...the conference I am organizing (with Ali Vogt and folks from the Grassroots Fundraising Journal) is taking up much of my time, so blogging is very low on the priority list.
I hope to be able to write about what this conference is all about soon, though, hopefully sometim before the actual conference itself (this Friday and Saturday). Why have I been spending several hours a day or week working on this gathering? Why is it to important to me and the 400 other paricipants that will be coming from all over the country (as well as Canada, Brazil, Korea and possibly Africa?).
The heatwave that's hit the Bay Area over the past week or so has been blistering, dry, supremely uncomfortable. It's hard to do anything (unless you're in an air conditioned car, mall or office) and not be reminded constantly of the heat.
But this is not 'real' heat. I keep thinking of the heat radiating from buildings that are blown up from US-provided bombs, flown by planes run on US-supplied fuel. I think of Lebanese and Palestinian people and the heat they are feeling, the real heat, on a daily basis, of bombing and fire and death. I think of the innocent children that are dying everyday. Jan in SanFran posts an important reminder in the form of a letter from her friend Tina in Lebanon:
But the US and other mainstream media continue to paint the suffering in the Middle East in very Israeli-focused terms, as if the lives of Arab people (and Arab people are Christian and Muslim and Jewish, especially in Lebanon) are not really worth as much, as if we don't need to see their suffering, as if their suffering is only an unfortuante consequence. As if these people are not being massacred.
Remember: over 10 times as many Lebanese people than Israelis (mostly civilians) have died in the past several days.
Remember: the messages are skewed.
Remember: these images from Electronic Intifada, of Israeli children writing messages (one can only guess what the messages say) on bombs and bullets that will be used to kill other children in Gaza, in Lebanon.
I can't sleep thanks to a small late-night dose of caffeine that is keeping me too alert to relax, so I thought I'd kill time and brain energy on maintaining the blog. I've categorized my 'Big World' links and added several new links overall, including:
Nalo Hopkinson, because she's a dope Afro-Caribbean/Canadian SF writer who uses lots of Caribbean dialect and cultural references in her work. I've read her short story collection, Skin Folk, and have her first novel (published in 1997), Brown Girl in the Ring on my bookshelf waiting to be read.
Steven Barnes, a sort of SF renaissance man, who's written novels, for magazines, television, you name it. He's also the first blogger I found who'd written about Octavia Butler's death. Steven and his wife, fellow horror/SF writer Tananarive Due, were friends of Octavia's.
Also added several timely links relating to Palestine, Lebanon and Israel given the current war raging in the Middle East. One thing I'm struck by when I travel outside the US or meet people from other countries is how much more knowledgeable non-Americans are about world politics and current events. It's up to us to change that, and educating ourselves is the first step to helping change what our country is doing to (generally) mess up what other folks have been struggling hard to fix in their own countries. I've also added a couple links about Haiti, another place where the US has intervened even though it's none of our damn business and caused a lot of suffering.
And the promise is that I will write very soon about the conference I'm organizing, Raising Change: A Social Justice Fundraising Conference, which is taking place in Berkeley in just two weeks! I can't believe it. After more than a year working on this thing, it's hard to imagine that in a few weeks it'll be all over (the conference, at least; hopefully the post-conference buzz and movement-building will continue long past August). There's even been talk about a social justice fundraising blog being started out of this conference and continuing for as long as we can make it happen; keep an eye out for further developments.
Because he is both more knowledgable and eloquent than I am in writing about these issues, I am sharing with you the words of my friend and comrade Max Elbaum, who has written for War Times and other publications, and is the author of Revolution in the Air.
It is at times like this that I am flabbergasted that anyone can take the American government seriously when it speaks for us and says it supports 'human rights' and 'democracy'. Who can blame anyone who equates the U.S. government with violence, imperialism and oppression?
Thanks Max, for allowing me to post this on my blog.
In Peace, Justice and Hope for an End to All War, Rona
Dear family and friends,
Yesterday the Prime Minister of Lebanon pleaded with the conscience of the world to bring about an immediate internationally-sanctioned cease-fire, saying that Israel was acting to destroy "everything that allows Lebanon to stay alive".
This morning's New York Times reports that "the death toll has reached at least 230 Lebanese dead [up to 310 by noon today], most of them civilians, and 25 Israeli dead, 13 of them civilians. In Gaza, one Israeli soldier has died from his own army's fire, and 103 Palestinians have been killed."
