May 2009

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IN THIS ISSUE:

Why Immigrant Workers Will Fill the Streets this May Day
Rogue Prison Staff: Breaking all the Rules

Readers Respond To Boston’s Previous Article

Guest Editorial about how to end homelessness
Letter to the Editor
Progressive News Briefs
Prison Workshop
Progressive Radio Station shuts down their “little Bohemian closet”
Activists Train to Ensure Grassroots Success
May 19 Special Election
Queer Eye
Stonewall: 40 Years of Struggle for Equality
California Latino Water Coalition March
SubCulture Strives for Community Awareness
Report from El Salvador
Credo

Making Peace: One Circle at a Time
Bike Month
Music and Arts Calendar

Don’t Use a Shotgun to Kill a Fly
Progressive Religion Is Not an Oxymoron
Poetry Corner
Healing Wounds of Distrust
Unemployment Hell
Opinion and Analysis from the Grassroots
Playing the Name Game with Family Homelessness
One Nation, Many Faiths

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Why Immigrant Workers Will Fill the Streets This May Day
By David Bacon

On May 1, hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of people will fill the streets in city after city, town after town, across the US. This year, May Day marches of immigrant workers will make an important demand on the Obama administration: End the draconian enforcement policies of the Bush administration. Establish a new immigration policy based on human rights and recognition of the crucial economic and social contributions of immigrants to US society.
 


The immigrant rights march in Fresno will start at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 1 at Eaton Plaza in downtown Fresno.


This year’s marches will continue the recovery in the US of the celebration of May Day, the day that celebrates worldwide the contributions of working people. That recovery started on May 1, 2006, when over a million people filled the streets of Los Angeles, with hundreds of thousands more in Chicago, New York and cities and towns throughout the United States. Again on May Day in 2007 and 2008, immigrants and their supporters demonstrated and marched, from coast to coast.

One sign found in almost every march said it all: “We are Workers, not Criminals!” The sign stated an obvious truth. Millions of people have come to the United States to work, not to break its laws. Some have come with visas, and others without them. But they are all contributors to the society they’ve found here.

The protests are a result of years of organizing, the legacy of Bert Corona, immigrant rights pioneer and founder of many national Latino organizations. He trained thousands of immigrant activists, taught the value of political independence, and believed that immigrants themselves must conduct a struggle for their rights. Most of the leaders of the radical wing of today’s immigrant rights movement were his students.

In part, the May Day protests respond to a wave of draconian measures that have criminalized immigration status and work itself for undocumented people. In 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act made it a crime, for the first time in US history, to hire people without papers. Defenders argued that if people could not legally work they would leave. Life was not so simple.

Undocumented people are part of the communities they live in. They cannot simply go, nor should they. They seek the same goals of equality and opportunity that working people in the US have historically fought for. In addition, for most immigrants there are no jobs to return to in the countries from which they’ve come. After Congress passed the North American Free Trade Agreement, six million displaced Mexicans came to the US as a result of the massive displacement the treaty caused. Free trade and free market policies have similarly displaced millions more in poor countries around the world.

Instead of recognizing this reality, the US government has attempted to make holding a job a criminal act. Some states and local communities, seeing a green light from the Department of Homeland Security, have passed measures that go even further. Mississippi passed a bill making it a felony for an undocumented worker to hold a job, with jail time of 1-10 years, fines of up to $10,000, and no bail for anyone arrested. Employers get immunity.

Last summer, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff proposed a rule requiring employers to fire any worker who couldn’t correct a mismatch between the Social Security number given to their employer and the SSA database. The regulation assumes those workers have no valid immigration visa, and therefore no valid Social Security number.

With 12 million people living in the US without legal immigration status, the regulation would have led to massive firings, bringing many industries and businesses to a halt. Citizens and legal visa holders would have been swept up as well, since the Social Security database is often inaccurate. While the courts enjoined this particular regulation, the idea of using Social Security numbers to identify and fire millions of workers is still very much alive in Washington, DC.

Under Chertoff, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted sweeping workplace raids, arresting and deporting thousands of workers. Many were charged with an additional crime – identity theft – because they used a Social Security number belonging to someone else to get a job. Yet workers using those numbers actually deposit money into Social Security funds, and will never collect benefits their contributions paid for. The new Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says the big raids need to be reexamined, but she continues to support measures to drive undocumented workers from their jobs, and to keep employers from hiring them.

During her term as governor, the Arizona legislature passed a law requiring employers to verify the immigration status of every worker through a federal database called E-Verify, even more full of errors than Social Security. They must fire workers whose names get flagged. This is now becoming the model for Federal enforcement.

Many of these punitive measures surfaced in proposals for “comprehensive immigration reform” that were debated in Congress in 2006 and 2007. The comprehensive bills combined criminalization of work for the undocumented with huge guest worker programs. While those proposals failed in Congress, the Bush administration implemented some of their most draconian provisions by administrative action. Many fear that new proposals for immigration reform being formulated by Congress and the administration will continue these efforts to criminalize work.


Polo Chavez said the March for Legalization would be held on May 1, International Workers Day.



In reality, the labor of 12 million undocumented workers is indispensable to the economy, just as is the labor of 26 million people with visas, and the many millions of workers who were born in the U.S. The wealth created by undocumented workers is never called illegal. No one dreams of taking that wealth from the employers who profited from it. Yet the people who produce this wealth are called exactly that – illegal.

All workers need jobs and a way to support their families, not just some. And in a country with schools behind the rest of the industrialized world, with bridges that fall into rivers and people living in tent cities for lack of housing, there is clearly no shortage of work to be done. If the trillion dollars showered on banks were used instead to put people to work, there would be plenty of jobs and a better quality of life for everyone.

Nativo Lopez, president of the Mexican American Political Association and the Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana, says, “Washington legislators and lobbyists fear a new civil rights movement in the streets, because it rejects their compromises and makes demands that go beyond what they have defined as `politically possible.'”

 

Friday, May 1 5 p.m. (arrival), 6 p.m. (march) The May Day immigrant rights march starts at Eaton Plaza in downtown Fresno. Themes of the march are “United for Immigration Reform” and “Stop the Raids and Separation of Families.” For more info, call
559-499-1178 or 559-266-5291.

The price of trying to push people out of the US who’ve come here for survival is increased vulnerability for undocumented workers, which ultimately results in cheaper labor and fewer rights for everyone. Under Bush, that was the government’s goal – cheap labor for large employers, enforced by deportations, firings and guest worker programs. This is what millions of people want to change. And the Obama administration was elected because it promised “change we can believe in.”

In past May Day marches many participants have put forward an alternative set of demands, which includes tying legalization for 12 million undocumented people in the US with jobs programs for communities with high unemployment. All workers need the right to organize to raise wages and gain workplace rights, including the 12 million people for whom work is a crime. More green cards, especially visas based on family reunification, would enable people to cross the border legally, instead of dying in the desert. Ending guest worker programs would help stop the use of our immigration system as a supply of cheap labor for employers. And on the border, communities want human rights, not more guns, walls, soldiers and prisons for immigrants.

This May Day, immigrants will again send this powerful message. Their marches have already rescued from obscurity our own holiday, which began in the struggle for the eight-hour day in Chicago over a century ago. Today they are giving May Day a new meaning, putting forward ideas that will not only benefit immigrant communities, but all working families.

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Rogue Prison Staff: Breaking all the Rules
By Boston Woodard

If one is mindful of how the filtered news proffered to the public by prison officials from behind prison walls is generated, you gain a better understanding of why the unfettered voices of prisoners is important to the general public.

It is unfortunate that some California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officials condone prison staff and administrators by allowing them to retaliate and punish those of us (prisoners) who define our surroundings. We define prison in an accurate detail as only one who lives this life can. Hence, the public gets the complete story.

There are some officials overseeing California’s bulging CDCR who do what it takes to stop prisoners from showing and/or describing the internal, daily operations, especially the myriad of illegal and criminal tactics ubiquitous throughout the prison system. Exclusivity of a prisoner’s opinion and observation is practiced on a daily basis behind prison walls.

Once again, this time at Solano State Prison in Vacaville, California, prison officials have chosen the course of retaliation in an attempt to stop me from writing about what you should know about what you are paying for.

I’ve been writing for the Community Alliance (a progressive newspaper in Fresno) for about four years. This publication has allowed me a non-obstructed voice so I can present a prisoner’s side of any given story. Community Alliance editor Mike Rhodes has allowed me this opportunity.

I believe it is also important to say who these rogue prison staff are. They may not flee like so many cockroaches when the light comes on, but the light should be on them nevertheless.

Examples of violations, misconduct and continued retaliatory acts committed by some Solano State Prison rank-and-file guards up to the warden’s level are as follows:

Retaliation, harassment and other vindictive actions toward prisoners by rogue staff can range from verbal threats, mail tampering, illegal mass punishment (such as unwarranted shake-downs), filing false disciplinary charges on prisoners and other negative documentation, ignoring legally promulgated rules/policies and laws and more. There have been other cases when prisoners have been placed in isolation cells in retaliation for telling the public of prison abuses.

During an interview on a Citizen’s Complaint I filed on prison guard M. Vieira for gross misconduct (prisoners can file under Penal Code 148.6), the interviewer Lieutenant C. Ferguson, blurted that my editor Mike Rhodes “needs his head examined” for allowing me a forum to “make up shit!” Lt. Ferguson went on to say that Mike Rhodes is a “Dumb idiot!” I told him I would pass that information on to Mike. The violation here is that this so-called “staff professional” did not discuss the merits of my complaint, but rather used the opportunity to threaten and harangue me regarding my journalistic activities. Mike Rhodes should wear Ferguson’s dim-witted comments as a badge of honor. My complaint against guard M. Vieira stemmed from my article about rogue prison guards. [“It Ain’t So Funny When the Rabbit Has the Gun”: Community Alliance Oct. 2008]

After that article was published, a series of retaliatory and vindictive punishments were leveled against me. Two of the rank-and-file guards in my housing unit, M. Vieira and R. Ibarra, ordered me to stop writing (typing my articles) on a prisoner designated table in the day room. Soon after this, during what seemed to be during a fit of rage, guard Vieira rushed to a bulletin board designated for prisoner use and shredded one of my published articles off the wall that someone posted. (There have been numerous complaints filed on guard Vieira for multiple counts of misconduct and episodes of bizarre behavior by other prisoners.) This prison guard’s bizarre behavior continues to be ignored by Solano’s administration. Prison grievance/appeals records will verify this.

Using what is known as the “green wall,” or the guard’s “code of silence” tactics, some guards will jump on the bandwagon and begin their own retaliation against prisoners. Crossing professional and ethical lines, guard R. Ibarra (Vieira’s cohort) approached me and stated, “You’ve been acting funny… you’re becoming a problem and you know what’s coming next!” Shortly after that encounter, Ibarra, in a loud voice said to Vieira (so I could hear him of course), “Don’t worry about him, he won’t be here much longer.” These are clear threats.

A record of this misconduct needs to be made so I filed a Staff Complaint (Log No.#CSP-S-08-03589) on Ibarra and Vieira’s threats (still pending) and placed it in the out-going mailbox. During the night (“First Watch”) shift, another guard, R. Coker, in violation of the law and provisions of their contract that forbids the “code of silence” by tipping a staff member off, informed Vieira and Ibarra the following morning that I had filed a Citizen’s Complaint on them. In violation of the law and my constitutionally protected right to file a grievance, the following verbal exchange, replete with threats occurred:

Guard Ibarra stated to me, “What the fuck’s up man! Why did you file a staff complaint on me?” When I asked Ibarra who told him that, he responded, and could not tell fast enough on First Watch guard R. Coker. “First Watch officer Coker said you filed a complaint against me!” I informed Ibarra that it was illegal for him to be threatening me regarding my right to file a grievance. Ibarra then blurted, “You’re pushing it dude! You’d better knock that shit off!”

The actions and threats by these prison guards are of the rogue, green wall, code of silence type and should not be confused with those guards who carry out their duties responsibly and professionally.

The CDCR’s Ethics/Code of Silence policies are flagrantly violated by rogue prison staff at Solano State Prison. These violations are well documented and the CDCR’s Departmental Operations Manual (DOM) Article 22 Section 3- 33030.3.1 “Code of Conduct” delineates the responsibilities, expectations and consequences of these laws.

What makes matters more complicated (and dangerous) is when “upper staff” such as Sergeants, Lieutenants, prison administrators and the warden not only condone this misconduct, but sometimes participate in it, cover up the violations by dumbing-down and/or ignoring the merits of a prisoner’s complaint.

At the behest of guards Vieira and Ibarra, another cohort of theirs – guard S. York, attempted to set me up with a concocted CDC-115, a serious Rules Violation Report (RVR), for “Making Threatening Statements” toward a staff member. This amateurishly thrown together false report was an attempt to have me thrown into the Segregated Housing Unit (SHU), “The Hole.” York’s attempt to frame me failed as I was found “Not Guilty’ by a Senior Hearing Officer (SHO) at the disciplinary hearing. There was “No threat made. . .” concluded the SHO’s report. The false violation report was expunged from all my records and disposed of. A Citizen’s Complaint is pending on guard S. York for the falsification of the disciplinary report.

Several days after the above incidents, I was ordered to the Facility’s administration building for an interview regarding one of the complaints I filed. The interviewer was again Lieutenant Ferguson. Ferguson began hurling baseless accusations and threats. He bellowed that I had “no right” to write articles about prison staff calling them “stupid, arrogant, greedy or dumb.” The Lieutenant was referring to the “It Ain’t So Funny When the Rabbit Has the Gun” article. The article referred to rogue guards who break the law. Ferguson, who had his own series of investigations for misconduct, took my article personaly.

The day after the so-called interview, Solano’s Facility III Sergeant M. Bradley summoned me for another interview on the same complaint that Lieutenant Ferguson faked an interview on the day before. Sgt. Bradley spent approximately 30 minutes attempting to talk me into dropping the complaint on Vieira. I refused. Two hours later, I was ordered to pack all my property and was forced into a retaliatory bed move out of my housing unit of 2 1/2 years to another facility/yard that was being used for prisoners who are “disciplinary problems.”

Twelve days later, I was ordered by, who else?, Sergeant Bradley to the program office under the guise of interviewing me for the same complaint that he wasn’t qualified to hear the first time because a higher ranking Lieutenant interviewed me on it previously, albeit bogus.

During the second “interview,” Sgt. Bradley spent 15-20 minutes orating verbal nonsense which had nothing to do with a grievance. Sgt. Bradley’s “interview” was to make it look “official” so he could justify issuing me a derogatory informative CDC-128-B chrono (informative documentation placed in a prisoners file). This was Sgt. Bradley’s attempt to paint me as a manipulator and someone trying to “place blame on staff” by claiming I was “loud” and ‘uncooperative.” This practice is pervasive behind prison walls. Believe me when I say, if any of this was true I would have been issued disciplinary reports and put in an isolation cell. Sgt. Bradley is a hurricane himself who needs to be monitored and documented so he can be held accountable for his unprofessional behavior.

To further prove that Sgt. Bradley was hell-bent on retaliating against me by setting me up, with signed documentation (movement pass, CDC chrono, etc.) Sgt. Bradley called me to an interview, harangued me, threatened me, then sent me back to my housing unit. Minutes later, a guard from a facility on the other side of the prison, delivered a copy of an obviously pre-written documentation with selected verbiage, in an attempt to ensure his intention to make me seem at least uncooperative and manipulative. It takes one to two weeks minimum to issue an informative chrono on a prisoner, yet Sgt. Bradley accomplished false documentation on me in a few minutes.

It should be noted that Sgt. Bradley ordered me to the “interview” while Solano State Prison was an hour or so into a full-blown “emergency recall” (lock-down) on October 29, 2008. Prison records will verify this. There is no movement during emergency counts – in any prison! Sullying me regarding my right to file a grievance was more important to this so-called “public servant” than counting the institution’s population for a possible escapee.

Sergeant Bradley began his retaliatory misconduct against me in November 2006. Bradley, while acting as Solano prison’s mail room sergeant, attempted to silence me by stamping “Unacceptable Material” and “Refused” on the face of an envelope with copies of an article I wrote back to the sender. The correspondence was legitimate. My attempts to have the merits of an appeal I filed were denied. (See “Unacceptable Material” Community Alliance July 2007).

The CDCR has a zero tolerance for unethical behavior or participation in any form of the Code of Silence meaning disciplinary action will be taken up to and including dismissal or criminal charges- CDCR employees are to bring issues forward rather than cover them up. The actions of Lieutenant C. Ferguson, Sergeant M. Bradley and guards M. Vieira, R. Ibarra, S. York and R. Coker are flagrant violations of both the ethics and code of silence, which is forbidden, by covering up or participating in a prisoner’s right to define his surroundings as a journalist and a prisoner’s right to file a grievance according to Penal Code Section 148.6.

Citizen’s Complaints have been filed on all staff mentioned in this piece and are pending investigations. Other grievances (citizen’s complaints) have been filed on guards, brass and administrators for their continued attempts to silence me and for violating my constitutionally protected First Amendment/Due Process rights. The names and actions of these prison staff are impending.

I am consulting with attorneys to consider my legal options.

Boston Woodard is a prisoner/journalist in Solano State Prison. Boston has written for the San Quentin News, the Soledad Star and edited the Communicator.

