Necklace of Islands, String of Solidarity

In a few days I'll be heading to Japan to teach there but also learn more about peace, demilitarization and antinuclear movements there. Later this year I'll be traveling to Okinawa to work more with independence and demilitarization groups there. Somewhere on the horizon is a trip I'm planning to take to Taiwan to meet with indigenous groups.

I wrote an article several years ago on solidarity in the Asia-Pacific region, and argued a core feature of it was imagination and sharing an imaginary. One of the most intriguing aspects of human consciousness is the way we can feel disconnected to those right next to us and intimately connected to people on the other side of the world. Proximity or similarity don't necessarily dictate these things, because there is always the possibility of solidarity, that disparate groups can nonetheless find a common cause of purpose or goal together. If we consider all the islands that have been damaged by US military testing, training and bombing and string them all together into a necklace of solidarity, we would have something both beautiful and tragic. We have an imagined continent of islands and peoples that we should feel compelled to fight for. To protect and defend.

I am thinking of this today because I recently came across this Land is Life Declaration from Vieques, Puerto Rico more than 12 years ago. Two Chamorro activists went and joined other activists from around the world to share their commitment to a world based on peace and justice.

I've pasted the text and the signatories below for people to read.


13 November, 2003 Special Report from the Peace and Justice Camp
La Tierra Es Vida Declaration
November 8 - 12, 2003
Fort Count Mirasol Vieques

We, the participants of La Tierra Es Vida (Land is Life) came from the Philippines, the Marshall Islands, Guahan (Guam), Hawai`i, the Dine people, Puerto Rico and the United States, and gathered in Vieques, Puerto Rico to stand in solidarity with the people of Vieques at a historic moment in their struggle for a free Vieques, and to share our stories of survival and struggle against U.S. militarism and imperialism.

We celebrate the Viequenses’ courageous and victorious struggle to end the Navy bombing of their island, and commit ourselves to support them in their continuing efforts for the clean up, return of land, compensation and health care, and sustainable economic development of their island.

We heard about the horrific effects of sixty-seven U.S. atomic and nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands, and give unconditional support to the Marshall Islanders’ efforts for increased compensation, health care, and the environmental cleanup in order to return to their homelands.

We stand with the Chamorus of Guahan (Guam), who fight to reclaim their ancestral lands at Ritidian and other locations, that were taken and contaminated by the U.S. military, some of which has been transferred to other federal agencies.

We unite with the Filipino people, who a decade after expelling U.S. military bases, continue to struggle for the clean up of contamination and compensation for the survivors of military contamination at Clark and Subic.

We stand with the Kanaka Maoli of Hawai`i in their struggle for sovereignty and who stand against the military occupation and destruction of their `aina (land) at Pohakuloa, Waikane, Nohili, Makua, Kaho`olawe and other areas.

We join with the Dine struggle for full compensation for their survivors of radiation poisoning, for the restoration of their sacred lands that were mined for uranium, for an end to nuclear testing and nuclear waste disposal in their area, and an end to additional oil and gas drilling within their four sacred mountains.

We affirm that land is life, and that all peoples have an inalienable right to human security that includes having basic needs met, a healthy environment that can sustain life, and the ability to perpetuate our languages and cultural traditions.

We condemn the rampant militarization of our planet and even of space by the U.S. and other nations. Militarism and imperialism are the antithesis of human security, and we refuse to take part in such crimes against humanity and the global environment.

We believe and assert that the U.S. government and its agencies including the military has a moral and legal obligation to address and correct the legitimate grievances of every community impacted by the presence of the military. To this end, we call on the U.S. government to take the following actions:

- In partnerships with affected communitties, conduct comprehensive environmental studies to determine the extent of damage and degradation as a result of the presence of the military.

- Restore and return all lands, coastal zones and other natural and cultural resources destroyed or damaged by the actions of the U.S. government including the military.

- Provide the necessary resources to enaable communities to move from economic dependency on the military to sustainable, community-based economic development.

- Take full responsibility for the devasstating health consequences of the people exposed to the impact of U.S. militarism including but not limited to atomic and nuclear testing, the testing and use of biological and chemical weapons, uranium mining, the production and use of depleted uranium weapons, toxic waste, and air and water pollution.

- Recognize the right of all peoples to self-determination and independence from economic and political colonialism.

We call on other like-minded people and organizations to join us. It is through our collective efforts that we will create a global community based upon the values of cooperation over competition, compassion over greed, peace and justice over war, human needs over profits, and love over hate.

Lemeyo Abon
ERUB, Marshall Islands

Luis A. Torres Alvarado

Lourdes C. Soto Berge
Attorney at Law

Daniel Bonilla Bianchi
Mayaquezanos con Vieques

Elma M. Coleman
U.S.-Japan Committee for Racial Justice

Wanda Colon Cortes
Proyecto Caribeno de Justicia Y Paz

Zoraida Crespo
Mayaquezanos con Vieques

Julia K. Matsui Estrella
U.S.-Japan Committee for Racial Justice

Anna M Frazier
Dine Citizens Against our Environment

Ronald Fujiyoshi
U.S.-Japan Committee for Racial Justice

Alice U. Greenwood

Yoshiko Ikuta

Kyle Kajihiro
American Friends Service Committee - Hawai`i
DMZ-Hawai`i/Aloha Aina

Theresa Martinez
Eastern Navajo Uranium Workers

Rev. Candita B. Mattos
Minister for Hispanic Relations, OGM, United Church of Christ

Catherine F. McCollum
Colonized Chamoru Coalition

Nilda Medina
Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques

Andres L. Nieves

Rev. Sala W.J. Nolan
Minister of Criminal Justice and Human Rights, JWM, United Church of Christ

O`lola Ann Z. Olib
People’s Task Force for Bases Cleanup - Philippines

Dylcia Pagan
President, Avanza

Myrna V. Pagan
Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques

Ed S. Pocaigue, Jr.
Colonized Chamoru Coalition

Robert Rabin
Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques

Mary Ann Ramirez
Mayaquezanos con Vieques

MariAngeles Rivera
Comite Pro Rescate y Desarrollo de Vieques
Alianza Mujeres Viequenses

Puanani Rogers
Ho`okipa Network - Kauai, Hawai`i
DMZ/Aloha Aina

Roy Takumi
U.S.-Japan Committee for Racial Justice

Brunilda Zayas
Mayaquezanos con Vieques


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