Tag Archives: Activism

What it Takes to Build Movements

I find it interesting to hear the sentiment that one person built or builds a movement.  I see it differently.

Throughout history there have been movements for numerous causes.  They have usually grown out of the concepts, ideas and inspiration of a collection of individuals or one individual who dedicated their lives/life to ending injustice. The ideas blossom into inspiration which in turn creates a domino effect of various forms of the ideas into movements. Sometimes it is hard to differentiate between movements and organizations, so we have to dig a little deeper to discover the inspiration behind the creation of the organization.

Here are a some examples of movements that have grown out of concepts, ideas and inspiration, with links provided to read more details.

Food Not Bombs

Food Not Bombs was born out of the concept  of feeding people, not war. FNB started after the May 24, 1980 protest to stop the Seabrook Nuclear power station north of Boston in New Hampshire in the United States. The people that started Food Not Bombs shared their first full meal outside the Federal Reserve Bank on March 26, 1981 during the stock holders meeting of the Bank of Boston to protest the exploitation of capitalism and investment in the nuclear industry.” Today there are Food Not Bombs groups all over the world.

Boycott Movements

Boycotting, Divesting and Sanctions are concepts that have long histories in a variety of forms,such as Fossil Fuel Divestment, the British Anti-Apartheid Movement / InternalResistance to Apartheid .  The original “Boycott Movement” was founded in London in 1959 at a meeting of South African exiles and their supporters. Members included Peter Koinange, Claudia Jones, Steve Naidoo and Ros Ainslie. The Boycott/Divestment/Sanction (BDS) movement was organized in 2005 by the Palestinian BDS National Committee.

Green New Deal

Green New Deal is a concept that was given prominence by journalist Thomas L. Friedman. Green New Deal has taken on a variety of platforms by numerous groups and individuals, inlcuding Van Jones, Jill Stein, Colin Hines (Green New Deal Group),The Green Party of the United States and The European Green Party.

Non-Violence

Mahatma Ghandi is credited for the inspiration that ended the colonial occupation of India. He gained notoriety due to his British education and ability to articulate to the issue of non-compliance with the demands of the colonizers.  His vision and bravery inspired a movement of actions by the people that ultimately resulted the end of British rule. His influence is the catalyst for many peace and justice organizations today.

Civil Rights

Civil Rights Movements are numerous throughout history. An example is the Civil Rights Movement for African-Americans in the United States in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is largely credited for leading the civil rights movement from 1954 until his death in 1968. His visibility and outspokenness influenced and resulted in a mass movement of non-violent direct action by millions. Dr. King’s vision is carried on by numerous organizations and individuals promoting the concept of non-violence in activism.

Dr. King also organized the Poor People’s Campaign  which is an economic justice and  human rights campaign for poor Americans of diverse backgrounds, spurring a movement that has grown and continues today.

The list is endless. There is the Occupy Movement , Black Lives Matter, Human Rights Movement, Animal Rights Movement,  Victory Gardens, etc. Again these are just a few examples, for the purposes of invoking thoughts on what it takes to “build a movement”.   Not one person for sure.

An example in my own life is an annual event that I help organize, inspired by a similar event in another part of the county – our Annual Community Coat Exchange – the day after Thanksgiving, which (strategically) is also Buy Nothing Day (another movement that inspired the Coat Exchange nationwide). We have been doing this each year for 13 years.  If we all do our part – our small part – in the larger scheme of things, we are inspiring ever increasing social justice movements globally. It takes many people to build and idea into a movement.

What are you doing these days in your part of movement-building?

Aging: A Continuum of Growth, Part 1

My growing up culture involved living and working around the elderly. My grandmother, a nurse, administrated a county nursing home for the low income elderly and before that she administrated a home for the indigent aged. I have beautiful memories of accompanying her on her rounds and I loved conversing with the residents. Through my grandmother’s actions I learned to appreciate the stories, passion and general companionship of my aged friends. Most of all I learned respect for people of all ages. My mother, also a nurse, upheld and modeled this culture as I grew up. I actually ended up working my way through college as a nurse’s assistant in a nursing home. Even for the most non-functional bed-ridden patients, I would treat them with respect as I cared for them, including talking to them even if they could not talk back. I would often volunteer to work holidays in double shifts so that my colleagues with children could have some time off – and I loved the work and being with the residents during those holidays when their families did not show up to visit.
In my first 20 years of life, I experienced life, love, compassion, energy, illness, dementia and death. Most of all I experienced the model of intergenerational relations that influenced my continued growth.

Fast forward to my adulthood where I have spent all of my career working with youth, the other end of the spectrum. Through my experiences, I have learned to love and respect the energy, passion, love, creativeness, inquisitiveness and yes the rebellion – along with the challenges they face – of my students (many of them are grown up now and have children – in some cases adult children!). I have loved teaching them, providing housing and food for some of them who were abandoned, playing with them, getting to know their families, helping them apply for college and find jobs and becoming their friends as adults and watching them continue to grow.