Boston Woodard, B-88207
CSP-Soiano, 23-F-1-L
P.0. Box 4000
Vacaville, CA 95696-4000

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Readers Respond To Boston’s Previous Article

The Community Alliance newspaper posted Boston’s article on the Internet, and here are responses in the first few days:
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Across the state, inmate lawyers are being retaliated against for trying to stand up for blatant violations of their constitutional rights. Their families are the ones that should be fighting these battles for them. Boston Woodard needs to be moved before a guard physically harms him or gets another inmate to do it. File complaints with the Solano County Grand Jury and understand that this must be done by the family members themselves, not just by the inmates. Lawsuits can almost never win as the courts are stacked with conservative judges. There is certainly no place for Boston Woodard to go for help; the lawmakers claim they are “powerless” to protect inmates’ First Amendment rights. The families of the 3 million prisoners number 3 million. It is their responsibility to organizing a voting group that is noisy enough, funded enough to stop these abuses.

Here are the odds:

50,000 or so members of CCPOA

3,000,000 connected to a state prisoner,
another l.5 million on parole

So why is anyone tolerating these abuses year after year, hoping the lawmakers that law enforcement labor unions put into power are going to do the right thing and stop the illegal activity?

You have a pen, a keyboard, a mouth, a brain.

Use it to organize.

Boston Woodard needs to be moved to a prison where he is safer.

Matthew Cate doesn’t care about people like Boston Woodard or any inmate. It is up to we, the people, to care enough to organize to change the laws and stand up for what is legal, moral and ethical. Or we shall all continue to suffer oppression.

Susan
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I know first-hand what Mr. Woodard is going through as my husband is also incarcerated here in California and has had some of the same experiences. In fact, those of us who have a loved one behind bars knows this type of treatment all too well. It has to stop. We are the USA and not a third world country where you can almost expect these things. I ask that each and everyone reading these articles please stand behind us and speak out against prison/jail abuse. Men and women are being tortured and killed by these kinds of guards. They are nothing more than gang members in green junp suits, and to think we pay them $75,000 and up per year!

Toni Sevchuk
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It’s a tragedy when you have people in positions of authority and these individuals are eat up with such arrogance as to treat another human being with such contempt. Shame, shame on these rogue guards for their ill-treatment of Boston Woodard. God is watching and He sees everything these guards are subjecting Boston to. The injustices they are inflicting on Boston (and other inmates) will be brought to the light. Justice will prevail and these guards will have to answer for their misconduct.

Boston, people in the free world do care about you and other prisoners. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Doyle Jeffries
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Boston’s experience and worse is common throughout the California prison system. The organizational culture is one of cruelty and cover up. One only has to look at the confirmation hearings of Matthew Cates to observe the level of skill practiced in the cover-ups. The CDCR knows that even a “tough on crime” public would never tolerate the injustice and abuse that is commonplace.

Zane Cannady

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Guest Editorial
By Jeremy Alderson

For years, I said about homelessness, “When the canary dies in the coal mine, it’s not a veterinary problem.” Like many other homeless advocates, I was trying to warn people that homelessness wasn’t just about homeless people, but about problems in our society that were going to affect us all. Now the crisis is upon us, and untold numbers of Americans are wondering if they might not have to live in a Hooverville, that is, if they’re not already tenting in one. At such a time, what’s easy to forget is that homelessness can be solved. We don’t have to make a token effort and wail about how there’s just not enough money to help everyone. We can help everyone. Here’s how:

 


This entrance to the California State Capitol was blocked by 20 homeless people and their allies who demanded “Safe Ground.” The group was engaging in civil disobedience in response to the City of Sacramento’s destruction of a well-publicized tent city. Demonstrators were demanding the establishment of safe and legal camping grounds where homeless people can live. Alderson is on the far right. Don Fado (third from left), one of those participating in civil disobedience, is a former pastor at Wesley United Methodist Church if Fresno.

1. Build tent cities across America. These should not be refuges but neighborhoods, with defined lots, police patrols, sanitation services, and a strong central building that can shelter everyone in inclement weather. They should not be lawless enclaves, but neither should they be prisons, and they must be tied into the local transit system. Above all, people who reside in them must be treated with dignity. If you’ve got a roof over your head, and you’re reading this, just ask yourself one simple question: Where would you like to go if you lose your lodging? AIG execs and Bernie Madoff wanted to be able to go to their yachts if, say, work was being done on the manse. For the rest of us, if one day we find ourselves saying, “I never thought it would happen to me,” wouldn’t it be nice to know there was a place where we’d be okay and treated
decently?

2. Rebuild housing. It used to be an issue that we should build housing in the United States. At the moment, however, we have so much housing to rebuild, including abandoned, foreclosed homes, that building new housing seems like a luxury. Actually, we always did have a lot of housing to rebuild, but there’s no use crying over past inaction. Rebuilding our housing stock – and by the way, the Gulf Coast is nowhere near rebuilt after Katrina – would also be a massive jobs program. If this jobs program turns out not to help the economy, at least we’ll all be living with our disappointment in houses, and that’s something you can’t say for shoveling money at the banks.

3. Institute a single-payer health plan and reinstitute a broad program of scholarships for higher education. I am not arguing here about the financial protection, budgetary savings and better outcomes of single payer or the job creation and future standing of our nation associated with academic studies. No, I’m talking about making homelessness disappear altogether. After all, if you’ve got a safe place to sleep, food to eat, care when you’re sick and hope for your own and your children’s future, even if you don’t have a real home yet, by the world’s standards, you’re well off, and don’t you forget it.


Paul Boden (left – see his article on page 24) and Jeremy Alderson (right) at the state capitol in Sacramento. Alderson is the director of the national Homelessness Marathon, heard on over 100 radio stations in the U.S. and Canada.



There will surely be more that needs to be done, but if we just take these three steps, homelessness as a practical problem will disappear and homelessness as a psychological state will disappear even faster. Because homelessness as a psychological state isn’t about spending your nights outside – people go on camping trips all the time – it’s about feeling like no one cares and you’re a refugee in your own country. It’s about the psychology of the haves as much as the have nots. So I say let’s solve the problem and not just talk about it. Let’s define our country as one where we’ve got each other’s backs. That will be the best way to face what’s in front of us.

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Progressive News Briefs

New Homeless Community Center
Operated by and for Homeless People in Fresno

A small group of individuals are in the process of buying 1/3 of an acre on the southwest corner of B and Mariposa streets in downtown Fresno. The majority of money to purchase this property is coming from a couple of the homeless people who were a part of the lawsuit against the City of Fresno.

The purpose of the Homeless Community Center will be to provide homeless people with

1. Phone answering service
2. Access to computers and the Internet
3. Job center
4. Laundry
5. Meeting space
6. Voter registration materials and other services, to be determined as the project develops

There has been talk about using the large lot to grow vegetables, which could be sold to help offset some of the expenses of operating the center. The 3 bedroom/1 bath home that is currently on the property will be renovated. Local architect Art Dyson will design the center, which participants say will include solar panels to provide electricity. A nonprofit 501c 3 will own and operate the Homeless Community Center.

If you are interested in this project and/or would like to invest in empowering the homeless to improve their lives, e-mail editor@fresnoalliance.com.

The Stolen Lives Department


The family of Everardo Torres (above) is taking  their case to court on May 11.

Everardo Torres was shot to death in 2002 by Madera police officer Marcy Noriega. Torres had been arrested, handcuffed and put in the back seat of a police patrol car. Noriega opened the back door, pulled her firearm and shot Torres through the heart. She claims she thought she was using her taser. In April 2005, Judge Ishii rejected the family’s claim that Torres’s civil rights were violated and he issued a summary judgement in favor of Noriega and the City of Madera. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Ishii’s ruling and the case will return to his courtroom on May 11. This hearing will be held at the Federal District Court in downtown Fresno. Community support for Everardo Torres’s family, as they seek justice, would be appreciated.

Independent Police Auditor Established in Fresno

On March 24, the Fresno City Council finally voted in favor of an Independent Police Auditor (IPA). The vote was 5-2, with council members Mike Dages and Henry T. Perea in opposition. Mayor Ashley Swearengin and the Central California Criminal Justice Committee won this victory for police accountability by winning over all of the conservatives on the City Council.
 


Gloria Hernandez, spokesperson for the Central California Criminal Justice Committee, supported the mayor’s proposal for an Independent Police Auditor at this press conference held shortly before the issue was voted on by the City Council.

Pressure for police accountability in Fresno increased after three police officers in the narcotics unit were arrested in a car theft operation earlier this year. The entire unit was shut down. Demands for an IPA increased even more after video of a Fresno police officer beating a homeless man was shown nationally.

The IPA, re-named the “Office of Independent Review,” will have no investigative authority and reports to the City Manager. Some critics of the plan say the independence of the position will be compromised by having to report to the City Manager’s office.

While the Central California Criminal Justice Committee (CCCJC) solidly supported the mayor’s proposal, some members of the progressive community are concerned about the effectiveness of the IPA. Critics say that the new IPA will only give the illusion of police accountability, but will in fact be a public relations front for Police Chief Dyer and Mayor Swearengin.

Supporters, like CCCJC member Ellie Bluestein disagree, and say that we need to give the IPA a chance. Bluestein points out that while some IPAs around the country look good on paper, they are weak in practice. Alternatively, some IPAs that look terrible in print are actually working pretty well.

It will be, according to both supporters and critics of the IPA, the political will at City Hall that will determine the success or failure of this new project.

Storyland Motel Residents Evicted

Over 100 residents of the Storyland Motel in Fresno were evicted in April. The City of Fresno condemned the motel on March 18 because of numerous code violations, which included broken windows, rodents, mold, and leaky plumbing.

 


John P Saunders lived at the Storyland Motel and planned to relocate to the Sahara Motel. John is a retired diesel mechanic.  

Several Storyland Motel residents, most of whom are poor and one step away from homelessness, told me they were not happy about moving. Even though they complain about the condition of the housing, they felt like they were part of a community and were sad to have to move. The City of Fresno gave vouchers to the residents to help them move into other inexpensive motels in the area (near Roeding Park). Central California Legal Services was onsite to make sure that the residents legal rights were protected.

The Storyland Motel was shut down because one resident got tired of her room’s condition and the refusal of the owner to fix things. She called code enforcement and they condemned the building. There are a lot of apartments and motels like Storyland in Fresno. Clearly, the slumlords that own these properties need to be forced to bring them up to code. On the other hand, if the City of Fresno and Code Enforcement were to shut down all units that are not in compliance, the community would soon run out of affordable housing. This could, in the short term, dramatically increase the number of homeless people in Fresno. In the long run, it could motivate the City and County of Fresno to ensure that there is adequate affordable housing for everyone who needs it.

Homeless Man, Beaten by Police, Subscribes to the Community Alliance

Glen Beaty, the homeless man captured on video as two Fresno Police officers held him down and beat him, sent the Community Alliance a letter in April requesting a subscription to this newspaper. Beaty is being held in the Fresno County Jail, charged with “deterring an officer by threat/violence,” which is a felony. In other words, the victim of this beating, Glen Beaty, is being charged on a no bail felony.


Glen Beaty is being held in the Fresno County Jail, charged with “deterring an officer by threat/violence,” which is a felony.


The Community Alliance has requested an interview with Beaty so he can tell our readers what happened, but he has declined saying that his legal counsel does not want him to talk about the incident. The Fresno Police Department released statements saying that Beaty attacked the officers and that he has had violent run-ins with the police in the past. Information about Beaty’s mental health has also been released to the media. The release of this information has been done to discredit and prejudice public opinion against Beaty, should he sue the city for violating his civil liberties. The Community Alliance will continue to follow this story and we hope to be able to give Beaty’s side of the story before too long.

Initiative Attacking Public Pensions Cleared for Circulation: Don’t Sign This Initiative Petition!

Supporters of a new initiative that would change public pensions have begun gathering signatures. The initiative would amend California Constitution to allow renegotiation of benefits, including reducing vested benefits for existing and prospective retirees.

Retiree health and other benefits would be subject to renegotiation if the initiative passes. Employers could then negotiate agreements that would result in reduced (vested) benefits for individuals, both current and future retirees, including health care and other benefits. This would put in jeopardy those vested benefits that have already been agreed upon.

Labor Notes

A majority of workers at Kaiser Hospitals, throughout the state of California have petitioned to decertify the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and join the new National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). This includes about 1,000 Kaiser workers in Fresno. Rather than accept that Kaiser workers would rather be in another union, SEIU employed a small army of lawyers to thwart the democratic will of the workers. The National Labor Relations Board, which often sides with the bosses, ruled in favor of SEIU. NUHW will appeal the ruling.

SEIU’s position at Kaiser is particularly ironic, since they are one of the biggest backers of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). If passed in Congress, EFCA will recognize workers’ rights to join a union, based on their ability to get a majority of workers to sign a petition requesting union representation.

SEIU also tried to prevent close to 10,000 local homecare workers in Fresno from voting on who will represent them. Again, NUHW gathered the required signatures to call for an election so the workers could decide what union they want to be in, but SEIU brought in their lawyers and did everything possible to stop the workers’ right to a free and fair election. SEIU failed in their attempt to undermine democracy and on April 23 a letter from the County of Fresno announced that an election will be held. That election will probably take place in June and will determine which union will represent home care workers.

If you want to stay informed about this important struggle for union democracy, see: www.nuhw.org and http://www.perezstern.blogspot.com/.

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Prison Workshop
By Georgia Williams

What do you tell children who have a parent in prison? How do you talk to a loved one who is incarcerated? Are there boundaries set or protocols to be followed? How does one manage their life during such a stressful time? To find out the answers to these questions and more, you are invited to the Prison Workshop, which is sponsored by the Greater Fresno Chapter of the ACLU-NC. The workshop will be held on Saturday, May 23, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Pearlygrove Baptist Church (735 E. Church Ave.) in West Fresno. Preregistration is encouraged.

David Dougherty, community resource manager at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, will be the keynote speaker. The agenda includes morning sessions on visiting protocol, dealing with emotional issues, inmate and family needs, and family volunteer opportunities. A retired correctional officer, a prison mental health professional, a prison transitional specialist and a parolee will form a discussion panel in the afternoon.

Child care for children ages 2 to 12 will be provided. Children can play, listen to storytelling and have their faces painted while their parents attend the workshop.

Attendance at the workshop is free of charge, and lunch will be provided.

“People need to hear from those who have served time to understand what it’s like on the inside,” says Laura Wass, who is helping organize the event. “Our main goal is to lose the ‘them against us’ mentality and build communities with purpose.”

“We want the community to attend, to listen and to ask questions,” says Rev. Floyd Harris, who is also helping organize the event. “Too many people have folks in prison and don’t know what to do when they see something going wrong.”

The workshop is cosponsored by a number of local social activist groups, including the Fresno Center for Nonviolence, the California Prison Moratorium Project, the National Network in Action, Californians for Justice, the Fresno Metro Ministry, the Fresno Pacific Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies and the Fresno County Peace and Freedom Party.

Organizations or individuals who would like to cosponsor the event or provide assistance in the form of volunteer time or financial support should contact Rev. Floyd Harris at 559-803-0286 or xyfloyd@aol.com or Georgia Williams at 559-439-5268 or georgiam@csufresno.edu.

Groups interested in tabling in the morning or at lunchtime should contact Rev. Harris. The cost is $25.

Seating is limited. Those who plan to attend should register for the workshop by contacting Georgia Williams.

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Progressive Radio Station Shuts Down Their “little Bohemian closet”
By Rick Flores

FCF 88.1 FM in Fresno plans to close its old broadcast studio soon. And I know I’m going to miss it.

To say the old studio feels like home might sound like a cliche and a stretch, but here it aptly applies. That’s probably due in large part to Rand L. Stover. It’s his house where this humble little studio, he built, exists in a loft above a garage. Without Rand’s engineering skills. It’s safe to say there might never have been a KFCF.

It was Rand who had the technical ability to turn the idea of the Fresno Free College Foundation into a reality.

Nearly 35 years ago, Rand first met with Alex Vavoulis who was representing FFCF, and the idea of bringing Berkeley’s KPFA signal to the Fresno area emerged. Recently, I asked Rand about that initial meeting. “Alex had the idea of putting in a translator,” Rand remembers. “He didn’t know what a translator was but he was pretty sure it could bring us KPFA’s signal. We had a discussion and I told him a translator probably wouldn’t do the job for Fresno because KPFA was too far away. You needed a site for the translator where you could hear the station you were interested in and also reach the audience you wanted.”

 


Rick Flores at the controls during Wasteland of the Free at the old KFCF studio.  All photos on this page were taken by Isaac Flores. Issac is a professional photographer who has worked with musicians such as Serj Tankian and Fair To Midland. He is the son of Rick and Janet Flores.

Rand had also been thinking about bringing a much needed media alternative to Fresno. “What I suggested to Alex was something I had thought about previously, and that was to actually build a small radio station, and with some luck find a way to get the signal from KPFA to a good transmitting site and distribute it across the valley,” Rand continues. “I said we should get a genuine radio station license that would have the possibility of growing over a period of time. He thought that was wonderful, and so did I.”

Shortly thereafter, they went looking for a site. They needed a mountaintop where you could hear KPFA – something not possible in Fresno. At first they had trouble finding something satisfactory. However, it looked like Mount Bullion, a 2,000-foot hill in Mariposa, might be able to receive KPFA. Rand thought they might be able to install a microwave link there to get the signal back to here. They trekked up to Mt. Bullion with receivers, antenna and other equipment and found out, sure enough, that indeed you could receive a KPFA signal from up there. Rand figured they could get a microwave signal from Mt. Bullion to Meadow Lakes where he was already performing broadcast engineering for a number of other Fresno radio stations. Rand worked on making the link a reality while Alex and other FFCF board members raised money for the project. A license application was submitted to the Federal Communications Commission for a microwave link between Mt. Bullion and Meadow Lakes and in 1975 KFCF was born with a full 10 watts of power with the potential to be expanded later. “That was the start of this whole business here,” Rand says with a smile.

