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Turning Again: Been Down in the South

May22

by: Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove on May 22nd, 2015 | 2 Comments »

In 1961, when the Congress for Racial Equality planned a ‘freedom ride’ through the South to test the integration of interstate transit, they were experimenting in nonviolent direct action — a radical commitment to do what is right whether others deem it convenient, timely, or even legal.

As Black Lives Matter campaigns have arisen in the wake of Mike Brown, Eric Garner and Freddie Gray’s deaths, many who are unsettled by their militancy have pointed to the nonviolence of the Freedom Riders and others in America’s Civil Rights Movement. Nonviolence sounds like a favorable alternative when Baltimore is burning.

But nonviolent direct action is never convenient; Mother’s Day 1961 was interrupted by images of a bus burning in Anniston, Alabama, when Freedom Riders were attacked by the Ku Klux Klan with the permission (if not collusion) of local authorities. For all of their commitment to nonviolence, the Freedom Rider’s direct action still unleashed a storm of fire.

When we pay attention, there’s a fire at the heart of our shared life in America. The question Baltimore is forcing us to consider is whether we will be consumed by these flames or saved from them?

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Social Contexts of Youth Bullying

May20

by: on May 20th, 2015 | No Comments »

Scantily-clad women serve food to men inside Twin Peaks restaurant.

It's no wonder that discrimination and abuse are still so prevalent. In a cycle that must be broken, restaurants like Twin Peaks, that feature barely-dressed attractive female servers, are a product of, and contribute to our male-centric culture. Credit: CreativeCommons / Ricky Brigante.

While studying a number of bullying prevention programs, I find that, while providing good overall theoretical and conceptual foundations and strategies for prevention and reduction of incidents, some crucial components are still missing. We must also discuss and examine the social and cultural contexts wherein bullying attitudes and behaviors often stem. We must find ways not only to understand and to actually engage in correcting these larger social and cultural contexts.

I contend that we must not view bullying and harassment as simply youth problems and behaviors, but rather, investigate the contexts in which bullying “trickles down” from the larger society and is reproduced within the schools. Young people, through the process of social learning, often acquire bullying and harassing attitudes and behaviors, and they also often learn the socially sanctioned targets for their aggressive behaviors.

The developmental and educational psychologist, Albert Bandura, proposed that young people learn primarily through observation, and that one’s culture transmits social mores and what Bandura called “complex competencies” through social modeling. As he noted, the root meaning of the word “teach” is “to show.”

Society presents many role models, from very positive and affirming to very negative, biased, aggressive, and destructive. Modeling, he asserted, is composed of more than concrete actions, which he referred to as “response mimicry,” but also involves abstract concepts, “abstract modeling,” such as following rules, taking on values and beliefs, making moral and ethical judgments.

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Field Office Annals, Part Two: Engagement, Vision, and Play

May18

by: on May 18th, 2015 | No Comments »

This is the second in a two-part series based on interviews with two founding Cultural Agents in the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (where I hold the title of Chief Policy Wonk).(To stay current on everything this great project is doing, enlist as a Citizen Artist: it’s fun and free.)

Jess Solomon in Washington, DC, and Dave Loewenstein in Lawrence, KS, are the first two USDAC Cultural Agents to open Field Offices, USDAC outposts that serve as focal points for local cultural organizing and connecting-points for participation in National Actions. (See part one of this series to learn why they started Field Offices and what they’ve been up to ever since.)

One of the USDAC’s foundational ideas is that the local and national feed and support each other. For example, through local Imaginings, communities generate visions of the futures they desire, and those help to shape policy and program ideas emerging from the National Cabinet. Those can then be tested at the community level, with local experiences making national policy stronger, and vice versa. In this model, policy is rooted in lived local knowledge, not abstract ideas or expert credentials.

Obviously, this works best with a strong local network. Imaginings are part of that, and so are National Actions like the People’s State of The Union, with thousands of community members across the nation taking part. The network of Field Offices is just starting to add a layer, with Dave and Jess showing the way. They’ve already learned a great deal about how to engage people, how to self-organize, and what not to do, and they are happy to share.

When we spoke last month, I asked them what drew people in their communities to the USDAC.


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UK Muslim Climate Action Campaign Gains Big Support

May13

by: Aisha Abdelhamid on May 13th, 2015 | No Comments »

Islam is Green.With the official launch of its “Islam is Green” climate action campaign, the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) also inaugurated its official website to help Muslims learn more about climate change. The iERA activities were timed to coincide with London’s “Time to Act Climate Change” march, as well, and resulted in huge support from the general public in London, England.

