutable, and finally went out and found my first apartment on my own, also in the same neighborhood,

When the poor came into my father's store, who were hungry and my parents knew could not possibly pay for what they needed, my mother would put all the food in a bag, and my father would say, "Let's put this on the tab," knowing full well that person would never be able to pay, nor would they be expected to do so. This allowed each person to keep his or her dignity - and feed a starving family.

My mother always gave my sister and I the most precious gift a mother has to give - unconditional love and her full attention. She was never distracted with other things; we were the center of her world. She made our childhood wonderful, and even though we were not rich, we were rich in other ways, with the positive, strong family unit she had created. We adored her and did anything we could think of to please her. She took care of us when we were small and we tried to return the love to her when she needed our help in her advanced age.

I always ended my visits with her by saying what she had always said to me when I was little, "I love you as high as the sky (raise my arms up the sky), as wide as the world (and extend my arms out wide horizontally) and as deep as the ocean (extending my arms down straight toward the floor)!" Later, when she lost her hearing due to the antibiotic to cure an earlier bout of pneumonia, we didn't need the words anymore to our little traditional goodbye - we simply made those hand signals.

So, Little Mom, if you are watching me today from your spot in heaven, I will end my little talk about you in the very the same way we always did, with those little arm gestures. I love you as high as the sky, as wide as the world, and as deep as the ocean. It is a love so strong, it will go on forever in my heart, and in the world. We will miss you, Little Mom.

Susan Miller

Astrology Zone   

 

 

Almudena Bernabeu is an International Attorney at the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) in San Francisco. Bernabeu began working with CJA in early 2002 and played a key role in putting together the case against Honduran perpetrator Col. Juan López Grijalba. As an International Attorney, Almudena focuses primarily on the investigation and preparation of Latin American cases. These cases include Salvadoran cases Doe v Saravia, Romagoza et al v. Garcia and Vides Casanova, and Chavez v. Carranza. Almudena is also a prosecutor in Spain in the criminal case against former Guatemalan officials responsible for atrocities committed against civilians during the 1970s and 1980s. Almudena, along with Spanish law professor Manuel Olle, represents two Spanish citizens who were tortured in Guatemala during those years. The Rigoberta Menchu Foundation filed the case in December of 1999. Almudena is an attorney from Spain who has been working in the fields of human rights and private international law for the past decade. From 1995-99 in Southern Spain, she worked in private practice and with two, UNHCR-coordinated non-governmental organizations on asylum and refugee cases with a focus on clients from North and Central Africa and the Balkans. She also conducted numerous trainings for asylum lawyers and published several articles on reforms to Spanish asylum and refugee law after the Schengen agreements. Throughout the 1990s, Almudena worked pro bono on asylum and human rights cases for Amnesty International-Spain. She also researched and investigated cases heard by the European Court for Human Rights. She has a particular interest in the work of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture. She is a graduate of the Faculty of International Law, Universidad de Valencia, Spain.

Image, Memory and the Paradox of Peace

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sequoyah Trueblood:
On the Mamos & the Sacred Law of Origin

 

“I define spirit as the mind of God
in motion here on Mother Earth.”
Sequoyah Trueblood (in Mack, 1999)

Sequoyah Trueblood was born in the USA on December 15, 1940 to a German-English mother and Native American father. He is a blood member of the Choctaw nation, with Cherokee and Chickasaw roots. Sequoyah has lived a remarkable life, overcoming a background of abuse and cultural deprivation, combat in Vietnam as a Green beret and special intelligence forces, drug involvement and incarceration. After a period of healing, transformation and recovery of his spiritual roots, Sequoyah has been of service in embodying the heart doctrine, while living with and learning from aboriginal peoples, in performing sacred ceremonies, and conducting healing circles with diverse groups in Canada, the United States and Japan.

As a pipe carrier, Sequoyah conducts healing circles and traditional ceremonies to remind us of “the one Ceremony,” which is life itself, and of the sacredness of all things. The pipe, composed of a stem representing the masculine and a bowl representing the feminine, embodies the ancient teachings about the male and female principles within all of creation. The pipe reminds us that as men and women, we need to balance and harmonize these energies and principles within ourselves, moderating aggression and negativity, and learning respect for nature and life. Sequoyah talks of healing the pain and suffering that exist within human consciousness and the heart, so that humankind can remember themselves, their origins and the Creator. Humans live out of harmony with nature and consequently experience great suffering and conflict. This diminishes the quality of human life and threatens the future of society, and the larger ecology of the living earth.

In accord with the native tradition, the land of the Americas and material reality is Turtle Island. The aboriginal teachings are required in order that humankind learn to live in harmony with each other and in balance with mother nature, so as to honour the sacredness of Turtle Island. Sequoyah explains that humans have turned one hundred and eighty degrees away from the light of the creator and the original teachings, and do not know who they are or their true origins. Humans live in fear–conditioned by suffering, anger and negative emotions–all of which arise from not knowing self and the Creator. Humans’ minds are always in judgment of one another, rather than in being in heart relationship, with tolerance and thankfulness. Sequoyah has been instructed in spirit to help humans experience a necessary “polar shift in consciousness and mind”–to turn around within themselves so as to once again experience the Creator. From a psyche polarised around false ego, the individual can awaken to deeper spiritual realizations of Self. Humans can remember who they are as “loving children of the Divine loving Creator,” who originate from a realm of spirit and higher dimensions.

Since 1999, Sequoyah has spent periods of time with the aboriginal tribes of northern Columbia, where he was introduced to the ways and teachings of the Mamos, the spiritual elders of these original peoples. The Mamos claim to be the “Elders Brothers” of both “Younger Brother”-“hermanos menores,”–the tribes of the area, and of the “very little brothers”–the diminutive “hermanitos menores,” the mass of humanity on planet earth. The Mamos maintain that the mountains of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta are a sacred planetary site, and, in fact, the “Heart of the World.” The four tribes located there embody the four chambers of the heart, related to the four directions and elements of nature. The mamos, the spiritual elders to the tribes, are said to serve to maintain and sustain the heartbeat and life activities of the larger planet. They carry this out through continual cycles of prayer, meditation and activities within the realm of spirit. Sequoyah’s accounts of meetings with the Mamos and native peoples attest to the mysterious powers, claims and practices of these adepts or elder brothers.