Interestingly, instrumental in helping the fledgling station off the ground were the United Farmworkers who had built a building for a microwave unit for their own use on Mt. Bullion. They granted FFCF free use of the building. “They were very courteous and helpful letting us use their site,” Rand adds.

As time went by, Rand improved the reception of KPFA by switching to a satellite link, which is how the signal is received now, as well as boosting the station’s power from its Meadow Lakes site.

He also worked on creating a studio where local programs could be produced for KFCF, which brings us back to the subject of the old studio’s closure. Health problems have limited Rand’s ability recently to perform engineering duties for the station. That, coupled with the FFCF board and management’s concerns over the future of KFCF, have led to the decision of upgrading the new KFCF studio, located north of the Tower District on Wishon Avenue, and have it be the sole source of locally produced programming.

 


The equipment room for KFCF at Rand Stover’s studio

While this progression seems inevitable, it is hard not to keep from affectionately reminiscing about the old studio, much like you would at the parting of an old friend. I have many personal memories I have gathered over the past decade producing my show Wasteland of the Free from there. I sometimes refer to it as our “little Bohemian closet” in which I have had as many as a dozen musicians crammed, performing live, looking much like the stateroom scene in the Marx Bros. “Night at the Opera” movie. There have been many times while sitting at the console with my head phones on I have turned around expecting someone has walked into the room unannounced behind me only to find nobody there. With doors to the outside sometimes opening and shutting on their own I deduct there is probably a good cross-draft going on, but personally I’m not ruling out ghosts.

And there are still a handful of shows, other than mine, still being produced out of the old studio. We will all soon have to make the transition to the Wishon studio, closing the door behind us to Rand’s simple and quaint but extremely adequate radio facility. KFCF General Manager Rych Withers is spearheading that transition. He is not without his own personal memories of the old studio.

“In the original studio, before the upstairs over the garage was rebuilt, we were literally in the attic of the roof and there was no insulation or air conditioning,” he remembers. “One day, it was one of those legendary hot Fresno days where it has to be at least 100 degrees outside. I had a musician, Bodie Wagner, in for an interview and it had to be at least 125 degrees in the studio. We started the interview, talking, and him performing some songs. It was so hot we finally took our shirts off. We talked and he picked for a while longer when finally we both stood up and took our pants off, and did the rest of the show in our underwear.”

Rych currently is working on improving the Wishon studio with a new audio board. He has worked out an arrangement with Peak Broadcasting for providing satellite, microwave and ISDN connection for KFCF. He expects the transition to happen smoothly over the next few months, but admits KFCF is confronted with a daunting future. “Right now KFCF faces challenges with the current economic climate, and also with Pacifica’s financial instability,” he said. “We also face the new emerging technologies like satellite and Internet and the aging of our listenership. It will be an interesting balancing act of attracting younger listeners without losing aging listeners. The Wishon Avenue studio will be more reliable and the setup will be conducive to featuring local musicians and other performing groups than either studio is now.”

Rych went on to praise Rand Stover for his efforts keeping KFCF on the air all these years. “Randy put KFCF on the air, and helped with creative ways of doing programming that were inexpensive. If not for Randy, it is quite possible that KFCF would not have come into existence or survived. I am grateful for all the time and effort he has put into the station. With Randy we were among the first to use digital distribution by satellite to get the signal from KPFA to KFCF. Later, Radio Bilingue and NPR based their satellite systems on what we had done. I hope to build on his legacy in keeping KFCF in the forefront of technology,” Rych concluded.

For now, the old studio is still open for use and, at the time of this writing, the day of its final closure is uncertain. I have a feeling, however, after the door has been shut the last time, I will miss it as I might a simpler time or an old friend, with many fond memories of a place that feels like home.

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Rick Flores hosts Wasteland of the Free heard on KFCF 88.1 FM Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to noon. He lives and works on his family farm west of Easton.
 

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Activists Train to Ensure Grassroots Success
By Michael D. Evans

About 65 folks descended on Fresno from points as distant as Hawaii to attend the Democracy for America (DFA) Campaign Academy that was held here in late March. The DFA academy is “one of the most useful trainings because you can directly apply it to real-life situations in an activist’s life,” says Karen Bernal, an attendee from Sacramento who is the recently elected chair of the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party.

For the training, the DFA brings in a group of instructors from around the country to “focus, network and train grassroots activists in the skills and strategies to take back our country, manage successful campaigns or run for office themselves.” Each of the instructors has considerable grassroots experience and shares real-life case studies as part of their classes.

“We know it’s tough to do politics as part of your everyday lives,” says Jim Dean, chair of the DFA and Gov. Howard Dean’s brother. “So the purpose of this training is to make it easier to do that and make it more time efficient, so that if you have a couple of hours a week to do something involving community activism or even run for office you’re going to have the resources to make that time well spent.

“Anybody who’s been in politics knows what it’s like to spend three hours trying to figure something out that it takes five minutes to do if you’ve done it once before. So we’re trying to speed up the learning curve among a lot of people who are really involved with their community.”

James Williams, president of the San Joaquin Valley Democratic Club, was the key person responsible for bringing the DFA training to Fresno. “I thought the training was needed in this area to get a group of people who understand how to run a campaign,” he says. “There’s no way that we’re going to start winning until we know how this is done.” He adds that with the improved skills and knowledge about campaign organizing, the training will “benefit us directly on the ground.”

“I have always been impressed with the work of Howard Dean and Democracy for America,” says Shanthi Gonzales, a progressive activist from Oakland. “Making sure we get candidates who represent a broader cross-section of the country and who have more diverse experiences than a lot of the candidates that we already have in office is a really valuable tool.”


Attendees break out into a group session during the DFA Campaign Academy. This extensive training program for potential candidates and campaign staff was held in Fresno during March of this year. In the foreground of this classroom (from left to right) are James Williams, president of the San Joaquin Valley Democratic Club; Karen Bernal, the chair of the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party; Brenda Emerson, chair of the Fund-Raising Committee of the Fresno County Democratic Central Committee (FCDCC); and Gary Alford, chair of the FCDCC. Photo by Howard Watkins.



Attendees hailed from a variety of organizations, including those involved with labor, progressive issues, peace and justice concerns, and the Democratic Party. The motivations for participation varied.

“I’m a political junkie,” says Merylyn Whited, a Democratic activist from Coarsegold. She wants to use the knowledge and networks that she gained at the academy to help elect a Democrat for U.S. Congress in District 19. “Field work is what I prefer. I am good at the grassroots level,” she says. “Most of all, I like to make contacts and meet people.”

Nancy Greisser, coordinator of Volunteers for Change in Fresno, sees the academy as a “wonderful opportunity to meet with national organizers to really see their experience in the field.” She notes that their experience helps folks locally “to sharpen our skills so that we are more effective.” An area of particular interest to her is fund-raising “because that’s a linchpin. That’s an area that we need to be better at.”

For Robert Williams, chair of the Organization & Development Committee of the Fresno County Democratic Central Committee, participation in the academy positions him to be more constructive in assisting with initiatives or campaigns that he supports.

Larry Roberts, a union member from Union City, believes the academy is “a means to get additional information and techniques to help with union activities.”

Some of the participants had attended previous DFA trainings. Susan Rowe, chair of the Madera County Democratic Central Committee, is something of a DFA junkie. “I normally try to attend at least one of their trainings a year, and I also take the Night School when they offer it,” she says. “They have the best trainers and they do evaluations of all the campaigns in the prior election and find out what worked the best. Then, they enhance their program. So you can always learn more.”

The training is designed to be taken back into the community for direct implementation in moving forward the campaigns of candidates for elective office, supporting community-driven causes, strengthening progressive organizations and identifying new leaders.

“I am interested in party building and exploring the possibility of running again,” says Larry Johnson, 2008 candidate for U.S. Congress in District 21. “The knowledge and the information that they put forth [in the training] is tremendously valuable in understanding the process and more of the political science involved in running a campaign. It’s not about ideology; it’s not about wishing and guesswork. There’s an actual framework.”

Connie Peterson, a progressive activist from Fresno, worked on the Obama campaign and believes the training can help her “to be effective at those points that I may choose to engage in that level at a campaign again, whether it be local or a statewide campaign or a national campaign.” She was “blown away by how sophisticated the analysis is, the data and all that. I knew it happened, but I was amazed at the detail with which we looked at things.”

Jay Matthews, founder of the Fresno-based ErasetheH8 Campaign, came away with information to run his organization more effectively. “We are trying to change the climate in Fresno for the gay community, and we’re all about equal rights and making people feel good about one another.” He believes that the training provides him with the tools to help those running for office “especially if I support what they do.”

“With this kind of knowledge and training,” says Johnson, “we can be a lot smarter in who we might choose to run for certain offices and just talking to people you can get a sense if they have a firm grounding of the mechanics, the realities of the campaign. If I run as a candidate, I know I’ll have a much better understanding of what to look for in a campaign manager.”

Pedro Ramirez, president of the College Democrats at Fresno State, wants to take the expertise gained at the academy back to his membership. “It’s time we get students and people engaged in politics, and learn grassroots activism-especially in Fresno.”

Most of all, Rowe says, she likes being with other activists. “The DFA is about their activist base and helping to train the activist base to run their own political campaigns and maybe one day run for their local party or run for a local office. The best candidates come from the roots, and I like to back DFA’s candidates. I look them up all over the country.”

The DFA has scheduled three trainings in California this year. “We really believe that the eastern part of California, whether it’s the Central Valley or places up north or even the Inland Empire, are really important places to California and, by extension, the country,” says Dean.

“It wasn’t but four years ago that it looked like California might just turn Republican. You know, you had the coast and that was it,” notes Dean. “Yet we know there are a lot of people who want to change that, and we want to help move that along a little bit. We want to be there for them because they’re putting in a lot of heavy lifting.”

On May 30-31, an Inland Empire campaign academy will be held at Beaumont in Riverside County. On June 27-28, a training weekend will be held at Shasta College in Redding. Seats are still available for both trainings, and you can learn more or register for either at www.democracyforamerica.com/campaignacademy.

In addition, the DFA offers Night School, which is an online training program. Each session is an interactive conference call and Web presentation. A variety of topics are covered, and past presentations can be viewed online or purchased on DVD. Learn more at www.democracyforamerica.com/nightschool.

The DFA academy has “evolved into a highly organized training program and it’s still very usable,” says Bernal. “It’s not something that is theoretical at all. It’s very real-life stuff.”

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Michael D. Evans is a political activist, editor and writer. He can be reached at evansm@usa.net.

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May 19 Special Election
Information compiled by Brandon Hill

[Editor’s note: The Community Alliance newspaper regularly provides a “Voting Recommendation Grid” so our readers know which organizations are supporting which candidates and propositions. If you are progressive and you see that the Sierra Club, the Green Party, Planned Parenthood, and your union all support a proposition and the Chamber of Commerce is against it, then it is likely you will want to vote for it. Unfortunately, this special election is a little different. In an effort that seeks to end the budget crisis at the state capital, the voters are being asked to pass Propositions 1A – 1F. If passed, these propositions will help the schools but cut funding in programs for children five and under. Opponents argue that mental health services will be decimated and proponents say this is necessary to balance the budget. There are progressive organizations and individuals arguing both for and against the propositions. In other words, this month’s election is as clear as mud.]

Prop 1A: STATE BUDGET. CHANGES CALIFORNIA BUDGET PROCESS. LIMITS STATE SPENDING. INCREASES “RAINY DAY” BUDGET STABILIZATION FUND.
This measure increases the size of the state’s rainy day fund from 5% to 12.5% of General Fund. This could, in theory, limit future deficits, spending and fluctuations in state spending levels by increasing fund for use during economic downturns and for other purposes such as education, infrastructure and debt repayment, and use in declared emergencies.

Prop 1B: EDUCATION FUNDING. PAYMENT PLAN
Requires supplemental payments to school districts and community colleges to remedy recent budget cuts. Results in initial savings to the state and additional future costs in the billions of dollars annually. Payments will be distributed according to average daily attendance and used for classroom instruction, textbooks, and other local educational programs.

Prop 1C: LOTTERY MODERNIZATION ACT.
Allows modernization of state lottery through marketing, effective management and increased payouts. Authorizes increased lottery accountability measures and requires continued state ownership, protects current school funding from lottery revenues. Increased revenues will be used to address current deficits and theoretically reduce tax increases and program cuts. Allows $5 billion in borrowing from future lottery profits and additional borrowing in the future. It is expected that debt service payments on borrowing as well as increased payments to education may make balancing state budget more difficult.

Prop 1D: PROTECTS CHILDREN’S SERVICES FUNDING. HELPS BALANCE STATE BUDGET.
Redirects in excess of $600 million in tobacco tax money to cover health and human services for children, at-risk families, children with disabilities and foster children. Helps counties retain funding for such programs locally and balance the state budget. Temporary reduction in funding for health and human services for children five and under (First 5 Programs) from 2010/11 – 2013/14.

Prop 1E: MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES FUNDING. TEMPORARY REALLOCATION. HELPS BALANCE STATE BUDGET.
Transfers funds from Mental Health Services Act programs (Proposition 63 of 2004) to pay for mental health programs for children and young adults through the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment Program for a two-year period. This measure aims to help balance the state budget and provide “flexible funding” for mental health programs. According to the California Department of Mental Health site, the Mental Health Services Act funds traditionally go towards county mental health programs.

Proposition 1F: ELECTED OFFICIALS’ SALARIES. PREVENTS PAY INCREASES DURING BUDGET DEFICIT YEARS.
Bars members of the legislature and statewide constitutional officers, including the Governor, from receiving pay raises in years when the state is running a deficit. Minor savings during deficit years

 

Voting Recommendations Grid
 Prop 1AProp 1BProp 1CProp 1DProp 1EProp 1F
California League of Conservation VotersYesYesYesYesYesYes
League of Women VotersNoNeutralNoNoNoNo Position
California Peace and Freedom PartyNoNoNoNoNoNo
California State Conference of the NAACPYesYesYesYesYesYes
California Farm Bureau FederationYesYesYesYesYesYes
California Teachers AssociationYesYesYesYesYesYes
Fresno Chamber of CommerceYes  YesYesYes
California Retired Teachers AssociationYesYesYesNo PositionNo PositionYes
Fresno County & State Green PartyNoNoNoNoNoNo

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QUEER EYE

Is the Independent Police Reviewer Even Viable?
By Dan Waterhouse

On the same day Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearingen celebrated the 5-2 vote by the City Council to approve the reviewer, a document filed in local federal court in its own way raises questions whether the independent police reviewer will be viable.

The vote approving the Office of the Independent Reviewer calls for the reviewer to be essentially dependent upon the police department’s Internal Affairs unit. According to the plan, the reviewer would audit completed investigations by that unit.

Let’s suppose that, before the reviewer gets the Internal Affairs package, officers have “been told to testify a certain way in order to achieve a desired outcome in the investigation.” And that the “people who direct Internal Affairs” are the ones who want to achieve the desired outcome, including the police chief.

Farfetched? Not according to the motion, which was filed to compel a Fresno police sergeant to name names. Sergeant Mike Manfredi testified during his deposition in an excessive force lawsuit against him, several other officers, Chief Jerry Dyer and the City of Fresno, that he had been told by “individuals with a rank of Lieutenant or above” that:

officers guilty of misconduct who “had Internal Affairs investigations initiated against them were cleared of the allegations,”
“there were Internal Affairs investigation results that were improperly influenced and” Dyer was aware of this, but “permitted those improper results to remain, and” Chief Dyer himself had “attempted to manipulate the outcome of Internal Affairs investigations.”

After making these accusations during the deposition, Manfredi refused to name names, saying that if he did, the officers would be retaliated against by Chief Dyer.

According to the court filing, Dyer has testified that “if an individual officer has some Internal Affairs investigations that may demonstrate that the officer is proactive. Looking at the testimony of Manfredi, one could certainly conclude that he and “another officer” were led to believe that their aggressive and “heavy-handed” conduct was approved by Chief Dyer, as they seemed to “sail” through Internal Affairs investigations without harm to their careers.

“However, after a certain point (if one believes Sergeant Manfredi), the Chief decided that conduct which had previously been approved would not be tolerated, and in this case a ‘new’ Internal Affairs investigation revealed the extent of the improper conduct by” the other officer “and Manfredi.” The other officer and Manfredi were ultimately fired, but Manfredi was reinstated by the city’s Civil Service board. The other officer, Marcus Tafoya, is awaiting trial on several criminal charges.

Sergeant Manfredi’s testimony also raises a question about the value of the department’s “early warning system,” which is intended to help identify problematic officers. If one takes Manfredi’s statements at face value, the warning system won’t work, since investigations are being tampered with.
 

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Stonewall: 40 Years of Struggle for Equality
By Jay Hubbell

Fresno Stonewall Democrats will be commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots on Sunday, June 28, starting at 9 p.m. at the Den, located at 4538ÿE. Belmont Ave,

Faux cops will raid the bar and arrest selected performers and patrons and lock them up in a jail in the parking lot where they may be bailed out as a fund-raising effort to benefit the Stonewall club.

