Posted in Social Justice/Activism

LATE-BREAKING NEWS: WE WILL NOT BE SILENCED: Church Gun-Violence Sit-In With Congresswoman Jackie Speier

Congresswoman, Jackie Speier, Democrat, CA
Congresswoman, Jackie Speier, Democrat, California

Dear Friends,

No one should have to live in fear of losing their life, especially when going to school or church, or visiting a night club, community center, or movie theater. However, the stark and shameful reality in America is hundreds of people have lost their lives to gun violence in such places. That is why Congress must act now to pass common sense legislation.

On June 23rd, 2016, Congressman John Lewis led 170 Members of Congress in a historic protest on the floor of the House of Representatives. The civil rights icon sat down to demand action against gun violence, which kills 33,000 people in our country every year and injures another 80,000 individuals. I was proud to join my colleague then, and I continue to work with him and other Democratic Members of Congress to bring a vote on common sense gun safety measures to the House floor. This includes sit-ins, town halls, roundtable discussions and more back in our home districts. On the 4th of July, I was joined by 100 people at a sit-in in front of a movie theater in Redwood City, where we declared our independence from the NRA and discussed possible solutions to this national epidemic.

On Sunday, August 28, 2016, I invite you to join me for a sit-in at the Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo Church at the conclusion of the 10 a.m. service. I will not stop demanding action until this Republican-led Congress calls a vote on universal background checks and banning terrorists from buying guns. These are modest measures that the majority of Americans support, including the majority of American gun owners.

Gun-violence Sit-In
Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo Church
300 E. Santa Inez Avenue
San Mateo, CA 94401
Sunday, August 28, 2016
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

RSVP HERE

Please join me in sending a clear message to Congress, the NRA, and other powerful members of the gun lobby. We will not be silenced!

All the best,
Jackie

Congresswoman Jackie Speier
Organizer of Church Gun Violence Sit-in
Congresswoman Jackie Speier represents California’s 14th Congressional District.

Posted in Poem/Poetry, She-Poets, Social Justice/Activism, Writers/Poets

“Embarrassed” – British Poet, Hollie McNish, delivers a rhymed and reasoned defense of breastfeeding in public

Hollie Poetry a.k.a. Hollie McNish, poet, author and spoken word artist
Hollie Poetry a.k.a. Hollie McNish, poet, author and spoken word artist

“Born in Reading to Glaswegian parents, Hollie studied French and German at King’s College, Cambridge, before earning a master’s degree in Development Economics.Hollie won the UK Slam Poetry Competition in 2009 and went on to finish 3rd in the global Slam Du Monde contest. A collection of her poems, Papers was published by Greenwich Exchange in 2012.

“A number of Hollie’s YouTube videos have gone viral and her account currently has over 3.9 million views.McNish’s first album, Versus, was released in September 2014 under the pseudonym Hollie Poetry, she was the first poet to record an album at Abbey Road Studios.Hollie has collaborated with Kate Tempest and George the Poet and they have appeared on stage with her during her 2015 tour. McNish received major national airplay on the BBC, first in January 2015 on Huw Stephens BBC Radio 1 show and then in May 2015 on BBC Radio 1Xtra in as part of a spoken word event.” Wikipedia

Embarrassed

I thought it was okay, I could understand the reasons
They said, “There might
be a man or a nervous child
seeing this small piece of flesh that they
weren’t quite expecting.”
So I whispered and tip-toed with nervous discretion
But after six months of her life sat sitting on lids,
sipping on milk, nostrils sniffing on piss
Trying not to bang her head on toilet roll dispensers
I wonder whether these public loo feeds offend her
‘Cause I’m getting tired of discretion and being polite
As my baby’s first sips are drowned drenched in shite
I spent the first feeding months of her beautiful life
Feeling nervous and awkward and wanting everything right
Surrounded by family ‘til I stepped out the house
It took me eight weeks to get the confidence to go into town
Now, the comments around me cut like a knife
As I rush into toilet cubicles
feeling nothing like nice
Because I’m giving her milk that’s not in a bottle
Which in the cocaine generation white powder would topple
I see pyramids, sales pitches, across our green globe
And female breasts–banned–unless they’re out just for show
And the more I go out, the more I can’t stand it
I walk into town, feel I’m surrounded by bandits
‘Cause in this country of billboards, covered in tits
And family newsagent magazines full of it
WH Smith top shelf’s out for men
Why don’t you complain about them then?
In this country of billboards, covered in tits
And family newsagent magazines full of it
W.H. Smith top shelves out for men
I’m getting embarrassed in case
a small flash of flesh might offend
And I’m not trying to parade it
I don’t want to make a show
But when I’m told I’d be better just staying at home
And when another friend
I know is thrown off a bus
And another mother told to get out of a pub
Even my grandma said that maybe I was sexing it up
And I’m sure the milk-makers love all this fuss
All the cussing, and worry, and looks of disgust
As another mother turns from nipples to powder
Ashamed or embarrassed by the comments around her
And as I hold her head up and pull my cartie across
And she sips on that liquor made from everyone’s God
I think, For God’s sake, Jesus drank it
So did Siddhartha, Muhammad, and Moses
And both of their fathers
Ganesh, and Shiva and Brigit and Buddha
And I’m sure they weren’t doing it sniffing on piss
As their mothers sat embarrassed sitting on cold toilet lids
In a country of billboards covered in tits
In a country of low-cut tops cleavage and skin
In a country of clothed bags and recycling bins
And as I desperately try to take all of this in
I hold her head up, I can’t get my head round the anger
Towards us and not to the sound of lorries
Off-loading formula milk
Into countries dripping in filth
In towns where breasts are oases of life
Now dried up in two-for-one offers enticed by labels, and gold standard rights
Claiming that breast milk is healthier, powdered and white
Packaged marketed and branded and sold at a price
That nothing is free in this money-fueled life
Which is fine if you need it or prefer to use bottles
Where water is clean and bacteria boiled
But in towns where they drown in pollution and sewage
Bottled kids die and they know that they do it
In towns where pennies are savored like sweets
We’re now paying for one thing that’s always been free
In towns empty of hospital beds, babies die,
Diarrhea-fueled, that breastmilk would end
So no more will I sit on these cold toilet lids
No matter how embarrassed I feel as she sips
Because in this country of billboards, covered in tits
I think we should try to get used to this

