Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘violence’

He Is Closer Than You Think

OutOfSyncOut of Sync by Chynna T. Laird
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Out of Sync impregnates the reader with love, loss, fear, suspense, murder, and for good measure, a little laughter along the way. Ms. Laird has given forensic psychologist, Cheyenne McCarthy, and those within her world, a sense of intimacy, complexity, and above all, an evolving understanding of family.

The cold-blooded murderer, Marcus Harper, turns out to be closer to Cheyenne than she ever imagined, and as revealed by elder Chief Longfellow, a human being to understand and value, in spite of his violence, terror and the revenge he enacts upon Cheyenne and her friends. The supporting characters in the story all have there moments of tenderness and humor, including Officer Perry Fulton, Katherine Fulton, bodyguard Henderson Meyer, and nurse Marilyn.

Loss, and hate, can at times go hand in hand. Most of us don’t take out our pain on others, or become mass murderers, but the seed of grief is the same. Cheyenne must fight for her life, and her baby, and with the help of Chief Longfellow, she not only survives, but discovers compassion, and the importance of native traditions in recognizing our common humanity. Out of Sync takes us through one extended families circle, with mystery, suspense, and care.

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One by One They Died

Life of Nane Alejandrez. Excerpt from Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call.

In photo: Nane holding photos of brother Tavo and Leo’s headstones.

naneOne by one they died . . . from drugs . . . from violence . . . from pain, hate and revenge. Nane’s oldest brother got wiped out when he was intentionally hit from behind on his motorcycle; his younger brother died from a heroin overdose; his uncle Pancheo was stabbed to death; numerous cousins succumbed to drugs or were murdered; and his father died from an accumulation of life-long exposure to pesticides, alcoholism and a blow to the head with a baseball bat during a gang fight. That Nane survived to tell his story is a miracle in and of it’s self. 

Mr. Alejandrez is now director of Barrios Unidos (Communities United), was instrumental in convening a national gang summit for peace and has received countless awards and recognition for his work in teaching and living non-violence. Barrios Unidos is a multi-cultural program whose mission is to prevent and curtail violence among youth, by providing alternatives such as the Cesar E. Chavez School For Social Change; outreach to youth clubs, parent groups, juvenile hall and kids on the street; and community economic development by operating a full service, custom silk screening business called BU Productions, where youth learn production, sales, marketing, design and administration skills.

NANE:

I’ve seen so many families get torn apart and so many men, especially men, go into hate and revenge and take somebody else’s life. Not thinking about what it’s going to do to the rest of the family. All the violence and anger . . . and a lot of us being brought up to not show any pain . . . to not let people know . . . so we act out, even at times when we don’t want to.

When I acted out I didn’t really want to, but I did it to show that I was looking out for the neighborhood; for the honor of my family. It felt like I wasn’t punking out. If you didn’t do nothing then someone else would think, “Oh well, kill one of those family members and nobody will do anything about it.” So the family would look at each other and say, “Who’s going to do something about it?” – That whole system of payback; trying to keep an image that causes a lot of pain. It’s easier to do that then to deal with your pain.

One thing I’ve learned throughout the years, is I wish somebody would have talked to me about pain and how to deal with it; how to not inflict pain. I learned how to numb it by using drugs and violence, which removed me from feeling it and kept my feelings busy on something else. That worked for a while, but what began to happen was the addiction started taking over. No longer was it about feelings; it was just being well. Surviving and the excitement of breaking the law and running with the home boys . . . you know . . . rebelling, not conforming. I didn’t know anybody that was dealing with it.

People would say, “It’s OK, everything’s going to be all right.” I’d say, “How do you know everything’s going to be all right, when I’m feeling like shit?! You tell me everything’s going to be all right, but that guy over there’s laughing at what he did to my family. Why shouldn’t I go do it to his family?” And then other people would just say, “Go out and take care of it.” They think, “Why isn’t he doing anything? Why doesn’t he take one of their people out?”

