by Cara Jensen
Connie and I were at the University City farmer’s market on Saturday, 17 July to raise awareness of our branch and provide information about WILPF. It was a beautiful overcast, slightly breezy day so we were pleased to find a peach tree nearby that provided some appropriate weights for our materials! We chose generalist brochures and sheets that emphasized the perspective of women, but thought we could easily have something more direct action/petition about state or national issues when needed. We had our “elevator speech” taped to our side of the table for easy reference <smile>. As we were set up near the entrance, we were able to greet everyone who walked by. We met someone from the St. Louis Food Bank who wanted our information to connect us into an effort she mentioned, and we also visited with a woman who was a member during the 1980s!! We hope to contact her for our centennial birthday party.
Overall it was successful, with people taking our cards and wanting to see our new website – if you see us at your next farmer’s market, please stop by to say hello!
by Cara Jensen
This is the name of a podcast I listened to recently from the 2013 Greenbelt Festival, given by Sami Awad. He is the executive director of Holy Land Trust, a Palestinian nonprofit organisation that works at both the grassroots and leadership levels in developing nonviolent approaches that aim to end the Israeli occupation and build a future founded on the principles of nonviolence, equality, justice, and peaceful coexistence.
A dear friend forwarded this to me after we were discussing my studies of nonviolence principles and the work towards justice, human rights and equality. It was spot on. What I really liked about his talk, was the steps that he took in his own life to liberate himself from the deep seated hatred and distrust of the Israeli occupiers. He told the audience that he had learned to look within himself to ask what he might do to change his relationship to the enemy, identifying the greater, all encompassing identity as humans beings.
Then he had to let go of the past, honoring it and learning from it, but not letting it control his present. Challenging himself to ask what is factual and what is opinion/generalization and freeing himself from the victim mentality was the next step. Breaking through both sides of those hardened identities is key to not seeing ourselves as a victim. He liberated himself from this mentality by ceasing to judge others and allowing their actions to control his reactions. Seeing the human underneath the actions, not demonizing and dehumanizing them.
Getting to know your enemy’s story was a next step, he doesn’t use this to excuse or condone their actions, but simply as a realization that each of us has experiences that shape how we react to situations. In a conflict, the enemy is the situation not the person. He said that it was only when he visited a concentration camp in Poland that he finally could understand the zeal behind “never again letting this happen” and how it has shaped the current Isreali sentiment. Listing without prejudice, you don’t have to agree, but just hearing the story allows for a development of trust and understanding.
He then spoke about healing the past, reconciliation, forgiveness; the need for healing the traumas of the past and how that is critical for building a future with the enemy that is not just one of compassion or charity, but mutual liberation, freedom and equality. Only by building a new unity of human oneness can the work succeed. Change doesn’t come from the action, or from above – the root of the conflict has to change, amd that he says happens through the spirit of love and compassion. Loving the enemy is a means to achieve goals and we must trust the power of love.
Listening to this has certainly challenged me to identify my “enemies”, or those who would be in conflict with me, and reflect on their story , not to excuse or condone their behavior,or to view them through the lens of judgement, but to see them as fully human, just as I am. I am working towards entering every interaction with a intentional approach of nonviolence, in the way I speak, think and even resist. I am working.
by Lynn Sableman
Today, I had a lovely lunch, on a protected porch, at the bustling Ferguson Brewing Company. It was a short ride from the “Healthy Flavor Community Garden”, where Erica Williams and Louise Collins and I had just completed two hours of gardening like we do every Tuesday morning. The garden, located in the Village of Riverview, in north St. Louis County, is one of two gardens Erica devotes herself to as part of the mission of her non profit, which she is the director of, A Red Circle. A Red Circle’s mission statement is, “The holistic betterment of our community; reversing the effects of racism one person and cause at a time.” A Red Circle’s current work is to help disinvested areas move from food deserts and food swamps, to healthy wholesome fresh food havens with activities that she hosts at the gardens. Father’s Day will feature four hours of live music. There is Art in the garden, too. The last Saturday of the month A Red Circle hosts the “Healthy Community Market” when cooking demonstrations and recipes using the bountiful fresh flavors close at hand draw crowds. There is laughter and singing around the grill. This garden production coincides with the nearby Zion Travelers Missionary Baptist Church groceries give away.