Early in my activism life, I came to know and respect Indigenous Elders. Within the community of my Indigenous friends, I have experienced a wealth of knowledge and passion for the life that is given to us from our Mother. I have witnessed the culture of appreciation, community and respect between the generations.

I am blessed. I have a rich repertoire of memories and experiences that span the age spectrum that continue to shape me as a person. As I grow into elder-hood, I appreciate the lenses I have been afforded through my experiences. One of the most important things I have learned, and have vastly improved upon but still struggle with sometimes in moments of my own heated emotions, is the art of listening, even when I don’t agree. And not just to listen, but to sit back and reflect on what I have heard. Often It is not easy to do this.

My hopes and desires regarding the figurative passing of the torch is that we all – of all ages – work together and harness the collective love, passion, energy, wisdom, caring, ideas and fortitude to continue the work to protect life on our planet.

Ch..ch…changes

I like to think of myself and my family as responsible shoppers and users of products.  After all, we make our own laundry and bath soap.  We grow a lot of our own food.  We shop at thrift stores.  We hang our clothes out to dry on the line in warm weather instead of using the dryer.  We do not drive to work. We recently invested on solar panels. We do not use pesticides or herbicides in our yard. We do not shop at Walmart and seek to patronize locally owned businesses. The list goes on.

But it’s not enough. Still, changes need to be made.

I have been an online customer of Amazon since 2003.  That’s 15 years of online shopping.  From the convenience of my home I have ordered books (I love my Kindle), gifts, household and personal items at great prices and with Prime membership I’ve save a lot on shipping costs.  If I need to return something I have been very satisfied with the easy process of doing that.  This way of shopping has suited my schedule as I can shop at any time of the day without driving.   A win-win.

Or is it?

Over the last few years I have become increasingly aware of some things about Amazon that have created a bad taste in my mouth.  I learned about a year ago that Amazon will build a facility in Salt Lake City.  What an economic advantage!  More jobs, right?  Right, except…..the jobs are 30 hours a week at 10 dollars an hour.  Sound familiar?  What other huge corporation does this?

I have also learned the Amazon recently bought Whole Foods.  I have read that Amazon is quickly becoming an equal competitor of Walmart in the acquisition of grocery stores and other companies.  Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, is the richest person on the planet, with a worth of $100 Billion. Recent predictions are that there will be around 500,000 employees by the end of the year.  If you take just half of the wealth of Bezos and divide it between 500,000 employees (future number predicted), that comes to roughly 100,000 dollars in wealth per employee in wealth. Imagine if Bezos gave that half of his wealth to his employees….

An August 2017 article in USA today describes the job growth that Amazon is creating.  But….

The breakneck growth of Amazon is “upending” the retail industry, which accounts for one out of every eight jobs in the USA, says Stacy Mitchell, co-author of a recent report that concluded Amazon eliminated about 149,000 more jobs in retail than it has created in its warehouses.

“Amazon pays its warehouse employees 15% less on average than the prevailing wage of other warehouse workers in the same region, and it is experimenting widely with ways, such as temporary and on-demand employment, to erode job security,” Mitchell says.

The article also describes the troubled history Amazon has with the labor force, resulting in labor disputes.

Amazon is also creating its own shipping business, which will have a significant negative impact on the US Postal Service, which has been a contracted delivery service for Amazon.

The increasing information that is exposed about Amazon’s continued expansion in taking over the retail world at the expense of human beings and their ability to support themselves has resulted in my decision that I will not longer support Amazon beginning NOW (actually a few days ago….). So, I have made a personal significant change for 2018 and hopefully forever in my shopping habits.

I have unsubscribed from my Prime membership. I have deleted my payment method.   I have made sure that all my ebooks (most which I got for free) for my Kindle have been downloaded to multiple devices, including on the hard drives on two computers. I will no longer purchase anything from Amazon. I will be deleting my account once I am sure there are no lingering things that need to be resolved.

I have been investigating and have found socially responsible book stores that have ebooks available for my devices, including open source and activist bookstores.

While I still have work to do to change some of my habits overall that affect the planet, I feel good about no longer patronizing a retail giant that has no interest in the planet or all its life.

Goodbye Amazon. 

 

 

The Field Trip 10

tar-sands-arrests1

Detainees were put in shackles and transported to the county jail – two hours away.

June 17, 2016

I pledge allegiance To all life In its interdependent diversity.
And to the planet Upon which it exists
One world, under the sky, Undividable,
With harmony and balance For all.

~ Tom King, 2001 

I went on a field trip with friends on June 11, 2016  to study the biodiversity of the open land adjacent to the Utah Tar Sands Mine. We ended up being arrested. We are dubbing ourselves “The Field Trip 10”.

This field trip was not a direct action with anticipated legal consequences.  This field trip is an annual family tradition. Plants are studied and data are recorded in a field journal.  Comparisons are made from the previous year to witness the impact of mining on the land.