© Hollie McNish

She’s good. I’m so delighted to find her. Hollie’s website, Hollie on Amazon U.S. and on Amazon U.K.

Photo credit: Andrew Lih under CC BY-SA 3.0 license

Posted in event, General Interest, poetry event, Social Justice/Activism

IF WE WERE RIOTING IN 120 COUNTRIES, YOU’D SEE US ON THE 6 p.m. NEWS: but, we’re not, so here’s everything you need to know about 100,000 Poets for Change

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Here’s the good news: There are thousands of peace-loving, peace-living artists who gather in solidarity in some 120 countries around the world each year on the fourth Saturday of September and who connect and continue to work and stay connected even after the main event is over. The main event is 100,000 Poets for Change (100TPC), which is in its sixth year.

If we were rioting in 120 countries, for sure you’d see us on CNN, but we bare witness to the desire for and possibility of peace and apparently that doesn’t qualify as news: won’t get the adrenalin going, won’t sell laundry soap, won’t create division among us so that the wealthy and powerful can use us for their own ends. The world in all its strife is left to learn about 100TPC through social media.  So be it …

THE BACK STORY: 

I wasn’t there at the beginning, but I imagine that 100 Thousand Poets for Change founders, Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion (both of Big Bridge Press), were having dinner one night – maybe with some other poets and some artists and musicians  – contemplating the state of the world, the disconnection among communities and nations and trying to think of some way to connect positively, to come together in the service of shared ideals such as harmony, stewardship and compassion. And so it happened that in 2011, Michael put out a call on Facebook for 100,000 Poets for Change and a movement was born.  If memory serves there were 700 events held simultaneously around the world that first September.

The first night of the 100TPC World Conference in Salerno, Italy in 2015. Over 80 poets from 22 countries and 6 continents came together to share and to plan for the future of 100TPC
The first night of the 100TPC World Conference in Salerno, Italy in 2015. Over 80 poets from 22 countries and 6 continents came together to share and to plan for the future of 100TPC

Michael and Terri recently stated that peace and sustainability …

. . . are major concerns worldwide and the guiding principles for this global event. All participants hope, through their actions and events, to seize and redirect the political and social dialogue of the day and turn the narrative of civilization towards peace and sustainability. We are living in a world where it isn’t just one issue that needs to be addressed. A common ground is built through this global compilation of local stories, which is how we create a true narrative for discourse to inform the future . . .

“What kind of change are we talking about? The first order of change is for poets, writers, musicians, artists, anybody, to actually get together to create and perform, educate and demonstrate, simultaneously, with other communities around the world. This will change how we see our local community and the global community. We have all become incredibly alienated in recent years. We hardly know our neighbors down the street let alone our creative allies who live and share our concerns in other countries. We need to feel this kind of global solidarity.”

What started as a poets’ event now includes artists, photographers, musicians, drummers, mimes, dancers, arts lovers and other peacemakers.

100TMC

100TAC

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Michael Rothenberg

Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion created a website where anyone who wanted to organize an event could register.  It is to this site that you may go to register an event or to find an event in your area. If you want to organize an event and it sounds rather onerous to you, keep in mind that while an event might be big and attended by many in a park or town square, it might also be a small gathering of like-minded artists at your home or a local cafe.  I organized The BeZine 100TPC virtual event because I am largely home bound and assume there are others out there like me who would like to participate in 100TPC but would find it difficult to spend the day out. This virtual event also gives people anywhere a place to participant in 100TPC if there is no event scheduled in their vicinity. So just use your imagination and be creative about this.  You might dedicate a book club meeting to it or an afternoon at church. This year, Terri Stewart (Beguine Again and The BeZine) has organized a peacemaking circle to be held at her church in Seattle. Bravo!

