Posts Tagged ‘activism’

The summer recess is fast approaching and Massachusetts Senate Bill 58, an act relating to anti-human trafficking and protection, still sits before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.  It was passed favorably by the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities on July 15, 2009.  Over the past year, it has been waiting to be approved by the Senate Ways and Means Committee.  The bill will have to be reintroduced if it does not get approved by July 31. This means that Massachusetts would still be one of only 6 states that do not have human trafficking legislation.

I encourage you to write to the senators in this committee to encourage them to vote in favor of this bill.  I have written a draft letter that you can use to write out yourself or to e-mail.  Feel free to shorten it or include your personal reason why you think this bill should be passed.  You can also call them and simply ask them to support Senate Bill 58. This takes 5 minutes out of your day.  The members of the committee are found here. They will pay attention if 5 of you contact them on the same topic.  You can make a real difference.

WGBH recently did a 4 part report on human trafficking in New England.  You can read and listen to the report here.

I also recently learned that Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore are passionate about human trafficking. The Demi and Ashton Foundation facebook page has a tremendous amount of resources that you will pop up in your feed if you like the page.  I encourage you to like it to learn more about the problem.

Help me get Senate Bill 58 passed by contacting the members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.  Thank you.

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I would like to thank Ashley Judd for being gracious enough to say a few words about the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA). She was a panelist at “Slavery and Human Rights” earlier this month with journalist and abolitionist, Kevin Bales of Free the Slaves.

The bill was introduced in the House as H.R.4594 by Rep. Bill Delahunt (MA-D) and it is currently co-sponsored by 71 representatives.  On the Senate side, S. 2982, has been introduced by Sen. John Kerry (MA-D), and this bill currently has 28 co-sponsors.

Violence against women takes many forms.  Rape is often used as a weapon in military conflicts such as the former states of Yugoslavia and in the Congo where the BBC has reported gang rapes are on the rise.

Another form of violence left Manzour, a mother of two from Pakistan, scarred for life after her in-laws threw acid at her causing her chin to fuse to her chest in a report found by the BBC.  The video contains disturbing images.

A reporter from The Economist recently reported the visit of Xinran Xue, a Chinese writer, who witnessed a birth in Shandong province and wrote about it in her book, Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother.

Xinran writes, “when we heard a moan of pain from the bedroom next door. . .The cries from the inner room grew louder- and abruptly stopped.  There was a low sob, and then a man’s gruff voice said accusingly:’Useless thing!’  The writer saw in horror a tiny foot poking from a slops pail after the baby girl was discarded by the midwife.  She tried to save the baby but was restrained by two policeman who told her, ‘Don’t move, you can’t save it, it’s too late.’  An older woman explained the rationale to the writer saying, “It’s a girl baby, and we can’t keep it.  Around these parts, you can’t get by without a son.  Girl babies don’t count.'”

This is an outrage, but you can do something about it.  You can help these women break free by asking your US Senator and US Representative to support IVAWA in an e-mail.  Writing personal letters are extremely effective.  One state politician revealed that they pay attention to an issue if they receive five letters on the same topic.  This is an achievable goal.

IVAWA would lend support to non-government organizations that would develop a strategy unique to the area as they work their way towards preventing violence against women.  It could be as simple as funding the education for girls or providing a micro-finance loan that would allow women to be economic independent.   Amnesty International’s website offers a range of actions that you can take to support this bill.

During the panel discussion, Ashley Judd talked about finding your outrage.  Once you found your outrage, your passion will rise up and empower you to make a difference.  My outrage is human trafficking,  a problem which has touched my own city, Quincy, where a Chinese brothel was recently discovered.

Activist and historian Howard Zinn, who passed away earlier this year, wrote, “We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change.  Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”

Change starts with you.  Be the change.

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Greeting BFP Blog Readers!