The Intergenerational Campout has been held at PR Springs on the Tavaputs Plateau for four years.  The campout is designed for people of all ages to come together to experience the beauty of the land, reflect on the legacy of future generations, witness the threat to all life forms as a result of man’s destruction, and provide education on the effects of industry on those life forms. By holding this gathering in the heart of the land that is victimized by destruction, citizens experience the direct impact on every living thing.

“Our kinship with Earth must be maintained; otherwise, we will find ourselves trapped in the center of our own paved-over souls with no way out.”

Terry Tempest Williams, Finding Beauty in a Broken World

Read the rest of the story here.

 

 

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Using the word “never” in activism

As time passes I realize that using absolutes like "never" or "always" is pretty unrealistic.

A couple of years ago I was faced with having to get an emergency container of formula for my grandson because we forgot to bring it with us.  The only place around was Walmart.  So the decision had to be made:  Do I allow my grandson to go hungry because of my political aversion to this evil corporation?  Or do I (gulp) push my politics aside (which dictated that I never set foot, let alone spend money at, a Walmart) and spend the money on the formula my grandson needs to satisfy his hunger?

The answer was obvious, of course.

For a long time I told myself I would never take prescription drugs over herbal remedies, especially since my health insurance mandates that I order long term prescriptions from a corporate drug warehouse.   After a few years of elevated blood pressure and herbal remedies not working, I found myself no longer being willing to take the increased risk of heart attack by maintaining high blood pressure.  I now take prescription meds and have been able to stay in control of my bp.

Currently I find myself in a situation where I have to gulp again with regards to my political stance on the new airport security procedures of forcing passengers to either pass through a full body scanner and/or succomb to a complete pat down.  My situation:  my aging parents who live 2000 miles away from me.  My employment situation does not allow me the time to drive back and forth.  So I must use my resources to fly back and forth at least twice per year, sometimes 3 or 4.  I know people who say they will never fly as long as this fascist state of affairs is in place in our airports.  How I would love to be able,with conviction, say this also.  But it’s a gamble that I have to take – as to whether or not I will be waved through the regular scanner or have to participate in the heightened police state procedures now in place.  

I am not willing to sacrifice providing for/being with/seeing the loves of my life for my stance on issues.  I would never be able to forgive myself if my priority  was politics over family to the point where my use of absolutes prevented me from ever seeing them or providing for them.  I am not willing to sacrifice my health, safety or well-being or that of my family because of my position on related issues. 

It is unfortunate that our systems currently in place have our hands tied in certain situations.  But this does not equate to "giving in".  It equates to knowing that some circumstances must lend themselves to a willingness to adhere to current practices, policies and procedures (ineffective and unfair and unjust as they may be) which in my view should strengthen one’s resolve to work towards putting measures in place for the change we want to see for our world.

What I will continue to do is to be as vocal and outspoken as possible about the inequities of our political system, our healthcare system, the violation and invasion of our individual and personal rights, the degradation of our civil liberties.  What I will continue to do is to live my life according to  my values as much as possible, realizing that nothing is perfect or absolute and that is is ok to deviate every once in awhile to do what is necessary in my life – and to not feel guilty about it.  

The most important thing for me is that the loves of my life see me practice what I preach regularly and are proud of me for it.  I know I am setting an example and making a difference when this message is conveyed to me.  My son once wrote to me during a very difficult time in our lives:

I am thankful that you are helping us. You are truly a great woman and not just because you help us when we need it, but because everything about you and what you do is great.

You are caring, loving and you generally care about the welfare of others. For this I look up to you; you are a big role model in my life. If I can take even 25% of what you do and who you are to my life, I know I”ll be okay.

I love you very much, Mom.

I keep reminding myself of this whenever I find myself having to engage in even the smallest activity that is out of sync with my beliefs.

The larger issue, then, is the question of using absolutes in our activism.  Is it realistic to say "I will never" or "I will always"?  I don’t think so. Having  the mindset and fortitude to be as strong as possible in our stance on issues  is much more plausible, realizing that there will be times where exceptions have to be made.  The key to practicing what we preach is consistency in that practice (Consistency does not equal "always" or "never" unless sacrifices are willing to be made.)  Being vocal about unfair practices, boycotting businesses and organizations which employ those unfair practices as much as possible, engaging in the political process to effect change (which may include civil resistance/disobedience), living one’s life in accordance to one’s values on a daily basis with as close to 100% consistency as is humanly possible…..these are  things that set the example for others and are part of the larger ripple effect that will travel through generations as it builds momentum toward mass change for the good of our planet.

I will – almost always – remember this.

Si se puede! — Yes we can! – More Images from the March and Rally

(click image to enlarge)

Si se puede! — Yes we can! – Images from the March and Rally

These are videos I took at the Immigration Reform March and Rally on Sunday, March 21, 2010 in Salt Lake City: