Archive for September, 2013

Quixote Center: Hewing Marxist Agendas and Forging Mayors Since 1976

[Original post, September 24, 2013, Updated September 26, 2013 – see below]   Okay. Not really. However, Bill de Blasio, the Democratic candidate for mayor of New York City, did work at the Quixote Center in 1987-88. I’ve never met him (I did not start at the Center until 2001) but it is certainly interesting to see an alum from a place I cherish making headlines. Of course, the Quixote Center is not the same place it was in 1988, and de Blasio is not the same person – we all grow and change. Does this matter for New York City in 2013? The New York Times decided it was important, and well, that is certainly okay with us. Yesterday the New York Timesreleased an article on Bill de Blasio’s early days as a “leftist” activist working in solidarity with the people of Nicaragua. It was fascinating to read. Javier Hernandez presents his case that
a review of hundreds of pages of records and more than two dozen interviews suggest [de Blasio’s] time as a young activist was more influential in shaping his ideology than previously known, and far more political than typical humanitarian work.
So, de Blasio encountered “democratic socialism” as a young man and apparently inhaled. O.M.G. This may be true, of course. Having worked in the solidarity movement for over twenty years now, I can say that everybody I’ve met who travelled to Nicaragua during the 1980s was impacted deeply by the experience. If this was an op-ed presenting this claim, I’d have little to disagree with. But this was a “news” piece, based on “hundreds of pages” of reading, and yet, sadly flawed for all the space it gives to innuendo and unidentified source material. Alex Pareene at Salon.com covers much if the silliness in an insightful articlehe posted yesterday. There is no need for me to repeat all of that here. But there is a clarification to be made about the Quixote Center’s history presented in the piece. In addition to “hewing Marxist agendas” (according to unnamed critics) the Quixote Center was also investigated for smuggling guns. Gasp!! Only, not true. [see Update] The Quixote Center delivered humanitarian aid to Nicaragua, as the article notes. However the full story is that the campaign de Blasio worked on was one of many of the Center’s. It was called the Quest for Peace, and it had a specific aim: to match or exceed the amount of money the Reagan administration spent trying to topple the Sandinista government with an equivalent amount of donated humanitarian supplies and volunteer labor used to help keep people alive, while also working in Congress to stop the policy. In 1985 the United States declared an embargo against the government of Nicaragua; the Quixote Center’s shipments were in possible violation of the embargo. We did it anyway. The importance of this history leads to me to the point of misinformation in the article. Hernandez writes:
In the mid-1980s, the Treasury Department investigated whether the center had helped smuggle guns, but the claim was never substantiated, and the group’s leaders said the inquiry was politically motivated.
There is not a source for this claim, and for the people who were at the Quixote Center during the mid-1980s, the NY Times article yesterday was the first they had heard about an investigation into “gun-smuggling.” Because the Center was shipping humanitarian aid in possible violation of the embargo, we were investigated. Federal agents knocked on the door one day, asking for our records, including donor lists and financial information. We did not provide the information. The investigation was called off after we contacted members of Congress in Maryland, and also consulted with the Center for Constitutional Rights. The Quixote Center shipped hundreds of cargo containers of aid, and never had a single shipment seized by customs. The “investigation” was a harassment, but we were lucky. At least they knocked. Other solidarity groups had their offices broken into, files and hard drives taken by Federal agents in the 1980s. CISPES was a particularly popular target of these 1980s COINTELPRO-style operations. In any event, within the grand narrative being woven in the article, this seems a small point – though I doubt de Blasio appreciates the Times suggesting he worked at a place once investigated for gun running. Perhaps someone Hernandez interviewed suggested that the investigation involved an accusation of gun smuggling and he ran with it. Maybe he has a document from Treasury that indicates there was such an investigation (I’d love to see it if that is the case) and the Quixote Center staff was simply never aware. It is hard to know since he makes no reference to any source. I know he did not talk to any of the “leaders” of the organization about a gun smuggling investigation. Certainly it is fascinating to see how people become politicized. These stories, when truthfully told can even be inspiring. The Times, however, went for the partisan snipe, whereby someone’s youthful idealism is selectively tested and reinterpreted through the lens of an election twenty-five years removed from the events being discussed. Lhota is already trying to capitalize on the article, claiming that de Blasio is playing with a “Marxist playbook.” Really? On the upside, we had a lot more traffic on our website