Sequoyah explains that as guardians of humanity: “the mamos ... are not born of this Earth. They were transferred here from other Planets to care for the internal engine, the motor that drives the space-ship Earth.” (1999) Through visions, teachings on the inner planes and direct experience, Sequoyah learned of the para-normal faculties of the Mamos, who are said to work directly within the world of spirit, communicate telepathically, travel out of body and through higher dimensions. The mamas are the spiritual leaders of this sacred Earth site, the heart of the world. The origins of this region are tied further to the dissolution of Atlantis, and the earlier unknown history of humanity.
The term mamos also refers to the sun, which is a realm of spiritual illumination. The mamos work within the realm of “aluna,” the world of light,“interacting with the ocean of spirit that is all life.” (Ereira, 1991) The Mamos’s messages to Sequoyah concern the healing of the planet and human hearts, and the extra-dimensional origins of life and creation.

During periods among the Kogi and Mamos, Sequoyah was instructed in the Natural Law of Origin and asked to communicate this teaching to the outside world at this critical time in human history. This is the Mamos’ ancient teaching about the origin of life and creation. According to the sacred Law of Origin, in the beginning, a light emerged from the Womb of Creation, the mystical mother. This light carried a heartbeat and was connected to the breath of life. From the Womb of Creation, the light passed into the sun, and then into the earth, and then into humankind. Thus, humans, in the innermost dimensions of their being, embody the same light and heartbeat which emerge from the Womb of Creation.

Sequoyah explains that, by experiencing the necessary polar shift in consciousness and mind, humans, within the inner cosmos of consciousness, can pass beyond the realm of judgment and negativity and experience directly the worlds of spirit and the nature of the Creator. Sequoyah depicts the triune nature of the Creator, as being of the spirit of niawenhko’wa (great blessings or thankfulness), konnoronhkhwako’wa (the great love), and skennen’ko’wa (the great peace). The great blessings, love and peace are connected to the light, breath and heartbeat emerging from within the Womb of Creation. By ceremony , prayer and thankfulness, humans can turn around within themselves, face the Creator and experience the extra-dimensional nature of their origins.

Sequoyah embodies the heart doctrine and elaborates the ancient teachings of the Mamos and native peoples. Humankind have a far more mysterious nature and history than little brother imagines in their minds full of judgments, absorbed in sufferings, conflict and life asleep. In this view, we are ourselves extra-terrestrials, as the light of consciousness and the heartbeat are from the Creator and the mystical Womb of Creation. These life forces well up within us, as they similarly emerge from the Heart of the World, and pervade all of sacred life.

 

Zeropoint     

 

 

 

 

 

 

Takashi Tanemori

Takashi and Yuki

Hiroshima Survivor and Peace Activist

"No matter what, we can choose to forgive."
--Takashi Tanemori

    My journey, chronicled in my book Hiroshima: Bridge to Forgiveness, has been long, difficult, and inextricably linked to the seeming opposites of hatred and love. My "path" of Hiroshima has taught me this most important lesson: Those who have lost the most in war are also the ones who have the most to gain by putting aside feelings of revenge --going beyond our own cocoon, learning to forgive and making peace with our own painful past. In my path from Hiroshima, conflicts have shaped and redirected me, today allowing me to express my love and gratitude for two countries that both nurtured and wounded me.

    In my long and difficult journey toward manhood, I buried my Father. The lot of an orphan in Japan's family-centric society is often miserable and I struggled to survive. I was "blinded" by my rage, as stupid and violent as an angry ox. I was a reminder that Japan lost the War, and grew up in an atmosphere of contempt, shame and guilt in the rubble of postwar Japan.

    I began by seeking revenge for the death of my father but found [an] inner battle was raging inside of me --seeming opposites of hatred and love that brought me to the present, ultimately finding a rite of passage created through forgiveness. My life story demonstrates how a heart twisted by hatred and revenge can be transformed by forgiveness, evolving to a path of peaceful wisdom and the essential work of healing human hearts.

    It is my firm belief when we are able to conquer the raging war in our own hearts, one forgiving heart-at-a-time, what Japanese people call KOKORO NO YASURAGI-YUTORI, this inner transformation is much more powerful than any atomic weapon or war in shifting the world toward peace. My message is clear and simple: Instead of resorting to violence, war or endless cycles of revenge, humankind must learn to forgive, to reconcile and make peace with its former enemies --whoever they are!  Victory over conflict hinges on the individual, who must conquer the raging war in his or her own darkest heart. I have been interviewed many times by prominent newspapers and television producers. Always, these reporters have reported their details of the story of destruction; always they have left on the cutting room floor Takashi's most important story of all: FORGIVENESS.  No matter what, we can choose to forgive; and I believe each one of us is part of the solution.  I am now in my 70's and a resident of Berkeley, California. I live with my guide dog, Yuki, who is my second guide dog.

Takashi Tanemori, son of a noble Samurai family, is currently writing his second book, "The Urban Samurai".  Takashi founded the Silkworm Peace Institute. He is also a painter and a poet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Peace is not a field of flowers. It’s hard work.”

Despite personal tragedy, Aqeela Sherrills seeks peace on the mean streets of Los Angeles.

By Tijn Touber

There are seals swimming in the bay in front of the hotel where Aqeela Sherrills is staying. The sun is struggling to chase away threads of mist hanging over the San Francisco hills in the distance. The hotel lobby smells of fresh coffee and pancakes. The sense of serenity that dominates this morning in Tiburon, an upscale town across the bay from San Francisco, in no way resembles the place where Sherrills comes from: a rough gang-dominated district of Los Angeles. In that place, you’re asking for trouble if you hit the street without packing some means of self-defence. It’s estimated that over the past 20 years, at least 10,000 murders have been committed in these Los Angeles neighbourhoods. That’s far more than all the victims of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

But Sherrills has managed to accomplish what has eluded negotiators in many international conflicts: getting two rival, violent groups to the negotiating table and then making sure that the terms of the ceasefire agreement stick. Ultimately, the Crips and the Bloods signed an honest-to-God peace treaty. Sherrills then created an entire structure involving 80 people dedicated to safeguarding the terms of the treaty and teaching the gang members self-respect and “life skills.” The treaty, signed in 1992, continues for the most part to be upheld and has become an example to other cities. But this is just the beginning for Sherrills. “I expect that the next major peace movement will come from these neighbourhoods,” he says.

