Category Archives: freedom

On the March

After the Women’s March, Women are Still Marching On

mandela

Some say the WOMEN’S MARCH, which took place world-wide the day after Trump’s inauguration, marked a global transition in the consciousness of women and in the men who love and respect women. The Spirit of Standing Rock woke many to this new consciousness, to the realization that  love, peace, and compassion are more powerful revolutionary forces than hatred, fear, and violence.

On the day of the march, women donned their pink pussy hats and owned those disparagingly sexist labels of “pussy” and “nasty woman” with pride. Our march was remarkable not only because of its historic numbers, but also because everyone that day, even the police, honored the Divine Feminine with beauty, grace, humor, peace and love.

But the Divine Feminine is not only a spirit of love, peace and beauty. She is Great Destroyer as well as Mother Creator. Sisters, now is the time to get in touch with all the power of our Divine Feminine. Wipe that pink juicy pussy couture off your face, slip on your warrior armor and rise. Crazy Trump and his cronies must be stopped before they destroy all that is good, beautiful, innocent and sacred of Mother Earth and her children. Beyoncé said it, right?

“Okay Ladies, now let’s get in Formation. Prove to me you got some coordination. Go hard. Go hard. . . I slay. We slay. Slay, Chick, or you get eliminated. ”

We cannot be emancipated by someone else. We must emancipate ourselves, to be truly free and equal. 

Are you WOKE yet? Can you hear me now? Have you seen that viral Pepsi ad? http://www.vanityfair.com/…/kendall-jenner-pepsi-ad Pepsi co-opting the #BlackLivesMatter movement is nothing new. (And ‘tho many will disagree, I think women-hating misogyny in America runs even deeper, older, and more virulent that racism.) Around a hundred years ago Edward Bernays, Father of Modern Marketing, figured out how to promote the TOBACCO industry using the Suffragettes (yes those women who risked their lives to win women’s right to vote, after they’d already helped to win the Black vote ) .

These marketing corporations have been sticking it to us ever since, but until now, not a lot of people paid attention. Have you noticed the way the big department stores are selling torn blue jeans for over $100 a pair? Yes, you and your daughter can join the proletariat and sacrifice and struggle to make the world a better place, or you can pay a lot of $$ to just look like a radical protestor in your designer ripped jeans.

How did this happen? Watch the amazing four-part documentary The Century of Self to understand how corporate capitalism is co-opting our authentic grass-roots movements and manipulating We the Consumers. Wait. We are NOT Consumers. WE are Citizens, and PEOPLE. We are Human. Not slaves born to lift the machine’s GDP. The Century of Self : https://youtu.be/eJ3RzGoQC4s

Here’s the Pepsi ad with hilarious commentary by Stephen Colbert. Be sure to scroll all the way down and watch Seth Meyers’ alternative ending to the ad (it’s sick). http://www.vanityfair.com/…/kendall-jenner-pepsi-ad-stephen…

“Luckily, Ms. Jenner, a wealthy young white woman, knows exactly how to handle police at a protest.   vanityfair.com

Until we are all free, none of us will be.

So who’s Trump GOT BY THE PUSSY now? Besides poor zombie Stepford Wife Melania, he’s got  Congressional Representatives Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming and Virginia Foxx, R-North Carolina selling out to SERVE the Master, token women photo op’ed at the signing of a Trump executive order rolling back hard-fought victories for women in the workplace. Trump’s order revokes the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces legislation that protected women from sexual harassment in the workplace and guaranteed fair payroll practices. http://www.nbcnews.com/…/trump-pulls-back-obama-era-protect…170403-donald-trump-mn-1100_1f88b65e117f7acd35ad9b855b36d8eb-nbcnews-ux-2880-1000

And now, Arch-misogynist #periods-for-PENCE and the Republicans have forced the HobbyLobby anti-contraception Gorsuch Supreme Court nomination through, with Mitch McConnell’s democracy-destroying “nuclear option” clearing the way for repeal of Roe v. Wade and a future for American women resembling the cultural/socio/political-economic landscape of The Handmaid’s Tale.

If you haven’t yet read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, now would be a good time, because we are no doubt in for some sci fi horror playing out in our real lives very soon. Read author Margaret Attwood’s recent illuminating and chilling INTERVIEW in the New York Times for more on this.

If you’re not in the mood to read, you may want to watch the new HULU original series based on the book, season premier April 26, 2017.

handmaid4RESIST!

Come on, Ladies. Let’s get in Formation. Time to March. We’re going to the Tax March. Going to the  People’s March for Science. Going to the Citizens Climate March.

We going to March for Liberty and Justice for All.