Louise, is Erica’s mother and an avid volunteer for all of the important community strengthening programs Erica takes on. I enjoyed Louise’s account of the 8 week program “Transitioning Well”, which is a life skills course Erica and guest instructors provided at St.Vincent’s Home for Children in Normandy, for those Foster Care people aging out of the program. The Job Coach was employed at Citi Group and doing the hiring there. Louise said, he taught them how to carry and conduct themselves when interviewing and applying for work. Other skills: balancing the checkbook, paying taxes, cooking easy nutritional meals, and all about the vote, is what Erica made sure they grasped. Erica has a tender spot in her heart for working with young people.
Erica has this ability to do the work of ten people at once. Mother of five, wife, former full time para-legal, student, both her Master Gardener certificate and doctoral program in Public Policy with an emphasis on Policy Analysis. The Dissertation will take on the problem of disadvantaged children having an appropriate environment for learning at school. The school to prison pipeline starts in those early years. A child without good nutrition or music lessons or time climbing a tree or hiking in the woods is not prepared to sit still in class. The teacher reacts with a shout, the child feels badly and when it happens again is content to stay away from school when suspended. What would a school look like that meets these students fundamental, essential needs? Erica is in the research stage. I suggest she visit Finland, and take me along!
Erica has three employees and scads of volunteers working for A Red Circle. She has an office with earthworms in bins that need feeding to produce that most excellent compost. The office has grow lights where she started pans of peppers and several types of basil seedlings. In the office, there is Drew, a Social worker with Community Health expertise. Grant writing is carried out by talented volunteers. But Gardening will stay in Erica’s hands. The trips to Jefferson City Erica makes, and Columbia are about the budget set by rural folks. She must argue for agency funds to go to Urban Agriculture entities.
Back at home in north St. Louis County, Erica and Louis drive through familiar communities, they are insiders. The STEM teaching garden called the North County Agriculture Education Center in Pine Lawn, Missouri has power provided by solar cells, has a vast spread of row upon row of potato plants in bloom as well as orchard trees and herbs and much more to come.
I asked Erica when the ‘doing good for others,’ that she enjoyed while growing up in church and Girl Scouts turned into throwing herself, full throttle, into racial justice activism.
The week of protests and disruption following Michael Brown Jr.’s death kept the schools from opening and Erica’s children had to wait to start school. Erica and her family made signs and stood across from the Ferguson police station. Her sign read- Give us the Truth. A parent named Melissa started a group called “Parents for Peace”. The parents group created welcome back signs for the children of each school, elementary, middle and high school. Walnut Grove Elementary and Ferguson Middle School are where Erica’s children attended. The Parents for Peace created pinwheels to decorate the entry doors in these schools.
A pair of friends of Erica’s, one, Lauren who is Black joined forces with another friend who was Jewish. Together they created a program with a curriculum that covered the Tulsa Massacre, Red Lining and Jim Crow. All new history to most. The point was to teach parents so that the parents could teach their children about racism. Erica received the instruction and founded A Red Circle in 2017 to carry out the dream of racial equity, attract investment to create local jobs, in the area.
Thank you for the tour of St. Vincent’s Home for Children and the North County Agricultural Education Center!
It’s a Wonderful World if we open our hearts to see it. With more than half of American adults fully vaccinated, our lives are on track for a safe recovery. There are still vaccine hesitant people in the United States keeping us from achieving herd immunity. Experts say we would need 80 % or more to be vaccinated to eliminate the virus. Variants of the COVID virus then could mean we need boosters to stay healthy.
When the polio vaccine came out in late 1950s, I remember the whole family standing in line at the community center and slowly making our way round to receive the sugar cube in a little custard cup. Today global polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988. After a unified effort of aggressive eradication offered by national governments, WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control, UNICEF and more recently the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and GAVI the Vaccine Alliance this highly infectious viral disease is nearly gone. Like COVID, polio has 70% of infected people without symptoms. It is only found today in small pockets in Pakistan and Afghanistan with 173 reported cases in 2019. The world came together, cooperated and prevented this polio virus from replicating until it was nearly gone.
Among positive bills in the House of Representatives is, HR 1, For the People Act. We need to vote, all of us. The bill protects our vote. Extensive research, including from The Brennan Center, reveals that fraud is extremely rare whether gauging mail in or in person ballots. Any measures to limit polling places, or times of operation or requiring state photo ID’s are impacting mostly Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) populations. That voting fraud is what Trump based his claim to being the rightful winner and legislators from that party going along with his lie, his constant tweeting of this message is a well known brainwashing technique. Repeat falsehoods often enough and people stop pushing back in their minds. Nazis were brain washed to hate certain people, for example. Isabel Wilkerson’s book Caste writes the Nazis studied the US cruelties toward BIPOC. And they implemented in their entirety what the Jim Crow south laws, inflicted on people in the United States.
