No war tax!

Arundhati Roy on peace

Tonight was the annual award night for The People’s Life Fund, which is the Bay Area’s local chapter of the No War Tax Movement. Because my free clinic had been awarded $1,500 last year, I was going to appear at the potluck, with a dish, and take one of the many people who benefit from our services, but I had been at a People of Color for Bernie event in San Francisco, the first Concierto del Pueblo, since I am the lead organizer for Latinos and POC in our area, the previous night and got a rather late start. After cleaning up we left the place at almost midnight; by the time I drove one of our organizers home, and got home myself, it was almost 3 in the morning.

I have been a no war tax activist since the 80’s, and have also spent many years doing counter-recruitment with the AFSC (that was the name in Pennsylvania; here it is called “Full Picture” ) at local high schools. For a while I was even appearing in various colleges in Pennsylvania to speak about the duty to protest and engage in direct action…

Cornel West once said: “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” His book, Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism, is one of those works that people should be required to read and share… I have been thinking a lot about Cornel when pondering the Black Lives Matter movement… He was influenced, among others, by Dr. King and by Malcolm X, as so many of us are, and we seem to be facing a terrible quandary in the latest seat of Empire, where even the right to clean elections is becoming an extinct species…

Five Flags MLK March in Hayward 1

A number of grants were again awarded this year to some wonderful peace and justice groups and organizations at the BFUU Fellowship Hall on Cedar St. in Berkeley, including:
Art Forces
BAYAN-USA
Berkeley Food Pantry
Catalyst Project
East Bay Community Land Trust
East Point Peace Academy
Fellowship of Reconciliation Peace Presence
Indigenous People’s Day Committee
Lower Bottom Playaz
Oakland Emiliano Zapata Street Academy
People’s Community Medics
Prison Radio
The Creators Gift 137
Tri-Valley CAREs
Veteran Artists
Young Workers United

Many of the people I admire such as Carolyn Scarr of EPI (EPI also got a grant last year so we could buy good audiovisual equipment), David Hartsough, whose book Waging Peace is another must-read, must-share work, and so many more who are doing the hard work of change from war to peace, from greed to disinterested work on social justice issues, spoke briefly about their work.  Trust me, redirecting our taxes from war-making to peace-making is an idea that we can all engage in, and in much the same way as the BDS movement (which ended apartheid in South Africa in another century), will perhaps convert us to Dennis Kucinich’s wonderful suggestion that we institute a Department of Peace rather than a War Department, which was the original name of what later became the United States Department of Defense in 1949.  You can find out about becoming a tax protester by writing to nowartax@riseup.net, or calling 510-842-6124.  And you can even learn how to resist from the National War Tax Resistance Committee at http://nwtrcc.org/resist/how-to-resist/

As I was putting this post to bed, I found something from two years ago, which I append here because it goes with the subject…

“OK, so after a very hectic day (which started at the Hayward BART at 6:30 this morning… giving out brochures for the New Priorities Campaign to people trying to take the train to get to work/school/life), with Gregorio Rienzo and Jim Gonzales, and having people try NOT to take the brochures bec. they were going to be late to catch the train, so coming up with rather outrageous tactics such as singing “Leaving, on the BART train, don’t know when I’lll be back again” quite loudly, and making people smile and take them… or Gregorio and I singing las mañanitas with a twist (for peace, for not having bombs rained on people with ‘our tax dollars…’) And a couple of hours later sharing ‘the stage’ with a wonderful young guitarist, who started improvising, and I, ni corta ni perezosa, improvising right along with him, he was trying to raise money for his BART ticket and bus so I gave him the last 3 bucks I had on me, but not without again, very loudly singing about peace, in English and Spanish… and later at 10 I got home and got busy on my flyers for tonight’s City Hall PROTEST GENTRIFICATION AND CRUELTY TO THE HOMELESS!, with so much stuff out there to get inspiration from because these are definitely ‘the days that try men’s and women’s souls…’

And as Mother Pollard (a 72-year-old Montgomery, Alabama woman who refused to ride the bus) stated to someone about the state of her soul: “My feet is tired, but my soul is rested,” (mentioned by Dr. King in his letter from a Birminghan jail). So my feet is tired, and the rest of my aging body is too, but my soul sure is rested! So what are your priorities on this soon-to-dawn tax day, militarism and war, health, housing, education? And Friday we will be singing at Livermore, with rested souls, listening to the marvelous Kathy Kelly, to stop the insanity, because (according to the Ploughshares Fund), EVERY HOUR on the hour the U.S. spend almost TWO MILLION dollars on nukes… Imagine what just a little bit of that money would do, it would help the kids this morning who were running off to college to pay for their education! It would help the people out there without homes or roofs, food or clothing, to be able to live the way human beings should live!

Yesterday was my heart granddaughter’s birthday party… I had spoken to one of my mentors, Betty DeForest, on the phone about starting a literacy program, because I had found out that some recent friends had never learned to read or write, and they were embarrased by it, and so we will do this new project because that’s what our group does, it creates miracles out of what were problems, just because, (I am talking about the South Hayward Parish, whose homelessness initiative, HCAN, was recently denied its request for a $12,000 grant, because the City installed a new uploading program which DID NOT WORK and failed to provide the assistance that was needed), but I am actually talking about miracles here, so I was thinking on my way to Jocy’s celebration, that Jim would have been right there teaching people how to read, because reading was so much a part of our relationship, we read to each other, read with each other, recited poems or lines from stories, at bedside and hospital, and that set me to crying, with sorrow and joy, mind you, but here I was going to help this girl celebrate, and I figured I couldn’t cry into her cake so I had to stop, but here is what I have to tell you before I go off to a well-deserved rest:

Life is full of miracles!
Being alive is a miracle!
Love is the biggest miracle of all!
If you have love, everything else ‘will be added unto you.’

