Hooray for Jackie Robinson! Activism and Volunteering

Hooray for Jackie Robinson!

Activism and Volunteering

Not being reactive shouldn’t be being passive. It is not a form

of stupidity, holding again or being uninterested, eradicating

oneself from the world. Actual equanimity is not indifference.

It is the capability to be current together with your complete being and

not add gas to the hearth.–Jack Kornfield

I had my first style of “activism”–terribly naïve, however well-intentioned–when I wrote letters to “Expensive Chairman Mao Tse-Tung,” the primary on Could 23, 1956, in addition to letters in help of the Civil Rights Motion which completely captivated the eye of some of my grammar faculty lecturers, nuns, who gave me books to learn. It was the 12 months of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott. I used to be 12 years outdated, dwelling distant in Norwalk, Connecticut. Physician Martin Luther King, Jr.’s group solicited letters of help from many church buildings, together with our Catholic church. A number of nuns had been very lively in asking for letters of help, however solely from those that actually believed within the trigger. I discovered a lot from their angle of not imposing their activism on others. A number of of us jumped on the probability along with write letters to China to ask for the discharge of harmless prisoners. The nuns knew that letters needed to be respectful however very particular in itemizing the names of the prisoners & stating within the opening that China’s authorities handed the deadline promised to launch the prisoners. Then the remainder of the letter seems to simply kiss Chairman Mao’s ass, however possibly that’s simply diplomacy. The nuns inspired us to put in writing one thing unique and transient. We wrote the letters very fastidiously in pen.


After I woke as much as “activism,” probably the most urgent social concern for me was the African -American Civil Rights Motion, within the center 50’s.

In 2017 DNA testing confirmed my father’s genes to be blended: I found I used to be about half black Haitian and half Iberian on my father’s facet. I by no means knew how intimately linked I used to be to black roots, which all of us have most mainly. We arose from Africa, mom of our frequent humanity.

When, as an elementary faculty pupil, I used to be writing letters in help of Civil Rights, I’d by no means really feel piously righteous about different international locations’ lack of human rights (equivalent to in China), due to the apparent lack of human rights for African Individuals in my very own nation at the moment.

Human rights is each a neighborhood and a common concern. I am informed it is none of my enterprise to speak about different international locations. An activist aligns his or her voice with others, towards what’s felt as abuse of human rights, in no matter nation. Writing a letter was so small, however many individuals, impressed by Dr. King, had been throwing tiny pebbles into the lake of change.

An important hero of my youth was the gallant and dignified, but powerful, Jackie Robinson, and–with awe– I visited Ebbets Subject to see him play with the Dodgers. My abiding reminiscence of him: stealing-sliding throughout dwelling plate within the 1955 World Sequence, with my beloved Yankee’s catcher, Yogi Berra, going loopy. The Bums–to my dismay– lastly received!

Jackie’s plea was for an inclusive humanity. In 2007, it was sixty years since Jackie courageously began taking part in ball professionally, breaking the “colour barrier,” regardless of vicious racist taunting and going through segregated lodges, eating places, transportation, water fountains.

Within the early 60’s, I turned conscious of Cesar Chavez (whom I first noticed sitting serenely on the Jesuit seminary in Los Gatos, California) and later I’d volunteer with the United Farm Staff Union Motion organized by Cesar and Dolores Huerta who has carried on the work for therefore many brave and enthusiastic years.


“Activism” was coined round 1915 to indicate the doctrine or observe that emphasizes direct vigorous motion (as mass protests), some lively types of opposition/name for human rights, equivalent to marching for civil rights, picketing to arrange a union. Now activism contains rather more humble–but wanted each by the coed & the community–efforts equivalent to a highschool pupil serving to the native library or faculty. Not like the time of my highschool, volunteering is an important a part of most highschool college students’ expertise, not solely as a requirement on a college utility, but additionally rising as an individual who’s studying to present in addition to to take, to be involved in others in addition to in himself. Although I am writing about a number of the extra jazzy tales, truly most of my volunteering has been so simple as gathering garments, books, visiting a convalescent dwelling or being on a soup kitchen line.


One of many college students just lately got here again from a tour of Alcatraz which he discovered fascinating. I used to be educating highschool boys in San Jose, Bellarmine Excessive Faculty (1969-71) when a buddy, Marcus Holladay, known as me and requested if I might assist the organizing effort of getting garments, blankets, meals for American Indian individuals who had “occupied” Alcatraz within the San Francisco Bay (November 9, 1969) to make individuals conscious of latest Indian individuals and the way they really feel handled within the U.S. society. They had been in Alcatraz for 17 months, supported by donations.

