Featured Essays

Movie Reviews Through a “Poverty Skola” Lens By Lisa TIny Gray Garcia, Editor, Poor News Network

“I live in there, its my home,” Frances McDormand “playing” a houseless woman named Fern in the new movie Nomadland, says to mechanics who tell her it will be $5,000 to fix her van, which she “lives” in, in the movie. These and other moments are some of the excellently “crafted”, lines by brilliant actor McDormand and are classic examples of Hollywood’s ongoing dedication to performing poverty, disability and homelessness. to feed  the ever-hungry, ever-exploitative film, media and akkkademik industries.

Another example is Adarsh Gourav, “portraying”  Balram Halwaia,a very poor chauffeur working for Indian wealth-hoarders, scamlord class in the movie White Tiger a depiction/performance/portrayal of Poverty in India.

Both of these movies are artistically powerful, both of them have critiques (albeit way too subtle in Nomadland) of wealth-hoarding, employee slavery and CorpRape entities like Amazon. White Tiger is a deeper and more powerFULl critique of the scam-lord “upper classes” and even politricks itself. But they both are depictions of us poor people without us poor people. (Notwithstanding the only redeeming part of Nomadland,  three poverty skolaz “playing” themselves)

Aravind Adiga, author of the book White Tiger and Jessica Bruder, who did a “story” on houseless “Nomads” for Harpers magazine and then published a book of the same name, are both themselves middle class/owning class academics, journalists, who have “never missed a meal” as my mama would call it, but who were “fascinated” with the “underbelly” aka Bleeds it leads possibilities of writing about poor people. And as my OG ghetto poverty skola mama would also say, because they are well-educated mofos, they are excellent editors and writers, story-builders and are able to create spins and slants and stories out of our messy, CONfusing realities. But the thing they both share with countless writers before them who write, perform, and create an endless stream of “about us without us” narratives about poor, houseless, landless, disabled, indigenous Black, Brown, and immigrant/migrant communities, from Dickens to Steinbeck to most recently, the fake Raza writer Jeanine Cummins of American Dirt, is what I call By-line privilege and linguistic dominance. 

In other words these writers had a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs and shoes on their feet, while growing up so they could focus and learn what I call in the Poverty Scholarship book- linguistic domination skills, so they could carve a powerful story arc, and create these beautiful portrayals.  In both cases, the filmmakers of  these movies, Chloe Zhao and Ramin Bahrani, were also schooled, clothed, loved and protected so they could go to institutions and “learn” expensive software editing programs, get high-priced computers, meet people who would finance them and make connections to Sundance festival and other spaces, to fund their budgets so they could create powerful productions with excellent sound, and cinematography , and more.

These are subtle and silent privileges of media and art producers that are rarely if ever spoken about,  overstood, or understood,  And so Hollywood and Bollywood rages on making beautiful pieces of “art” from our lives of struggle. 

Fed and fueled by akademia, who are generators of an endless production of work, studies, papers, articles and panels talking, producing, fetishizing  about us without us work.

Now you might be arguing right, well then how else would poor peoples stories ever be told? To which I would reply, maybe they wouldn’t or maybe they would in the ways that we poor people, disabled people, indigenous people want to tell them. Stories that would lift up our manifestos and dreams, survival Shero-and hero-ism, and our deep and powerful poverty scholarship. 

I would also counter, what did poor people get out of these movies? Empathy, Savior Sympathy or? Actually most of the time as in the horror story ( documentary) called Daughter of Danang showed us, just for one example,  a documentary about a poor Vietnamese family that lost their mixed race daughter through imperial war adoption traffiking, and her family in Vietnam exploited depressed and badly translated in the “documentary”, while the rich wite directors and rich Vietnamese academics acquired  a notch on their filmmaking, researching, surveying belt, which led , as it always does, to more acclaim, grants and fellowships from more institutions and an Oscar(SoWhite), while the family remains un-helped and wrongly depicted and the protagonist lives with the trauma caused by that movie.

