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November 18, 2005
Abundant Life Tour reaches Georgia and unites Midwest and eastern legs as they join the mobilization against US intervention into, and torture and assassination in Latin America.
At the tour's final joint speaking event at North Decatur Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, the stellar lineup included Stephen Bartlett, Amanda Skinner of the Beehive Collective, Isabel Diaz (JUNANDINA), Simon Sedillo (Austin Indymedia/Rhizome Collective), Selfa Sandoval and finally Francisca Cortes of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, bringing the analysis around from discussion of US Farm Policy and free trade for grain export corporations, to the G8, IFIs and Transnationals as they impact on water privatization, to the paramilitarization that parallels these economic impositions (with firsthand testimony by Simon) , to the victorious struggle of the farmworkers of Immokalee, Florida.
The water issue was brought home as one of the participants is an executive at Coca Cola which was cited for privatizing and contaminating water in India and for labor abuses in Turkey and Colombia. A dialog was pursued for a while regarding water as a commodity and water as a public good, but not resolved. The tour then participated in a noon demonstration against the abuses and murders of workers in Colombia at the hands of Coca Cola corporation in that country.
The tour will be accompanying Francisca Cortes at a remembrance ceremony with Pax Christi tonight, thanking them for their support of the Taco Bell boycott and giving them a photo portrait of the struggle. The beehive collective are eagerly jumping into activities with their banners and posters here at SOA Watch protests and seminars.
It was been a long and rich experience of interaction with US students, people of faith, farmers and other community activists, and we feel blessed to have had the opportunity to do so. The quality of the messages was extremely high and the format of presentation was richly multimedia. Agricultural Missions' accompaniment of social movements has borne the fruit of this extensive public speaking, impacting the lives of many, many people.
With comaraderly satisfaction,
Abundant Life Peace and Justice Tour Update from Day 11
By Stephen Bartlett of Agricultural Missions, Inc (AMI)
Selfa Sandoval of SITRABI, Stephen Bartlett (AMI), members of the Beehive Collective (whether Lara, Amanda, or David, with the backup help of Katie, Juan and Kehben), Palmer Legare of SOA Watch New England, and Sean Sellers of the Student Farm Worker Alliance/ Coalition of Immokalee Workers have been hammering home a seamless medley of messages that stitch together a coherent analysis of the corporate globalization and repressive agenda and show how social movements have been successfully responding to that challenge, despite painful sacrifice.
The eastern tour is now in Vermont where billboards along the gorgeous landscapes are prohibited: what an unexpected pleasure to NOT see the billboards marring the now snowy landscapes! (Nor do they have fast food restaurants on college campuses.) We have had events at the UCC Bethany church in Montpelier, at Burlington College and Vermont State University in Burlington, at a high school near Burlington, at Johnson State College in Johnson, VT, at a venerable old library in St. Johnsbury with activists from a group once led by the deceased David Dellinger of Chicago 8 fame, who wrote the book: From Yale to Jail. We have had events at Bethany Church in Montpelier and are now headed back there to protest the SOA/WHINSEC, and will return to Burlington where we spoke at Burlington College last week, this time to participate in a fiesta fundraiser for Guatemalan victims of hurricane Stan near lake Atitlan, where whole villages disappeared under the landslides.
Selfa Sandoval experienced her first snowfall and just shivers in indignation at the plunging temperatures, last night in the 20s. A veteran labor organizer named Jack, seeing her shiver at his door, gave her a knitted sweater of his deceased wife, a gesture whose significance was fully appreciated. Jack had pointed out at the St. Johnsbury library event, with beehive FTAA and Plan Colombia banners draped from the balconies around the audience, that the so-called Minute Men, or border vigilantes, should be called what they were and fiercely resisted: the new insipient paramilitaries of North America, with racist underpinnings. These Minute Men are touring and organizing militias on all the border states within the US, including Vermont. A roadblock on I-91 is reportedly stopping vehicles and eye balling for people of color to question and intimidate, on the pretext of looking for terrorist infiltrators coming in from Canada.
The law students here at Vermont Law School got to hear and debate investor-state clauses in NAFTA, the merits or not of the World Bank and IMF, and taste the difference between organic bananas from Ecuador and Chiquita bananas from Guatemala. Selfa Sandoval when asked what sorts of bananas we ought to consume to support banana workers, she admitted that she would of course choose the organic bananas, since they would be healthier and not contain residues of pesticides. However, she said, her union, along with banana worker unions across Latin America in a coordination COSIBAH, are working on a union label for bananas that would alert consumers about the labor conditions under which bananas are being produced and asked for help from US people of good will to spread the word once that union label comes out. Her union is SITRABI, but the label would be a Latin America wide banana workers union label.
