Sunday, January 29, 2017

Mensahi Ginen i Gehilo' #20: Independence Daze

It is intriguing the way that so many people assume something to be impossible and frightening in a particularly local or familiar context, but then completely miss the way that they accept such things in other contexts without even a hint of fear or apprehension. In Guam, a colony of the US for more than a century, and a colony of Spain for several centuries prior to that, this is frustratingly true and real in terms of the people of the island, both indigenous and non-indigenous, living in terror of Guam becoming independent. For other nations and other locations, independence is something to celebrate, a key moment in terms of a nation's development or evolution, something to look back on pride, even if your country has serious problems past or present. But it is intriguing how for example, Filipinos, Chinese or Koreans and others on Guam can celebrate the nationhood and the independence of their own nations, whether it be from colonialism, from imperialism or from their own social unrest, but in terms of Guam, they see the island achieving independence as being terrifying and unrealistic. It is also bewildering the way Chamorros and people from the US on Guam make the same contradictory assumptions about Guam, while enthusiastically celebrating the independence, both contemporary and historical, of the US. It is so fascinating to perceive all the various ways in which this resistance is articulated and how people can still somehow make these arguments in one hand, while waving a flag of an independent country in the other.

While in the current moment this can cause frustration, in the long term it can be useful. During FESTPAC last year, four panel discussions were held at the University of Guam, three focusing on each possible future political status for Guam, and the final featuring a representative of each at the same time. During the night focusing on independence as an option for Guam's future, the consulate for the Philippines on Guam made statements which gave some hope in terms of helping to overcome this unhelpful compartmentalization of conceptualizations of independence. He noted that on Guam, many Filipinos who had made the island their home seemed to be against Chamorro self-determination and their taking the lead in decolonization. He said that much of this could be explained due to their own lack of knowledge or understanding of their home country's fight for independence and decolonization. They were too Americanized and therefore cut off from the possibilities in the world. If they learned more about how their ancestors had fought for their own independence and have struggled since with problems from within and without, they would not feel compelled to deprive Chamorros of such a chance, but rather feel happy to support them and cheer them on as they take this step.

Olaha mohon na siña ta kombense siha put este. Mas ma'ok este na kinalamten anggen chinechinennek mo'na ni' otro na taotao lokkue', ti hita ha'.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Imprisoned Independentistas

Måkpo' i tiempo-ña si Barack Obama. Gi i hinichom i uttimo na sakkån-ña, meggai na petitions manhuyong put difirentes na taotao ni' mangkinalabobosu, ya kada manggagaggao mina'a'se para un presuneru. Dos na Chamorro ni' mapopongle komo presuneron federåt para u masotta. Mas ki un siento mit na taotao mamfitma petiton para i nina'libre si Leonard Peltier un Natibu na Amerikanu, lao si Obama ti ha ayuda gui'. 

Estague na tinige' siha put i masottå-ña si Oscar Lopez Rivera, un independista ginen Puerto Rico. 

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Obama commute sentence for political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera

López Rivera, whose commutation was announced with 208 others, has been incarcerated for 35 years for his role in fighting for Puerto Rico’s independence
by Sam Levin
The Guardian/UK
January 17, 2017

Barack Obama has commuted the sentence of Oscar López Rivera, a victory for the Puerto Rican independence activist who is considered to be one of the world’s longest-serving political prisoners.
In his final days in office, Obama has issued a record number of pardons and commutations, including granting the release of Chelsea Manning on Tuesday, the US army soldier who became one of the most famous whistleblowers in modern times.

López Rivera, whose commutation was announced on Tuesday along with those of 208 others, has been incarcerated for 35 years for his role in fighting for Puerto Rico’s independence.

The 74-year-old, who has spent more than half of his life behind bars, was convicted of “seditious conspiracy” for plotting against the US. The US government had also classified him as a terrorist.
If Obama had not intervened, he would have remained in captivity until 26 June 2023, five months after his 80th birthday.

Jan Susler, López Rivera’s lawyer, said the prisoner’s release is a huge win in the ongoing fight for Puerto Rican independence, adding that she was grateful that Obama understood “there wasn’t any legitimate reason to keep Oscar in prison.

“We have to celebrate every victory,” she said. “We have a lot of work left to do, and now Oscar will be able to join us, and we can work side by side.”

Susler broke the news to López Rivera.

“He said, ‘Can you imagine a better birthday present for my daughter?’” Susler told the Guardian by phone, adding: “He’s a very centered, peaceful human being, and that’s how he received the news.”

In a recent interview with the Guardian, he said he still believes in what he described as the “noble cause” of full sovereignty for his Caribbean birthplace, which is classified as a US “territory”.
López Rivera was born in 1943 in San Sebastián in Puerto Rico, where he lived until his family moved to Chicago when he was 14 years old. He was later drafted to serve in the Vietnam war, and when he returned he became deeply involved in community activism among Puerto Ricans in Chicago.

López Rivera eventually became a member of a clandestine group called Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional, which argued that armed force was a justified tactic in the fight for Puerto Rican independence.

US prosecutors accused the group of carrying out 140 bombings on military bases, government offices and financial buildings, but López Rivera has repeatedly denied involvement with fatal attacks.

The prisoner has repeatedly insisted that he was focused on actions that did not endanger people’s lives.

“For me, human life is sacred. We called it ‘armed propaganda’ – using targets to draw attention to our struggle,” he told the Guardian last year.

The group was dismantled in 1983, and López Rivera and his fellow Puerto Rican independence fighters eventually renounced violence and embraced peaceful reform tactics.


Asked about his decision to publicly renounce force, he said, “We realised other tactics to armed force could be more effective, mobilising people through peaceful campaigning. Morally, also, we came to see that we had to lead by example, that if we are advocating for a better world then there are things you cannot do. You cannot get a better world by being unjust yourself.”

In August of 1999, Bill Clinton used his final days in office to grant a pardon to 11 Puerto Rican independence fighters. López Rivera was offered a lesser deal that would have resulted in early release after a decade, but he turned it down because he said he did not believe the US government would stick to its side of the bargain, and he was upset offers were not made to fellow fighters.

“When I was in Vietnam I never left anyone behind. That’s not my practice, I couldn’t do it,” he told the Guardian last year.

Many prominent figures have aggressively lobbied for López Rivera’s pardon, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu; the governor of Puerto Rico, Alejandro García Padilla; the Hispanic caucus of the US Congress; former US president Jimmy Carter; former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders; and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the smash Broadway musical Hamilton
Miranda brought widespread attention to López Rivera’s case after confronting Obama during a White House visit.

“Sobbing with gratitude,” the performer tweeted on Tuesday. “OSCAR LOPEZ RIVERA IS COMING HOME.” Miranda also announced that he would play the role of Alexander Hamilton for a performance for López Rivera in the Chicago production.

Some have compared López Rivera to Nelson Mandela, labeling him the “Mandela of Puerto Rico”.
The commutation could have implications beyond López Rivera. Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro said last year he would seek the release of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez if the US agreed to release López Rivera.