Equally dangerously, the story when filtered through the Hollywood lens, is always a story of krapitalist enabling and Wite middle class, Wealth-hoarding. Indian Owning class visions of success, colonization and hoarding are held up as the softly critiqued, rarely questioned dream that we all need to aspire to..

“Don’t let Grandma make a you a slave,” Now that he has a taste of the capitalist wealth-hoarding dream, Balram’s character in White Tiger is no longer engaged in eldership, indigenous community remittances, which is basic interdependence practiced by poor people in the diaspora across Mama Earth and now undermines,, disrespects and talks shit about the entire Sheroism of a matriarchal led family surviving through absolute horror of a scamlord-led Slave creating class in their tiny town, where he is from.

In fact Balrams big “liberatory/revolutionary character move in the movie (spoiler alert) i.e, killing his wealth-hoarding, more user-friendly “master” which enables him to get access to millions of dollars to launch his own business, means his whole family in the village will be wiped out. And although he is conflicted about this impossible situation, he decides to go for that choice as it means he is “free” and its all ok because he has become a better, nicer wealth-hoarding boss, someone who actually supports the people he runs over and accidentally kills in his driver business, 

There is a line in White Tiger “The Brown Man and the Yellow Man will lead the future,” and refers to the notion that POC led krapitalism will save us all.. with no critique of how it is still krapitalism, meant to exploit, hoard, displace, and NEVER share or re-distribute, no matter what color it is. This dynamic is beautifully unpacked in Jared Ball’s book the Myth and Propaganda of Black Buying Power.

And don’t get it twisted, im not utopicizing indigenous family businesses, village, campesino, poverty, angry, bossy, powerFULL matriarchs and patriarchs who do desperate measures to stay alive like Balram’s grandmother’s character, who forced Balram to work in the tea shop as a kid and give up his White Tiger education dream.

I am lifting this critique up as a poverty skola who had to drop out of school in the 6th grade to take care of my mama and work as a vendor on the streets so we could barely survive in a micro-business. This was not fun or cute and my mama was fierce and we were constantly in deep poverty and struggling with endless homelessness and criminalization. But we came out of it together, my mama was not left to be ghettoized, warehoused or destroyed. Mama didnt leave me in a foster home, even though survival was really hard, and instead together without any use of fake bootstraps narratives we survived, in coalition with other poor people, poor artists, media makers, writers and poets to live into a poor people revolution called POOR Magazine and lift up our own stories into a theory of survival and resistance and self-determination we call Poverty Scholarship. 

What i am critiquing is the fact that while we disrespect and destroy our own mamaz and elders and cultures and villages, and by any means cultural survival methods we lift up, love up and fetishize the concept of wealth-hoarding, scam-lording, and land -stealing as the solution to our collective happiness. 

Like Balram, in the soft- Krapitalist hero narrative, we were told in the delicate story arc- that its ok if his entire family was killed, so that a nicer, gentler krapitalist entity ( his business) could be born.

In Nomadland, CorpRAPe Amonstrazon is barely “seen” as the CorpRape monsters they are who enable and cause the destruction of entire towns economies, through their push to “order everything on-line”  and falsely cheap costs, their absolute Unsafe and violently un-supportive work conditions, lack of benefits and their enabling and causing of homelessness through their meager wages, things that fierce Amonstrazon workers are striking for right now as this story goes to print as AmonstraZon keeps colonizing land, lives and work so their is no room for anything or anyone else.

Instead Amonstrazon is just seen, sort of benignly, as one of the places Fern works, launched with a weird “safety” training, like amazon EVER worries about their employees or their insanely unsafe working conditions. But Nomadland filmmaker Chloe Zhao would not know that or fight for that, cause she has never worked at amazon to survive. 