Organizers generally make flyers for their events. These are often small works of art. Depending on religious or national holidays, in some countries the events are held on days other than the fourth Saturday of September.  In other countries – Morocco is one – events are held monthly. The main consistency is spirit and shared vision.

If you are reading this post in an email, you will likely have to link though to view this slide show.

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To keep up with 100TPC, check out the website for information and updates and connect with 100TPC on Facebook.

THE BeZINE 100,000 POETS FOR CHANGE, virtual event

The BeZine 100,000 Poets for Change will start on September 15th with our September issue. Priscilla Galasso (scillagrace) is the lead for that issue. The theme is Environment and Environmental Justice, which is our chosen theme for 100TPC 2016. If you’d like to submit work on topic for that issue, send it to bardogroup@gmail.com. Please review submission guidelines first.

Our 100TPC event is hosted from our blog. The post will go up at 12 a.m. PST on September 24 and you can begin including work immediately using either the comments section or Mister Linkey. Direction will be included in the content of the post. American-Israeli Michael Dickel (Fragments of Michael Dickel) is the Master of Ceremonies again this year. He does a fabulous job of it and will keep the action and commentary running via the comments section. You are encouraged to share your own work and to read the work of others. I’ll be on hand to give Michael breaks and to keep the dialog going until midnight PST – California.  Ultimately all work shared is archived on site and at Standford University. Please keep in mind, that this is not just for poetry.  You can share appropriately themed fiction, music video, creative nonfiction – whatever can be shared in a comment. Long pieces can be shared by putting in the url link to your work on your blog or website.

To help get you going, we’ll do 100TPC writing prompts here at The Poet by Day on Wednesdays, August 23 and August 31, so that you can begin working on something for September 24.  Comments will be open for sharing and – in fact – as of today, comments are open again on this site.

100,000 PEACEMAKERS FOR CHANGE, Seattle, WA

This event is organized by The Bardo Group Beguines‘ Rev. Terri Stewart (Beguine Again and The BeZine) at Riverton Park United Methodist Church, 3118 S 140th Street, Tukwilia, Washington 98168 on Saturday, September 24th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. with a social gathering after from 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. Terri will lead a peacemaking circle that will focus on earth justice. She says, “We want to make a public witness of peace and peace for the earth. Hope to see you there!” The Facebook Page for this event is HERE.

That same afternoon there will also be a food drive in process at Riverton for the Tukewila Pantry Emergency Food Bank and donations of food or money are welcome. Here is the wish list if you are able to help:

Canned Meats/Fish
Canned Vegetables
Canned Fruits
Canned Meals (i.e. stews, soups, spaghetti, chili, ravioli, etc.) Macaroni & Cheese
Dry or Canned Milk
Peanut Butter
Dry Goods (i.e. pastas, rice, beans, cold and hot cereals, baking mix, etc.)

Remember, wherever you are in the world, go to 100TPC to find an event in your area or to register to hold one and no matter where you are, you can also participate in The BeZine’s 100TPC virtual event.

RELATED:

The BeZine 100TPC Commemorative Collection, 2014
The BeZine 100TPC Commemorative Collection, 2015
Michael Dickel’s report back from the Salerno Conference
The BeZine 100TPC Facebook discussion page

Posted in literature, Social Justice/Activism, Writers/Poets

THINGS FALL APART

Nigerian poet, novelist, professor and critic, Chinua Achebe (1930-2013)
Nigerian poet, novelist, professor and critic, Chinua Achebe (1930-2013)

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CHINUA ACHEBE was a Nigerian poet and novelist. His first novel Things Fall Apart (1958) is his major work and is said to be the most widely read book in modern African literature. He is considered the founding father of African literature in English.

Listen to a short interview with Achebe‘s daughter in pop-out player on BBC’s Witness. Published in 1958, Things Fall Apart “was set in pre-colonial rural Nigeria and examines how the arrival of foreigners – imposing their own traditions – led to tensions within the Igbo society. The book revolutionised African culture, and began a whole new genre of world literature. Witness radio program hears from Achebe’s youngest daughter, Nwando Achebe.”

Refugee Mother and Child Poem

No Madonna and Child could touch
that picture of a mother’s tenderness
for a son she soon would have to forget.
The air was heavy with odours

of diarrhoea of unwashed children
with washed-out ribs and dried-up
bottoms struggling in laboured
steps behind blown empty bellies. Most

mothers there had long ceased
to care but not this one; she held
a ghost smile between her teeth
and in her eyes the ghost of a mother’s
pride as she combed the rust-coloured
hair left on his skull and then –

singing in her eyes – began carefully
to part it… In another life this
would have been a little daily
act of no consequence before his
breakfast and school; now she

did it like putting flowers
on a tiny grave.

