Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Jerilyn DePete: In memoriam

"The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?" Dorothy Day

Jerilyn DePete was an answer to that challenge posed by Dorothy Day... she was a heart beating in unison with the heart of the world. She rose, again and again, to meet the demands of the job at hand. She gave us the pictures and the creative designs to color our dreams of peace. Even as she struggled with disease, at first undiagnosed, she was always there, with that beautiful smile that reached her eyes, ready to inspire, amuse, or console, as needed. She was a good and humble listener, a loving example of a true peacemaker. She taught me that not everything need be explained, or need be understood. Even in dark moments, she would have echoed Dorothy Day's statement: "No one has the right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do."

I shared with her once that I had watched the March of the Penguins, and had been moved by their incredible persistence in the face of subfreezing temperatures and unbelievable hardship, and I talked about our movement, and the plight of our nation which has so few dedicated penguins. She quipped in her wonderful voice full of subtle irony that she had been compared to many things in her life, but never to a penguin.

Yet Jerilyn was nothing if not an Emperor penguin, determined to stand in the face of hardship, to make sure peace would endure. She raised two beautiful daughters, who are better because they had a mother who stood firm and taught them about love and family values, which include peace and social justice. She held the baby of our dreams and hopes for a new world under her belly. I honor her commitment and her life; she was one of the gifts that allowed me connect fully with the heart of our movement.

She will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Nochebuena, or Cuban Christmas Eve

Cubans celebrate the day before Christmas, and in particular the night before Christmas, which is called Nochebuena, or La Noche Buena, the Good Night, rather than Christmas day. The meal is similar to the US Thanksgiving meal (huge), except that instead of turkey, there is lechón asado, pork that has been marinaded (adobado) in a garlic mix with 3 parts green lemon (you call them limes) to one part orange juice, or if you are very very lucky, naranja agria or sour orange. Here in California I won't be able to find naranja agria so I will have to make do with the combination of regular oranges and limes, to which I will add some oregano, a bit of cumin (comino), and some Worcestershire sauce. Although I no longer eat pork (I am a vegetarian), my son and his partner, especially his partner who is a pork addict, will expect the lechón asado, with plenty of mojito (not the drink, but Cuban barbecue sauce, consisting of about a million chopped garlic cloves with naranja agria, to which you add hot olive oil).

When I was a girl I remember that the family would roast an entire pig, which had been in a marinade overnight, and which was wrapped in plantain leaves to keep it moist. It would be roasted in a pit outside. The men would sit around smoking their cigars and turning the pig, adding marinade to keep it moist. Someone would always be playing a tumbadora or bongó.

The other thing that is a must is black beans and white rice. The black beans need to made the day before, because they have to become thick, and they taste better the next day, anyway. It takes at least two hours to soften them, after having soaked them in water the night before. The beans are cooked with sofrito, which is the start of almost every Cuban dish, and consists of chopped garlic, green pepper and onion, sautéed in olive oil. They are flavored with oregano, laurel (bay) leaves, and wine, and of course some salt to taste. My secret is a small teaspoon of sugar, and some roasted red peppers. Delicioso... If you prefer, you can have the rice and beans cooked together as moros con cristianos (Moors and Christians), which is the mix of the black beans and white rice in one dish.

The smell of sofrito itself is my idea of heaven... surely there is a Cuban heaven, with sofrito and frijoles negros and the lovely taste of plátanos maduros fritos (sweet fried plantains). These plantains have to be almost black... you buy green ones, and let them ripen until it looks like you will have to throw them out, then you fry them. They are naturally sweet! If you don't do fried food, then you stick the whole plantains in the oven for about 20 minutes, and roast them. All the sweetness without the frying.

Of course we will also have yuca con mojo (cassava), a bland root vegetable that cannot be absent at the Noche Buena table. The yuca is boiled until it screams for mercy, and then soaked in the mojo. Mojo is an explosive experience... I don't fry the garlic (a full head), but when you add the heated olive oil to the chopped garlic, to which you've added oregano and something citrusy (naranja agria or that mix of lime/orange), it sings a guaguancó with happiness.

We will have a salad, with plenty of aguacate (avocado) and a simple dressing of virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. My abuelo Gerardo was a great lover of salads and he also taught me to make mayonnaise, which he made with a fork at the table, but I will make with a mixer in a canning bottle. We may not need mayonesa, but you always have to have it available, just in case someone want to add it to a salad...

All Cubans are garlic addicts, and when they start dating they try to find spouses or significant others that also love garlic, otherwise there is a major problem with garlic breath. I buy garlic by the bushel (just kidding), because at any one meal I will use at least six cloves per dish, sometimes a whole head. It is the basis of our seasonings, of our mojo (or mojito), of our marinades. We add it to our beans, our rice, our salads...

For dessert we might have flan de coco (coconut flan) or buñuelos, which are fritters covered in syrup. You make the syrup with sugar and water of course. Don't forget that Cuba at one time was the number one producer of sugar, so we all grew up with an obligation to consume sugar. Our cafecito, for example, stronger than the Italian espresso, is one part coffee to 6 or 7 parts sugar, or as non-Cubans say, we drink coffee with our sugar. I don't do the sugar bit myself, because I find it is cloying, but I can't drink the coffee unless it is very dark and very sweet.

You have to have nuts, and turrones, which come from Spain, and are a type of 'candy,' nougat, I guess. There will be small dishes around the house with green olives stuffed with pimentos, peanuts, and always the different turrones.

Christmas Eve may be the most special night of the year. It starts with a feast, very late at night, at which we may drink Cuba libres or mojitos or daiquirís with the nuts and olives, to start. At dinner we will drink wine, a nice Marqués de Riscal, perhaps. Dancing is a must, and we start with the 'son,' which is the mother and father of everything you know as 'salsa.' For Cubans, salsa is something you eat, whether red, or with clams, or white... while son is what you dance. Just in the son we have so many varieties... el son montuno, el changüí, el sucu-sucu, el ñongo, la regina, el son de los permanentes, la bachata oriental, el son habanero, la güajira son, la guaracha son, el bolero son, el pregón son, el son guaguancó, el mambo, el cha-cha-chá... It started with the prohibited African rhythms mixed with Spanish strains, but is particularly Cuban. I will post some You Tube links for anyone who wants to listen. The dancing and socializing in the old days was followed by midnight Mass (la misa del gallo, or the mass of the rooster).

Although we always eat too much, the dancing takes care of that bloated feeling... And for dessert, if you don't want the delicious flan, you might have simple cascos de guayaba con queso crema (guava shells with cream cheese) or coco rallado, a cloyingly sweet dessert made out of shredded coconut, also eaten with cheese.

I will make a fish dish for myself, perhaps bacalao, perhaps pargo a la brasa (a red snapper grilled in, you guessed it, mojo...), which the kids will eat after they have tried the lechón asado. This year we will have a celebration at Nochebuena and also on the day after Christmas, because two of my kids who live in LA will drive down on the 26th and stay until fin de año, or New Year's Eve.

