Category Archives: revolution

wangari maathai – revolutionary women pt. 2

I am empowered, as I continue to discover radical women across the world who have courageously challenged and defeated systems of oppression to cultivate environments for justice and peace.

These women remind us that the tools we need to mobilize change in our world are not defined by governments or economic conditions, but rather lie in the unfathomable and unbreakable realm of the human spirit. By exploring their inspiring movements, brought to life by revolutionary visions and fearless actions, our minds are elevated to a new level of consciousness that demands that we actively stand up against structures of violence.

With that in mind let us explore the legacy of political and environmental activist Wangari Maathai whose grassroots movement not only challenged old notions of peace but has completely revitalized the very air we breath.

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It was the late 1970‘s and Kenyan native Wangari Maathai was confronted by a serious problem. What once was a land abundant in natural resources was no longer providing the everyday necessities needed to live. Women in her village were the first victims of this environmental degradation because they were the ones who had to walk for hours looking for water, who had to fetch fire wood when it was scarce and who had to provide food for their families.

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Their inheritance, the land passed down to them by their ancestors, had been raped by corrupt governments that were overseeing the privatization and deforestation of land. Perhaps even more detrimental was the mismanagement and disempowerment of the Kenyan people.

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It was from this deprivation that the Green Belt Movement arose. Founded on Earth day in 1977, Wangari started an initiative that would focus on sustainable development by rebuilding the forest, practicing lifestyles inductive to environmental conservation, and empowering the people through civil education. To begin, they approached the women who were suffering from the deterioration of resources and helped them make a connection between their daily problems and environmental problems.

Then, Wangari empowered the women by showing them that the solutions to their problems were not outside their reach. All they needed to do to improve their living conditions was plant trees. Wangari was instrumental in this process. Not only did she develop the most effective way of planting trees; collecting seeds and than propagating the trees in the area for more seedlings, but she also developed a small cash incentive; for every tree they planted that survived, the movement would compensate the individual with four US cents. Before long, communities were exercising self-sufficient ways of living, planting various types of trees according to their unique needs.

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As the initiative continued, Wanagari realized that the Green Belt Movement was only addressing the symptoms to the real issues. To get to the root of the problems, Wanagri began to expand her focus to include a political curriculum. The Green Belt Movement saw the importance of getting people involved in an active civil society that held both the government and the people responsible for preserving and sustaining their natural resources and their basic human rights. Some of the accolades achieved by Wangari’s grassroots  movement  include the preservation of the largest public park in Kenya – Uhuru Park.

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They also saved one of Kenya’s major forests- Karuru forest by mobilizing the nation to protest against unlawful privatization  and deforestation.

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To further show the perseverance of this movement, they militantly fought for democracy by protesting for the release of political prisoners for eleven months under the Moi government.

Wangari Maathai is a globally influential women because she exemplifies the power of the individual as well as the greater power of an active civil society. This radical women’s message is clear; “ it is the people who must save the environment, it is the people who must make their leaders change (and) you cannot enslave a mind that knows itself, that values itself, that understands itself.”

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The integrity and wisdom of her principles lives on as the Green Belt movement has helped encourage many to protect their ancestral inheritance through protecting their environmental rights. It is only in knowing who we are and understanding our capabilities, can we begin to steer government policies in a direction that enriche the entire forest rather than a single tree.

AM

*RIP to this inspiring and incredible woman. her courage, vision and strength of character served to catalyze a movement that will only grow and reverberate throughout the world, resounding loudest as it echoes amongst the trees and foliage she loved so deeply.

rl.

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radical women, liberia.

Over the years, I’ve often been invited to discuss the impact religion has had on our world. More times than not, these discussion lead to a discourse which charge religion for creating division, bigotry, and war.

With a historic reputation of oppression and violence it is often hard to plead any other verdict in the case of religion, except the most obvious, guilty. However in an attempt to broaden my own perspective, I decided to explore the scarcely told stories in history that offer a different perspective. On my conquest to broaden my scope, I came across Leymah Gbowee and the women of Liberia! These women forced me to look outside the box I had comfortably placed religion in. I hope their remarkable story will enlighten and inspire all who read.

Liberia was facing its second civil war. Women faced sexual brutality, mutilation and cannibalism, while their children and husbands were being recruited as soldiers. One night Leymah Gbowee, a mother of three had a dream. In that dream she was told to gather all the women from her church to pray for peace. So that Sunday Leymah did exactly that. As Leymah was rallying all her Christian sisters to pray, a Muslim woman by the name of Asatu Bah Kenneth got inspired by the initiative and decided to get her Muslim sisters involved. What started off as the Christian Women’s Peace Initiative became the Women’s Organization for Peace. It was the first time in Liberian history where Islamic and Christian women were united.

The logic behind placing their differences in beliefs aside was revolutionary, they thought:

if a bullet can’t pick and choose, if it does not know the difference between a Christian or a Muslim, why should they?

