Sunday, April 26, 2009

Barbara Jordan at Bowie High School

On Friday, April 24, at the same time that the statue of Barbara Jordan was being unveiled at the University of Texas at Austin, I was across town at Bowie High School with one of my Nonmilitary Options for Youth colleagues, Iraq war vet, Hart Viges. As I've noted before in this blog, one of the peace education tools we've been using this year during our school visits is a "Peace Wheel of Fortune" that includes people, some more famous than others, who have used nonviolence to advance freedom and justice. Barbara Jordan is on our peace wheel, and it was great to be able to tell students that her statue's unveiling ceremony was taking place at UT even as we spoke.
The idea of the peace wheel is that students spin it, and if they can tell us something about the person on the wheel where it stops, they choose one of our fabulous prizes. We give students info sheets after they've tried it, and often students will do a quick study and come back to try again. At Crockett HS during a career fair this spring, one student was discouraged that she knew so few of the peacemakers on the wheel, so she took an info sheet, sat down and studied it for about 20 minutes, then came back and went around the wheel, telling us something about each of the people on it, and doing it perfectly.
Consistently, in our use of the wheel, students like it and are eager to call up what they know about figures like MLK, Gandhi, Cesar Chavez and others. They seem to like learning about people on the wheel they don't know. They're surprised to see MLK next to artists like John Lennon or the hip-hop group, Flobots, for example. They're impressed when they read about Julia Butterfly Hill living for two years in a tree in order to prevent it from being cut down.
None of the students who tried the wheel at Bowie were familiar with what Barbara Jordan had done. Only one teacher who came by and tried the wheel knew about her.
As I've noted before, students aren't able to say much about what MLK and Gandhi did either, and very few know about Cesar Chavez, even though they know we have a street named for him. So, through using the wheel, this is our main finding: peace history is not widely taught, yet kids are interested in it and want to know more. How will they know what the alternatives to war are if they don't learn what alternatives have been and are being used?
Long, long overdue, there is finally a statue of a woman on the UT campus. I'm thrilled that the first is Barbara Jordan. I'm hoping this will increase even younger students' knowledge of what she actually did in her life so they can learn from her example.
Here are some photos and a short description about our experience at Bowie on Friday.

Yesterday, I went to see the Barbara Jordan statue, and she was attracting a steady stream of admirers. The two plaqes on either side that contain some of her quotes are well done, and her statements resonate today.
photos by makingpeace

Monday, April 20, 2009

Tea Party Poopers at the PO

Well, it certainly was an interesting Tax Day. The Sarah Palin/Rick Perry crowd hit the streets in Austin with messages that clearly represented public frustration with huge US debt and wasteful spending that has caused job losses, business closures, home foreclosures and lots of serious anxiety. Hey - I'm glad that people are using their First Amendment rights, but for heaven's sake -- where were these folks when the Bush Administration was throwing their resources into the black hole of unnecessary war and occupation? What gobbles up most of our tax dollars? Military spending -- the biggest elephant in the room not discussed at the tea party!
One sign featured in a photo of the tea party that was printed in the Austin American-Statesman read, ""I'll keep my money and guns; you can keep the change." Hanging so tightly onto your guns has consequences, folks. Guns will not feed you, and they won't pay the rent. In fact, spending your money on guns will deprive you of rent and food. Tanks, mortar rounds, predator drones and cluster bombs will bleed you dry, increasing the motivation for retaliatory attacks and eroding overall security, not improving it. As Quaker founder, George Fox, reportedly replied to William Penn when Penn asked if he would have to give up his weapon, "Wear thy sword as long as thou canst."
You know, I'm also thinking that some of Texas Governor Rick Perry's sentiments echo pretty closely those of the hardline Islamic fundamentalists he likely regards as enemies. Perry is quoted in an Austin American-Statesman story saying, "I believe that our federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens and its interference with the affairs of our state." (Is he talking wire-tapping?)
In another article in the same issue, an Afghan cleric named Mohammed Hussein Jafaari is quoted saying, "We Afghans don't want a bunch of NATO commanders and foreign ministers telling us what to do."
Why would Governor Perry suggest that Texas should function as its own independent nation and at the same time champion the corporate and military occupations of sovereign nations abroad? Good grief!
Above are a few photos of some of us tea party-poopers who had a demo at the downtown post office on Tax Day evening, where we annually make our case that the largest budget item of the federal tax pie is the real culprit in our tea-tering economy. Freeing those resources to fund what humans need to live would be freedom that really meant something.