American Indians began having some fights amongst themselves (“being their very own worst enemies” stated one of many organizing leaders). On June 11, 1971, one of many leaders was arrested for stealing copper from Alcatraz. It was over, however they’d gotten some individuals considering a bit extra broadly about Indians whom we have come to see as advanced, filled with the Aristocracy in addition to treachery as in us all.


On April 6, 1930, Mohandas Gandhi (born October 2, 1869) manufactured salt from sea water, publicly breaking British regulation (“civil disobedience”) in a motion to deliver political freedom to the Indian individuals. Indians had been solely supposed to purchase British salt.

Salt water from tidal marshes was collected in pots. The solar then evaporated the water, leaving salt behind which was placed on sale. “With this, I’m shaking the foundations of the British Empire.” India turned unbiased seventeen years later.

It is October 2, 2000. In India, hundreds collect at a sweetly incensed park on the Jumna River at Delhi the place Mahatma Gandhi was cremated. As we speak hymns are sung, verses from the Gita, the Koran and the Bible are recited. Tales, poems, prayers, individuals mix into one another; pleas for peace within the Center East. Cotton thread is spun on small spinning wheels (as our ever-changing stream of life) to recall Gandhi’s advantage of simplicity.


On the finish of April, 2007, 2 hundred and eighty of their neighbors’ Chongquing, China properties have been leveled, however Yang Wu (a martial artist) and his spouse, Wu Ping, stand alone on a shaky filth hill of their brick household dwelling (since 1944 and utterly re-built from the bottom up in 1994). They’ve refused to surrender to builders who need a mall and opulent flats. They’re surrounded by an enormous, bull-dozed pit. Wu Ping says: “Individuals should dwell with dignity… in case you are proper, you should arise for your self and never permit your rights to be trampled.” A neighborhood courtroom has dominated that the home have to be vacated. Yang is hanging a protest banner whereas Wu Ping sadly says: “I’m dropping hope.”

In Could of 2007, peasants from counties in Guangxi province, protested towards China’s one-child coverage. They protest compelled sterilizations and obligatory abortions. Fortuitously such coercive authorities motion is far much less frequent than within the late 70’s and 80’s.

The Web reported (June ’07) the cry for assist from 400 fathers in search of their sons who had been made slaves at brick kilns in Henan province. Among the dads even went “undercover” to see for themselves the horrible working situations at some kilns the place the grueling day may begin at 5 a.m. and finish at midnight. Outraged Chinese language residents sparked the federal government to raid about 11,000 kilns. Greater than 500, together with some youngsters, had been gratefully launched from the pernicious grip of compelled labor. President Hu Jintao ordered a radical investigation.


I am in Rowland Heights, California listening to Chinese language Falun Gong members–Bin Li, Jie Li, Hongwei Lu, Lingyun Zhao, Fengling Ge– who’re speaking about being in Chinese language labor camps and prisons for training their beliefs. They’re talking out to place strain on the chinese tuition singapore authorities and Communist Occasion to cease persecuting Falun Gong members in China.

They’re asking for help. Bin Li with tears in her eyes recounts: “All of us had been brainwashed. We had been overwhelmed, insulted so regularly you suppose, why are you right here? In some unspecified time in the future I believed I should not exist on this universe.” She says she’s grateful to have come to the U.S. in 2004, with a visa as a visiting scholar. An AIDS activist who was beforehand banned from leaving China was just lately allowed to obtain an award in america. Activists proceed to ask for reform of the in depth use of detaining civil rights activists with out trial. They advocate for the tip of censoring the Web.

Former pupil and pal, Dong Fong Liu, simply got here again from China. He’s involved in highlighting the necessity of the Chinese language authorities to guard coal miners, to maintain enhancing work security within the coal mining business which offers 70% of China’s power wants. Additionally there’s a motion to offer a minimal wage. Authorities officers have to implement new authorities coverage; 60% of 5.5 million coal miners are rural immigrants who’re extra weak to exploitation. In 2006, 4,746 miner lives had been misplaced in accidents, gratefully down 20% from the earlier 12 months. June 5, 2012, marks the twenty third anniversary of the Tiananmen bloodbath. I noticed an image of hundreds and hundreds of individuals in Victoria Park (Hong Kong) holding candles to recollect the pro-democracy pupil motion in an earlier memorial. Activists proceed to ask for deeper political reform in China.


I am in Watts right now (2003) and meet Anna Carter, a beautiful woman who wears flowers in her Afro. Solely about 40% of the excessive schoolers end right here; Watts is the situation of Verbum Dei Excessive Faculty the place the Jesuits just lately began a program. College students at Verbum Dei work someday every week for companies, each for studying and to make an inexpensive tuition attainable.