The baggy sweater Sherrills wears this morning cannot hide his muscles, important for self-protection as a young man. He doesn’t need to fight today, but his eyes remain watchful. Sherrills is no longer fighting with others, or with himself. He is fighting deeply-ingrained patterns and prejudices: poverty, racism and feelings of inferiority. They are so deeply-rooted that most people don’t see them and even fewer dare to name them. “Black folks hate themselves,” Sherrills says plainly. “And they feel inferior. White folks have been conditioned to feel superior. It’s so deeply rooted that it’s subtle; people don’t even see it most of the time. But it’s there, and it really needs to be addressed.” The problems of violence aren’t limited to American ghettos, they’re everywhere. And if there’s someone who can point out these problems and has found a solution to them, it is Sherrills.

Watts was one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Los Angeles when Aqeela Sherrills was born there 35 years ago. The area was split in two by railroad tracks. One side was the territory of the Bloods and the other belonged to the Crips. Conflicts over territory and drugs were fought out on the street using state-of-the-art weapons. Executions and drive-by shootings were daily occurrences. In the early 1980s, Sherrills was just a kid at the time gang violence in American ghettos started to escalate.

Sherrills grew up as the youngest of 10 children surrounded by this horrific backdrop of violence. But in Watts, children never stay young for long. Sherrills had his first son when he was 14. That same year, his best friend, also 14, was shot to death. Sherrills looks back, “I went completely crazy. We wanted revenge and we hit the streets. Fighting. Shooting. Robbing.” By the time he was 16, 13 of his friends had already died in gunfire between the Bloods and the Crips.

The subculture of American gang life is dominated by violence and drugs. But it’s more than that. It is also where fantastic music, dance and clothing styles are created, which have a major impact on global pop culture. Just watching MTV for a half-hour makes it clear that gang culture has become hip. This makes Sherrills laugh. “It’s cool now to say you come from a ghetto. When I was young it wasn’t so cool; most of us wanted to get out as quickly as possible.”

But Sherrills eventually pulled back from the gang life. Fantasy is what saved him. “Together with my brothers and sisters I fantasized a lot about a better world,” he remembers. “My parents weren’t home much and we would tell each other never ending stories. It usually started with a Chinese master who gave us supernatural powers. We used those super powers to make the world a better place. Those stories made me trust, at a young age, that another world was possible and that I could do something about it. I knew I was destined to do something big. I just didn’t know what.”

Sherrills’ oldest sister was the first to get out of the neighbourhood. She was accepted to college and moved on campus. This sister had always been a major inspiration to Sherrills—albeit because she was the one who always told the best stories. With her help, Sherrills also got into college when he was 18, where he studied electrical engineering. It appeared to be his ticket out of the violence in his neighbourhood.

Initially, Sherrills didn’t want to return home, even on weekends. Although he didn’t show too much interest in his studies, he hung around campus. His first year was mostly spent partying and dating lots of girls. But that summer, something happened that changed Sherrills’ life. He read a book entitled The Evidence of Things Not Seen by eminent African American writer James Baldwin. The book describes what Baldwin saw as a plot against black people, involving the shipment of drugs and guns into poor neighbourhoods— with drugs and weapons. “The idea was, Baldwin wrote: let the black people kill each other off. I was furious and wanted to warn my brothers,” Sherrills recalls.

Sherrills joined the Nation of Islam, an American spiritual black separatist movement. When he rejoined his fellow students after the summer, some didn’t recognize him. He had lost 35 pounds (15 kilos) and had given up alcohol, drugs, cigarettes and sex. As befits a devout Muslim, he prayed five times a day. Meanwhile, he began acting as a kind of Robin Hood, stealing money from drug dealers and giving it to the neighbourhood’s poor.
The big task for which Sherrill was destined, started to take shape. He continued to pay little attention to his studies; he wanted instead to go back to the ‘hood” and help his brothers break out of the vicious circle of drugs and violence. Sherrills organized gatherings for fellow students around the theme of defending black rights. He reminded his fellow black students of their roots-–“People died so you could go to college!”—but he didn’t get many to the point of returning to the ghetto they came from. They simply didn’t want to be associated with their old neighbourhood, Sherrills discovered, and he slowly turned bitter.

Sherrills continued to have run-ins with the law and even landed in jail once for physically resisting a police officer who was beating on him. But what transformed Sherrill into a peace activist was not being arrested, joining Islam, or reading Baldwin, but by the love of a woman. “Before my celibacy stint,” he explains, “I had a girlfriend: Lisa. I was crazy about her, but very insecure about myself. I thought I was ugly and couldn’t believe that she really wanted me. I couldn’t handle her love and cheated on her—to break up the relationship and to prove that I was right. But I regretted it so much that for the first time in my life I did something noble: I confessed everything.”
That confession had a miraculous effect. He suddenly saw the world through different eyes. “Before that I didn’t trust anyone,” Sherrills explains. “If things weren’t going well for me there was always someone I could blame. Now I was looking at myself for the first time in my life. It was as if spirit came into me, as if I had become a new person.”

This rebirth gave Sherrills the wings and courage he needed to go into his neighbourhood with a few friends with the aim of making peace. He talked, discussed and listened on every street corner to members of the Crips and the Bloods. That was in 1989. A short time later, Sherrills got help from an American football legend, Jim Brown, who made his house in the Hollywood hills available as a neutral place where members of various gangs could meet. Sherrills looks back on those early days: “We held six meetings involving hundreds of cats from different neighbourhoods. We couldn’t bring off a ceasefire, but relations got better and better.”

Brown was generous enough to donate a monthly sum so that Sherrills and his buddies could rent a retail space and take their activities to the next level. The cooperation with Brown led to the founding of the Amer-I-Can project, which offers a program for “life skills.” Sherrills explains, “Jim had been offering this program to prisoners for awhile. It teaches you to develop self-respect, solve conflicts, create a life vision, make decisions—that kind of thing.” Sherrills followed the program himself and started giving lessons, something he would do for the next 11 years.

