New Donor Fund Expands Grantmaking Program
New Freeman Intern Welcomed
New Developments: An Update on Projects Funded by the Muste Institute
Pennsylvanians Rally for a Death Penalty Moratorium
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We continue to plan for the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute's 25th anniversary. Our "official" anniversary year will commence in July, 25 years after the date we received our designation as a charitable organization. We've been talking to many of the Institute's friends and founders about our plans for this special year. You'll receive a mailing soon with more details about our commemorative activities and projects.
As the war in the Balkan region intensifies, small protests are being organized in many places. The challenges sometimes seem overwhelming, but we continue our efforts to rally significant public action against the increasing military intervention. As we think back to previous wars and military adventures, we understand that organizing for peace is not a quick and easy task. This realization underscores the importance of the longevity of A.J. Muste Memorial Institute and the groups it supports.
Each project we fund, each publication we produce and each group we house strengthens the larger movement. We continue to rely on your generosity to carry out our work. So, as we enter this 25th anniversary year, we hope you will maintain, and even increase, your donations to help us expand our activities in pursuit of a world free of war and injustice.
Yours for peace,
We're pleased to announce the creation of a new fund at the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute. Sheilah's Fund-East was established through the generosity of an individual supporter of the Muste Institute, to fund nonviolence organizing internationally. The grants made from this fund will be on the recommendation of the Institute's Board of Directors and the fund's advisors. The fund will not accept proposals.
Sheilah's Fund-East is the third donor-initiated fund in the Institute's history. Our first individual donor fund paid out $50,000 in grants over a period of six years. The International Nonviolence Training Fund, established by a group of donors, continues to support trainings around the world. In addition to these funds, the Institute also administers the endowment set up by the will of Harrop and Ruth Freeman to provide stipends to interns in the War Resisters League national office.
Donor-initiated funds and endowments can be established at the Muste Institute for a minimum gift of $5,000 in cash, securities or other appreciated property. In addition to tax savings that may be realized by the donor, these funds can provide important support to social change groups. For more information on setting up a special fund, contact Murray Rosenblith, Executive Director, at the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute.
The first grants to formally come through the newly established "Sheilah's Fund East" at the Muste Institute were directed to projects of SERPAJ (Servicio Paz y Justicia--Peace and Justice Service), a network of Latin American peace organizations. So far in 1999, three grants have been made from the fund: two for the work of SERPAJ Cuernavaca (Mexico); and one for the work of SERPAJ Latin America (the central coordinating office).
Jasmina Arsova is the new Freeman intern at the War Resisters League national office. Originally from Macedonia, she grew up in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. In 1993, at age 20, Jasmina became involved with the nonviolent anti-war action group Women in Black, which staged weekly vigils in Belgrade to protest militarism and ethnic and political violence. In 1994 she came to the US to pursue a degree in Peace Studies at Juniata College. In 1996 she worked in Washington, DC at Women's Action for Nuclear Disarmament (WAND) and the Arms Transfer Working Group, a coalition of peace organizations.
Jasmina studies Spanish and works as a TA teaching Spanish at the University of Nevada at Reno. She sees a clear relationship between language and peace studies: "It's not just language, it's about the more profound compassion you can have for that culture, rather than watching and observing as the `other'," she says.
Jasmina has known about War Resisters International for years, since before her involvement with Women in Black. But she only found out about WRL and the Freeman internship recently, when she was looking on the Internet for summer internship possibilities. She was excited to discover WRL, and to be accepted as a Freeman intern at the national office. "I really love the mission," she says, "that war is a crime against humanity, and we need to work to end all causes of war."
Right now, Jasmina's main priority at WRL is to work against the war in Yugoslavia. Not only does the war concern her as a peace activist, but it affects her personally: her family and many of her friends are still in Belgrade. In her first week at WRL, she's already jumped into high gear, making phone calls to organize a civil disobedience action and attending a press conference in Washington where the formation of the National Coalition for Peace in Yugoslavia was announced. [The new coalition includes War Resisters League, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Pax Christi USA, Peace Action, American Friends Service Committee and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), among others.] Coming at this critical time, Jasmina's experience, perspective and enthusiasm bring renewed energy to the League's efforts to stop this war and prevent future ones.