Yet spokespeople for the Israeli military say their offensive may continue "for weeks" and the Bush administration openly approves.
Yes, there are many complexities to the situation, but the essence of it is quite simple: Israel, with the world's fouth most powerful military, is inflicting massive "collective punishment" on civilian populations - targeting power plants, villages, heavily populated urban neighborhoods and even a Lebanese dairy farm. And the world's sole superpower, in violation of this country's own Arms Export Control Act and Foreign Assistance Act, is supplying jet fuel, financing and political support for these violations of international law and crimes against humanity.
None of this would be possible without the blatant anti-Arab racism that treats Israeli killings of Palestinians and Lebanese as a normal "fact of life" like the day's weather: The sun also riseth; Israeli fire killed a Palestinian child today in the name of "security"; And the sun goeth down.
This is a moral outrage, a political disaster, and an affront to people of conscience of all backgrounds all across the planet. Even in 1623 John Donne wrote: "any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." With the most modern technology on the globe, Tel Aviv and Washington are taking the world back to the morality of the Middle Ages.
I urge all of you to raise your voice in protest as loudly and strongly as you possibly can.
Below are some possible ways to take action from a message sent out yesterday by the United for Peace and Justice Coalition. There are also a number of websites listed for more background information and analyses of all the complexities. If you would like me to send you particular articles I have found useful in understanding Israel's recent offensive, and how it fits Israel's historical pattern of choosing expansionism, colonizing, and war over peace and a society with equal rights for all, let me know and I will forward these to you.
Thank you. Peace,
--- TAKE ACTION: Hold the Bush Administration to account for its backing of Israel's killing of civilians and destruction of civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.
*Pressure the Bush Administration and Congress: Call the White House (202-456-1111), the U.S. State Department (202-647-4000), and the Congressional switchboard (202-224-3121), which will connect you to your Congressmembers' offices, to demand that the U.S. take immediate action. Organize delegations of peace advocates to Congressional offices. We need to end Bush's war policy in Iraq and in the Middle East.
*Send a letter to the editor at your local newspaper: People in your community need to hear from you. Your neighbors are probably as appalled by this as you are, and they need to see your words in print so they know they are not alone. Click here to send a letter to the editor at your local paper: http://www.congress.org/congressorg/dbq/media/
And of course, mainstream media coverage in the U.S. is woefully superficial and biased. How about talking to some ordinary, everyday Lebanese people? Or showing images of suffering on both sides of the conflict? I'd given up a long time ago on even the so-called 'liberal' opinion papers being more than propaganda machines for the Pentagon and Department of Defense, but it still makes my stomach turn to see how much of a failure the news media in our 'democracy' is.
My nostalgia for Rome and other points European is really just a longing for the carefree adventure of traveling, an activity that many of my fellow blogistas are currently engaged in, and blogging about.
Bino writes from Brazil about race, color, politics and Speedos. Yes, Speedos.
Recently-added bloggers Bumbler and Dwill, also known as Dennis Quirin and Vivian Chang, respectively, have just wrapped up a jaunt in Thailand. Mmm, more warm weather and beaches.
Seemingly-perpetual traveler Martin Perna writes of real desert storms in Mexico. I don't even really know where this guy is from. It seems like every time I check out his blog he is in a different city/state/country/continent.
Leny Strobel is heading off to the Philippines for a study tour. How cool! When I'm done with my gig at CFJ, which won't be for a while, I gotta figure out this getting-paid-to-travel-the-world-for-work thing.
Similarly, my blog-less friend A. is heading off to Italy (Roma!!) for ten days to manage the Savage Jazz Dance Company. Super fresh.
And although this is not really traveling for me, anyway, since I know many people come from out of town and make a beeline to the legendary Cody's Books on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, Jeff Chang talks about his friend's effort to stage a last-minute rescue of the beleaguered (and now closed) bibliophilic institution. Nice try, Jeff and Adam.
I'm watching the World Cup Final right now, and although I've heard through friends (including M., a French-Algerian expat who was thrilled when France defeated Brazil last week) about the tournament and its politics, I haven't watched it at all until today. And it wasn't until this past week that I realized how much racism the predominantly Black French team has endured.
It's ironic that my last post was such an ode to Rome, Italy, and how I wrote that I'd still rather live in Paris in racist Rome, given that France is now battling Italy for the World Cup championship title. Ironic, too, that the next European destination I have in my mind for a future trip is Spain (as well as Greece and other Mediterranean countries), given how racist Spanish fans were to the French team.