The original Stonewall Inn was a bar located in New York’s Greenwich Village. The bar night began on Friday, June 27, as a typical crowded weekend night. Raids on gay bars were not unusual in 1969; in fact, they were conducted regularly without much resistance. However, early in the morning of June 28 the street erupted into violent protest as the crowds ejected from the bar by the police and those who joined from the neighborhood fought back by throwing spare change and bottles and trash at the officers. One dyke refused to stay in a patrol car and the drag queens resisted being put into the paddy wagon. The tac squad was called as the officers retreated back inside and locked the doors. Someone uprooted a parking meter and, using it as a battering ram, smashed the door open, sprinkled lighter fluid inside and lit it.

The backlash and several nights of protest that followed have come to be known as the Stonewall Riots.

Ken Harlin, curator of the Star Library of Columbia University, wrote on the 25th anniversary of Stonewall:

Prior to that summer there was little public expression of the lives and experiences of gays and lesbians. The Stonewall Riots marked the beginning of the gay liberation movement that has transformed the oppression of gays and lesbians into calls for pride and action. In the past twenty-five years we have all been witness to an astonishing flowering of gay culture that has changed this country and beyond, forever.

The Village Voice newspaper reported under the headline “Gay Power Comes to Sheridan Square” that “Sheriden [sic] Square this weekend looked like something from a William Burroughs novel, as the sudden specter of ‘gay power’ raised its brazen head and spat out a fairy tale the likes of which the area has never seen.”

The next year, New York’s Christopher Street saw a Gay Liberation Day march. This was the first of many Stonewall commemorative marches that have evolved to become largely depoliticized pride parades and festivals that take place in cities and towns all over the United States and in most nations around the world.

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California Latino Water Coalition March
By Vic Bedoian

The chants of “Agua, agua, agua.” resonated in the open-sided dome in Mendota’s Rojas Park amplifying the chanting as well as the rhetoric coming from the stage. The multitudes, a few thousand of them, were wearing shirts and carrying signs with statements such as “Life = Work,” “Turn on the Pumps” and “No Water, No Work, No Life.” They were farmers, farm workers, farm business people of varying kinds and the understandably concerned residents of this wind-swept west side town in the San Joaquin Valley. And with nearly half the town unemployed, for them it is a real crisis. They were there to get a pep-talk to kick off a four day march to the San Luis Reservoir for an even bigger rally featuring Gov. Schwarzenegger. How they got there was the work of the California Latino Water Coalition. What they are angry about is water that comes to the Valley from gushing rivers in the northern reaches of the state that fed and nurtured fellow Californians up there.

While there is a grass-roots patina to CLWC, it was formed by a group comprised of agribusiness interests, water districts and Latino and other local politicians brought together by the Governor under the figurehead leadership of Valley born comedian Paul Rodriguez. Their purpose is much larger than to relieve the beleaguered here. Their vision involves the lifting of environmental protections for the San Francisco Bay Delta and pumping water south, and the sooner the better, also finally building that fabled canal around the Delta to funnel water south more directly and, last but not least, building more dams. The major task is to convince the rest of the state and nation to sign on to that vision. It will be an uphill battle.


The United Farm Workers union issued a press release saying that the March for Water was sponsored by the growers. The statement said: “We don’t oppose farmers getting access to more water, but that access should be tied to farm workers’ access to clean drinking water in the fields. The State of California continues to fail at protecting that basic right for farm workers while Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger continues to oppose farm workers winning the right to protect that right themselves. The union is focusing its efforts on immigration reform, the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act for Farm Workers and better working conditions for the men and women who pick our fruits and vegetables.” Photo by Stephen Planting



Speaker after speaker exhorted the crowd and all of them, whether Latino or not, worked in a Spanish greeting. Former Mayor Bubba saw the hand of God at work and radio pundit Ray Appleton saw racial harmony at work. Assembly Member Juan Arambula, in a fish versus people vein, said people are the real endangered species around here. But Fresno Supervisor Phil Larson may have ironically struck closer to reality (but for different reasons) when he claimed that the current drought is “man-made.” In his view, it’s because of all the government regulations and judicial decisions protecting the environment and regulating the state’s water supply. The reality is that the State Department of Water Resources has promised eight times the amount of water than exists in a normal year. Water has long been divided up by a complex set of prioritized rights of delivery to irrigation districts and cities throughout the state. In dry periods, such as the one we’re experiencing, some districts won’t get what they want, or maybe even all they need. But more plumbing will not fix it. Over the years, tens of thousands of acres of permanent crops like grapes and almonds have been planted on the west side, depending on copius amounts of imported water. That water supply is now seen as an entitlement. Not unlike the world financial crisis, this creation of a pyramid of expectations based on paper water has caused collateral damage to many people who just happen to live and work here. Meanwhile, California’s commercial salmon fishing season was closed for the second consecutive year because their population continues to decline.

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Vic Bedoian is an independent journalist interested in the San Joaquin Valley bioregion and its people and places. He can be contacted by e-mail at vicbedoian@gmail.com.
 

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SubCulture Strives for Community Awareness
By Michael D. Evans

A new community-building organization, SubCulture, will host a series of events as part of its Real Love Weekend on May 16-18. These events include a community cookout and resource fair on May 16, a jazz concert and spoken word open mic on May 17 and a bus ride to Oakland to attend a rally at the hearing of the law enforcement officer who shot and killed Oscar Grant III on New Year’s Day.

Founded by Destiny Thomas, an Oakland native who now resides in Fresno, SubCulture began with a number of small events, notably one earlier this year that featured Jasiri X, a well-known hip hop activist. Thomas says that the participating artists and poets “did pieces on issues that we face in the black community, but more specifically in Fresno and California.”

Following that event, Thomas began reaching out to other organizations. For the Real Live Weekend, SubCulture is working with the Fresno Center for Nonviolence, the California Prison Moratorium Project and the Fresno Chapter of the Brown Berets. Thomas says the weekend events are “a rebirth of SubCulture using the same creativity as far as art, performing arts, poetry and things like that, but working with other organizations so that we can all accomplish a greater good.”

“I felt that it was really crucial for us to come together for the sake of the community,” says Thomas, “to let each other know that we all have this one common issue that we really need to deal with-the impact of police brutality on our communities, on our economies, on our education system.”

Through the Real Love Weekend, Thomas says that SubCulture intends to “raise awareness in Fresno about the power of gathering and organizing, provide a venue for those looking for work or other types of resources (counseling, housing, parolee assistance, etc.), show support and solidarity for Oscar Grant’s family and others who have been impacted by police brutality, and introduce the public to SubCulture’s weekly jazz and open mic night.”

The Real Love Weekend events, all of which are free to the public, are as follows:

A community cookout and resource fair will be held at Fink-White Park (535 S. Trinity St.) on Saturday, May 16, from noon to 3 p.m. Fresno businesses will be represented at the event along with numerous entertainment acts.

A jazz set and spoken-word open-mic night will be held at Smokey’s Grille (1342 Tulare St.) on Sunday, May 17, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. This event will include free wine for those 21 and older, live music, a DJ, spoken word performances and information on joining the SubCulture movement.

Two buses (for up to 100 people) will leave Fresno on Monday, May 18, at 7 a.m. and head to Oakland to attend a rally/protest outside the hearing of the BART police officer who shot Grant on New Year’s Day.

Following the Real Love Weekend, SubCulture will continue its efforts to address “issues that disproportionately affect underrepresented communities.” SubCulture will host a weekly jazz night at Smokey’s Grille starting on Thursday, May 21, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. “We’ll not only have an artistic aspect,” says Thomas, “but we’ll also be raising awareness about issues that affect our community on a local level.”

To learn more about SubCulture or to participate in any of the organization’s events, contact Destiny Thomas at 510-388-0533 or destinynthomas@yahoo.com.
 

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I Don’t Fear Change, I Believe in Hope
By Jean Hays

[Community Alliance newspaper Editorial Board member Jean Hays went to El Salvador as an election observer. This is her report.]

The words printed in red letters on the back of the t-shirt say Qui‚n dijo Miedo! (Who says fear!). The front reads Yo no le tengo miedo al cambio, yo creo en la esperanza (I don’t fear change, I believe in hope). The shirt, worn by an FMLN supporter of Mauricio Funes, winner of the March 15 presidential election in El Salvador, reflects the feelings of the overwhelming majority of voters (and those who could not vote for various reasons) who opted for change after living under the rule of a repressive, extremely corrupt government.

 


President and First Vocal of Junta Receptora de Votos (Vote Receiving Board) station 0557 preparing to open the ballot box and count the votes. Other station officials are standing by to observe the count.

Seventeen years after the signing of the Peace Accords, the principal opposition party, the FMLN, had a chance for the first time at winning executive power after 20 years of the ARENA party’s presidential rule. Some factors contributing to this tight race included the deteriorated economic and social conditions under ARENA leadership, including 10-12 homicides daily, brutal gangs roaming the streets of San Salvador, 800 people leaving El Salvador daily to find a better way of life, increased costs of food and a stagnant economy. In addition, the FMLN had reached beyond its base in a coalition with civil society to present its candidate, Funes, who is one of the most respected journalists in El Salvador.

The candidate for the ARENA party was Rodrigo Avila, former director of the Civilian National Police. His family was one of the founders of ARENA. It is interesting to note that, originally, four political parties had candidates running for president, but the PVC and the PCN chose to
withdraw their candidates, against those candidates’ wishes. This left only ARENA’s Avila and the FMLN’s Funes on the ballot.

This writer was part of a delegation of electoral observers organized by the Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad (CIS; www.cis-elsalvador.org). Our group, 260 strong, represented 19 countries. This was CIS’s eighth electoral observation mission with the objective of contributing to the democratic process in the country and strengthening solidarity and respect for human rights.

Upon arrival in San Salvador, we first obtained our official observer credentials-a must-have for the more than 2,000 international observers present in the country. After visits to the Jesuit University where Ignacio Ellacuria and five other Jesuits were slain by the death squads in the
1980s, and to Suchitoto, near San Salvador where almost all the inhabitants fled these same death squads, we visited with those who had returned and have tried to move on with their lives. A marble tablet in this town displays the names of almost 400 residents who were either murdered or disappeared during those dark days.

CIS provided extensive observer training for the Sunday, March 15, Election Day. On March 13, small groups of 5-6 CIS observers traveled to their assigned municipalities. Our group went to Jiquilisco in the department of Usulutan. There we met with David Barahona Marroquin, the
charismatic FMLN mayor of the city who had just been elected to his third term. Next, we met with one of the town’s ARENA party officials, Roque Feller Melgar (look closely at the name) who spoke of the hope of bringing “improved” GMO seeds to the country because native seeds
produced a lower crop yield.


Official Junta Receptora de Votos (Vote Receiving Board) voting station 0558. Four officials sitting at table and two FMLN Vigilantee wearing red vests. ARENA Vigilantee at extreme left. Voting booth at right with 0558 on top.


Though dangerous incidents had been predicted, Election Day was calm in Jiquilisco. Voting supplies were delivered before 6 a.m., and the polls opened at 7 a.m. Seventy-one voting stations were set up in and around the four sides of the town square. At each table was a Vote Receiving Board composed of a president, a secretary, first and second vocals, and a vigilante from each party to watch for any irregularities.

Because the election was held on Sunday and in the plaza, it was easy for whole families to be a part of the event. No one had to leave work to vote, and voters took great pride in the process as they lined up with their national identity cards (DUIs) and received the simple ballot, each containing only the party logo over which they placed an X to indicate their choice. After placing the folded ballot in the ballot box, voters had their thumb dipped in indelible ink so they could not try to vote again. All voting officials took their jobs seriously, and each knew exactly what to do.
 


Voters lined up to vote at 3 of 71 Junta Receptora de Votos (Vote Receiving Board) stations in and around the town plaza in Jiquilisco.


The polls closed at 5 p.m. The ballot boxes were then opened and each vote hand-counted. At my observation table, only two votes were questioned; a quick resolution satisfied all officials. By 7 p.m., most of the 71 stations had finished counting and the ballots were deposited at the Consultorio. It was apparent that Funes was the winner in Jiquilisco. Phone calls by Mayor Barahona to other parts of the country confirmed that the FMLN had indeed been victorious. The plaza then erupted with fireworks.

Funes and the FMLN have a difficult job ahead, and ARENA will not take their defeat lightly. The smiles of relief on faces seen in the plazas and the countryside reflect Mayor Barahona’s words: “We will not fail.” Other words that come to mind are those of Bishop Oscar Romero in March 1980: “That my blood was shed for freedom…my death was for the liberation of my people and a testament of hope for the future.”

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Jean Hays is Chairperson of Fresno WILPF’s Save the Water Committee. She also works on issues of peace and social justice as a board member of Peace Fresno. She can be reached at skyhorse3593@sbcglobal.net.
 

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Credo
By Richard Stone


Ellen Bush on the right.

Ellen Bush may not be familiar to many or our readers, except perhaps as a coordinator for the monthly “Dances of Universal Peace” (more of which below). Hers is an unassuming presence in our progressive community; but I find her life journey fascinating and I am pleased to have the opportunity to document it.

For Ellen, spirituality has always been the basis of her social activism; but the nature of her spirituality has changed greatly over her lifetime. Raised in a conventionally narrow Catholic environment in Palo Alto, she had the good fortune to grow up at the time of Vatican II. At that historical juncture, going from high school to convent life with the Sisters of Holy Cross resulted not in a sequestered nun’s life but in an introduction to a Christian theology based on serving the needs of the laity in general and the poor in particular. These Sisters were instructed to teach that every person’s life matters, that life (and even God) is part of an evolving expression of love and truth. In an intellectual environment that embraced interfaith dialogue and feminism, Ellen’s understanding of the imperatives of her faith expanded and deepened.

But this injection of ’60s-style free thought into the Catholic hierarchy was brief. After Pope Paul’s death, much of the Church’s experimental openness was rescinded; and by the ’80s Ellen felt the aspirations of her vocation were frustrated within the confines of diocesan authority. She was, however, able to find a missionary assignment in Brazil that, again, provided stimulus for spiritual growth.

This was the heyday of Liberation Theology in Latin America, and as a teacher in Brazil Ellen worked under the guidance of Sisters who had trained directly with the great “people’s educator” Paolo Freire. Later she worked as a labor organizer with farmers displaced by globalization and with washerwomen earning below-subsistence wages. These experiences gave reality to the critique of the prevailing economic system current in her circles (yes, Marxist clergy!). These direct encounters with the kind of people that Jesus ministered to made the almost inevitable Vatican-directed crackdown on “liberation circles” hard for Ellen to accept.

But also, another current had entered her life. She fell in love…with another Sister…and the feelings were reciprocated. This situation helped clarify for her that her life as a disciple within a hierarchy was creating (in many ways) contradictions with her personhood. She began to realize that many of her activities were being driven as much by feelings of guilt and inadequacy as by compassion; and that while valiantly standing up against the oppression of others, she was evading standing up for own beliefs and feelings. Unable to resolve these paradoxes within the Church, she left the Order and returned to the States. Her partner, Kathryn Stephens, had earlier made a similar decision and had settled in Fresno; so Ellen joined her here to begin a new life.

Ellen grappled with her spiritual concerns initially under the auspices of Matthew Fox’s Institute of Culture and Creation Spirituality, in Oakland. This school of thought discards “original sin” and teaches that all creatures are blessed, with a right to existence and respect. She found this doctrine a healing antidote to her Catholic training-but not a resting place.

Meanwhile, she was faced with the more pressing problems of learning how to be a householder, how to organize one’s daily living outside of institutional supports, and how to engage in oftlinepersonal relationships unmediated by doctrine. She also had to find a job, and she was fortunate to find a position with Tomas Gonzalez’ Colegio Popular. There she utilized both her teaching skills and her vocation for working with the underdog.

Having established herself as part of Fresno’s secular society, Ellen still had other spiritual challenges. Living with Kathryn meant, initially, dealing with public acknowledgement of their partnership, and then entailed sustaining Kathryn through a long debilitating illness that led to her death. Kathryn had, beforehand, received a substantial inheritance that she and her siblings had decided to turn into a philanthropic foundation. Ellen has inherited a position on the directorate of The Whitney Foundation along with, as she puts it, “the serious burden of deciding how best to protect and utilize the funds.”

Ellen also speaks about the deep impression made on her by the work of such people as Dr. Paul Farmer (doing amazing grassroots medical work in Haiti), Greg Mortensen (establishing schools in the remote regions of Afghanistan) and Jane Goodall (she of the groundbreaking anthropological work with chimpanzees). These are all people who follow the calling of their heart without stint or hesitation, and who have led Ellen to ask herself, “Why am I not back in Brazil? How do I justify living a comfortable American life?”

She offers no definitive answer. But she finds solace in looking at the arc of her life-the expansion of compassion as a response to the world around her, rather than anger and resentment; and the sense that what she has taken on as her peace work is “more authentic, satisfying and holy” than in her earlier days.

Beyond her work with the Whitney Foundation-trying to identify and support small programs (especially dealing with housing and healthcare) that foster empowerment and self-sufficiency-Ellen has found two other major involvements. One is working with an international group led by Neil Douglas-Klotz, a teacher she met at Matthew Fox’s Institute. “We are translating the scriptures of Jesus from the Aramaic. These translations are much more expansive and inclusive than the familiar texts, expressing a very different vision of God and God’s role in our lives. We also put the teaching of Jesus into his historical, Middle Eastern context.” Ellen finds that participating in the work of uncovering “the true words of Jesus” is one way to counteract the dispiriting aspects of our culture. “Having left the Catholic Church, it has been a big surprise to return to Jesus in this way. I could never have imagined that I’d find my deepest sense of home by chanting in Aramaic.”

