Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Honoring the Life and Work of Dorothy Irene Height, the African American Civil Rights and Women's Rights Activist who was Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004 (March 24, 1912 – April 20, 2010)

[image is from here]

What follows is from *here*, from the New York Times.

Dorothy Height, Largely Unsung Giant of the Civil Rights Era, Dies at 98


Published: April 20, 2010

Dorothy Height, a leader of the African-American and women’s rights movements who was considered both the grande dame of the civil rights era and its unsung heroine, died on Tuesday in Washington. She was 98.

The death, at Howard University Hospital, was announced jointly by the hospital and the National Council of Negro Women, which Ms. Height had led for four decades. A longtime Washington resident, Ms. Height was the council’s president emerita at her death.

One of the last living links to the social activism of the New Deal era, Ms. Height had a career in civil rights that spanned nearly 80 years, from anti-lynching protests in the early 1930s to the inauguration of President Obama in 2009. That the American social landscape looks as it does today owes in no small part to her work.

Originally trained as a social worker, Ms. Height was president of the National Council of Negro Women from 1957 to 1997, overseeing a range of programs on issues like voting rights, poverty and in later years AIDS. A longtime executive of the Y.W.C.A., she presided over the integration of its facilities nationwide in the 1940s.

With Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm, Betty Friedan and others, she helped found the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971. Over the decades, she advised a string of American presidents on civil rights.
If Ms. Height was less well known than her contemporaries in either the civil rights or women’s movement, it was perhaps because she was doubly marginalized, pushed offstage by women’s groups because of her race and by black groups because of her sex. Throughout her career, she responded quietly but firmly, working with a characteristic mix of limitless energy and steely gentility to ally the two movements in the fight for social justice.

As a result, Ms. Height is widely credited as the first person in the modern civil rights era to treat the problems of equality for women and equality for African-Americans as a seamless whole, merging concerns that had been largely historically separate.

The recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and other prestigious awards, Ms. Height was accorded a place of honor on the dais on Jan. 20, 2009, when Mr. Obama took the oath of office as the nation’s 44th president. In a statement on Tuesday, he called Ms. Height “the godmother of the civil rights movement and a hero to so many Americans.”

Over the years, historians have made much of the so-called “Big Six” who led the civil rights movement: the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer, John Lewis, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins and Whitney M. Young Jr. Ms. Height, the only woman to work regularly alongside them on projects of national significance, was very much the unheralded seventh, the leader who was cropped out, figuratively and often literally, of images of the era.

In 1963, for instance, Ms. Height sat on the platform an arm’s length from Dr. King as he delivered his epochal “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington. She was one of the march’s chief organizers and a prize-winning orator herself. Yet she was not asked to speak, although many other black leaders — all men — addressed the crowd that day.

Ms. Height recounted the incident in her memoir, “Open Wide the Freedom Gates” (PublicAffairs, 2003; with a foreword by Maya Angelou). Reviewing the memoir, The New York Times Book Review called it “a poignant short course in a century of African-American history.”

Dorothy Irene Height was born on March 24, 1912, in Richmond, Va. Her father, James, was a building contractor; her mother, the former Fannie Burroughs, was a nurse. A severe asthmatic as a child, Dorothy was not expected to live, she later wrote, past the age of 16.

When Dorothy was small, the family moved north to Rankin, Pa., near Pittsburgh, where she attended integrated public schools. She began her civil rights work as a teenager, volunteering on voting rights and anti-lynching campaigns.

In high school, Ms. Height entered an oratory contest, sponsored by the Elks, on the subject of the United States Constitution. An eloquent speaker even in her youth, she soon advanced to the national finals, where she was the only black contestant. She delivered a talk on the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments — the Reconstruction Amendments —intended to extend constitutional protections to former slaves and their descendants. The jury, all white, awarded her first prize: a four-year college scholarship.

As Ms. Height told The Detroit Free Press in 2008, “I’m still working today to make the promise of the 14th Amendment of equal justice under law a reality.”

A star student, the young Ms. Height applied to Barnard College and was accepted. Then, in the summer of 1929, shortly before classes began, she was summoned to New York by a Barnard dean.

There was a problem, the dean said. That Ms. Height had been admitted to Barnard was certain. But she could not enroll — not then, anyway. Barnard had already met its quota for Negro students that year.
Too distraught to call home, as she later wrote, Ms. Height did the only thing possible. Clutching her Barnard acceptance letter, she took the subway downtown to New York University. She was admitted at once, earning a bachelor’s degree in education there in 1933 and a master’s in psychology two years later.

