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Upcoming Event: Disarm Now: We Stand with Nuclear Survivors for Global Justice


by: Tikkun Staff on July 20th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

August 9th will mark the 71st anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nakasaki. Activists and concerned citizens will stand with survivors of nuclear weapons and all those harmed by nuclear technology by gathering at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California, in conjunction with Chain Reaction: a global action for nuclear disarmament, a nonviolent global movement encouraging nuclear disarmament actions by governments and the United Nations.

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a branch of the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Although managed by the University of California, the lab is under contract with the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and has outgrown its status as branch laboratory to become a national resource in nuclear weapons development.

The participants in the Livermore event, called Disarm Now: We Stand with Nuclear Survivors for Global Justice, are scheduled to meet on August 9th at the Livermore lab and demand that the lab cease developing new nuclear weapons for the U.S. arsenal and instead divert funds from their nuclear weapons budget (which makes up 86% of their total funding).


The Need for a More Radical Solidarity in the Work for Justice based on Spirituality, Mindfulness, and Self-Care.


by: Victor Narro on July 19th, 2016 | Comments Off

You are not obligated to complete the work,
but neither are you free to abandon it.

Do not be daunted
by the enormity of the world’s grief.
Do justly, now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly, now.

- Rabbi Tarfon in Pirke Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers)

For the past few years, I have ended my classes at UCLA with a reflection with my students about this excerpt from a poem by Rabbi Tarfon and its significance for them. Many of us who work for social justice often work on organizing campaigns with short timelines, with little resources, and moving on all pistons at a grueling 24-7 pace. This extreme pace can consume the important things in life that contribute to a person’s well-being. It’s a kind of martyr’s code that measures a person’s commitment to justice by their willingness to sacrifice personal time, health, and relationships.


Stop the Violence!!!!!


by: Rabbi Michael Lerner on July 18th, 2016 | Comments Off


Source: Flickr (Tony Webster).

We mourn all the victims of violence, including the large volume of violence against people that goes unreported and underreported, including poor people and people of color, but also we mourn for the very few police officers who have been hurt or killed by those outraged at the way police have been harassing or murdering members of their community, their people, their race, etc. EVERY HUMAN LIFE IS PRECIOUS. None of the violence is ok. Not black on black violence, not white on black violence or black on white violence, not police violence, not acts of violent retribution. A hard message to get across in a society that responded to the horrendous killing of 3,000 plus Americans on 9/11 by engaging in assaults (both military and economic) on Afghanistan and Iraq that caused the loss of lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Yet violence continues to produce more violence. So the violence we delivered in the Middle East engendered ISIS/ISIL, and so it goes throughout history, and today in our own country. But for us in the religious world, the ongoing violence normally ignored by the media and genuinely not known or understood by most Americans is a spiritual, religious, and ethical emergency that deserves the attention of all people in every country of the world.


AC’TIV•IST Soup for the Social Justice Soul


by: Kylie A. Gorski on July 15th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

The webseries is an often snubbed medium. It is written-off as sub-par and too easy: any kid can grab a camcorder and some friends right? Webseries has often been viewed as television’s disowned cousin. The truth is that webseries is the future of entertainment and the most honest medium in existence today; it is also so often, due to low budgets and time constraints, a labor of love.

Still, it takes something special for just any webseries to rise above the din of the rest, because anybody can grab a camera and some friends. The internet is for most, though not all, free and easily accessible. No one makes a webseries for the money, because there isn’t much to be made. Even the most well known and frequently awarded series are constantly grasping for sponsorship.


Social Justice and Theater at a Time of Crisis


by: on July 14th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Augusto Boal at Riverside Church, NY City, in 2008

All of last week I was at a Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) training. I was drawn to the intensely evocative and provocative forms first created by Augusto Boal in the 1960s, designed to support marginalized groups in creating social change. Intuitively, I sensed these practices could support the rudimentary role play forms that are part and parcel of learning Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and dramatically (pun almost not intended) enhance NVC’s social justice applications.

