January 20, 2014

Happy birthday, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain in Georgia . . .
(from Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech, in 1963)

We honor the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) as "A Day On... Not a Day Off" this federal holiday, today. ". . . [A] drum major for justice" Dr. King galvanized us to witness America's disparity between promise and reality, and through nonviolent resistance ensure basic rights for all Americans — natives, immigrants, refugees, asylees, and guestsSince his life and assassination, and when I first published this post in 2009, we have steadily engaged in this struggle locally, nationally, globally

Fifteen miles from my home in Atlanta, Stone Mountain is the world's largest exposed mass of granite. On one side, a giant Confederate memorial carving depicts American Civil War champions of slavery — Confederate General "Stonewall" Jackson, Confederacy President Jefferson Davis, and Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee.

Following the Civil War, each Labor Day from 1915 until recent years, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) met on the mountain summit, igniting 60-foot cross-burnings to advocate and restore white supremacy. Founded in 1865 in southern USA, the national terrorist organization featuring white-robed terrorists in conical hats and masks would preach and commit violence and lynching to intimidate, murder, and oppress African Americans, Jews, and other minorities, and to intimidate and oppose Roman Catholics and labor unions.

So, when Dr. King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech in a defining moment during the March on Washington, his allies in the Civil Rights Movement and others understood the context of the phrase, "Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain in Georgia." (Watch a video of the 17-minute speech here.)

Born into a culture poisoned by racism, economic injustice, and militarism, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called us to address these evils through nonviolent resistance. Thirty-eight years later, a crazed product of this culture assassinated the Nobel Peace Prize winner, the Moses of my generation. Today, the poisons steadily erode cultures and the environment. And, nonviolent resistance continues. Everywhere.

January 18, 2014

Wedding in Jaffa, Israel: Kidane Isaac and Laurie Lijnders

In embroidered velvet crowns and robes: Laurie, a Dutch anthropologist
and Kidane, an Eritrea asylum seeker and a local community leader

Radiating freedom, unity, and courage, Kidane Isaac and Laurie Lijnders were married this morning at St. Anthony's Church following an early morning mass in Tigrinya (Eritrean language) and some English. Hundreds of celebrants filled the Catholic church in this mixed Arab-Jewish city — African asylum seekers, mainly from Eritrea but also from Sudan; Israeli social activists; and friends and family of the bride from Holland. Kidane's parents and seven siblings are in Eritrea, and he doesn't know when, if ever, he will see his them. (Kidane and I have been friends since 2011, shortly after he arrived in Israel.)

Sudanese (L) and Eritrean (R) bridesmaids:
“We are all Africans,” said the Sudanese woman

The celebration was a welcome break from the protests, strikes, and constant dread of deportation. In recent weeks, Kidane helped organize the strikes that brought tens of thousands of asylum seekers to the streets and selected foreign embassies in Tel Aviv, and to the Knesset in Jerusalem demanding freedom and granting refugee status to eligible individuals

Four days after the wedding, thousands of Africans and allies resumed the demonstrations in Levinsky Park in south Tel Aviv, and in the afternoon protested again in front of embassies. Now, they demand also that the local government repeal the new amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law by releasing detainees in the Saharonim detention center and the Holot facility. Addressing these basic requirements is essential to relieving the global humanitarian crisis experienced locally.

Listening attentively, holding many posters: "We want refugee rights"
"Every heart to love will come like a refugee" (Leonard Cohen)

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January 08, 2014

In Far'ata: Learning English in the West Bank Palestinian village


In the photo, three of the 20 women who came to learn English this afternoon in Far'ata, their West Bank 700-person Palestinian village. Some brought their small children and grandchildren who added joy and prompted learning new vocabulary — boy, girl, children, grandchildren. I love connecting head-to-head and heart-to-heart, and sharing laughter and learning in hard places and painful times.

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West Bank village Wadi Fukin [Valley of Thorns]