Support Proyecto Jardín: A Call to Thought and Action

Human rights and responsibilities

Inherent in a proper notion of human rights is its inseparable companion of human responsibilities. Humanity shines brightest when a spirit of care and stewardship infuses our communion with our fellow humans, our sister species, and our mother Earth. Whatever our faith or non-faith may be, together we can learn to respect and nurture this earthly trinity for the benefit of all.

Taking care of… the planet

Proyecto Jardín is a movement on the front lines of defending and expanding the most fundamental of human rights: the right to work in concert with nature to receive sustainable sustenance from its bounty. It is a life-giving oasis in the midst of Boyle Heights, one of our hyper-urbanized planet’s food deserts. It is a safe, liberating space that radiates empowerment.

Of rights and wrongs

And now, outrageously, it is facing elimination by usurpation. White Memorial Medical Center, the garden’s landlord, is planning to evict Proyecto Jardín in order to impose their own plans without input or participation from the community that’s made the garden into the thriving space it has become. Fortunately, Proyecto Jardín is nowhere near ready to go quietly into that goodnight.

Join the struggle

Proyecto Jardín urgently needs your support. This Saturday, January 30th they will be hosting an event at the garden from 9am to 5pm. Come out to show your solidarity. You can also help get the word out on social media by liking their Facebook page and sharing the event posting.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you out there! 🙂

Lessons from History for the Here and Now: Thoughts Inspired by “When Muslims Admired the West and Were Admired Back”

I highly recommend reading this article (link below) by UCLA history professor Nile Green. We need to learn more from the lessons of history as we endeavour to forge mutually enriching ties between Muslims and the “western world” in the present.

One of the key elements of such community, as the article illuminates, is the recognition of and unity in universal struggles across cultural frontiers. Insistence on this emancipatory principle is one of the reasons I find Slavoj Zizek’s works so compelling, and timely.

In the article, the Muslim students living abroad in London admired and learned from the feminist struggle there, and were moved to action. What could be more universal–and inspiring–than that?!

The only area where I see a need for expansion is with regard to the mutuality of responsibility to reach out and learn from the “other”. The onus cannot be solely on Muslims to do so. We all, as human beings, share in this fundamental responsibility. And in so doing we are walking the exhilarating walk of making a better world. Let’s do this!

Read and share the article here: Zócalo Public Square :: When Muslims Admired the West and Were Admired Back

Stop Islamophobia: a battle for public opinion

The following is a letter I wrote and posted to Larry Mantle’s Air Talk facebook page, in response to his coverage of the horrific events in San Bernardino. His is by no means the only voice promoting these harmful and erroneous views. People of conscience and courage need to band together to defend those among us who are being scapegoated and attacked in the name of “keeping us safe”.

Dear Larry,

I was more than a little dismayed to hear your radio segment in response to the recent tragedy in San Bernardino. I fully expect Fox News to rabidly promote Islamophobia, but your angle on the story shocked me, to be honest.

You too put Islam on trial and subjected innocent people to the harsh spotlight of guilt by association. I could hardly believe you would invite Muslim leaders to apologize for the heartless acts of fundamentalist wackos. Truly twisted is the universe in which those apples and oranges get conflated.

But the kicker was when you baldly asserted that Christians, when confronted with the atrocious acts of the terrorists of their ilk, have been apologetic under scrutiny. Please tell me, when did any of that happen?

Sounds more like the crocodile tears of the ill-begotten “persecution of Christians” narrative churned out by Murdoch & Co to buttress the US War of Terror [my intentional misspelling].

If the sources don’t match up to the claims—as I believe they don’t in this case—it would only seem fair to retract this apparent ruse.

Sincerely disappointed,
Dan Kaufman

My hope in sharing this is to hold to account those makers of public opinion who are, wittingly or not, helping to foment hatred and feeding into the wave of racist, xenophobic zealotry that drives the popularity of an inhuman monster like Donald Trump. If you encounter other public media stooping to such lows, call them out. Let’s actually learn and put into practice the lessons of Pastor Martin Niemöller’s vital words:

First they came for the Socialists,
and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists,
and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak for me.

Let’s speak out while we still can!

Desperately needed: “Hearts as Big as Cities”

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As a Spanish interpreter, I’m constantly in a position to have others speak through me. It’s an honor and a solemn duty to strive to convey their messages safely across cultural frontiers. While my work deals in the crossing of metaphorical borders, vast and growing swathes of humanity (including most of the people I serve) know intimately the perils of traversing actual borders.

These are the least among the outcasts of today’s global capitalism, the base of those of us comprising Earth’s ninety-nine-plus percent. If there’s a lesson recent events should drive home for us, it’s this: we all must band together and support one another, recognizing that we’re all human beings on this planet. This week I had the tremendous fortune of interpreting for a woman who is precisely this ethic incarnate.

