Sunday, May 07, 2006

 

End mandatory JROTC training in our city's schools

The D.C. Public School system is spending $2.1 million annually on a JROTC program. It is believed to be the system's most expensive program. JROTC is mandatory in seven public schools in D.C.

On May 2, the D.C. Anti-War Network (DAWN) formed a Working Group to tackle this issue and end mandatory JROTC training in our city's schools. To become involved contact Pete Perry at pete4peace@gmail.com. This group will work closely with John Judge and other local activists who have been working hard to end the militarization of our youth.

Pete Perry <pete4peace@gmail.com>


Friday, May 05, 2006

 

Damu Smith Passes from our arms into God's

Damu Smith was the first to receive the Washington Peace Center lifetime achievement at the first annual Washington Peace Center Awards Night last December.

Damu gave the Awards Night a rousing speech to inspire all in the fight for peace and justice

As he was leaving the Awards Night event, he stopped to smile for the camera with his daughter Asha.




The Life of Damu Smith is a testimony of consistency and commitment to social justice...

Damu Smith, an environmental, social justice and peace advocate, died today succumbing to cancer. They say that everyone is replaceable -- Damu proves that claim to be wrong. He was a powerful and unique spokesperson whose leadership will be greatly missed.

Damu Smith was born in 1952 in St. Louis, Missouri to Sylvester and Vernice Smith. Together with his three brothers and sister, the family lived in the Carr Square Village housing project until Damu was seventeen. In the book Diamond: A Struggle for Environmental Justice in Louisiana's Chemical Corridor, Smith told author Steve Lerner: "I grew up in a working-class, lower-income family. My father was a fireman and an air pollution inspector and my mother was a licensed practical nurse. So I was born of working-class parents. My mother and father went through a lot of difficulties at times...and sometimes it resulted in us going on welfare... I mention this because much of what I am today has been shaped by the fact that I grew up in not wretchedly poor surroundings, but we struggled. I know what it is to go to school without heat at home and study by candlelight and not have enough money to get adequate clothes... I grew up under food stamps and welfare and government handout cheese and milk and meat and all that... So I have great sensitivity to the plight of poor people."

As a high school student, Smith attended a Jesuit-run, after-school program for "disadvantaged male youth". As part of that program he went on a field trip to Cairo, Illinois to Black Solidarity Day rallies where Damu listened to speeches by Amiri Baraka, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Julian Bond, Nina Simone and Jesse Jackson, and he toured Black neighborhoods where white supremacists had sprayed houses with gunfire. Damu recalls, "Seeing those bullet holes...that changed my life." As a freshman student at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota, and president of the Organization of Afro-American Students, Smith led a protest and takeover of the school's administrative offices demanding a Black studies program. It was while at St. John's that Smith changed his name to Damu Amiri Imara Smith. In Swahili, Damu means blood. As he has stated, "The blood that I am willing to shed for the liberation of my people." Amiri means leadership: "The leadership I must provide in the service of my people." And Imara means strength: "The strength and stamina I have to maintain in the struggle." In 1973, Smith moved to Washington, DC to attend Antioch College's Center for the Study of Basic Human Problems, and to be "close to the action." And as they say, the rest is history.

Extending over more than thirty years, his activism has included vigilance in the fight against apartheid in South Africa as Executive Director of the Washington Office on Africa and co-founder of Artists for a Free South Africa. Damu has worked to expose gun violence, police brutality and government injustice through his work with the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, the National Wilmington 10 Defense Committee, and the National Black Independent Political Party. He has worked to effect peace and a freeze on nuclear weapons as Associate Director of the Washington Office of the American Friends Service Committee, and advocated for environmental justice as National Associate Director and national toxics campaigner for Greenpeace USA.