Here are some links to our music. If you want more details about the food (recipes, etc.), I will post them. Felices pascuas y un próspero año nuevo to each of you, and please feel free to post your own traditions here!

The Buena Vista Social Club... ¡eso es Cuba, chagüito!

The real Guantanamera

(This is one of the first cha-cha-chá songs... I used to dance this, at the age of 6, with my sister, age 3, at a beach club my parents went to...)

(the above is the real rumba cubana, and guaguancó)

Benny Moré, el bárbaro del ritmo

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Rule of Law on Torture (more on impeachment)

The rule of law, according to the U.S. Department of State's publication, Principles of Democracy, which may be found at,, is defined as follows:

Rule of Law

Although no society or government system is problem-free, rule of law protects fundamental political, social, and economic rights and reminds us that tyranny and lawlessness are not the only alternatives.

• Rule of law means that no individual, president or private citizen, stands above law. Democratic governments exercise authority by way of law and are themselves subject to law's constraints.

• Laws should express the will of the people, not the whims of kings, dictators, military officials, religious leaders, or self-appointed political parties.

• Citizens in democracies are willing to obey the laws of their society, then, because they are submitting to their own rules and regulations. Justice is best achieved when the laws are established by the very people who must obey them.

• Under the rule of law, a system of strong, independent courts should have the power and authority, resources, and the prestige to hold government officials, even top leaders, accountable to the nation's laws and regulations.

• For this reason, judges should be well trained, professional, independent, and impartial. To serve their necessary role in the legal and political system, judges must be committed to the principles of democracy.

• The laws of a democracy may have many sources: written constitutions; statutes and regulations; religious and ethical teachings; and cultural traditions and practices. Regardless of origin the law should enshrine certain provisions to protect the rights and freedoms of citizens:

• Under the requirement of equal protection under the law, the law may not be uniquely applicable to any single individual or group.

• Citizens must be secure from arbitrary arrest and unreasonable search of their homes or the seizure of their personal property.

• Citizens charged with crimes are entitled to a speedy and public trial, along with the opportunity to confront and question their accusers. If convicted, they may not be subjected to cruel or unusual punishment.

• Citizens cannot be forced to testify against themselves. This principle protects citizens from coercion, abuse, or torture and greatly reduces the temptation of police to employ such measures.

The rule of law at an international level it includes those agreements or conventions that we have entered as a nation with other nations to prevent torture. The United States was a signatory to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1984. The United States ratified the Convention against Torture in October 1994. The Convention entered into force for the United States on November 20, 1994.

The Convention Against Torture defines torture as any act by which:

severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental; is intentionally inflicted on a person; for such purposes as:

* obtaining from him/her or a third person information or a confession

* punishing him/her for an act s/he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed

* intimidating or coercing him/her or a third person

* or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind;

when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

On October 21, 1998, Congress adopted the United States Policy with Respect to the Involuntary Return of Persons in Danger of Subjection to Torture as part of the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act. According to Section (a): "[i]t shall be the policy of the United States not to expel, extradite, or otherwise effect the involuntary return of any person to a country in which there are substantial grounds for believing the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture, regardless of whether the person is physically present in the United States."

As a party to the Convention, the United States is required to submit periodic reports describing its compliance with the Convention to the Committee against Torture. Following are excerpts from the Initial Report the United States submitted to the Committee against Torture in 1999 (CAT/C/28/Add.5) that pertain to questions such as "Is torture a crime in the US?" and "What remedies are available?"

6. Torture is prohibited by law throughout the United States. It is categorically denounced as a matter of policy and as a tool of state authority. Every act constituting torture under the Convention constitutes a criminal offence under the law of the United States. No official of the Government, federal, state or local, civilian or military, is authorized to commit or to instruct anyone else to commit torture. Nor may any official condone or tolerate torture in any form. No exceptional circumstances may be invoked as a justification of torture. United States law contains no provision permitting otherwise prohibited acts of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to be employed on grounds of exigent circumstances (for example, during a "state of public emergency") or on orders from a superior officer or public authority, and the protective mechanisms of an independent judiciary are not subject to suspension. The United States is committed to the full and effective implementation of its obligations under the Convention throughout its territory. [p. 5]

11. .... Although there is no federal law criminalizing torture per se, any act falling within the Convention's definition of torture is clearly illegal and prosecutable everywhere in the country, for example as an assault or battery, murder or manslaughter, kidnapping or abduction, false arrest or imprisonment, sexual abuse, or violation of civil rights. [p. 6]

49. Torture has always been proscribed by the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits "cruel and unusual punishments." This Amendment is directly applicable to actions of the Federal Government and, through the Fourteenth Amendment, to those of the constituent states.... While the constitutional and statutory law of the individual states in some cases offers more extensive or more specific protections, the protections of the right to life and liberty, personal freedom and physical integrity found in the Fourth, Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution provide a nationwide standard of treatment beneath which no governmental entity may fall. The constitutional nature of this protection means that it applies to the actions of officials throughout the United States at all levels of government; all individuals enjoy protection under the Constitution, regardless of nationality or citizenship. [p. 13]

47. In 1994, Congress enacted a new federal law to implement the requirements of the Convention against Torture relating to acts of torture committed outside United States territory. This law, which is codified at 18 U.S.C. § 2340 et seq., extends United States criminal jurisdiction over any act of (or attempt to commit) torture outside the United States by a United States national or by an alleged offender present in the United States regardless of his or her nationality. The statute adopts the Convention?s definition of torture, consistent with the terms of United States ratification. It permits the criminal prosecution of alleged torturers in federal courts in specified circumstances. [p. 13]

Please note that this is written by the United States and makes specific allusion to the prohibitions in the Constitution of the United States against torture.

After the Second World War, the US participated in the International Military Tribunal. Japanese officers who had used 'waterboarding' on prisoners of war were adjudged guilty of war crimes, and some of them were executed. See

Unless we deny the atrocities at Abu Ghraib, or the fact that we have been shipping people to countries that practice torture, for 'interrogation' and 'extreme rendition,' or the continued abuse of prisoners and the violation of their rights at Guantanamo', the present administration has violated 'the rule of law.'

The duty of any citizen of the United States is to be educated about the system of laws, and the rule of law. We are not the only country in this planet, despite the attitudes of the present (and soon to be relieved of their duties, glory be to God) administration of thieves, liars, and war criminals.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Impeachment, the moral imperative

There is much discussion in peace organizations, bogged down as they are with attempting to create a peaceful environment in a warrior society, on the issue of impeachment. It is sometimes feared that an impeachment initiative might steer us away from our immediate goals with regard to declaring peace now.

I do not believe that pursuing impeachment would divert us from our main focus of defunding and bringing the troops home now, so as to end the illegal occupation of Irak and aggression against other nations.

