Mujeres de la Guerra: Women’s Voices from El Salvador

These are what true women warriors look like. Mujeres de la Guerra, Historias de El Salvador (documentary, book, photography) highlights 28 women leaders in El Salvador telling their stories of participating in the Salvadoran civil war and their continued work for justice and peace today.

Thanks to Bethany Loberg for sending this to me (who continues her work accompanying the justice movement in El Salvador). And to Lyn McCracken and Theodora Simon who are working on this beautiful project holding up women’s stories.

Quotes from some of the women’s interviews:

“My message for all women is that we always have a positive attitude. That we as women, when we want something, we achieve it. And we have to continue fighting, not stay where we are, but figure out how to achieve what we, as women, want. In the world, in our country.” – Reina

“These are real things, these aren’t things from a movie, but things that we have lived. And things that haven’t been easy. Our struggle has been of a lot of sacrifice, of blood, of so many martyrs that have given their lives in this history. We will construct our future together. The problems that we face in our country aren’t just here; the crisis is on the global level. And everywhere, even in the United States, there are people that are organized and fighting against injustice.” – Yolanda

Mirabai Starr: Berger’s ‘Jewel of a Book’

Here’s a shout out to Mirabai Starr in thanks for her lovely Amazon review of Who Killed Donte Manning?:

In her jewel of a book, Who Killed Donte Manning, Rose Marie Berger engages in the ancient prophetic tradition of calling us to bear witness to the “terrible beauty” of the sacred breaking into our ordinary lives, allowing it to transform ourselves and our communities. Through Berger’s finely tuned biblical lens, we are invited to see the whole of the human condition, from the violent death of an innocent child to the tenderness of a Muslim pizza driver kneeling in prayer as the sun sets over the streets of the inner city, as an opportunity to offer our prayers for the redemption of the world. —Mirabai Starr

Mirabai is the author of several excellent translations, including Dark Night of the Soul by John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila: The Book of My Life, and The Interior Castle.

With Sounds True press, she’s also released a set of 6 small books of devotions, prayers, and wisdom drawing on the riches of Teresa of Avila, Francis of Assisi, Michael the Archangel, John of the Cross, Hildegard of Bingen, and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Poem: Annie Finch’s Summer Solstice Chant

I studied with Annie Finch at the Stonecoast MFA creative writing program at the University of Southern Maine. She’s now the director.

Tupelo Press has just released a CD of Annie reading all of the poems in her 2003 collection titled Calendars, with musical interludes played on Celtic harp with Anglo-Saxon tunings by Mac Ritchey of the ensemble 35th Parallel. Here’s an appropriate selection:

Summer Solstice Chant
June 21

by Annie Finch

The sun, rich and open,
stretches and pours on the bloom of our work.

In the center of the new flowers,
a darker wing of flower

points you like a fire.

Point your fire like a flower.

From Calendars by Annie Finch (Tupelo Press).

Michelle Alexander: Are You ‘Beyond Race’?

alexander_michelleWhile Stephen “I-Don’t-See-Race” Colbert pointedly jokes about being “colorblind,” Michelle Alexander asks – What in the world do we think we’re doing dragging ugly “Jim Crow” into the Obama Era?

Alexander is the former director of the Racial Justice Project of the ACLU in Northern California. She also clerked for Justice Harry Blackmun on the U.S. Supreme Court. Now she holds a joint appointment with the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University.

She’s  just released her first book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (The New Press, 2010). It’s a blockbuster! Read an excerpt from her post on Tom’s Dispatch below:

Obama’s mere presence in the Oval Office is offered as proof that “the land of the free” has finally made good on its promise of equality. There’s an implicit yet undeniable message embedded in his appearance on the world stage: this is what freedom looks like; this is what democracy can do for you. If you are poor, marginalized, or relegated to an inferior caste, there is hope for you. Trust us. Trust our rules, laws, customs, and wars. You, too, can get to the promised land.

Perhaps greater lies have been told in the past century, but they can be counted on one hand. Racial caste is alive and well in America.

Most people don’t like it when I say this. It makes them angry. In the “era of colorblindness” there’s a nearly fanatical desire to cling to the myth that we as a nation have “moved beyond” race. Here are a few facts that run counter to that triumphant racial narrative:

*There are more African Americans under correctional control today — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.

*As of 2004, more African American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified, prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race.

* A black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery. The recent disintegration of the African American family is due in large part to the mass imprisonment of black fathers.

*If you take into account prisoners, a large majority of African American men in some urban areas have been labeled felons for life. (In the Chicago area, the figure is nearly 80%.) These men are part of a growing undercaste — not class, caste — permanently relegated, by law, to a second-class status. They can be denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education, and public benefits, much as their grandparents and great-grandparents were during the Jim Crow era. …

When we pull back the curtain and take a look at what our “colorblind” society creates without affirmative action, we see a familiar social, political, and economic structure — the structure of racial caste.  The entrance into this new caste system can be found at the prison gate.

This is not Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream.  This is not the promised land.  The cyclical rebirth of caste in America is a recurring racial nightmare.

You can read her whole article here. Alexander’s incriminating claim reminds me of this haunting poem by Carl Wendell Himes Jr. written about Martin Luther King. We have so far to go to reach the Beloved Community.

Now That He Is Safely Dead
by Carl Wendell Himes Jr.

Now that he is safely dead,
Let us Praise him.
Now that he is safely dead,
Let us Praise him.
Build monuments to his glory.
Sing Hosannas to his name.

Dead men make such convenient Heroes.
They cannot rise to challenge the images
We would fashion from their Lives.
It is easier to build monuments
Than to make a better world.

So now that he is safely dead,
We, with eased consciences, will
Teach our children that he was a great man,
Knowing that the cause for which he
Lived is still a cause
And the dream for which he died
Is still a dream.

“Now That He Is Safely Dead,” by Carl Wendell Hines Jr. in “Beyond Amnesia: Martin Luther King and the Future of America,” by Vincent G. Harding, Journal of American History, 74 (September 1987, p. 468).

News of a Bookish Nature

I’ve been out sick this week, so this little ephemeral artifacting project–called blogging–has languished a bit. But: Here’s the news.

Who Killed Donte Manning?: The Story of an American Neighborhood, my first book, is due out in spring 2009 from Apprentice House press at Loyola College in Baltimore. It’s been an interesting process working with Apprentice House. I’m learning so much! And I’m really excited about the prospects of getting this little book into print and into the world. I’m geeky that way, I guess.

Apprentice House is only campus-based student-staffed educational publishing house in the United States. I think that’s really cool!  It’s run by Gregg Wilhelm, who also runs Baltimore’s CityLit program. Here’s part of an interview with Gregg from the Baltimore Sun:

What makes Apprentice House different from other publishing houses?

Apprentice House bills itself as the country’s only campus-based, student-staffed book publisher. All those words are important—there are newspaper publishers on campuses, there are journal publishers on campuses that are student-staffed. But we are the only book publisher in the sense that we’re not a university press, which are very different animals and have a very different mission. We’re educators first and foremost.

We are at the production stage where I am giving them a final manuscript and Gregg has assigned it to Emily, a student in Loyola’s design program, to work up cover treatments. I’ve still got some fact-checking to do, footnotes to complete, and a few research leads that I hope to track down before printing. But, otherwise, the book process is moving forward–and I’m excited!.