Smith became the first coordinator for environmental justice for the Southern Organizing Committee for Economic and Social Justice, and in that capacity visited forty towns and cities in nine states in 1991 and 1992 experiencing first hand how chemical dumping and other environmentally toxic corporate practices impact the health and lives of poor and African American communities. He also organized Toxic Tours in the South for Greenpeace, taking celebrities such as Alice Walker, Haki Madhubuti and others to an area in Louisiana called "Cancer Alley" because of its toxicity. Damu was instrumental in helping grass roots organizations confront Shell Oil about its dumping practices and to force a PVC plant out of Norco, Louisiana, a campaign that has been dramatized in a Lifetime cable channel movie. In 1999, in a move that changed the face of the environmental movement, Smith coordinated the largest environmental justice conference ever held, the historic National Emergency Gathering of Black Community Advocates for Environmental and Economic Justice. This gathering led to the formation of the National Black Environmental Justice Network (NBEJN), the first ever national network of Black environmental justice activists, of which he is currently executive director.

Damu is also the founder of Black Voices for Peace, a group dedicated to mobilizing the Black community in concert with people of goodwill of all races and nationalities to protest US military aggression in Iraq and elsewhere around the world, and to lobby for redirecting the billions of dollars the Bush administration is spending on global U.S. military operations and support of the Israeli government's occupation of Palestinian land to funding for universal healthcare and access, for education, jobs, housing, environmental protection, equal justice, reparations and other critical human needs.

While participating in a Palm Sunday peace march this year in Palestine, Damu fainted and had a seizure. Tests completed in the Palestine Authority and in US hospitals have confirmed the presence of stage four cancer of the colon, which has spread to his liver. Throughout his life, Damu has been victorious in many, many struggles for human rights and justice. And he will be triumphant in this, his latest battle against cancer. With the love of his twelve year old daughter, Asha, the support of family and friends all over the world and all of you and faith in God, Damu says he is confident that, "I can overcome this... I am overwhelmed by the love."

Friday, April 14, 2006

 

William Sloan Coffin dies at age 81



I remember William Sloan Coffin from his antiwar activism on the Yale campus in the mid-60s. I was not a Yale student. I was a high school student in the New Haven suburbs actively supplementing my learning with anything politically enlightening. I often found myself on the Yale campus soaking up all the radicalism I could find. While on that quest, I came across lectures and rallies many times where Reverend Coffin was the center of activities.

About a year ago while flipping channels on the television, I came across someone interviewing him. Again, he gave me something to hold onto. He was talking about getting old, and said, "Nowadays, when I bend down to pick something up, I feel like I gotta look around to see if there is anything else that needs picking up while I'm down there."

His presence here on earth will be missed, but because he did his job so well, his words and character will live on.

-- posted by Nancy Shia

The following is the National Council of Churches article about the passing of William Sloan Coffin:

New York, April 13, 2006 -- The Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Jr., who died Wednesday at 81, "was no ordinary man and he leaves no ordinary hole," said the general secretary of the National Council of Churches USA.

"To my generation, he was a hero," said the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar last night.

Recalling Coffin's comment to his former Yale student and Watergate conspirator Jeb Stuart Magruder that he had "lost his moral compass," Edgar said, "That is what Bill Coffin was for many of us: our moral compass."

Edgar recalled Coffin's long career as a civil rights leader, peace activist, pastor and ecumenist.

From 1977 to 1987, Coffin was pastor of The Riverside Church in Manhattan. The church is directly across the street from The Interchurch Center that houses the National Council of Churches New York office, and Coffin was pastor and friend to many NCC staff. In 1979, when U.S. embassy personnel were taken hostage by radical students in Iran, Coffin and NCC President M. William Howard led a delegation to Teheran to conduct Christmas services for the hostages.

"Bill never lost an opportunity to witness for peace," Edgar said.

The full text of Edgar's statement follows:

William Sloane Coffin Jr. was no ordinary man and he leaves no ordinary hole. He was full of mystifying contrasts that made him endlessly fascinating and difficult to describe. He was a CIA agent who became an international peace activist. He was a scion of old money, but he made his life with the ordinary. He was a legendary liberal but a life-long friend of George H.W. Bush. He could be righteously angry at injustice or war mongering, but masked it behind a Cheshire cat grin. He could be prophetically stern, but riotously funny. He could intone profound theological insights, but sweeten them with his working class New York accent.