Then, there is HR40 which is committed to researching a pathway for reparations to be paid to descendants of enslaved human beings in the United States. Some of this is already going on voluntarily in the private sector. The Jesuit’s had lists of enslaved humans as builders of well known institutions that were centuries old. These relatives can be found. After the Pandemic we see how unevenly the impact was felt, the essential workers that bore the brunt of the suffering fell on BIPOC communities and the hospital care givers in particular. Our society needs both care work and infrastructure and workers in all these vital areas deserve secure, dignified and adequately compensated jobs. We are up against gender and racial bias that this work is not as valuable as say manufacturing steel and auto work or nuclear weapons. Teaching is a profession that is majority female. 60% of teachers need a second job to make ends meet. Vice President Harris said we as, a country, pretend to care about education. Fully one half of teachers considered quitting last year. She proposed federally subsidized $13,500 teacher raises. I look at Finland and ask, Why not pay six figures? RAND research determined the teacher is the most significant factor raising student performance levels by a factor of two or three times. Why should FaceBook engineers earn a starting salary of well over 100,000 ? American teachers on average earn a piddling $40,000 a year.
Last year, I lost my 94 year old mother during the Pandemic, families were blocked from admittance to the care facility. It was hard on her to be isolated and it was a great peace of mind for me to know dedicated staff were in charge of her care. We need to value these peoples’ work with high enough wages to afford a home and live in dignity. We need to recognize the importance of a caring economy. Huge expenditures by Exxon Mobile, Chevron and Shell oil etc. on new oil field exploration and pipelines are hugely out of sync with the focus of the world on reducing green house gases. Oil rich countries continue this search and sale as well. Climate change is an existential threat. The very largest emitter of Carbon is the US military and they are not counted in the US Carbon Footprint because they are exceptional. 600 military bases are superfund sites. Like the recent litigation concerning WW2 era abuse. Unapologetic Japan had finally admitted to and apologized for South Korean women in the war, placed in encampments made ‘Comfort women’. I learned on a zoom last night Banning the Bomb Smashing the Patriarchy book release by Ray Acheson, that the US had encampments of Korean ‘Comfort women’ but did not have to admit to it, accept responsibility, apologize or pay restitution because US military is exceptional. South Korea has the largest US military base and the long history of problems with pollution, noise disturbances and dis respecting individuals in the surrounding community wares thin and problematic. It’s time the military clean up its mess everywhere, including passing an IRS financial records review, the nuclear waste dumps and particularly concerning carbon emissions. The military is awash in funding, they can do R&D to find some other way to do it’s work because the world demands carbon neutrality from everyone – no exceptions.
I expect great things to come from the $6trillion that President Biden seeks to fund, American Jobs and American Families Plans. Two years of free community college and universal preschool as well as infrastructure restoration. All with an eye toward correcting environmental racism and racial justice.
Be sure to come and visit WILPFstlouis this summer at the local Farmers Markets. Check our website WILPFstlouis.org for exact times and locations. We will display ongoing work from the Disarm committee. Sign petitions to be shared with our Representatives. See what we have been up to this year, Mother’s Day Micro Action sharing the Peace Declaration behind the first Mothers Day.
There is no law of gravity that drives this current Congress and president to continue funding this new nuclear arms race. Rather Human Rights violators like Egypt Saudi Arabia and Israel should have to become compliant before getting a dime of assistance from the American taxpayers.Concern over funding such expansive programs as Infrastructure can be set at bay. By canceling the modernization of the entire nuclear combat field Trillions of dollars can be freed up and converted to use as renewable energy. This is Windmills not Warheads, that is the Elenor Holmes Norton bill, there are many more actions towards Nuclear Abolition and I encourage you to participate by calling your legislators, and stopping by for a visit.
by Judy Davis
I recently visited my daughter who lives in La Crosse, WI. When we went for a walk downtown, she took the opportunity to show me the now finished mural designed and painted by one of our favorite local artists, Landon Sheely. Titled “Helping Hands”, she and I had been excited when Landon received the commission from the city, and watched as yellow scaffolding was put in place and the he sketched the figures onto the building wall.