Ellen has also found great satisfaction in promulgating the Dances of Universal Peace. “Our dances are basically moving in a circle while chanting phrases from a wide range of religious traditions. In the unity of the circle, in the synchronized breathing of chant, in honoring so many spiritual traditions, I feel we are truly making peace.” For ten years, the Dances have been held the first Friday of each month at First Congregational-the Big Red Church north of Fresno High-at 7 p.m. All are welcome.

To end our time together, I requested a sample of the translation work of Ellen’s group. Here is a rendering of what they call “The Aramaic Prayer of Jesus”:

O Birther! Father-Mother of the Cosmos,
Focus your light within us-make it useful.
Create your reign of unity now-
Your one desire then acts with ours, as in all light so in all forms.
Grant what we need each day in bread and insight.
Loose the cords of mistakes binding us, as we release the strands we hold of others’ guilt.
Don’t let surface things delude us, but free us from what holds us back.
From you is born all ruling will, the power and the life to do; the song that beautifies all,
from age to age it renews.
Truly-power to these sacraments-may they be the source from which all my actions grow. Amen

From Prayers of the Cosmos, Neil Douglas-Klotz
 

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Making Peace: One Circle at a Time
By Ellen Bush

Little did I know when I enrolled in a class called “Dances of Universal Peace” about 14 years ago that this form of interfaith spiritual practice would become my path for life.

The word “dances” in the title can mislead people. In a circle we use sacred phrases, chants, music and movements from many traditions of the earth to promote peace and integration. Central to this experience is its circle context, opening the heart and making peace. The founder of the Dances of Universal Peace, Samuel L. Lewis, wrote, “We may seem to be about music and dancing, but my real work is peace on earth.”

Back in 1995 I had just come from 8 years in northeast Brazil working in labor organizing with impoverished displaced peasant farmers in the state of Bahia.

In that setting I learned simple methods of social and political analysis. Moreover, I learned how the poor, even illiterate people can participate and organize. My Third World experience provided important fundamentals for my “tool box” of social transformation.

Since returning to the U.S., I have found other ways of pursuing change. These dimensions focus on building mutual understanding and connections between people.

In the Dances of Universal Peace the circle provides the context for change within and without. In a circle everyone shares equal power and voice. In a circle, diversity of cultures and traditions meet and magically celebrate unity. In circles, where differences are honored, peace finds a home. Joining hands and hearts in a circle, chanting together, looking into one another’s eyes comprises the “stuff” of a subtler dimension of social transformation.

Two great leaders in our time, Rev. Martin Luther King and Rabbi Abraham Heschel., recognized and lived the connection between the political and spiritual in social transformation. Dr. King invited Rabbi Heschel to join him in the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.After walking with King, Heschel said, ” I felt my legs were praying.” While we can’t always march in Selma or Jerusalem, we can pray with our legs and voices no matter where we live.

Samuel Lewis also wrote, “Peace is fundamental to all faiths, all religions, all spirituality.” He believed that the truth at the heart of all religions is the same truth.


He was inspired with the vision of people gathered in circles, making peace by honoring all traditions, experiencing peace within as well as in their communities.

When we chant sacred phrases from one another’s tradition, as well as our own tradition, we feel connected. When we move as one in a sacred circle, we are one. The “other” becomes part of me and I realize that I am that person.

We celebrate this interfaith spiritual practice to promote peace, love, harmony and beauty for ourselves and our planet. In Fresno The Circle gathers every First Friday at 7:00 pm in the social hall of the First Congregational Church (the big red Church).

On May 1 the circle celebrates ten years of this form of peacemaking in Fresno.

We invite all seekers of peace to join us. This requires no experience or skill at all in dancing; it is easy and enjoyable. Bring only an open heart. All are welcome.

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Bike Month in Fresno
By Kimberly Ann Hodges

In an effort to promote the use of bicycles instead of motor vehicles, May was deemed National Bike Month by the League of American Bicyclists in 1956. Riding a bike is not only a fun outdoor activity, but also serves as a low cost, environmental friendly form of transportation and can also be very beneficial to one’s health. Right here in Fresno, our very own Fresno Bicycle Coalition strives not only in May, but all year round, to motivate anyone and everyone to get outside and onto a bike.

The Coalition’s mission is promoting the use of bicycles as a form of everyday transportation and also as an enjoyable recreational activity. The Coalition offers memberships which have benefits such as being able to vote on current issues, contribute their voice and opinions at Coalition meetings and to vote and elect the Coalition’s board members.

Without the Coalition in place and working to make Fresno more bike friendly, it would be difficult for bicyclists to do what they enjoy. Because of the Coalition, Fresno offers a number of different bike trails, group rides and special events all year round (see the side bar for a list of events during Bike Month).

As most Valley natives know, Fresno isn’t the highest ranked when it comes to good air quality. A lot of the smog lying over our city is caused by all of the different automobiles driving through, in and around our city. Many people have jumped on the “Go Green” bandwagon in response to all of the environmental issues, and part of helping the problem is reducing the use of vehicles.

With the economy in a rut along with the environment, and gas prices still unfavorably high, people have found bicycling to be a much cheaper, and sometimes faster, way of commuting. When you’re on a bike, you don’t have to pay bus fees, break the bank filling up your gas tank, or get caught up in the dreadful Fresno traffic we’ve all been stuck in too many times before. Bicycling also gives you the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and to discover the city in ways that aren’t possible when sitting in a car or on a bus.

Besides helping the environment and your wallet, hopping on a bike for just 30 minutes a day can significantly increase your health and is even known to boost your self esteem. Like any aerobic exercise, bicycling creates endorphins in your brain which cause you to calm down and become less stressed. Exercising regularly keeps your brain plentiful with endorphins, making you a much more peaceful person.

Bicycling is not only good for your brain, but for your entire body. Riding a bike works out your calves, thighs and backside, creating a great workout with little effort. Bicycling also works out your lungs, blood vessels and heart which can reduce the risk of heart problems.

Even if you’re not too worried about your health, riding a bike can be an exciting outdoor adventure for anybody. It’s a great activity to do with friends, family, coworkers or even by yourself!

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For more information on Fresno’s Bike Month, the Fresno County Bicycling Coalition, or Coalition memberships log on to http://www.fresnobike.org

For more information on the League of American Bicyclists visit http://www.bikeleague.org

Calendar of Events May 7 – 8:30 a.m.
Fresno City Hall, Downtown Fresno
Come down to witness the Fresno City Council proclaim May as Bike Month
in the City of Fresno.˜˜

May 7 – 5:30 p.m.
Bike Hop
Tower Velo, 1435 N. Van Ness Ave.
(S. of McKinley, N. of Home)
An evening of local Art Galleries held in conjunction with Art Hop (1st Thursday of every month). Look for bicycle related art; admission to galleries is free.

May 9 – 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
FCBC Bicycle Poker Run!
Starts and ends @ Tower Velo,
1435 N. Van Ness Ave.
9-mile family style bicycle poker run that will explore the Tower District, Fulton Mall and Roeding Park.
$2 per rider
Winning hand gets cash,
worst hand gets a t-shirt!

May 11 – 7 p.m.
Clovis City Hall, 1033 5th Street, Council Room (just E. of Clovis Ave.)
Come hear the Clovis City Council proclaim May as Bike Month in the City of Clovis.

May 12 – 9 a.m.
Fresno County Board of Supervisors, 1133 Tulare St., Rm. 301, Hall of Records
Come hear the Board proclaim May as Bike Month in the County of Fresno.

May 13 – 7:45 a.m.
8th Annual Bike Week Downtown Ride
Meet at Manchester Center near the Fresno Area Express (FAX) site at 7:45 a.m. for an 8:30 a.m. group departure. Clovis riders will meet at the rest stop on the Old Town Clovis trail (near Ashlan and Clovis Avenues) at 7 a.m. to ride together to Manchester Center.Riders will be escorted by Fresno Police Department Bike Police from Manchester Center.Refreshments will be provided by Milano at Fulton Mall.

May 14 – All Day
4th Annual FCBC Corporate Challenge:
RIDE TO WORK!
Get a team, ride to work, win prizes! See the Fresno County Bicycle Coalition’s Web site for more information. www.fresnobike.org.

May 14 – All Day
Fresno Area Express (FAX) and Clovis Transit
free bike rides
FAX and Clovis Transit will provide bicyclists with free rides all day. Ride your bike and get a free bus ride! Any bus stop!

May 29 – 6 p.m.
FCBC Member Appreciation Night
See a classic Bicycle movie and eat some pizza at Tower Velo. Not a member? See our Web site to find out about the Coalition:
http://www.fresnobike.org or join at the door. RSVP to info@fresnobike.org.

May 30 – 10:30 a.m
Meet at Tower Velo at 10:30 a.m. for 11 a.m. departure. Round trip approx. 22 mi.
Annual Winery Ride to Englemann Cellars and Nonini Winery for a bacchanalian bike treat.
 
Bike Trails in the Fresno/Clovis area 1.WOODWARD PARK
Location: Friant Road and Audubon Drive.
Length:
VariableTraffic: Leave the pavement behind to find a vast network of footpaths and dirt roads; trails shared among pedestrians, joggers and cyclists.
Scenery: Green grass, ponds and rolling hills
2. MACMICHAEL TRAIL
Location: Between Woodward Park and the San Joaquin River.
Length: 2-mile loop
Traffic: Pedestrians, joggers and cyclists share a wide dirt path; area is also popular with dog owner.
Scenery: The former Jensen River Ranch is filled with native oaks, shrubs and grasses; segment of trail runs alongside the river, within earshot of Highway 41.
  3. EATON TRAIL
Location: Parallels Friant Road from Woodward Park to the Coke Hallowell River Center.
Length: 5 miles
Traffic: Smooth pavement is shared by cyclists, joggers, skaters and stroller-pushing mommies; heavier on weekends and evenings.
Scenery: Sweeping views of the San Joaquin River basin, gravel-mining ponds and bluffs.
  4. WOODWARD LAKE
Location: From Audubon Drive, go north on Friant Road to Lakeview Drive and make a right.
Length: 2.2-mile loop
Traffic: Residential area is moderately busy with pedestrians and cyclists, especially during the early evening.
Scenery: Some of the most well-kept lawns and gardens in Fresno; lake is pretty to look at, but nonresidents get no access.
  5. SUGAR PINE TRAIL
Location: From Nees Avenue across from the River Park Shopping Center, it shoots northeast to Shepherd Avenue and then east to Willow Avenue.
Length: 4.5 miles
Traffic: Trail crosses numerous road and shopping mall entrances, meaning frequent encounters with cars.
Scenery: Corridor between Audubon and Shepherd is nice, but after that it’s basically a residential bike lane.
  6. CLOVIS OLD TOWN TRAIL
Location: Parallels Clovis Avenue
From near Dakota Avenue northward to Old Town Clovis, then heads northwest under Highway 168 to just beyond Willow and Nees Avenues.
Length: 6 miles
Traffic: Former railway gets heavy use from cyclists, joggers and pedestrians on weekends; underpasses north of Sierra Avenue reduce car interaction.
Scenery: Gritty and industrial south of Old Town Clovis, then gets prettier farther north through residential areas.
  7. DRY CREEK TRAIL
Location: Leaves Clovis Old Town Trail from just north of Herndon Avenue and follows Dry Creek northeast to Shepherd and Sunnyside avenues.
Length: 2.5 miles
Traffic: Relatively light, considering it bisects several housing developments; crossing Alluvial and Nees avenues can be a pain.
Scenery: Hands-down the prettiest bike path in town thanks to combination of flowing creek, waterfowl-filled ponding basin and numerous shady trees.
  8. KEARNEY PARK
Location: From downtown, follow Fresno Street for 1 mile to Kearney Boulevard. Turn right and continue 6 miles to park.
Length: 1.5-mile loop and 4.5-mile bike path along Kearney Boulevard heading east.
Traffic: Park roads are nearly empty, even on weekends; vehicle traffic on Kearney Boulevard is surprisingly light, too.
Scenery: Picturesque country setting; park boasts an impressive collection of mature trees, and palm-lined Kearney Boulevard is a delight.
 

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Don’t Use a Shotgun to Kill a Fly
By Ingrid Carmean

Around our homes and public buildings, most pesticides are used for emotional or aesthetic purposes. Apparently, many people feel better if they do not see a weed or a bug. However, the chemicals used for these purposes, although not seen, can be of much greater concern than the problem they control. On the Web site I use for reference (www.pesticideinfo.org), pesticides are evaluated for their acute toxicity, carcinogenicity, water contamination potential, if they are a cholinesterase inhibitor or an endocrine disruptor, and their reproductive or developmental toxicity. Some pesticides rank low to nothing in many of these categories; others rank high.

A few common urban pesticides, such as Home Defense or Talstar (Bifenthrin), have a caution (the lowest common acute toxicity ranking) label and yet the Pan Pesticide Database give it a skull and cross bones rank due to the reproductive or developmental toxicity category. Does one really want to use this to control black ants or occasional invaders? Most ant problems can be solved by cleaning up whatever is attracting them inside.

A local progressive church uses Surflan to control weeds before they emerge. This product, according to the Pan Pesticide Database, rates a skull and cross bones due to its carcinogenicity and acute aquatic toxicity. A similar product, Barricade 65 WG, has far fewer concerns. But what about a thick layer of mulch or a monthly weeding party? Wouldn’t that be better than exposing children to a carcinogen?

When deciding what to do to control a problem, instead of trying to decide which chemical to use first, find out if there is a reasonable alternative to any chemical. Then only if there is no alternative, look up the chemical on the above database and decide if it is worth the risks or what is the better chemical to choose.

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Progressive Religion … Is Not An Oxymoron

Compassion: A Key for Survival
By David Roy

Compassion is one of those frequently used words that sounds and feels good but may not always be clear in its meaning. (Remember the promise of a “compassionate conservatism” that turned out to be one of many manipulative, empty promises?)

I agree with those who believe that the cultivation of genuine compassion is one of the primary prerequisites to ensure the world’s survival, at least a world that includes human beings. This includes the transformation needed to achieve a sustainable pattern of existence with the natural world; and the evolution of human communities no longer seeking to annihilate other human communities.

I understand compassion to be rooted naturally at the core of our psyche and to represent one of the ultimates in personal development – i.e., a key goal of psychological and emotional maturity.

What is Compassion?

Compassion originally meant to feel with (com-) the pain (passion) of another. For Christians, to take a prime example, Easter traditionally was understood to be a ritual that recognized Christ’s Passion – i.e., the pain and suffering he endured with his crucifixion. Obviously, the meaning of passion has changed over the past 1000 years or so.1

Today, it would be unusual to think of passion as referring to pain. Instead, the word generally connotes intense and positive energy, a binding love for something else, whether a person, an occupation, or anything else that is pursued with verve and delight.

Just as passion has taken on a fuller, richer set of meanings, so has compassion. But the more interesting and important part of the word is its prefix, com-. This means with in this case.

Feeling With Others

So, what does it mean to feel with others? In the fullest and deepest sense of the word, it means to feel what they are feeling as though it is our own feeling. We feel their pain as though it were our own; in fact, in a real sense, it is our own. We also can feel the positive emotions of another. If someone is feeling joy, we can feel their joy joyfully. When we are in a compassionate position, we can know from the inside, in a direct fashion, what it is like to be the other. This is qualitatively different that the act of imagining what it is like to be another person. In my own mind, I understand this to be empathy – i.e., to feel into (em-) another by using our own experience in an imaginative way.

Feeling another’s pain that directly could motivate someone to care about the other’s plight, to offer everything from sympathetic understanding (which can be quite helpful) to concrete remedies.

Compassion an Ideal Among the Great Religions

It is for this reason, I believe, that the world’s great religions come together in their affirmation of compassion as perhaps the greatest ideal for human kind. A few years ago, the Fresno Ministerial Association organized a program on “Compassion and the Common Good” in six faith traditions. We had religious leaders from the following traditions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Sikhism.

In each case, in different ways, compassion was described as that which energized and informed the heart of the tradition. In Hinduism, one of the primary values outlined by the speaker was karuna, Sanskrit for compassion. This includes a desire to do for others in need. In Buddhism, the realization that we are all one results in a high level of compassion. In fact, the Buddha nature is compassion itself.

The most central event in Judaism is recalled every year at Passover: Do not forget you were once slaves in Egypt; use this experience to guide you in treating others who are at the very bottom – as you were then. Passover aims at compassion.

In Christianity, the idea of grace – God’s unearned, unconditional love – is the model for all followers in their relationships with all human beings. (A wonderful ideal but, as George Bernard Shaw said, “Christianity might be a good thing if anyone ever tried it.”) To love in this manner is to fully receive another, to allow the other to fully impact us. We resonate with the other’s experience. Jesus’ words to the poor, the sick, the powerless in what are referred to as the Beatitudes convey compassion.

In Islam, the presenter said that the Quo’ran begins with the verse, “In the name of God, the most compassionate and the most merciful.” Mohammed was sent as a messenger of compassion for all. The Quo’ran also says that God is pleased when we feed the hungry, tend the sick, cloth the naked.

In the Sikh tradition, compassion is the cornerstone. Compassion, in fact, is understood to be the root of all religion. In Sikhism, all children are of one God. Hence, one must care for all. If one’s earnings are shared, God is pleased. Sikhism started in the 1500s as a way of protecting against unjust rulers and other hostile religious forces, as a way, that is, of restoring a compassionate position toward all, the poor and powerless in particular. Sikhism is radically egalitarian and the traditional Hindu caste system is denounced. This, too, can be understood as a compassionate stance.