yesterday, and I guess we can thank the New York Times for that. However, we would encourage the editorial staff to be a bit more careful with the details. UPDATE: September 26, 2013 After posting the original article, I decided to do a bit more digging. I wasn’t really sure why this one vignette was chosen among all of the stories about the Quixote Center that could have been told, good or bad, but it was hard to believe it was just made up. Yesterday, I received copies of files related to the Custom’s inquiry from the Quixote Center archive which resides at Marquette University and reviewed them. It would seem that Hernandez’s characterization of an investigation about gun smuggling is not really wrong – but is, absent context, a bit misleading. Here we go: On December 12 two Customs agents delivered a subpoena to the Quixote Center (with the wrong address and back dated). The subpoena required the Quixote Center to turn over all records relating to cargo containers shipped to Nicaragua or Costa Rica since the U.S. embargo had been put into place the previous May. The subpoena makes no reference to guns and does not specify any violation of any kind. One of the Customs agents did inform a staff member that they were looking for “munitions.” Counsel felt like this was a fishing expedition, using the Custom Agency’s authority to review all documents related to exported items from the United States – and seemed politically motivated. There was never any formal accusation from the Treasury Department or from Customs I could find that the Quixote Center was shipping weapons, just a comment from the one agent among many other things said. The Center was never even searched. All of the shipping documents were turned over to the Customs office in Baltimore (the Center staff refused to hand over information on donors and other non-shipping information requested by the agents, but not included in the subpoena). By February of 1987 the inquiry was closed, Customs found that shipments complied with the humanitarian exemptions in the embargo legislation. The Treasury Department would make additional requests for documents for transport of “unlicensed” items later in 1987, again simply requesting shipping documents. Counsel referred them to the Customs investigator for the relevant documents. What about the guns??? In a February 1, 1987 Quest for Peace newsletter, Quixote Center staff did highlight the agent’s comment about looking for munitions:
On December 12, 1986 two customs agents, outdated subpoena in hand, knocked on the Quixote Center door. Saying that they were looking for arms, they demanded all shipping records, correspondence, financial records, transportation records and personnel files pertaining to the Quest for Peace. They wanted to move quickly and “wrap things up by Christmas. We received the subpoena and turned them away.
The Quest newsletter was an “emergency appeal” and was encouraging people to step up the collections efforts; to expand the work, rather than be intimidated. There was also a concern that the document request was a step toward shutting humanitarian shipments down by reading the exemptions in the legislation in the most restrictive way. For example, Oxfam and Catholic Relief Services had recently been hassled by Customs and with shipments of agricultural supplies to Nicaragua blocked. The Quixote Center had even had a shipment containing pencils questioned in Costa Rica customs because pencils did not qualify as humanitarian aid. The shipment made it through. It is worth reporting here that the Quixote Center and other groups participating in the Quest for Peace National Tally surpassed $100 million in humanitarian assistance collected and delivered between July 1986 and September 1987. Back to guns: In a follow up newsletter from June 1987, Quixote Staff also discussed the Custom “hassle” in a bit more of a mocking tone, now that it was over:
The Customs Service, after barreling in just before Christmas looking for “gun shipments to Nicaragua” closed its review of our humanitarian shipments in February, finding no fault.
So, it seems that the gun smuggling characterization came from the agent’s comment, and staff reference to that comment, snarky or otherwise, in newsletters. Probably, the real goal was simply to get access to as many files as possible, and as Custom’s authority to review would be limited to transportation documents, the agents talked about munitions in to get more information than what was contained in the subpoena. Once the Center for Constitutional Rights and a member of Congress inquired the matter was dropped. Was the Quixote Center investigated for smuggling guns? It is certainly one way to characterize what happened. And if you are summarizing in a sentence I can’t really say it is wrong. So, my apologies to Javier Hernandez for suggesting otherwise. However, I do wonder why of all the things that could have been mentioned about the Center ($100 million in humanitarian aid collected and delivered in one year is a pretty good tidbit as well) this was the item chosen. Indeed, it was so marginal in the Center’s history that, as noted above, none of the co-directors from back in the day that I talked to even remembered the agent talking about guns.  
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February Delegation: Community Development in Northern Nicaragua