Events on the day of the climate action march included a lecture at a local community center provided by iERA volunteers on the Islamic perspective of caring for the environment. Afterwards, iERA members joined a group of over 5,000 assembled in central London expressing concern about mitigating global warming and requesting global climate action.

Handing out flyers to the public during the “Time to Act Climate Change” march, iERA members reported “overwhelmingly positive” response. The flyers presented information expressing the seriousness with which Muslims regard caring for the Earth, and preserving natural resources. This supportive stance on climate action surprised many demonstrators, initiating discussions and eliciting interest in learning more.

The “Islam is Green” Climate Action Campaign

The “Islam is Green” climate action campaign is centered around the Muslim understanding that humans have been given the role of caretaker of the Earth. We must protect it and maintain it, just as we would our own garden with blossoming fruit trees and vegetable plants. As Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, God’s peace and blessings be upon him, taught:

“If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift (sadaqah) for him.”
[the Prophet Muhammad]

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Cartoons of Free Speech or Hate? Redux

May12

by: on May 12th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

"Love is a human right" poster lying on the pavement outside.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Samantha Marx.

This is the second in my series of commentaries on the American Freedom Defense Initiative and its “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” held recently in Garland, Texas.

In my first commentary, I discussed the controversy surrounding the so-called American Freedom Defense Initiative’s (AFDI) cartoon caricature context of the Prophet Muhammad where two men opened fire on a security officer stationed outside the contest building. The officer brought down the shooters killing them both. By my bringing attention to the Islamophobia guiding AFDI’s event, a few readers of my commentary accused me of “blaming the victims.”

In actuality, I did no such thing. AFDI and its leader, Pamela Geller, have a far-reaching history of Islam bashing, and their event in Texas fit clearly into that framework. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which follows extremist hate group, defines AFDI as an extremist right-wing organization. To caricature the Prophet Muhammad, while clearly protected by the First Amendment’s “freedom of speech” clause, can also be seen as an act of hate and bullying for the goal of insulting, inciting, inflaming, demeaning, and provoking.

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Pay to Play: The Creeping Privatization of Public Education

May12

by: on May 12th, 2015 | No Comments »

A girl watches a cheerleading squad practice outside.

Participating in activities like dance, sports, and even graduation ceremonies are the norm for well-off families, but costs for gear, uniforms, and equipment are prohibitive for many. Credit: CreativeCommons / Beth Rankin.

This is the first of a short series of posts by Lita Kurth on the privatization of education.

Should the parent who paid the most get the best seat at graduation? Should the children of wealthy donors get private time with public school teachers? Should a choice parking space in front of the school be reserved for the highest bidder? Anyone with a child in a California public school knows how thoroughly riddled with private-school fundraising many schools have become. I admit to anguished feelings: I can’t entirely oppose fund raising because without such stopgaps, public schools have no art, theatre, debate, music, robotics, sports, or field trips – and some public schools lack all of these! In many cases, generous and public-spirited parents try to fill the enormous gap left by Proposition 13 and raise funds for all the kids, but inevitably, when a small group coalesces around a favored activity, one in which their own children participate, the precious cornerstone and sign of democracy – universal access – is marred, and at times, completely eroded.

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Acceptance Weighs More Than Denouncement

May11

by: Lubna Qureshi on May 11th, 2015 | No Comments »

On Sunday, May 3rd two gunmen were shot dead as they opened fire at the security guard, outside the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland Texas where, “Draw Muhammad” art contest was in progress. The gunmen planned to commit a heinous act of terrorism and in its pursuit shot the security guard on duty. The intended act of terrorism is as despicable as it can be so is the caricature drawing contest organized by the American Freedom Defense Initiative. Though Pamela Geller, the executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, exercised her legal right of freedom of expression yet her expression was not free from malice and spite towards Muslims.Of course, no one can stop anyone from practicing the First Amendment and the right to free speech. We Americans cherish the freedom to say what’s on our mind. However, freedom of expression becomes questionable when it focuses on maligning the faith or religious beliefs of any one, and in this case, 1.6 billion Muslims around the world.