US congressman Luis Gutiérrez celebrated Obama’s decision on Tuesday, saying in a statement, “I am overjoyed and overwhelmed with emotion. Oscar is a friend, a mentor, and family to me ... The long fight against colonialism in the Caribbean has had many chapters and we have all put violence behind us. Releasing Oscar Lopez Rivera back to his homeland and his people is a step towards peace and reconciliation and is being celebrated by Puerto Ricans of all political stripes, classes, colors and geographies.”

Obama has commuted the sentences of 1,385 individuals, more than any other US president. On a call with reporters, a White House official said more commutations are expected “most likely on Thursday”.

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Puerto Rican Nationalist Freed From Prison
by Charles Babington
Washington Post
September 11, 1999
 
Most of the 14 Puerto Rican nationalists granted clemency by President Clinton left prison yesterday and prepared to return to their homeland after years behind bars.

Friends and relatives celebrated their releases from various prisons around the country, but few people saw a quick end to the political controversy the clemency has stirred. Both the House and Senate have scheduled hearings next week on Clinton's decision, and some Hispanic officials in New York say the episode has cooled their enthusiasm for Hillary Rodham Clinton's possible Senate campaign in that state.

The 14 were members of the Armed Forces of National Liberation, known by its Spanish initials FALN, which sought independence for Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory. FALN was responsible for more than 100 bombings in Chicago and elsewhere in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which left six dead and many injured. But none of the 14 was found to be directly responsible for the deaths or injuries.
Clinton on Aug. 11 offered them conditional clemency if they would renounce violence. He later said he was swayed in part by the long sentences most had served and by appeals made on their behalf by former president Jimmy Carter, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and others.

Last night, several hundred members of Chicago's Puerto Rican community celebrated the release of the prisoners with music and speeches before ex-prisoner Ricardo Jimenez took the stage to wild cheers. Speaking in Spanish, Jimenez called for a "Puerto Rico libre" and said he would not stop the fight until Oscar Lopez Rivera and the other prisoners are free. He said Lopez Rivera was the last person he hugged before leaving prison, and that leaving him behind caused him the greatest pain.
Jimenez thanked the Chicagoans for campaigning for the prisoners' release. "There was not one day in all this time that you didn't fight for our liberty," he said.

Jose Lopez, who is the brother of Lopez Rivera and directs the Humboldt Park cultural center where the celebration was held, said the release made people "really happy. It's an incredible thing just to have them here with us and be able to see them and touch them."

Saying that the prisoners' situation is "ultimately about colonialism," Lopez added, "What Nelson Mandela is to South Africa, Ricardo Jimenez is to us."

Cook County Commissioner Roberto Maldonado, who is Puerto Rican and whose office is several blocks from the casita, also applauded the release but criticized the conditions. "I'm concerned that with all the conditions, they'll just try to throw them back in jail," Maldonado said. "They were convicted of seditious conspiracy; they were never convicted of terrorist acts. They shouldn't be labeled as terrorists."

Clinton offered clemency to 16 FALN members, but two turned him down. Of the 14 others, two already were out of prison, but the president's decision will soften the post-release conditions on them. Another will be eligible for release in a couple of years. The remaining 11 were scheduled for release yesterday.

"It's our opinion that this closes a major chapter in the effort to bring some reconciliation in this matter," said Manuel Mirabal, president of the Washington-based National Puerto Rican Coalition. "We believe it is a matter of justice. . . . Today, sentencing standards would never provide for the length of sentences that these individuals received."

The original sentences ranged from 35 to 90 years. Most of those released yesterday had spent more than a decade in prison.

Clinton's clemency decision triggered a national debate when several Republicans accused him of trying to curry favor for his wife among New York's Puerto Rican voters. They noted that Clinton had granted only three of 3,000 previous clemency requests. Clinton said politics played no role in his decision.

The first lady said last week that she felt the clemency offer should be withdrawn because the FALN members had not vowed to renounce violence. She later said she was not aware that her husband had set a Sept. 10 deadline for the members to accept the conditional offer.

"I haven't discussed other clemency issues with her, and I didn't think I should discuss this one," the president told reporters Thursday.

Rep. Jose E. Serrano (D-N.Y.), a Puerto Rico native and supporter of the clemency offer, said Hillary Clinton has hurt her credibility. "I'm still angry, and I've heard nothing to change my mind," Serrano said. "If that campaign can be so insensitive to something that means so much to Puerto Ricans, how sensitive can they be to issues that affect blacks in my community? That affect Dominicans in my community? That affect Mexicans moving into my community?"

Special correspondent Kari Lydersen in Chicago contributed to this report.
 
© 1999 The Washington Post Company

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First Lady Opposes Pureto Rican Clemency Offer
by Dan Morgan
Washington Post
September 5, 1999

Hillary Rodham Clinton, distancing herself from a politically controversial action by her husband, said yesterday that she opposes the release from prison or other forms of clemency for 16 members of a Puerto Rican terrorist group that was involved in more than 100 bombings in this country at least 15 years ago.

When President Clinton announced a clemency offer on Aug. 11, it had strong support from human rights leaders and was widely seen as boosting Hillary Clinton's standing among New York's Hispanic voters in her expected campaign for the Senate next year. But a backlash quickly developed against the offer from senior law enforcement officials and leading New York politicians.

In a statement yesterday explaining her position, Hillary Clinton said the prisoners had not renounced further acts of violence, a key condition of the president's offer. "It's been three weeks and their silence speaks volumes," she said.

The back-and-forth underscored the complex – and deepening – interconnection between the presidency and Hillary Clinton's unfolding Senate campaign.

One well-placed Democratic observer suggested that as Hillary Clinton's campaign gears up, many of the president's actions are likely to be interpreted through the prism of the Senate race, even when the White House is acting for other reasons.

At the same time, the issue of clemency for the Puerto Rican terrorists may have served as an early warning of the potential perils of using presidential authority to advance Hillary Clinton's political fortunes.

Yesterday, she stressed that she had "no involvement in or prior knowledge of the decision, as is entirely appropriate."

The White House has denied that the decision to offer clemency to the 16 Puerto Ricans was based on calculations about the benefits to Hillary Clinton. Human rights leaders, such as former President Jimmy Carter and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, along with U.S. Hispanic leaders, strongly urged the release of the prisoners, all of whom have been incarcerated for 14 years or longer. Clinton offered to release 11 members of FALN, reduce the amount of time three others must serve and eliminate fines against two others, one of whom already is out of prison.

The backlash against the offer is reported to have caught the White House by surprise and forced a reassessment.

On Friday, White House lawyers advised attorneys for the prisoners that if they did not respond in writing to the president's offer by 5 p.m. next Friday, "we would consider that a rejection of the offer and they would continue serving their sentences," White House spokesman Jim Kennedy said yesterday.

"We have always believed that renunciation of violence was a critical condition of this clemency offer," he said. Kennedy said that Hillary Clinton was not informed about the letter.

Yesterday morning, according to Hillary Clinton's spokesman, she informed the president that she had decided to issue a statement calling for the withdrawal of the offer.