To my generation, Bill Coffin was a hero. When he was chaplain of Yale University in the sixties, he organized freedom rides in the South and by 1967 was leading students in civil disobedience against the Vietnam War. When one of his students – the future pastor, Jeb Stuart Magruder – became entangled in Watergate, Bill told him he had lost his moral compass. That is what Bill Coffin was for many of us: our moral compass. He once said, “God loves you the way you are, but he knows you can do better.”

Bill never lost an opportunity to witness for peace. In 1979, during the Iran hostage crisis, he and National Council of Churches President M. William Howard led an NCC delegation to Iran to bring Christmas worship to the U.S. hostages.

He was pastor of Riverside Church from 1977 to 1987. People who worshipped at Riverside in those years say his most memorable sermon may have been the Sunday after his son was killed in an automobile accident. He rejected the notion that his son's death, or any other tragedy, was God's will. “God,” he said, “is crying, too.” When Bill left Riverside, it was to become president of SANE/FREEZE (now Peace Action), the largest peace and justice organization in the United States.

Bill Coffin led a full and remarkable life, and he would not want us to think of his death as premature or tragic. But that doesn't make it any easier to think of a world without him. We can allow ourselves a few tears. And we remember, in our grief, Bill's assurance that God is crying, too.

Monday, April 10, 2006

 

DC Immigrants March for Inalienable Rights

(c) 2006
shia photos
all rights reserved

On Monday, April 10th, people began gathering as early as noon in Malcolm X Park at 16th and Euclid Streets, N.W. The march was scheduled to step off at 4pm. The mood was upbeat, almost festive, thanks to the sounds and vibes of the Rhythm Workers Union, and many others who brought song and dance to rally and demonstration. While the Rhythm Workers Union played on the north side of the park, Arabs and Arab-Americans gathered on the south side to march in solidarity, along with bringing closer attention to the rightwing abuse of Arab and Muslim immigrants.


At the same time, People for the American Way were passing out American flags to people entering the park at 16th near Florida Avenue. The weather was beautiful. Immigrant families with small children gathered with longtime community activists to march to the mall for immigrant rights



Going down 16th Street, the march took up all lanes. Traffic was stopped from I Street, NW to Euclid Street, NW along 16th Street. Chants and slogans expressed determination of people living and working here to stay here.









The symbol most prevalent in the march was the American flag. The message is we are all Americans. We are a country of immigrants.








This is a call for justice from those who heretofore have been kept silent due lack of "immigration status". The time is now for them to claim that status. This sleeping giant has been awaken. The message is simple and just: No human being should be called “illegal”.






Wednesday, March 29, 2006

 

Support Affordable Housing,

Attend The Public Hearing

Friday, March 31, 2006
5:00 pm
District Building – 1350 Penn. Ave., NW 5th Fl.

It’s Election Time & Everybody’s trying to get money from landlords and developers!

Protect Tenants
Say NO To the Mayor’s Pro-LandLord Bill “Rent Control” Bill
Because It will:
1. It will lead to higher rent increases.
2. It has fewer protections for tenants from illegal rent increases.
3. It gives you less time to challenge a rent increase.
4. It limits your right to a rent refund based on housing code violations, even if those violations are very serious.
5. It erases a very good court decision for tenants (the Sawyer decision). The Sawyer case says tenants can undo rent increases if the landlord did not file on time. The new law would get rid of that rule.
6. It says landlords do not have to file any notice of important information, like changes in ownership or management of the building.
7. It lets landlords take very high rent increases any time there is a vacancy.

Call EmpowerDC for more info & Action (202) 234-9119

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

 

"Fighting for the Soul of America"

It sure was a colorful day today on the west lawn of the U.S. capitol. DC had its immigrant demonstration, and it did not disappoint. They gave away free t-shirts and free water, and made everyone welcomed in their midst. It was more like a party than a demonstration.













Saturday, March 18, 2006

 

3 years of war, too many dead-- DC holds rally, march and press conference

On Saturday, March 18th, people gathered at 2-2:30 pm across the street from Vice President Cheney's house on Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. Aside from the organizers, the first group to show was the press.