Brown’s fame, combined with Sherrills’ street credibility, turned out to be a golden formula for getting the unique peace process off the ground. But it remained a tall order; after all, how do you get young men who consistently confuse the concepts of “forgiveness” and “revenge” to take a seat around a negotiation table? Sherrills: “It’s not magic. It’s a step-by-step process. It’s about communication. I appeal to their deepest feelings. I try to touch their heart, so that each of them can get back in touch with their humanity. This process is based on relationships and cannot be motivated by anything but love. We simply talk about the important things in life: what makes people happy or sad, what are we afraid of, what can we do better? That kind of thing. Again and again it becomes clear that we ultimately believe in the same things.”

In 1992, Sherrills finally sees a breakthrough: the Crips and the Bloods sign a historic treaty. Sherrills describes that amazing day this way: “Everyone was happy, grandmothers were crying, everyone was calling each other, for the first time fathers were able to visit their children on the other side of the railroad tracks… Everyone was so excited. It totally changed the quality of our lives.”

After this success in Los Angeles, there was no stopping the initiative. What started out locally, expanded into an international organization active in 15 cities. At the highpoint of his peace activities, Sherrills’ Community Self-Determination Institute had 80 employees and its budget included $ 3 million U.S. (2.3 million euros) in government subsidies. For three and a half years, he lived like an urban nomad travelling from ghetto to ghetto to initiate peace negotiations and exact a ceasefire. The success of Sherrills’ approach is partly due to the fact that he does more than just treat the symptoms of gang violence. He wants to tackle the problem at its roots. “Violence on the streets is a symptom of a deeper problem,” he notes. “As long as there is poverty, we will never have peace. Poverty destroys families, neighbourhoods, countries.”
Sherrills doesn’t see the problems of violence and despair as confined to gang areas. “In fact there is no difference between what goes on in Watts or in Beverly Hills. The emotional pain that people experience is expressed in Watts by murder and in Beverly Hills by suicide.” Sherrills then reveals a staggering statistic: “Last year there were more suicides than murders in greater Los Angeles.”

Sherrills shifts effortlessly between street slang and clearly formulated spiritual and political statements. His charismatic energy is both tough and loving. You can just as easily imagine him both on a street corner in the ghetto and in a meeting with top level government officials.
Sherrills’ approach works, in part because he speaks the language of the street. “I honestly love my neighbourhood and my brothers,” he remarks. “There is so much beauty, so much talent. Sometimes in the roughest places, you find the most beauty. Aside from the violence, there are few other places in California where you find so much sense of community. That gang feeling is a part of it; it was always there, even before the violence escalated. A gang is like a kind of surrogate family. For young men, fighting is a way to be initiated. You can’t give up a gang without replacing it with something else. You have to keep them intact and help the members start living according to new values.”

The problem Sherrills runs into time and time again is the marginalization and criminalization of gang members. “The word ”gang member” is a way of dehumanizing someone. When someone gets killed people say: “Oh well, it was a gang member.” But that gang member was someone’s son, friend or loved one. The perception is that people in these neighbourhoods are hardened against this type of grief. That’s not true. They are deeply wounded and use this way to express it.”

Nearly everyone in South Central Los Angeles is suffering from a kind of post-traumatic stress, Sherrills believes. “We have got to address our own illnesses. How? You have to take a step back and look at the issue from a more fundamental perspective. In order to be able to do that, the heart has to be bust open. We try to do everything in life to keep our hearts from being broken. But there is so much beauty in having a broken heart –-there’s pain, but you discover things in yourself that you never thought about before.”

And then in 2004 came the horrible test of Sherrills’ beliefs. His oldest son, 18-year-old Terrell Sherrills, is shot while on vacation visiting his father in Watts. Terrell had gone out to a party with a friend, and around midnight a few gang members arrive. Terrell is shot in the back and dies a short time later in the hospital.

“Terrell led a peaceful life,” says Sherrills. “He didn’t have anything to do with gang violence. He was in college and was very popular—and not only with the girls. He came with me sometimes when I did my work. It was a huge blow.”

He falls silent for a moment, showing that none of us can ever defend ourselves against this pain. No one gets used to murder.

Sherrills says he had no choice but to choose love over revenge. “It’s not about who killed my son, but what killed him: a culture with no respect for life. I am not surrendering his life to death, but reclaiming it and giving it new meaning.”

The man who killed Terrell has not yet been caught. When that happens, Sherrills wants to talk with him and his parents. “I want to ask them what kind of pain drove the guy to commit this act. When did he become disillusioned? Where did it go wrong? Of course, my son’s killer deserves to be punished, but mainly I want to keep him alive. I want to invest in him towards a better future for us all. My dream is still that children can grow up in Watts safely and without fear.”

The main problem the United States is struggling with is that it is a country built around violence, according to Sherrill. “We can be angry with George Bush, but he’s doing just what his predecessors did. We have to wake up to our culture. We have killed millions of indigenous people. Our foreign policy still means death for millions around the world. We can say Bush is evil, but we are evil. We are trapped in a culture based on revenge.”

Sherrills sees the same thing in his neighbourhood of Watts. The treaty continues to be upheld, but not without problems and obstacles. Sherrill says, “When two brothers have problems with each other, everyone joins forces to take revenge. The treaty is broken!, they shout. But I say: ”Wait a minute: a certain person has a problem with someone else. That’s their problem, not all of ours.” I believe that conflicts are healthy, but you have to learn to deal with them in a constructive way.”

“Peace is a process, not a destination,” Sherrills continues. “Peace is not a utopian field of flowers you parade through together. It’s hard work. Sometimes the peacemakers lose their lives. The point is that we continually return to the peace talks and solve the problems. And we’re getting one step closer all the time.”

Sherrills’ work in various U.S. cities has made him an authority. Not only in the eyes of government officials and peace organizations, but gang members as well. It’s becoming increasingly easy to go into problem areas and start peace negotiations. Sherrills: “We’ve been given a kind of carte blanche to go into the neighbourhoods. Within a few days we have an idea of who is playing what role in the community and what’s going on. Then we make contact with the key figures to reach a ceasefire.”

When the peace treaty in Watts had been in place, and mostly followed, for 10 years, Sherrills launched a 10-year plan entitled The Passage to Peace to completely put an end to gang violence. “We appointed key figures in neighbourhoods to keep the peace in their community. We make people responsible for their own neighbourhood, for their own problems. I say: ‘I don’t want to move to a better neighbourhood. This is a better neighbourhood.’ Instead of seeing it as a ghetto, we have to see the beauty and the potential. We have to get together; then we have a chance.”