It was unclear yesterday what the impact would be in New York's large Hispanic and Puerto Rican communities. Hispanic leaders in Congress could not be reached for comment.

New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Hillary Clinton's likely Republican opponent in next year's race for the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has called the president's clemency offer "a mistake," and there has also been opposition from high-ranking congressional Republicans. A Giuliani spokesman said yesterday the mayor would have no comment on Hillary Clinton's statement.

Moynihan himself, the state's senior Democrat, has also indicated that he opposes the offer, which received massive news coverage across the state. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), has reserved judgment pending further study of an internal Justice Department report laying out the options on the matter for the president.

"Mrs. Clinton is a person in her own right and I assume after reviewing material she made a decision," said Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.). Lowey said she was still gathering information on which to form her own opinion.

In reaching its recommendations for President Clinton, the White House counsel's office noted that most of the prisoners have already served at least 19 years, and one has served nearly 25 years. The bombings, by the pro-independence Armed Forces of National Liberation, or FALN by its Spanish initials, took place between 1974 and 1983. They killed at least six persons and injured scores more. But none of those whose sentences the president proposes to commute were directly involved in the deaths and injuries, officials said.

On Friday, attorneys for 15 of the jailed Puerto Rican nationalists said the clemency offer is unfair because it would impose too many restrictions on the FALN members once they are freed from prison. "It's conditioned upon them complying with terms that would limit their ability to integrate themselves into the political process to shape the future of their country, because it restricts their travel and association," one of the attorneys, Jan Susler, told the Associated Press Television News (APTN).

Susler and lawyer Michael Deutsch said the FALN members all have renounced violence – a condition of the clemency offer – but had problems with other parts of the deal.

Deutsch said Friday that if FALN members accepted the offer they would be barred from participating in political movements advocating independence for Puerto Rico, a commonwealth of the United States. Their travel also would be severely restricted, he said.
Carter previously pardoned several Puerto Rican nationalists who were convi
cted of storming the U.S. House of Representatives in 1954 and wounding five members.

Several observers said yesterday that the attention given to Hillary Clinton's statement yesterday is part of her transition from supportive first lady to candidate in her own right. As the months pass, some suggested, it will be commonplace for her to be taking stands that are at odds from those of the president – such as her demands for increased Medicare funding of New York's teaching hospitals.
But at this point, the sources suggested, the transition is still awkward for both the White House and the first lady.

© 1999 The Washington Post Company


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Why Oscar Lopez-Rivera deserves freedom
By Pedro Reina-Pérez  


Oscar López-Rivera’s release from federal prison through an executive pardon granted by President Obama in the closing days of his final term, is symbolic in ways that cannot be fully understood separate from the social and economic challenges facing Puerto Rico.

Arrested in 1981 and charged with seditious conspiracy, a rarely used criminal charge, López-Rivera was sentenced to 55 years in prison for belonging to the Armed Forces for National Liberation, Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional or FALN, an armed group responsible for several bombings in the United States. He was never directly linked to any acts that resulted in death or injury, but was tried for trying to overthrow the US government’s control of the island.

In his defense, he claimed to be a political prisoner and demanded that his case be tried in an international tribunal, something the US government flatly rejected. In 1985, he was convicted of planning an escape, and 15 years were added to his sentence.

Shortly before finishing his second term in 1999, President Clinton extended a conditional clemency offer to Lopez-Rivera and 13 others convicted in the same case, judging the sentences they were serving in prison to be excessively long. López-Rivera rejected this offer because it did not apply to other Puerto Rican prisoners tried with him who would remain imprisoned. The result was a long incarceration that made him one of the oldest political prisoners in the world.

Despite this long incarceration — which included 12 years of solitary confinement — López-Rivera became a model prisoner, whose solidarity and generosity to his fellow inmates earned him widespread recognition. He went from being a common inmate to becoming a symbol of dignity for people demanding social justice inside and outside of Puerto Rico. Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, and Pope Francis have been among those pleading for his release as a testament to compassion, decency, and common sense. Some went as far as calling him a Latin American Nelson Mandela but, for his compatriots he was simply Oscar.

Why do Puerto Ricans celebrate his imminent return to the island? Because it’s a modest triumph of justice in conditions of profound injustice.

Puerto Rico is the oldest colony, owned by the empire that claims to defend freedom and democracy in the world. To make matters worse it’s a colony inhabited by US citizens who cannot fully exercise the rights granted in virtue of that same citizenship. The result is an extreme form of inequity, evidenced by the imposition by Congress in 2016 of a Fiscal Management and Control Board under the PROMESA Act to solve the island’s financial crisis. The unelected board will exercise total over public finances to ensure repayment of $72 billion to bondholders and other creditors while implementing radical austerity measures that shall inflict considerable pain.

That is the context in which President Obama acted to release a prisoner unfairly condemned for demanding self-determination for Puerto Rico. A modest act not only of clemency but of justice, one in keeping with the values that the United States swears to protect but whimsically denies to Puerto Ricans in the island. This is a fatal contradiction that will only get worse as public spending and pensions are drastically reduced. And yet, Puerto Rico will welcome Oscar López-Rivera with joy. A breath of fresh air before an impending storm.

Pedro Reina-Pérez is a professor at the University of Puerto Rico and a visiting scholar at Harvard University.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Protect Language Learning at UOG!

My two PDN columns on the need to protect language learning at UOG. If you aren't familiar with the issue, please head to this website UOG Language Drive, to learn more and sign the petition. If we combine both online and paper signatures, we have collected over 1500 and are still working on getting more!

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Protect Language Learning at UOG
Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Pacific Daily News
December 30, 2016

At present at the University of Guam, each undergraduate student is required to take two language classes (eight credits total) as part of their General Education or GE requirements. UOG offers courses regularly for Chamorro, Japanese, Tagalong, Spanish, Mandarin, French and can also offer courses in Chuukese and other Micronesian languages upon request. UOG is also home to the Chamorro Studies Program, of which I am a faculty member and this program is unique in the world in terms of focusing its courses on the history, language and culture of the Chamorro people. UOG serves and is supported by a diverse community in this region and the many language courses that are offered illustrate that.

The University of Guam is currently planning on reducing the language requirement so that in the future students will only be required to take one language course, or a single semester in order to graduate. With this change, individual major programs may require a second semester or more for their own requirements, but overall this would still impact negatively language learning at UOG. To cut the requirements in half, would mean losing a number of language courses every semester, which would mean less money to support teachers of Chamorro, Japanese and other regional languages. The loss of these classes would also mean that programs such as mine which are language focused, would have limited ability to expand or grow, since institutional support at UOG is largely dependent upon the amount of courses you offer.

In college, much of your focus is on your major courses because they are meant to reflect your chosen path in life. But as many who have attended college will tell you, your GE courses are usually the sources of your most unexpected epiphanies. In college your major is usually where you are meant to derive your most important skills or lessons. GE classes are supposed to be dreary dreaded experiences, where you are forced to take courses not because of what interests you, but because of some academic consensus about what all students should at least be familiar with before moving to the next stage of their lives.