Out of the mouth of one of the three actually houseless characters who played themselves, there is a soft edited down critique of krapitalism and accumulation, but then  Van life is utopicized and fetishized and instead of seen as what it is , which is responsible for the death of houseless people all across the US, due to poLice sweeps, endless ticketing, exposure and harassment by “owners” There is exactly one time in the movie that Fern’s character actually gets asked to leave from the parking lot she is in. Which is also absolutely so untrue, as a houseless person who among other things slept in broke-down cars when me and mama were lucky enough to have one, I can tell you it was a constant battle to not be seen, ticketed, arrested, or worse of all “towed” 

In addition the disturbing aspect of two of the main characters in Nomadland being depicted as a “choice” to be houseless is a whole other critique specific to krapitalism lies of success and support, And this is where amerikkklan cult of independence, specifically wite middle-class culture which has pervaded even POC families,  which demands a constant move away from your elders , your adult children, your siblings as a measure of your success and sanity, only to feed the ongoing gentriFUKation and away nation of colonial colleges and the Dorm industrial complex and beyond, which we all have pounded into us from birth, 

Many houseless elder, disabled women have adult children who are all pimped and played into the aforementioned “away-nation” so they dont reach out to their adult children and the adult children dont reach out to hosue , live inter-dependently with their elders, because they have been sold and told on the concept of their elder-ness being a “burden” and elders being time-consuming and annoying and keeping them from more krapitalist pursuits – a crucial narrative of krapitalism – to keep a mobile workforce and everyone constantly renting over-priced apartments and “buying” hoarding mama earth and feeding the elder dependent ghettos (Senior citizen homes)  

People aren’t encouraged to live interdependently or support their families as a village, conversely if that does happen, folks are labeled “failures” by family members if they stay at home, live with relatives, their mamas, their communities. Jokes and aspersions and insults are routinely told about people for living inter-generationally. Which cultivates and relies on the inherent shame held in the hearts of people who are houseless. 

“I’m not homeless, im houseless,” Fern says to a young daughter of a friend in the movie, not proudly as a poverty skola who has managed to live houselessly on her own skills, but embarrassedly, defending the fact that she isnt a bum, because her friend offers her to move in with them.

The crimes of about us without us media and art are many, from the poverty, elder skola resistance of the International Hotel in San Francisco’s Manilatown district to the life of Harriet Tubman- ourstories just continue to get told and sold by people with more resources, power and access. The Fall of the I-Hotel, a powerful documentary produced by Manilatown’s own Curtis Choy, rooted and informed by the community of Manilatown was created and not given anywhere enough acclaim, while a  well-funded theatre company ACT based in SF staged a play about Manilatown without Manilatown. Similarly, POOR’s own Leroy Moore has been making the connections between Harriet Tubman as a disability and poverty skola for years and the recent Hollywood treatment barely mentioned her disability.  

And then the CorpRape media endless about us without us jounalistic exposes and “Faces” campaigns about “homeless people” as Paul Boden, Poverty skola from WRAPhome. org calls it. Poverty Porn or Poverty voyeurism as my Mama Dee and me call it. These aren’t our stories told by us for us and more importantly for collective liberation. They are fodder for the ruling class and the Charity Industrial Complex.  

POOR Magazine/Prensa POBRE, like Abahlali baseMjondolo  (ShackDwellers Union) in South Africa, are militant on this issue, POOR Magazine has been teaching it and living it since 1995, creating art, theatre, poetry and movies by us with us, Hotel Voices, welfareQUEENS, and the most recent production on stage in 2019 Poverty Skolaz based on the teachings and lived poor people-led theory we call Poverty Scholarship. 

Laure McElroy, member of the welfareQUEEN’s project a powerful poor mama led art and cultural Theatre project of POOR Magazine

As well we have helped to launch the writing, art and resistance of countless independent poverty skolaz through the poor-people -led press known as POOR Press which has helped to lift up the visual and literary art work of Aztlan Press, Ace Robles, Krip Hop graphics novels, radio & video, Aunti Frances Moore, Bella Martrice Leroy Moore, Muteado Silencio, Angel Heart, Dee Allen, Bruce Allison,  – as well, our comrades and collaborators, The San Francisco Bay View Black Newspaper, Keith Jones , Min King William, Sean Ramsey, Kevin Epps, Emmit Thrower, and this povertyskola’s childrens book series with houseless, disabled protaginists and upcoming 2021-22 Theatre monologue series entitled Broken, 

Some powerful examples of filmic push-backs to Hollywood so white was the recent Fred Hampton movie Judas and the Black Messiah by Shaka King, which alot of revolutionaries were not happy with, but Fred Hampton Jr refused to give up and worked alongside the director to get the story of his father revolutionary Fred Hampton as right as they could.