If we are to be a people and a movement that is true and genuine, peace at all costs should not be the rallying cry. The cry should be peace with social justice, a peace that is moral, a peace that is genuine. That means that we must, at some level, face our own immorality, our own bloody past and present, and include, among the things to happen once the aggression is ended, full reparation, which is a wider term than reconstruction, because while reconstruction is physical, reparation is emotional and spiritual as well.

Reparation requires facing all that was done wrong. As a first condition of reparation, in this particular aggression, we must look at the architects of inhuman and all-encompassing evil, which includes all of the Bush cadre, including any who are no longer apparently 'in service' such as Mr. Rumsfeld. This is not a partisan issue; it is a moral issue. Morality and truth are non-partisan.

There is nothing violent about seeking reparation, impeachment, the rule of law. If we are to join the nations of the world as a civilized society, which I submit we are not at present, and in some respects, never have been, we must accept the rule of law. The rule of law is fairly well set forth in the documents under which the United Nations was incorporated, including compacts entered into by the nations of the planet such as the Geneva Convention, which we have thumbed our noses at and have broken at every opportunity. These are well thought out prescriptions for collaborative and cooperative coexistence on our wounded planet, without which we will not survive as a (human) race.

Allowing injustice and impunity to thrive and to remain without consequence is against the rule of law, against the basic physical rules of the universe, which state that to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Reaction is required to the wholesale murder, maiming, torture, oppression, of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children in Irak and elsewhere...

The true violence: to allow impunity.

Statistics show that there is a very small percentage of any population that will in fact take the steps to change things, no matter how bad the conditions, until that 100th monkey effect takes place, until critical mass is achieved. For that reason, those who undertake true activism must work at the risk of their health, family lives, personal comfort, and even at the risk of their lives, to enable the creation of that critical mass.

Some of us work to end torture and to end social injustice and perhaps have been working most of our lives to do this, but I submit that to have a group of committed individuals with the resources of the global village, including internet communication and teleconferencing, gives us an unparalleled opportunity to effect TRUE CHANGE, a true teachable moment to bring forth upon this planet a new global village, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all human beings are created equal and are meant to enjoy the bounties of this planet.

The nations of Latin America, to which most recently are added Bolivia, Ecuador and once again, Venezuela, are saying no to US imperial aggression, are saying, yes, otro mundo es posible, and are frequently saying so with their blood, as in Oaxaca. They do not participate in violence but stand as witnesses, as the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo stood for thirty long years, and as such, stand tall despite the consequences. Once again, this is not violence, although unfortunately it frequently leads to violence against the witness, against the woman or man who says PRESENTE with their last breath.

We must have the courage of our convictions. We must be ready to stand for something, without having to worry about the framing of our most innate and core beliefs. Perennial principles cannot be framed; they simply are.

There is a new world right outside our peripheral vision. But it cannot take place until we stand up to the issues of the day, and demand full investigations, and that people face the consequences of their acts.

For all of the victims, all the desaparecidos, all the abused and wounded and vilified, I cast my vote for impeachment. I will continue to work to right the wrongs, because I need to do so in order to remain sane (as sane as anyone can be in this society/world/planet).


Silvia Antonia Brandon Pérez

Back to Crawford by way of Washington D.C. (September 23-24, 2006)

These days, I seem to be on the road too much, but rarely do I get the sense of accomplishment of the past weekend. Sue Lyons and I drove down to DC on Friday morning (September 23rd), and checked in at a Day's Inn at Silver Spring, near D.C. We had both volunteered to be legal observers for the National Lawyer's Guild during the anti-war demonstration which was to take place on September 24th.

The Legal Observer program is part of a system of legal support which was designed to enable people to express their political views without unconstitutional interference by the government, and if possible, with little or no consequences from the criminal justice system. Legal observers, who include law students, paralegals or other people who work within the legal system or who work on legal issues for community organizations, or even out-of-state lawyers who are not licensed in the state of the demonstration, are the eyes and ears of the legal team that may later be called upon to report on the activities of law enforcement with regard to demonstrators, or to engage in defense work or in lawsuits. Legal observers are there to document police activities, including the use of force, the denial of public space to demonstrators, any arrests, display of force for purposes of intimidation, or other type of behavior that would limit the ability of demonstrators to fully express their views. If the legal team later needs to bring charges against police or government agencies, documentation provided by the legal observers helps to defend and to advance demonstrators' rights. The simple presence of legal observers in a demonstration, wearing clearly visible lime green badges hung around the neck and lime green hats, serves to deter unconstitutional behavior by police.

We were to dress casually and to wear neutral clothing without political slogans or buttons. There were probably about fifty of us from different states and from DC, most of whom had volunteered in advance to march with the group as observers and to take detailed notes of ongoing activity. We had obtained access to a training manual, and training had been conducted by our coordinator so that we might know what to expect. There is also substantial 'Know your rights' material at the Guild's website which explains some of the issues that may arise during a demonstration. We exchanged telephone lists, spoke to members of security, and set out armed with our visible head gear and badge and a notebook to record any activity, whether peaceful or otherwise. We also had disposable cameras. We were to take notes of the condition of the streets at various times and locations, identify the various law enforcement agencies present, including private security firms (in DC, these included US Park Service, Metropolitan Police, and agencies such as the FBI), names and badge numbers of officers if available, physical descriptions, routes used by demonstrators, and detailed notes on the conduct of law enforcement officers, including warnings, use of force, etc.

Several times Sue and I were stopped by marchers who thanked us for doing the work of legal observer. The Guild has been present at many demonstrations since its founding in 1937, including labor union, anti-war, civil rights, immigration rights, and anti-nuclear events and activities. Many of the people who spoke to us had been arrested at other political events or at activities of civil disobedience, and knew the importance of the legal observer work.

Although I have been to DC three times previously since we attacked Iraq, this seemed to be the longest march; my aching legs and back attested to that. The organizers had obtained permission to march in front of the White House and along Pennsylvania Avenue for the first time in many years. The day had begun with presentations by speakers, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Cindy Sheehan and George Galloway, with a rally planned for 11:30 AM and the actual march to start at 12:30 PM, however, demonstrators kept arriving in buses and trains; the sheer number of people present made for extensive 'traffic jams' and bottle-necks of demonstrators. There were funny and witty signs and buttons, home-made ones as well as pre-printed ones from various anti-war websites, and sad and outrageous ones, a lot of 'street theater,' such as the Billionaires for War, and the Raging Grannies, but my sense of the event is that it was peaceful and yet tense; tense because there is a sense of frustration and outrage in the streets as a result of the growing incompetence of the current administration both abroad and at home (there were many Katrina signs... Make levees not war comes to mind). Perhaps this is the reason for the hundreds of thousands who came to DC and who marched, demonstrated, expressed their opinion of the present state of affairs...