Compassion as a Universal

If the idea of compassion as a supreme ideal emerges from divergent traditions in different cultural settings, one could argue that it is a universal, something deeply rooted in the very nature of a human being.

This is supported with some surprising insights in Whitehead’s process metaphysics that suggests that, at the most foundational level, it is the essence of reality to completely conform to the form of energy that we receive: to feel pain painfully, to feel joy joyfully.

The Implications of Being Internally Related

Further, and of equal importance, the energy we receive comes to us in a direct fashion and becomes a part of us. This means that we are internally related to others. What you feel becomes a part of me and vice versa.

This has many implications, not the least of which is that it is in our personal best interest to be concerned about the well-being of others – for their well-being or lack of it will have a direct bearing on our own well-being. (This also works the other way; it is an act of kindness to others if we ensure our own well-being, for this enriches them.)

This also means that we cannot limit our concern exclusively to the human community. Our compassion needs to extend to the natural world as well for it is a part of us; if it is sick, diseased, so are we.

Compassion is Transformational

Deep compassion is transformational. I experience this phenomenon on a daily basis when I do therapy. As people come to feel and understand where someone else is, what they are feeling, what is motivating them, there inevitably is a profound transformation in how they see and respond to those with whom they may be in intense conflict.

Limits on Our Ability to be Compassionate

But, obviously, there appear to be serious limits on the human ability to be compassionate for those who are different and those who are far away. Some of this may be due to our species having spent most of our history in what are small groups by today’s standards.

It may be one thing to be compassionate toward those who are seen as kin, who are from the same tribe, and something quite different to be compassionate toward those from a foreign tribe who might represent danger.

Further, the tribe to which one belongs represents the accepted world, a world known in a number of ways, including visually. For most of us, our inner map is not nearly large enough to encompass the entire globe.

Becoming Tikopians

In Jared Diamond’s important book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, he describes a tiny island in the Pacific named Tikopia whose civilization has endured for more than 3,000 years. The island is under 2 square miles in size. This underlies one of the unique features that makes for a common worldview: The ocean can be seen from just about everywhere on the island. In this sense, the Tikopians all see the same thing, see the natural limits of their world. Somehow, in this way at least, we all need to become Tikopians on a far vaster scale.2 If the
roots of mature compassion are part of the very nature of being, are an ontological given, this task may be something we can accomplish. This is going to take dedication, a strong commitment, and a great deal of effort, including education and training to cultivate these skills.

The Charter for Compassion

One exciting project that has emerged recently is called the Charter for Compassion. This project is the result of Karen Armstrong’s intellect and energy. She is one of today’s leading scholars on the history of the world’s religions, including the history of God. If you go to http://charterforcompassion.com, you can learn more about this program and join in its efforts. If readers know of other serious efforts to teach and promote compassion, I would love to receive that information and, in a future column, to pass that on.

Can Evolution Help?

I also believe that there is the possibility that evolution may help take us in that direction as well, particularly if one understands that evolution may be more purposive than current Neo-Darwinian thinking would support. That, actually, is the topic for a future column.

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Ordained in the United Church of Christ, David Roy is a pastoral counselor and a California licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who directs the Center for Creative Transformation. He has a Ph.D. in theology and personality from the Claremont (California) School of Theology. Send comments to him at admin@cctnet.com or 5475 N. Fresno St., Ste. 109, Fresno, CA 93711.

1. The Oxford English Dictionary marks the first written use of passion as a noun around 1175, referring to the suffering of pain. In 1376, Chaucer used it in a more general sense as ones own passion. The OED indicates that passion was used as a transitive verb in 1468 to mean stirring someone else; and by 1588 as an intransitive verb to mean showing deep feeling, especially sorrow. In general, as the centuries pass, the word has broadened to include positive subjective experiences. But it is safe to conclude that feeling the pain of another is at the root.

2. I am not endorsing all of the methods they devised to survive; nor were they violence free when faced with starvation due to ecological damage. But I am suggesting the model of seeing the wholeness of their world helped them to maintain their civilization for three millennia.

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Poetry Corner
(Richard Stone is the Poetry Corner editor)

This month I’ve ceded this space to Ruth Austin for the fruits of a writing workshop she participated in.

“Where I’m From”
By Ruth Austin

The following “Where I’m From” poetry resulted from an exercise a guest speaker did in the class I taught at Fresno City College last semester, “La Chicana/Latina.” One of our goals in this class was to find our common identity by exploring prominent Latinas in our history. From them, we affirmed our importance in society. We discussed the fact that at times, our identity has been given to us based on our “looks” whether we approved or not. These were recalled as frustrating encounters and made us want others to show more respect and not jump to judgments before getting to know the real and not imaged “us.”

On October 16, 2008, Dr. Shane Moreman from the Communication Department at CSUF, came to our class to speak about identity. At the end of his talk, he read a “Where I’m From” poem and then directed the class to write one similar to it. He instructed students to quickly jot down what things would have been found in the house where they spent their childhood. In fact, their house would not have been their house if these things were not in it. Next, he asked students to list some common foods that were always prepared in that house. The next line was a list of common sayings that they heard repeated time and time again in that house. Next, he asked for a list of the people who were always around in their house back then. And, finally, students were asked to remember what was outside of their favorite window and describe what they saw or felt in the moments spent there. Then, students were asked to insert the phrase “I am from” before each line as they read their poems aloud.

I found this poetry exercise to be an educational success in the classroom. Everyone participated and shared their poem in class. Some students were shy and hesitant at first. After everyone loved the first few poems, more students were encouraged to share theirs. After hearing students read their poems, I thought it would be a good idea to share them in written form. Read the poems out for yourself and maybe you’ll agree. You can even write one yourself and send it in to the Community Alliance for publication.

Where I’m From by Jesenia Carrillo

I am from small country houses,
Filled with green house plants,
From waking up to the smell
of Pine Sol and bleach.
I am from open dirt fields
and fruit fields surrounding the house.

I am from waking up on Sunday mornings to a table filled with breakfast.
I am from Sunday menudo or posole,
Homemade tortillas, rice and the best food in the world,
Christmas tamales, and weekend B-B-Ques with asada, carnitas, and chicken.

I am from vas avier,
Hay Ya-Ya,
I am from, “Where’s your brother?”, “You better not hurt yourself.”
I am from, “See you when I get home from work and you better do your homework,
and you better not be on the phone.”

I am from Ramona Rivera, but also raised by Jose Luis Martinez, from Jr.young brother,
and Ramona Cantu (RIP 1997), from many that I love and too many to name.

I am from those moments, beneath the willow trees, and peach tree, riding my bike in the
dirt trails, and seeing a clean safe comfortable world, but wondering at night about all of
the hurt and wondering where I would be at this very moment in my life.

Jesenia Carrillo, I was born/raised in Fresno/Clovis graduated from Clovis West in 96. I’m the first in my family to attend college; I’m doing it to improve myself andÿmy family: my 3 1/2 kidsÿages 13, 6 and 2 and of course the one coming this July. I have the support of my husband who encourages me to keep going. It took me a while to get into school because it was kind of intimidating,ÿbut once I started, I knew I was doing the right thing.

Where I’m From by Angela Medina

I am from the David and Goliath movie my dad used to make us watch, my bedroom closet door with friends and family names written all over it and the wo year old Comal.

I am from, “Mind your own business, if Don Cuco doesn’t do his job, don’t worry about it, just do your job,” “All guys want is the pizza and Orale!

I am from God, my parents, Henrietta and Vicente, my siblings Diana, Rosie, Vicki, Elizabeth, Joy, Rocky, Daniel, Sarah, Rachel, Melanie, Aaron, Chrissy, and Julie.

I am from those moments beneath the back window looking at the park just to see who is at the park or to watch the guys playing basketball.

My name is Angela I am a student studying mass communication/journalism at Fresno City College. My hometown is Mendota. My family is what encourages me attend college.

Where I’m From by Ruth Austin

I am from East Los Angeles, red baby, green baby, my rocking horse, the same green couch my family had for maybe 25 years or more, purple everything in my room, all shoes in the foyer, and hardwood floors.

I am from chicken at grandmas after church on Sundays, whole fishes cooked with their heads still on them, beans, tortillas, chop suey, long rice, bitter melon soup, and grandpa Johnny eating with his fingers.

I am from, “Don’t hit your brother,” Don’t take the Lord’s name in vein,” “don’t stay out too late,” “Don’t eat like grandpa,” and my dad saying, “Get away from me kid, you bother me” just like WC Fields said it.

I am from Jack, Christina, Tabby, Annie, Mark, Imelda, Luie playing his clarinet on his carport, and Danny thinking he was Superman jumping off that same carport.

I am from those moments beneath the house in the back yard gathering sweet pea pods to save and plant next year, the space between mine and Stevie’s house in front of Salvador’s house where we used to play “mud bakery” and “ship,” and up in the mulberry tree in the front yard that I used to climb high on to get the darkest and best mulberries for culinary delight and because it made me feel like a monkey.

Ruth Anna Austin teaches at CSUF and SCCCD in Sociology, Women Studies, and Chicano Studies.

Where I’m From by Angelica Perez

I am from picture frames, barbies,
brown walls, la ven.

I am from tamales, posole, chocolate,
Tortillas de harina, and choreezo.

I am from “Aye Mari.”

I am from Concha, Alfonsa Perez de Sierra,
Marty, Kane, Remedy, Meno,
Manual Perez Santos,
Angelica Maria, and
Abuelito Eloy.

I am from those moments, beneath the grape vines.

Angelica Perez is a student at Fresno City College who is majoring in Social Work. She was born in Fresno, CA and her parents are from Oaxaca, Mexico. Angelica is part of the first generation in her family to attend a college or university. And so she has made it one of her main goals to make education a life long process so as to encourage and educate those around her who have also came upon obstacles in their lives.

Where I’m From by Imelda Zamora

I am from New Kids on the Block, My little pony, Fraggle Rock, Dinosaurs, Eureka’s Castle, Glow Worms, Cabbage Patch Kids, Atari Games, Transformers, Thundercasts, He-Man and She-Ra, The Flintstones, Rainbow Brite, Brite-a-Lite, Peach Walls, Unicorn Curtains, BMX Bikes, Scooters, Rose Bushes and Mulberry Trees.

I am from Menudo, Pozole, Abondigas, Tamales, Enchiladas, Chile, Tortillas, Strawberry Cakes, and Upside Down Cakes.

I am from Cabrona, The Cucuy, La China, La Fea, Hija de su chingada Madre, Pegar El Gordo, Te vas a chingar, Mueve el mano, Te quiero mucho mija, mira mi hija, The only good child, Em, Emmie, Don’t fall asleep, when I get home your still gonna get it!! Don’t think I forgot, and be careful if not then name it after me!!!

Nanas, Macita, Antonio Martinez Sauceda, Esther Lupe Sauceda, Henry Tony Gutierrez, Carmen Irene Gutierrez, Hope Sauceda, and my Chihuahuas Pee Wee and Diamond.

I am from those moments beneath middle class America, hard working fathers and mothers striving to better themselves one day at a time, in hopes for their children to have a better tomorrow and strive for a better future beyond the grapevines.

My name is Imelda Zamora and I am currently a Business Major at Fresno City College. I have one semester left and I will be transferring to Fresno State in Spring 2010. I am from Madera, and my parents encouraged me to go to school to make something with my life, which I have set out to do. They are my heroes.

Where I’m From by Melissa Perez

I am from orange trees, cockfights, nopales, virgin statues, and mismatched furniture.
I am from beer rocks, homemade tortillas, cream puffs, and atole.
I am from “silencio,” “ay viene la nina,” “did you bring me home As mija,” “portate bien,” and “good girls don’t stay out late.”
I am from Don Jose, Consuelo, Ascencion, Carmen, Paul, Pablo and Maria.
I am from those moments, beneath the orange trees.

Melissa Perez is a student at Fresno City College and Clovis Center. Upon transferring to Fresno State, she hopes to obtain her BA in Social Work. Her long term goals is to work as an educational advisor. She is motivated by close friends and family and by her desire to work with students to reach their educational goals.
 

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Healing Wounds of Distrust
By Ruth Austin

On February 28, 2009, I had the opportunity to meet Marion and Saburo Masada at an Uprooting Racism event at the African American Museum in downtown Fresno. We had gathered to watch a recorded lecture given by Tim Wise on White Privilege and to discuss racism. After I spoke with Marion, she volunteered to speak to my sociology class at the Clovis Center about her life as a Japanese American living in California during World War II. She and her husband Saburo came to my class and gave my students firsthand accounts of their experiences. The students and I learned more about the “population transfer” that was forced onto Japanese Americans after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. When the Masadas came to speak, they both wore their family’s interned numbers around their necks as a reminder that, in their forced relocation, their personal identity had been reduced to a number.

 


Marion Masada shows the poster ordering Japanese Americans into detainment camps.

In 1942, at age 9, Marion and her family (five siblings and two parents) were forced to leave their home and were incarcerated in the Assembly Center at the rodeo grounds located in Salinas, California, per Executive Order 9066. This order mandated that 120,000 Americans and legal resident aliens of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast be incarcerated in War Relocation Camps (initially called concentration camps by the government) which were located inland from the coast. It was feared that they might be spies for the enemy. This was later acknowledged to be a false basis, for which the U.S. had to take responsibility and apologize. The Congressional Commission’s thorough three-year study in 1981 concluded that the sole reason for their imprisonment was “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” (Personal Justice Denied: The Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, 1992.) Saburo and his family were taken to the Assembly Center at the Fresno County Fairgrounds. People interned at the Assembly Centers were later transferred to War Relocation Camps. Marion’s family was transferred to Poston in Arizona; Saburo’s family was sent to Jerome in Arkansas.

Marion helped us understand that camp activities enabled them to survive being interned. She said that they did what they could with what little they had and everyone tried to keep busy. As one would imagine, the people who were interned had an emotional response to being imprisoned and controlled; it was a kind of silencing. Marion said that through telling her story she gets some of her power back and this makes it possible for healing to take place. Traditional folkways and strong beliefs also helped the people interned endure the hardship. These values were passed on to them by their parents, the Issei, or first generation of Japanese immigrants.

They learned that it was important to have gaman, a strong internal fortitude. This meant, “Be brave and strong; do not show how you are hurting.” This value may be part of the reason why the Issei did not want to talk about internment with their children. The Nisei (second generation) also learned the meaning of haji. This meant that you shouldn’t bring shame to your family or your country. This belief extended to war, meaning that if you went to war, “Return if you can, but die if you must.” There were 5000 Nisei in the U.S. military when Pearl Harbor was bombed, but many more volunteered or enlisted after Pearl Harbor to demonstrate and prove their loyalty to America. When these soldiers went stateside on leave, some of them visited their imprisoned families in the War Relocation Camps.

Marion explained that a strong belief system is vital to their survival of this adversity. She was taught shikataga-nai, which means “Sometimes things can’t be helped, and you can’t do anything about it.” The Nisei were also taught “Strength and success will grow out of adversity.” This is known as shinbo shite seiko suru. The fact that Japanese Americans have been successful even after internment speaks to the power of these beliefs because, indeed, Japanese Americans could do nothing to stop their internment. Some protested and resisted the unconstitutional act of their country, but they were segregated into a separate camp and labeled disloyal.

 


Saburo Masada was imprisoned at the barbed wired camp at the Fresno County Fairgrounds.

Saburo told his family’s story next. He remembered that May 16, 1942, was the day his family was put onto an army truck to be imprisoned at the barbed wired camp at the Fresno County Fairgrounds. In late October his family was taken to the Jerome “Concentration” Camp in Arkansas. Three weeks after arriving there, his father died of pneumonia because the weather was very cold and their barrack had no heater. When Jerome was closed, Saburo’s family was moved to Rohwer Camp nearby for another year. In 1945 his family was allowed to return to their home in Caruthers, California.

Fortunately, a family friend kept Saburo’s family farm for their eventual return. This was a rare circumstance as most of the Japanese Americans had to sell their properties dirt cheap in the short notice given them (from 48 hours to four weeks in some cases) before being uprooted and sent to camp. Most of what was supposed to be safely stored was looted and destroyed. The anti-Japanese sentiment, resulting from prejudice and the mass media’s propaganda that falsely accused Japanese Americans of being spies for the enemy, was still strong. Upon his return Saburo yearned to have a warm reunion with his former classmates, but the close bond was gone after his three years of incarceration. His sister was only a few weeks away from her high school graduation, but the principal would not allow her to attend her graduation ceremony.

There were only a few companies willing to hire Japanese American workers after World War II; many companies believed the anti-Japanese rumors that led to a hostile social environment. In the film Resettlement to Redress: Rebirth of the Japanese American Community by Jan Yanehiro, their journey back to society and then to success is documented. Forty years later, redress occurred in the form of an official governmental letter of apology and a check for $20,000 to the remaining survivors (about 60 percent). This was a token penalty to the U.S. Government for the injustice perpetrated on 120,000 Americans and legal resident aliens of Japanese ancestry from 1942 to1946.

