Human Rights: November 2008 Archives

Thumbnail image for Underground America.jpgI attended a dramatic reading tonight here in Philly of personal stories taken from a book edited by Peter Orner called Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives.  The book contains the oral histories of undocumented immigrants as told in recent years to the editors of the work.  The stories are real and all too familiar--they reminded me of the clients I work with each day.  The daily petty slights endured, the enveloping fear, the ambition, the scars, the regret, and the hope. 

From an LA Times review of the book from earlier this year, excerpted on the McSweeney's site for the book:

There are 24 stories documented here. Editor Peter Orner and a team of graduate students from San Francisco State University went looking for stories for Voice of Witness, which publishes "oral histories of people around the world who have had their human and civil rights violated." The storytellers hold many different jobs, have different reasons for leaving home and different expectations about U.S. life. Mr. Lai left China after officials found that he and his wife had violated the one-child policy. Saleem, 54, was summarily deported to Pakistan after Sept. 11. Roberto came from Mexico at 14; it took him 30 years to get a green card. "Everything we do is a crime," says a Mexican man called El Mojado. "You don't have papers, it's a crime. You buy fake papers, it's a crime." Elizabeth, an English teacher in Bolivia, came to the U.S. in 2004 to get help for her 8-year-old daughter, diagnosed with a severe form of arthritis. With no money, she slid through the American underworld, down the steps that so many of these people describe: rape, robbery, exploitation and a complete lack of credibility--no way to get help, and no way out.

Decades after arriving, many want desperately to go home and cannot. "I wouldn't make it back across," says Adela, a Mexican woman who has been here for 18 years and longs to see her family but doesn't dare leave her children. "No, there are too many that have died in the desert, too many who have drowned."
The book owes much to recently-deceased Studs Terkel, a pioneer of the oral history genre and a board member of the oral history series, Voice of Witness, of which Underground America is an installment. 

Please visit change.gov and let President Elect Obama know what you want done.  Even though I don't agree with many of Obama's stances on immigration I've always seen his presidency as a first step towards taking back the government.  Bush and Cheney have hijacked so much of the it that we've got a lot to get back.

Hopefully letting your voice be heard at change.gov will be more than a cathartic exercise.  I believe the first thing we need to do is ask that the raids be stopped and then I'd like to see the DREAM Act passed. 

If you're a pro-migrant reader of this blog let us know what you'd like to see. 

Orishas: Desaparecidos

|

a los presidentes asesinos

a los responsables
de desaparecidos
pa' los que trafican con ninos
el culpable sabe de que hablo yo


To the assassin presidents
To those responsible
for the Disappeared
For those who traffic children
The guilty knows of what I speak

This week's musical entry comes from Orishas, a hip-hop group of Cuban migrants that combines rap en Español with a traditional Cuban sound.

From the group's Wikipedia page:

Orishas is a hip-hop group whose members had emigrated from Cuba. . . . The Orishas delved into a realm of music in which they challenged "Castro's ideal of a colorless society" and created a black identity that the younger generations could relate to. They tackled important and obvious issues that dark skinned Cubans faced everyday though the government refused to recognize.

. . .

The name "Orishas" refers to the set of deities worshipped in African-based religions that were brought to the Americas by slaves of the Yoruba people in West Africa. These religions, parts of the Yoruba mythology, include Santeria in Cuba and Candomblé in Brazil. These orishas, or deities, each represent a natural element (such as the ocean or leaves) and exhibit a human characteristic (such as motherhood or love). The choice of this name for the hip hop group is a way of creating a direct link between this band and the African diaspora. This link is evident in the lyrics to "Nací Orichas" and "I Sing For Elewa and Changó".

One of my favorite Orishas songs, Desaparecidos, is about the "Disappeared," the tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of people kidnapped and murdered by their governments in Latin America during the Cold War, from Cuba to Guatemala to Argentina to the DR. Anyone who believes the Cold War was relatively casualty-free didn't spend much time in Latin America while it was happening.

Slc_mormon_tempel.jpgBecause when one person's rights are disrespected, we are all diminished. 

Because we can no longer remain silent.

Because we stand at a tipping point in this, one of the crucial civil rights battles of our day.

Because we are not single-issue voters, nor single-issue human beings.

For these reasons and more, I chose to speak out today against those who would deny the basic right of marriage to same-sex couples.  I will no longer be associated, however tenuously, with an institution that fights to reverse such a historic civil rights achievement. 

Change will come.  It's only a question of when, and of how much damage the churches will sustain to their long-term viability in the process of publicly battling civil rights. 

More on how to take action here.
From the NY Times today:

KABUL, Afghanistan -- An airstrike by United States-led forces killed 40 civilians and wounded 28 others at a wedding party in Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan, Afghan officials said Wednesday. The casualties included women and children, the officials said.

The United States military and Afghan authorities were investigating the reports about the latest attack, the American military said in a statement, but it gave no confirmation of the strikes or any death toll.
By now, this is a familiar pattern.

The outlines of a cynical strategy emerge: deny, deny, deny for the first week or two until the story recedes from the front pages, then concede in bits and pieces until the story is broken up and defused over time and new distractions materialize. 
But this strategy only works if you stop blowing up wedding parties or villages every other month.
dead Afghan babies.jpg

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Human Rights category from November 2008.

Human Rights: October 2008 is the previous archive.

Human Rights: December 2008 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.




XOLAGRAFIK Designs