Now join your local INDIVISIBLE group to find out about the next march, the next action, the next letter or phone call you need to make. DOWNLOAD THE INDIVISIBLE GUIDE. Subscribe to Andrew’s Actions. We gonna Slay. Slay, Chick (Pussy), or you get eliminated.

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.”
George Orwell, 1984 

RESIST!  “Being in a minority, even in a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.”
George Orwell, 1984

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Gaining Perspective: “From a Distance, You Look Like My Friend”

earthI’m Stepping back, to gain a little perspective.
Please l
isten with me to “From a Distance”. (audio file)
(Seriously, I mean really CLICK on the audio link above and listen to the song while you read)
Breathe.

Shortly after the election, gasping for air, feeling as if I were turning to stone like the woman at Standing Rock, I flew to the Yucatan. In the air, I wrote a blog post on my iPad, which I never posted. Events over the last two months have paralyzed my writing muscles. I’ve spent hours emailing and phoning senators, going to meetings to defend our tenuous anti-fracking victory from Chevron /Exxon, and meeting with newly-formed resistance groups like Indivisible; tweeting, facebooking, watching Democracy Now and Thom Hartmann, and staying up ’til 2 and 3 in the morning, sifting through fake news in search of the truth.

Last week, on that day that Betsy deVos’ nomination for Secretary of Education was confirmed despite massive protests, on the same day that the Army Corps of Engineers announced it was going ahead and building the pipeline under the river, in defiance of  orders to wait until a proper Environmental Assessment could be completed, on that day – I hit bottom. Something broke inside me. Hope still wakes me each morning, but it’s a dim light.

Here’s what I wrote in the air, raw, rambling, unedited. Forgive me. I’m still in shock  ~ clouds through airplane window

November 11, 2016. I’m in the air, flying to Mexico in the hope of gaining a fresh perspective. It’s been three days since the coup d’état in the USA. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won the popular vote for President of the United States, but Trump stole the election with gerrymandered electoral votes, rigged voting machines, suppression of voters, hate, fear, and lies.

On election night, my partner Joe went without me to a celebration of our Measure Z fracking ban victory in Monterey County – an initiative we worked hard to help win. I couldn’t bear the thought of being out with a crowd, so I stayed home alone to watch election returns on TV. When Hillary phoned Trump at about 2 am to concede, I couldn’t believe it. Numbness. Disbelief. Anger. Rage. Grief. Fear. Exhaustion. Depression. The impulse to run. To leave. To save myself, distance myself from the apocalypse that I fear Trump is going to bring on.

For the first two days after the Trump election announcement, I spent toxic hours on Facebook and Twitter, my mind running in circles like the little hamster on the treadmill in its cage.  I vented my growing outrage by writing inflammatory posts with bad words. I tweeted attacks on Trump’s stupider-than-a-slug, slutty nude girly mag illegal immigrant plagiarist wife, and on the dumber-than-red-bricks voters who chose an “it’s-okay-to-‘grab-my-pussy’-if-you-buy-me-lots-of-things” virtual illiterate as our national role model for girls and women, instead of the highly intelligent, professional, qualified and capable, gracious Hillary Clinton. I felt sick as I watched the announcement of Hillary’s concession on TV and then watched the mainstream news pundits and so-called leaders of the democratic party begin to spin the theft of my country with sugar coated assurances that it is “such a surprise” but “we’ll just have to make the best of it. Everything will be alright.” “No!” I shouted out loud, startling my sleeping dogs. “This is a mistake! Stop this!”

Since election night, scenes from the movie, The Pianist have been playing over and over in my mind. If you haven’t seen the film, I recommend that you watch it now. In the film, Hitler has just seized power, and nice middle class families try to sugarcoat it, to continue with business as usual, try to “make the best of things” because “it can’t get that bad”. But it does. It gets worse and worse, and nice people continue to make compromises with their ideals, make excuses and look the other way. Until it’s too late. Until what is left of the family is sitting on crates in front of the train ready to take them to the gas chambers. They could have saved themselves by getting out of the country when the first signals sounded. (Or by organizing and mounting a strong resistance?)

I’m thinking that things in the US may get that bad, that it may be time to leave my country, while borders are still open and American citizens are not yet in concentration camps. My family immigrated to what is now Maryland in the late 1500’s, before Maryland was designated a colony. My people have been here ever since. Over 400 years. I am a patriot. (and I am an Immigrant) The men in my family served America as soldiers in every war since the Revolution. I have Native American blood in my veins. THIS IS MY COUNTRY. But I keep thinking about how so many Jews didn’t try to save themselves when Hitler moved in. Trump is going to be worse than Hitler, I’m pretty sure. I love my country. What if I have to leave?