Sherrills conveys that same message at conferences and seminars where he is invited to speak. “Whether it’s environment movements, peace movements or cultural creative movements, they all want the same thing: respect for life. My suggestion would be to get together and create one big movement I would call Reverence Movement. After all, the violence we inflict on ourselves and one another is the same violence we are using to destroy the planet. If every movement continues to treat the symptoms, we won’t get anywhere. We’re only wasting time and energy.”

“We have to create a culture where authentic emotions are allowed to be expressed. That would create a real release. If the head of the Los Angeles police department would apologize for the injustice we have suffered under the guise of justice, it would create a landslide. If George Bush would apologize for the slavery in this country, it would give so much release. You can only conquer hate with love.”

The hotel lobby has now filled up with people coming to attend the conference in which Sherrills is participating. Every few minutes someone gives him a hug. The conference is set to begin. We’ve only spent one morning together, but it feels like a couple of days. For Sherrills, this intense solidarity has become a way of life. He has learned that every meeting can be the last and that every strong connection between people can set something major in motion. The meetings he has are seldom informal. There is usually a lot at stake. The intensity of his presence can mean the difference between forgiveness and revenge, between war and peace.

Outside, the seals are still swimming happily. The wisps of fog hanging over San Francisco in the distance have cleared. The impressive Golden Gate bridge sparkles in the sun, a symbol of American accomplishment. This is a country where newcomers founded a culture that became an example to the world—a model of freedom, democracy and limitless possibilities. Aqeela Sherrills stands squarely in that American tradition. He, too, is working to establish a new culture—a culture promoting reverence for life.

For more information about the Community Self-Determination Institute: 9101 South Hooper Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90002, USA, telephone +1 323 586 8791, www.wattsrecords.com, e-mail: aqeelas@msn.com.

Ode Magazine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her tale was brutal, sexual. No one believed a slave woman could be so literate. But now Harriet Jacobs has reclaimed her name.


Harriet Jacobs wrote a slave narrative, thought to be the obscure work of a white writer until two decades ago.

Annie Nakao, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 23, 2004

"Pity me, and pardon me, O virtuous reader! You never knew what it is like to be a slave; to be entirely unprotected by law or custom; to have the laws reduce you to the condition of a chattel, entirely subject to the will of another. You never exhausted your ingenuity in avoiding the snares, and eluding the power of a hated tyrant; you never shuddered at the sound of his footsteps, and trembled within hearing of his voice."

When North Carolina slave Harriet Jacobs penned those words in "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl," a book she self-published in 1861, she became the first black woman to write a slave narrative. As recently as two decades ago, the book was considered an obscure literary oddity written by white abolitionist Lydia Maria Child. Today, with Jacobs' authorship authenticated, her dramatic narrative provides new generations with a revealing look at a often-hidden side of slavery: the sexual exploitation of women.

The brutalization of black girls and women by white slave-masters, who justified their dehumanizing treatment by viewing them as "sexual savages," was a daily fact of life under slavery. Stripped, beaten, raped and forced to "breed" more slaves, black women suffered a double burden of slavery because of their sexual vulnerability.

"Jacobs wrote what nobody dared to write," said literary scholar Jean Fagan Yellin, 73, who toiled for six years to uncover the identity of Jacobs as the true author of the book in the late 1980s. Yellin has recently published a biography of Jacobs, titled "Harriet Jacobs, A Life," and is working on publishing Jacobs' papers. A PBS series, "Slavery and the Making of America," now in production, will also feature Jacobs' story.

The growing recognition now given to Jacobs is long overdue, said Arnold Rampersad, Stanford University professor of literature and noted biographer of such African American figures as W.E.B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes.

"It's a very important slave narrative because it takes into account directly the experience of being a woman in slavery," said Rampersad. "It raises the question of whether slavery was worse for women than it was for men, which was not really talked about much."

Slave narratives have been a critical part of the telling of African American history. But unlike other narratives dictated to others by illiterate slaves, Jacobs' own eloquent recounting of her remarkable life -- she hid for seven years in an attic to escape her white slave master before escaping north and becoming an anti-slavery activist who wrote dispatches for famed abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison's the Liberator -- makes her, in Yellin's view, as heroic a figure as 19th century African American giants Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman.

"We know of the heroic Harriet Tubman and her work during the war as a Union spy," Yellin wrote in Jacobs' biography. "We know of the heroic Sojourner Truth and of her relief efforts. But because of slavery's anti- literacy laws, neither Tubman nor Truth could write her own story. ... Astonishingly, Jacobs managed both to author her own book and to get it published before Emancipation."

Beneath the soaring atrium of the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero -- she'd recently addressed the American Literature Association in San Francisco on the Jacobs papers -- Yellin, a small woman with short gray hair and deep-set brown eyes, looked even tinier. But she had an air of a woman used to plowing ahead, which probably served her well in the years she, a lone white academic, spent poring over an obscure slave narrative that few other scholars seemed to care about.

"Listen, my hair was a different color when I started on this years ago," quipped Yellin, a professor emerita at New York's Pace University, where she taught English for 30 years.

It was her Irish Catholic father's and Jewish immigrant mother's Old Left influences and the changing times that sparked an interest in what she called "the nontraditional" and "oppositional." "In the 1960s, the civil rights movement influenced everybody. So I started looking at things I could study that made sense in terms of the changes going on in the country."

While researching her dissertation on black figures in American literature, she came across Jacobs' narrative, which at the time was published under the pseudonym Linda Brent. She was fascinated. But it wasn't until the feminist movement of the 1970s that Yellin went back to "Incidents" as she tried to draw connections between race and gender.

"At the time, nobody was interested because the book makes people uncomfortable," she said. "It tells the terrible story of sexual exploitation."

Yet from abolitionist times, many of the details of that history remain veiled. White anti-slavery advocates avoided the topic so they wouldn't shock their Victorian audiences. And despite the handing down of stories of sexual oppression over generations of black families and the now substantial body of eloquent writings by black female authors about the struggles of women during slavery, the magnitude of the sexual exploitation of millions of black women slaves remains muted.