**Update** Due to the snow storm that has crippled the Southeastern United States (especially the airports), the delegation has been postponed, new dates TBD. This is an unfortunate turn of events, and we hope to complete the trip as soon as possible. More to come.

February 16-23, 2014

You are invited to join the Quixote Center as we visit communities in Northern Nicaragua with the Federation of Campesinos (FEDICAMP). We will also stop by Chaguatillo and visit a new housing initiative we are doing with the Institute of John XXIII.

The price for the delegation is $950 dollars, and includes all transportation, meals, translation, and housing while in Nicaragua. You are responsible for your own travel to Nicaragua. Below are more details. Contact Andrew Hochhalter for more information and to get your application [andrew@quixote.org or 301-699-0042]. Download and complete application here.

Community Development in Nicaragua

The mountainous northern region of Nicaragua is home to many small agricultural communities. The effects of global

The delegation will focus primarily on the northern regions of Esteli, Jinotega, and Madriz.

climate change are altering the landscapes and lifestyles of these communities. The intensity and pace of these effects is projected to increase in the coming years. The towns and villages of the North are also at the forefront of the country’s increasing global and trade liberalization brought about by CAFTA and increased foreign corporate investment.

Witness first hand how rural communities in Northern Nicaragua are organizing to preserve their ecological integrity, food security, and community strength in this dynamic environment. Delegates will have the opportunity to meet with Quixote Center partners at the Federation of Campesinos (FEDICAMP), an organization with local affiliates in eighteen rural communities across Nicaragua. The itinerary for this delegation (subject to change) includes:

  • Community visits with local leaders in 3 member associations of FEDICAMP, including an in-depth look at the methods employed by FEDICAMP.

  • Education sessions with local experts on agricultural methods and challenges, food security, and family nutrition.

  • Meetings with beneficiary families, including demonstrations, presentations, and home-cooked meals!

This trip will be an excellent way to quickly become familiar with the issues ‘on the ground’ in Nicaragua as well as with the larger solidarity network here in the United States.

After the delegation, participants will be equipped to educate and inform their networks and community groups about the conditions in Nicaragua, the challenges facing the local population, and the work of our partners at FEDICAMP to empower Nicaraguans to overcome those challenges.

The trip will give delegates the tools they need to be reliable witnesses to the situation in Nicaragua, and to advocate in solidarity at home. We hope that knowledge from the trip will be turned into action at home, and Quixote Center staff will be available to assist delegates who wish to organize their friends, community associations, and faith institutions for social justice in Nicaragua.

Please contact Andrew Hochhalter (andrew@quixote.org or 301-699-0042) for more information and to complete the application to reserve a space.
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Ecology of Liberation: Naomi Klein on Overcoming Overburden

Naomi Klein was the keynote speaker at the convention launching a new union coalition in Canada. In her speech, Overcoming Overburden: The Climate Crisis and a Unified Left Agenda, she laid out some compelling arguments for climate activism becoming the glue that binds social and economic justice movements into a broad coalition demanding transformation. You can read the entire speech here. A few highlights
Even when there is mass resistance to an austerity agenda, and even when we understand how we got here, something is stopping us – collectively – from fully rejecting the neoliberal agenda. And I think what it is is that we don’t fully believe that it’s possible to build something in its place. For my generation, and younger, deregulation, privatization and cutbacks is all we’ve ever known. We have little experience building or dreaming. Only defending. And this is what I’ve come to understand as the key to fighting the Shock Doctrine. We can’t just reject the dominant story about how the world works. We need our own story about what it could be. We can’t just reject their lies. We need truths so powerful that their lies dissolve on contact with them. We can’t just reject their project. We need our own project.
On Extractivism:
It’s an approach to the world based on taking and taking without giving back. Taking as if there are no limits to what can be taken– no limits to what workers’ bodies can take, no limits to what a functioning society can take, no limits to what the planet can take. In the extractivist mindset, labour is a commodity just like the bitumen. And maximum value must be extracted from that resource – ie you and your members – regardless of the collateral damage. To health, families, social fabric, human rights. When crisis hits, there is only ever one solution: take some more, faster. On all fronts. So that is their story – the one we’re trapped in. The one they use as a weapon against all of us. And if we are going to defeat it, we need our own story.
On the centrality of climate change:
Far from trumping other issues, climate change vindicates much of what the left has been demanding for decades. In fact, climate change turbo-charges our existing demands and gives them a basis in hard science. It calls on us to be bold, to get ambitious, to win this time because we really cannot afford any more losses. It enflames our vision of a better world with existential urgency. What I’m going to show you is that confronting the climate crisis requires that we break every rule in the free-market playbook — and that we do so with great urgency.
Anyway, great stuff from a real visionary. Give it a read in full and get inspired!! P.S. After I read Klein’s speech, the next article in my news feed was about ranchers fighting the coal industry – a powerful tale that brings to life the ‘extractivism” Klein discusses in her speech, as well as the pushback from social movements that can have a real impact.
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The Power of Dreams: Reflections on the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