In literary work when the American Dirt redunkulous amerikkklan dream book was released, the critique was led by powerFULL Latinx writers like JosiahLuis Alderete, and Matt Sedillo. In visual art, the powerful poster art launched by artists at Western Regional Advocacy Project, some of which as created by Ronnie Goodman, a street artist who lived and died houselessly on the street in San Francisco. POOR Magazine’s magazine’s, all filled with poor people-led art and liberation.

Original art for WRAPhome.org by Houseless Artist Ronnie Goodman

Grassroots powerful writers and artists like Ayodele Nzinga and the Lower Bottam Players, and Emmit Thrower, filmmaker of Where is Hope, on disability and poLice brutality.Kiss My Black Arts creating comeUnity based art and liberation. White Ally directors like Peter Menchini, Michele Grace Steinberg, for making movies as collaborators, resisting the othering of us about us- movies like Beyond Recognition on Sogorea Te Land Trust’s Indigenous land reclamation and Soar Torian Soar with Audrey Candy Corn, on the struggle of mamas who have lost their babies to gun violence. 

We the people, communities of color, workers, migrants, grandfathers and grandmothers, mamas, daddies, elders, babies, young folks, indigenous ancestors and aboriginal peoples who have spent time and love and sweat and tears and prayers caring for, working, dreaming and loving this community, this barrio, this street, 

and now only exist as a cultural memory, an “art-I-fact” a reference, a brush stroke, a photo, an exhibit, a dream to be studied, theorized, painted over, documented and/or forgotten and erased completely as though we were never here. 

(GENTRIFUKATION TOURS “R” US exists to document the theft, reclaim & take back the stolen spaces,  memories, images, pictures, lives and dreams. ….from the Art & Culture Chapter in Poverty Scholarship – Poor People-led Theory, Art, Words and Tears Across Mama Earth

About us Without us Media, art, words and cultural work, also acts as dangerous a tool of gentriFukation and removal. I have written countless stories on these connections which continue today and in POOR Magazine’s case one of the main reasons we launched the cultural poetry liberation theatre called GentriFUKation Tours R US…., 

In the end poor, houseless, disabled, indigenous communities are a multi-verse of art, and love and thrival and resistance. We actually have our own theories and powerFULL art and media and solutions, we are already creating self-determined community run media and art projects, and that media needs to be seen, respected and honored for what it is Art, Truth and self-determination. By us With Us.

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Worker in NYC cooperative Up & Go

Newsom Twists and Turns Against Worker Protections

Earlier this year we at Women Rising Radio posted a short article lauding the California governor’s announcement of  a commitment to support the state’s substantial population of undocumented and essential frontline workers, during the Covid-19 pandemic.   Governor Newsom said: 

“We feel a deep sense of gratitude for people that are in fear of deportation but are still  addressing the essential needs of tens of millions of Californians.  And that’s why I’m proud  as governor to be the first state to announce a program for direct disaster assistance to those individuals, a total of $125 million.” 

Since we published that piece, I as the author have wondered what proportion of that $125 million has actually been spent on the ground, in beneficial support for the undocumented doing the critical work to maintain us all, in this chaotic time. 

I haven’t been able to do that investigation, but Women Rising Radio is broadcasting program titled “Women Challenge Capitalism”, in which we visit with domestic workers spearheading workers’ cooperatives in New York City.   Those women, while they are not undocumented, faced exploitation and physical endangerment cleaning residences, until they formed cleaning cooperatives to protect them and their work. 

Domestic workers in the USA, primarily women and people of color, are excluded from OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) regulations and other protections offered workers.   The California state legislature just recently passed SB 1257,  to remedy that problem.  The bill removed the exclusion of domestic workers from CAL/OSHA, and gave them the same basic safety protections as other workers across the state, such as health and safety training, protective equipment, and legal protection against retaliation if they need to advocate for their own health and safety. at work. 