Amy and Alicia and I, all international justice enthusiasts, have decided to start exploring international justice (IJ) issues using our group blog. I spent well over a year working closely with AIUSA’s Program on International Justice and Accountability. The Program focused on the international justice components of several conflicts, including demanding an International Criminal Court investigation into the conflict in Darfur. I loved my time with the program. I learned a lot about the international justice system, why it was important to human rights activism in general and I had the opportunity to work with some very talented and brainy folks who are super committed to the international justice system and growing grassroots support for that system in the U.S. The Program closed earlier this year, but the BFP invested so much time in training and networking in this area that I plan on continuing our work.

As an organizer, I’ve had a difficult time trying to get people to respond to the term “international justice”. It is both too vague and too clear. Of course human rights activists want justice! Isn’t that all we do, really? And yet justice itself is really the focus of IJ work. It means using the mechanisms provided by international law to ensure that allegations of the very worst human rights abuses- torture, disappearances, genocide, and crimes against humanity- are investigated and if necessary, prosecuted. But getting a grasp of international law, processes and these mechanisms can be downright intimidating. AIUSA has provided some fantastic fact sheets and even a film online that explores some of the key concepts with exceptional clarity. You can find those resources at

With these “What is International Justice” posts, we’ll be exploring these mechanisms in practice, looking at the role the tools of international justice could play in the many ongoing conflicts in the world. We’ll also be looking at some of the inherent problems with the notion of international justice. In addition to the posts from BFP -ers, I’m hoping that I can arrange for a few current and former IJ colleagues to guest blog about their thoughts and work.

So while you folks spend the weekend reviewing the AIUSA film and fact sheets (hey, an IJ activist can dream, right??!), I’ll be researching more about this : http://www.salon.com/wires/ap/world/2009/09/01/D9AEPAFG4_lt_chile_dirty_war/index.html and this http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/08/24/holder/index.html.
I think it is interesting that the role of the International Criminal Court is to hold the “architects” of these crimes accountable while the Chilean investigation seeks to investigate “all who have participated” and the Holder investigation is, at least for now, only looking at CIA interrogators and some military contractors. I look forward to reading some more and picking the brains of my brilliant friends working in the field. I will report back next week for sure!

In solidarity,

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I encountered a great slide show on establishing a social media map for your nonprofit org compiled by nonprofit social media guru Beth Kanter.  Easily applicable of course to any community group – even to you on a personal basis.

The slide show gives a basic breakdown on the power and modus operandi of social media tools and how social justice groups have used and should use these tools to forward issues and calls for action.  Has interesting implications as well on rounding up new generations of previously uninvolved activists (i.e., the untapped – or uninterested? – young professional set).

If you make it through the slide show, you’ll find its author is a key contributor to the We are Media wiki. Another great resource on social media for nonprofits curated by NTEN (Nonprofit Technology Network).

Have you seen anything interesting or truly progressive, in a forward-thinking sense, done by any nonprofits? What about small community or volunteer-based groups?

With the growth of online activism powered by MoveOn, Care2, Avaaz, etc., nonprofits are on Facebook, are blogging and more. But there are sure to be a plethora of special and targeted online or social media focused campaigns and projects garnering support and action right? Please share if you know of or are involved in some.

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Workers from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers stage a silent silent theater depicting the brutal details of the latest slavery case at the steps of the Old Capitol in Tallahassee.  Photo by Jacques-Jean Tiziou

Members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers stage a silent theater depicting the brutal details of the latest slavery case at the steps of the Old Capitol in Tallahassee. Photo by Jacques-Jean Tiziou

It’s been a whirlwind last few days.  There was the screening of Holly at Suffolk University Law School on Thursday, and then there was Amnesty International’s Annual General Meeting.  Amnesty members staged a rally for immigration rights at City Hall on Friday.  I’ll try to write more when I have time about the AGM.

The main reason why I’m writing is that there has been a major development for the slavery/ trafficking cause in Florida.  The Coalition of Immokalee Workers met with Gov. Crist to talk about the working conditions of tomato and orange pickers in Florida.

After the meeting, the governor told the Naples Daily News that he was “deeply moved by what they had to say and we want to help them as much as we possibly can.”