The first person I had seen that day was Hadi, one of the founders of the Crawford Peace House. I had introduced him to Sue, and he told her about our cooking and singing at the Peace House, and about his 'feeding' me Rumi, which referred to the morning when he recited Rumi for me in Farsi and English while I made an omelette, speechless for once. I had told him then that although I had been feeding their bodies, he was feeding my soul... So before the march began we had visited the Crawford House camp; so many people from Crawford were there it seemed as though I were back 'home' and was going to have to put my apron on. I saw Phil Reiss and his new bride, our own Ellen, but that was it for the many members of Pocono Progressives who attended the march. There were hundreds of thousands present! It was a feat to find someone you knew. At some point Ann Wright, our "Field Marshal" for Casey II, asked Casey volunteers to grab a small tent each and we proceeded to put them up near the crosses; she would not say why! It was spooky; Casey II was there again, boots, crosses, tents, and thousands of people. Rick Burnley was reciting to an audience,; everyone was up to grief or merriment.

On Sunday we joined a training held by United for Peace and Justice on lobbying; it was held at American University from 2 to 5 PM, and included several speakers. A similar training on civil disobedience was being conducted, to help those who had decided to participate to understand what they might expect. Sue and I had offered to be legal observers, but it was not necessary, so we finally went back to the hotel and had dinner at a wonderful Asian bistro. Miso soup is good for the soul... and the day before it had been a Lebanese taverna and lentils, which I maintain will cure anything, including a broken heart. Appointments had been made for PA delegates to visit Senators Santorum and Specter, but we had yet to obtain an appointment with Congressman Kanjorski.

Monday we were told that an appointment had been made to see Kanjorski's aide, Tom Nicholls, at 2:15 PM. The Republicans had cancelled all votes for Monday, so in general we were to speak to aides of the various Senators and Congresspeople. Nicholls was a young but well informed aide, and we had a 40 minute session, at the end of which the Congressman walked in and greeted us. Sue and I had introduced ourselves as local members of the Monroe Democratic Party, committeewomen for our districts, on the board of the Pocono Progressives, as well as explained our various professional affiliations.

We had a specific agenda to discuss:
a) co-sponsorship of H.J. Res. 55, jointly introduced by Abercrombie (D-HI) and Jones (R-NC), known as the Homeward Bound bill, which calls for the President to announce a plan of withdrawal of troops from Iraq by December 31, 2005, with actual withdrawal to begin by October 1, 2006;
b) co-sponsorhip of H.Con. Res. 197, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), which calls for prohibition of permanent bases in Iraq;
c) co-sponsorship of H.R. 551 - Student Privacy Act of 2005, which would change the present provision in the 'No Child Left Behind Act' to require that military recruiters not be allowed to contact students unless parents agree to 'opt in,' rather than the present requirement that parents 'opt out.' It was introduced by Rep. Honda (D-CA) and has 64 co-sponsors.
d) Joining the Out of Iraq Congressional Working Group, organized to increase pressure on the administration and Congress to end the Iraq conflict and bring the troops home.
e) voting against additional funding for combat action.
Nicholls stated that Kanjorski had voted in favor of the war but only because he had been lied to, and that he was concerned with developing an effective exit strategy so that we could bring the troops home as soon as possible. We discussed the fact that the presence of US troops in the region might be fueling the ongoing insurgency. He stated that he would have to discuss the Student Privacy bill with the Congressman and promised to write to us about that. Finally, he stated that if there were once again a Democratic majority in the House, we would 'see investigations' into such irregularities as the Downing Street memoranda, conduct of the occupation, mistreatment of detainees, and other such matters. He agreed that the mood of the American people was changing; that polls showed about 60% of people dissatisfied with the conduct of the war.

The Santorum interview was held by a male aide by the name of Rayburn and a female aide, they both came to the room almost 25 minutes late; there were twenty plus people from different regions in Pennsylvania, York, Allentown, Philadelphia, all sharing a great outrage and a desire to have our questions answered. The aides were not helpful, but I left after a few minutes because we had a 4 PM appointment with Senator Specter, and I was to be the point-person for that meeting.

We met with Charles Fitzpatrick, Senator Specter's aide in charge of defense matters. We had some pointed questions about legislation in the works to demand an exit strategy, independent investigations on the Downing Street memo and other such occurrences, an agenda similar to that for Kanjorski, but focused on the Senate. There were about 15 of us present at the beginning of the forty-five minute meeting, and about 5 to 7 additional people came in during the discussion. Many of the members of our delegation referred to Specter's courage and integrity, his ability to be his own man and not necessarily a 'party man.' Fitzpatrick said again and again that Specter has never been a 'rubber stamp,' that he had introduced a resolution, prior to the war, asking that the US go before the UN one more time before starting a war, but the resolution was never voted upon; he was clearly aware of the cost to the state of Pennsylvania of this war both in terms of human lives and money. As a member of the Defense Appropriations Committee, he told us Specter had participated in an investigation of abuses at Guantanamo, and had visited the base and taken a full tour of the facilities; that he had been one of the sole challengers of the Pentagon on the use of torture; one of our members argued that the use of torture seems to be systemic and not a case of individual occurrences. We had begun the Specter lobbying with an introduction by each of those present, which included affiliations, area of residence, interests; what united us all was our desire for peace, for an investigation into the outrages being perpetrated in our name, for an understanding of the specific cost to our state (99 PA men and women dead, $12 billion cost to the state). Ron Brown of Upper Back Edy, for example, mentioned that we were spending $2,316.00 per second on this war... Charles Lynchner, a former Israeli army member, expressed his belief that our actions in Iraq and Afghanistan threatened the continued safety of Israel as a state. One of our members discussed health issues; we had heard a woman recently returned from Iraq discuss the lack of water in Iraq, the lack of electricity, the poor state of hospitals, the fact that physicians are leaving in droves because they cannot treat their patients without water, resources, and have become targets for the insurgents. Fitzpatrick promised to look into this further for the Senator.

On the issue of appropriations for the war, Fitzpatrick explained that although various appropriations had been made, they had not necessarily been spent; that Specter has sponsored debate on the use of appropriations, asked tough questions of Rumsfeld and others. He stated that the Downing Street memorandum is being investigated. About the building of permanent bases, he stated these could not be built without Congressional approval, and that no one in Congress wanted to see a permanent presence. He did say that if bases were being built (14 at last count), it was for the use of the 130,000+ force which is there at the present time. He also jumped when I asked him about the fact that soldiers had had to purchase body armor out of their own funds and said that the matter had now been resolved, and that all troops were now being issued body armor, and those who had spent their own money would be reimbursed...

I think many of us agree that Senator Specter has in the past sponsored legislation not in according with party lines; it is necessary that he be persuaded to do the hard things that need to be done. This war will not end, as Sue Lyons, said, until the Congress has the courage to stand up to the administration and refuse to fund the war effort.