Monday, April 6, 2009

On April 4th, thousands turn out for Beyond War march in NYC

Saturday, April 4th, was the 41st anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., and it was the 42nd anniversary of the watershed "Beyond Vietnam" speech that MLK gave at the Riverside Church in NYC linking the civil rights movement with the antiwar movement.
To commemorate the day, United For Peace and Justice organized a march in NYC this Saturday that drew thousands to walk on Wall Street. Here are some photos from the flickr site of UFPJ's Mike Hearington, along with a brief report from UFPJ.

This past Saturday, April 4, in honor of Dr. King and his visionary 'Beyond Vietnam' speech in 1967, 10,000 people marched on Wall Street to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to demand a larger investment in the needs of our communities. Labor, veterans, students, immigrant rights groups, military families, faith-based people, women's groups, and community groups joined us for a lively, vibrant march.
Joining us, too, was Rev. James Lawson, a leader to us all and co-worker with Dr. King. Speaking before the start of the march, Lawson said to marchers,
'In the spirit of Dr. King and the movement for equality and justice of the fifties and sixties, I say if we want peace to blossom, we must eradicate poverty, racism, sexism, violence, and greed in the United States. Peace cannot come by crying peace. Peace can only begin to emerge when justice does.'

Lawson also bemoaned the fact that 90 million working Americans 'hover in poverty' everyday. He said, 'The greatest impetus for stimulus to the economy is that those 90 million people receive wages that would allow them to sustain themselves and their families. Nothing would be more explosive than that kind of stimulus.'
Rev. Lawson led the march -- with IVAW leader Perry O'Brien, Rev. Brad Braxton of Riverside Church, and Youth & Militarism Organizer for Fellowship of Reconciliation, Shauen Pearce -- holding the 'Beyond War, A New Economy Is Possible' banner,
UFPJ's ongoing campaign to link war and the economy. The lead banner was followed by veterans and military families, who held a banner, 'End the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan!'
The 10,000 demonstrators marched past the Federal Reserve building, surrounded the New York Stock Exchange, and ended in Battery Park for a Peace and Justice Fair. Despite intense wind conditions, along with the cold, marchers spent the next couple hours talking to members of more than 30 groups, who were tabling at the Fair, coordinating ways to continue our work for peace and justice.
-- Synopsis posted at
UFPJ , photos by Mike Hearington

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Million Musician March videos online

Local videographer and musician, Ric Sternberg, put together three really nice videos from the March 21 Million Musician March for Peace led by Instruments for Peace through the downtown of the Live Music Capital of the World (during SXSW). Check out these vids! Here's his intro and the links:

Part 3 of the 2009 Million Musician March trilogy is now up and running at

It consists of an invocation by Wavy Gravy, followed by excerpts from songs by the always amazing Guy Forsythe, Carolyn Wonderland and Shelley King. These are 3 of the most powerful and soulful voices that this town full of good voices has to offer. Their choices of songs are inspirational - gospel-freedom songs that take me back to my days walking the line with CORE. And they ROCK. Please check them out.

And then, if you haven't done so already, go back and view parts 1 & 2, the pre-march and the march itself - lots of fun (IMHO). Each of the pieces runs close to 10 minutes, which is the YouTube limit. The 3 together make up one complete 30 minute musical documentary.

Here's part 1:

And here's part 2:



KBR loses Texas contract due to negligence in Iraq

Good news: The KBR road contract has been withdrawn from consideration by Hays County commissioners -- thanks to serious concerns raised by Iraq war vets Bryan Hannah and Greg Foster (see previous post) about KBR's record in Iraq.