The US Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu reports that efforts are continuing to win the release from prison of Israeli anti-nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu. As in past years, demonstrations in support of Vanunu are being planned for September 30, the anniversary of his kidnapping. It was on that date in 1986 that Vanunu was lured from Britain and kidnapped in Rome by Israeli agents while revealing to the London Times details of Israel's clandestine nuclear weapons program. Vanunu was sentenced to 18 years in prison; he spent more than 11 of those years in solitary confinement. This year's September 30 demonstrations are being planned at Israeli embassies in Washington, London and other world capitals, as well as at Israeli consulates in the US cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles. For more information, contact the US Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu, 2206 Fox Ave, Madison, WI 53711, or check the US Vanunu campaign's website at http://www.nonviolence.org/vanunu.
In December 1998, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the French government honored five defenders of human rights from around the world, including Luzia Canuto de Oliveira Pereira, international president of the Rio Maria Committee. The award came just a few weeks after Canuto paid a visit to three US cities to educate people about the situation of violence faced by rural workers in the southeast Amazon region of Brazil, and about the Rio Maria Committee's efforts for justice. The Muste Institute made a grant to the Committee's US branch in June 1998 to support Canuto's speaking tour.
On May 1st, 1999, some 500 death penalty opponents rallied on the steps of the state capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, challenging lawmakers to enact an immediate moratorium on death warrants, executions and death sentencing in the state.
Under a crystal clear sky, with a comfortable breeze blowing, Pennsylvanians from across the state listened to Kirk Bloodsworth, a former Maryland death row prisoner released after DNA evidence proved his innocence, as he spoke passionately of the horror of wrongful conviction and the ever-present danger of executing the innocent.
Activist priest Daniel Berrigan criticized Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge--also a Catholic--for disregarding church teaching on the death penalty. Bill Pelke, founder and president of the Journey of Hope, shared the experience of losing his grandmother to murder, and moving from wanting the death penalty to working for its abolition. Former state attorney general Ernie Preate, described by the Harrisburg Patriot-News as "the most unlikely speaker" and the moratorium movement's "new star witness," gave an impassioned call for a two-year moratorium on executions to determine if the death penalty can be imposed fairly and with adequate representation for the poor. "And if we can't fix it, then let's abolish it!" Preate said, to wild cheering from the crowd.
Pam Africa, coordinator of International Concerned Family & Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, underscored the connection between supporters of Abu-Jamal and opponents of the death penalty. "When we talk about Mumia, Mumia, Mumia," said Africa, "what we're really talking about is the death penalty, the death penalty, the death penalty!"
Lending energy to the rally and underscoring the message, Seeds of Wisdom performed rap numbers such as "Just Because It's Legal, Don't Make It Right," and "Just Because They Do the Time, Doesn't Mean They Did the Crime." They were joined by C.R. Robinson, community organizer for Pennsylvania Abolitionists, on "Fight for Life," which concluded with audience participation on the lines, "Moratorium today, abolition tomorrow!"
After the speakers and performers finished, an estimated 225 people marched to the Governor's mansion to call on Governor Ridge to stop signing death warrants. As the marchers made their way down Front Street, the chants of "Stop Tom Ridge before he kills again!" and "No death row!" rang out over the Susquehanna River.
At the Governor's mansion, supporters watched as a dozen people posted "Stop Executions in Pennsylvania" signs on the gates, then threw bread, roses and oversized death warrants marked "Return to Sender" over the fence before chaining themselves to the gates. Police helicopters circled overhead while mounted police surveyed the scene. Arrests began at 6:45, supervised by the state police--according to one source, the governor's office had asked that arrests be delayed until after the six o'clock news. All those who participated in the civil disobedience were charged with disorderly conduct and released by 9:00 p.m..
State and local media coverage was good, and state legislators responded quickly. On Monday, May 10th, a bill for a two-year moratorium on the death penalty was introduced into the Pennsylvania Senate with bi-partisan sponsorship. The bill is now being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
This is an unprecedented success for Pennsylvania's anti-death penalty movement, and will be a significant focus of energy in the coming months. We have the momentum, and we must seize the day!
--Jeffrey Garis, Executive Director
Pennsylvania Abolitionists United Against the Death Penalty
[The rally, march and civil disobedience action described above were organized by Pennsylvania Abolitionists United Against the Death Penalty. Many other groups endorsed the actions. The Muste Institute supported organizing efforts for the rally with a December 1998 grant of $1,000 to Pennsylvania Abolitionists.]