I began this writing expressing that the weekend had left me with a sense of accomplishment; I summarize and state that we did three very important things. We gathered to protest, to express our political views as an aggregate of many voices from different parts of the United States and the world (there were Canadians and Australians and Latin Americans and and ), from our varying creeds and genders and races and beliefs, to say, No more. We were loving and respectful despite provocation in some quarters. We were above all, peaceful; I remember a favorite T-shirt which stated the wearer was a 'peace-monger.' We were all peace mongers.
The second important thing that we did was to train for either civil disobedience or lobbying. Civil disobedience at times such as the present ones is important and vital; it is what brought down the colonial domination of the British in India. The civil disobedience practiced by Cindy Sheehan and several hundred people, which led to their arrests, was part of a well-established tool of dissent. Henry David Thoreau, in his essay 'On Civil Disobedience,' says that

Under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison. (...) It is there that the fugitive slave, and the Mexican prisoner on parole, and the Indian come to plead the wrongs of his race should find them; on that separate but more free and honorable ground, where the State places those who are not with her, but against her--the only house in a slave State in which a free man can abide with honor. If any think that their influence would be lost there, and their voices no longer afflict the ear of the State, that they would not be as an enemy within its walls, they do not know by how much truth is stronger than error, nor how much more eloquently and effectively he can combat injustice who has experienced a little in his own person. Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence. A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight. If the alternative is to keep all just men in prison, or give up war and slavery, the State will not hesitate which to choose. If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood.

Dr. King says in his autobiography about Thoreau: I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. No other person has been more eloquent and passionate in getting this idea across than Henry David Thoreau. As a result of his writings and personal witness, we are the heirs of a legacy of creative protest. The teachings of Thoreau came alive in our civil rights movement; indeed, they are more alive than ever before. Whether expressed in a sit-in at lunch counters, a freedom ride into Mississippi, a peaceful protest in Albany, Georgia, a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, these are outgrowths of Thoreau's insistence that evil must be resisted and that no moral man can patiently adjust to injustice.

This, in essence, is why the civil disobedience that took place on Monday is so important, because 'no moral man can patiently adjust to injustice.'

Finally, the lobbying was important because we must show that we can engage injustice and lies and criminally corrupt government on the streets as well as in the houses of the legislature and at the polls. Cindy Sheehan said it best, when she took on the Congress on Saturday; 'we need our checks and balances on this out-of control and criminal government.' These checks and balances will be restored when we continue to ask the Caesar to answer our pleas; when we continue to resist the injustices of government, when we continue to stand, as the Madres stood outside the Plaza de Mayo, as silent witnesses to the truth, seeking not only peace but social justice.

Respectfully submitted,
Silvia A. Brandon Pérez

De inocencias y tristezas/ Of innocence and griefs

De inocencias y tristezas, published in Sage (the Pocono Record), August 2005

Los niños son la esperanza del mundo
José Martí

Visité a mi nieta Emma en agosto del 2003 y por supuesto a su padre, mi hijo mayor, Ernesto Yuri, su mamá Kathy, y también a mi hijo menor, Carlo Antonio; todos viven en California, que es un estado en los Estados Unidos más grande que muchos países. De hecho, Ernesto, Kathy y Emma, que viven en Los Angeles, están a 6 horas de Carlo, que vive en San Francisco.

Emma es un pedacito de cosa tierna, que ha aprendido algunas palabras en español para su abuela. Me saludó en inglés en la puerta del modesto apartamento que comparte con su madre, padre, y el gato Sidney, preguntándome, "How are you, abuela?" Claro, me dejó sin respiración con lo de abuela, y luego le compré una margarita en una maceta y le estuvo contando los pétalos en español. "Uno dos cuatro ¡cinco!" Al final del día la pobre margarita o "margaída" estaba medio calva...

Abrazar a Emma y jugar con ella en el parque y verla modelar todos sus vestidos y pares de zapatos, y los collares y pulsos y la cartera, y todos los muñecos y peluches que le voy mandando de vez en cuando desde Pensilvania, me puso a pensar en lo poco que nos ocupamos de los niños del planeta. A pocas cuadras de donde vive Emma con su madre y padre están los arrabales de Los Angeles. Constantemente hay tiroteos donde mueren pequeñines inocentes. A pesar de que estos barrios están cerca de los barrios más ricos de California, donde viven los artistas de cine en mansiones de muchos millones de dólares, los chiquilines de estos barrios no tienen buenas escuelas y en muchos casos tienen poco acceso a médicos o medicinas. No es demasiado diferente a los niñitos del Brazil o de Honduras o Guatemala o aún de la Argentina. Los arrabales del mundo son tan parecidos...

Hace muchos años, cuando yo tenía 16 años, hice trabajo social en un arrabal que existía en Puerto Rico llamado El Fanguito. Se llamaba El Fanguito porque estaba localizado cerca de un río pero no había alcantarillados en el arrabal, de modo que los habitantes tenían que depositar sus desperdicios en el río. El mal olor era insoportable.

Una amiga de Puerto Rico me cuenta que ya no existe, pero a mí nunca se me olvidará lo que vi a mis 16 años en el Fanguito. Niñitas de 10 y 11 años ya aprendiendo la prostitución, jovencitos de 12 y 13 alcoholizados, y siempre los bebés como mi Emma y mayorcitos, desnudos, a veces sin dientes porque no había acceso a dentistas.

¿Qué podemos hacer a largo plazo por todos nuestros niños? Primeramente, por supuesto, tenemos que enseñarles a ser conscientes de que viven en un universo donde los que tienen son una minoría, porque cada día hay más bebés que mueren de hambre, de falta de medicinas, de tantas cosas por el estilo. Si bien individualmente no podamos resolver el problema del hambre en el mundo, podemos patrocinar el trabajo de grupos como Médicos sin Fronteras, o Habitat Internacional, que construye casas para los pobres.

Por otra parte, tenemos que dejar de patrocinar comercios o tiendas que utilicen o abusen del trabajo de menores. Por ejemplo, la tienda Wal-Mart recientemente pagó multas enormes por violaciones y abusos de las leyes que regulan el trabajo infantil. En varios estados donde esta empresa multinacional tiene tiendas, se descubrió que estaban obligando a obreros menores de 18 años a trabajar durantes sus períodos de almuerzo, haciéndolos trabajar muy tarde, e incluso haciéndolos trabajar durante horas escolares. También en varios estados empleados menores de 18 años estaban operando equipo peligroso, como sierras eléctricas de cadena, y trabajando en áreas peligrosas como las que se usan para comprimir desperdicios. Además, esta tienda como muchas otras a nuestro alrededor vende productos hechos por jóvenes de otros países que trabajan bajo condiciones espantosas, incluyendo campos laborales donde el trabajo es forzado. Esta empresa es la mayor empleadora privada de los Estados Unidos, con ganancias el año pasado de más de 10 billones de dólares.

