The New Year is bringing change to the Muste Institute.
We’re sad to bid goodbye to two members of the Muste Institute’s Board of Directors. Lynn Lewis and John Zirinsky both stepped down in November to focus on other priorities. John, our longtime treasurer, has been a valuable resource as we review options for our building. Lynn, one of our newest board members, brought a fresh perspective and key insights to our efforts to develop best practices and policies for the Institute. We thank both of them for their time, energy and dedicated service to the Muste Institute, and wish them well.
We are also sorry to lose staff member Rose Regina Lawrence, assistant to the codirectors, who left the Muste Institute in November. We will miss her creative and thoughtful presence in the office, and wish her much luck with her new endeavors.
We are grateful for your enthusiastic response to the November letter from Marc Rodrigues of Student/Farmworker Alliance, which emphasized the important role the Muste Institute plays in sustaining nonviolent action and grassroots organizing for social justice. If you haven’t yet donated, please make a generous contribution to the Muste Institute today, so we can face whatever challenges 2011 may bring.
The Muste Institute acts as fiscal sponsor for School of the Americas Watch, channeling tax-deductible contributions to SOA Watch’s educational work and organizing for human rights and social justice. This article was written for Muste Notes by Zachary D’Amico, an SOA Watch activist and a student at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Photos of this year’s SOA Watch vigil are by Linda Panetta, Opticalrealities.org.
Thousands of people converged at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, on November 20-21, 2010 to demand the closing of the School of the Americas, where the Department of Defense trains Latin American military personnel.
Thousands of Latin Americans—from union leaders to archbishops—have been made victims by the school’s graduates. It has a solid reputation for admitting known human rights abusers, and a better reputation for training future ones. It has been dubbed the School of the Assassins.
The twentieth annual School of the Americas Watch vigil culminated on Sunday November 21, when thousands of people staged a silent, nonviolent walk of remembrance around the street that leads to the gates of the U.S. Army base. In each hand was a simple cross, upon which was scrawled the name of a victim—from Archbishop Oscar Romero to Child, three years old—who had been abducted, tortured, raped, and/or murdered by the hands of those trained at the School of the Americas.
Those crosses carried the grief of a lifetime of oppression and pain. The thousands of wooden white crosses were raised in unison to the Georgia sky, while from a loudspeaker was read the name and age of each victim, to which the crowd cried out "Presente!."
Certain ones would grab my attention: brother and sister, nine and ten years old; mother of two small sons; Honduran coup resistance leaders assassinated since president Pepe Lobo took office; Joaquin Lopez, 71 years old; Oscar Ramirez, 17 years old; child of one and a half years old.
"When they read the name of someone who was the same age as my grandson, it just pierced my heart," said Carol Tyx, associate professor of English at Mount Mercy University. "Nine months old and dead."
A helicopter belonging either to the U.S. military or the Columbus, Georgia police department flew overhead incessantly, making round after round, its blades chopping loudly through the humid air.
A large banner of Rufina Amaya would bend with each gust of wind. In 1981 she watched helplessly as members of the Salvadoran army, trained at the School of the Americas, slaughtered her entire village, murdering her children and decapitating her husband.
The thousands of people moved around the street median, led by figures cloaked in black with faces painted white, carrying caskets of symbolic death. Collectively, they walked as one giant mass—the greatest funeral procession I’ve ever seen—but slowly enough to read the sorrow and hope on each face.
The victims’ names competed with another loudspeaker, blaring out from Fort Benning, warning everyone they would face certain arrest if they dare cross onto the base. The street was lined with what seemed to be the whole of the Columbus police force.
The procession made its way to the Fort Benning entrance gate, behind which, hidden by towering pine trees, lay the School of the Americas. Behind which also stood a line of armed guards, appearing stiff and determined. The division between us and them was measured by a tall chain link fence topped with angled barbed wire. Each member of the procession gently placed their cross in the fence.
Two young men climbed that fence in a deliberate act of civil disobedience. They climbed slowly, carefully using their shoes to subdue the barbed wire. The first walked slowly to the guards with his hands ready for cuffs. The second lay motionless in the grass, allowing the guards to approach and arrest him. The two activists were escorted into waiting vehicles amid cheers and chants of "Close the SOA!"
The fence eventually became so inundated with crosses that one could not see through it clearly. There were thousands of crosses representing thousands of deaths. Some crosses would fall off the fence due to sheer weight and overcrowdedness. Those who had already placed their cross in the fence would pick up the fallen ones and slowly place them back with the other thousands.
Last year we wrote to let you know that we were moving toward a possible sale of our building at 339 Lafayette Street and the purchase of a new and accessible home for the Institute and our movement tenant organizations.
Since then, development partnership opportunities have emerged that could allow us to remain in our present location in a renovated or new structure, while enhancing the financial stability of the organization. While we explore these possibilities, we are continuing to seek major gifts or loans to cover the cost of repairing or rebuilding on our site.