– Chinua Achebe, Collected Poems

“Charity . . . is the opium of the privileged.”  Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah

RELATED:

Africa’s Voice, Nigeria’s Conscience, New York Times
The Sacrificial Egg, The Atlantic

Posted in Social Justice/Activism

HEADS-UP CALIFORNIA: Protect Free Speech, Right to Boycott, Peninsula Peace & Justice Center, action alert

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ACTION ALERT
Bill in Sacramento Threatens Freedom of Speech, Right to Boycott
 AB 2844

“Engaging in an economic boycott of “any sovereign nation or people recognized by the government of the United States” — like the anti-apartheid boycotts of South Africa in the 1980s — could become a felony under a proposed state law currently making its way through the legislature.

“The bill — AB 2844 — is due to be taken up by the Senate Appropriations Committee in two weeks. Two local state senators serve on that committee. Sign the letter to urge Jerry Hill or Jim Beall to vote no.

“While AB 2844 refers to “any … nation”, it goes on to say, “including but not limited to Israel.” And that’s the real motive behind this bill: To kill the growing Boycott, Diversment and Sanction (BDS) campaign aimed at ending Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.” PEACE ACTION more here including information, editorials and legislative contact for your more informed decision-making and action.

– Thanks to Peace Action and Connie S. for this alert.

Posted in Poem/Poetry, poetry event, poetry reading, regional poetry event, Social Justice/Activism, Writing/Blogging

THE INTERFAITH CENTER FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN ISRAEL hosts a Poetry Slam, poet Michael Dickel presents

c The Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development‎Interfaith Eco Poetry Slam صدى المناظرة الشعرية بين الاديان האקו-פואטרי סלאם הבין דתי
c The Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development‎ Interfaith Eco Poetry Slam صدى المناظرة الشعرية بين الاديان האקו-פואטרי סלאם הבין דתי

The ICSD staff and participants from around Jerusalem gathered in Tmol Shilshom to perform and speak about faith and ecology through the art of poetry on June 30.  Michael Deckel discussed the human relationship with God and how we want a connection but cannot have one without striving to create meaning in the world.

En Gedi — Wadi David Photograph ©2015
En Gedi — Wadi David
Photograph, Michael Dickel ©2015
En Gedi

Even lizards hide from this scorched heat.
Tristram’s grackles pant in the shade of skeletal acacia.
Fan-tail ravens float on rising currents like vultures.

David hid from Saul in the strongholds of En Gedi;
along the wadi now named for him, waterfalls
drop warm water onto maidenhair ferns into tepid pools.

Any stippled shade provides shelter from the scathing sun
when hiding from midday heat or close pursuit:
Tristram and Iseult, David, seek shade, ferns, sparkling droplets.

We escape, fugitives from kings
into what little shade we find, wade
into green puddles of desert water,

for brief respite, solace,
a bright glimmer sliding down
an eroding rock face.

– Michael Dickel

© 2015/2016, poem and Ein Gedi photograph, Michael Dickel;2012, portrait (below) Aviva Dickel

RELATED:

dickelheadshot3x4-1MICHAEL DICKEL (Fragments of Michael Dickel), a poet, fiction writer, essayist, photographer, digital artist, and educator is a contributing editor for The BeZine, was associate editor and contributing editor of The Woven Tale Press, managing editor of arc-24 (2015) and arc–23 (2014), and co-edited Voices Israel Volume 36 (2010). His latest book of poems is War Surrounds Us. Previous books include Midwest / Mid-East and The World Behind It, Chaos, an eBook from “why vandalism?” that is no longer available online. Dickel is the Chair of the Israel Association of Writers in English.

Dickel’s work was short-listed for the Wisehouse 2016 Poetry Award and has appeared in literary journals, anthologies, art books, and online for over twenty years. His photographs and poems have appeared in: THIS Literary Magazine, Eclectic Flash, Cartier Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Sketchbook, Emerging Visions Visionary Art eZine, Poetry Midwest, Fotógrafos En La Calle (Street Photographers), why vandalism? [1, 2, 3, 4], Poetica Magazine—Reflections on Jewish Thought, Zeek: a Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture and Abramelin: the Journal of Poetry and Magick, among many others (a selection of recent publications can be accessed on the Links page). Two of his poems received first and second place in the 2009 international Reuben Rose Memorial Poetry Competition.

He has also worked with documentary film productions, writing everything from fund-raising proposals to research to treatments and scripts. Working with David Fisher, he wrote a successful proposal for a U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities Bridging Cultures through Film Development Grant.

Michael (Dickel) Dekel, Ph.D., holds degrees in psychology, creative writing, and English literature. He has been teaching college and university for over 25 years—writing and literature courses in the United States and Israel – as well as courses in media and English Education in Israel. He directed the Student Writing Center at the University of Minnesota and the Macalester Academic Excellence Center at Macalester College (St. Paul, MN). He currently lectures at Kibbutzim College (Tel Aviv). Dr. Dickel has published articles, presented conference papers, and led workshops on writing and the teaching of academic writing. He currently lives in Jerusalem, Israel.