The articulation of visions of a new world into the language of dreams results from the inadequacy of dominant language/culture to otherwise give expression to these visions. Liberation theologist Leonardo Boff says of dreams, they claim the impossible in order to create more space for what is possible. They do so not by flights of fantasy, but taking the world as it is and then turning the dominant language back on itself. Dr. King’s speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was a new improvisation on a familiar theme and through his voice it swept away the old order, and called forth a new one. 50 years ago last week the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom brought over 200,000 people to the capital to demand support for new civil rights legislation and to make a collective stand for racial and economic justice. From an historical perspective the highlight of the day was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, “I have a dream.” Our historical memory is, however, strained to recall more than a few lines from this speech, most notably these: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” This speech, or rather these select lines from this one speech, have probably defined popular memory of Dr. King, and in some sense the civil rights movement, more than any other words. However, Dr. King’s “dream” was far more encompassing than a change in racial attitudes. King and his contemporaries recognized that racism was deeply embedded in institutions, had material consequences and reinforced systems of economic oppression – racism was and remains much more than the summation of individual bigotry. King’s dream and the dream of many of the 200,000 people in Washington D.C., 50 years ago was a radical reconstruction of society. In an excellent history of the March by William P Jones, he says:
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom…remains one of the most successful mobilizations ever created by the American Left. Organized by a coalition of trade unionists, civil rights activists, and feminists—most of them African American and nearly all of them socialists—the protest drew nearly a quarter-million people to the nation’s capital. Composed primarily of factory workers, domestic servants, public employees, and farm workers, it was the largest demonstration—and, some argued, the largest gathering of union members—in the history of the United States.That massive turnout set the stage not only for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which President John F. Kennedy had proposed two months before, but also for the addition to that law of a Fair Employment Practices clause, which prohibited employers, unions, and government officials from discriminating against workers on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or sex. And, by linking those egalitarian objectives to a broader agenda of ending poverty and reforming the economy, the protest also forged a political agenda that would inspire liberals and leftists ranging from President Lyndon Johnson to the Black Power movement. After watching organizer Bayard Rustin read the full list of demands, “while every television camera at the disposal of the networks was upon him,” left-wing journalist Murray Kempton remarked, “No expression one-tenth so radical has ever been seen or heard by so many Americans.” (emphasis added)
King’s speech coming toward the end of the day took on the tone of prophetic condemnation, coupled with a powerful vision of hope. It was not a speech of specific policy ideas – those speeches had already been made. It was a statement meant to elevate the crowd. The dream was and remains a powerful vision – and was part of a broad agenda of concrete actions that rested on a radical critique of U.S. society. Pulling a few lines out of context does a disservice to the March and to Dr. King.