There’s that whole thing of not believing in a higher power. I said, “How can this God take my loved ones away? How can He allow it to happen . . . to take my heroes?” The heroes in my life were taken away in a short period of time. The heroes to me were my father, my Uncle Frank and my oldest brother.

After losing all these relatives I was still using drugs a lot of the time. When my father had his operation I was strung out and unemployed. Here I was having graduated from the university with honors and I was really down. When I went to see him in the hospital I was loaded. I went into intensive care. My aunt was there and we went into see him. There were five individuals in intensive care and you know a lot of people that go in there don’t come out. They told me he was all bandaged up and swollen and it would be hard to recognize him. I go in there and start to talk to my father and tell him how much I love him, how much I care about him, my aunts at the end of the bed rubbing his feet. I’m saying, “You’re going to be OK. I love you Dad.” Then my other aunt comes in and says, “Alejandrez is over here.” I look and say, “Wow man!” I was talking to the wrong man. (laughs) I was talking to another man two beds down from my father. My aunt let go of his feet and yelled! I could hear the rest of my family laughing, even in a situation like that, they were laughing. They were going, “Nane’s over there talking to another man.” I swear to God I felt like disappearing. If my father could talk he would have said, “I’m over here stupid!” or “Pendejo en estoy!” So I had to move from that bed to my Dad’s bed and repeat everything. That’s how fucked up I was. That’s an example of the madness. It took me about a year after my father died to really let go of that.

After all these deaths, when I really wanted to clean myself up, I was able to see a friend of mine who was clean. He’s now one of my best friends. We had used together in the past, so when I saw him clean I saw the possibility. He was looking good. I’d gotten busted and was going to court and he would show up in the courts. Every time I had a court date he’d be there supporting me.

Finally I just couldn’t do it no more. My family . . . my children . . . I wasn’t doing anymore talks. I couldn’t hide it anymore. I’d gotten so deep I couldn’t maintain. And I didn’t want to be doing stuff when I was loaded. I hid my addiction a lot. When it got to the point were I couldn’t do that anymore I asked for help. When I asked him for support he was there. Once I got clean and got the drugs out of my system I started to feel a lot of the pain.

I think I was always a spiritual person but I got side tracked. I got more involved in my traditional ways . . . my indigenous background . . . knowing that it was OK to pray. I’d go around with a lot of Native American teachers and prayer was always there. So I started to pray and go to NA (narcotics anonymous) and they always ended the meeting with a prayer. I began to feel different. My work started coming out again and I was really happy. I was seeing the faces of children and I told myself, “If I’m going to do this I need to do it right.” I need to be clean and I can’t be backsliding. I got more involved in my work and my self. It took a long time to do that again.

I’ve been gifted, you know, in certain situations where things were going to happen . . . by me being there . . . and the respect they have for me. Because I have been through a lot and they could sense it, it stopped it from happening again. People know that this is what I’ve been talking about for the last twenty years. “Stop the violence! Stop the violence!” Even through my madness I’ve stuck with it. People my age always tell me that that’s what they admire about me . . . that I’ve always stuck with it. It’s been hard. There’s been a lot of pain. People ask, “Why would you want to stay in a situation where you’re dealing with so much pain?” But at the same time there’s so much hope . . . the smiles on the kids. They’ve got this place, they’ve got a job, people that look like themselves running it. They got inspiration that maybe someday they’ll be doing it.

More of Nane’s story, and others, at: Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call

My Mother Was Murdered

Excerpt featuring Lee Mun Wah. From Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call.

lee-mun-wah“Your mother’s been murdered!” The woman who gave you birth is dead. Her life intentionally ended by another man. This was the cold reality Mr. Lee had to face in 1985. Feelings of fear, anger, rage and revenge soon replaced the numbed existence of shock. Instead of letting these intense, understandable reactions control his life, Mr. Lee searched for answers. He began to reach out, to confront and explore the ingrained, unconscious attitudes that lead to hate and violence, and discovered a way to shift the imbalances of power, heal the wounds and open our hearts.