He has said he thinks it would be fine to use nuclear weapons against other countries. I remember the Cold War. Now nuclear holocaust has suddenly become a very real possibility, again. The Russians, recently our arch enemies, may have actually helped to get Trump elected.

He doesn’t think climate change is real so he plans to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement and go full steam ahead developing coal, oil, gas, fracking and pipelines. He has said he plans to close down the EPA and the National Parks and overturn the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. And he plans to encourage all manner of “pussy grabbing” while taking full control over women’s bodies. And he wants to start rounding up all his enemies, including Muslims, African and Mexican Americans, gays, immigrants (except for his law-breaking immigrant wife), and dissidents (teachers, scholars, artists, scientists). He intends to greatly increase funding for the military and use the military against American citizens, and he’s promised to authorize forms of torture worse than water boarding. “I can’t breathe.”

Inspired by their leader, Trump neo-fascist thugs around the country have already started perpetrating acts of violence against everyone they perceive as different.Heil Hitler.

Where can I go? Somewhere the people are still relatively civilized. Somewhere I may be able to survive financially after the US currency collapses. Someplace where the effects of a nuclear holocaust will be less. Someplace where it may still be possible to find potable water and grow food after the final climate apocalypse. Tasmania? Chile? Norway? Apparently I’m not the only one thinking these things.The Canadian government’s Immigration website crashed the night of the election and has crashed several times since. Sales of Orwell’s 1984 are soaring.

Today, day three since the death sentence of my country, the tone of the social media chatter has shifted. Courageous leaders are stepping into the light on social media. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, 350.org’s Bill McKibben, and the Sierra Club have openly defied Trump.Put him on notice that this will be a battle of epic magnitude, a struggle the likes of which has never been seen before – a war for the very survival of life on Earth. Progressive leaders are calling for people to take courage, resist, and mobilize. I feel heartened that there will be an active resistance. But I’m afraid, too. Afraid for the beautiful Native Americans trying to protect our nation’s water at Standing Rock and afraid for the crowds of citizens demonstrating in the streets against a Trump presidency. Afraid for all my beautiful fellow humans with different colors of skin, different ways of worshiping, different ways of speaking.

Trump is a pathological abuser. Abusers don’t stop; they always escalate. ABUSERS ALWAYS ESCALATE. Thinking, hoping, praying that it will get better never makes it better when an abuser is in control of your life. The only thing that will stop an abuser from hurting you is when someone more powerful than him makes him stop.

I still think I might run away, before the borders close and it’s too late. But hopefully someone with the power to stop Trump from ending the world will stay and fight. I’ll do all I can to help, from a distance.

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Standing Rock Insiders Urgently Request Help as Violence from DAPL Mercenaries Escalates

Standing Rock tepeeDecember 1, 2016
Standing Rock, North Dakota

Dear Friends and Relatives,

In late August I responded to an utterly compelling, impossible-to-refuse Call from Spirit to go to Standing Rock, North Dakota. Since I’ve returned home, everyone I’ve met has expressed a deep hunger to better understand the current situation at Standing Rock and to know how they can help. There is a mainstream media black out. What little information is broadcast on mainstream media is often unreliable. Below, I pass on the following insider information from friends at Standing Rock – urgent calls for help which I KNOW will make a difference for the good right now:

1. Donations to the Standing Rock legal support efforts may be made to:

The Water Protector Legal Collective is the National Lawyers Guild legal support team for those engaged in resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline. It maintains a 24/7 presence on-site at the Oceti Sakowin camp near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

For updates, visit waterprotectorlegal.org, and follow the WPLC at Facebook.com/WaterProtectorLegal and Twitter @WaterProtectUs.

The National Lawyers Guild is dedicated to the need for basic and progressive change in the structure of our political and economic system. Through its members–lawyers, law students, jailhouse lawyers and legal workers united in chapters and committees–the Guild works locally, nationally and internationally as an effective political and social force in the service of the people.

“The Morton County Sheriff’s Department’s illegal use of force against the Water Protectors has been escalating (throughout the Fall). It is only a matter of luck that no one has been killed. This must stop.”

On November 29,2016, the Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC-formerly Red Owl), an initiative of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), filed suit in US District Court against Morton County, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirschmeier, and other law enforcement agencies for using excessive force against peaceful Water Protectors on the night of November 20, 2016. http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2016/11/28/water-protector-legal-collective-files-suit-excessive-force-against-peaceful

The class action suit, filed on behalf of persons who were injured on the night of November 20 and early morning of November 21, seeks an immediate injunction preventing the Morton County Sheriff’s Department and other law enforcement from using impact munitions such as rubber bullets and lead-filled “beanbags,” water cannons and hoses, explosive teargas grenades and other chemical agents against protesters.