Anna known as the Seed Woman, as she began the Watts Household Backyard Membership final 12 months. It is filled with children taking part in and serving to plant tomatoes, pansies, chamomile within the yard.

She just lately got here again from Cuba the place she discovered farming methods in city environments. She was a part of a delegation with the organizations, Meals First and Institute for Meals and Improvement Coverage. They had been learning utilizing raised compost container beds in cities.

Anna was born in Oakland, California. Within the center 90’s, she was electrically shocked; some Native American buddies prompt she contact the roots of bushes and work with soil to heal the electrical energy in her physique. After three years of convalescing, she took a grasp gardening program by way of the College of California system. She discovered educating others took her thoughts off her ache and self-pity.

She says she needs individuals in the neighborhood to see that they’re themselves brokers (seeds) of change, that they’ll empower themselves, be ok with themselves, really feel self-respect, even in a tough surroundings. She affords courses in vegetarian cooking and gardening: “Wok with Me”; “The Worth of a Seed”; “The Natural Greenhouse”


The entire institution was of majestic look,

with richly adorned towers and fairy-like turrets, the four-

storied courts, their dragon-like projections and coloured

eaves, carved and ornamented pearl-red pillars, richly adorned

balustrades, and roofs lined with tiles, reflecting mild

in a thousand shades. –Huien-Tsiang, writing about Nalanda

I am at a peaceable protest towards the Taliban’s obliteration of historical Buddhist carvings and memorable statues in Afghanistan. I take into consideration the early twelfth century Turaskas, fanatical, murderous Muslims from Afghanistan, who entered India and destroyed all of the Buddhist communities of their path of destruction. I bear in mind the unhappy story of the over-running of the nice Buddhist monastic college, Nalanda; and the beheading or burying alive of hundreds of Buddhist monks. Nalanda was a middle of studying and contemplation from the fifth century to c. 1200. You may nonetheless view the ruins of Nalanda in India. As soon as a walled metropolis of lecturers and college students, its status of open inquiry, dialogue, debates and scholarship attracted presents from kings from Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Java, Bengal, China, Sumatra, Mongolia, Japan, Korea, Turkestan. At Nalanda, college students and lecturers explored and plumbed the meanings of the Hindu Vedas and Upanishads (pre-Buddhist scriptures) and the Buddhist philosophies of Hinayana, Mahayana, Madhyamika and Yogachara. The Buddhist saint, Naropa, was as soon as the abbot of the college. Nalanda’s in depth library–torched by the invaders– was stated to have burned for months, devoured by hearth and hatred.


It is Christmas trip, ’03, and I am accompanying an Evangelical Christian church to Baja California, Mexico. This church goes twice a 12 months to San Tecla which is dwelling to a big ranch, which attracts indigenous Oaxacans to journey north for a greater wage of about $8.00 a day which is twice what they’ll get in Oaxaca, if work is even accessible.

Some Oaxacans settle in Baja California, and others journey seasonally. The church members and I arrive on the ranch early within the chilly morning to arrange presents for kids, meals/garments baskets for households; we have pushed 2 ½ hours from the seaport of Ensenada, situated on Bahia de Todos Santos, 65 miles south of Tijuana. There is a rousing Christian service, with 120 youngsters sitting in entrance of the church’s stage which options musicians, singers and woman preachers; electrically-guitared, percussion beats and melodies. We’re weaving and swaying, swooning with Jesus, alleluia-ing.

Dios es Amor is painted in giant white letters on a brown cross. The solar is shining its brilliant yellow into the rocking church. Kids go to some small courses, whereas the adults obtain baggage of beans, rice, sugar, garments, cleaning soap, and shampoo. It’s totally chilly exterior; a number of the shivering youngsters nonetheless haven’t got footwear, so the church members be certain they’re given sneakers. I watch a teen receiving a present, a sudden and fast beaming response, warming; the so-called “beneficiant” volunteers notice they’re receiving a kind of small, fleeting satisfactions that feed our souls. Seven guys take a fast filth highway truck journey to view the ocean, rushing previous the tomato vegetation, which the Oaxacan Indians are protecting with plastic to guard from the bitter chilly sea winds. We keep on the hilly shore for half-hour, slipping on moist rocks, mosty grays, some ivory-colored blotched with rust, white and brown corrugated clam shells, delicate indifferent crab legs; waves spray salty water on me. I take a handful of ocean water to splash on my face.

I recall visiting Oaxaca (Oaxaca gave us Mexican president, Benito Juarez, a Zapotec Indian) with its fertile, huge plateaus, fairly valleys, the beautiful Sierrra Madre del Sur Mountain Vary. Chiapas and Oaxaca have the most important Indian inhabitants in Mexico, inside which lie beneficiant bounties of tradition, handicrafts, folklore, and spirituality.