But those GE classes are often the places where we learn some of the most important and surprising lessons, because they educate or enlighten us from outside of the comfortable confines of our discipline or profession. Your major courses often reduce the world to a basic set of theories or ideas, which in truth really apply to only a portion of what you will encounter in your work or life. Your GE classes represent a sometimes frustrating, sometimes enriching reminder that there are far more things in heaven in earth than in your degree requirements young undergraduate. This idea might be truest in terms of language learning. In my column next week I will discuss more about the ways in which learning a new language, or for many students learning your heritage language, can represent a defining moment in terms of development and eventual identity as a person.

For today, myself and several other faculty at UOG are currently holding a “Protect Language Learning at UOG” petition drive in hopes of convincing the administration at UOG to not reduce the amount of language classes required for undergraduates. If you would like to sign the petition or learn more about this issue, please head to the website www.uoglanguagedrive.com

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Language Courses are Important
Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Pacific Daily News
January 6, 2017

Last week I wrote about current proposals at the University of Guam to reduce the General Education (GE) requirements for language learning from a full year of course work (8 credits) to just a single semester (4 credits). I am part of a group of UOG faculty members and concerned community members who feel that this will be detrimental to the learning of UOG students and also does not reflect the realities of our region. We have a website www.uoglanguagedrive.com and a petition which we are encouraging people to sign in order to convince the administration at UOG to reverse this course and protect language learning at UOG.

In my classes at UOG, I generally cite our president, Robert Underwood when describing the value of education, namely that it is not about memorizing facts or figures, but rather giving students a set of intellectual tools to help them confront the diversity of challenges they will face, from a position of strength. This means, that through their General Education and major courses, you cannot teach them everything or prepare them for everything, but the courses you require them to take will help them confront difficulties in their personal and professional lives with a greater sense of purpose and possibility.

Major courses are meant to prepare someone for different professional paths, but GE courses represent a deeper foundation. Each college’s GE curriculum is a mixture of established international or national norms developed over centuries and also a particular institution’s relationship to the communities or the regions around it. A GE curriculum cannot represent everything under the sun, but the local components tend to reflect certain key relationships, most notably through history, language and culture courses.

In May 2015 I helped organize a forum at UOG focused on the importance of learning second languages in today’s world. The event was attended by more than 200 community members and undergraduates. We passed out surveys and 185 out of 186 respondents expressed their support for keeping the existing language learning requirements at UOG. At that forum Dr. Laura Souder Betances, a noted Chamorro activist, scholar and educational consultant made several statements which have stuck with me today. Here is one I find particularly relevant for this discussion. 

Universities exist to universalize students.  And how do we universalize students?  We universalize them by providing them with different universes in which to learn, to make decisions, and to operate, and to be successful. If we’re going to operate and be successful in the global reality, we need to know more than one language.  Fortunately, many – most – of us are bilingual.  But we need to know many languages, because in order to be successful, you have to negotiate in many parts of the world.  In order to have an economic future, we need to be able to speak the languages of the people that we are trading with. Diminishing the capacity of students to learn more than one language…is diminishing the capacities of universities to fully function as universalizing places for students.

My argument is that Guam is a multicultural and multilingual community whereby languages in addition to English are essential in not just how we communicate with those in our region, but also communicate our respect for what they provide to the university, whether through taxes, student tuition or community involvement. The reduction of the language requirement in the GE curriculum means a weakening of that potential connection, which is strongly symbiotic. As communities around Guam want to see their cultures and languages reflected at UOG, so too should students benefit from the learning of languages in order to better interact with those groups or even feeling stronger connected to their own cultures through beginners courses in their heritage languages.

For me, this is something fiercely personal. When I attended the UOG as an undergraduate, I did not speak much Chamorro or care much about my culture. I took Chamorro to fulfill my language requirements and didn't think much of it at the time. But taking those courses and learning the basics of my heritage language changed me in so many ways and reshaped my consciousness. It pushed me to become fluent and to become more connected to my culture and my elders. Not all students will have that same transformative experience, but in my opinion, it is important that we use the General Education curriculum at UOG to give students from all ethnicities on Guam that chance to explore both new and familiar universes.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Independent Guåhan January GA

Independent Guåhan Upcoming General Assembly will Honor Former Bank of Guam President Anthony Leon Guerrero and Discuss Jones Act

For Immediate Release, January 20, 2017 – Independent Guåhan invites the public to its monthly General Assembly on Thursday, January 26 from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at the main pavilion of the Chamorro Village in Hagåtña. For this first General Assembly of the year, the focus will be on the Jones Act and how Guam’s economy has been inhibited by this colonial imposition.

The Merchant Marine Act, more commonly known as the Jones Act, was passed in 1920 and is designed to protect U.S. shipbuilding and maintain a vibrant American maritime industry. It requires that trade of goods between U.S. ports, including those in the territories be conducted on U.S. built ships, owned by US citizens and crewed by permanent residents or citizens of the U.S. This act has led to an artificial inflation of prices on goods sold in places such as Guam, which cannot take advantage of their proximity to foreign countries that might offer comparable, albeit cheaper services. The educational presentation for this month’s meeting will discuss how this Act negatively affects our economy and explore the opportunities for economic growth that Guam could achieve as an independent country.

Independent Guåhan will also honor the late Anthony Leon Guerrero, former President of the Bank of Guam, as part of the monthly Maga’taotao Series. Leon Guerrero is best known for his role in helping the Bank of Guam, the bank his father Jesus Leon Guerrero helped found, to become the first Guam-based business to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange. In addition to his business acumen, Leon Guerrero was also a strong Chamorro cultural advocate, helping to found both the Guam Humanities Council and Guampedia. He was also highly critical of Guam’s unincorporated political status and strongly favored increased independence for the island. As he wrote in an essay, “…if we are to develop our economy, we will have to do it ourselves. The colonizers not only do not help in economic development, they discourage it, either through direct actions or by setting up systems that makes us dependent on their continuing activities.”

UOG Language(s) Drive

The petition drive to protect language learning at UOG continues. 

If you haven't signed the petition yet, please do so at this link.

Here is the website for the UOG Language Drive, which is being spearheaded by myself and other UOG faculty to protect language learning at UOG in the face of GE requirement changes which could drastically affect language programs at UOG, in particular my program, Chamorro Studies. 

Below is the petition statement for the UOG Language Drive, in Chamorro, Japanese, Tagalog, French, Spanish, Mandarin and English.

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Kinalamten para Lenguahi Siha gi Unibetsedåt Guahan
 I hinangai-ña este para u na’adilåntu yan u chonnek mo’na i fina’nå’guen lengguåhi siha gi Unibetsidåt Guåhan. Manmama’nånå’gue, manmane’eyak yan manmansesetbe i fafa’nå’gue siha yan i estudiånte siha gi UOG para u manteteini i takhilo’ na minetgot-ñiha i kottura-ña siha yan i guinaha-ña iya Micronesia. Ginen este, siña ta usa este na minetgot siha para ta fåna’ todu i ginaddon-ta på’go yan mo’na. Gof takhilo’ i manteinini-ña yan i mana’lålå’la’-ñiha i fino’ Chamoru yan i fina’nå’guen lengguåhi para u na’la’adilåntu mo’na i taotao Marianas yan i taotao Micronesia.

