10/26/14From a refugee camp to the streets of Seattle: Owen Karimanzira
Tonight I am in awe, about the ways that life unfolds and how seemingly divergent paths someday can intersect again.
In 2008, while with The Legacy Project in a broken refugee camp in South Africa, I met a 29-year-old man from Zimbabwe named Owen Karimanzira. Owen was one of many refugees we interviewed on camera over two days, all of whom had sought refuge in the camp from xenophobic violence taking place throughout the country. These were people who had survived violence in their own countries only to then be attacked in South Africa as well.
It is essential to understand the scope of the story that you download and read the following PDF before reading on. It is a letter that I wrote home that day from South Africa to all of my closest friends.
To say that Owen was a tremendous inspiration would be an understatement. In the camp, there is a strange and unfortunate defense mechanism that develops in one’s mental process. You begin to tell yourself that these are refugees and you classify them as such in your mind, and thus make them “other”, essentially different than yourself. I think the defense works like this: if we fully allow ourselves to see refugees as people like us, exactly like or even better than ourselves based on their character, then the frustration and sadness about their condition would be too overwhelming, the sense of hopelessness too extreme. But in this camp, the stories from individuals never stopped. All defenses failed. We made our way from person to person, and we heard stories from people, people with names and faces and lives and loves (we will be posting all of those interviews within the next few months on thelegacyproject.com).
And then we met Owen, referenced in the letter. He was an intellect, a scientist, a peer…and not at all the person you would expect to find sitting on a wet cot, in the mud, under a leaky roof, in deplorable conditions, in a field in South Africa. All defenses fell away and what was left was the possibility, both for me and for those students and collaborators who had come on the trip, of real connection. We spoke to Owen about his life and dreams, what he had faced, what he dreamed of. And then after an incredible conversation, we left the camp, as observers are able to do. And Owen and I lost touch more or less, trading maybe one letter or email over the course of six years.
This last week out of nowhere, Owen wrote to me. He had made it out of the camp after the violence subsided, and had worked incredibly hard to continue to pursue his dream of being an AIDS scientist. He was going to be in Seattle for an AIDS conference and asked if I might meet him. I brought my camera and set it up in his hotel room to record our reunion after six and a half years.
This video is that conversation. I hope the excitement we each felt resonates clearly over these 25 minutes. And like I said, this is the first interview of many. The Legacy Project team has dozens to edit and post still. We waited too long for the resources to make the website we wanted to house these videos, but now is the hour. Updates on all the videos soon both here and on thelegacyproject.com
I was listening to and supporting a friend who was sexually assaulted this week. I found myself thinking about how many of those conversations I’ve been invited into over the years. I lost count a decade ago. That realization stunned me. Its everywhere, always. How many women, and men, have vocalized confusion about what they might have done to cause what happened to them, wondering what they could do now to survive, or what they might try (and risk) in order to have any sense of justice come to be?
It left me reeling, thinking about the subtle and not so subtle ways that I, we, many (if not all) of us in various statements, posts, and actions perpetuate an ongoing psychosis which supports brutality, and allows for the domination and subversion of others to seep into our days and lives through rape and assault.
In thinking it through as best as I could, which wasn’t nearly well enough, this tumblr (trigger warning: rape, sexual assault) left me in tears, with more questions than answers. I believe that this space, of reflection and recognition, is itself is a valuable tool as a starting point for involvement in what needs to be an ongoing conversation about how truly insane, how detached, and how responsible we as a culture have become.
I’ve been in #Ferguson the past week and have been so very moved by the young people activated by #MikeBrown’s murder. Although I was specifically helping them with their media relations, I felt compelled to capture their sentiments in the moment. This #HandsUp video is my humble attempt to document their voices.
As a global week of action demands justice for Mike Brown, young people from Ferguson, MO and their activist allies detail what #handsup means to them.
We are striving for a world where we deal with harm in our communities through healing, love, and kinship. This means an end to state sponsored violence, including the excessive use of force by law enforcement. We are committed to an America that comes to terms with the trauma of its painful history and finds true reconciliation for it. Mass incarceration and the criminalization of black and brown people must forever end, leaving in its place a culture that embraces our histories and stories. This means an end to racial bias and white supremacy in all its forms.
Our dreams are directly linked with those resisting militarism, war, and state repression around the world. We will achieve this new beloved community hand in hand, step by step, in global solidarity with all people committed to lasting peace and full justice.