The Indians right here in San Tecla, doing farm work, are descendants of the Mixtec or Zapotec; they’ve left their villages reluctantly to enhance the standard of their dwelling.

Going dwelling, we cease on the Tijuana border, on las playas of Tijuana. There are tall black noticed, rusted metal pilings which kind the frontera. We see some individuals put their heads by way of openings, maybe eager for the “different facet.” As we cross the border, my pal, Margot Alvarado (from El Salvador) exhibits us the place, in ’78, she went, along with her three youngsters, by way of a big drain into the U.S. She was fortunate, she says, to have been led by a “good” coyote.


I used to be in El Salvador to recollect the fifth anniversary of the violent passing (11-16-89) of six Jesuit clergymen from Spain (Ignacio Ellacuria, Amando Lopez, Joaquin Lopez, Ignacio Martin-Baro, Segundo Montes, Juan Ramon Moreno and their housekeeper and her daughter, Elba and Celina Ramos. Joan Didion, writing in 1982: “Terror is the given of the place. Our bodies flip up within the brush of vacant heaps, within the rubbish, thrown in ravines within the richest districts, in public restrooms, in bus stations. Some are dropped in Lake Ilopango.” I went to El Salvador to the touch and be touched by the land and its individuals, to cry for brothers and sisters who’ve suffered, to giggle and have enjoyable, to attempt to perceive and study with reverence. And cry for myself, for my very own tolerance for violence. I requested many how may politics-power-government, conceived to serve the individuals, to “en-right” and enrich all, turn out to be such a harmful repression and dying?

El Salvador is a marvel: show of hills, vegetation, metropolis marketplaces, refreshing ocean, and positive, nice individuals, a wounded, however resilient individuals. I say a prayer on the memorial of the murdered Jesuit padres and for Elba and Celina Ramos who died with them. Within the early morning, on the UCA College, round 2:30 a.m., six Spanish clergymen had been jerked from their beds and executed. Their housekeeper, Elba, and her daughter Celina had been additionally assassinated. There have been about 300 officers and enlisted males on the UCA campus on the evening of the murders. The UCA had been bombed in April and July of ’89.The dying squad wrote “FMLN” over the partitions to flee blame. In January of 1990, eight males had been arrested for the murders, six from the Atlcatl Battalian and two officers of the navy academy. Two males had been convicted, Col. Benavides of seven murders, Lieutenant Mendoza of the homicide of Celina Ramos. They had been sentenced for thirty years. The provincial of the Jesuits in El Salvador, Fr. Tojeira, formally requested for pardon the 2 convicted males, as a result of he acknowledged those that ordered the assault weren’t dropped at trial. Each males had been let loose. The Jesuits had brazenly favored a peace accord among the many political factions within the nation. Among the navy wished to proceed hateful polarities, particularly propagating that the Jesuits had been solely supporting the guerrillas. The Jesuits, the truth is, had been imploring for the mixing of the numerous political and financial components in Salvadoran society. Father Ellacuria and President Christiani, with all their ideological variations, had been each speaking about how they might unite energies to present to the peace accord. Many human rights teams say this is the reason far proper components killed Fr. Ellacuria and his buddies.

The Jesuits favored agrarian reform and the tip of political repression that stifled a sharing of energy. Jesuits equivalent to Rutilio Grande had been talking out for the poor, in addition to for all components within the society, political and financial. They had been educating rules of use and share, it doesn’t matter what one’s wealth or political perception could be. They spoke brazenly for social justice, human rights and towards political terror. In 1980, Oscar Arnulfo Romero (after three years as archbishop of El Salvador) was gunned down whereas saying Mass (March 24, 1980). Now I see footage of bloody, mashed our bodies of the six Jesuits and two girls. I anguishly wish to really feel the supremacy of the soul and inviolable spirit; however earlier than me are footage of bloody corpses.

I later spend a number of days visiting the UCA College in the summertime of ’94. The peace accord was signed in 1992. I really feel a relaxed surroundings right here on the college. Politically, first steps of the peace course of are being taken. Pockets of therapeutic and pleasure in piano, drums, guitars, voices of scholars, guests, college, staff, buildings going up, dance, critical examine, a full library. I hear talks that encourage extra political enlightenment and requires the tip of repression and the opening of a milti-faceted society, imbued with a information and cherishing of human rights.

I meet Ken Hauser, a volunteer from Virginia who has been making a number of journeys to El Salvador, bringing wanted supplies to the poor from the generosity of U.S. companies. I run into an ecologist from Eire who’s working with farmers, organizing options to air pollution and “pure useful resource exploitation” issues. I go to Padre Vito Guarato who’s offering a house for 300 deserted handicapped youngsters, at Casa de Piedra.

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