Friday, February 25, 2011

Southeast Peace and Justice Organizers Connect with Activists on Trip to Costa Rica

Clare sits between Shawna Doran and Michael Canney 
At the 8th Southern Human Rights Organizers'  Conference in Birmingham, Alabama, New South Network of War Resisters coordinators and WRL Asheville lead organizers, Clare Hanrahan and Coleman Smith took notice of the South to South connections developing between the Southeast USA and the peoples of Central and South America. On our return to Asheville we were surprised with an invitation to spend two weeks in Costa Rica with a friend and local supporter of our anti-war and peace activism. Always reaching out to new and old activists on the ground in the Southeast, we made arrangements to meet with other experienced organizers along the way.

Shawna Doran and Michael Canney shared hospitality in their Alachua, Florida, home as we journeyed south to catch a flight out of Miami to San Jose, CR..  Shawna is a nurse practitioner who recently returned from Haiti where she offered her skills to people recovering from the earthquake. She taught emergency first aid and provided training with indigenous mid-wives. Clare and Shawna first met in the early 1980s in St. Petersburg where Clare and daughter Jessica founded an advocacy center for homeless women and children - helped by the St. Petersburg Friends Meeting.   Shawna is a founder of the Quaker project Pro Nica   building sustainable cross-cultural relationships between the people of Nicaragua and North America using Quaker values.

 Michael is co-chair of the Green Party of Florida which is the lead intervener against Progress Energy's (N.C.) Levy County, Florida nuclear power plant.   It's always a boost to meet another informed activist who is working daily to reveal the injustices of a system out of balance with nature.Mary Olsen, Southeast Director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), also supports Michael in the challenge against Progress Energy's nuke.  The arguments against nuclear power are succinct and well grounded in science and experience. There are ample green alternatives to collectively provide power and save energy. Nukes are dirty, dangerous, and expensive; existing only by huge government subsidies and corporate welfare. The Southeast is home to a disproportionate number of nuclear power plants as well as permit requests. The combined impact of commercial nuclear power, the nuclear weapons complex, and the real possibility of the country's high level radioactive waste heading to a future burial site in the Appalachians, demands of us, a hyper vigilance of  this industry. This moves us to educate, activate and organize for civil resistance to this threat to our community's health and the welfare of our children and grandchildren. To this extent,  Michael and Shawna also work with and support the Sunshine Alliance for Green Energy Solutions (SAGES).
For more information on this work email:

Look out for more posts on our Central American travels as we drive cross country, meet generous, beautiful people, and take advantage of 2 for 1 Margaritas at the Basilica Pizzeria in Nosara, Costa Rica.   
Keeping our heads above the fray   

Assuming the Position in Paradise

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Southern Anti-Racism Network Rally and Forum in Charlotte

ML King, Jr. Statue in Marshall Park, Charlotte. Photo: Clare Hanrahan
Charlotte, NC -  February 5, 2011
Report & videography by Ellen Thomas

When the white supremacist group known as American Renaissance attempted to hold a conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Southern Anti-Racism Network (SARN) was there to say No.  Daryle Lamont Jenkins, co-founder and spokesperson for One People's Project in Philadelphia alerted Theresa El-Amin, regional organizer and founding director of Southern Anti-Racism Network (SARN) to the proposed conference.

Thanks to the work of SARN and the Charlotte-Mecklenberg Community Relations Committee, among many others, including the mayor, the city's hotels refused to host the conference. Perhaps the fact that the Democratic National Convention is slated to be held in Charlotte next year explains the phenomenon. It would be nice (as a North Carolinian) to think that the people in Charlotte are totally sick of racism, in whatever new, more sophisticated manifestation it may don.

Leonard Zeskind, the keynote speaker, gave a fascinating overview of "American Renaissance" and the worldwide white nationalism movement at the forum after the rally (Zeskind is author of "Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream," and President of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights):  Video Clip of Zeskind.

