Thursday, June 25, 2009

June 20

About 20 days ago we set out on this adventure, trip, journey.There was plenty that we felt unsure of... who will my roommate be? what will the food be like? Is natural bug spray really going to work? Should we flush the toilets? How many people can fit in a concho? Can anyone share a muffin? Simultaneously addressing the questions of logistics and living, there were 'bigger' questions. How can I feel at the center of the group? What does it mean to be a collective? What is our vision? And, of course, the ever-impending question: what is Justicia Global?

As I begin to write this, my eyes swell with tears. Tears of systemic frustration, bureaucratic monopolies, cross-cultural oppression, unequal distribution of wealth (and power), and the absence of human rights. It's not fair. It's not fair to fall into this brainwashing capitalist power our society has raised us in. It's not fair that basic human rights are neglected across the world. In the past three weeks we have extended our comprehension of just how far the unfair, unjust, unequal world extends. We have analyzed oppression. We have despised capitalism. We have searched for alternatives. We have, at times, felt helpless.

But through all these dark, stormy clouds (as we witnessed literally on the bus ride home from Las Yayitas), there were so many rays of sunshine. University and high school students - so articulate and well informed on the political and social happenings and the history of their country. There were poems and poets that transcended passion across a language barrier. There were songs and instruments that touched our souls (Oh, rock me Momma like a wagon wheel!), there were testimonies of strength in the face of the government seizing rural land. New perceptions of medicine, nature and solace were introduced. There were faces of beautiful, innocent, youthful children that tugged on our heart strings. More people offered "bienvenidos/as" than we could have imagined. There was dancing, shared experiences, and cooperative games. There were realizations of cross-cultural values. There was work...that transformed our views of connections, bonds and the concept of working together. There were shared abrazos. There were exemplary people who demonstrated the strength of unity, in the face of time. There were people we spent only a day with, who truly loved us. There was inspiration, in so many forms.

If those rays of sunshine aren't enough, there was one more, which, as I begin to write it, brings about different tears. There were and there are 22 wonderfully amazing people that I was lucky enough to share everyday with. Each one of you all continues to inspire and empower me with your histories, your goals, your deep reflections, your POTENTIAL to bring about great change in this world, wherever you may go.

Maybe a week from now we will be a part of the workforce. Maybe we will be somewhere special with family and friends. Maybe we will be doing nothing because we still aren't sure. Regardless of the answer, let's focus on each other. Check up, check in, ask questions. And in the fall when the temporary connotation all too often associated with summer fades, keep checking. And never, ever give up. Hold on to the hope of inspiration and use it to make the change. Abre los ojos.

Let's go forward, together, in unity.

Contributed by Jill Petty

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

June 19

A child’s smile
is enough
enough to capture your attention
to capture your everything
to open your eyes
a child’s laughter
is enough
enough to open your ears
to make you listen
notice your surroundings
that child’s innocence
is enough
enough to show you
that there is still more time
that there is a chance for change
if we cannot change the earlier generations
we can change the newer generations
start from the roots
and spread the key nutrients of
freedom, equality, and tolerance
to all the different branches of race, religion, sex, gender
and to the leaves they sprout as individuals
just one root, one child
one branch, one community, one generation
one leaf, one individual at a time
can create big change.

Contributed by Shannon

Monday, June 22, 2009

June 16

What does it mean to be political? What does it take to be politicized? Yesterday morning we dug into these words and concepts, and those of power and social movement during a panel on los movemientos estudiantiles, or student movements. Amilkar and Raquel from la UASD and Justicia Global came to talk about movements in the Dominican Republic. Malcolm, Joyti and Matt from our group spoke from their knowledge and experience about student organizations and movements in the United States. It appears that students in both countries are part of a shared phenomenon, which Amilkar called ‘kidnapped democracy.’ This is to say that student movements that had been strong and brilliant forces during the civil rights movement and Trujillo’s dictatorship, for example, have been silenced. In the Dominican Republic politically affiliated student groups are not permitted in private universities. In both countries they have been institutionalized and pushed into a quiet mainstream existence, focusing on ‘service’ and ‘charity’. They are often reactionary and do not provide deep analyses or solutions and alternatives. Where is the energy going? What has changed and what are the motivations and understandings behind what today is considered the ‘organized’ student?

Students in the United States are increasingly focusing on activities that are related to their careers. A few students mentioned how many tens of thousands of dollars they will be in debt when they graduate from their undergraduate programs. Especially with the recent global economic crisis in capitalism, students are left without clear alternatives other than specializing themselves, their actions, and their knowledge so they may find a high-paying job. Today students we may put on their resum├ęs the fundraisers and volunteer abroad trips we take part in. Later the genuine worry and care for the problems that are perceived in the world may be assuaged by donations, Facebook group membership, or attendance at an event if not connected to a true critique. These actions are gratifying. They allow us to continue living in a world and a country with such abhorrent inequality and not become angry, and not ask deeper questions. Problems are recognized and addressed, but we do not as often look for the root of these problems. We do not search for the reason why people are so much richer than others, why resources are exploited, and instead we may feed a hungry child for a month of their lives so we are gratified.

We have come here to learn from the eloquence of a people who have not had the language of community organizing erased during red scares. We learn from communities who have had to come together to recognize what are their own problems and discovering their own solutions, instead of someone else defining what they need. This is the political. This is not the electoral politics. This is not just how your vote may or may not count. This is not climbing the hierarchical ladder to take a position of ‘power’ such as a president, governor, businessman or general may hold. This is about sharing together all of our common no’s and finding a common yes with those around us. And that is what we started doing yesterday in the conference room of Casa Montesinos. We questioned our own concept of being organized that we may carry with us. We met people and shared ideas, and we begin to learn how to work together and transform.