Reminders are unavoidable as revelations surface that the late senator and segregationist Strom Thurmond at age 22 fathered a child with a 16-year- old black maid who worked for his parents, or that one of the fathers of our country, Thomas Jefferson, also sired a child with his slave, Sally Hemings. Poles apart when it comes to their places in history, Jefferson and Thurmond were nevertheless participants in a system of sexual oppression that for Jefferson was codified in the law of the land, and for Thurmond was a vestige of social custom.

Central to that system of oppression was the centuries-old perceived sexual availability of black women that even today fosters stereotypes and assumptions about their sexuality.

"The whole myth of black women's sexuality, availability and compliance is ingrained into the culture," Yellin said.

The issue surfaces in complicated ways -- provoking, for example, uneasiness among some African Americans about Halle Berry's Oscar win two years ago for "Monster's Ball." There was happiness that a black woman finally won as best actress but pain that her highly sexualized role was viewed as stereotypical.

It's there, too, in the anger of some blacks about the criticism heaped on Janet Jackson earlier this year after Justin Timberlake ripped her bodice during a Super Bowl performance and exposed her right breast. Granted, this is a woman who, like many other female entertainers, black and white, is marketed for her sexually suggestive persona. Yet, would an equally suggestive Madonna have received more sympathy?

"I'm not a student of popular culture, but that does seem reasonable," Yellin said. "The fact is, there's a public role out there and someone walks into it."

That public role, she said, stems directly from chattel slavery, which used rape as a form of terror against every black woman, including Jacobs.

Born in 1813, Jacobs lived a peaceful childhood until she turned 13 and her mistress, who had taught her to read and write, died. She was willed to the baby daughter of an Edenton, N.C., doctor named James Norcom.

Norcom, a tyrant who had already had 11 children by other slaves, quickly began stalking Jacobs as a sexual prize. He did not rape her but constantly harassed and threatened her about having sex and even had a cottage built for that purpose far from the house.

"He told me I was his property; that I must be subjected to his will in all things," she wrote.

That she was not raped was unusual, given that slave masters either bribed their slaves with extra rations or better treatment for their children, or beat or starved them into submission.

"That always comes up -- why didn't he rape her?" Yellin said. "I am told that there are men who want acquiescence. But that's not the issue. It's that she resisted him, defied him."

To escape Norcom, Jacobs -- ironically -- used her sexuality to find a protector in a white lawyer with a higher social standing, with whom she had two children.

"At 15, she was no fool," Yellin said. "She chose the lesser of two evils. "

Yet she was later haunted by her choice. Years later, it pained her to reveal her story to her activist friends. Determined, in her words, to "try and be useful in some way," however, Jacobs wrote the book, using the pseudonym.

Still pursued by the doctor, who remained her owner, Jacobs hid in a tiny crawl space in her grandmother's attic for nearly seven years before escaping north. Her two children eventually joined her. Even in New York, the doctor and later his heirs continued their search for years, until an abolitionist friend finally bought her freedom.

Jacobs became an anti-slavery activist and Civil War relief worker and correspondent for Garrison. She also opened a school for free blacks in Alexandria, Va.

After she died in 1897, Jacobs was largely forgotten and her book given short shrift by critics who discounted the work as inauthentic.

"Some of us say those critics were unable to accept the idea of a literate black woman held in slavery," Yellin said.

Nearly 107 years after Jacobs died, Yellin had the satisfaction of having the listed author of "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" changed to Jacobs at the Library of Congress.

"I wanted her to be there, in American cultural history," she said.

Jacobs was a large presence in Yellin's life as well.

"I have lived with Harriet Jacobs for a very long time and am eager to get her presence out of my head, her papers out of my house and her story into the hands of readers," she wrote on the preface of her biography. "But I truly cannot imagine life without her."

San Francisco Chronicle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman was a runaway slave from Maryland who became known as the "Moses of her people." Over the course of 10 years, and at great personal risk, she led hundreds of slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad, a secret network of safe houses where runaway slaves could stay on their journey north to freedom. She later became a leader in the abolitionist movement, and during the Civil War she was a spy for the federal forces in South Carolina as well as a nurse.

Harriet Tubman

Notes from the underground - Biographer paints a portrait of Harriet Tubman from scant sources

Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom

The Life of Harriet Tubman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do turkeys enjoy thanksgiving?

A Global Resistance to Empire

By Arundhati Roy

 

LAST JANUARY thousands of us from across the world gathered in Porto Allegre in Brazil and declared — reiterated — that "Another World is Possible". A few thousand miles north, in Washington, George Bush and his aides were thinking the same thing.

Our project was the World Social Forum. Theirs — to further what many call The Project for the New American Century.

In the great cities of Europe and America, where a few years ago these things would only have been whispered, now people are openly talking about the good side of Imperialism and the need for a strong Empire to police an unruly world. The new missionaries want order at the cost of justice. Discipline at the cost of dignity. And ascendancy at any price. Occasionally some of us are invited to `debate' the issue on `neutral' platforms provided by the corporate media. Debating Imperialism is a bit like debating the pros and cons of rape. What can we say? That we really miss it?

In any case, New Imperialism is already upon us. It's a remodelled, streamlined version of what we once knew. For the first time in history, a single Empire with an arsenal of weapons that could obliterate the world in an afternoon has complete, unipolar, economic and military hegemony. It uses different weapons to break open different markets. There isn't a country on God's earth that is not caught in the cross hairs of the American cruise missile and the IMF chequebook. Argentina's the model if you want to be the poster-boy of neoliberal capitalism, Iraq if you're the black sheep.

Poor countries that are geo-politically of strategic value to Empire, or have a `market' of any size, or infrastructure that can be privatized, or, god forbid, natural resources of value — oil, gold, diamonds, cobalt, coal — must do as they're told, or become military targets. Those with the greatest reserves of natural wealth are most at risk. Unless they surrender their resources willingly to the corporate machine, civil unrest will be fomented, or war will be waged. In this new age of Empire, when nothing is as it appears to be, executives of concerned companies are allowed to influence foreign policy decisions. The Centre for Public Integrity in Washington found that nine out of the 30 members of the Defence Policy Board of the U.S. Government were connected to companies that were awarded defence contracts for $ 76 billion between 2001 and 2002. George Shultz, former U.S. Secretary of State, was Chairman of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. He is also on the Board of Directors of the Bechtel Group. When asked about a conflict of interest, in the case of a war in Iraq he said, " I don't know that Bechtel would particularly benefit from it. But if there's work to be done, Bechtel is the type of company that could do it. But nobody looks at it as something you benefit from." After the war, Bechtel signed a $680 million contract for reconstruction in Iraq.