We owe it to you, our supporters—and to all the social justice activists we support through our grant, sponsorship and sheltering programs—to review these options thoroughly so we can make the best possible decision. As part of this process, we have commissioned architectural bid drawings that will start where last year’s engineering investigation left off, and lead us to a more accurate estimate of the cost of repairs. Several key supporters have chipped in to pay for this new project, but more help is needed.
If you have a particular interest in the future of our sheltering mission, and you have resources to contribute, we encourage you to get in touch. We are looking for people with skills and dedication to volunteer their time, as well as donations to help us expand our options for the building.
For decades the Peace Pentagon has been a home base for historic organizing efforts, an oasis of nonviolent resistance in the heart of Manhattan. To contribute to this legacy, please make your gift payable to the Muste Institute and indicate “sheltering” on the memo line of your check or on the online donation form. These donations will be earmarked specifically toward providing affordable and functional office and meeting space for the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute and our movement tenants.
Please give now. Thank you for your continued support.
"The Good Soldier" Wins an Emmy
"The Good Soldier," a feature-length documentary about five U.S. veterans who fought in World War II, Vietnam and the Middle East, won an award for "outstanding historical programming—long form" at the 31st News and Documentary Emmy Awards in September 2010. Veterans featured in the documentary joined filmmakers Lexy Lovell and Michael Uys in accepting the prestigious award.
In this moving documentary, U.S. combat veterans share their journeys through war, from killing to questioning, from protest to healing. The Muste Institute supported "The Good Soldier" with a December 2006 grant of $2,000 to Out of the Blue Productions.
The film was released theatrically in November 2009 and is available on DVD. For information and previews: www.thegoodsoldier.com.
The Muste Institute’s Social Justice Fund makes grants for grassroots activist projects in the U.S. and around the world. If supporting nonviolent action for social justice is important to you, please DONATE NOW to help us expand this important program. Thank you!
Coalición de Derechos Humanos
Minnesota Break the Bonds: Divest for Justice in Palestine!
National G.I. Coffeehouse Support Network
Reflect & Strengthen
St. Louis Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America
The Adalys Vázquez Solidarity Travel Fund enables grassroots social movements from Latin America, the Caribbean and indigenous territories throughout the hemisphere to expand their presence at regional gatherings in order to share experiences and coordinate strategies. The next deadline is February 1, 2011. Guidelines are on our website in English at ajmuste.org/novaintro-eng.html and in Spanish at ajmuste.org/novaintro.html.
Asociación de Fomento Vecinal de Accion por el Progreso Barrial, Santiago del Estero, Argentina: $350 for a delegation of up to 10 members of this community action group to participate in a conference titled "El Trabajador Social entre la Teoría y la Emancipación Social- Desafíos, Encrucijadas y Crisis del Trabajo Social a Comienzos del Siglo XXI" (The Social Worker between Theory and Social Empancipation - Challenges, Crossroads and the Crisis of Social Work at the Beginning of the 21st Century), held September 10-12 in Mendoza, Argentina.
Asociación Servicios Educativos Rurales-SER, Lima, Peru: $600 for activist Aldo Santos to participate in Rivers for Life 3: the Third International Meeting of Dam-Affected People and Their Allies, held October 1-7, 2010 in Temacapulín, Mexico.
Fundeco, Buenos Aires, Argentina: $300 (via sponsor: Juventud Divino Tesoro) for a delegation of up to eight Fundeco members to participate in "El Trabajador Social entre la Teoría y la Emancipación Social- Desafíos, Encrucijadas y Crisis del Trabajo Social a Comienzos del Siglo XXI," held September 10-12 in Mendoza, Argentina.
Jóvenes Solidarios, Buenos Aires, Argentina: $300 (via sponsor: Juventud Divino Tesoro) for a delegation of up to seven members of this youth group to participate in "El Trabajador Social entre la Teoría y la Emancipación Social- Desafíos, Encrucijadas y Crisis del Trabajo Social a Comienzos del Siglo XXI," held September 10-12 in Mendoza, Argentina.
Juventud Divino Tesoro, Buenos Aires, Argentina: $300 for a delegation of up to six members of this youth group to participate in "El Trabajador Social entre la Teoría y la Emancipación Social- Desafíos, Encrucijadas y Crisis del Trabajo Social a Comienzos del Siglo XXI," held September 10-12 in Mendoza, Argentina.
Movimiento de Acción Lésbica Feminista (el MAL de Aguascalientes), Aguascalientes, Mexico: $400 for Ivonne Yesenia Vite Silva to participate in the VIII Encuentro Lésbico Feminista de Latinoamérica y el Caribe (Eighth Latin American and Caribbean Lesbian Feminist Gathering), held October 9-14 in Guatemala.
REDLAR - Ecuador, Quito, Ecuador: $650 for Alcides Díaz Saravia to represent REDLAR in Rivers for Life 3: the Third International Meeting of Dam-Affected People and Their Allies, held October 1-7, 2010 in Temacapulín, Mexico.