2. Those concerned are urged to CALL NOW local and federal agencies below to demand (1) immediate end to construction of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, (2) the immediate cessation and a full investigation into law enforcement abuses, (3) dropping felony charges against water protectors from the October 27 police raid, and (4) permitting the Water Protectors to stay at their current encampment until the DAPL’s application to drill under Lake Oahe and the Missouri River is permanently denied.

  • White House: 202-456-1111 (ask for “hot line to President”) or 202-456-1414 and/ or sign the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s White House petition standwithstandingrock.net/take-action
    • White House Situation Room, 202-456-9431
    • North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple’s Office: 701-328-2200
    • Morton County Sheriff’s Office: 701-667-3330
    • Morton County State’s Attorney’s Office: 701-667-3330
    • Army Corps of Engineers-Bismarck 701-255-0015 or D.C. office 202-761-5903
    Energy Transfer Partners: the pipeline owner ― Lee Hanse, executive vice president, 210-403-6455; Glenn Emery, vice president, 210-403-6762; Michael (Cliff) Waters, lead analyst, 713-989-2404.

3. U.S. veterans for peace are raising donations on Go Fund Me
< https://www.gofundme.com/veterans-for-standing-rock-nodapl > to help our veterans get to Standing Rock to protect protesters in the threatened “December sweep”. I’m worried the military could get really really violent in attempt to remove people so they can complete the pipe under the water. The water protectors WILL NOT LEAVE unless they are dead or forcibly dragged away, until they are sure the fracked oil pipleline is no longer a threat to the drinking water of millions of people.

http://heavy.com/news/2016/11/standing-rock-veterans-donations-fundraiser-go-fund-me-dapl-dakota-access-pipeline-arm-blown-off-video-photos-amazon-list-facebook/?ref=emailshare WE NEED TO HELP GET THOSE VETS THERE before Dec 4th.

4. Medical support for the camp is desperately needed. The official tribal funding page for this is   https://medichealercouncil.com/volunteer/
To get a better idea of current conditions at the camp, especially if you are considering going there, read the healer’s page and the FAQ.  If you’re not sure you are prepared physically and emotionally to withstand extremely severe winter conditions (6 degrees, 26 mile/hr winds, completely exposed living plus under siege by a military force) don’t go and become a liability on an already stressed community. But if you have the food, arctic clothing, camping equipment, physical stamina and temperament to care for yourself and others, and you feel you should go, Do Not Hesitate! They need you NOW! (no drugs, alcohol, weapons – only strong, peaceful, prayerful hearts)

5. Medical support for Sophia Wilansky, young woman whose arm was blown up by a DAPL  mercenary’s grenade <  https://www.gofundme.com/30aezxs# > Her father speaks about the attack on his daughter:  < https://www.facebook.com/paul.blumekmsp/videos/1115197865202714/>

6. DIVEST any and all of your assets that are invested in Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America – they all own a big piece of the pipeline

 

~ LINKS  ~  LINKS  ~  LINKS ~

* Great overview Fusion video of what’s going on  https://www.facebook.com/fusionmedianetwork/videos/1543459422346697/

* Democracy Now full show Thanksgiving Day starts with now infamous dog attack video then summarizes Standing Rock to date with good new material https://www.democracynow.org/shows/2016/11/24?autostart=true

* For more of the BIG PICTURE: Robert Kennedy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bdvSQaWYk8M&feature=share

* New York Times editorial  http://nyti.ms/2gkKUmB

* Amnesty Int’l and ACLU decry human rights abuses against water protectors https://insideclimatenews.org/news/24112016/police-dakota-access-protesters-aclu-amnesty-international-standing-rock

*FIRE racist, unqualified U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Commander and District Engineer of the Omaha District Colonel John W. Henderson
Read more at Cheyenne River Sioux Chair Calls for Resignation of US Army Corps’ Henderson Cheyenne River Sioux Chairman Harold Frazier demands ouster of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ district commander John W. Henderson after “racist” conversation.  indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com

*Indigenous Environmental Network  http://www.ienearth.org/

* Oceti Sakowin Camp Known as “The Main Camp” at Standing Rock http://www.ocetisakowincamp.org/

* Kandi Mossett Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=Kandi%20Mossett

*Myron Dewey Facebook posts about Why the government is banning Standing Rock indymedia’s drones https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=myron%20dewey%20posts

YES! online magazine has been doing excellent ongoing work of covering Standing Rock with timely, in-depth articles  http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/why-the-assaults-on-standing-rock-require-police-from-seven-different-states-and-other-questions-20161031

Thank you relatives and friends. The media is not covering this situation. It’s up to us!