The bill was authored by Senator Maria Elena Durazo, and co-sponsored by Equal Rights Advocates, the California Domestic Workers’ Coalition, Worksafe, and the California Employment Lawyers Association.    

SB 1257 went to the desk of Governor Gavin Newsom  for signing   –   and he vetoed it.   Why?!

In his veto statement he claimed that “…new laws in this area must recognize that the places where people live cannot be treated in the exact same manner as a traditional workplace or worksite from a regulatory perspective.”  Newsom claims that homeowners and renters lack some sort of “expertise” to follow the regulations. 

How complicated can those regulations possibly be?  They  would have been developed by an advisory committee of  owners and workers, to cover the needs of 300,000 domestic  workers, cleaners, caregivers, gardeners and others.  Surely the committee would have been able to tailor the protective regulations to the needs of both owners and workers. 

There’s a smelly rat here… domestic workers desperately need the regulations and protections that CAL/OSHA can provide, and what is Newsom really saying here?  He is saying that “private property” takes priority over the safety of workers.  

That smelly rat can grow and grow, very fat indeed.  If corporations can claim  –  as they do  –  that they are to be classed legally as “persons”, then what is to prevent them from claiming that they also should be exempt from OSHA regulations?   

This veto makes no sense whatsoever.   And it is very disappointing that evidently, this governor is willfully blind to the urgent situation of California’s domestic workers  –  particularly in the time of Covid 19. 

“I am very angry, very sad because I know that my work is worthy and deserves respect,” said Socorro Diaz, who has worked cleaning houses in California for 17 years.                      

Socorro Diaz and many other domestic workers are facing dire threats to their health and safety, and they wonder how they will struggle to protect themselves against the coronavirus when they are exposed to it at work, in peoples’ homes; on ranches and vineyards destroyed by fire and filled with toxic smoke and ash; and plagued with other dangers, for example concerning the mental health of people with whom caregivers work. 

Maegan Ortiz, executive director of the Institute of Popular Education of Southern California (IDEPSCA), said, “What are they going to tell women who can die from coronavirus because they contracted it at work?” Ortiz questioned. “Or if an accident happens? That’s why owners have home insurance. There are many regulations that the owners have  to follow.”

City University of New York found that more than 75% of  700 California domestic workers have had a work-related  injury, illness, wage theft incident or other harm in this past year.

Unprotected on the Job: How Exclusion from Safety and Health Laws Harms California Domestic Workers,” also found that 1 in 4 workers said they contracted a contagious disease at work in the past year. A similar number have experienced verbal or physical assault from employers or clients.

Dismaying hypocrisy from a governor thought to be pro-immigrant, pro-worker, pro-women… and in light of that desertion I am wondering again, just where that $125 million has gone – did it reach any undocumented immigrants at all? Shame and disgrace it if didn’t.

https://calmatters.org/california-divide/2020/10/governor-vetoes-bill-domestic-workers/


New at Women Rising Radio’s Featured Essays Department!

A TRANSFORMATION OF CONSCIOUSNESS: GOVERNOR NEWSOM RECOGNIZES THE DIGNITY OF UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS

April 15th is a day that the undocumented must dread more than any of us who pay taxes.  Out of their minuscule wages received for long hours of often backbreaking work in farming, food factory labor, domestic labor and caregiving, they must pay taxes to the United States government.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy released a report in February 2016, stating that 11 million undocumented workers in the United States are paying annually an estimated amount of $11.64 billion in state and local taxes, “on average an estimated 8 percent of their incomes.”

California’s governor finally  – and miraculously in a nation that largely ignores the poor and marginalized – Governor Newsom finally recognized the undocumented for doing labor that, in the time of Covid-19, is considered to be essential, frontline and indispensable.

Newsom recognized and honored undocumented workers in California  – and by inference in the USA  – on April 15th, normally “tax day”, underlining the irony of the undocumented being forced to support the US government but getting almost no services from that same government.

Said Newsom, “We feel a deep sense of gratitude for people that are in fear of deportation but are still addressing the essential needs of tens of millions of Californians.  And that’s why I’m proud as governor to be the first state to announce a program for direct disaster assistance to those individuals, a total of $125 million.”