Ma disidi i Unibetsidåt Guåhan para u ribåha i klas lengguåhi ni debi di u ma chule’ i estudiånte siha para iyon-ñiha General Education ginen dos na klas para unu ha’ na klas. Gi mismo tiempo, ti para u ma tulaika i numeron oran kreditu nisissario para u fangraduha.

Gi este na website, hami i mantitige’, tumuge’ påpa’ dies na råson siha put håfa debi di ta manteini i areklamento na todu i estudiante siha gi UOG para u ma chule’ dos na klas lengguåhi. Bai in fa’ma’nu’i na meggai bentahå-ña anggen manmañule’ siha dos. Anggen parehu i hinasso-ta put este, in kembibida hamyo para en na’annok i sinappoton-mimiyu para i fina’nå’guen lengguåhi gi Unibetsidåt Guåhan. Anggen malago’ en che’gue este, tuge’ påpa’ i na’an-miyu guini yan gi bandån hinasso siha, na’tutungo’ ham ni hinasson-miyu put håfa na debi di ta manteini i numeru klas lengguåhi para u machule’ gi General Education.

I taotao siha ni manggaige i na’ån-ñiha guini gumaggaggao i Unibetsidåt Guåhan para u manteini i dos na klas lengguåhi siha ni manisissita machule’ komu General Education.

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グアム大学の言語推進(UOG Language Drive) 

このウェブページの目的はグアム大学での言語(第二言語や外国語)学習を 促進し、改善することにあります。グアム大学の学生、そして、 教授達は、グアム・ミクロネシアの文化や天然資源の本質的な強さを守るために、また、その力を、現代及び、未来における挑戦に打ち勝つために使えるよう、学び、教え、力を尽くしています。チャモロ語の保護、再活性化、そして、外国語の習得は、北マリアナ諸島やミクロネシア地域の人々の未来の発展にも極めて重要なことなのです。 

グアム大学は、今、教養課程の必須科目である言語の習得期間を2学期間から、1学期間に減らそうとしています。最低限の卒業単位数は変わらずそのままなのですが。

このウェブページの著者である私達はグアム大学において、現在の2学期間の言語習得期間を維持することの根拠の中で最も重要である、10の根拠を掲げております。グアム大学の言語習得期間を短縮せず。現在の2学期間の習得期間を維持し、発展させて行くことを支援してくださるよう、お願いします。そして、支援者リストにご自分のお名前をお書き入れください。支援者としての、コメントも遠慮なくお書きいただけると、幸いです。

下記の人々はグアム大学に教養課程の必須教科として、言語の習得期間を現在の2学期間に保つことを要求している人々です.

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UOG Language Drive
L’objectif de ce site Web est de promouvoir et de faire avancer l’enseignement des langues à l’université de Guam. Les étudiants et les enseignants de l’université apprennent et enseignent les langues pour préserver l’essentiel des cultures et des ressources naturelles de la sous-région et pour utiliser ces forces pour s’adapter aux défis présents et à venir.

La préservation et la revitalisation de la langue Chamorro et des autres langues étrangères enseignées à l’université sont très importantes à l’épanouissement des populations du nord des îles Marianne et de la Micronésie.

Le conseil  des enseignants  de l’université de Guam a endossé une proposition qui  réduit l’enseignement  obligatoire des langues à un semestre au lieu de deux semestres comme dans plusieurs universités aux Etats-Unis.

Le vice recteur de l’université demande aux doyens des facultés d’étudier le projet d’amendement et de présenter les arguments pour modifier le programme de formation général à l’université de Guam.


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UOG Language Drive
Layunin ng website na ito ang pagtataguyod at pagsusulong ng iba’t ibang wikà sa Unibersidad ng Guam, hindi lang ng Inggles.  Ang mga mag-aarál at gurò ng University of Guam ay natututo, nagtuturò, at naglilingkod upang panatilihin at palakasin ang mga mahalagang kultura at likas na yaman ng Guam. Kinakailangang patuloy na pairalin ang lakas ng mga ito upang lutasin ang mga dapat kayaning pagsusubok ngayon at sa hinaharap. Dapat patuloy na bigyang buhay ang wikang Chamoru at gayon din, ipagpatuloy na bigyang buhay ang iba pang wikà sa pamamagitan ngpagtuturo ng mga ito sa Unibersidad ng Guam. Ang pagtuturo ng mga iba’t ibang lengguahe ay napakamahalaga sa pag-unlad ng mga mamamayan ng Northern Marianas at bawat dakò ng Micronesia.

Babawasan na ngayon ng Unibersidad ng Guamang pangangailangang wikang banyagà na bahagì ng Kurikulum ng Pangkalahatang Pag-aaral. Ang dating dalawang semestre na dapat kunin ng mga mag-aarál ay babawasan ng kalahati, o magiging isang semestrena lang, nguni’t walang pagbabago ang bilang ng credit hours na dapat nilang kitain upang magtapós ng pag-aaral.

Kaming mga may-panukalà ng website na ito ay nagpapahayag ng 10 pinakamahalagang dahilan kung bakit hindi dapat baguhin ng Unibersidad ng Guam ang dalawang semestre ng wikang banyagà na dapat kunin ng mga mag-aaral.  Inaalok namin kayong magbigay-taguyod sa pagpapatuloy at hindi pagputol nito sa UOG sa pamamagitan ng pagsali ng mga pangalan niyo sa listahang sumusunod, at pagsulat ng inyong mga komentaryo na nauukol sa pagpapatuloy at pagsusulong ng pagturò ng mga wikà sa UOG.

Ang mga sumusunod na katao ay nagmumungkahi sa Unibersidad ng Guam na ipagpatuloy ang pangkasalukuyang dalawang semestre ng mga wikà na bahagi ng Pangkalahatang Pag-aaral.

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UOG Language Drive
El objetivo de esta web es el de promover y optimizar la enseñanza de lenguas en la Universidad de Guam.  Los estudiantes y los profesores de la Universidad de Guam aprenden, enseñan y trabajan para preservar los puntos fuertes de las culturas de esta región y usar estas cualidades para hacer frente a los desafíos presentes y del futuro. La preservación y revitalización de la lengua chamorra y el aprendizaje de segundas lenguas son aspectos críticos para el futuro desarrollo de las gentes de las Islas Marianas del Norte y de la Micronesia.

La Universidad de Guam está modificando los requisitos sobre segundas lenguas en el programa de Educación General reduciéndolos de dos cursos semestrales a un solo curso semestral y, sin embargo, la cantidad mínima de créditos necesarios para graduarse no han cambiado.

Los autores de esta Web hemos esbozado los 10 argumentos que consideramos más relevantes y que justifican que se mantenga el requerimiento sobre las segundas lenguas en la Universidad de Guam. Te invitamos a expresar tu apoyo por la enseñanza de lenguas en UOG añadiendo tu nombre a esta lista. Si quieres, puedes añadir también comentarios adicionales sobre por qué la enseñanza de lenguas se debe mantener y mejorar y no se debe reducir. 