As a seminar leader, speaker and filmmaker, Mr. Lee’s work has been highly visible, effective and utilized throughout the nation. His first film Stolen Ground, about racism towards Asian-Americans, won special merit at the San Francisco International Film Festival. His second video, of a weekend encounter group for men, The Color of Fear, won the 1995 National Education Media Award for best social studies documentary and has been used in thousands of organizations and businesses to deal with and discuss prejudice, bias and race. 

LEE MUN WAH:

I was born in Oakland, California at a time when people were living in mixed neighborhoods. I had a real glimpse of what a community could look like with all different ethnicities. My parents were very poor, though as a child I didn’t know that. Some of the distinct things I remember were that there were very few Asians in my classes and very few or almost no Asian-American or African-American teachers. When I noticed this consciously it became a real loss.

I was born into a very alive, dynamic family. I always thought that all Chinese families were like this. It wasn’t until later that I realized my father was a very unique man who really believed in going out in the world and creating what you wanted. He influenced me greatly in that way. My mother was very warm and personable; very intimate and in that way created my sense of family, of being close to people.

A lot of these life experiences prepared me, without my knowing, for the type of work I do now, when I talk about the country having a national relationship. It’s about how a family treats each other. I don’t think it’s just a sense of family, it’s also part of our Asian, Chinese culture . . . that we’re there for one other . . . that we respect and honor each others needs . . . the warmth, security and safety of a family . . . being up front and honest . . . trying to be a good person in the world and with those you meet. A number of people have that in there culture as well, but I don’t think many have made the connection of family into a larger community, in a global or workplace perspective and I think that is the missing link.

The American thing is often, “Me, me, me!” Business is first and task oriented and not loyal to workers. When business is down or they’re “restructuring” and they lay you off, they’re actually saying, “You are no longer needed, the company is more important.” It isn’t about taking care of the people who work for you but about having them compete with each other. I don’t run my family or workplace that way. And when I go out into the world that’s something I work for, to change that paradigm.

I don’t think you can legislate an end to racism. You have to have a change of heart. That’s why I talk about a relationship. It’s the only real connection we have. Often, we don’t act until there’s a crisis. What we need to realize is that the crisis is happening every single day and there’s always something you can do to address it.

We’ve never understood culture in this country. We think it’s the food, the costume or the holiday, but we don’t touch what it really means to us on a spiritual, emotional, ancestral way. When the American Indian tells us that it’s not enough to pass the sage around the room but to really understand where that comes from. To understand the relationships and the way we treat each other; that it’s really expressed in our movements, in what we don’t say, the way we hold each other, the way we wait for and acknowledge one other. We don’t take the time to really look, to really experience. Americans want everything fast . . tangible. The American Indian is right when they say, “You want my customs, my rituals and my land, but you don’t want me.” What we do is we use people and cultures. We use them when it’s convenient, for a service, for artifacts. Rarely do we take the time to understand how we relate to each other.

We don’t look into the realm of what we don’t know. I think that’s the part I’m talking about. When I do workshops I have people look around the room, listen to silence; listen to what’s not being said, to bodies that are talking all the time. We usually don’t listen to the nonverbal, to the energy in a room, to the impact of our ancestors that have brought us to this place. We are very present and future oriented but don’t pay enough homage or respect to the past. When are we open to learn from other cultures . . . to integrate values from other cultures? When companies say they’re multi-cultural or multi-racial I ask them to name one cultural factor they’ve integrated, that they see as practical, as useful, that they use every single day.

The turning point for me (after my mother was murdered) was when I wrote a play in which I acted out facing my Mom’s murderer. It also helped to look at the context from where it came. I tried to find and talk to the man who killed my mother, to no avail. On the day we finished The Color of Fear he was sentenced to life in prison. He’d killed four or five other women in addition to my Mom. Before that I had continued trying to contact his family. It turns out that some of his relatives lived in a home we’d been renting. It was really shocking. I talked to the woman who lived there and she said a cousin of hers had killed someone as well. When she went to his trial she had to leave because all she could see was “The little boy I’d grown up with”. She told me, “You may never know why he did it.”