This brutal blueprint has been used over and over again, across Latin America, Africa, Central and South-East Asia. It has cost millions of lives. It goes without saying that every war Empire wages becomes a Just War. This, in large part, is due to the role of the corporate media. It's important to understand that the corporate media doesn't just support the neo-liberal project. It is the neo-liberal project. This is not a moral position it has chosen to take, it's structural. It's intrinsic to the economics of how the mass media works.

Most nations have adequately hideous family secrets. So it isn't often necessary for the media to lie. It's what's emphasised and what's ignored. Say for example India was chosen as the target for a righteous war. The fact that about 80,000 people have been killed in Kashmir since 1989, most of them Muslim, most of them by Indian Security Forces (making the average death toll about 6000 a year); the fact that less than a year ago, in March of 2003, more than two thousand Muslims were murdered on the streets of Gujarat, that women were gang-raped and children were burned alive and a 150,000 people driven from their homes while the police and administration watched, and sometimes actively participated; the fact that no one has been punished for these crimes and the Government that oversaw them was re-elected ... all of this would make perfect headlines in international newspapers in the run-up to war.

Next we know, our cities will be levelled by cruise missiles, our villages fenced in with razor wire, U.S. soldiers will patrol our streets and, Narendra Modi, Pravin Togadia or any of our popular bigots could, like Saddam Hussein, be in U.S. custody, having their hair checked for lice and the fillings in their teeth examined on prime-time TV.

But as long as our `markets' are open, as long as corporations like Enron, Bechtel, Halliburton, Arthur Andersen are given a free hand, our `democratically elected' leaders can fearlessly blur the lines between democracy, majoritarianism and fascism.

Our government's craven willingness to abandon India's proud tradition of being Non-Aligned, its rush to fight its way to the head of the queue of the Completely Aligned (the fashionable phrase is `natural ally' — India, Israel and the U.S. are `natural allies'), has given it the leg room to turn into a repressive regime without compromising its legitimacy.

A government's victims are not only those that it kills and imprisons. Those who are displaced and dispossessed and sentenced to a lifetime of starvation and deprivation must count among them too. Millions of people have been dispossessed by `development' projects. In the past 55 years, Big Dams alone have displaced between 33 million and 55 million people in India. They have no recourse to justice.

In the last two years there has been a series of incidents when police have opened fire on peaceful protestors, most of them Adivasi and Dalit. When it comes to the poor, and in particular Dalit and Adivasi communities, they get killed for encroaching on forest land, and killed when they're trying to protect forest land from encroachments — by dams, mines, steel plants and other `development' projects. In almost every instance in which the police opened fire, the government's strategy has been to say the firing was provoked by an act of violence. Those who have been fired upon are immediately called militants.

Across the country, thousands of innocent people including minors have been arrested under POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) and are being held in jail indefinitely and without trial. In the era of the War against Terror, poverty is being slyly conflated with terrorism. In the era of corporate globalisation, poverty is a crime. Protesting against further impoverishment is terrorism. And now, our Supreme Court says that going on strike is a crime. Criticising the court of course is a crime, too. They're sealing the exits.

Like Old Imperialism, New Imperialism too relies for its success on a network of agents — corrupt, local elites who service Empire. We all know the sordid story of Enron in India. The then Maharashtra Government signed a power purchase agreement which gave Enron profits that amounted to sixty per cent of India's entire rural development budget. A single American company was guaranteed a profit equivalent to funds for infrastructural development for about 500 million people!

Unlike in the old days the New Imperialist doesn't need to trudge around the tropics risking malaria or diahorrea or early death. New Imperialism can be conducted on e-mail. The vulgar, hands-on racism of Old Imperialism is outdated. The cornerstone of New Imperialism is New Racism.

The tradition of `turkey pardoning' in the U.S. is a wonderful allegory for New Racism. Every year since 1947, the National Turkey Federation presents the U.S. President with a turkey for Thanksgiving. Every year, in a show of ceremonial magnanimity, the President spares that particular bird (and eats another one). After receiving the presidential pardon, the Chosen One is sent to Frying Pan Park in Virginia to live out its natural life. The rest of the 50 million turkeys raised for Thanksgiving are slaughtered and eaten on Thanksgiving Day. ConAgra Foods, the company that has won the Presidential Turkey contract, says it trains the lucky birds to be sociable, to interact with dignitaries, school children and the press. (Soon they'll even speak English!)

That's how New Racism in the corporate era works. A few carefully bred turkeys — the local elites of various countries, a community of wealthy immigrants, investment bankers, the occasional Colin Powell, or Condoleezza Rice, some singers, some writers (like myself) — are given absolution and a pass to Frying Pan Park. The remaining millions lose their jobs, are evicted from their homes, have their water and electricity connections cut, and die of AIDS. Basically they're for the pot. But the Fortunate Fowls in Frying Pan Park are doing fine. Some of them even work for the IMF and the WTO — so who can accuse those organisations of being anti-turkey? Some serve as board members on the Turkey Choosing Committee — so who can say that turkeys are against Thanksgiving? They participate in it! Who can say the poor are anti-corporate globalisation? There's a stampede to get into Frying Pan Park. So what if most perish on the way?

Part of the project of New Racism is New Genocide. In this new era of economic interdependence, New Genocide can be facilitated by economic sanctions. It means creating conditions that lead to mass death without actually going out and killing people. Dennis Halliday, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Iraq between '97 and '98 (after which he resigned in disgust), used the term genocide to describe the sanctions in Iraq. In Iraq the sanctions outdid Saddam Hussein's best efforts by claiming more than half a million children's lives.