Las personas que aparecen en la lista de abajo solicitan que la Universidad de Guam mantenga dos cursos de lenguas extranjeras como requisito obligatorio en el programa de Educación General.

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UOG 语言学习推动 

这个网站的目的是促进和推动关岛大学的语言学习。关岛大学师生通过学、 教和服务来保护当地文化和自然资源的重要优势,并且利用这些优势应对当前和未来的挑战。保护和振兴的当地查莫罗语言,同时推动其他国家的语言学习,这对北马里亚纳群岛和密克罗尼西亚地区人民的未来发展至关重要。

关岛大学现在减少通识教育中的外语要求,要求的两个学期的外语课程减为一个学期,但是毕业时通识教育的最少总学分仍保持不变。

为了保持关岛大学的目前语言要求,我们这个网站作者概述 十条 最重要的论据。我们邀请您表达您的支持,您可以把您的姓名添加到支持者名单里,提供一些您的补充意见说明为什么关岛大学外语学习应该保持而且要加强,却不应该减少。

下面名单中的人员请求关岛大学保持目前通识教育中要求的两个学期的语言课程。


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The purpose of this website is to promote and to advance language learning at the University of Guam. Students and faculty of the University of Guam learn, teach and serve in order to preserve the essential strengths of the Region’s cultures and natural resources and to use those strengths to cope with current and future challenges. The preservation and revitalization of the Chamorro language and the learning of foreign languages are critical for the future development of the people of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Micronesian region. 

The University of Guam is now reducing the language requirement for General Education from two language courses to one language course, while the number of minimum credit hours for graduation remains the same.

We, the authors of this website outline the 10 most important arguments for maintaining the current language requirements at the University of Guam. We invite you to express your support for language learning at UOG by adding your name to the list of supporters and by providing additional comments why language learning at UOG should be maintained and advanced and not be reduced.

The people on the list below request the University of Guam to maintain the current two language courses requirement of General Education.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Litekyan Redux

Several years ago, there was a small but significant spike in Guam/Chamorro based activism around the announcement that rather than Pågat, the US military not intended to build their firing range complex for their military buildup near Litekyan or Ritidian as many know it on Guam. For those unfamiliar with the long, winding road for this the US military buildup to Guam, they created a DEIS around their intent to build the firing range complex in Pågat. After push-back from the community, lawsuits and also problems at the US federal level, this was withdrawn and a SEIS or supplementary environmental impact statement was conducted, identifying the area above Litekyan in Northern Guam as the new location. I attended the public comment meetings, participated in protests and demonstrations and also helped organize teach-ins and forums to educate the public about the military's intended use of this very important cultural and historic area for Chamorros. The level of public outrage never reached the levels it had for Pågat and so the buildup pushed away, bringing us to the present day, where in the mind's the US military this deal is already done and there are simple technicalities to take care of before Litekyan is closed and the firing range construction begins. Below is my statement that I gave at the public comment meeting for the SEIS in Mangilao.

Recently a new group has formed to try to challenge the closing of Litekyan to the public and its use for these militaristic purposes. I am wondering if I should join this new group and provide whatever I can. It is a difficult choice, as much of the openness of the process has already been closed off and so there are very few viable routes left within the system. Siempre ta li'e'.

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I Na’ån-hu Si Michael Lujan Bevacqua. Profesot yu’ gi UOG para i Prugråma Inestudian Chamorro. Guaha meggai na i hinasso-ku put i maproponi na buildup para Guåhan, lao estågue unu.

Gi kutturan Chamorro guaha dipotsi dos na manera put taimanu mantråta hao taotao, taimanu un tråta i otro. I fine’nina, un fa’taotao i otro. Un tråta gui’ komo taotao. Gairespetu sa’ un komprende na debi di u matråta maolek. Un li’e’ i tinaotao gi tiguang-mu.

Gi otro kånnai, siña un fa’ga’ga’ i otro. Gi hinenggen Chamorro gaige gi papa’-ta i manggå’ga’ siha. Anggen un fa’ga’ga’ i otro, un tråta gui’ sin respetu. Ti guailayi na un konsidera i otro sa’ taihinasso, ti impottånte, ti anggokuyon. Maolekña un cho’guiyi gui’ todu taiguihi un påtgon pat un gå’ga’, sa’ ti siña ha attenden maisa gui’.

Ginen i estoria-ta yan i US, ko’lo’lo’na i militat-ña, malago’ yu’ na para bei na’hasso hit put un otro na manera. Siña un sångan “mafa’atmas” pat “mafa’lansa.” Gi este na manera gaibali hit, lao gaibali hit put i tano’-ta ha’. Ma tråta hit komo tåno’, taitaotao na tåno’. Sesso ma fa’na’an este na tano’ i puntan i lansa, gi este na hinasso i bali-ta na siña inisa hit ni otro. Siña ha na’setbe hit para i minalago’-ña.

Para Guahu, put i estao-ta na makoloninisa ha’, taisetbe todu este na hunta taiguini. Ti bali este achokka’ ma hohokka i sinangån-ta siha kontat ki cocolony ha’ este na islå-ta. Ilek-hu este kuatro años tåtte na tiempo, ya bai hu sangan gui’ ta’lo. Mangge i respetu anggen este ha’ i fuetså-ta ni’ ma nå’na’i hit gi este na buildup?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

MLK: A Radical, Not a Saint

My position on Martin Luther King Jr. is somewhat similar to my position on Jesus Christ. I have a strong affinity for both of them in their radical dimensions, the way they challenged system of oppression in their time and proposed a powerful message of social change into something that was potentially more equitable. Both of them have of course been edited and watered down significantly in their message, to the point where both of them can be invoked in the name of so many things that they would have violently detested in their lives.

Gof ya-hu si Jesus Kristo komo un zealot. Lao anggen un lahen Yu'us, hmmm, ti bali nu Guahu i mensahi-ña. Parehu yan si MLK. Gof annok gi sinangån-ña yan gi bidå-ña na zealot lokkue'. Lao atan ha' på'go, i manracist na taotao, ma u'usa i estoria-ña para u ma puni i tinailayi yan taihustisia gi på'go na tiempo. 

Below is a great article that outlines the radical dimensions of Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy. 