08/19/14Adam Senecaut: eyewitness in Ferguson Missouri
The situation in Ferguson Missouri has escalated over the last week and Adam Senecaut went to see firsthand what was happening there. The inequalities of race, class, and power/authority there will not be solved by prayers and peace, but rather by confrontation: and this does not necessarily mean violence. Instead, we need to look at Ferguson as an opportunity to talk about these issues because we can no longer ignore them. The confrontation is real and immediate and constant. If we choose to “hope”, if we choose to wait it out, to ignore the situation, and to pretend that this doesn’t matter (“what is new about Ferguson” and “this happens in ____ city all the time”) then it is us who are the truly violent ones, because we are allowing this to continue unchecked. We become responsible for every injury, moment of oppression, and for the maintaining of a system completely out of balance.
Believe nothing, read everything, and above all: think.
LISTEN to the interview:
The interview with Adam Senecaut is 33 minutes long. LISTEN HERE (33 minutes, 49 seconds)
***Download the file to listen later: DOWNLOAD. (31.6MB; 128kbps)
You have seen the videos of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge filling the internet. Well, I was challenged 24 hours ago and this is my new perspective on it. Watch, consider, and take action. I call on three of my friends to pick up where this particular video leaves off. That means you: Jake Conroy, Will Potter and Arthur Smilios.
08/14/14Israeli Activists Speak Out Against Israel
The year was 1982. I was walking across the playground of my elementary school in 4th grade. Another student named David and I had been in a special current events class and were discussing Israel and trying to understand the situation there. I remember asking him if he thought that the situation would end anytime soon, and we couldn’t figure out how it possibly could. Insert a thirty-year gap and here we are in 2014 with a new generation of activists having taken up the cause for actively opposing Israel’s ongoing military an economic force in Gaza and the West Bank. Still with no end in sight, the situation deserves as much attention as we can give it. I figured there were two options available to me: go there and talk to people directly, or find activists who could talk via the internet. These two were perfect and they saved me a plane ticket for the moment. This is an interview with two Israeli activists in Tel-Aviv who oppose Israel’s oppression in Gaza and the West Bank and who like other activists have been branded by opponents as traitors for their politics.
The interview with the Israeli activists is 43 minutes long. LISTEN HERE (43 minutes, 12 seconds)
***Download the file to listen later: DOWNLOAD. (38.3MB; 128kbps)
FIND OUT MORE:
• An excellent three part video series called “Palestine For Beginners” created by my friend Ed Mast about Israel / Palestine:
- Part One is HERE on the roots of the conflict.
- Part Two is HERE on the occupation, human rights, and US tax dollars.
- Part Three is HERE on issues, obstacles, and the future.
• The website for the BDS Movement (Boycott, Divestment, Sanction) mentioned in the interview is HERE.
• Reporting from various perspectives on Israel / Palestinian issues is on the media organization +972′s website HERE.
• The video about the village of Khuza’a north of the Gaza Strip, ruined almost completely, which is mentioned in the interview is HERE.
I didn’t know what to think when Life Mastery Radio said they wanted to do an interview. Was I worthy of being called a “life master”? Would I fit their demographic: an interview that started out with centering and deep meditation breathing might not be in line with me?
But as is true of most preconceived notions, they often fall quickly once reality sets in…and I never expected to cover topics in this interview like activism, punk rock and the intersection of it with passion, spoken word touring, creating the world in the image we want to see, and how media and power have made us mentally lazy and disempowered us. This was a great hour and I am thankful I got to be a part of it.
• LISTEN HERE on the show’s home page.
• DOWNLOAD it from the RSS feed.
• iTunes is here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/life-mastery-radio-todd-alan/id423583728
Part two of Words As Weapons’ support of The Bunny Alliance as they continue their work to stop major airlines from shipping primates for animal research. They are on tour now – check out their dates and support their work! Get involved!
FIGHT OR FLIGHT TOUR!
June 27th – 29th: Portland, OR
June 30th: Eugene, OR
July 1st – 8th: Southern Oregon
July 9th: Berkeley, CA
July 10th – 14th: Los Angeles, CA
July 15th: Phoenix, AZ
July 16th: Dallas, TX
July 17th: San Antonio, TX
July 18th: Alice, TX
July 19th – 20th: Houston, TX
July 22nd – 24th: South Florida
July 26th – 28th: Atlanta, GA
July 29th – July 30th: Cincinnati, OH
July 31st – August 2nd: St. Louis, MO
August 4th: South Dakota
August 5th – 6th: Denver, CO
August 7th – 9th: Salt Lake City, UT
August 11th: Missoula, MT
August 12th: Moscow, ID
August 20th: Vancouver, BC
August 22nd: Seattle, WA
The interview is 15 minutes long. LISTEN HERE (15 minutes, 23 seconds)