The tour has been supporting the Venezuelan people by buying at CITGO gas stations across New England, and praising the attendants and cashiers at those stations for doing the work of true solidarity, much to their surprise. The beehive collective, while not participating actively in the event set ups and tear downs, have been sketching and drawing, researching and interviewing people for the missing graphics of the last poster of their trilogy, the Mesoamerica Resiste poster, some of whose images have been integrated into the Abundant Life Tour events, and the Tour banner finally arrived at UPS and adds to the visual montage of these events with its scene of ants doing subsistence farming and the words ABUNDANT LIFE. A beautiful tour banner.
The Midwest tour, meanwhile, has been to Minneapolis, Racine, and Madison but due to unexpected car trouble and repair delays, had to miss the important event scheduled for Des Moines. We apologize for the circumstances beyond our control, friends from Des Moines Presbytery and Central Pres!!
Next stops for the tours: in the east, Montpelier, Burlington, Amhurst, MA, Springfield, MA, Stockingbridge, MA, Bard College in Annandale, NY, Stony Brook University and Setauket Presbyterian Church on Long Island and finally Atlanta and the SOA; in the midwest, St. Louis, Missouri, Louisville, KY, Blacksburg, VA, Boone, NC, and then Atlanta and the SOA.
El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido!!
On the road and into spreading the word about peace with justice for all,
Update posted 11-12-05
©Copyright 2005 Agricultural Missions, Inc. All rights reserved.
Abundant Life Peace and Justice Tour Update from Day 4
By Stephen Bartlett of Agricultural Missions, Inc (AMI)
"The Presentation was Amazing, Amazing, Amazing"
Event host Davin Heckman of Siena Heights University in Adrian, Michigan.
As the peoples of the hemisphere gather in Mar de Plata, Argentina, armed with their symbolic shovels as they attempt to bury the FTAA, as the presidents of the hemisphere dispute and protesters rage, the steady work of consciousness-raising is being carried out, on the streets, and in the churches, schools, libraries and universities, in Mar de Plata and on tours such as the Abundant Life Peace and Justice tour.
The Abundant Life Peace and Justice Tour has launched two tour teams and they have begun to wind their way through the midwest and New England heading ultimately for the Vigil in opposition to the School of the Americas (renamed in 2001 the Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation in an attempt to hide its continued agenda of repression).
The tour spokespersons began the tour speaking to audiences and meeting with partner organizations in Boston and Lincoln, Massachusetts and in Owensboro, Kentucky and in Toledo, Ohio and Adrian, Michigan in the first days. One event host Davin Heckman of Siena Heights University in Adrian, Michigan said about the three-person panel presentation there on:
Nov 3rd: Amazing, amazing, amazing! Simon Sedillo (Austin Indymedia), Isabel Diaz Ubillus (JUNANDINA) and Beatriz Maya, spokesperson for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) reportedly delivered a passionate, mind-bending, persuasive and inspirational message and analysis of the myriad interconnections between peoples resistance struggles to displacement from their lands, exploitation by workers by the corporate-dominated agricultural system, and the privatization of the precious resource of water across Latin America, and they also clarified the hope of the growing grassroots construction of alternative visions, networks of solidarity and practical economic relationships.
On the eastern tour at events at Suffolk Law School in Boston and at the Stone Church and office of the Food Project in Lincoln, MA tour members from the Beehive Collective (Lara, Amanda, Katie, David, Kehben and Juan) joined School of the Americas Watch organizer Palmer Legare, and Selfa Sandoval, veteran organizer of the banana workers union SITRABI eloquently made the connections between growing pressure on workers at Del Monte plantations in northeastern Guatemala and the continuing climate of fear and impunity among the Guatemalan populace, related to the many graduates of the School of the Americas who have plagued the Guatemalan people with assassinations, massacres and scorched earth policies against the people of the land over the past years. Popular education methodologies were presented and participated in at the Food Project using a role playing exercise on industrial agriculture and free trade (led by AMI staffer S. Bartlett) and working our way down a giant Plan Colombia Poster with dialog on the many concepts embedded in that work of political art. The tour was warmly welcomed by hosts who provided excellent meals; some from their own gardens and fields, hot showers and plenty of floor space and beds for the growing number of tour participants.
Representatives of Grassroots International (Daniel Moss) and Oxfam American, both co-sponsoring organizations of this tour, came to the event at Suffolk Law School, where the first run through of the multimedia methodology was presented, utilizing the power point projection of beehive collective graphic images during the presentations. Their input was helpful in refining our multimedia approach for future events. We were disappointed that few law students or faculty choose to attend the event, despite the active efforts of event hostess Meg Plaza and her struggles to jump through bureaucratic obstacles to hold the event, including invitations to the PR official at the SOA itself, who was briefly on screen being telecast to us. Due to the small turnout, the debate portion of the program was cancelled.
Next stops for the tours: Minneapolis, MN and Racine, WI (in the midwest) and Worcester, Mass and Plymouth, NH (in the east). Best of all, the audiences are scheduled (cosmically) to grow in size as the moon waxes!!