Please share this information as widely as you can.
We MUST stop this pipeline, with strictest legal bindings, Before inauguration day!

Water is Life

"Water Is Life"

“Water Is Life”


 

 

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Rough Cut: Prudenciana Elementary School

Rough Cut: {The True Story of “Prudenciana” Elementary School}

California history: Amesti history mural

A California History snapshot: Designed and painted by artist Guillermo Aranda, Mary Flodin, and Amesti GATE students in the late 1990’s, the mural above depicts the cultural and natural history of the land where the school was built, from the time of the native Ohlones through the Rancho period, to the present.

Prudenciana Elementary, where Aurora teaches, is a real school. It’s in the Pajaro River Valley, Watsonville, California, on the agricultural South end of Santa Cruz County. In the 90’s, it was surrounded by strawberry fields. Prudenciana is not the actual name of the school, of course. Can you guess what the school’s name really is?

The school is one of the oldest in the county. It was founded by Señora Prudenciana Amesti, wife of Señor Jose Amesti. Don Amesti owned of one of the magnificent grants of California land bestowed by the Mexican government in the 19th century. Amesti’s wife, Prudenciana, was a devout Catholic and a great supporter of education. After her husband’s death, she gifted some of her vast land holdings to the Church for the establishment of Our Lady of Help Church (“The Valley Church” – first Catholic church in the region) and for an orphanage overseen by the Catholic priests. She also gave land to the county for an elementary school named for her late husband.

The history of this school, site of one of the great Spanish Ranchos that define California history, is rich. So much backstory I want to share about the school, the church, and the orphanage has already been cut from my novel. Yet I feel that someone may be as interested in this history as I am. Am I the only one?

My editor says historical backstory slows down the movement of the novel. I believe her. She’s a pro. She knows today’s commercial fiction market. She wants me to rush readers to the end. They want page turners after all, right?

But isn’t that kind of like rushing through your life, skimming over the deep water, in a hurry to reach your death? Don’t we need to slow down and savor the details, the beauty, the mystery,  along the way? What do you think? Cut this?

Maybe I’ll post more of the fascinating history of Our Lady of Help Church, the orphanage and Prudenciana’s school here, in this blog. Would that be of interest to you?

students and teacher prepare to paint the mural

students and teacher prepare to paint the mural

Amesti History Mural

Mary Flodin and Amesti GATE students prepare to paint the Amesti History Mural, designed by Guillermo “Yermo” Aranda – Arts Council Santa Cruz County, Mary Flodin and their students.

Chapter 15. Monday, August 15, 1998.
Prudenciana Elementary

At Freedom Boulevard, Aurora exited Highway 1 and drove north toward Prudenciana Public Elementary School. She drank in the landscape of the Pajaro River Valley as if savoring the terroir of a good wine.

The little school nestled at the base of coastal foothills that had been thrust and twisted up from the sea geologic eons ago. An upraised scar on the face of the land, the foothills bore evidence of the epic clash of monumental tectonic plates. The Continental shelf forced the Pacific plate down, and the Pacific shoved back, pushed up from underneath, and caused the Continent’s skin to buckle and fold.

Through a deep gash in the scar, winter rains washed off the hills, down Corralitos Creek to Rio Pajaro. For centuries, Rainbow trout had been migrating downstream on spring rains, over the natural willow-lined bedrock of Corralitos to the Pajaro, pushing out through the rivermouth into Monterey Bay. And for centuries, adult Coho and Steelhead had been navigating back home by moon, stars, and scent from the vast Pacific Ocean, bringing the rich gift of nutrients from the sea to the people up stream.

Aurora parked and slid out of her Miata with only a little stiffness and pain. She stood for a moment in the parking lot, stretched, and rubbed the red, raised scar on her leg. The stitches had finally mostly dissolved.

Shreds of summer morning fog clung to the coastal hills. The bell tower of the original one room schoolhouse peaked  over the roofline of the new elementary school.

That first school had been built near the creek about 1880 on land donated by Señora Prudenciana and her daughters – but a small gift from Señora Prudenciana, whose rancho was one of the most extensive and beautiful of the Californio ranchos granted to favored elite by the new Mexican government after the closing of the missions.