I'm convinced that Black people in France are going to continue to be a radical force for change (if they can continue to organize themselves) over the next decade or so, probably the one relatively new anti-racist social movement in the world that has been able to garner international attention, similar to the civil rights movement in the U.S. But only time will tell.
So who am I rooting for? Who do ya think? I didn't study French for five years for nothing. Et alors, comment ca veut dire, 'anti-racist' en francais?
Maybe it's because my life is so full of work work work right now that I miss Rome so much. Rome was the last stop on our Europe trip back in April. The only city I didn't blog about until now. But the city I think I enjoyed the most. Although I wouldn't live there--Paris would be my first choice, London a distant second, and Roma an even more distant third--I did love Rome.
The pale terra cotta-hued buildings, ancient and not-so-ancient, that seemed to absorb and transform afternoon sunlight into ethereal gold. The sounds of lilting, dipping, singsong Italiano. Stumbling upon the crumbling ruins of the Portico d'Ottavia while on quest to find a discount shoe store, of all things (see the picture above). So much history in one place, I felt I was breathing it in, walking in the footsteps of countless ancients. The warmth in the air on our first day there, so different than the chill winds in London and Paris.
And, of course, the food, so delicious and simply prepared. Quite rustic. A morning cappucino in a white porcelain cup almost the size of a thimble, but so rich and sweet you didn't want or need more. Pastries laced with a cinnamon-like flavor that was distinctly Italian. Pasta everyday, two meals a day. The best prosciutto I've ever eaten, savory but not too salty, never chewy; nothing like it here. Gelato everyday. That was heaven. And of course, everything washed down with mineral water or wine.
I think the reason I miss Rome is that I desperately wish I was on vacation right now. Things with work and the conference are spinning madly, and although I'm learning a lot and generally enjoy both jobs, there are days that I wish I could stop the spinning, just for a little while, and be back in Vatican City eating the best pizza in the world--thin-crusted Roman style square pizza, with a million toppings to choose from; I had broccoli, onion and tomato, and only $3!--then walking through a street market towards St. Peter's, then later topping off the afternoon by eating a wickedly rich and creamy chocolate gelato while sitting at a sidewalk table on some picturesque via.
Of course, Rome had its downsides: pretty racist overall, I have to say. H. got followed around in nearly every store we went into, and all the Black and Asian folks (South Asian and African immigrants) that lived there were either selling stuff in the street or working in the back of the restaurant. Never even got served by a waiter who wasn't 'white' Italian (I say 'white' in quotes because Italians are the darkest Europeans I've ever seen; Africa's not far away, after all). Got dissed by an Italian woman working the counter at McDonald's--yes, McDonald's--because I was a 'Cinese' (Chinese/Asian) who didn't speak Italian well. I wanted to yell, 'I'm a fucking American, you idiot!' The only reason she pissed me off so much was because a few days before I'd seen some frat-white-boy American types butcher italian just as much as I did at the same McDonald's, but the cashier just gazed up at them like they were younger clones of Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. As much as I loved Rome, I was glad to leave after that experience.
But a vacation's a vacation, and our vacation in Rome was, overall, quite pleasant and memorable. And that's what I'll have to make do with right now--my memories--until I can make a proper getaway post-August 5th.
Coincidentally, I had already been contemplating doing a one-day fast tomorrow, and then I found out about this on Democracy Now. I hope some of you will join me.
Yesterday, I got an email from a colleague, who used to be an organizer at Asian Pacific Environmental Network, on whose board I'm currently serving. I thought his email summed up some of my own thoughts about July 4th/Independence Day, especially during this year of intense debate about immigration policy and what the 'real America' is all about.
"Celebrating the Fourth, Remembering the Past" by Son-Cheong Kuan
What comes to mind on Fourth of July, our Independence Day? Fireworks? Family vacationing? Outdoor BBQ? Big sales? It's true. Have we heard so many ads using holidays as big sales opportunities? Yes, our holidays have been over-commercialized, not only on July 4th, but also Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, etc. Have we wondered what the true meaning of our national holiday is?
As we celebrate July 4th, our northern neighbor, Canada, is also celebrating their Independence Day, July 1st, Canadian Day. This year Canadians have something to remember and to celebrate. The Canadian Prime Minister did the historically significant ceremonial action on behalf of Canada of apologizing to thousands and thousands of Chinese-Canadians for imposing the unjust "head tax" on Chinese laborers hundreds years ago.