Ms. Height was a caseworker with the New York City Welfare Department before becoming the assistant executive director of the Harlem Y.W.C.A. in the late 1930s. One of her first public acts at the Y was to call attention to the exploitation of black women working as domestic day laborers. The women, who congregated on street corners in Brooklyn and the Bronx known locally as “slave markets,” were picked up and hired, for about 15 cents an hour, by white suburban housewives who cruised the corners in their cars.
Ms. Height’s testimony before the New York City Council about the “slave markets” attracted the attention of the national and international news media. For a time, the publicity was enough to drive the markets underground, though they later re-emerged.

In 1946, as a member of the Y’s national leadership, Ms. Height oversaw the desegregation of its facilities nationwide. In 1965, she founded the Y’s Center for Racial Justice, which she led until 1977.

While working for the Y in the late ’30s, Ms. Height was chosen to escort the first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, to a meeting of the National Council of Negro Women. There, Ms. Height caught the eye of Mary McLeod Bethune, the council’s founder, who became her mentor.

As the council’s president during the most urgent years of the civil rights movement, Ms. Height instituted a variety of social programs in the Deep South, including the pig bank, in which poor black families were given a pig, a prize commodity. In the mid-’60s, she helped institute “Wednesdays in Mississippi,” a program that flew interracial teams of Northern women to the state to meet with black and white women there.

Ms. Height, who long maintained that strong communities were at the heart of social welfare, inaugurated a series of “Black Family Reunions” in the mid-1980s. Sponsored by the National Council of Negro Women and held in cities across the United States, the reunions were large, celebratory gatherings devoted to the history, culture and traditions of African-Americans. Hundreds of thousands of people attended the first one, in Washington in 1986.

From 1947 to 1956, Ms. Height was also the president of Delta Sigma Theta, an international sorority of black women.

Besides the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded by President Bill Clinton in 1994, Ms. Height’s many honors include the Congressional Gold Medal, awarded by President George W. Bush in 2004. The two medals are the country’s highest civilian awards.

Ms. Height, who never married, is survived by a sister, Anthanette Aldridge, of New York City.
If despite her laurels Ms. Height remained in the shadow of her male contemporaries, she rarely objected. After all, as she often said in interviews, the task at hand was far less about personal limelight than it was about collective struggle.

“I was there, and I felt at home in the group,” she told The Sacramento Bee in 2003 “But I didn’t feel I should elbow myself to the front when the press focused on the male leaders."

Ms. Height received three dozen honorary doctorates, from institutions including Tuskegee, Harvard and Princeton Universities. But there was one academic honor — the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree — that resonated more strongly than all the rest: In 2004, 75 years after turning her away, Barnard College designated Ms. Height an honorary graduate.

Listen to and Watch Malalai Joya Speak Out on Afghanistan

Apologies for the widened image. This is how it appears on YouTube.

Please watch carefully in this short interview how the U.S. media refuses to really listen to what this woman leader in Afghanistan is saying about the condition of her people under two forms of occupation: from the Taliban and from the U.S. government's military. Watch how she is refuted by a newsperson! Watch how she is not allowed to say what she wishes to say, because it is not what CNN will allow time for. And what would be a better use of that time: a report on Larry King's divorce?

President Obama, How Clear Does the Message Have to Be For You to Listen?! Memo to [U.S.] America: Stop Murdering My People, by Malalai Joya

What follows is a cross post from *here*. It may also be found at ZNet, *here*.
Malalai Joya

Memo to America: Stop Murdering My People

by Malalai Joya

BS Top - Joya Afghans Enough is Enough  
Tauseef Mustafa, AFP / Getty Images  

Amid increasing civilian deaths and resurgent warlordism, Afghan women's leader Malalai Joya writes that Hamid Karzai and the U.S. are losing credibility in Afghanistan day by day.

Almost every day, the NATO occupation of our country continues to kill innocent people. Each time, it seems, military officials try to claim that only insurgents are killed, or they completely deny and cover up their crimes. The work of a few courageous journalists is the only thing that brings some of these atrocities to light.
For instance, it was only after the reporting of Jerome Starkey of the Times of London that officials admitted to the brutal Feb. 12 murder of two pregnant women, a teenage girl, and several young men in a night raid at a home where a family was celebrating the birth of a child.