The old schoolhouse had served the children of Italian and Portuguese fishermen and farmers. And the children of Mexicans, many of them displaced from their almost royal status as patrons of vast rancheros to become landless peasants. Children of the nearly invisible indigenous people, and of the industrious and prosperous Japanese, so adept at farming and fishing, attended the one room schoolhouse. The Filipinos came to fish, and the Croatians turned apple blossoms into gold. The Chinese came, hoping for gold. But forbidden by law to mine the yellow metal, instead, they built the railroad that connected East to West across the continent, and they settled in camps around the Monterey Bay called China Beach, and China Town, to fish and sell, and raise children more American than Chinese. The English, the Dutch, and the Irish brought their food, their customs, their gods and myths, and their children. And the one-room school served the children of every immigrant group, from every continent, of every creed, color, and culture who washed onto the shore in wave upon wave, hoping for a better life.

Around the schoolhouse, these pioneers fished the rivers, the streams and the bay, and planted apple orchards, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and artichokes, flowers, berries and salad greens in the fertile alluvial soil, the black gold, gifted by the river gods of the abundant and generous Pajaro, River of the Birds.

In 1947, the parcel of land where the historic one-room schoolhouse stood had been sold to a family who’d restored and preserved the building. On an adjoining parcel, also part of Prudenciana’s original gift, a modern elementary school was built. Heritage apple orchards surrounding the school were torn out to make way for lucrative strawberry fields. Otherwise, not much had changed in the hundred years since the schoolhouse first opened its doors to the children of the Valley.

Aurora loved teaching California history to fourth graders in this historic location. Thinking about the school and the land, she smiled to herself, hefted her book bag over her shoulder, and set her course across the parking lot for the school library, and the first faculty meeting of the year.

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Rough Cut: The Shipper/Packer/Cooler Industry and the Brown Berets

Rough Cuts: {Watsonville Brown Berets, a snippet from back in the day. This is a true story.}

Sunday morning, August 28, 1998.
Prudenciana Elementary School. Watsonville.

Aurora opened the door to the computer lab. Jose Santos, the new technology assistant, was down on his hands and knees under a shelf of colorful new iMacs, working with a tangle of cables. Aurora smiled at the slender young man with a black moustache. They made a good choice in hiring him. He’d been doing very well as a computer technician, even though he was inexperienced.

“Hey, Jose. Thanks for being willing to meet me here on a Sunday morning. How’s it going?”

“Good. We should have all the software installed, and the computers networked to the new printer by the time we go home today, but we’ll still need an adapter for the overhead projector, and we should have some of those rubber floor covers to put all these wires under, so they aren’t a tripping hazard.”

“Give me a list. I can pick that stuff up. Can I give you a hand with networking the printers?”

Aurora dove under the bank of computers, and Jose oriented her as to what he was doing. “You’ve really learned all this technology stuff fast,” she said.

“Yeah. I’m taking a full load of tech classes at the community college, going for the Cisco networking certification.”

“Brilliant move. I’ll bet networking will be huge in the future.”

Jose sat back on his heels. “That does it. Now, we should test them all.”

Jose and Aurora each took a chair in front of an iMac and turned on a computer.

Aurora navigated to Preferences, selected the new printer, restarted the computer, then opened the word processing app to test the printer connection.

“Where are you from originally, Jose?” Aurora asked while she waited for the app to open. “Did you grow up here in Watsonville?”

“I’m from Mexico. A small village outside of Guadalajara.”

“Your English is excellent. You must have been in the States for a long time.”

“No. I came to California about five years ago.”

“Have you been going to school since you got here?

“No. Working. When I first arrived, I got a job in a packinghouse, here in Watsonville. With Strawberry Bay Berry.”

“What was that like?”

“A nightmare, to tell you the truth.”

The printer came to life, rattling out the test page Jose had just sent. He turned off the computer and moved to the next one on the row against the wall.

“Nightmare? Why?” Aurora moved to the next computer in her row and pushed the on button, enjoying the ta-da sound the new iMac made when it powered up.

“I worked at a conveyor belt that moved fruit to the coolers. We were supposed to inspect for rotten and damaged fruits and pull them off, but the belt moved too fast. We also had to quickly slide a new box under the end of the belt where the fruit fell off, whenever a box was full, without letting any fruit fall on the cement floor. The shifts were ungodly long. No bathroom breaks. By the end of the day, my feet, hands, back, and head hurt, and I could hardly see straight. It was always way too hot or freezing cold. Standing all day on the cement floor just sucked the energy out of your body. You really had to pay attention, to do everything right. Somebody watched us all the time. The foreman came from my home village in Mexico. He knew my parents, and grandparents. My family had obligations to him, and I owed him for helping me get into the States and getting me my job. The man was merciless, kind of a Godfather type.”

“That does sound like a nightmare. But you got out. And now you’re at Cabrillo College and you have this job. Those are huge accomplishments.”

“Yeah. It’s because I started going to meetings of this group, the Brown Berets.” Jose said “Brown Berets” in a whisper, looking over his shoulder.