Had my mother not been murdered, I’d never had made the film (The Color of Fear). I began to really see and sense that perhaps there was a meaning to this. It serves my healing and in many ways it’s healing for this country as well, because surely if I can go through this then others can open their hearts and have compassion as well. I’m not so sure hatred or guns or bars do any good . . . it only makes fear larger. Fear is not something you can protect yourself from, you have to walk through it.

More inspiring stories at Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call

Without Clean Water

Girl_in_WaterFor a five-year-old child in Syria, peace is not even a memory.

Her childhood has been consumed by violence. As the conflict enters its fourth year, she may wonder if war is all the world has to offer her.

It’s not.

We can give this child hope – in the form of the most basic of necessities. Food. Medicine. And, crucially, clean water.

In war-torn areas in Syria, the supply of clean water has fallen by two-thirds. Millions of children are at risk of losing something we all take for granted.

Make your gift to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF today and help ensure that children in Syria and around the world have access to clean, safe drinking water.

Without clean water, children are vulnerable to deadly diseases like cholera. What they drink is a matter of life and death. Nearly 1,400 children die every day from unsafe water or poor sanitation.

It’s so easy to save these children’s lives. A water purification tablet costs less than a penny. A packet of oral rehydration salts that can save the life of a dehydrated child costs ten cents. A pump that can provide an entire community with constant water – just a few hundred dollars.

UNICEF has the infrastructure and expertise to deliver clean water and water treatment equipment to nearly any place on earth – whether by boat, by truck, by plane or by foot. Last year, UNICEF helped provide clean water to 10 million people in Syria – nearly half of all Syrians.

But countless more children need clean water and other essentials right now. Conflicts in Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic are straining resources. UNICEF needs your help. A thirsty, sick child needs your help.

Save a child’s life with a donation to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF today.

Together, we can make sure no child dies because she does not have a simple glass of clean water. Thank you for your compassion and generosity.

With sincere gratitude,

Caryl M. Stern
President & CEO
U.S. Fund for UNICEF

Feminism Behind Bars

TheGreyArea_DVDinhouse_V3.inddThe Grey Area: Feminism Behind Bars
A film by Noga Ashkenazi
US, 2012, 65 minutes, Color, DVD, English
From Women Make Movies

THE GREY AREA is an intimate look at women’s issues in the criminal justice system and the unique experience of studying feminism behind bars. Through a series of captivating class discussions, headed by students from Grinnell College, a small group of female inmates at a maximum women’s security prison in Mitchellville, Iowa, share their diverse experiences with motherhood, drug addiction, sexual abuse, murder, and life in prison. The women, along with their teachers, explore the “grey area” that is often invisible within the prison walls and delve into issues of race, class, sexuality and gender.

The number of women in prison has grown by over 800% in the past three decades, two thirds are mothers and are incarcerated for non-violent offenses and more than 80% have been victims of domestic violence or sexual assault at some point in their lives. THE GRAY AREA is an important look into the complex factors behind these statistics and how feminism sheds light and brings hope to those incarcerated. This is an excellent film to prompt discussion in women’s studies, courses that include prison reform or violence against women, American studies and sociology.

Read about The Grey Area and other films at WOMEN MAKE MOVIES

Japanese Culture of Silence

End the Japanese “culture of Silence” toward crimes against women!
Stalker Zero

by Ikumi Yoshimatsu

As a victim of stalking and intimidation in Japan, I am asking Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to take action to change the culture of silence toward crimes against women in my country. To help encourage the Japanese government to address this issue, I’m also asking US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy to speak out and join these efforts.

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I am the first Japanese woman to be crowned Miss International in the 52-year long history of the pageant. Since winning my crown in October 2012, I have been the victim of stalking, intimidation, threats, extortion and blackmail by a powerful Japanese talent agency executive known to have ties to organized crime. This man tried to abduct me from a TV studio, made threatening calls to my family, and hired private investigators to stalk me, peep into my windows and photograph my home.
The Japanese organizers of the Miss International 2013 world grand prix even asked me to “play sick” and “keep quiet” in order to appease my stalker after he made threatening phone calls to their sponsors. Because of this, I became the first Miss International titleholder in the 52-year history of the pageant prevented from passing my crown to my successor. I fear for my life and require 24hr security.