Like our country, Canada also "imported" thousands of Chinese laborers to build railways across Canada. After they built the railways, they were required to pay the so-called "head tax", and barred from becoming citizens. Haven't we heard similar stories before? But, Canadians have learned their history, and righted the wrong this year.
With the latest debate over immigration reformed, I feel like it's "deju vu" all over again. We "brought" Latinos over to work on the farms. Now we want to bar them from becoming citizens or require them to "pay to play". Have we apologized to African Americans for slavery, Japanese Americans for internment camps, to Chinese Americans for the Chinese Exclusive Act, and many others--Filipino Americans, Vietnamese Americans and Korean Americans? As we claim to be defenders of human rights, haven't we learned from history that we need to make our policies more humane?
Yesterday was all about community, celebration, healing, transition. And the pendulum swing between life and death, sadness and joy.
We first went to the memorial services and wake/reception for Dru aka DJ Domino, our young friend who was tragically killed last week in the Mission. What a beautiful outpouring of love and tears. Dru clearly had a strong, loving familia of many many people, blood-related or not. I left feeling uplifted and hopeful that community still exists in many pockets of this world, and that people are truly struggling to love each other the best they can. Siara sang two songs for Dru at the memorial, and many folks got up on the open mic at both the service and the reception to talk about their love for Dru, his obsession with DJ'ing, his irrepressible sense of humor. I think my favorite snippet was when one of his homeboys talked about having a friend in his car who was having a bad day, and then running into Dru on the street. The homeboy's friend didn't want to come out of the car, that's the kind of shit day he was having. Dru said to get him out here, then yelled, 'Pan dulce!' across the street, making the friend laugh and come out the car to chop it up. That was classic Dru.
And before the service the crowds from the funeral home drove through the city, stopping at every spot that was precious to Dru--Coleman Advocates, his families' homes, the clubs he loved DJ'ing at. We didn't drive with the procession but we saw the tail end of it at Embarcadero One, where the reception was being held. Throngs of young brown folks gettin' hyphee in the street, blasting reggaeton (Dru's music) through their car stereos, hangin' out they car windows, dancing, bumpin' and shoutin' for all of Frisco to see.
The community vibe kept on strong at a Lester House party last night, the first I'd been to in many moons, as W. was quick to remind me. 'You never come by anymore,' he chastised, which is his right to do. I been going to the Lester House for parties for 12 years now. It's nice to know there are places I can go and be considered family, to the point that I get called out when I don't come by enough. And I got to meet B.'s mom, who had cooked up a feast with W., complete with red rice, Guamanian-style adobo, beans, etc.
My baby DJ Hen10 got busy on the 1's and 2's, warming up the crowd with some classic hip hop (think late '80s early '90s), funk and soul. J. spun some salsa that H. and I got to groove to. Later, DJ Moreno tore it up with a sick Brazilian batucada set, driving the crowd (including me) into a frenzy. So much shakin' goin' on; whole house was moving. He even got on the mic and sang and chanted, pushing the crowd to go higher, higher. And then he played not just one, but TWO, long-ass merengue songs right after the Brazilian, back to back. I tried to hold out through both, but had to stop dancing after the second song started. I ain't as young as I used to be.
Jumoke and Greg Hodge were at the party, too, it's always good to see them. And I barely recognized their daughter Chinaka Hodge, whom I haven't seen in years. She somehow still recognized me, and is all grown up now (finished colllege, go girl!).
Speaking of pendulum swing, though, Greg told me about the recent, sudden passing of Akiyu Hatano, long-time Oakland schools activist, who had been struggling with a mysterious illness for month. I was shocked and saddened to hear the news, having met Akiyu less than a year ago; she was radiant and healthy. She was our program officer at the Walter and Elise Haas, Sr. Fund, and shared many of our values and visions for public schools. I couldn't believe that another one of our movement warriors had been taken from us so suddenly, and so young. She was only 39 years old.
But, as Greg said last night, "That's why we have to pray, and dance." To which I replied, "Or do both at the same time." Which is what some of my own dancing felt like last night.
I also got to meet some VONA folks, who'd just finished up their first week of workshops. My girl E. came through; it was good to hang out with her for a minute, and soak up their creative energy.
I'm sore and a little tired today (but not hung over, I realized a long time ago that alcohol makes me too tired to really enjoy the dancing), but in a good way. Much love and thanks to all the people that made yesterday happen, and who are spreading the love and good vibes far and wide.