Posted in Poem/Poetry, Social Justice/Activism

For the Girls, a poem

girlThey come like thistle and thorn,
and write their rage upon my body.
They come like locusts and
feed on the fields of my soul.
Like the angry storm, they drown me.
Like the desert sands, they suffocate me.
They see me, a little person
of little consequence …
a girl
Just a trinket, a toy, a receptacle,
something to sell, buy, trade or
marry-off prematurely,
without my say.
But hear me, I am the answer.
I am the calm after the storm.
I am the antidote to
stone hearts and desiccated souls.
I am the future and the past.
I am the hope, the dream, the reality.
I am real.
I am human.
I am the answer.

“Women are half the society. You cannot have a revolution without women. You cannot have democracy without women. You cannot have equality without women. You can’t have anything without women” Nawal El Saadawi (b. 1931), Egyption feminist writer and physician

RESOURCES:

Girls Not Brides

Lifting the Veil: Artists in Support of the Tahirih Justice Center:

The Tahirih Justice Center stands alone as the only national, multi-city organization providing a broad range of direct legal services, policy advocacy, and training and education to protect immigrant women and girls fleeing violence. Come out and support some of New York’s most powerful artists as they perform to raise money for a worth cause. $10 suggested donation all going to the center. Thanks to Terri Muuss for sharing this with us. Lifting the Veil Facebook Page is HERE.

August 7 at 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. EDT at BrickHouse Bewery & Restaurant 67 W. Main Street, Patchogue, New York 11772.

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There is no place for child marriage in a world where empowered girls lead the way into a better future for everyone everywhere!

©2010,poem and photograph, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

Posted in poetry event, poetry reading, Social Justice/Activism, Writers/Poets

LATE-BREAKING NEWS: Lifting the Veil, Artists in Support of The Tahirih Justice Center

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The Tahirih Justice Center stands alone as the only national, multi-city organization providing a broad range of direct legal services, policy advocacy, and training and education to protect immigrant women and girls fleeing violence. Come out and support some of New York’s most powerful artists as they perform to raise money for a worth cause. $10 suggested donation all going to the center. Thanks to Terri Muuss for sharing this with us. Lifting the Veil Facebook Page is HERE.

August 7 at 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. EDT at BrickHouse Bewery & Restaurant 67 W. Main Street, Patchogue, New York 11772.  

*****

a man, a woman, a stick

(1921)

the stick stood in the corner of the kitchen
a constant threat; stoking, as it was meant to,
chronic intimidation

he had a man’s right to deliver his blows
to vent his anger and his self-contempt
to cause suffering for the insufferable

someone had to make it up to him,
his loss-of-face to race, creed and poverty

for her part, eve’s daughter was ripe,
shamed by her intrinsic sinfulness,
worn by her constant pregnancies

her femininity: tired and task-bound,
guilt flowing freely, as all-consuming as lava

[relief, only in death]

and the seventh child was born to die
and the man was demanding his bread

she wrapped the girl in swaddling cloth,
placed her gently by the stove, and
while the newborn made busy with dying,
the woman prepared him his meal

© 2015, Jamie Dedes

Posted in General Interest, Religion/Spirituality, Social Justice/Activism

An Editorial by UU Minister, Ben Meyers: SHOTS HEARD, HEARTS BROKEN, VIGILS HELD

Rev. Ben Meyers of San Mateo, California
Rev. Ben Meyers of San Mateo, California

There’s something happening here,
What it is aint exactly clear.
There’s a man with a gun over there,
Tellin’ me I’ve got to beware …
I think it’s time we stop, Children, What’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s goin’ down …
Stephen Stills (Crosby, Stills & Nash)

UU San Mateo
Unitarian Universalists (UU) of San Mateo, CA

On June 12, 49 people were murdered at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida and 53 were injured and hospitalized, four critically. People of good conscience gathered and mourned with victims and families at vigils held across the country and around the world. We grieved for lives lost. We grieved another mass shooting, the largest in U.S. history.

Congregational Church
Congregational Church, San Mateo, CA

Here in San Mateo, we joined in a interfaith vigil held at the Congregational Church. We joined in sadness, shock and solidarity, both for Orlando, and for those in our own community, our country, our world who are of a minority sexual orientation: gay men, lesbians, bisexual persons, transgender persons, persons uncertain of their gender identity or sexual orientation, victims of senseless hate in some quarters.

The community we must hold vigil for in our hearts is even larger. It includes all our Muslim brothers and sisters here and around the world who have and will suffer from the kind of religious bigotry that cannot separate the actions of one radically disturbed individual from the peace- loving behaviors of millions of religious people.

 

Torah Center, Peninsula Temple Sholom, Burlingame, CA
Torah Center, Peninsula Temple Sholom, Burlingame, CA

Recently, Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo (UUSM) joined over 200 people and broke the month long period of daily fasting for Muslims known as Ramadan. The event, which I had never participated in before, was made even more remarkable to me because of its location. It was not held in a Mosque or even a Muslim Cultural Center, rather, it was hosted, and well attended, by the Jewish congregation of Peninsula Temple Shalom, in Burlingame. Muslims and Jews, Christians, UUs and others came together to learn more about this most holy ritual of Islam, and to stand against the violence of Islamaphobia and hate, which currently, the majority of U.S. citizens embrace and promote.