This week became a thick, rich, powerful, challenging entanglement of the personal, the symbolic, and the political as a group of 36 of us from across many social divides and several countries grappled together with our experiences and all else that unfolded that week. By necessity of care for our agreement to protect the specifics of what happened in the room, most of the below is only about my own experiences and lens.


Exit Through the Pet Shop: On the Potential Environmental Consequences of Actually Finding Dory


by: Sarah Asch on July 13th, 2016 | Comments Off

Source: Flickr Creative Commons (Nate Steiner)

With her bright blue scales, yellow tail, and sleek build, Dory is one good-looking fish, and Finding Dory, Pixar’s latest moneymaker, serves as a 105-minute animated broadcast of constant cuteness about her, a type of Indo-Pacific surgeonfish that is called a blue tang. It may seem harmless enough, but unfortunately Finding Dory has the potential to cause environmental destruction, all because a large swath of consumers in the United States are often incapable of seeing something they like on screen without wanting to possess it. Some marine biologists warn that if people flock to pet stores after seeing Finding Dory to buy blue tangs it could add significant strain to already over-taxed coral reef ecosystems and could seriously harm the blue tang as a species.

Scientists and researchers have precedent for being worried. After the 2003 release of Finding Nemo, clownfish flew off the shelves at pet stores worldwide, despite the fact that the movie is specifically about why fish belong in the ocean and not a tiny aquarium in a child’s bedroom. The movie’s moral stance on keeping fish as pets cannot be mistaken or overlooked. The movie is made for children and it doesn’t deal in subtleties, yet the clownfish was all the rage after its release. In research published by National Geographic, Andrew Rhyne, an assistant professor of marine biology at Rodger Williams University, estimates clownfish sales went up thirty to forty percent after Finding Nemo came out. The spike in clownfish popularity led to the organization Saving Nemo, which works to keep clownfish in the wild and out of fish tanks.


Donald Trump and Hate: A Q&A with Prof. Brian Levin about Extremism and the 2016 Election


by: Sofie Werthan on July 12th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant and Islamophobic rhetoric has given energy – and publicity – to many white supremacist groups in the United States whose membership has been in decline in recent years.

Emboldened by a mainstream candidate flirting with aspects of their ideology, members of hate groups such as the white nationalist Traditionalist Worker’s Party and the Ku Klux Klan have helped stage demonstrations inSacramentoandAnaheim, California, that have ended in violent confrontations. In Sacramento, white nationalist organizers wanted “to make a statement about the precarious situation [of the white] race” in response to protesters attacking Donald Trump supporters at campaign events, according to a statement on their website.

A tweet from presidential candidate Donald Trump. Source: http://www.attn.com/stories/9658/donald-trump-star-of-david-tweet-with-hillary-clinton

The most recent connection between Donald Trump and white supremacist groups is a tweet from Trump featuring an image of Hillary Clinton against a backdrop of hundred-dollar bills and a six-pointed star with the phrase “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” emblazoned on it. The image was first posted on a virulently anti-Semitic white nationalist internet message board. David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, praised Trump for being “absolutely right” on the topic.

Mother Jones and theWashington Post, among others, have begun revealing the extent to which white nationalist groups have penetrated Donald Trump’s base of support. In May Mother Jonesrevealedthat one of Trump’s delegates for the California Republican primary,William Johnson, is the president of a prominent white nationalist group. In February, theWashington Post reportedthat some white supremacist groups have started to use Trump to recruit new members to their organizations.

By using voters’ fear and mistrust of others to incite hatred, Trump joins an unfortunately long list of politicians throughout American history who have made prejudice the cornerstone of their campaigns.


Safety, Unearned


by: Irwin Keller on July 11th, 2016 | Comments Off

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published on Irwin Keller’s blogand is reprinted here with permission of the author.