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Martin Luther King Was a Radical, Not a Saint
by Peter Dreier, E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics, Occidental College
1/19/2015
Huffington Post

As we celebrate his birthday, it is easy to forget that in his day, in his own country, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was considered a dangerous troublemaker. Even President John Kennedy worried that King was being influenced by Communists. King was harassed by the FBI and vilified in the media. The establishment’s campaign to denigrate King worked. In August 1966 — as King was bringing his civil rights campaign to Northern cities to address poverty, slums, housing segregation and bank lending discrimination — the Gallup Poll found that 63 percent of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of King, compared with 33 percent who viewed him favorably.
Today King is viewed as something of an American saint. A recent Gallup Poll discovered that 94 percent of Americans viewed him in a positive light. His birthday is a national holiday. His name adorns schools and street signs. In 1964, at age 35, he was the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Many Hollywood films — most recently Ava DuVernay’s brilliant Selma — explore different aspects of King’s personal and political life, but generally confirm his reputation as a courageous and compassionate crusader for justice. Politicians, preachers, and professors from across the political spectrum invoke King’s name to justify their beliefs and actions.
In fact, King was a radical. He believed that America needed a “radical redistribution of economic and political power.” He challenged America’s class system and its racial caste system. He was a strong ally of the nation’s labor union movement. He was assassinated in April 1968 in Memphis, where he had gone to support a sanitation workers’ strike. He opposed U.S. militarism and imperialism, especially the country’s misadventure in Vietnam.
In his critique of American society and his strategy for changing it, King pushed the country toward more democracy and social justice.
If he were alive today, he would certainly be standing with Walmart employees, fast food workers, and others fighting for a living wage and the right to unionize. He would be in the forefront of the battle for strong gun controls and to thwart the influence of the National Rifle Association. He would protest the abuses of Wall Street banks, standing side-by-side with homeowners facing foreclosure and crusading for tougher regulations against lending rip-offs. He would be calling for dramatic cuts in the military budget to reinvest public dollars in jobs, education and health care.
It is hardly a stretch to envision King marching with immigrants and their allies in support of comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship. He would surely be joining hands with activists seeking to reduce racial profiling and the killing of young black men by police. He would stand with activists organizing to end the mass incarceration of young people. Like most Americans in his day, King was seemingly homophobic, even though one of his closest advisors, Bayard Rustin, was gay. But today, King would undoubtedly stand with advocates of LGBT rights and same-sex marriage, just as he challenged state laws banning interracial marriage.
Indeed, King’s views evolved over time. He entered the public stage with some hesitation, reluctantly becoming the spokesperson for the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, at the age of 26. King began his activism in Montgomery as a crusader against racial segregation, but the struggle for civil rights radicalized him into a fighter for broader economic and social justice and peace. Still, in reviewing King’s life, we can see that the seeds of his later radicalism were planted early.
King was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1929, the son of a prominent black minister. Despite growing up in a solidly middle-class family, King saw the widespread human suffering caused by the Depression, particularly in the black community. In 1950, while in graduate school, he wrote an essay describing the “anticapitalistic feelings” he experienced as a youngster as a result of seeing unemployed people standing in breadlines.
During King’s first year at Morehouse College, civil rights and labor activist A. Philip Randolph, a socialist, spoke on campus. Randolph predicted that the near future would witness a global struggle that would end white supremacy and capitalism. He urged the students to link up with “the people in the shacks and the hovels,” who, although “poor in property,” were “rich in spirit.”
After graduating from Morehouse in 1948, King studied theology at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania (where he read both Mohandas Gandhi and Karl Marx), planning to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the ministry. In 1955, he earned his doctorate from Boston University, where he studied the works of Reinhold Niebuhr, the influential liberal theologian. While in Boston, he told his girlfriend (and future wife), Coretta Scott, that “a society based on making all the money you can and ignoring people’s needs is wrong.”
When King moved to Montgomery to take his first pulpit at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, he was full of ideas but had no practical experience in politics or activism. But history sneaked up on him. On Thursday, December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a seamstress and veteran activist with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), decided to resist the city’s segregation law by refusing to move to the back of the bus on her way home from work. She was arrested. Two other long-term activists - E. D. Nixon (leader of the NAACP and of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters) and Jo Ann Robinson (a professor at the all-black Alabama State College and a leader of Montgomery’s Women’s Political Council) - determined that Parks’ arrest was a ripe opportunity for a one-day boycott of the much-despised segregated bus system. Nixon and Robinson asked black ministers to use their Sunday sermons to spread the word. Some refused, but many others, including King, agreed.
The boycott was very effective. Most black residents stayed off the buses. Within days, the boycott leaders formed a new group, the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). At Nixon’s urging, they elected a hesitant King as president, in large part because he was new in town and not embroiled in the competition for congregants and visibility among black ministers. He was also well educated and already a brilliant orator, and thus would be a good public face for the protest movement. The ministers differed over whether to call off the boycott after one day but agreed to put the question up to a vote at a mass meeting.
That night, 7,000 blacks crowded into (and stood outside) the Holt Street Baptist Church. Inspired by King’s words — “There comes a time when people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression” — they voted unanimously to continue the boycott. It lasted for 381 days and resulted in the desegregation of the city’s buses. During that time, King honed his leadership skills, aided by advice from two veteran pacifist organizers, Rustin and Rev. Glenn Smiley, who had been sent to Montgomery by the pacifist group, Fellowship of Reconciliation. During the boycott, King was arrested, his home was bombed, and he was subjected to personal abuse. But — with the assistance of the new medium of television — he emerged as a national figure.
In 1957, with the help of Rustin and organizer Ella Baker, King launched the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to help spread the civil rights crusade to other cities. He helped lead local campaigns in different cities, including Selma and Birmingham, Alabama, where thousands marched to demand an end to segregation in defiance of court injunctions forbidding any protests. While participating in these protests, King also sought to keep the fractious civil rights movement together, despite the rivalries among the NAACP, the Urban League, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and SCLC.
Between 1957 and 1968, King traveled over six million miles, spoke more than 2,500 times, and was arrested at least 20 times, always preaching the gospel of nonviolence. King attended workshops at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, which connected him to a network of radicals, pacifists and union activists from around the country whose ideas helped widen his political horizons.
It is often forgotten that the August 1963 protest rally at the Lincoln Memorial, where King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, was called the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. King was proud of the civil rights movement’s success in winning the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act the following year. But he realized that neither law did much to provide better jobs or housing for the masses of black poor in either the urban cities or the rural South. “What good is having the right to sit at a lunch counter,” he asked, “if you can’t afford to buy a hamburger?”
King had hoped that the bus boycott, sit-ins and other forms of civil disobedience would stir white southern moderates, led by his fellow clergy, to see the immorality of segregation and racism. His famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” written in 1963, outlines King’s strategy of using nonviolent civil disobedience to force a response from the southern white establishment and to generate sympathy and support among white liberals and moderates. “The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation,” he wrote, and added, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
King eventually realized that many white Americans had at least a psychological stake in perpetuating racism. He began to recognize that racial segregation was devised not only to oppress African Americans but also to keep working-class whites from challenging their own oppression by letting them feel superior to blacks. “The Southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow,” King said from the Capitol steps in Montgomery, following the 1965 march from Selma. “And when his wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his empty pockets could not provide, he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than a black man.”
When King launched a civil rights campaign in Chicago in 1965, he was shocked by the hatred and violence expressed by working-class whites as he and his followers marched through the streets of segregated neighborhoods in Chicago and its suburbs. He saw that the problem in Chicago’s ghetto was not legal segregation but “economic exploitation” — slum housing, overpriced food and low-wage jobs - “because someone profits from its existence.”
These experiences led King to develop a more radical outlook. King supported President Lyndon B. Johnson’s declaration of the War on Poverty in 1964, but, like his friend and ally Walter Reuther, the president of the United Auto Workers, King thought that it did not go nearly far enough. As early as October 1964, he called for a “gigantic Marshall Plan” for the poor — black and white. Two months later, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, he observed that the United States could learn much from Scandinavian “democratic socialism.” He began talking openly about the need to confront “class issues,” which he described as “the gulf between the haves and the have-nots.”
In 1966 King confided to his staff:
You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong with capitalism. There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.
Given this view, King was dismayed when Malcolm X, SNCC’s Stokely Carmichael, and others began advocating “black power,” which he warned would alienate white allies and undermine a genuine interracial movement for economic justice.
King became increasingly committed to building bridges between the civil rights and labor movements. Invited to address the AFL-CIO’s annual convention in 1961, King observed:
The labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed of levels of production. Those who today attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them.
In a 1961 speech to the Negro American Labor Council, King proclaimed, “Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children.” Speaking to a meeting of Teamsters union shop stewards in 1967, King said, “Negroes are not the only poor in the nation. There are nearly twice as many white poor as Negro, and therefore the struggle against poverty is not involved solely with color or racial discrimination but with elementary economic justice.”
King’s growing critique of capitalism coincided with his views about American imperialism. By 1965 he had turned against the Vietnam War, viewing it as an economic as well as a moral tragedy. But he was initially reluctant to speak out against the war. He understood that his fragile working alliance with LBJ would be undone if he challenged the president’s leadership on the war. Although some of his close advisers tried to discourage him, he nevertheless made the break in April 1967, in a bold and prophetic speech at the Riverside Church in New York City, entitled “Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence.” 
King called America the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” and linked the struggle for social justice with the struggle against militarism. King argued that Vietnam was stealing precious resources from domestic programs and that the Vietnam War was “an enemy of the poor.” In his last book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (1967), King wrote, “The bombs in Vietnam explode at home; they destroy the hopes and possibilities for a decent America.”
In early 1968, King told journalist David Halberstam, “For years I labored with the idea of reforming the existing institutions of society, a little change here, a little change there. Now I feel quite differently. I think you’ve got to have a reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values.”
King kept trying to build a broad movement for economic justice that went beyond civil rights. In January, 1968, he announced plans for a Poor People’s Campaign, a series of protests to be led by an interracial coalition of poor people and their allies among the middle-class liberals, unions, religious organizations and other progressive groups, to pressure the White House and Congress to expand the War on Poverty. At King’s request, socialist activist Michael Harrington (author of The Other America, which helped inspire Presidents Kennedy and Johnson to declare a war on poverty) drafted a Poor People’s Manifesto that outlined the campaign’s goals.
In April, King was in Memphis, Tennessee, to help lend support to striking African American garbage workers and to gain recognition for their union. There, he was assassinated, at age 39, on April 4, a few months before the first protest action of the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, DC.
President Johnson utilized this national tragedy to urge Congress to quickly enact the Fair Housing Act, legislation to ban racial discrimination in housing, which King had strongly supported for two years. He signed the bill a week after King’s assassination.
The campaign for a federal holiday in King’s honor, spearheaded by Detroit Congressman John Conyers, began soon after his murder, but it did not come up for a vote in Congress until 1979, when it fell five votes short of the number needed for passage. In 1981, with the help of singer Stevie Wonder and other celebrities, supporters collected six million signatures on a petition to Congress on behalf of a King holiday. Congress finally passed legislation enacting the holiday in 1983, 15 years after King’s death. But even then, 90 members of the House (including then-Congressmen John McCain of Arizona and Richard Shelby of Alabama, both now in the Senate) voted against it. Senator Jesse Helms, a North Carolina Republican, led an unsuccessful effort - supported by 21 other senators, including current Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) - to block its passage in the Senate.
The holiday was first observed on January 20, 1986. In 1987, Arizona governor Evan Mecham rescinded King Day as his first act in office, setting off a national boycott of the state. Some states (including New Hampshire, which called it “Civil Rights Day” from 1991 to 1999) insisted on calling the holiday by other names. In 2000, South Carolina became the last state to make King Day a paid holiday for all state employees.
In his final speech in Memphis the night before he was killed, King told the crowd about a bomb threat on his plane from Atlanta that morning, saying he knew that his life was constantly in danger because of his political activism.
“I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain, and I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.”
We haven’t gotten there yet. But Dr. King is still with us in spirit. The best way to honor his memory is to continue the struggle for human dignity, workers’ rights, racial equality, peace and social justice.
Peter Dreier is a professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His most recent book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books, 2012).