I went to the police with more than 30 exhibits of evidence including recordings and photographs. As is typically the case in Japan, the police did nothing more than offer to increase patrols in my area. They did nothing to assure my safety or to punish my stalker.

In an unprecedented move, I became the first Japanese women ever to publicly name her tormentor and went public with my story. In sharp contrast to strong global coverage in the foreign media, not a single Japanese newspaper or TV station has covered the story out of fear of reprisal from my stalker who is linked to organized crime. My blog has been read by millions of people and thousands have written messages of support and shared their own stories of fear, intimidation and violence.

SIGN IKUMI’s PETITION

Japan is plagued by a “culture of silence” toward crimes against women that has been the standard for centuries. Out of all the industrialized nations, Japan is one of the lowest ranking countries on Gender Equality — a disgraceful 105 out of 136 countries.

At the same time, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been a strong and vocal supporter of women’s rights. He has called time and time again for a “society in which women shine.” His strong leadership on this issue would be a game-changer. As the first female US Ambassador to Japan — and a long-time supporter of human rights and women — Ambassador Kennedy can help encourage my government to do more by speaking out in support of my campaign.

As a first step, I’m asking that the Japanese government establish a task force to investigate stalking and violence against women with the objective of laying out an immediate national strategy to address these issues and offer real protection for women.

We need strict anti-stalking laws and strong punishment for perpetrators of crimes against women. We need a police force that will protect women and immediately act to prevent stalking and intimidation. We need restraining orders granted by the courts for any woman who has been threatened, BEFORE she is actually harmed, murdered, or forced to commit suicide. We need media that report on these issues without fear. Without protecting the women of Japan, our country will never enjoy the economic and moral benefits of a truly equal society.

SIGN IKUMI’S PETITION

Ikumi Yoshimatsu
Miss International 2012
Sent from Change.org

I Shouldn’t Speak

W1311EAWMN1“I Shouldn’t Speak”

Being raped, it makes you…a person without rights…every day someone reminds me that I’ve been raped and that I should put myself in a corner, that I shouldn’t speak, I should say nothing.”- Rose, raped at age 15, Haiti

Defend women like Rose.

The first time Rose was raped, her aunt arranged the attack as punishment for an argument. Rose was kidnapped by three men, assaulted, and then abandoned in a remote area. She was 15 years old.

The second time Rose was raped, a thief came into her house and assaulted her while her children were sleeping. She was 20 years old.

We cannot undo Rose’s pain, but Amnesty supporters like you CAN do something to put an end to the violence that robs women and girls like Rose of their rights.

Urge your Members of Congress to co-sponsor the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA).

IVAWA was just reintroduced in Congress. This bill seeks to end the global epidemic of violence against women and girls, making preventing and ending this human rights abuse a diplomatic and foreign assistance priority for the US government. IVAWA includes:

* Support for organizations working to change the attitude of men and boys about violence against women and girls.

* Specialized training for health care providers to recognize the signs of physical and sexual violence against women and girls
Protections to ensure that girls can go to school safely.

*Focused training for law enforcement and legal personnel to properly respond to incidents of violence.

The rapes to which Rose was subjected prevented her from going to school, which in turn affected her employment opportunities and her ability to live a healthy life – but IVAWA can help women like Rose access critical health care, law enforcement support and legal assistance, and ultimately change the social norms that say violence is acceptable.

Rose’s story bears a horrible truth – that one in three women globally has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. IVAWA has the potential to make the one in three become none in three. But not without your help.

Countries, communities, and families cannot thrive without the contributions and talent of half their populations.

You can take action to end one of the world’s most pervasive human rights abuses today. Tell your Representatives in Congress to support IVAWA.

Let’s get this bill passed.

In solidarity,

Cristina Finch
Managing Director, Women’s Human Rights Program
Amnesty International USA

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