Finalmente, tenemos que enseñarle a nuestros hijos, nietos, sobrinos, amiguitos, que el mundo es uno, que somos todos hermanos, que todos los niños del mundo, esos que son la esperanza del mundo como dijo nuestro gran José Martí, tienen derecho a casa, buena alimentación y educación, médico y medicinas. Que el mundo y sus maravillas no son solamente para los ricos. Que todos nuestros niños, de todas las razas, colores, religiones, y procedencia nacional o económica, tienen derecho a nuestro amor y a una vida con esperanzas y con las cosas buenas que damos por sentado.

Iba a escribir un poema, pero esto fue lo que salió.

Un abrazo de Silvia

1. En los Estados Unidos los índices de pobreza infantil oscilan entre el 7% y el 26% entre los diferentes estados; y eso que somos un país "rico."
2. La labor infantil es un problema mundial, tanto en los países desarrollados como en los que están en vías de desarrollo. La Organización Internacional del Trabajo (OIT) explica que hoy por hoy más de 250 millones de niños trabajan en todo el mundo, de los cuales casi 120 millones lo hacen a jornada completa, y al menos un tercio de este total está empleado en ocupaciones peligrosas, como los pequeñines que trabajan en el mercado de sedas, quemándose las manitas para que podamos vestir nuestros ropajes finos.

3. Wal-Mart recientemente fue multada por violaciones a las leyes que regulan el trabajo infantil. Estos abusos han sido reportados en el New York Times, 1/13/04; The Associated Press, 2/18/05; The Hartford Courant, 6/18/05. Aparte, debido a lo poco que perciben los empleados de esta empresa, y a que más 600,000 empleados no tienen acceso a seguro de salud a un costo razonable, las familias de estos trabajadores tienen dificultad en pagar sus cuentas y obtener el cuidado médico que necesitan. (Wal-Mart annual reports; BusinessWeek, 10/2/03). Wal-Mart también ha estado envuelta en una serie de demandas por mujeres que reciben menor paga por su trabajo. (Richard Drogin, Ph.D., 2/03; Los Angeles Times, 12/30/04)


Children are the hope of the world
José Martí

I visited my grand-daughter Emma in August of 2003 as well as her father, my oldest son Ernesto Yuri, her mother Kathy, and also my youngest son, Carlo Antonio; they all live in California, a state in our United States larger than many countries. As a matter of fact, Ernesto, Kathy and Emma, who live in Los Angeles, are 6 hours away from Carlo, who lives in San Francisco.

Emma is a small bit of tenderness, who has learned a few Spanish words for her grandmother. She greeted me in English at the door of the modest apartment she shares with her mother, father, and Sidney the cat, asking me, "How are you, abuela?" The "abuela" made me hold my breath; I later bought her a daisy in a pot and she spent time counting petals in Spanish: "One, two, four, five! or uno dos cuatro ¡cinco!" At the end of the day the poor daisy or margarita (or as she called it, "margaída") was somewhat bald...

To hug Emma and play with her in the park and to see her model all her dresses and shoes and necklaces and bracelets and purse, and all the dolls and stuffed animals that I send her from time to time from Pennsylvania, started me thinking about how little we take care of the children of the planet. A few blocks away from where Emma lives with her mother and father are Los Angeles slums. There are shootouts in which young innocents are killed. Despite the fact that these neighborhoods are near the richest ones in California, where movie stars live in multi-million dollar mansions, the wee ones from these neighborhoods do not have good schools and frequently have little access to doctor or necessary medication. It is not so different from children in the favelas of Brazil or in Honduras or Guatemala or even in Argentina. The world's slums are so similar...

Years ago, when I was 16, I did some social work in a slum in Puerto Rico called El Fanguito. It was called El Fanguito, which means small mud, because it was located next to a body of water, but there were no sewers in the slum, so people had to dump their wastes in the adjoining body of water. The smell was atrocious.

A friend from Puerto Rico tells me El Fanguito no longer exists, but I will never forget the things I saw in el Fanguito when I was 16. Little girls, 10 and 11 years old, training in the trade of prostitution, young boys, 12 and 13, already alcoholics, and always the babies such as my Emma and older, naked, sometimes with missing teeth because there was no access to dentists.

What can we do in the long term for all our children? First, of course, we have to teach ours to understand that they live in a planet where the 'haves' are a minority, because every day there are more children that die from hunger, from lack of medication or medical treatment, from so many such things. If we cannot individually solve the problem of world hunger, we can support the work of groups such as Doctors without Borders, or Habitat Internacional, which builds homes for the poor.
Another thing to do is to stop supporting businesses or stores that use or abuse the work of minors. As an example, Wal-Mart recently paid substantial fines for violations and abuses to the laws that regulate infant labor. In several states where this multinational has stores, it was discovered that minors under the age of 18 were being forced to work during their lunch hours, were being made to work very late, and even to work during school hours. Also in several states it was found that minors under 18 were operating dangerous equipment, such as chainsaws, and working in hazardous areas such as trash-compacting zones. This chain as so many businesses in our area is selling products made by young people in other countries that work under awful conditions, including forced labor camps. This is the largest private employer in the United States and it reported profits last year in excess of 10 billion dollars.

Finally, we must teach our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, young friends, that we are all brothers and sisters, and that all the children of the world, who as the great José Martí said, are the hope of the world, are entitled to adequate housing, good food and education, medical care and medication. That the world and its wonders is not only for the rich. That all children, of whatever race, color, religion, national or economic origin, are entitled to our love and to a life of hope with all those good things that we frequently take for granted.

I was going to write a poem, but this is what came out.

A hug from Silvia


1. In the US the poverty index as it relates to children in the various states fluctuates between 7% and 26% of the population, despite our being on one of the "rich" nations of the world.

2. Child labor is a world problem, both in developed nations and in nations that are on the way to development. The International Labor Organization (ILO) explains that today there are more than 250 million children working throughout the world, and of this number, almost 120 million work full time, and a third of the total number of child employees are involved in hazardous work; an example is the young children that work in the silk industry, burning their small delicate hands so we can wear our colorful finery.
3. Wal-Mart was recently fined for violations to the laws regulating child labor. These abuses have been reported in the New York Times, 1/13/04; The Associated Press, 2/18/05; The Hartford Courant, 6/18/05. Additionally, because of the poverty wages paid to employees of this enterprise, and to the fact that more than 600,000 of their employees lack access to affordable health care insurance, the families of these employees have difficulty paying their bills and getting the medical care they require. (Wal-Mart annual reports; BusinessWeek, 10/2/03). Wal-Mart is also involved in a number of lawsuits and class actions filed by women who earn less pay for their work. (Richard Drogin, Ph.D., 2/03; Los Angeles Times, 12/30/04)

Philadelphia protest (September 2006)

Friends and fellow progressive patriots,

I have just come back from two of the most emotionally, though not physically, satisfying days of my life. On Monday, September 25th, I attended a peace rally and march in Philadelphia with three members of LEPOCO, Nancy Tate, Robert Daniels II and Tim Chadwick, and then Robert, Tim and I participated in civil disobedience at Senator Rick Santorum's office at the Widener Building in that city. Fourteen of us were arrested, charged with three (3) misdemeanors (apparently declaring peace is now a criminal conspiracy, criminal tresspass, and defiant tresspass) and then held overnight in the infamous Roundhouse. We were not released until after 2 PM yesterday, 23 hours after our initial arrest.