“Who are they?” asked Aurora.

“A Chicano activist group founded by a radical Episcopal priest in East LA in the late sixties, during the Black and Brown liberation movements, to help young Chicanos develop their political skills. The group decided to wear brown berets as a symbol of unity and resistance against oppression.”

Aurora moved to another computer. Ta-dah. “I’ve been teaching in Watsonville for years, and I’ve never heard of the Brown Berets.”

“The organization kind of died out after the sixties. But in ninety-four, a group of students from Watsonville decided to resurrect it. The gang-related murders of two young people had a lot to do with it. We were just a group of young Chicanos and Chicanas, tired of injustices in the community and the lack of political representation. So we decided to educate ourselves, and take the power of self-determination in our own hands.”

Jose hit the print button and the next test page spun out.

“We couldn’t have done it without our mentors, a high school counselor named Alba and this Ohlone Catholic priest we call El Gecko. It’s a real spiritual group. El Gecko helps us get in touch with our indigenous power, and teaches us the Old Ways.”

Aurora’s heart skipped at the mention of the priest. She started the next computer. Ta dah. She was not surprised to learn that Father Francis was involved in such work.

“So the Brown Berets is a peace keeping group?” Aurora asked as the printer rattled out the next test page.

“A peace building and educational organization. We recognize that Mother Earth has no borders and belongs to all of earth’s creatures. With all our diversity, we’re still all family. We should respect, not exploit and oppress one another. At our meetings, Norteños and Sureños actually meet together, cross the line, and find their brotherhood. There’s no hating. We figure out how to work together for the betterment of our community. To address gang violence, we organized an annual march that passes through all the different barrios in Watsonville, to bring the message of Peace and Unity. We’re even working with the police, to build a positive relationship between police and minority youth.”

“So, what happened to you? How did the Brown Berets help you with your job at the packing plant?”

“Well, like I said, the Brown Berets educate. Through our Education Popular, I learned about the history of the farmworkers struggle in Watsonville. I learned that those packer-shipper-cooler corporations are at the top of the ladder. Strawberry Bay Berry is actually owned, through a venture capital front corporation, by BioGenesis Agrochemical Corporation. Heard of them?”

“Oh, my God, yes,” said Aurora. “I’ve heard that their people go into the rainforest, get indigenous people to show them their traditional medicinal plants, take the plants back to the US and patent them, then tell the native people they can’t use their own plants anymore unless they pay BioGen. And the U.S. government is backing up the corporate theft. And I’ve heard they’re developing genetically modified seeds that have pesticides in their DNA, and they’re suing small family farmers all over the world who save their organic seeds in the traditional way, bankrupting them with legal fees and then seizing their farms.”

“It’s all true.” Jose started up the next computer. “And here, in the Pajaro Valley, the big shipper-cooler companies, with BioGen pulling their strings, tell the growers what to grow, when and how much. They have a huge amount of power. But guess what? I found out I have power, too. I learned that in the USA, workers have rights.”

“Yes, we do. So what happened?”

“One day, a friend of mine was operating a fork lift in a cold storage warehouse. I was there in the warehouse when he was fork lifting some heavy crates onto a high shelf. One of the crates got stuck on the lift. The foreman ordered my friend to climb up and move the crate by hand, so my friend climbed up there and pushed the crate. But when it came unstuck, it released the forklift, which bounced up and knocked him off the shelf. He fell more than fifteen feet down to the cement floor. Landed on his back. Blood pouring out of his nose, and ears. I thought he might be dead. But he opened his eyes, and ­– you know what? – the foreman told him to go home. Told him, if he went to a doctor or told anyone what happened, he might as well not come back to work.”

“That’s horrible. Inhumane. And it’s against the law.”

“Right. But keep in mind that most of these workers have no clue about American labor law. After seeing that, something just snapped inside me. The foreman sent me back to my conveyor belt. When the box filled up, I just watched the fruit fall on the floor. My foreman started yelling at me, but I didn’t care. I just stood there, watching the fruit pile up and roll all over the place. Finally, someone shut off the conveyor belt. I walked away, and never looked back. I went to the Brown Berets. Señor Alba and El Gecko helped me get into Cabrillo Community College and helped me get this job. To me, both those men are like saints. I know a lot of people they’ve helped, besides me.”

“Were there repercussions, when you walked off the job?”