Organizing for the event was not an easy task. Organizers began meeting weekly in January in the basement of the Mt. Pleasant Library. The first roadblock was to obtain a permit for the place to rally. When activist Pete Perry went to the police for the permit, he learned that ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and Racism) had already asked for permits everywhere DC rallies are normally held. After a long discussion about where a march should go, the organizers decided on starting at Cheney's place because of Cheney's integral part in the war in Iraq.


Kit Bonson of the Washington Peace Center and Malachy Kilbride of DC AntiWar Network were two of the hardest working organizers that made the event happen.


Before kicking off the march, several speakers took the mike to rev up the crowd. One was the Reverend Graylan Hagler, pastor of the Plymouth Congregational Church. The Rev was great at revving.


After the speeches, the march went down Massachusetts Avenue. It was led by Daniela Shia on her scooter, carrying an ANSWER sign. Following Daniela, were banners of pink and black, indicating our friends from Code Pink and the anarchists were there..


When the march reached its destination in Dupont Circle, the rally was starting around the fountain at the same time a press conference was beginning on the grass in the southeast corner of the park. One of the speakers at the press conference was Tariq Khan, a George Mason University student and an Iraq war veteran who faced criminal charges for speaking out against recruiters on his campus. The university eventually dropped the charges against him. Tariq spoke about supporting the troops when they want to become consciencious objectors or go AWOL in order to leave the service of this war.

It was a great march down Massachusetts Avenue, a beautiful day in Washington, D.C. Speaking against the war in Iraq at this time made a lot of sense.













(c)2006
nancy shia
shia photos
nancy@upcloseandpolitical.com

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

 

DC HipHop Caucus and Congress people push for Katrina bill

by nancy shia (c)2006
nancy@upcloseandpolitical.com


On Tuesday, March 14th, 10,000 Katrina survivor families were scheduled to be evicted from hotels in Mississippi and Louisiana. The same day, several congress people, civic leaders, and Katrina survivors held an 85-minute press conference in Congress (2226 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.), addressing the dire situation for many survivors and legislation proposed to address the needs of survivors. HR 4197’s stated purpose is “to provide for the recovery, reclamation, restoration and reconstruction of lives and communities and for the reunion of families devastated by Hurricane Katrina and to address the issues of poverty exposed by Hurricane Katrina.”

The bill was introduced by Representative Melvin Watt from North Carolina on November 2, 2005 and referred to the House Budget Committee on the same day. It is still in the House Budget Committee with no hearings scheduled to get it out of committee and onto the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. The 62 co-sponsors of the bill are John Barrow [D-GA], Sanford Bishop [D-GA], Robert Brady [D-PA], Corrine Brown [D-FL], George Butterfield [D-NC], Julia Carson [D-IN], Donna Christensen [D-VI], William Clay [D-MO], Emanuel Cleaver [D-MO], James Clyburn [D-SC]. John Conyers [D-MI], Joseph Crowley [D-NY], Elijah Cummings [D-MD], Artur Davis [D-AL], Danny Davis [D-IL], Eni Faleomavaega [D-AS], Chaka Fattah [D-PA], Harold Ford [D-TN], Barney Frank [D-MA], Charles Gonzalez [D-TX]. Al Green [D-TX], Raul Grijalva [D-AZ], Luis Gutierrez [D-IL], Alcee Hastings [D-FL] Michael Honda [D-CA] Jesse Jackson [D-IL] Sheila Jackson-Lee [D-TX] William Jefferson [D-LA] Eddie Johnson [D-TX], Stephanie Jones [D-OH], Carolyn Kilpatrick [D-MI], Dennis Kucinich [D-OH], Barbara Lee [D-CA], John Lewis [D-GA], Cynthia McKinney [D-GA], Kendrick Meek [D-FL], Gregory Meeks [D-NY], Juanita Millender-McDonald [D-CA], R. Bradley Miller [D-NC], Gwen Moore [D-WI], Eleanor Norton [D-DC], Major Owens [D-NY], Donald Payne [D-NJ], Charles Rangel [D-NY], C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger [D-MD], Bobby Rush [D-IL], Janice Schakowsky [D-IL], David Scott [D-GA], Robert Scott [D-VA], Bennie Thompson [D-MS], Edolphus Towns [D-NY], Debbie Schultz [D-FL], Maxine Waters [D-CA] Diane Watson [D-CA], Lynn Woolsey [D-CA], Albert Wynn [D-MD].