The program will assist 150,000 undocumented workers in California with support payments of $500 to $1,000, depending on their circumstances.  Granted there are about a million and a half of these essential workers in California alone, and Newsom is quite aware of that.  But the recognition, the swift action to give relief, and the gratitude expressed by the governor of California are a huge breath of fresh, healthy air.

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NEW SHORT ESSAY ON “JINWAR”,  A DEMOCRATIC WOMEN’S ECO-VILLAGE IN NORTHERN SYRIA, THREATENED BY THE INCURSION OF THE TURKISH MILITARY:

Solidarity with a Kurdish Women’s Eco-village Community in Northern Syria

In early October 2019, when the US administration announced that it was abandoning its Kurdish allies in northern Syria, and  leaving about 1,000 US troops trapped there to face the onslaught of the Turkish military, Women Rising Radio got an alert from a conference in Italy, where Syrian Kurdish women appealed to their supporters worldwide to come to their aid.  They were, and are, directly in the path of the violence in northern Syria, and the  eco-village paradise they created there is also in dire danger.  Women Rising Radio  has featured women working with eco-villages, peace villages, and women’s activist cooperatives across the globe.  We are in solidarity with the women of JINWAR, the feminist and democratic eco-village in northern Syria.   And we want all of our listeners to know about JINWAR.   Perhaps among you there are organizers who can give assistance to this great undertaking  –  helping to protect it.  Here is an excerpt from a letter delivered to the conference in Italy, from the women of JINWAR themselves:

“JINWAR is a place where women are able to live in a communal way and autonomously raise and educate their children freely and without huge daily influence of the dominant male mentality. Many brave women and men fought and gave their lives, in order to liberate this territory and make the possibility to build a new democratic system inspired by the concept of Democratic Confederalism. This system is based on ideas of Abdullah Ocalan concerning women’s freedom and self-administration of different ethnic and social groups, which are living here side by side together. Our village JINWAR is a part and in the same time a result of this revolutionary process. Furthermore, it is also a practical example, how we, as women, can create alternatives in fields as communal living, ecology and economy. During this process many things have been built here in Rojava:  Women are organizing autonomously in every city. Examples for this are “Kongreya Star” and “Mala Jin” (Women’s houses), where women are gathering and developing solutions for problems of the whole society. In the “Mala Jin”  women are supporting each other in solving conflicts in families.   Women’s leadership and participation in decision making processes is also a key component of the direct democracy model being enacted in Rojava. Through that women could gain a new position in society and in politics. This achievement can be an example for all the women in the world.”

The women of JINWAR who drafted this letter go on to describe    the dangers facing them and their visionary enterprise:

”You could see what we have built up: the houses made of clay, in which we live together, the school, the healing center for natural medicine which is supposed to be opened soon, our bakery, the garden, the fields, all the trees, which grow bigger and bigger and all of all our common life, far away from oppression and violence, based upon our will to live together as free women and children.  …All this is now under direct threat by the Turkish State, which openly launches attacks against Northern Syria. Erdogan’s plan is to extinguish the Kurdish people and to occupy our region. We can see the results of this politics in Afrîn, which has  been occupied by Turkey, DAIŞ and other Jihadist groups. The situation in Afrîn turned out really bad for the people, especially for the women,  whose rights were taken away, who suffer from violence and rape, who are sold and treated as slaves. The attacks and another occupation by the Turkish state in other parts of  Northern Syria could mean the same brutal exploitation for  women here.”

The women of JINWAR are calling out to the people of the world to raise our voices and assist them in rescuing all that   can be saved, from the violence of war:

“In the moment we are writing this letter different villages and places around have been bombed and many people have already been killed. Our village, our society, our lives and the life and future of all people here, especially women and children, is under urgent threat.   We, as women and children from JINWAR call you to raise up your voices and take action against this war. Use all the possibilities you have to spread information and raise awareness about the Turkish occupation politics!   Don’t stay silent! Let’s stand up together for free life and for our common future!”