“Oh, yeah. I never got my last paycheck. Some of my family in Mexico is still ticked off at me. And I definitely burned my bridges with that foreman. I’ll never work in the packing industry again. Not that I ever want to go back there anyway. I’m just lucky no one came after me. You know – to beat me up, or kill me.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah. As a matter of fact, I – ah, I’ve been wanting to talk to you about this. I’ve heard that you teachers are asking questions about the pesticides. Be careful, okay? I mean it. The people behind the strawberry industry in this town don’t like to be messed with. There’s history here, going back to before Cesar Chavez. They’re dangerous. Seriously, Aurora. Watch your back.”

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Electric Cars Spark Change

Don’t hold your breath waiting for politicians to move this country to sustainable energy policies. Focus on the marketplace if you want  to help our country transition to sustainable energy. Right now is the perfect time to go solar if you own a house. We did it, and we love watching our electric meter run backwards.   solar roof

Recently we leased an Electric Vehicle, which we plug into our solar system to charge. It’s amazing! No gas, no oil! And California Department of Energy gave us a $2,500 cash rebate for driving our new 2015 Chevy Spark EV off the lot! https://energycenter.org/clean-vehicle-rebate-project

EV_Dash2

There are now many great electric car options on the market. Tesla seems to be everyone’s first choice, but we couldn’t afford one. So we took a three year lease on a Chevy Spark. We love it! It has about a 100 mile range, which we find is all we need most of the time. (Our Prius, which we use  for longer trips, is usually parked these days.) Our Sparky is peppy. Lots of torque. chevy evCharging is easy. Around our area there are more and more public charging stations available. But so far, we haven’t needed to use them. We get our charge at home. We just plug in to our 240 V wall outlet. We charge overnight, when our electric rates are lowest. With our solar system, even with our car plugged in, we now pay nothing for electricity. Zero. All our power, including our transportation, comes from the sun. maryChange seems to have accelerated this summer. Sharks, possibly warm water creatures of the south, have taken up residence at our favorite cold water swimming beach in Santa Cruz. The color of the water itself has changed,  due perhaps to the warmer temp. According to a marine scientist friend, a warm water plankton who doesn’t “belong” here, a protist called “cocolithophoridae”, who showed up and is shedding its calcite scales, is turning the bay glacial-melt blue. No sane person can deny the reality of global warming any longer, and yet the Keystone XL Tar Sands Oil Pipeline is still being shoved down our gullets and Shell Oil is trying to drive its ship up to Alaska to drill. This crazy addiction to fossil fuel must be stopped before we end life as we know it on our precious Mother Earth.

Green Peace Photo

Green Peace Photo: Activists in Portland, Oregon hang from bridge to block Shell Oil Vessel bound for drilling operation in Alaska.

 

Greenpeace activist blocks Shell Oil vessel from heading to Artic

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another thing that seems to be rapidly changing is the proliferation of Electric Cars in our neighborhood. This is good! The time has come! If you’re in Santa Cruz County, go see our local Chevy dealer, Chevrolet of Watsonville. They  gave us an incredible deal: No down payment, they made our first month’s lease payment for us, and they pay all vehicle maintenance. (Plus, there was that state cash rebate.) Check it out! You could be driving right past the gas station soon, and never ever have to stop and fill up again. No gas. No oil. Imagine! It’s a great feeling. Make the change!

 

 

 

 

 

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Wage Slave

“Ring the bell that you can ring
forget your perfect offering
there is a crack in everything
that’s how the light gets in”
–    Anthem by Leonard Cohen

I worked on writing my story every day for three years, from 2010 to 2013. Then, last Fall, I took a full time teaching job with a “virtual academy”. This year has been agony. I feel like I gave birth and then left my infant in a trash can in some back alley to go make money whoring myself. I was a slave in my own kitchen this year, chained to the laptop at the kitchen table, where I was required to spend many hours a day (sometimes from 7 am to 2 am) filling out redundant excel and google doc spreadsheets documenting my student contacts. Little of my time was actually spent in contact with students. This is the corporate version of “charter school” education, now being funded by public educational monies. All the while I worked at those spreadsheets, I felt like my soul was bleeding out of my body. Maya Angelou wrote, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” I am sick inside my skin. Itching under my flesh to hold my book in my hands, to feel others read it, and love it. I need to see my novel alive, breathing and walking on its own, out in the world.

My teaching contract ended June 13th, and I did not seek to renew it. I feel both relief and anxiety. I think without the money I earned (less than a beginning teacher’s salary), I’d be floundering financially at this point. So, without it, going forward? Will I be able to live with less, live more simply, learning to thrive in the evolving non-growth economy, the transitional economy – with more time to freely explore my creativity, my passions, my life, but less money to finance my existence, and the bringing forth of my novel?

“Nothing is harder than being a true novelist unless that is all one wants to be. In which case, although being a true novelist is hard, everything else is harder.”  John Gartner

 

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