In the new era, Apartheid as formal policy is antiquated and unnecessary. International instruments of trade and finance oversee a complex system of multilateral trade laws and financial agreements that keep the poor in their Bantustans anyway. Its whole purpose is to institutionalise inequity. Why else would it be that the U.S. taxes a garment made by a Bangladeshi manufacturer 20 times more than it taxes a garment made in the U.K.? Why else would it be that countries that grow 90 per cent of the world's cocoa bean produce only 5 per cent of the world's chocolate? Why else would it be that countries that grow cocoa bean, like the Ivory Coast and Ghana, are taxed out of the market if they try and turn it into chocolate? Why else would it be that rich countries that spend over a billion dollars a day on subsidies to farmers demand that poor countries like India withdraw all agricultural subsidies, including subsidised electricity? Why else would it be that after having been plundered by colonising regimes for more than half a century, former colonies are steeped in debt to those same regimes, and repay them some $ 382 billion a year?

For all these reasons, the derailing of trade agreements at Cancun was crucial for us. Though our governments try and take the credit, we know that it was the result of years of struggle by many millions of people in many, many countries. What Cancun taught us is that in order to inflict real damage and force radical change, it is vital for local resistance movements to make international alliances. From Cancun we learned the importance of globalising resistance.

No individual nation can stand up to the project of Corporate Globalisation on its own. Time and again we have seen that when it comes to the neo-liberal project, the heroes of our times are suddenly diminished. Extraordinary, charismatic men, giants in Opposition, when they seize power and become Heads of State, they become powerless on the global stage. I'm thinking here of President Lula of Brazil. Lula was the hero of the World Social Forum last year. This year he's busy implementing IMF guidelines, reducing pension benefits and purging radicals from the Workers' Party. I'm thinking also of ex-President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. Within two years of taking office in 1994, his government genuflected with hardly a caveat to the Market God. It instituted a massive programme of privatisation and structural adjustment, which has left millions of people homeless, jobless and without water and electricity.

Why does this happen? There's little point in beating our breasts and feeling betrayed. Lula and Mandela are, by any reckoning, magnificent men. But the moment they cross the floor from the Opposition into Government they become hostage to a spectrum of threats — most malevolent among them the threat of capital flight, which can destroy any government overnight. To imagine that a leader's personal charisma and a c.v. of struggle will dent the Corporate Cartel is to have no understanding of how Capitalism works, or for that matter, how power works. Radical change will not be negotiated by governments; it can only be enforced by people.

This week at the World Social Forum, some of the best minds in the world will exchange ideas about what is happening around us. These conversations refine our vision of the kind of world we're fighting for. It is a vital process that must not be undermined. However, if all our energies are diverted into this process at the cost of real political action, then the WSF, which has played such a crucial role in the Movement for Global Justice, runs the risk of becoming an asset to our enemies. What we need to discuss urgently is strategies of resistance. We need to aim at real targets, wage real battles and inflict real damage. Gandhi's Salt March was not just political theatre. When, in a simple act of defiance, thousands of Indians marched to the sea and made their own salt, they broke the salt tax laws. It was a direct strike at the economic underpinning of the British Empire. It was real. While our movement has won some important victories, we must not allow non-violent resistance to atrophy into ineffectual, feel-good, political theatre. It is a very precious weapon that needs to be constantly honed and re-imagined. It cannot be allowed to become a mere spectacle, a photo opportunity for the media.

It was wonderful that on February 15th last year, in a spectacular display of public morality, 10 million people in five continents marched against the war on Iraq. It was wonderful, but it was not enough. February 15th was a weekend. Nobody had to so much as miss a day of work. Holiday protests don't stop wars. George Bush knows that. The confidence with which he disregarded overwhelming public opinion should be a lesson to us all. Bush believes that Iraq can be occupied and colonised — as Afghanistan has been, as Tibet has been, as Chechnya is being, as East Timor once was and Palestine still is. He thinks that all he has to do is hunker down and wait until a crisis-driven media, having picked this crisis to the bone, drops it and moves on. Soon the carcass will slip off the best-seller charts, and all of us outraged folks will lose interest. Or so he hopes.

This movement of ours needs a major, global victory. It's not good enough to be right. Sometimes, if only in order to test our resolve, it's important to win something. In order to win something, we — all of us gathered here and a little way away at Mumbai Resistance — need to agree on something. That something does not need to be an over-arching pre-ordained ideology into which we force-fit our delightfully factious, argumentative selves. It does not need to be an unquestioning allegiance to one or another form of resistance to the exclusion of everything else. It could be a minimum agenda.

If all of us are indeed against Imperialism and against the project of neo-liberalism, then let's turn our gaze on Iraq. Iraq is the inevitable culmination of both. Plenty of anti-war activists have retreated in confusion since the capture of Saddam Hussein. Isn't the world better off without Saddam Hussein? they ask timidly.

Let's look this thing in the eye once and for all. To applaud the U.S. army's capture of Saddam Hussein and therefore, in retrospect, justify its invasion and occupation of Iraq is like deifying Jack the Ripper for disembowelling the Boston Strangler. And that — after a quarter century partnership in which the Ripping and Strangling was a joint enterprise. It's an in-house quarrel. They're business partners who fell out over a dirty deal. Jack's the CEO.

So if we are against Imperialism, shall we agree that we are against the U.S. occupation and that we believe that the U.S. must withdraw from Iraq and pay reparations to the Iraqi people for the damage that the war has inflicted?

How do we begin to mount our resistance? Let's start with something really small. The issue is not about supporting the resistance in Iraq against the occupation or discussing who exactly constitutes the resistance. (Are they old Killer Ba'athists, are they Islamic Fundamentalists?)

We have to become the global resistance to the occupation.

Our resistance has to begin with a refusal to accept the legitimacy of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. It means acting to make it materially impossible for Empire to achieve its aims. It means soldiers should refuse to fight, reservists should refuse to serve, workers should refuse to load ships and aircraft with weapons. It certainly means that in countries like India and Pakistan we must block the U.S. government's plans to have Indian and Pakistani soldiers sent to Iraq to clean up after them.

I suggest that at a joint closing ceremony of the World Social Forum and Mumbai Resistance, we choose, by some means, two of the major corporations that are profiting from the destruction of Iraq. We could then list every project they are involved in. We could locate their offices in every city and every country across the world. We could go after them. We could shut them down. It's a question of bringing our collective wisdom and experience of past struggles to bear on a single target. It's a question of the desire to win.

The Project For The New American Century seeks to perpetuate inequity and establish American hegemony at any price, even if it's apocalyptic. The World Social Forum demands justice and survival.

For these reasons, we must consider ourselves at war.

©Arundhati Roy

ZMag

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Lysistrata Project posts this material without profit for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.