Please send out this plea to all who can be of assistance to the brave and visionary women of JINWAR.


PRO-CHOICE ACTIVIST LAURIE BERTRAM ROBERTS TAKES ON MISSISSIPPI!   BRAVE ACTIVIST.

https://www.thenation.com/article/laurie-roberts-mississippi-abortion-childcare/

Women Rising Radio‘s program on reproductive health here: 


Democrats and Democracy:  Chicago 1968.  

Lynn
by Lynn Feinerman, Producer, Women Rising Radio

A Killer Kulture

As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Democratic National Convention held in Chicago in 1968, the Democratic National Committee is set to hold a significant meeting  –  in Chicago  –  August 24th  and through the weekend, to consider election issues that have been critical for a long time.

That coincidence of time and place evoked in me deep memories of the debacle I witnessed 50 years ago.

April 1968 was “the cruelest month”, in the words of T.S. Eliot, blooming in red, black and blue with the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,   undisputed king of the civil rights movement, and a hero of mine.

With that spring of 1968 came an offer from my college professor, to join a group of student activists headed to Mississippi for a summer of registering voters of color  – mostly African Americans blocked from exercising rights enshrined for them in the Voting Rights Act.  I wanted to go with that group.

By 1968 I’d been a foot soldier in the nationwide movement against the war in Vietnam for a few years.  I’d helped to swell the ranks of the hundreds of thousands marching in New York and Washington.  I’d participated in a reading of the trendy play MacBird!  with  Smith and Amherst students  –  as a witch chanting “double, double toil and trouble, Burn Baby Burn and Cauldron Bubble…”    I went on to organize teach-ins against the war.

But I hadn’t devoted much time to focusing on civil rights and voting rights.  So I called my parents, who always supported my student political activities both morally and financially.   “I’m going with a Smith group to register voters in Mississippi!”

After an unexpected, stony silence at the other end of the phone conversation, my father finally responded, “Over my dead body.”

“You’re not going there, Lynn,” my mother added.  “You have no idea of the danger involved.”   They pointedly reminded me of the gruesome deaths of three CORE field activists, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman,  and Michael Schwerner just 4 years previously during  “Freedom Summer”  of 1964.

My parents linked forces to demand that I do something else.  When the conversation ended I was, to use a phrase of the time, “hung up”.   I couldn’t go without their financial support, and I clearly had neither that nor their emotional support.

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 “Nuclear is NOT an Option  

by Women Rising Radio Producer Lynn Feinerman

Published in the Tikkun magazine Daily Blog:

http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2017/04/20/nuclear-is-not-an-option/

Here is the article.  Join the Women’s March to Ban the Bomb:  June 2017

Digging in my tiny Jewish library this Passover season, I came across a short contribution to a published symposium, made by Rabbi Nehemia Polen, a well-known scholar, author and congregational rabbi.

Polen wrote his short piece in 1986, for the literary publication  New Traditions.  But his words were ominously current for me, discovered as if by what we Jews call “hashgachah pratit”,  a kind of destined timeliness.

He was considering the phrase in Jewish prayer liturgy,  “hem yevoshu  ve’yehatu mi’gevuratam”,  translated  “may the nations of the world be put to shame and crushed despite their power.”   He meditated on the meaning of this phrase, and its intention in prayer:

“Then it hit me.  Ever since nuclear weapons entered the world,  with the  potential to destroy not only the victim but the attacker as well, the nations of the world have indeed become terrified of their own power.  A sense of shame does indeed adhere to this power.    The logic of power in history has reached its extreme,  self-negating limit…”

Polen perceives this part of Jewish prayer as “a lengthy meditation on the shamefulness   of power”.   I’ve been considering it throughout this Passover season.   And the world’s so-called leaders  have given me   plenty of evidence corroborating that shamefulness.

This past weekend, as we observed both Passover and Easter worldwide, and likely other holy days not given so much publicity;  as we asked for freedom and commemorated the death of a free-thinking Rabbi,  we watched and listened as Trump and Un of North Korea rattled nuclear sabers at one another, threatening on one side to send “armadas”  –  sailboats from Spain?

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