The March on Washington

The organizing manual for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom presented the following framework as the motivation for the march: WHY WE MARCH
We march to redress old grievances and to help resolve an American crisis. That crisis is born of the twin evils of racism and economic deprivation. They rob all people, Negro and white, of dignity, self-respect, and freedom. They impose a special burden on the Negro, who is denied the right to vote, economically exploited, refused access to public accommodations, subjected to inferior education, and relegated to substandard ghetto housing. Discrimination in education and apprenticeship training renders Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and other minorities helpless in our mechanized, industrial society. Lacking specialized training, they are the first victims of automation. Thus the rate of Negro unemployment is nearly three times that of whites. Their livelihoods destroyed, the Negro unemployed are thrown into the streets, driven to despair, to hatred, to crime, to violence. All America is robbed of their potential contribution. Despite this crisis, reactionary Republicans and Southern Democrats in Congress are still working to defeat effective civil rights legislation. They fight against the rights of all workers and minority groups. They are sworn enemies of freedom and justice. They proclaim states rights in order to destroy human rights. The Southern Democrats come to power by disfranchising the Negro. They know that as long as block workers are voteless, exploited, and underpaid, the fight of the white workers for decent wages and working conditions will foil. They know that semi-slavery for one means semi-slavery for all. We march to demonstrate, massively and dramatically, our unalterable opposition to these forces-and to their century-long robbery of the American people. Our bodies, numbering over 100,000, will bear witness-will serve historic notice- that Jobs and Freedom are needed NOW.
The freedom struggle encompassed an economic critique of the existing system, and was further articulated within the framework of human rights. The movement called for civil rights for African Americans, but with an argument that lifted up everyone. The destinies of black and white workers were entwined: “semi-slavery for one, means semi-slavery for all”! Age-long systemic marginalization and violence targeting African-Americans served the interests of the few by undermining working class solidarity. The marchers were there to say the time for change is now! Now! No more be patient, no more asking nicely (non-violence is not about being polite!). Now! The March for Jobs and Freedom also presented a comprehensive set of demands. As noted above, the platform was ambitious, and sought to attack full on the economic roots of racial oppression.
1. Comprehensive and effective civil rights legislation from the present Congress-without compromise or filibuster-to guarantee all Americans access to all public accommodations decent housing adequate and integrated education the right to vote 2. Withholding of Federal funds from all programs in which discrimination exists. 3. Desegregation of all school districts in 1963. 4. Enforcement of the Fourteenth Amendment-reducing Congressional representation of states where citizens are disfranchised. 5. A new Executive Order banning discrimination in all housing supported by federal funds. 6. Authority for the Attorney General to institute injunctive suits when any constitutional right is violated. 7. A massive federal program to train and place all unemployed workers-Negro and white-on meaningful and dignified jobs at decent wages. 8. A national minimum wage act that will give all Americans a decent standard of living. (Government surveys show that anything less than $2.00 an hour foils to do this.) 9. A broadened Fair Labor Standards Act to include all areas of employment which are presently excluded. 10. A federal Fair Employment Practices Act barring discrimination by federal, state and municipal governments, and by employers, contractors, employment agencies, and trade unions.
Today movements hesitate to make concrete policy demands, much less set forth policy agendas this comprehensive. This at a time when half the Democratic caucus was leading the opposition on de-segregation, and Republican and Democrat leadership were both hesitant to endorse strong labor standards. And yet, much of this agenda became law over the next several years in legislation the benefitted all U.S. Americans. Against this background of radical critique and far-reaching demands, King’s speech, “I have a dream” takes on a much stronger sense of urgency. The speech was not a call for reconciliation – it was a call for justice, now.

America as dream

To provide further context for King’s speech at the March on Washington, it is useful to look at how King’s use of “the dream” was already well established. In 1961 Dr. King delivered the commencement address at Lincoln University; his title: The American Dream. King begins this earlier speech by saying, “America is essentially a dream, a dream as yet unfulfilled.” The outlines of this dream are the “sublime” lines of the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal; that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This is America’s dream of itself, and when we speak of Dr. King’s “dream” it is in essence one and the same: A United States of America that actually lives up to these words.
Ever since the founding fathers of our nation dreamed this noble dream, America has been something of a schizophrenic personality, tragically divided against herself. On the one hand we have proudly professed the principles of democracy, and on the other hand we have sadly practiced the very antithesis of those principles. Indeed slavery and segregation have been strange paradoxes in a nation founded on the principle that all men are created equal.
As a country the United State can no longer accept this paradox. “[T]he shape of the world today does not permit us the luxury of an anemic democracy. The price America must pay for the continued exploitation of the Negro and other minority groups is the price of its own destruction….[I]f America is to remain a first class nation she can no longer have second class citizens.” This earlier dream speech previews themes that will be more fully developed in Dr. King’s later efforts against the Vietnam War, most notably in his speech Beyond Vietnam. In this earlier version, however, King’s notion of “the dream” is already global. “Inalienable rights” are not limited by boundaries, and if the people of the United States take that seriously, they must extend their respect for these rights not just within the borders of the U.S. but beyond them as well.
[A]ll life is interrelated. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality; tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. As long as there is poverty in this world, no man can be totally rich even if he has a billion dollars. As long as diseases are rampant and millions of people cannot expect to live more than twenty or thirty years, no man can be totally healthy, even if he just got a clean bill of health from the finest clinic in America. Strangely enough, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.
King’s vision is one of global democracy and human rights that demands respect for the integrity and dignity of all people (even if his language is horribly gendered in the fashion of the time). It is common to speak of King “becoming more radical” toward the end of his life. There is a kernel of truth, perhaps, related to his willingness to openly challenge the power brokers in Washington, and the Johnson administration itself on the war. But it seems to me that King, ever with a strategic eye toward Washington, was always willing to push further than the Beltway leadership was ready to go. King’s dream by 1963 was already a radical call to action, and in the context of the March on Washington, was pushing much further than Kennedy was ready to go.