Contributed by Meredith

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Reflection on the Hip-Hop Workshop, June 16

I’ve been playing the clarinet now for 11 years. As a classical musician, music to me was Copland, Saint Saens, and Motzart. Expression came in the form of crescendos, decrescendos, key changes, and tempo.

As I’ve grown older, my definition of music and musical expression had expanded and evolved. After a talk on hip-hop, what music means to me has changed yet again.

Two young men spoke to our group and members of their community on hip-hop as both a culture and musical genre. I found it refreshing that the audience consisted of young and old, community leaders, and outsiders.

Hip-hop can mean something to everyone. The speakers made it clear that there are two forms of rap and hip-hop. One is the type found on the radio and in popular culture that endorses violence and disrespect of women. The other type of rap within the hip-hop culture goes much deeper and is used in a non-violent way to express pending issues and viewpoints.

This more constructive type of rap supports the progressive nature of hip-hop culture. Young people are now using this form of musical expression to illustrate the truths and realities of their everyday lives. They make music not to become famous and make millions, but to shine light on a social movement and raise awareness. Afterwards I talked with one of the speakers and asked for some of his musical recommendations. Even if you are not a huge hip-hop fan, I encourage you to check out one of these artists and try something new. You may be surprised.

USA – Mos Def and Talib Kweli

Spain – Violadores del Verso

Dominican Republic – Obsecion de Cuba and Sr. K.R.

France – Siniky Dians

Puerto Rico – Siete Nueve

Argentina - Mostafa Yodu

Contributed by Katie

Poverty Tourism

What is Poverty Tourism? The hard-luck safari? The slumming-it of the boho college educated? The favela-shantytown EPCOT huddled away in the corner of some 3rd World Disney?

Today I played with poor children. Starting with one girl who I swung around by the arms. I kept swinging them until my hands got sweaty and then I hoisted them up by their armpits and tucked them under an arm or over a shoulder. One, two at a time. Spun them in the air as they kept coming, again and again as if they wouldn’t get tired. Dehydrated, sweating, head spinning, and maybe close to fainting, I did get tired. I couldn’t keep it up.

What is poverty tourism?

I saw joy on their faces as they ran and giggled and squealed. I saw them trust and trust freely for a moment – a moment when I picked them up – a moment when they hung weightless in the air. Something I consider now, although I did not question then: Why? Why did they trust me? Why should they? Because while I tour tin-walled shacks today, I will enjoy conditioned air tomorrow, 3-plus meals a day, and water so cheap that I don’t contemplate luxury when it runs from a faucet. Isn’t that betrayal? When I pretend that I really care, that I really love these kids and leave them? Do they buy the hustle? Do I?

What is poverty tourism?

And you could talk about good intentions or bad intentions. You could talk about the work we will do, the sacrifices we promise to each other and beg of ourselves. But when it’s your body in that place. Your White, Anglo, struggling-with-Spanish, male body, what are your intentions worth? Even our personal transformation, our betterment and beatification is made on the backs of poor folks of color, and their homes we render as a vessel for notions of out own self-improvement. I hope that they couldn’t care less for our internal struggles, because I know that some time in the future they won’t be able to care less. They will have grown too old by then for the cares of los Estados Unidenses, too heavy to lift, and not so cute any more. I hope that they know that no help will come from outside, no hand will lift them up from the shit unless it’s their own hand. And I’m sorry for the hurt of dashed hope that they could wear one day.

Contributed by Matt

June 14

Today we attended a meeting with a group of women from Justicia Global. We discussed gender issues and inequalities in the Dominican Republic and the United States. It is suggested that gender inequalities are only present in so called “backward” countries and not present in the more developed countries such as the U.S. Gender oppression in embedded into our capitalist system, sometimes oppression is hidden and sometimes it is more deliberate.

One example of gender oppression in both the DR and the US is the issue of abortion. In the DR there is no legal separation of church and state. This is apparent with Article 30, a law recently passed stating that life begins at conception. This gives the government and patriarchy more control over women’s bodies without their consent. There is a parallel phenomenon in the US because even though abortion is legal, it is still a widespread topic of debate. This reflects how religion plays a big role in our own government.

Although many women in the DR are beginning to break gender norms, it doesn’t mean that the patriarchal ideology is being broken. For example, 53% of working women have a degree from secondary education, whereas 43% have that same education. Yet women make 30-44% less than men. In the US women make $0.25 less to every dollar men make.

One thing that I really took from the meeting was that patriarchy and oppression of women are universal issues. Until we recognize that these issues are not only hurting women, but men as well, we will never achieve equality.

Contributed by Devon

June 13

A curl
So curved
So stubborn
You don’t want to be straight
You don’t want to be smooth
Because of an old conquest
Because of the only religion
Because of the transatlantic
You have to change
Even though with one drop
One drop of water
You fight for your freedom
You try to escape
The state of straight
To be happy
But it doesn’t matter
What you want
It doesn’t matter
Straighten yourself
Cut yourself
Dye yourself
Because of the modern conquest
Because of the complex religion
Because of the neighbors down the street

Contributed and translated by Betsy

Un rizo
tan curvida
Tan terca
No quieres ser recta
No quieres ser suave
Por causa de la conquista antigua
Por causa de la religion unica
Por causa de los vecinos transatlanticos
Tiene que cambiarse
Aunque con una gota
Una gota de agua
Luchas port u libertad
Tratas a escaper
El estudo del planchado
Por ser feliz
Pero no importa
Que tu quieras
No importa
Que te planches
Que te cortes
Que te tintes
Que sufres
Por causa de la conquista moderna
Por causa de la religion compleju
Por causa de los vecinos por la calla

Contributed by Betsy