So, wanna join me in singing, spiritually, with deep profondo tones,

My feet is tired, but my soul is rested!

Tonight, at Hayward City Hell, (oops, that was a typo, but I am going to leave it in for now… and think about when I get up). 7 PM tonight, your appointment with destiny!

Love you guys, one and all!

 

Oligarchs versus the people

At our impromptu meeting last Friday night at Jim Gonzales’ in Castro Valley, while the rain was beating down upon the formerly parched earth, we were raising our voices in song for justice and solidarity.  We sang something that Luci Murphy and I sang again and again during the Western Workers Labor Heritage Festival last weekend, Berenice Johnson Reagon’s Ella’s Song (and I refer you to the Ella Baker page where it appears and where you can listen to Sweet Honey in the Rock’s performance http://ellabakercenter.org/blog/2013/12/ellas-song-we-who-believe-in-freedom-cannot-rest-until-it-comes).  We also raised our voices in this particularly vibrant anthem during the MLK march last Saturday, because we need to shout it loud and clear, we who believe in freedom cannot rest until the killing of black men and women is as important as the killing of white men and women.  And don’t you just love the last lines?  I’m a woman who speaks in a voice and I must be heard, at times I can be quite difficult, I’ll bow to no man’s word.  I tell you, this is very much my song!

At the MLK rally I requested permission to speak on the immigration issue, which is dire and extreme and must be spoken to NOW, constantly, until we recognize our duty to ALL people who must flee their countries particularly because of our “free trade” policies. Free trade, I remind the Koch brothers and their allies, require equality of bargaining power. Contracts law 101.

So President Obama can and must issue, in these last days of his presidency, an executive order granting Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to the newest wave of refugees to our shores.  And we must kick out the new felonious five in the Supreme Court, who have been bought by big money.

I ended my bilingual appeal by declaring that we are not coming to beg for our rights, we are coming to claim them.  We are brothers and sisters, we are ALL immigrants, and we come to these shores after we have encountered scorched earth policies at the hands of our oligarchs in the US, who live by and for the rules of profits above all.  These are NOT the founding principles of this land, this land is your land and my land, from California to the New York islands, and it is time we take it back.  America is not a country, it is magnificent continents north and south of California, and it is time we recognize that. And Nelson Mandela long ago during his acceptance speech of the Nobel Peace Prize talked about the countless human beings, who had stood in the path of tyranny and injustice, without seeking selfish gain. “They recognised that an injury to one is an injury to all and therefore acted together in defence of justice and a common human decency.”

In this regard, we are supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, the man of the people, who is standing up to the oligarchs, to the corporate behemoths that are scourging our country and our planet, to the use of money to pollute the very foundations of our planet, physical and intellectual.  The young people are excited by Bernie; we who are aging are excited by Bernie, he represents the best of the United States of America, and he is calling for us to fight back.Silvia and Jim December rally2

Lyrics to Ella’s Song

Refrain:

We who believe in freedom cannot rest

We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes

 

Verses

Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons

Is as important as the killing of White men, White mothers’ sons

 

And that which touches me most is that I had a chance to work with people

Passing on to others that which was passed on to me

 

To me young people come first, they have the courage where we fail

And if I can shed some light as they carry us through the gale

 

The older I get the better I know that the secret of my going on

Is when the reins are in the hand of the young who dare to run against the storm

 

Not needing to clutch for power, not needing the light just to shine on me

I need to be just one in the number as we stand against tyranny

 

Struggling myself don’t mean a whole lot I come to realize

That teaching others to stand up and fight is the only way my struggle survive

 

I’m a woman who speaks in a voice and I must be heard

At time I can be quite difficult, I’ll bow to no man’s word

Our work

We vigil for peace and against the Israeli apartheid in Palestine; we engage in boycott, divestment and sanctions; we organize meetings and attend screenings and sometimes people support what we are doing and sometimes people attack us.  We are a motley crew, all living in the belly of the beast.  We gather together to sing the  praises of peace, of a just world, and just the fact that we are listening to each other and holding each other’s hearts in the palms of our hands is helpful.

6-23-11 Castlewood CD 142 that's my guy you are arresting there...   Castle Rock action to end lockout of workers.

Five Flags MLK March in Hayward 1  Missing Dr. King and Jim Forsyth

Martin Luther King day march.jpg

 

What is a peace and justice coalition?

It is hopes and dreams that gather in the small hours of the morning, while we wait for sunlight and a new day, for the clearing of the weather, for some illumination of the darkness.  It is the first breath of awakening, the warmth of a winter blanket, the hunt for slippers.  It is a hope that yesterday’s demons may have been finally laid to rest, so that things large and small may shine and bear fruit.

We think our thoughts silently as we listen to Democracy Now and chant or meditate or pray or sometimes, grumble.  We gather our strength which may have hidden under the bed covers, hoping for a longer rest until, as the poet sings, morning has broken.  We gather our strength as we sigh or groan or smile or ponder silently what the day will bring.  Finally, we gather clothing, toothbrush, glasses, water bottle, and we start the work of coalescing and collaborating, of co-creating a more perfect union, at home and abroad.

Welcome, bienvenidos, blessed be, let the singing start.  Let us engage in the work of chanting together a new world.