We hold vigil for people, especially black and brown people, who continue to be the targets of racial profiling and the oppression and violence that comes with it. Acts of systemic hatred and violence which we can not even imagine but which they face every day just because of the color of their skin.

Here, in this religious community, we are striving to embody and live out a life-long vigilance to building the beloved community that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of when he encouraged all people of good conscience, especially white people of privilege and power, to look at and dismantle the pervasiveness of white supremacy, lessons learned at a tender age and never truly unlearned without a committed effort and willingness to change and be changed—from the inside-out.

IMG_4365Our Black Lives Matter banner hangs outside our sanctuary, a reminder to be conscious of our complicity in the legacy of violence and hatred that is not yet overcome. We must hold in our hearts and move in our hands ALL of us here in our country who might at any time be the victims of violence of the highest order, violence inflicted by high-powered weapons that kill indiscriminately in every corner of this country: in our churches, mosques, temples and shrines…in our schools and workplaces, in our coffee houses and dance houses and our very homes.

Since the Orlando shooting on June 12th there have been 31 other mass shootings in the U.S. involving 4 or more victims, including the death of 5 in Las Vegas and 5 police officers in Dallas, Texas. More shootings. More vigils. So, what exactly do we mean by vigil?

A vigil is a SACRED kind of watchfulness, a call to be attentive and aware with devotion for the emotions that are sure to surge up within us— emotions of anger, even rage; emotions surrounding loss and shock; emotions steeped in frustration and fear. These emotions can convince us, if we are not careful, that rage justifies the kind of outrage that lashes out, repaying violence with violence, seeking a life for a life, an eye for an eye, the kind of rage that would turn the whole world into an unending whirl of violence and vengeance.

Inevitably,we must come to the question: “What WILL we do?” Because, now awakened, now alert, now vigilant…We know we are called to respond, to act, to engage in change that makes a difference.

Our first question is, “What do we need to make sure we do not do?” How do we honor the memory of those who were victimized by hate? How do we stand with those who are still victimized by hate? How do we keep from falling into the pattern of hate ourselves? Given the size and complexity of the problem, how do we remain vigilant and not acquiesce back into silence, numbness, complacency? How do we do more than pray?

We know that a culture that marginalizes and stigmatizes persons for any reason creates an environment that says violence towards those persons is acceptable because they are the “other,” that are not like us. But we who believe in a better way know that an eye for an eye only leaves us all blind.

We also know that a culture of violence such as ours also creates an environment of numbness and distance and silent complicity, which can be and has been part of what perpetuates the continuance of the dominant culture. We have now heard enough shots to know that silence is inadequate to the task of countering the culture violence. We must employ the power of love and peaceful engagement for we know that moments of silence and prayer are no longer enough. That they have never been enough…

Congresswoman Jackie Speier, our District 14 representative who, out of frustration to the impotence of her Congressional colleagues and out of vigilance and commitment to bringing real change to the culture of gun violence in our country, no longer participates in the moments of silence that have become the only response of our congress to these ceaseless mass shootings that are a plague upon our nation.

Jackie Speier
Jackie Speier

This is what our moments of silence have bought us. A silent nightclub, the only sound the frantic ringing of phones that would never be answered. Silent bodies, where there should be life and love and pride. And here, a silent Congress. Mere words cannot describe the depth of my grief and rage. Forty-nine lives lost, in the middle of Pride Month when they should have been safe and celebrated. Forty-nine families devastated by the loss of their loved ones. Forty-nine phones ringing, and ringing, and ringing. There were also frantic texts, like Eddie Justice’s final messages to his mother: “Mommy, I love you. He’s coming. I’m going to die.

“If you can hear these words without your heart breaking, if you can think of those little children gunned down in Newtown without grieving, if you can think of empty pews in Charleston without mourning, then truly you have lost your humanity.

“Hateful people like to compare LGBTQ equality to the sin-filled Biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. But we in Congress are the real Sodom and Gomorrah. Are there 218 righteous members here to stand against this bloody tide? Increasingly, I doubt it.

“So I ask you today, how many lives must be destroyed before Congress acts?

Nine lives? Charleston showed us nine is not enough.

Thirteen lives? Columbine showed us that 13 is not enough.

Certainly 27 small children killed in their classrooms at Newtown? No.

The 32 lives lost at Virginia Tech? Again, not enough lives.

The more than 33,000 Americans killed each year by guns? Still not enough.

“And now 49 people have been murdered in Orlando.

“Yet even this historic tragedy hasn’t been deemed big enough, horrific enough, or insidious enough to break Congress’ silence.

“Congress is happy to debate for hours about bathrooms, but bring up the gun violence killing thousands? Absolutely not.

“Radical Islam, or home-grown American homophobia, or a toxic stew of both may have inspired the Orlando shooter. No doubt we will learn more about his disgusting motivations in the coming weeks.