Pastor Ron Weegar (at right) from Gulfport Louisiana spoke of the pain and misery many Katrina survivors are still experiencing.

An important highlight of the bill would give Katrina survivors the right to vote in satellite voting operations much like what our government recently provided for Iraqis and Afghanis living in this country but wishing to vote in their home country’s elections.

Several speakers explained how the upcoming elections scheduled in April in New Orleans are in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which requires certain states (including Louisiana and Mississippi) to “preclear” changes in electoral process. Hurricane Katrina dispersed over 300,000 survivors among 44 states. The voting process moving forward at this time disenfranchises all these survivors unless they are able to physically return to New Orleans to vote.

While the press conference was winding down, about 200 people marched from the U.S. Capitol to the White House for a rally and vigil. The rally took place in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House. To the dismay of the marchers, they were greeted in the park by U.S. Park Police who were intent on imposing every little park regulation they knew against the people gathering. Bicyclists were not allowed to park their bikes to park benches. Camera people were not allowed to use their tripods. To the delight of all those present, the organizers of the event passed out t-shirts supporting HR 4197 and the inalienable rights of Katrina Survivors.


The highlight of the afternoon was Courtney Dove singing her original song “On the Rise”. Courtney’s voice rivals Tracy Chapman’s, and it is indeed DC’s loss that she left here to go live in New York City.


One of the most moving speeches was from Damu Smith, who got up off the radiation table at a local hospital to come to the park to speak. Damu recalled the days of the antiapartheid struggle in DC, when Congresspeople and celebrities would routinely get arrested at the South African embassy protesting against apartheid. The effort to secure equality and human rights for Katrina survivors will take a consistent concerted long-term effort in Washington in order to exert the necessary pressure on the rightwing establishment to make these changes happen.

Friday, March 10, 2006

 

Anti-Immigrant Congressional Action : A Frightening Possibility

by Thomas Gomez

Over the summer the New White Power Movement launched an offensive. That offensive began in Hearndon, VA with a group calling itself the Minutemen harassing immigrant workers. Almost overnight other Minutemen chapters sprang to life nationwide in order to give the impression of a spontaneous mass movement demanding action on immigration.

In fact there was nothing spontaneous about the White Power Campaign. It had probably been conceived in Hearndon two years ago at the Hyatt Regency, host to the American Renaissance Conference funded by the New Century Foundation. Even earlier the White Power Movement had successfully organized a demonstration in 2002 that had drawn 6,000 people in Monroe, NC....

Darby Hickey at Free Speach Radio News has been on this since the anti-immigrant campaign first came out in Hearndon, few others in Left media have (I believe I may have refered to the Monroe demonstration in a piece on the mostly white Anarchists building a counter-cultural movement in Ashville amidst the supporters of Eric Rudolph that aired on WPFW in 2003).

Another Latino activist however, understood the danger this movement posed immediately...having spent his adolescent years in war torn El Salvador (he prefers not be known by name and no longer grants interviews, having already received threats against his life). While local residents in Hearndon itself tried to diffuse what they perceived as a tense situation developing over cultural differences in a rapidly expanding community, he called in the troops, organizing militant Anarchist youth in the white Community to defend the undocumented immigrants against harassment. His approach was, and is, blatantly confrontational. With this there can be no dialog, only conflict. His group has been composed almost entirely of anti-racist whites, and their intervention was non-violent but confrontational. They call these new Klansmen what they are. After having initially embraced the 'brave' Minutemen.... corporate media made this new Anti-Fascist Action group the flavor of the day.

The turning point here in my opinion came when a Washington Post reporter is attempting to interview him and one of the 'brave' Minutemen rushes over screaming that Latino immigrants have come to the US to 'Rape White Women and Deal Drugs!' Unfazed he shoots back 'You have built your 'Empire' (the 'Invisible Empire') through slavery and genocide. This country is NOT yours, and it never will be!'