I have a dream today…

The opening lines of Dr. King’s speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom cover the earlier territory – the United States was founded on a promise – a promise that has not been kept. The backdrop for the speech is a reflection on the date, August 28, 1963, the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation (the importance of this date I have not seen mentioned often in reflections about the March this week). The Proclamation was a great beacon of hope, yet,
…one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition
The marchers have come to Washington D.C. to cash a check – to demand payment on that promise made long before, but only to find the government denying payment, saying “insufficient funds.”
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
King then says, “We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.”
Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
This is the context for “the dream.”
Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.
The United States has failed. And yet in the face of that failure, we will not be turned back. We will demand justice. Despite all of the obstacles, the violence, and the hatred, Dr. King can still proclaim, “I have a dream today.” America can be made whole.
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.I have a dream today.I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.I have a dream today.I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is a liturgy, literally a celebration, proclaiming what is possible in the face of brutality. And with this proclamation of hope, a call to return to the work of justice:
With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was not an end point. It would be months before the Civil Rights Act passed. Just three-weeks later four little girls would be killed in a bomb blast at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL and in the face of that violence, people would say don’t press so hard, give it time. The Movement kept pressing, and over the next several years would see enacted key civil rights and anti-poverty legislation. The Civil Rights Movement transformed politics the United States, but much work is left to be done. The challenge before us today is to recapture the imperative of dreams. Human relationships on this planet are broken by poverty and violence. It may seem impossible in that context to proclaim a world where all people live with the respect and dignity they are naturally entitled to as human beings. It may seem folly to profess a world of justice in the face of so many instances of injustice. Yet, without the dream, without commitment to a vision around which we can build the concrete initiatives that will build a world more justly loving, without pressing the limits of the “impossible” to make room for the possible, we are truly lost. In commemorating the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom this week let us reclaim the power of dreams. And with that, the necessity of action to realize them. For some inspiration that the Dream has been recaptured, check out director of the Dream Defenders Phillip Agnew’s remarks after his and Sofia Campos’ time was cut from the events marking the anniversary of the March last week. Are you ready?
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Pope Francis: A Plea for Peace in Syria

Pope Francis made the following statement on Syria this past Sunday, September 1, 2013. Dear Brothers and Sisters, Hello! Today, dear brothers and sisters, I wish to make add my voice to the cry which rises up with increasing anguish from every part of the world, from every people, from the heart of each person, from the one great family which is humanity: it is the cry for peace! It is a cry which declares with force: we want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace, and we want in our society, torn apart by divisions and conflict, that peace break out! War never again! Never again war! Peace is a precious gift, which must be promoted and protected. There are so many conflicts in this world which cause me great suffering and worry, but in these days my heart is deeply wounded in particular by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming. I appeal strongly for peace, an appeal which arises from the deep within me. How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake in that martyred country, especially among civilians and the unarmed! I think of many children will not see the light of the future! With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons: I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart. There is a judgment of God and of history upon our actions which are inescapable! Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence. With all my strength, I ask each party in this conflict to listen to the voice of their own conscience, not to close themselves in solely on their own interests, but rather to look at each other as brothers and decisively and courageously to follow the path of encounter and negotiation, and so overcome blind conflict. With similar vigour I exhort the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people. May no effort be spared in guaranteeing humanitarian assistance to those wounded by this terrible conflict, in particular those forced to flee and the many refugees in nearby countries. May humanitarian workers, charged with the task of alleviating the sufferings of these people, be granted access so as to provide the necessary aid. What can we do to make peace in the world? As Pope John said, it pertains to each individual to establish new relationships in human society under the mastery and guidance of justice and love (cf. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, [11 April 1963]: AAS 55, [1963], 301-302). All men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace. I make a forceful and urgent call to the entire Catholic Church, and also to every Christian of other confessions, as well as to followers of every religion and to those brothers and sisters who do not believe: peace is a good which overcomes every barrier, because it belongs all of humanity! I repeat forcefully: it is neither a culture of confrontation nor a culture of conflict which builds harmony within and between peoples, but rather a culture of encounter and a culture of dialogue; this is the only way to peace. May the plea for peace rise up and touch the heart of everyone so that they may lay down their weapons and be let themselves be led by the desire for peace. To this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative. On 7 September, in Saint Peter’s Square, here, from 19:00 until 24:00, we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace! I ask all the local churches, in addition to fasting, that they gather to pray for this intention. Let us ask Mary to help us to respond to violence, to conflict and to war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation and love. She is our mother: may she help us to find peace; all of us are her children! Help us, Mary, to overcome this most difficult moment and to dedicate ourselves each day to building in every situation an authentic culture of encounter and peace. Mat, Queen of Peace, pray for us!
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