We can no longer bear the killing of our pregnant mothers, the killing of our teenagers and young children, the killing of so many Afghan men and women. We can no longer bear these “accidents” and these “apologies” for the deaths of the innocent. 

Night raids, air raid “mistakes,” firing on civilian buses and cars at checkpoints—the occupation finds many ways of killing the people of Afghanistan. The excuses and lies for these deaths are like salt in our wounds, and it is no wonder that protests against the U.S. military are growing. The Afghan people have had enough.
In recent weeks, there has been much talk about Hamid Karzai’s threats to join the Taliban and about his supposed differences with the American government. But for Afghans, Karzai long ago lost all credibility. The joke among our people is that Karzai doesn’t do or say anything without consulting the White House first. No amount of nationalistic rhetoric or demagoguery on his part will change this perception.

Everyone in Afghanistan knows that Karzai was placed into power with the backing of the United States and its allies, and to this day he relies on their support. His regime would not last a day without it. And Afghans know too well the reality of his corrupt government: It has delivered nothing to the country’s poor other than sorrow and destitution, while filling the pockets of drug traffickers, warlords, and its own corrupt officials.

Afghanistan has had puppet leaders before, rulers who served only the interests of foreign occupiers, whether British or Soviet. But Karzai may be the most hated puppet in our history; he has empowered some of the most brutal internal enemies of ordinary Afghans, warlords of the Northern Alliance like Sayyaf, Dr. Abdullah, Rabbani, Mohaqiq, Ismael Kahn, Dostum and many others. Even his two vice presidents, Fahim Qasim and Karim Khalili, are notorious fundamentalist warlords. The president’s brother in Kandahar, Ahmed Wali Karzai, is another thug in power whose links to the drug trade and the CIA have been widely reported.

Karzai made headlines by threatening to “join the Taliban,” but the reality is that for more than eight years he has had no problem working with fundamentalists who are the ideological brothers of the anti-women Taliban. In fact, Karzai himself used to support the Taliban when he was a minor tribal leader in Kandahar in the 1990s, and for years he has been negotiating to bring Taliban leaders into his puppet regime. Some of them are already serving in his regime, and the U.S. government has been encouraging these negotiations by creating the false categories of "moderate" and "extremist" Taliban.

He has also been reaching out to that most brutal warlord and criminal, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a mujahideen leader known for killing civilians and currently designated a terrorist by the U.S. government. Karzai recently appointed Abdul Hadi Arghandewal, an infamous leader of Hekmatyar’s party, as his minister in charge of the economy. These negotiations and flexible alliances by Karzai and the U.S. government are nothing new. For three decades, the U.S. has backed these criminals: Hekmatyar, al Qaeda and other fundamentalists in the 1980s, the Taliban in the 1990s, and now Karzai and his warlord allies.

Listening to Peregrina Kusse Viza, a member of the Bolivian indigenous group CONAMAQ

What follows is from here at Democracy Now's website. Click on date just below to link back.
April 20, 2010

Bolivian Indigenous Activist: We Must Respect Mother Earth, Our Pachamama
On Monday, the top US climate negotiator, Todd Stern, admitted that a binding agreement on curbing greenhouse gas emissions may not even be possible at the next UN climate summit scheduled for December in Cancun. Stern’s comments came after the US took part in the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate in Washington. While the United States and other nations met behind closed doors on Monday, a very different climate summit began here in Bolivia: the World Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change and Rights of Mother Earth. We begin today’s show with Peregrina Kusse Viza, a member of the Bolivian indigenous group CONAMAQ. [includes rush transcript]

Filed under World Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change
Peregrina Kusse Viza, a member of the Bolivian indigenous group CONAMAQ. She served on the constituent assembly that drafted Bolivia’s new constitution.

AMY GOODMAN: As we broadcast from Tiquipaya, a village in Cochabamba, we are in Bolivia.

Representatives from the world’s biggest polluters met behind closed doors in Washington on Monday at a meeting billed as the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate. The meeting comes four months after the Copenhagen UN summit ended in failure as world leaders failed to reach a binding agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

After Monday’s meetings of the biggest polluting countries, the top US climate negotiator, Todd Stern, admitted that a binding agreement may not even be possible at the next UN climate summit scheduled for December in Mexico. Stern said, quote, “There’s still considerable support for the notion of a legal agreement…but I think that people are also quite cognizant of the notion that it might or might not happen,” he said.