What happened next was remarkable. Thousands of women including the internally displaced went from praying and protesting in the fish market to marching to the Liberian Parliament demanding that President Charles Taylor (later to be indicted for war crimes), begin peace talks with the rebels.

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On June 4th 2003 the Accra peace talks began in Ghana. However General Leymah and her army did not stop there. After several weeks of unsuccessful negotiations, the prospects for peace looked slim. The violence had reached its peak as the war had finally made its way into the capital city, Monrovia. In a last and final plea for peace these women sat on the floor around the peace hall where the talks were taking place, linked arms, and refused to let any delegate out of the room until a peace treaty was signed. Incidentally, this bold act of courage was just what was needed to get the attention of the international community. Immediately after the IMF threatened to cut of funding, the UN Peace Keeping Force entered into the capital, and Charles Taylor was forced into exile. On August 18th, 2003 the Accra Peace Agreement was signed. Liberia could finally start moving forward.

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In a world where Muslims and Christians have often historically been at war, these courageous women provided their country, their continent and even bigger their world with an empowering example of the things that can be achieved when basic principles of respect are present. These women show us that it is a choice we as individuals make that either allow religion to be used as an instrument for division or unification, for war or for peace!

If it is true that we become what we focus on, we must begin to use these stories of religious tolerance to shape our world. We must set a new standard by fueling the stories in history that sing of solidarity and peace.

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peace,

A.M.

editors note:

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A police officer for over two decades, Asatu Bah Kenneth’s story is also incredibly powerful and interesting.

“Asatu’s position in the police service gave her access to intelligence about the war. On one occasion,
as the war was closing in on Monrovia, Asatu called a meeting with Leymah, Sugars 
and Janet
and other key members of WIPNET. After that meeting the women issued the 
all-important position
statement that they would eventually take to their meeting with Charles Taylor 
urging him to sit
down at the peace table with the rebels.

Her nickname is the “stabilizer” because she doesn’t take sides. After the war she became Liberia’s
Deputy Chief of Police and focused on bringing more women 
into the security sector. Recently she
was appointed the Assistant Minister of Justice for 
Administration and Public Safety.”

this is the first contribution from asha mattis. from here on out, posts by asha, will contain the signature, A.M.

rl.

istanbul, turkeyAPTOPIX-Turkey-Protes_Horopolice-fire-tear-gas-istanbul-protests-turkey-datatumblr_mno92z1coJ1r9jzs2o1_1280Turkish riot police use water cannon to disperse demonstrators during a protest against the destruction of trees in a park brought about by a pedestrian project, in Taksim Square in central Istanbul2013-05-31T204055Z_1411147085_GM1E9610CX201_RTRMADP_3_TURKEY-PROTESTSTURKEY-POLITICS-DEMO

excerpts from the telegraph’s article today re: turkey.
pics from various places across the ether.

“4. A guide to Turkey’s protesters
The protests have spread to 67 cities, including the capital Ankara. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets. Many of the demonstrators are young, secular, educated men and women. They were largely peaceful.
It is clear that the protests have touched a nerve for Turks across a broad social spectrum.

Demonstrators have also received a lot of support from other sections of society. Many taxi drivers in Istanbul beep their horns in solidarity and older residents, even in some of the poorer parts of the city have come to their front doors, beating posts and pans in support of the demonstrators.

5. Government response to the protests
Police initially cracked down heavily, seemingly hoping to smother the protests. They used teargas and water cannons aggressively, and hundreds of people were wounded. Amnesty International has condemned the crackdowns and claimed that two people have been killed.

Realising that this was only serving to fuel greater dissent, Mr Erdogan admitted the mistake. Clashes have continued in other parts of Istanbul, but security forces have pulled out of the central protest area Taksim Square.”

*click thru the top image for the article itself and the first three of the points…

d.

the 10 best protests

as curated by the observer’s ed vulliamy.

“There were many epic protests against the Vietnam war that inspired my generation but this photograph of a demonstrator placing a flower in the barrel of a National Guardsman’s gun – a single, small but defiant act of protest – was both of the time and, eternally, an assertion for peace against war. The moment gathered further cogency in May 1970 after the killing of four students at Kent State University in Ohio in a similar protest. It emerged that one of the dead, Allison Krause, had also placed a flower in a gun the previous day”

there are MANY incredible and inspiring protests that could be argued should be on this list. i’ll probably start curating one of my own to reflect a more global perspective. this is obviously incredibly euro-centric.

regardless, there is still inspiration to be found and moments of human bravery, intelligence and compassion to be remembered.

rl.

*click thru the pic above to see the full list via the guardian.

all of us are saints.

François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture, also Toussaint Bréda, Toussaint-Louverture (20 May 1743 – 7 April 1803), was the leader of the Haitian Revolution. His military genius and political acumen led to the establishment of the independent black state of Haiti, transforming an entire society of slaves into a free, self-governing people.

The success of the Haitian Revolution shook the institution of slavery throughout the New World.

all of us have demons. all of us are saints.

in honour of his earthstrong yesterday.

rl.