“But there are simple actions we can take now, actions that would have reduced the deaths in Orlando as well as Aurora, Newtown, San Bernardino, and at Umpqua Community College…

“I urge you – I beg you – to make America better than this. We must be better than this. “ –Congresswoman Jackie Speier, California’s 14th District.

There exists among us a variety of responses to the NRA, more interested in the rights of those who sell guns than in the lives of innocent victims of gun violence.  The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ-rights organization in the country suggests that we work to limit access to all assault weapons: That we move to expand background checks: that we limit access to firearms for suspected terrorists and for people with a history of domestic abuse. Common sense. Yes! In every other “civilized” country in the world, these are understood as common-sense regulations. But, here in our country, while the NRA owns the people’s Congress, these are seen as unreasonable restrictions. This has to stop. We must rise and turn the tide towards peace and justice when it comes to public safety. The best way to honor those who were senselessly slaughtered in Orlando and everywhere else is to act, NOW. We may BEGIN with prayers and with songs and with vigils…but let’s not stop there.

We can do better. We are better than this.

Amen.

May it be so.

– Rev. Ben Meyers

Essay posted under CC NoDerivatives (nd) license. You may copy, distribute, display only original copies of this work with attribution; © portrait, Ben Meyers; Jackie Spear’s portrait is her official one; UUSM photograph is in the public domain; Temple Sholom courtesy of PTseducation under CC SA-BY 3.0, other photographs, Jamie Dedes

Posted in General Interest, Movies/Film/Documentary, Social Justice/Activism

Hafez and … LATE BREAKING NEWS: New documentary film, “Alone Through Iran, 1444 Miles of Trust”

Tomb of Hafez, the popular Iranian poet whose works are regarded as a pinnacle in Persian literature and have left a considerable mark on later Western writers, most notably Goethe, Thoreau, and Emerson
Tomb of Hafez, the Iranian poet whose poetry is regarded as a pinnacle in Persian literature and has left a considerable mark on later Western writers, most notably Goethe, Thoreau, and Emerson

“Even
After
All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,

“You owe me.”

Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.”
― Hafiz

**********

Alone through Iran – 1144 Miles of Trust is a documentary film about Kristina Paltén, a lone Swedish woman who wanted to challenge her own and other’s prejudices against Islam by running across Iran to meet people along the way.

A wonderful heroic story: Monies for this documentary were raised through crowd funding and the film makers report they are currently in the process of editing the full movie. Here (below) is the trailer. Like the Facebook Page to stay updated about the movie.

If you are viewing this in email, you will likely have to click through to the site to view the video.

Photo credit: Amir Hussain Zolfaghary under CC BY-SA 3.0

Posted in Celebrating American She-Poets, General Interest, Music/Musicians, She-Poets, Social Justice/Activism, Writers/Poets, Writing/Blogging

CELEBRATING AMERICAN SHE-POETS (18): Joy Harjo, Crazy Brave

Joy Harjo (b 1951), Mvskoke (Creek) Poet, Musician, author and key player in the second wave of the Native Merican Renaissance (literary efflorescence)
Joy Harjo (b 1951), Mvskoke (Creek) Poet, Musician, author and key player in the second wave of the Native American literary efflorescence

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 Crazy Brave (Norton & Company, 2012), Joy Harjo’s eminently engaging memoir, flows like a long prose poem. It is rich and well-built on a foundation of tribal mythologies, a strong sense of her ancestry, her difficult childhood and youth and salvation found in poetry and music. From her birth to a handsome much-loved fire-spirit father who inherited Indian oil money, allowing him to indulge a passion for cars, and her beautiful water-spirit singer-mother whose voice was stilled by a bully of a second-husband, Harjo tells the story of girl who survived a physically and emotionally abusive step-father, crushing poverty and the greater cultural obscenities to become one of our most influential poets and a formidable advocate for justice for Native Americans and liberation for women.

I was entrusted with carrying voices, songs, and stories to grow and release into the world, to be of assistance and inspiration. These were my responsibility.”

*****

I can’t imagine the human being who wouldn’t relate to Joy Harjo’s history, but those who have come from “broken” homes, poverty and a family of mixed ethnicity will most especially appreciate it and perhaps find some healing and strength in the pages of Crazy Brave. That Joy Harjo survived so much to become a decent loving person leaves the rest of us with no excuse; and any writer, poet or musician will take to heart the dreams and visions of that long journey to find hope and creative voice in poetry.

Joy Harjo, a member of the Mvskoke tribe was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, an area where the Native American trail of tears ended, an area to which the indigenous peoples were removed – forced to relocate –  as people of European descent moved into their original home places. The removed were the Five Civilized Tribes – Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Mvkoke and Seminole  – who were living as autonomous nations in what is now the American Deep South.