Saburo used a metaphor to explain why the Japanese Americans who were interned did not talk about their imprisonment. He said that they were victims of a “governmental incest.” The Japanese immigrant parents were denied citizenship and yet they loved their adopted country and instilled in their children, who were American citizens, to love, honor and obey America and all its leaders. Delinquency was unheard of among the Nisei. When World War II started, their country’s leaders, including the President and the Supreme Court, were swayed by racist propaganda and those who pursued economic self-interest. Like innocent, powerless children who are sexually abused by their parent, yet feel the shame and guilt not their own, the internees were forced to submit to their abuser. The majority of the 120,000 Japanese Americans were underage, innocent, and powerless. Their parents had no voice, not even a vote. There were no advocates for them. Like victims of incest, they were forced to comply and try to make life as normal as possible during their incarceration. They buried and repressed their pain and shame and tried to prove, especially to themselves and their country, that they were as good as anyone else. They felt confusion, anger, hate, and yet deep love for their country. How could they hate their own country that they grew up loving and respecting so deeply? Children are “raised to love our parents no matter what.”

Talking about how their own country did violence to them helps to bring about the healing of their self-esteem. The poisoned feelings have to come out in order to heal. Saburo suggested that we all should support other groups whose civil rights are being jeopardized or their national loyalty questioned. We need to be each others’ advocates and voices. When the African Americans, Sikh Americans, and Hmong Americans are profiled and discriminated against, he said, “If anyone should know what that was like, the Japanese Americans should. We should be the first to stand together with them and help each other overcome adversity when it is happening.”

It was a rare opportunity for my students to be able to speak with Marion and Saburo Masada. Their personal stories about being interned revealed the lasting consequences of having been imprisoned for suspicion based solely upon common ancestry. It is my hope that students will remember Marion and Saburo Masada’s stories as crucial for their understanding of the events that took place in that era and that they will develop a collective empathy that transcends ancestry.

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Ruth Austin teaches Sociology and Women’s Studies at the Clovis Center, Fresno City College, and at Fresno State. She can be reached through e-mail at raustin@csufresno.edu.
 

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Unemployment Hell
By Jay Hubbell

Like the millions of other human beings who have become victims of America’s fleece enterprise system, I have been economically downsized and financially minimized. In other words, my full-time wage slave job has been killed by my obscenely wealthy investment fund masters who needed to eliminate even the few pitiful benefits allocated to their already pitifully paid employees. This was done to enable the Pharaonic greed-head capitalists who preside at the top of the economic pyramid to maintain their multi-billion dollar lifestyles. To help them out through their tough time I have been relegated to surviving on 12 hours a week times $9 per hour less about 30% deductions for the safety net protections of unemployment compensation that I can’t get access to through the firewall of the Schwarzenegger bureaucracy that has grossly mismanaged Great Depression II.

In a scene that is played out millions of time across America, my boss called me into his office and told me to close the door and sit down and handed me a paper to sign that notified me that my job was being eliminated and told me to check the box for part-time work at a reduced wage. I lost 240 hours of sick pay without any compensation. Gone, kaput! Yes, it is legal.

Nonunion workers in California have virtually no protection from the vicissitudes of their bosses. Employers have absolute sway under a California law called “At will employment.” There is no such thing as fair treatment in the workplace for nonunion employees. Bosses can pretty much hire and fire and assign hours and shifts and wages at their sole discretion. If you are terminated soon enough, the employer has no unemployment payout liability even though deductions were taken from the employee’s wages.

Since the hoops and restrictions to access to unemployment benefits are so incredibly daunting, the employee is denied access to his or her own hard-earned wages that have been garnished by the state unemployment compensation fund. The process protects employers from having to pay their fair share for denying work to their employees.

To create as many hurdles as possible for employees, the state has eliminated its unemployment offices. When actual offices existed, trained counselors helped employees get through the maze of forms so that they could receive the wages that have been garnished by the state. Now, workers have to file online or by phone. This is where workers go directly to unemployment hell. The unemployment phone lines are NEVER answered. All you will ever get is a recording that says too many people are calling and so try back in a few days or visit the Employment Development Department Web site. The EDD Web site tells you that if you need help to call the same number that just told you to go to the Web site.

I managed to file the online forms and supply the mountain of wage and income details required. Then I was sent a letter confirming my initial acceptance but it included a paper form to be filled out by hand and mailed back to the EDD. I followed their instructions to a T but I got a letter back saying I had made an error and that I had to redo the paper form and resend it. Once again, I dutifully filled it out to a T and returned it only to have it rejected again and again. At no time would the faceless, nameless, voiceless entity say what the mystery error was so that I could correct it. Finally they said I had until April 8 to phone them or my claim would be denied. About a hundred phone calls later April 8 came went and I still have not gotten a dime of the wages the state has garnished from me for the last 45 years.

A few weeks ago, I watched a drama on PBS’s Masterpiece Theater based on a novel by Charles Dickens. The hero of the story needed to find some information and went to the Hall of Records in London. He was sent to the Office of Circumlocution to find the help he needed. The room was awash in a sea of papers whirling about the hapless bureaucrat and the exasperated hero.

Welcome to our latter-day Office of Circumlocution, otherwise known as the Department of Unemployment Hell.

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Opinion & Analysis from the Grassroots

Robin Hood, Where Are You?
By Diane Corbin

History is often one of those things that scares you to death in school. It follows the old saying of going in one ear and out the other until, suddenly one day you get hit on the head with a forgotten piece of history. Hey, look! Robin Hood is here. Take yourself right back to Nottinghamshire and there is Robin stealing from the rich and returning those bonuses bouncing from all the corporations back to the poor to feed them a little dinner. Robin, you see, was not an aristocrat but a simple yeoman driven to crime by the harsh rule of the rich: The French who came over with Duke William of Normandy to make serfs and poachers of deer of those who fought Norman arrows and fought courageous battles against the Sherif of Nottingham along with the Bishop of Hereford while Friar Tuck, a priest from English folklore who joined Robin’s Merry Men, robbed the rich to give to the poor, fighting against injustice and tyranny.

There are still battles to fight today. People are losing their homes, they are forced from unsatisfactory unkept shelters and have no water or warmth for the night nor even a bite for a hungry child. And why? Because the big Bonus people care for themselves only and demand their corporations stand up and continue to provide only hunger and cold and no care to unburden the rest of the country. It is time for corporations to go!

From the Greenhouse
By Franz Weinschenk

Visitors to Detroit’s latest auto show agree, the industry is going electric. “It’s clear that society is headed down that road,” says William C. Ford Jr., CEO of the company that bears his name. His company just put their “Ford Focus Hybrid” on the market which they claim goes over 700 miles on one tank of gas. Next year, they’re planning on manufacturing 10,000 all-electric cars which will also resemble their “Focus” model. The car, he tells us, will have a range of 100 miles per battery charge. Then there’s the Chevy “Volt”, an electric car as well with a range 40 miles, to be available next year. While all electric, the Volt has a small generator motor which can charge its battery. Many other well-known brands like Toyota, Honda, Mitsubichi, Subaru, and Chrysler are also telling us they will have electric vehicles available soon. They’ll come in all sizes, colors and styles, from coupes, sedans, sports cars, hatch-backs, SUV’s, pick-ups, even delivery vans. Some look quite normal, some like fancy golf-carts, some are three-wheelers, and a few resemble something that just landed from outer space.

Of all the different models, at this point the Nissan Company seems to be in a strong position. In conjunction with French car-maker Renault, they’re coming out with a complete line of electric cars in 2010—including a small minivan. They claim their mid-sized cars will have a range of 100 miles. Renault will build the cars—Nissan the batteries. Nissan stresses their cars will be affordable and comparable to current vehicles on the market. “We’re not interested in some ‘Star Wars’ prototype,” said Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s CEO, “but in really bringing a mass market product that everybody can buy.”

By turning to electric cars, producers and buyers alike believe they’ve found a clean, safe, and relatively inexpensive way to provide the transportation model for the future. After all, electric cars are every bit as powerful, safe, and attractive as the cars we currently drive. Most of the time you can’t even tell the difference except that the electric ones are a lot quieter and cheaper to run.

The fact that gas prices have come down may have a negative effect on consumer demand for this new kind of transportation, but, as many predicted, the cost of gas is already edging up again. Even the oil companies realize that world-wide oil production peaked around the turn of the century and is now in decline. Oil is getting harder and harder to find, and even the most enthusiastic “drill and bill” advocates have to admit that oil is ultimately a finite resource.

Along with building electric vehicles, American car makers, especially GM, are also planning on developing companies that will manufacture batteries here in the US; otherwise, we will be beholden to Japanese battery makers in the same way we are now dependent on foreign oil.

If you are an average American car owner, you drive 35 miles a day, which means you’ll easily be able to charge your electric car’s battery overnight right there in your own garage and never have to buy gas again. Of course, your electric bill will go up, but not that much since the cost per mile of the electricity you’ll be using in your vehicle will be only a fraction of what you now pay to go the same number of miles on gas. It also needs to be mentioned that nowadays most families own two cars, and certainly the second car, which is usually used more for around town, can easily become your “plug-in.”

But what if you plan on going on a longer trip? How practical would it be to have to stop at best every 100 miles to re-charge your battery? That’s where a company called “Better Place” comes in. “Better Place” is a private company started in Palo Alto by Shai Agassi which is planning on building a network of service stations in many different parts of the world where instead of filling your tank, the attendants will be exchanging your almost-dead battery for a charged one—and off you go. They are currently working on developing their networks of service stations in Hawaii, Australia, Denmark, Israel, and in the Bay Area. The way they envision their system working is that after you become a “Better Place” member, you’ll be charged by the number of miles you drive on the batteries they have exchanged for you.

Many of the above places, Hawaii for example, envision using the “Better Place” system because they have little or no oil resources of their own and consumers have always had to pay higher prices for gasoline because it had to be shipped in. From here on out, they envision using their own solar and wind power resources to produce the added electricity to make up for the absence of imported oil. Electrical planners are also encouraged by this development since they see this as a way of storing a great deal of electrical energy and also of using more electricity at night when normal loads are light. And of course, we all need to remember that for every gasoline car that’s replaced by a plug-in we’re reducing the number of tons of CO 2 now dumped into the atmosphere, and that’s a really good thing when you’re trying to reduce and ultimately stop global warming.

Franz Weinschenk has been a teacher and school administrator in Fresno for more than 50 years. He can be contacted by e-mail at franzie@SCCCD.org

We the People
By Michael Moore

Nothing like it has ever happened. The President of the United States, the elected representative of the people, has just told the head of General Motors — a company that’s spent more years at #1 on the Fortune 500 list than anyone else — “You’re fired!”

I simply can’t believe it. This stunning, unprecedented action has left me speechless for the past two days. I keep saying, “Did Obama really fire the chairman of General Motors? The wealthiest and most powerful corporation of the 20th century? Can he do that? Really? Well, damn! What else can he do?!”

This bold move has sent the heads of corporate America spinning and spewing pea soup. Obama has issued this edict: The government of, by, and for the people is in charge here, not big business. John McCain got it. On the floor of the Senate he asked, “What does this signal send to other corporations and financial institutions about whether the federal government will fire them as well?” Senator Bob Corker said it “should send a chill through all Americans who believe in free enterprise.” The stock market plunged as the masters of the universe asked themselves, “Am I next?” And they whispered to each other, “What are we going to do about this Obama?”

Not much, fellows. He has the massive will of the American people behind him — and he has been granted permission by us to do what he sees fit. If you liked this week’s all-net 3-pointer, stay tuned.

I write this letter to you in memory of the hundreds of thousands of workers over the past 25+ years who have been tossed into the trash heap by General Motors. Many saw their lives ruined for good. They turned to alcohol or drugs, their marriages fell apart, some took their own lives. Most moved on, moved out, moved over, moved away. They ended up working two jobs for half the pay they were getting at GM. And they cursed the CEO of GM for bringing ruin to their lives.

Not one of them ever thought that one day they would witness the CEO receive the same treatment. Of course Chairman Wagoner will not have to sign up for food stamps or be evicted from his home or tell his kids they’ll be going to the community college, not the university. Instead, he will get a $23 million golden parachute. But the slip in his hands is still pink, just like the hundreds of thousands that others received — except his was issued by us, via the Obama-man. Here’s the door, buster. See ya. Don’t wanna be ya.

I began my day today in Washington, D.C. I went to the U.S. Senate and got into their Finance Committee’s hearing on the Wall Street bailout. The overseers wanted to know how the banks spent the money. And many of these banks won’t tell them. They’ve taken trillions and nobody knows where the money went. It certainly didn’t go to create jobs, relieve mortgage holders, or free up loans that people need. It was so shocking to listen to this, I had to leave before it was over. But it gave me an idea for the movie I was shooting.

Later, I stopped by the National Archives to stand in line to see the original copy of our Constitution. I thought about how twenty years ago this month I was just down the street finishing my first film, a personal plea to warn the nation about GM and the deadly economy it ruled. On that March day in 1989 I was broke, having collected the last of my unemployment checks, relying on help from my friends (Bob and Siri would take me out to dinner and always pick up the check, the assistant manager at the movie theater would sneak me in so I could watch an occasional movie, Laurie and Jack bought an old Steenbeck (editing) machine for me, John Richard would slip me an unused plane ticket so I could go home for Christmas, Rod would do anything for me and drive to Flint whenever I needed something for the film). My late mother (she would’ve turned 88 tomorrow if she were still with us) and my GM autoworker dad told me in the kitchen they wanted to help and handed me a check for an astounding thousand dollars. I didn’t know they even had a thousand dollars. I refused it, they insisted I take it — “No!” — and then, in that parental voice, told me I was to cash it so I could finish my movie. I did. And I did.

So on that March day in 1989, as I was driving down Pennsylvania Avenue, my 9-year-old car just died. I coasted over to the curb, put my head down on the steering wheel and started to cry. I had no money to take it in to be repaired, and I certainly had nothing to pay the tow truck driver. So I got out, screwed the license plates off so I wouldn’t be fined, turned my back and just left it there for good. I looked over at the building next to me. It said “National Archives.” What better place to donate my dead car, I thought, as I walked the rest of the way home.

Though it wasn’t easy for me, I still never had to suffer what so many of my friends and neighbors went through, thanks to General Motors and an economic system rigged against them. I wonder what they must have all thought when they woke up this Monday morning to read in the Detroit News or the Detroit Free Press the headlines that Obama had fired the CEO of GM. Oh — wait a minute. They couldn’t read that. There was no Free Press or News. Monday was the day that both papers ended home delivery. It was cancelled (as it will be for four days every week) because the daily newspapers, like General Motors, like Detroit, are broke.
I await the President’s next superhero move.

Michael Moore is a film maker. His email address is MMFlint@aol.com

We Can’t Have It All
By Ruth Gadebusch

No one needs me to point out the dire straits of the valley in this time of severe economic stress when it seems there is so much more bad news than good. Smiling weatherpersons tell us of a beautiful sunshine day when what we are hoping for is rain. We are so totally dependent on water while each year the shortage seems to grow. Our jobless rate is much higher than the rest of the nation, which itself is cause for deep concern.

The shortage is much more serious than just a drought. The drought only aggravates the situation of turning a desert into agriculture production and bringing in hundreds of thousands more people than anticipated when last the water picture was addressed. At this writing, a group is beginning a march to the San Luis Reservoir to call attention to the devastating conditions being produced by our current allocation process. The long hoped for resolution is turning out to be unreasonable for our farm community.

Something has to give. Perhaps we can’t have it all as we have come to expect. Certainly, we can’t fulfill those expectations without planning that takes into consideration all water needs. Talk is cheap and everyday that we delay the cost of action goes up with ever more frightening consequences.

We all know that life does not exist without water (We will save the air part for another time.), but nowhere is the entire economy more dependent on its use. That should have been evident a long time ago, but we went merrily on our way thinking that it would always be here. We in the urban areas wanted our tropical, or at least near tropical, gardens, not to mention swimming pools, and the farmers wanted unlimited water for agriculture. Neither group gave much thought to the environmental consequences. Our excitement subsided rather quickly after the worst damage from the selenium in the Kesterson bird sanctuary was somewhat mitigated. We seem incapable of acting short of a crisis.
It would seem that the water crisis has arrived. With environmental interest taking priority over agriculture’s interest, entire populations find themselves without jobs. It makes no difference whether they are legal or undocumented workers, it is a human toll. Likewise, it matters not which farmers have been better conservationists.

Nor should we urban dwellers think we are immune from the results. It is our problem, too. Meanwhile, the rest of the nation had best not be so smug for the problem will envelope them also. Their food costs will climb rapidly either due to shortages or the price of shipping from long distances such as Australia and South America. As much as I want to protect endangered species of all sorts, I do believe that humans are at the top of the chain.

It still disturbs me to look at all the plumbing items encouraging water use, for example, spas, water massagers and multiple showerheads designed to spray an entire area. To be sure, there are those designed to use less, but still one does not get the idea that the market has much of an appreciation of conservation. I have vivid memories of having to deepen our wells on the Georgia farm where I grew up when we got electricity. With electric pumps doing the work, we used a whole lot more water than we did when we drew it up by the bucket.

Make no mistake about it. It is we humans who are in a position to do something about the situation. In fact, it is our responsibility. At the very least, we can conserve. That means growing plants—be it commercial or home—with low water needs. It means using meters as all statistics show that metered areas use less water. For proof, we need only look at the difference in water usage between unmetered Fresno and next-door neighbor metered Clovis. I’m betting that with meters I would not see water running down my curb more than 50%—maybe 75%—of the time. I dare say it was a shortsighted economic measure that eliminated the “water police” of a few years ago.

It matters not if the ultimate water solution is more dams, a peripheral canal, underground storage or whatever; conservation must be a part. We cannot wait. The crisis is here. We can no longer delay what should have been done years ago. Our profligate use of water must be curtailed by those of us who have yet to suffer from the water shortage. No one need tell that to the farmworkers who have no backup resources or the farmers who formerly hired them.