Later that week, Governor Crist stated his support for the workers in a letter where he makes the following points:

  • “I have no tolerance for slavery in any form, and I am committed to eliminating this injustice anywhere in Florida…”
  • “I support the Coalition’s Campaign for Fair Food, whereby corporate purchasers of tomatoes have agreed to contribute monies for the benefit of the tomato field workers. I commend these purchasers for their participation, and I encourage the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange and its members to participate in the campaign so that these monies can reach and provide assistance to the workers…”
  • “I look forward to working with you and your organization in the future to advance these important causes.”

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is a grassroots organization that has fought for the rights of tomato and orange pickers in Florida.  These workers are mostly Latino men who are at times trafficked into the country to pick the tomatoes for our fast food burgers and fajitas.

They have successfully put pressure on Taco Bell, McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, and Whole Foods to raise the wages of the tomato pickers that are contracted to work on their supplier’s fields.  They are now working on a letter writing campaign targeting Chipolte Mexican restaurants.  Please join in and help fight another form of trafficking by downloading this letter and sending it to your local Chipolte branch.

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Been very remiss in my “weekly” links and sites of interest for human rights enthusiasts. But, today I came across a web resource that sparked memory of my having committed to contributing weekly to this blog and to you in your work as a human rights activist. So I’ve found my way back – appropriately with a resource entitled Compass.

I spearhead the quarterly newsletter that the Boston Firefly Project publishes, and in preparation for our next newsletter (which reminds me I should post our previous newsletter on this blog!) I began brainstorming what topics are au courant. One media relations trick that often works well is pitching stories based on holidays; so I went in search of a comprehensive human rights calendar with hopes of finding some inspiration.

During my search, I came across a great human rights calendar  put out by the Council of Europes’ Compass initiative.  The calendar lists human rights holidays as celebrated internationally. I found especially intriguing the activity links that correspond with each holiday. What better way to celebrate the upcoming International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination than to try and unravel racism on a personal, interpersonal and institutional level?

Digging further into the Compass site, I found other invaluable resources listed on the contents page. I’ll definitely be looking more thoroughly at chapter 2, so I can add some icebreakers and interactive activities to my bag of tricks, as well as chapter 5, to brush up on deepen (it is a never ending process learning about human rights) my knowledge of human rights issues.

Hope you pull some valuable tools, tips and information from this resource. Hopefully upon further investigation I will find inspiration for the newsletter too.

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Today, December 10, is the sixtieth anniversary of Human Rights Day.  Sixty years ago the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which define in 30 points what is our basic rights.

Since I have Monday’s off, I was able to attend the AIDS town meeting hosted by Physicians for Human Rights.  There, the Rev. Gloria White Hammond was one of the panelists who spoke there.  Here are some of her thoughts on human rights day and violence against women.

The cholera epidemic is Zimbabwe is critical because it could spread rapidly in the upcoming months because of the political situation there.

As mentioned earlier, aid agencies will be facing a shortage of food supplies in January when the need is the greatest.  The BBC reported in a podcast that students are foraging in the countryside and abandoning class to find food for their family.  If people are hungry, there immune systems will be weakend therefore being more vulnerable to cholera.  There are also shortages of basic medical supplies in hospitals throughout the country making it more difficult to treat.  In addition, the collapse of the sewage and basic water services has made it easier for the disease to spread.


Change starts from the bottom up.  Dr. Jim Yong Kim also spoke at the AIDS town meeting.  In it he reminded the audience of the need to stay active in urging for change by quoting Franklin Delanor Roosevelt.  Sidney Hillman, a union representative, urged the new elected Franklin Delano Roosevelt to use his powers to enact stronger protection for workers.

FDR responded.  “I agree with you.  I want to do it.  Now go out and make me do it.”

It is critical that we ask our elected officials to put pressure on Robert Mugabe and ask him to stand down peacefully for the sake of his country.  We need to make them do it.

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