Many argue that the cartoon contest was an innocent art event, with a glitzy prize of $10,000, where artists from around the nation gathered to exhibit their artistic talents. Some state that mere caricatures of the Prophet of Islam should not offend anyone since it’s just ink on the paper. Yet many fail to understand why the cartoon depiction of Prophet Muhammad is so upsetting to the practicing Muslims. Therefore it is essential to understand the logic that fosters the high standard of devotion and loyalty.

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The New Israeli Government is Worse than You Might Have Expected

May7

by: Ali Abunimah on May 7th, 2015 | No Comments »

You can also read this over at Tikkun.org.

A note from the Editor of Tikkun Magazine — A Quarterly Jewish and Interfaith Critique of Politics, Culture and Society (our online web archive contains many valuable articles, but they are different from what is in the print magazine which can be obtained in paper or read electronically only by those who subscribe to the magazine):

The new Israeli government is a total victory for the most extreme elements in the extreme Right in Israel. The overtly racist party HaBayit HaYehudi, the party of the West Bank settlers, will control the Justice Dept. , the Education Dept., and almost all important government offices concerned with the Occupation of the West Bank. And they have secured a promise from Likud to bring forward a proposed law that would make it illegal for any nonprofit to receive funds from a foreign government without approval from the government. That is directed at the various Israeli peace, reconciliation, human rights, and dialogue organizations that get support from a variety of European countries who want to see peace between Israel and Palestinians.

To get a sense of who these people really are, please read the following, written last summer after the brutal murder of a Palestinian teenager who was kidnapped as he walked down a street in Arab East Jerusalem by Israelis, set on fire and burnt alive to death, supposedly in “retaliation” for the brutal and outrageous kidnapping of three Israeli teens who lived in a West Bank Israeli settlement. I felt anger and horror at the murder of those three teens, and then the same upset at the murder of this Palestinian teen. But listen below to the story of what the woman just appointed to be the Justice Minister in the 2015 newly elected government of Israel, Ayelet Shaked, said in trying to justify the burning alive of that Palestinian teen. I do not subscribe to the view that Israel is seeking genocide against the Palestinian people, but it appears that its government now has in key positions people who do appear to justify a kind of holy war against Palestinians, and while I doubt that such a war will be waged in the next few years, and pray that it won’t, please do not underestimate the evil of some of the people now being put into positions of power in the new Israeli government (to see what I mean by evil, please read my editorial “Human Evil” in the Spring, 2015 issue of Tikkun magazine –subscribe now at www.tikkun.org/subscribe and then write to Leila@tikkun.org, tell her you’ve just subscribed, but don’t want to wait for the Summer 2015 issue and she will send you the Sprint issue).

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Cartoons of Free Speech or Hate?

May5

by: on May 5th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

Within two of the most prominent monotheistic religions in the world, Judaism and Islam, tradition dictates it blasphemous and highly insulting for any person to physically depict their G*d in Judaism, and the Prophet Muhammad in Islam, even positively or respectfully. So why then did the so-called American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) and its leader, anti-Islam activist Pam Geller, organize their “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, a small suburb near Dallas? Geller offered a $10,000 prize to be awarded for the “best” cartoon caricature of Muhammad.

According to Geller, as well as the invited keynote speaker, far-right politician Geert Wilders, head of the Dutch Freedom Party, the event was called as an exercise in free speech. Evidently, Geller chose the site in reaction to a pro-Islam gathering, “Stand with the Prophet” held there last January. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which follows extremist hate groups, defines AFDI as an extremist right-wing organization.

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The Present Hidden Holocaust

May4

by: Yanna Bat Adam on May 4th, 2015 | No Comments »

As my physical body grows old and older, there is in parallel, an essence aware of itself that becomes younger and younger.

Two opposite movements that don’t contradict each other in any way as there is a sense of wonder in becoming older/younger at the same time.

When life is seen as a miracle even the Holocaust is perceived as a gift of the One and Only Force of Nature.

A painting of an eye with a heart for the iris, with a blue background.

A David State of Heart, Yanna, 2015.

When we are identified with our physical body, trying endlessly to meet its corporeal needs for food, sex, family, money, respect control and knowledge we see the world from the 1st story of a 10-story building.

This perspective does not enable us to see much.

Imagine you see the world from the angle of a crawling snake that continuously looks for something to hunt.

We are trapped like animals in a human form, trying to survive as best as possible as do other beasts. It sometimes feels that animals are more “civilized” than us “humans.”

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