Olga Sánchez Martínez (pictured above) is a tireless warrior for the people who are most acutely feeling the suffocating squeeze of global capitalism’s vise. Extraordinary circumstances in her own life led her to undertake an extraordinary mission for the lives of others. She is the founder and coursing lifeblood of the Albergue Jesús el Buen Pastor del Pobre y el Migrante shelter in Tapachula, Chiapas, just across the Guatemalan border in southern Mexico.

As documented in Sonia Nazario’s national bestseller Enrique’s Journey, Ms. Sánchez Martínez is on the front lines of a great exodus underway here in the western hemisphere. She works  to provide shelter, medical care and the basic  necessities of life for those she finds most in need. They are primarily Central American refugees, fleeing the scourge of deprivation, gangs and devastation ravaging their homeland.

They are men, women and children who are running for their lives. In their quest for survival, many of them are maimed and lose limbs to the infamous “Death Train” freighters that connect southern Mexico to el norte. The tragic result of this deluge of disasters is that the migrants end up in a seemingly hopeless limbo where their disabilities won’t allow them to pursue their “American dream” up north, yet returning home is certain death. Many struggle to find a reason to keep living.

In steps Olga. Beyond a roof and basic needs, her shelter aims to provide prostheses, crutches and wheelchairs for the newly disabled. She and her modest team of mostly volunteers tend to the wounds, both physical and psychological, of those they take in. They train migrants in vital skills like baking, and donut sales become a fundraiser for the shelter.

To say that she operates on a shoestring would be a gross understatement. She has managed to fund her efforts by relying on the kindness of others, begging for donations on the street when necessary. The success she’s had up to this point is owing to her dogged determination to serve those in need. Presently, as the ranks of the needy are swelling, she is working to expand her efforts by opening a second shelter just for women and children.

In her presentations, in addition to the heart-wrenching stories of the individuals she has helped, she illuminates some of the basic ideas that animate her generosity of spirit and her undaunted optimism against all odds.
Smiling broadly, she says that:

* All around the world, people are the same. Race and skin color matter not.
* We all have dreams that we must and can make reality, if we work for them.
* Humanity needs “hearts as big as cities” to meet these challenges.

Finally, she entreats us to make this cause our own. Without our assistance, the vast and growing needs will continue to far outstrip the services she can provide. With our help, she can continue and expand her work. There are many dreams yet to be realized, owing to the scarcity of resources at her disposal. We can help, and grow our hearts in the process.

There are so many ways we can help. The only limitation is the scope of our imagination. Cash donations can be made, including donations made as a gift in others’ name (a great stocking-stuffer). Summer clothing, basic medical supplies (gauze, tape, etc.) and crutches, prosthetics and wheelchairs are needed. Volunteers are needed to work hands-on at the shelters. A virtual “street team” is needed to get the word out on social media and beyond. Help raise awareness among your social networks. Organize book clubs to read Enrique’s Journey. Host a potluck party fundraiser. Use you imagination. Get creative! And, share your ideas to inspire others.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions below, and I encourage you to take the initial step of sharing this post. ¡Sí, se puede!

Help get the word out about our farmworker sisters’ struggle!

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I’ve come across this story through several news outlets now, and I just can’t stop thinking about how glaringly outrageous this is. The whole of our society rests upon the backs of these women. They feed you, me, us, humanity. They possess vast stores of knowledge about things without which humanity would wither on the vine. And, above all, they are human beings. Just like you and me. No different. Same family. Emerging from the same cosmos. Born of the same mother Earth (although I suspect they know her better).

Here I guess I don’t really have too much to add to the journalism that’s been done so far. But I do want to provide links to some resources, in English and Spanish, so that we can help raise awareness about this issue, and to give assistance in whatever way we see fit. You can start by reading and listening to the stories of these women. Please feel free to re-post and share with all your social networks. As the three musketeers said, “All for one, and one for all!” 🙂

The first time I heard about this was about a week ago via this NPR radio report:
http://www.npr.org/2013/11/05/243219199/silenced-by-status-farm-workers-face-rape-sexual-abuse

Last night I picked up a copy of La Opinion bearing this cover story:
http://www.laopinion.com/california/jornaleras-reclaman-justicia-abusos-sexuales

The La Opinion article highlighted this 2010 report from the Southern Poverty Law Center:
http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/publications/injustice-on-our-plates

Finally, the La Opinion article was based on the tremendous work being done by Lideres Campesinas, their website is:
http://www.liderescampesinas.org/english/

* header photo credit: La Opinion Aurelia Ventura