“I fought through the War Between the States and have seen many men shot, but the Cherokee Removal was the cruelest work I ever knew”. Georgian soldier who participated in the removal

*****

When the World as We Knew It Ended
It was coming.
We had been watching since the eve of the missionaries in their long
and solemn clothes, to see what would happen.
We saw it
from the kitchen window over the sink
as we made coffee, cooked rice and potatoes
enough for an army.
We saw it all, as we changed diapers and fed
the babies. We saw it,
through the branches of the knowledgeable tree,
through the snags of stars, through
the sun and storms, from our knees
as we bathed and washed the floors …
The conference of the birds warned us as they flew over
destroyers in the harbor, parked there since the first takeover.
It was by their songs and talk we knew when to rise,
when to look out the window

excerpt from When the World Ended in How We Became Human, New and Selected Poems (W.W. Norton & Co., 2004)

*****

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Joy Harjo’s poetry and music are influenced by her ethnic heritage and her feminist and social concerns as well as by her love of word and sound and her education in the arts. Largely autobiographical, her poetry is informed with descriptions of the Southwestern landscape and the mythologies, symbols and values of the Mvskoke people. Hers is the sort of writing that sits with you to become part of your own bone and marrow, which is the way of good poetry and good story. A poet of the people but also a critically-acclaimed poet, her many awards include the Wallace Stevens Award of the Academy of American Poets, The William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America and the American Indian Distinguished Achiement in the Arts Award. She is the recipient of several grants and is a teacher, musician (saxophone) and singer.  She has published some fourteen books and ten music albums.

It was a dance,
her back against the wall
at Carmen’s party. He was alone
and he called to her – come here, come here
that was the firs time she saw him
and later she and Carmen drove him home
and all the way he talked to the moon,
to the stars, to someone riding

excerpt from There Was a Dance, Sweetheart in How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems (1975-2022) (W.W. Norton & Co., 2004) © Joy Harjo

If you are reading this post from email, you will likely have to link though to this blog to enjoy the video. Joy Harjo’s Eagle Song, poem and music:

© review, Jamie Dedes; poems, Joy Harjo, photographs courtesy of Ms Harjo

Posted in Celebrating American She-Poets, General Interest, Poem/Poetry, She-Poets, Social Justice/Activism, Writers/Poets

CELEBRATING AMERICAN SHE-POETS (17): NIKKI GIOVANNI, Quilting the Black-eyed Pea

Nikki Giovanni (1943), American poet, writer, activist and educator
Nikki Giovanni (1943), American poet, writer, activist and educator

Everyone deserves Sanctuary a place to go where you are
safe
Art offers Sanctuary to everyone willing
to open their hearts as well as their lives”
excerpt for Art Sanctuary in Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea, poems and not quite poems

Nikki Giovanni is lauded as iconic, luminous, adventuresome and courageous.  She is all of these, but I think what I like most about her is that she is straight-forward, practical and compassionate. These characteristics are the underpinning that make her a rather extraordinary poet, a powerful combination of visceral and intellectual.

There is always something to do. There are hungry people to feed, naked people to clothe, sick people to comfort and make well. And while I don’t expect you to save the world I do think it’s not asking too much for you to love those with whom you sleep, share the happiness of those whom you call friend, engage those among you who are visionary and remove from your life those who offer you depression, despair and disrespect.”

Nikki Giovanni first came to note in the late ’60s and early ’70s as part of the Civil Rights, Black Arts and Black Power movements. The strength of her voice punctuated our poetic and political world and she has written, taught and advocated for uncommon good sense ever since. As with all of us, she has many roles in life including daughter, mother, friend and lung cancer survivor. It is clear in her work that she values family and community and supports and encourages these values in others.

Ms. Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee. She earned her undergraduate degree in history with honors at Fisk University and did her graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. Her knowledge of history richly informs her perspectives in poetry, essay and talk. She taught at several universities including Virginia Tech and was at Virginia Tech for the shooting by Seung-Hui Cho in 2007 when he murdered thirty-seven people.  Cho was a student in her poetry class. She sensed something was amiss with him and asked the authorities to remove him from her class.  After the shooting, she spoke at the convocation.

We know we did nothing to deserve it. But neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS. Neither do the invisible children walking the night awake to avoid being captured by a rogue army. Neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devastated for ivory. Neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water….We are Virginia Tech….We will prevail.”

This video is the first of two in this post. If you are reading from an email subscription, you will have to link through to the site to view the videos.

Ms Giovanni’s early writing was a response to the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., John and Robert Kennedy, and Medgar Evans.  Her first book (1968) Black Feeling, Black Talk/Black Judgement is considered by some to be the one of the most important books on the black-rights movement.  Younger people reading it will want to research the history of the era to put the book in context.

Ms. Giovanni has written some twenty-one books of poetry as well as autobiography and children’s books. She’s edited anthologies and collaborated on books with James Baldwin and Margaret Walker. She’s won countless awards for both her work and her activism. The following video is a reading of Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea (We’re Going to Mars).

I want to be clear about this. If you wrote from experience, you’d get maybe one book, maybe three poems. Writers write from empathy.”

portrait ~ Brett Weinstein under CC BY-SA 2.0