Seeing it now, I am reminded of the morning 3 years ago when my daughter moved into her newly purchased first home. She was inside unpacking boxes and generally pushing things around, while I made myself busy outside in her overgrown yard. I had just started the lawn mower trying to beat the impending rain when her new neighbor walked over to introduce himself. Afraid that I would be unable to restart the mower if I shut it down to talk, “Lester” and I smiled and shouted over the noise. He told me that he was Norwegian, raised in a farming community not far from La Crosse, and that there was always plenty of work to do and that everyone helped everyone else out whenever there was a need. Then, as I began my mowing, Lester started his mower and began cutting from the opposite side of the yard. The two of us crisscrossed back and forth until the last pass, when he slipped back to his garage to avoid the rain that had just begun to fall.
Zoom out now to the many serious problems confronting out society: I do not understand how progressive policy proposals constitute the “radical socialist agenda” liberals and centrists are accused of supporting. In his excellent book Arguing with Zombies, Paul Krugman details the many ways Republicans have slandered the social-democratic ideas of Democrats and asks if it is not time “to turn the ‘socialist’ smear into a badge of honor”. Perhaps if we just considered everyone as our neighbors…¯\_(ツ)_/¯
READ the Statement from the WILPFInternational and MENA sections to the Israeli Authorities, the international community, international organisations, activists and activist organisations
On the eve of the 73rd anniversary of the Nakba, we are witnessing horrific scenes of relentless shelling by Israel of civilian buildings and neighbourhoods in Gaza, the rise of settler violence terrorising unarmed peaceful Palestinians in Occupied Jerusalem, and the targeting of Palestinians in Lod, Haifa, and elsewhere by mobs. This is the reality of Israeli policy towards Palestine and it must be addressed. Israeli authorities must be held accountable for their continuous violenceto ethnically cleanse entire neighbourhoods of their residents.This has been going on for over 70 years. The scenario played out in Sheikh Jarrah has been playing out since the eve of the creation of the State of Israel.WILPF standsin solidarity with the Palestinian people and their right to resist in the face of the violent systematic settler colonial policies in effect and apartheid system founded on land theft, violence, and the denial of basic human rights. The right to peaceful protest has been penalised with targeted killing and reprisal against entire families and communities. We supportthe residents of Sheikh Jarrah who are defending their homes and resisting illegal forced displacement andethnic cleansing in occupied EastJerusalem.BackgroundTensions had been escalating in Jerusalem for weeks in reaction to settler colonial policies, including new restrictionson Palestinians observingRamadan, and the assault on worshippers engaging in religious rituals at al Aqsa mosque. In recent weeks, settler organisations have also attempted to forcibly displace Palestinian families from their homes in the historic Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem. These actions were undertaken with the protection of the Israeli state and its heavily armed military and police, as part of continued efforts to ethnically cleanse Jerusalem of its Arab Palestinian population. The aggression against Palestinian families cameas a result of a judicialchallenge by the settler organisation Nahalat Shimon, taking advantage of thediscriminatory laws inherent intheapartheid judicial systemmaintained by the Israeli government.Consultative Status with UN ECOSOC, UNCTAD and UNESCO.Special Consultative Relations with FAO, ILO and UNICEF. 2Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood held protests in response to the imminent threat of forced displacement. Israeli police responded to these protests with attacks on Palestinians, by raiding anddamaging houses; firing tear gas canisters, sound bombs and skunk water; arbitrary arrests; and shooting potentially-lethal rubber-coated bullets at those inside the courtyards ofAl-Aqsa. This violence resulted in the injury of hundreds of Palestinian protesters, worshippers and emergency medical staff. In a few days, 915 Palestinians were injured in Jerusalem, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. In response, Hamasand other militantgroupshave fired rockets into Israel.Israel bombardedGaza, one of the most populated regions in the worldwith a campaign of relentless airstrikes, pulverising buildings, offices and homeswiping out entire families-violence which continues at the time of writing this statement.It is worthnotingthat the Palestinians have in the pasttried to peacefully protest only to be met by Israeli violence such as in 2018 when the people of Gaza demonstrated at the border. Nonviolentresistance has also been and continues to be met with violence. There aregendered impactsto the violations experienced, including the manifestations of long-lasting psychological harm. Women are disproportionately impacted by forced displacements due to their roles as primary caregivers of their families and managers of household livelihoods.They often suffer the double burden of not only losing their domestic space, but also being forced to find refuge in the homes of other families, resulting in overcrowding and increased tensions.Israel and Israeli settlers have no legal claim over Occupied East Jerusalem, which is Palestinian land that the Israeli military has been occupying since 1967, and is recognised as such by the UN and international community.It must be recalled that Israel