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Faninayan Meetings



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Independence for Guåhan Task Force launches Fanhita Campaign
Continues educational outreach by discussing security threats to Guam and Singapore as a possible model for independence.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, SEPTEMBER 27, 2016 – The Independence for Guåhan Task Force held its second General Assembly on September 22nd at the main pavilion of the Chamorro Village in Hagåtña. More than 70 people gathered to listen to information presentations, pay tribute to a Chamorro educational pioneer and also help coordinate small family and organization-based conversations meant to diversify the ways in which we educate our community about decolonization and independence.
The meeting opened with a tribute to Dr. Bernadita Camacho-Dungca, the Chamorro linguist and indigenous rights activist, best known for her writing the Inifresi who passed away earlier this year. The Inifresi calls on the people of Guam to pledge to protect and defend the precious natural and cultural resources of their island. It was in this spirit that this month’s meeting focused on various ways in which these core elements of our lives are being threatened by Guam’s use as a strategic base by the United States. Guam’s media and elected leaders often portray the US bases on island as keeping us safe, however in her educational presentation Victoria Leon Guerrero, co-chair of the Independence for Guåhan Task Force, challenged that idea. By weaving together statements from military commanders and government officials in Asia, she argued that any current threats to Guam are not aimed at the island or the people themselves, but rather the US military presence. A presence, that as an unincorporated territory, Guam has no formal authority over.
Co-chair of the Educational Development Committee Ana Won Pat-Borja conducted the first in a monthly series of educational presentations on independent nations that Guam could use as examples on its own quest for self-governance. Singapore, one of the Four Asian Tigers and widely considered to be one of the richest countries in the world was selected given that it is an island and is slightly larger than Guam in terms of land mass.
The meeting concluded with Co-Chair of the Campaigns Committee Melvin Won Pat-Borja introducing the Fanhita initiative, which aims to bring the Task Force’s educational outreach directly into the homes and offices of Guam. In addition to offering education through public meetings such as this, the Task Force is also offering to organize educational conversations called faninåyan with smaller groups that are organized by interested members of the community. The meeting ended several dozen individuals committing to organizing their family or co-workers to host such a gathering.
The Independence for Guåhan Task Force will continue to host general assemblies every month, in addition to other outreach activities, thus providing a regular forum for the community to ask questions, obtain information and sign up to promote decolonization and independence for the island. The next General Assembly Meeting will take place October 27th at the Main Pavilion in the Chamorro Village.

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