For some of us, it is a way of life that is at stake. For others, it is life itself.

Ruth Gadebusch is a former naval officer, a Fresno Unified School District Trustee for 13 years, Vice-President of the Center for Civic Education and a community activist.

Men Need A Feminist Critique of Pornography, for Themselves
By Robert Jensen

The contempt for women that saturates contemporary heterosexual mass-marketed pornography typically is seen as a threat to women, and indeed it is, in personal and political terms. But that same material also robs men of their humanity, and resistance to a pornified world should be anchored in all these concerns.

To make sense of this, we can start at the finish line: Virtually every porn scene ends with men marking women as their possessions. The “money shot” of men ejaculating in women’s faces or onto their bodies is an assertion of power and control, a reminder to women of what — not who, but what — they are in this world: objects to which anything that heightens male sexual pleasure can be done.

The irony is that pornography is rooted not in men’s confidence about their dominance but in fears that they really aren’t powerful and don’t have control over their lives. This helps explain why our conversations are fraught with anxiety as pornography and the pornographic increasingly surround us.

In the United States, the pornography industry churns out about 13,000 films a year (compared with about 600 Hollywood films) that are part of an estimated $10-14 billion-a-year business (compared with an annual Hollywood box office of about $10 billion). More and more free pornography is available on the internet every year. Despite porn industry PR about the surge of female-friendly porn, the vast majority of pornography consumers are men who use the material as a masturbation facilitator. Every modern communication technology — film/video/DVD, internet, mobile devices — delivers hardcore pornography.

And as pornography has become more mainstream, the mainstream has become more pornographic. The increasingly harsh images of body-punishing sex in explicit films and on web sites are one end of a pornographic continuum that includes fashion advertising and horror movies, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and lad mags.

Moralistic conservative forces denounce the sex as sinful (even though many conservative men are avid consumers) and promote a “natural” gender order that puts men at the head of the table. Liberals defend the industry as harmless “fun” (even though those same folks critique the misogyny in other aspects of pop culture) and still claim to be in favor of gender equality.

Trapped in this conservative/liberal framework, the public debate stumbles forward loudly and unproductively. In private conversations the silences are crucial, as many people nervously steer clear of the subject. What is the source of that fear?

For women, an honest assessment of pornography means confronting the way many men see them sexually. Pornography’s view of women as objects-to-be-debased is not confined to a few pathological men on the fringe of society but is part of the “normal” sexual imagination of ordinary men. During two decades of research and activism on this issue, I have talked to many women who tell me they would like to avoid these images, to pretend that ordinary men don’t find subordinating women a turn on, to avoid the way boys’ sexual imaginations are being shaped by such images. A reflex to turn away from the fact that so many men find increasingly cruel and degrading images of women to be sexually exciting isn’t difficult to understand.

My conversations with men indicate that far from feeling secure in this striving for sexual dominance, they are deeply conflicted. Men may like the easy orgasms that come from pornography, but after sexual release they face psychological anxiety. This is in part rooted in fears of sexual inadequacy — that they can never in their non-pornographic lives perform like the men on screen. But there’s something deeper at work as well.

The conception at the heart of pornography about what it means to be a man — masculinity expressed as dominance and control, rooted in aggression and violence — leaves men in a perpetual state of fear. Trying to win this masculinity game puts men in perpetual conflict with each other, always on guard against threats to one’s status and power. Pornography offers an easy escape from that, into a world in which men can always dominate these women who willingly accept their place as sexual subordinates, but that can only temporarily soothe men’s anxiety. As long as masculinity is based in a struggle for dominance, men eventually will be drawn into destructive conflict.

This toxic conception of masculinity results in epidemic violence against women and children, over whose bodies men too often try to assert control. But this gender system also constrains men, as this masculine pathology impedes access to a richer humanity.

The answer — for women and men — is the feminist critique of pornography, which is rooted in an argument for justice that focuses on the injuries suffered by the most vulnerable people. But a successful campaign to change the sexual politics of modern industrial societies must also offer men an argument from self-interest.

When men reject the patriarchal values inherent in all the sexual exploitation industries — including stripping, pornography, and prostitution — we are not only living our best political and moral principles but also are taking steps to save ourselves.

Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center. He is the author of 
Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007) and is featured in the new documentary, “The Price of Pleasure: Pornography, Sexuality, and Relationships.”http://thepriceofpleasure.com/

Jensen’s latest book, 
All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice, will be published in June 2009 by Soft Skull Press. He also is the author of The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege (City Lights, 2005); Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (City Lights, 2004); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang, 2002).

Jensen can be reached at 
rjensen@uts.cc.utexas.edu and his articles can be found online at http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rjensen/index.html.
 

What Can Progressive Do?
By Jay Hubbell

There has been some discussion among local members of the Central Valley Progressive Political Action Committee who are frustrated at the pace of achieving significant traction on their agenda to elect progressives to local nonpartisan offices.

Some have broached the idea that the plethora of issue focus groups leads to a lack of power. The idea is that each specialty group such as peace, immigrant rights, LGBT rights, clean air, police accountability, solar power, water resources, education and health care are each competing for scare resources of people, time and money. Some have said all groups should somehow come together and only focus on one single issue to the exclusion of all the others so that at least one thing gets accomplished.

This is kind of like focusing on one of your children who will be given the benefit of higher education to become a doctor while the rest of the family has to stay down on the farm and pick the melons to support the one elected for economic success.

Even though some families do in fact make such sacrifices by the many for a chosen special one, in the real world of progressive politics the chance of such a strategy actually happening are slim to none.

What can we realistically do to be more effective with our progressive agenda? First off, as Karen Bernal of the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party pointed out at her recent talk before the Central Valley Progressive Political Action Committee, we need to remain focused on our issues rather than just getting candidates elected. Too often we back marginally progressive candidates and are disappointed when they renege on what we thought were promises. Too often the real politics of moneyed special interests turn the politicians head and we are jilted on the way to the marriage.

The other thing about progressives is that some of us are issue specialists and some of us are issue generalists. Many only want to focus on their one interest and it would be alienating and counter-productive to try to force them to devote energy to support an issue that just does not trip their trigger.

Many progressive are generalists. We are the dilatants of the movement. We love to sample the whole smorgasbord of issues. We support all the various groups and can easily focus on the issue du jour.

It is the nature of progressives that we do not do group think. We are first and foremost free spirits and no amount of wheedling to support a single issue to the exclusion of all the others is ever going to happen.

What can and does happen is that there are shifts from one major issue to another as an organic process reflective of the social dynamics of critical mass. Such critical mass is triggered by often unforeseen and unpredictable incidents: a police or school shooting, a large raid on immigrants, a positive or negative judicial ruling, a repressive law is passed, economic crisis, war casualties escalate, a drought ensues, etc.

What can progressive do? We can keep on keeping on. We can keep caring, keep waking the walk as well as talking the talk for all the things we care deeply about all of the time.

Unlike other local, progressive issue groups, CVPPAC primarily supports and donates money to its endorsed candidates for local, non-partisan office. This is the pipeline to candidates for higher office. Our endorsements are decided by our local members.  Information about the CVPPAC is available at its website at www.cvppac.org. Our next event is a “Fun Raiser” reception on Saturday, May 16th from 5:30 to 7:30 pm featuring speakers Robin McGehee and Rev. Floyd Harris, Jr. Music is by Lonesome Jem. See our ad in this issue of the Community Alliance for more information.

Jay Hubbell is a member of the Board of the Central Valley Progressive PAC, the founder of Fresno Stonewall Democrats, and is Vice Chair of the Fresno County Democratic Party.

 

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Playing The Name Game With Family Homelessness
By Paul Boden/WRAP

As we have all seen on our streets and in the media, family homelessness over the past three years is skyrocketing. The recent mortgage crisis has escalated the numbers even more.

In the face of these growing numbers of families losing their homes, of having to split up for survival’s sake and even some children ending up in the hellhole of the Foster Care System, what is our federal government doing? Unbelievably, what they seem intent on doing is enacting draconian obstacles on a system-wide basis to put in front of families trying desperately to find a roof over their heads.

On April 2, 2009 the House (HR 1877) and the Senate (S 808) both reintroduced legislation entitled Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act of 2009 . If this bill becomes law, as many people fear, thousands of destitute and poor families will fail to “qualify” for services funded with federal homeless assistance dollars because they will be deemed to be not homeless enough.

Families who have had to and triple up with other people or who are living in hotels/motels will be forced to show “credible” evidence to authorities to prove that they are indeed completely, unequivocally, technically, totally homeless.

If asked to leave a doubled or tripled household, their “host” must verify that they cannot return. New York City sends inspectors. If they are staying in a motel or SRO hotel room, they are not considered homeless enough until their total household savings are less than 14 days worth of hotel or motel fees. It is only at this point that a family can qualify to get onto the often month long waiting lists for emergency homeless assistance.

Particularly significant for families and children is that both these bills prohibit HUD homeless counts from requiring communities to include these families. Every 2 years HUD mandates local communities to count their number of homeless people. If a family has not managed to secure a shelter bed and therefore is living in tenuous doubled-up and motel situations, it quite literally does not count!


Diana Tuttle Gonzales has lived in the H street homeless encampment for over a year and is ready to “move on.” There are between 200 -300 people living in the encampment. As the May issue of the Community Alliance goes to press, Greg Barfield, the Fresno Homelessness Prevention Manager, is saying that the city will start providing housing vouchers for people like Diana, but so far not one person has been moved into decent housing.



The consequences for homeless children and youth in these situations are particularly ominous. In 2006, the Department of Education reported 688,174 homeless children in our schools and this year that number is expected to rise 15 to 20%. [editor’s note: Representatives of the Fresno Unified School District have told us that there are about 3,000 homeless children in the FUSD]. The educational and social barriers they face are great. It is a “story” getting lots of air time but little serious consideration by policy makers .

Evidence: these same bills passed the House and the Senate last year with strong Bush White House support, but failed to come out of Conference Committee. Now they have been reintroduced. If they pass as written and communities are prohibited from including many of these school children in the HUD definition of homelessness, they will also create additional barriers to referrals for services and other critical inter-agency collaboration. So where is the change we all voted for? New President. New Congress. Same old bill.

These bills promote a cruel and vicious cycle. Once families lose their homes, they scramble for any place to stay. If they stay in the streets, left with only tents to call home, they risk being categorized as “unfit parents” and losing their children to public agencies. But families will do everything humanly possible not to have that happen. And so they will stay with other people in unstable situations, or in motels. Ironically, that decision to keep and protect their children can then render them ineligible for homeless assistance.

Family homelessness, as with the mortgage crisis today, is deeply rooted in federal government decisions. The problem is becoming increasingly intense. From 1978 to 2006, the Budget Authority of the Department of Housing and Urban Development fell from $83 billion to $29 billion in 2004 constant dollars. Meanwhile in that same time period, federal expenditures on mortgage interest deductions grew from $40 billion to $122 billion. In that way, direct entitlement programs aimed at housing poor people were replaced with a mortgage interest tax deduction program aimed at promoting home ownership. But now mortgages are collapsing and homes are being foreclosed, families that were homeowners are becoming poor people.

It should have been clear all along that Reaganomics and deregulation since 1983 would have a negative effect for others down the road. Homelessness is the end of that road.

The Bush Doctrine still rules in Washington DC. Given the narrow and arbitrary definition of homelessness, the bills just introduced in the house and Senate are again designed to exclude many homeless families with children from Homeless Assistance Services. If they pass, many will be forced into the desperate situation of actually sleeping in our streets before our government will “allow” us to assist them.

The federal government along with unregulated banks created the crisis and banks are being bailed out. Families end up living in crisis and get cut out of emergency assistance.

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Paul Boden works with the Western Regional Advocacy Center (WRAP) in San Francisco. For more information, go to: http://wraphome.org/
 

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Empowering the Homeless

By Al Williams

It is time for the homeless, the displaced, and the poor people of Fresno to exercise their rights, and take control of their neighborhoods and communities. For too long the wrong people have been working for us, while we pay their fat salaries. This is the reason we are seeing poverty grow in our neighborhoods and communities. Prime example: the encampments on Monterey street, (The Hill), the H st. encampments, (New Jack City, and Little Tijuana, or, as some call it the Ranch), and the many tents popping up on the sidewalks around the Poverello House, and the Rescue Mission. It’s time to take back our Neighborhoods, and communities. The only way we can do this, is by voting. For too many years, actually decades, local government has let our people think, and believe that we have no power, and it will do no good to vote. That’s a bunch of BULL. Too many of our people believe that if they have ever been on parole, they cannot vote. You can legally vote, as long as you are not presently on parole. Simple, if you are not on parole, you can vote. If you are on probation you CAN still vote. That’s the GOSPEL TRUTH. People, to the South side of Fresno, this message is mostly for you, to include people all over Fresno who are deprived of what is due them. If you are tired of the way the Politicians are treating you, then FIRE them. You do that by voting. That’s the only way you can fire them. So, lets GET-ER-DONE.

The leaders, and advocates of the homeless, displaced, and poor people, will be giving a class on how to take back our Neighborhoods, and communities in the Southwest area of Fresno. (LEGALLY). We will also be doing a cleanup in the encampment areas for free at no cost to no one. As we all know, the City puts a price tag on cleanliness, and again, I say it’s a bunch of Bull. In short, we will be having a good old fashioned BLOCK PARTY. When was the last time the City, the Poverello, or, Rescue Mission, threw a Block Party in that area of town, for the Homeless, displaced, and poor? We intend to do this clean-up and block party event on Saturday, May 9 (see the Peace and Social Justice calendar on page 26 for details). We are also asking people from all over the City of Fresno to help with this clean up. It is the right thing to do, and will benefit not only the Homeless, but will also be a positive gesture from the community. The people of Fresno seem to always complain about that area, and this is a prime time to actually do something that is positive, and constructive. Also, it is simply the right thing to do. We need to stop relying on the Rescue Mission, the Poverello House, and the City to do this. It just isn’t going to happen. Count the years that the City, and various organizations have failed. So, I say, to the People, lets get-er-done. We can, and should do this. We have nothing to lose, and so much to gain.

We will need large trash bags, rakes, and most importantly, people who would like to help make a change. Those who would like to contribute, food, (Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, Paper Plates, Soft Drinks, Plastic Forks & Spoons, etc.), or maybe just your time, and energy to help. You can contact AL Williams, at, cell phone, (559) 978-6585, or e-mail me at williamsal93728@yahoo.com . There will also be a Voter Registration Seminar, to educate the many who do not know they can vote, or, how to vote. Voting is every citizens right, unless you are presently on Parole. Lets get this done people. It is our human duty to help those who are lost. lets GET-ER-DONE.
 

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One Nation, Many Faiths


Join the Interfaith Alliance of Central California on Thursday, May 7 at 12 Noon for an all-inclusive National Day of Prayer celebration in front of Fresno City Hall.

The Interfaith Alliance of Central California invites you to participate in an all-inclusive National Day of Prayer celebration in front of Fresno City Hall. In 1988 Congress designated the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer each year. From 1988 to the present, every president of the United States has invited Americans of all faith communities to join on that day in giving thanks to God and asking for guidance from our Creator.

However, in recent years a group calling itself the National Day of Prayer Task Force has organized National Day of Prayer celebrations that include only representatives of fundamentalist Christian churches. That has been the character of the National Day of Prayer celebration at Fresno’s City Hall in recent years.

During the last four years the Interfaith Alliance has invited the people who have organized that event in Fresno to join in a celebration including members of all the local religious communities, but we have encountered a refusal every time.

We will gather in front of Fresno City Hall in downtown Fresno at 12:00 noon on May 7 to offer our prayers for our nation in the words, languages, and traditions that represent the diverse faiths that flourish in our community. That event will be sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance of Central California. We will pray for “Healing for Our City, Our Country, and the World.”

Feel free to invite friends of other faith communities. If they plan to attend, Reverend Natalie Chamberlain of United Christian Church would like to know, so that their faith community might be recognized. They may contact her calling (559) 227-2050, or by email at ncchamberlain@yahoo.com
 

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The Community Alliance Newspaper
PO Box 5077
Fresno Ca 93755
AllianceEditor@Comcast.net
(559) 978-4502
Fax: (559) 226-3962

  • David Bacon is a California journalist and photographer, and a former union organizer. His latest book is In the Fields of the North/En los campos del Norte (University of California/Colegio de la Frontera Norte, 2017).

  • Boston Woodard is a freelance journalist who spent 38 years in prison. He has been a contributing writer for the Community Alliance since 2005. Boston is the author of Inside the Broken California Prison System.

  • Michael D. Evans is a political activist, editor and writer. Contact him at evansm@usa.net.

  • Vic Bedoian is the Central Valley correspondent for KPFA News and a Community Alliance reporter specializing in natural history and environmental justice issues.

  • David E. Roy, a recently retired psychotherapist after 45 years, moved to Fresno in 1987. His Ph.D. combined psychotherapy, philosophy and theology. He’s worked as a journalist in Tucson, was on Fresno’s Human Relations Commission and was the first marriage and family therapist hired by Fresno County. He’s currently working on a coherent theory about the roots of our species’ current trend toward domination and violence. He oversees 12 rescued cats.

  • Ruth Gadebusch, a former naval officer, was recently recognized by the League of Women Voters with its Lipton Award for volunteer work in various community endeavors. She was elected four times to the Fresno Unified School District Board, appointed by Governor George Deukmejian to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and is an emeritus member of the Board of the Center for Civic Education.

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