Many supporters and local activists had gathered at 10 in the morning in downtown Philadelphia's Old Reformed Church in Olde City, at 4th and Race Streets, where a beautiful and inspiring service was held. Introductions were made by Robert Smith of the historic Brandywine Peace Community, and then we shared music, including, in English and Spanish, No Nos Moverán (We shall not be moved) and a verse of Yo Vengo a Ofrecer mi Corazón, Fito Páez' moving song (I have come to offer up my heart). The Grannies for Peace sang several funny Broadway takeoffs (There's no business like war business!), Sylvia Metzler reported on some of her recent activities and travels through Nicaragua and other places where we have meddled and caused death and destruction, and we ended with Tom Mullian teaching us an inspired song written specifically for the Declaration of Peace activities.

From the church we marched through Center City to the Philadelphia Federal Building, headquarters of Senator Arlen Specter in Philadelphia, where we proceeded to declare peace loudly, reading the names of PA dead and Iraqi civilians dead, and heard from a brother on homelessness and the need to "Feed our cities, not the war." We then marched around City Hall, coming finally to the Widener Building, where the offices of Senator Rick Santorum are located. Prior to entering the building we declared peace and demanded the eight points of the Declaration of Peace,

Four of us, two men and two women, had entered the building through a side entrance and proceeded in the elevator to the Senator's office on the 9th floor. Once there, we had knocked on the glass door (there is no doorbell provided) and asked to meet with the Senator so that we could hand him some documents. After repeatedly knocking, an aide told us the door would not be opened, so we sat peacefully and began reading the names of the 126 PA soldiers dead interspersed with some of the names of Iraqi civilians dead. At one point, the aide who had said he could not open the door also stated he could not speak to us. We were then joined by one of the aides, known as "Jeff," who engaged us in discussion, and stated that "we would never agree," as the Senator has made clear statements about the "evil out there," including Chávez in Venezuela and the "situation in Iran."

Some time after Jeff spoke to us, about seven or eight police persons escorted Santorum's staff members from a side door in Santorum's office, away from the "danger" posed by the four of us who were sitting on the floor reading names...

It should be noted that when as we were coming up the elevator, at the 9th floor the heavy elevator door began to close, and the two who were out had to hold the door open so that we could squeeze out. We later found out that all elevators were shut down when the remaining group attempted to proceed upstairs, so that we were declaring peace in front of Santorum's office on the 9th floor and downstairs in the lobby, joined by over a hundred supporters both inside and outside the Widener Building.

At about 1:30 PM we met a man who introduced himself as Homeland Security, Anti-Terrorist Squad for the Police Department (is this an excuse to use Homeland Security funds?). He stated that the building owner/manager did not want us to remain on the premises, and that unless we left voluntarily, we would be arrested. We explained that we were all constituents of the Senator, and were attempting to speak to our Senator or one of his aides in behalf of his 126 dead constituents. This individual (whose name escapes me) returned on several occasions; at one point he said that if we did not leave we would be arrested "on his time, not ours," and charged with a count of trespass. He told us that the last warning would be videotaped. It was only during the videotaped warning that we were advised the charge had been "upped" to a misdemeanor charge for "defiant" trespass. Sometime after 3 PM the four of us were arrested and taken out of the building by a rear entrace. As we were cheered by supporters and led into waiting police vans, we were joined by others who had also been arrested.

The nine women (we were segregated by gender) were taken to an intake facility and there we were photographed, and herded together in a dank, dirty cell with a bench and a toilet/drinking water metal apparatus. We were inside for hours, and when we asked for some privacy so that some of the women could use the toilet facilities, a mocking officer by the name of Rita said that if we wanted to "tangle with the Man," what else could we expect, but she did close the door briefly to give us some privacy.

All nine of us joined in spontaneous singing, from Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary songs and old spirituals, through a rendition of Amazing Grace that I am told moved many outside, the adapted lyrics to Sibelius' Finlandia (This is my song, Oh God of all the nations, A song of peace for lands afar and mine), Guantanamera, and some wonderful discussion on places we had been to (Haiti, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic) and things we had done. It felt as though we had been there for a couple of hours, but at the same time, the company and moral support and solidarity made the time go by quickly. Our jailhouse birds for peace impromptu choir should go on the road...

As were led outside to the waiting van for transport to the next facility, which we were several times assured would be the 55th and Pine facility, and later told the Roundhouse, we were cuffed to each other in groups of two; Sylvia Metzler and I, sharing a first name as tocayas, decided to be cuffed together, and we were then put inside inside a poorly ventilated van. The van door for the driver kept opening and then slamming, as if people were getting in and out, we were standing inside a garage, with no ventilation, and at times the lights inside would go out. We were having difficulty with breathing; some of the women arrested were in their seventies; when we asked for fresh air, the heat was turned on, making it harder for the rest of us, handcuffed to each other, to breathe. I do not know how long we were in the van, but it felt longer than an hour (not moving, although sometimes the van would be started, driven forward, driven backwards, and then stopped).

At the Roundhouse, we were fingerprinted, again photographed, and then herded into cells which were
approximately 69 X 79 inches (I toilet-paper measured the cells, when I was refused information about their size) X 7 foot (I toilet-paper measured the cells, and will provide more exact measurements in a further report) with one toilet/water facility, and one single metal bench against the wall. There is no toilet paper inside the cells, or any soap; you have to literally beg the outside "attendants" for paper by clanging your cell door and screaming, and eventualy they bring some. These cells are suitable (if one can use that word for anything in the Roundhouse facility) for a single occupant, if that, but there were at least three of us in each cell. I shared the accommodations with a woman who had been arrested for possession of narcotics, and another who had been arrested and charged with burglary and retail theft for a $15 blouse which was never found in her possession... she had contusions from attack by five security officers (not police) at a local Rainbow store...

Several of the women I was arrested with were in their seventies and late sixties; when they asked for a blanket or a jacket, these were denied. No food was offered until midnight? 1:00 AM? when after being examined by an RN, those who asked received a peanut butter sandwich and a small container of orange juice. I had already decided to go on a hunger strike, but I did have a container of orange juice because I was feeling dizzy.