Next came Minuteman leader Gilchrist's demo on the 8Th of this month, intended to get Senate Bill 4437 out of the Judiciary Committee chaired by Arlen Spector. The debate had now polarized to the point where Bill White and his above ground Nazi organization felt compelled to show up (along with a lone Klansman). For these hardliners the Duke strategy is bullshit, the time to call this a White Power Movement is NOW! The three racist groups came to blows and had to be separated by the cops. The Minutemen demanding Mass Deportations Now, the Nazi's demanding the Genocide of all Non-Whites, and the Klansman demanding the repeal of the 13Th Amendment! There was literally nothing for the counter demonstrators to do, as the Minutemen's Legislative supporters in the Senate, and Gilchrist, tried to claim they were not racist. It was a disaster, a vote on getting 4437 to the full Senate was postponed 6 weeks until the end of March.

Immediately after that disaster Enrique Morones and the Immigrant Caravan arrived in DC to protest 4437, asserting our humanity with a banner proclaiming proudly "We Are Workers, Not Criminals", and denouncing the fact that 4,000 people died on the border last year trying to enter this country to work at some of the most brutal, degrading, and low-paying jobs in this nation. There were literally more reporters than people by now.

The following week was the American Renaissance Conference itself. By now corporate media was all over this. Gilchrist and his organization issued a statement denouncing the conference they themselves had emerged from. Very few people were fooled. As the New Anti-Fascists organized counter demonstrations, I continued working the email trying to enlist the support of Civil Society. Originally only MALDEF and Casa De Maryland were admitting they were aware of the threat and actively working to do something about it by lobbying. Now everyone was doing the same.

A wave of Xenophobia has swept the Congress though. Even George W. Bush is being forced to bow down by his right. They don't need him anymore. Latino Civil Society organized buses for the actions on the 7Th. A crowd of some 40,000 predominately Latino immigrants gathered yesterday at the US capitol to oppose 4437. Friends say it was the largest Latino Mobilization in memory, almost all local people organized by community based organizations...It indicates the Latino community is not unaware of what is happening in the Senate or the forces driving it. If 4437 were to leave Spector's Judiciary Committee unchanged I fully expect Immigrant Civil Society will be swept aside by Race Rioting across the country on a scale not seen since the 'Zoot Suit' rioting of the '40's.

The legislation in its current form criminalizes 1.5 million immigrant children, denies funding to service providers who serve undocumented immigrants, and strips citizenship from people born in this country who have lived here their whole lives if their parents lacked legal residence at the time they were born...The last poll numbers I had showed it had 59% popular support. As the old song goes "I think we're in for nasty weather..."

The coverage in the Post this morning

{Immigrant Bill Sends Chill Through Rally (The Washington Post)
By Paul Schwartzman, Page A06, March 08, 2006}

downplays the seriousness of 4437 getting out of committee. The BBC, the whole Continental press corp, Japanese television all covered this. Latinos alone are now 13.5% of US society. If the Duke bill leaves committee, and the US adopts a mass deportation policy on immigration expect a rerun of the most turbulent period of the '60's. While Latinos may be in the front on this Hattians, Jamaicans, Africans, Indians will all be hit hard. Where is the broader Left on this?

 

Iraqi Women Lead March for Pink Power on International Women's Day



About 500 multinational women and a few men gathered near the Iraqi embassy in a park behind a church on 18th Street, N.W., in Washington, D.C, . The march was led by Iraqi women whom Code Pink brought to DC to help educate Americans on the evils of the war paid for with our tax dollars.

Native American chants were made while the women formed a circle and faced the four corners of the earth.


Sporting her new hot pink arm sling acquired the previous day from an action at the United Nations, Cindy Shehan spoke of the profound losses war causes.




Across the street was one lone counterprotester, a "pale-skinned" woman waving the American flag and holding a sign that denounced Code Pink.



In addition to multinational, the beings who gathered were multidimensional. Many were puppets who tried to blend into the crowd, as if they were one of us, and they were.


After the rally and speeches, a sea of pink, carrying signs and banners in Arabic and in English, gathered in the middle of 18th Street, walked to the Iraqi Embassy to deliver a letter, and then marched downtown to the White House.




(c) 2006 Shia photos/All rights reserved.
Washington Peace Center Blog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?