While the United States and other nations met behind closed doors on Monday, a very different climate summit began here in the Bolivian town of Tiquipaya, just outside Cochabamba. The World Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change and Rights of Mother Earth opened here on Monday.

Bolivian President Evo Morales called for the gathering to give the poor and the Global South an opportunity to respond to the failed climate talks in Copenhagen. Morales is scheduled to address the summit at a large rally this morning in a nearby soccer stadium.

We begin today’s show with Peregrina Kusse Viza, a member of the Bolivian indigenous group CONAMAQ. She served in the constituent assembly that drafted Bolivia’s new constitution. She spoke with Democracy Now!’s Mike Burke just outside the library here on campus at La Universidad del Valle, the University del Valle.

PEREGRINA KUSSE VIZA: [translated] First of all, let me say hello to all of you, to all the people attending this conference. And let me also say hello to the rest of the world. Well, my name is Peregrina Kusse Viza. I’m from J’acha Carangas. I’m part of CONAMAQ. Now I am here as a former member of the constituent assembly. Today we are talking about Mother Earth, which we call the Pachamama. We respect a lot our Mother Earth. She is our earth. We are the sons and daughters of that land. The earth has given birth to us, and the water is the blood of the Mother Earth, of our Pachamama.

In ancient times, or when I was very young, there was still a lot of respect for Mother Earth. When we started, or before the sowing season, first of all, we respected the Mother Earth with a waxt’a. That could be an offering of a llama or a lamb, or something had to be offered. Then, when you start irrigating the crops, when you start using the water, then, first of all, once again, we had to bless the earth. So, once again, we offered a llama. And after that, we started working on the lands. And then we started harvesting beans, onions, all types of vegetables.

But today, things have changed. There is no longer the same respect we had before. People, they have forgotten about Mother Earth. They have forgotten about Pachamama and forgotten about respect for the water. And now people—people, they want money. We want to earn money, and we want to have a lot of money. Before, things were very different. That was not so. Before, we had a lot of respect, a lot of respect, so that we would have enough to eat. Now, people, they work in the mines, taking out gold, silver.

And to take out the gold, to wash the gold, we use a lot of chemicals. And those chemicals, they are doing a lot of damage to the earth and also to the water, because those chemicals, they flow into the rivers and into the sea. And in the sea, those chemicals, they damage the fish, and the fish are now having different faces. We have seen fish that were born with the face of persons, of human beings. So there’s no respect anymore. And that is why the earth and the environment, the sky, they’re all damaged by the transnational companies.

Those transnational companies, with the smoke, they are contaminating the earth and the Pachamama. There’s holes in the sky, and that is not OK. There’s a lot of damage. So, therefore, all of us, we have to reach an agreement, an agreement to protect the Pachamama, because, otherwise, we will be—goodbye, we will be gone. So all of us together, we have to reach an agreement so that we can put a halt, so that we can stop those transnational companies. They have to stop with that smoke. That smoke is damaging our environment, so we have to stop them. They should not continue contaminating. At least every year they should stop one week, or they should stop working on Sundays, because now they work without stopping, 365 days a year. The whole time they’re contaminating. So we have to reach an agreement for those companies to stop.

That is what I want to tell the world. Let’s be very much aware of this. Let’s respect our Mother Earth, the air and the water, because there’s also diseases. Few diseases are happening. They’re contagious diseases. And they come from those companies. They’re poisoning us. And then they send us, for example, disposable toys, tires, and everything is disposable. It all becomes waste. And that is contaminating our Mother Earth. So let’s stop that, all of us together. All of us together, let’s reach an agreement, and let’s rise up against this, so that at least the earth can last a bit longer for our children and grandchildren. Otherwise, I think that all of us will die by the year 2070. I don’t know whether the world will explode or what, but something will happen. And we have to stop that, so that we can extend the life of the earth a bit more. This is what I want to tell the whole world. Let’s reach an agreement. Let’s be strong, all of us together, very strong. Hayaya!

AMY GOODMAN: The Bolivian indigenous activist Peregrina Kusse Viza. She is a member of the indigenous group CONAMAQ, and she is one of the members of the constituent assembly that wrote the Bolivian constitution.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, the War and Peace Report. We’re broadcasting from Bolivia, where a major protest is going on outside a silver mine that’s cut off the roads to Chile. We’ll find out about this mine and about lithium extraction. Bolivia is home to more lithium than anywhere in the world, a new source of energy. And we’ll find out the pros and cons of extracting it. Stay with us.