The event began with a rally in Marshall Park across from the Blake Hotel, the only place in the vicinity on a Saturday one could possibly find a restroom. (Charlotte might consider providing at least a portable toilet for such a nice park.) The setting, around a statue of Martin Luther King, was ideal for the imaginative signs created by Asheville activists, Coleman Smith and Judith Hallock, and the smorgasbord of participants from all over North and South Carolina and as far away as Maryland and Kansas, with a terrific spread of ages: Video of Southern Anti-Racism Network rally

The Forum, which was held at the library, was moderated by Theresa El-Amin, regional organizer and founding director of Southern Anti-Racism Network (SARN), who first introduced Willie Ratchford, Executive Director of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee:
Video of Rally speakers

Then Donna Dewitt, President of the South Carolina AFL-CIO, spoke about unions and racism: Donna Dewitt . Donna also reported (off-camera, unfortunately) that union workers at South Carolina nuclear power plants are increasingly aware of the dangers of this form of energy. Daryle Lamont Jenkins, co-founder and spokesperson for One People's Project also spoke: SARN Rally & Forum speakers.

When opening the discussion to audience participation, Theresa El-Amin asked for comments about pending Immigration Laws. There was discussion of the shortcomings of the so-far-aborted DREAM Act and the Congressional push to cancel birthright for children of formerly undocumented workers born in the United States: Dream Act speaker

It was great to meet these folks. I hope you'll take time to listen to what they had to say.

Ellen Thomas
Tryon, North Carolina

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Marquita Bradshaw at the 2010 Gandhi-King Conference in Memphis
The Gandhi-King Conference on Nonviolence in Memphis, Tennessee, always brings together an impressive group of grassroots activists working to confront militarism and injustice wherever it manifests.

The people of Memphis, particularly in predominantly African-American communities, have been burdened with the deadly effects of  military toxics for a very long time.

Marquita Bradshaw participated in WRL Asheville's presentation on the S.E. Nuclear Complex, alerting us to the ongoing work of the sixteen-year campaign for accountability initiated by her parents in 1995. Kenneth and Doris Bradshaw founded Defense Depot Memphis Tennessee Concerned Citizens  to educate and mobilize the community around the dangers related to the now-closed military facility and to raise the alarm about the health hazards of the leaking mustard gas bombs and other toxic waste buried at the 640-acre Defense Depot site. The fenced and guarded depot, once the U.S. military's largest supply store-house, operated from 1942 to 1997.

Estimates range from 187 to 289 different compounds are buried there, including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, trichloro-ethylene, carbon tetrachloride, pesticides, dioxin, chlorodane, and PCBs. Numerous area residents, including Mrs. Bradshaw's grandmother, have died from cancers directly caused by exposure to the depot's toxins. 
"What I've learned about military weapons production and cleanup is that the way they have treated people of color throughout the United States is the way they are treating countries of color throughout the world.
  Doris Bradshaw
 For information on work of Defense Depot of Memphis, Tennessee Concerned Citizens, Email:; or call the office at 901-726-0008.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Southeast Elder Women : A Powerful Web of Peace Action

Mariah Darlington and Peggy Misch connecting at the 2011  MIC @ 50 conference at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC
Photo by Clare Hanrahan
Mariah Darlington and Peggy Misch live in North Carolina's Triangle area. Both are determined and persistent activists who have been working for justice and peace for decades.

Mariah is a grand niece of Smedley Darlington Butler, the notorious "Quaker Marine" who renounced the military in his book, "War is a Racket."  Mariah has had her share of adventurous travel, including being deported from Chiapas, Mexico, in 1997, allegedly for participating in a public demonstration holding a banner depicting Emiliano Zapata. This was near the time of the  1997 massacre of 45 people (mostly women and children) at La Acteal, The Mexican military was wary of international witnesses to its actions.
Peggy Misch is a founding  member and active with North Carolina Stop Torture Now, a grassroots group working to expose and end North Carolina's direct involvement in torture and extraordinary rendition. She is also a founding member the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, and works to protect the human rights of immigrants.

It goes on one at a time,
It starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again after they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.
                                    --- Marge Piercy