Through most of the night the women and men who were working the Roundhouse kept a loud radio on, very loud conversation and laughter, so that it was nearly impossible to sleep. I sat against the dirty wall and eventually dozed off at about 3 AM for a couple of hours (one of my jail mates kept asking someone the time...) We had been told we might have a hearing in the morning, but we were not reached until after 1:30 PM, when we had a videohearing, released ROR, and handed our charges. They had been raised to misdemeanors, and there were three rather than one.
Now, here is where all of you who are reading this come in. First, as you know, we had conducted a vigil to declare peace on Thursday, September 21st, International Day of Peace, which was one of many vigils nationwide to declare peace. Our local paper sent a photographer but to my knowledge, published nothing, and will not release photographs unless they are paid for, and not to be used except for "personal reasons." Apparently the Pocono Record does not think that the work of peacebuilding is "news fit to print." I do not think they will write about the Philadelphia arrest or mistreatment at the Roundhouse and in processing either.
It is up to each of you to write protest letters to anyone you can think of, to share the news, so to speak, about our local paper's refusal to 'share the news.' I also would ask that you write letters to anyone in Philadelphia, to the Human Rights Watch, about the horrible conditions at the Roundhouse. I speak not only as someone who was mistreated and abused, but as a person who for many years represented people of color, who are more likely to be arrested for minor things and mistreated and vilified (think of the $15 shoplifting mentioned in the middle section of this report). I will attempt to file a class action, not only for the mis-treatment of dissidents, but for the mistreatment of the prison body at large. By the way, our men were herded into a large holding pen with benches, no privacy, high lights always on...
One of the reasons that we continue to raise our voices is that we know full well the iniquities and inequities of the "justice" and prison system in our country; I have interviewed prisoners in my former "hat" of criminal and civil rights lawyer in many inadequate jails, but the Roundhouse will remain in my book as the worst I have viewed or had the displeasure to be "housed" in; I also have to say that although we were well treated by some of employees at both facilities (the fingerprint man, with whom I discussed the similarities between our movement and the Civil Rights movement) is a wonderful example, there were also many sadistic, mocking and unduly harsh officers. Officer Rita is hereby nominated into the Top Five Nasties!
So please send your letters, to all agencies you can think of, to your friends, relatives, enemies, to all who might and should make a change in the way we treat those that come into the so-called justice system. The streets of Philadelphia are full of homeless men and women; all our cities have them, and with our government's decision to fuel the war and not the cities, this will only get worse.
At some point I will be spearheading a drive for funding; with three misdemeanors, including criminal conspiracy, we will have to hire counsel.
Banish apathy! Protest! Raise up your voices in song and in protest! ¡Hasta la victoria siempre!
Silvia Antonia Brandon Pérez, abuelita revolucionaria
(Put your gray hair to work, people!)

Darkness and light

Mrithi was the silverback
in "Gorillas in the Mist,"
family patriarch, shot in 1993
by someone in the dark before

the dawn. He dragged his wounded
body more than six feet before collapse
and death. It's always darkest just
before the dawn, I've read someplace.

When I am in my darkest hour it's this refrain
that keeps me from succumbing to despair,
from slicing wrists with razor blades left over
by my adolescent daughter, from drinking

tea with atropine, or laying on the frozen ground
to sleep, perchance to dream. I've walked
the forest just before the dawn, profoundly
silent. Night's creatures have retired

and morning's chatter has not yet
begun. Throughout this planet I inhabit
humanoid predators attack just before
dawn. Blietzkrieg. Sexual abuse. The element

of planned surprise while others sleep.
Sleep that may knit that raveled sleeve
of care, the sleep that other predators
forbid their victims in the camps

set up by satraps under placid flags.
Whenever I can't sleep I think of death.
Though sleep resembles death, oblivion,
dark indifference, there is an element

of wonder, unless a nightmare looms
out of the dessicated past. Huge hands
reach out to touch, a leering mouth
spits flame and bile and death. Always,

before, during and after there is this specter,
death, before the dawn, in darkness and in light.
Death hidden in the bottom drawer,
under the socks and half-slips.

Death in between the packets of fresh yeast-
this morning while I kneaded pizza dough
I choked and coughed and couldn't catch
my breath. It ended, I am here, I write,

but oh there was a moment when I felt
that icy tongue upon my lungs and spine.
It's always darkest just before the dawn.
I wait for dawn.

The purple passions of a merry menopausal

Purple hair, yet... what would your mother say?
Well, I can hear what my mother is saying right in my head,
por dios, niña, what were you thinking, qué ejemplo for your own
daughter, but it was my daughter who purpled my gray, with a mexicana
friend, they took a small brush and painted away while I sat,
having cooked empanadas for two days, empanadas de carne,
queso, guayaba, mixed with a bit of political satire, a song
or two, and the joy that comes from common dreams
in exile.

Exile in the fastnesses of a New England
primavera, with sunlight thrown in for good measure,
prim walking through the staid old halls of academe,
and the ebullience of my girls, latinas with large hips
and beauteous smiles, the laughter of the tropics,
and she of the fashion show, prancing around
in her myriad costumes, saying, how do I look,
all of them saying, love me, am I lovely, do you care?

We cared deep into the night,
through Sunday's common room extravaganza,
extravagantly toasting life and truth
and the real pursuit of happiness,
in the hips and thighs of the planet,
in the cunt of the earth mother, salty and spicy
as a fresh-baked meat empanada,
sharing what makes us women,
the ones who grunt out life, in blood and shit and glory,
not prim, not proper, but alive.

I have lost my sense of humor…

I am hoping it is misplaced
among the orphaned socks,
in one of the bags in the upstairs
closet, or with the bottle lids,
in the cookie tin from France
which is all that remains from Louis-Marie's
visit; it may be on my gardening table,
outdoors with the soil and the shards
of broken pots, awaiting the end
of interminable winter,
ready to bloom with the azaleas
and the phalaenopses,
or in the file where my students'
hopeful composiciones
await grading.

It would not be permanently gone;
I misplace but rarely lose things;
it has been a faithful companion
through sleet, accidents,
the death of a parent, friends,
a betrayal by this or that one,
the day I entered the hut in Bahía Kino
where the women were making hamacas;
the small boy was inside in a wheelchair-
Mercedita told me they cannot afford
the medical care that might make him better;
he sits in the dark and listens to the radio,
there are always rancheras playing in the morning,
Verónica told me her hermana is working
for the compañía; the four dollars per day
is enough for basic food and transportation;
the companies have triple shifts and bring back
the goodies that we need for our negocios,
labels in all shapes and file folders in all the colors
of the rainbow; I remember it was with me
because I laughed when Carmencita told me
a joke about gringos and shepherds;
it came with me into Arizona,
despite the vigilantes searching
for the ilegales; it was waving in the evenings
out in Crawford, Texas, it was first missing in action
on the holidays, so much food and family
rejoicing, a fake Colgate smile for the friends
and children, it is somewhere
in the vegetable crisper, with the green peppers
and the romaine lettuce,
or in the garage, with last year's slogans...