On Saturday morning, December 13, 2014, racism saved my life. It was maybe 3 am, pitch dark, and I was in Winthrop, WA – a tiny town in the Methow Valley, east of the Snoqualmie National Forest. We had performed there that night – theKinsey Sicks, that is, America’s Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet, including me. This was one of my last performances with the group. I was to have an official swansong at San Francisco’s Castro Theatre the next night, and then the denouement of a couple shows in the Midwest over the next week.

We loaded out of the the theater – a large converted barn, actually – around midnight. We rested for a few hours in hotel rooms that were barely worth having paid for. Then it was time to start the long, snowy drive to Seattle to catch our early-morning San Francisco flight.

With a population of around 400, Winthrop was deserted at this hour. We pulled out of the hotel toward Main Street and paused at the stop sign to get our bearings. We were bone-tired and punchy. Jeff, who plays Trixie, was pulling up the navigation on his phone, but paused first to turn on an interior light and take a group selfie, to show the world how hideously unslept we were.

I noticed a vehicle coming toward us. It had also reached Main Street and was at the stop sign directly across from us. It seemed to be waiting for us to go, so I turned right onto Main Street. The other car turned to follow us. The navigation hadn’t quite kicked in and within a minute or so we missed the on-ramp to the freeway we needed. We saw our error instantly. I stopped just beyond the ramp, hoping the car behind us would pass, so I could just back up and grab the ramp. There were no other cars for miles.

But the other car stopped too. I stuck my hand out the window, waving for it to pass. It didn’t.


Trump and the Truth About Bullying


by: Charles Derber on July 11th, 2016 | Comments Off

Donald Trump is revealing inconvenient truths about bullying and American culture.

Adult bullies shape bullying by kids. Political leaders and major national institutions encourage bullying values. Despite the anti-bullying programs in schools, and the controversy about his own bullying, Trump’s success shows how deeply bullying influences kids and resonates among major sectors of the general adult public.

According to a major 2016 survey by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), teachers across the U.S. are reporting an alarming rise in bullying by school children against Latinos, Blacks, Muslims and other groups targeted by Donald Trump. Teachers say the bullies “seem emboldened” by Trump to taunt and insult while the bullied kids are terrified that they will be walled off, deported, or even killed.

The SPLC study did interviews with 2000 teachers. They received 1000 comments reporting heightened incidents of bullying explicitly in response to Trump’s rhetoric.

In New Hampshire, one high school teacher wrote that  “A lot of students think we should kill any and all people we do not agree with. They also think that all Muslims … want to kill us.”

A Wisconsin middle school teacher wrote that “At the all-white school where I teach, ‘dirty Mexican’ has become a common insult … Before election season it was never heard.”

A Michigan junior high teacher reported at a school assembly on bullying: “I had students tell me it [insults, name-calling, trash talk] isn’t bullying, they’re just ‘telling it like it is.’”


Why Choose Justice?


by: on July 11th, 2016 | Comments Off

What is the incentive to choose justice, even at the expense of one’s own privilege?

Over the weekend, I published a thought experiment: something we try on in our minds – often something that can’t actually be accomplished in real life, e.g., Schrodinger’s cat or Searle’s Chinese Room are two classics – to reveal something new.

My thought experiment turned on abolishing the police as they now exist and replacing them with something that would not have the mission James Baldwin characterized thusly in 1966: “to keep the Negro in his place and to protect white business interests.” I excerpted arguments that have come from key figures such as Black Lives Matter cofounder Alicia Garza, then asked this: “Reading the last few paragraphs, what was your response to the idea of drastically cutting – even abolishing – policing as it now exists?Did you think, “That’s crazy! Who will protect me?” If so, there is a colonizer in your head making you believe it is in your interests to perpetuate the system.”

The person who has this specific thought is on the other side of the line from the person who fears the police. Do I see myself as someone whose interests the police are here to protect, or someone who is in danger from the police? That seems like a pivotal and illuminating question in this moment, a powerful shot of self-knowledge and social knowledge. The balance of the essay advocated separating “from a system of white supremacy through word and deed.”