has specific legal obligations as the Occupying Power under International Humanitarian Law and International Criminal Law. International law criminalisesany form of collective punishment and the forcible transfer of individuals and communities in the occupiedpopulation. Israel has consistently failed to comply with these obligations, and must be called to account by the United Nations and the international community.We call on the Israeli authorities to:•End illegal forced ethnic displacement of Palestinians, illegal settler activities in the Palestinian Territories, and the annexation of Palestinian land;•End the use of unlawful violence against Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem and throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories;•Halt the arbitrary arrests of protestors and activists in Jerusalem and across the Occupied Territories, and release all individuals who have been arbitrarily arrested;•Stop the collective punishment of the people of Gaza by lifting the siege on the enclave and ending the use of disproportionate violence and explosive weapons in civilian-populated areas.Consultative Status with UN ECOSOC, UNCTAD and UNESCO.Special Consultative Relations with FAO, ILO and UNICEF. 3We also call for an immediateceasefire, anend to the rising settler violence, police violence and aggression against Palestinians and the indiscriminate attacks on civilians in the Gaza Strip that have resulted so far in at least181 deathsincluding 52children, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry on 16May. At least 1,225others have also been injured in the attacks.Oppression and violence only begetsmore violence. Violence,harassment, aggression, land and home theft of occupied Palestiniansmust cease.We condemn all targeting of civilians particularlythe use of explosive weapons in civilian areas must stop immediately.The international community has failed repeatedly to takeeffective measuresto hold Israel accountable for its continuous violations of International Humanitarian and Human Rights law, in effect continually undermining the international legal system. The ongoing impunity must no longer be tolerated, and the international community must break the silence in the face of apartheid.We call on the international communityto take a firm stanceagainst the continuous blatant violations committed by Israel in total impunity. The international community should support all efforts of international justice, namely the ICC investigation into the Situation in Palestine; impose economic sanctions on Israel including incremental restrictive measures; and impose an arms embargo on Israel.We call on international organisations, activists and activist organisationsto use their platforms to share information on what has been happening; and to use their platforms to amplify the voices of local activists who are experiencing the situation on the frontlines.
Few Americans are aware that early advocates of Mother’s Day in the United States originally envisioned it as a day of peace, to honor and support mothers who lost sons and husbands to the carnage of the Civil War.
In 1870 — nearly 40 years before it became an official U.S. holiday in 1914 — social justice advocate Julia Ward Howe issued her inspired Mother’s Day Proclamation, which called upon mothers of all nationalities to band together to promote the “amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.” She envisioned a day of solemn council where women from all over the world could meet to discuss the means whereby to achieve world peace. Over the years it has become commercialized and the original link to the call for peace has been lost. So let us honor our mothers and the other women who have been mother figures in our lives by reissuing this call for peace:
MOTHER’S DAY PROCLAMATION Boston, 1870 “Arise, then… women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be that of water or of tears! Say firmly: We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence vindicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of council. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take council with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his own kind the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God. In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women, without limit of nationality, may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient, and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.“ ~ Julia Ward Howe
Julia Ward Howe was a prominent American abolitionist, feminist, poet, and the author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” She nursed and tended the wounded during the civil war, and worked with the widows and orphans of soldiers on both sides of the war, realizing that the effects of the war go far beyond the killing of soldiers in battle. The devastation she witnessed during the civil war inspired her to call out for women to “rise up through the ashes and devastation,” urging a Mother’s Day dedicated to peace. Her advocacy continued as she saw war arise again in the world in the Franco-Prussian War.
As the call for a Mother’s Day carried on, it gained new momentum and finally became a national holiday in the early 1900’s with the lead of Anna Jarvis, who had been inspired by her mother, also named Anna Jarvis, who had worked with Julia Ward Howe in earlier efforts for a Mother’s Day.
For further learning and resources, visit Mother’s Day: A Campaign for Peace with Justice by the Zinn Education Project
We are emulating the fantastic idea of our Cape Cod sister branch by creating a Mother’s Day micro action! We can all participate and unlike some of our formal actions and events, doesn’t require much time, effort or resources to perform. Here’s the plan: