Posted by Fran Korotzer - December 31, 2009 | News

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — On December 27, the first anniversary of Israel’s brutal attack on Gaza that left 1,400 dead (mostly civilians), thousands wounded, and hundreds of thousands homeless, 2,000 people met in New York’s Times Square. The throng marched through streets filled with New Yorkers and tourists in holiday mode, passed crowded Rockefeller Center, and ended at the Israeli Consulate at 42nd Street and 2nd Avenue. Participants represented all ages and all racial and ethnic groups. The march was timed to coincide with marches in solidarity with the people of Gaza that are taking place all over the world.

As the marchers moved through the streets they carried signs and Palestinian flags and chanted, “Israel, Israel, you can’t hide. We charge you with genocide.” Or, “Gaza, Gaza, don’t you cry. Palestine will never die.” Many wore buttons supporting the Palestinian liberation struggle. One woman had “Resistance is not Terrorism” printed on the back of her jacket.

A large group of orthodox Jews who oppose the Israeli state marched too. Seeing them, some Jewish people in the streets cursed them and spit at them. They appeared to take it in stride.

Click HERE To See A Video From The March

At one point a call came in from Kevin Ovington, one of the leaders of the Viva Palestina convoy which was in Jordan with 500 people from 17 countries, and 250 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza. Egypt was not allowing them to pass through to Gaza so a hunger strike had begun. He said that they were “determined to enter Gaza and break the siege.” He said, “One day we will all be together in a free Palestine.” The marchers were asked to call the Egyptian Embassy and urge them to allow the Freedom Marchers and humanitarian aid to pass into Gaza.

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The Gaza Freedom March, expected to take place in Gaza on January 1, is bringing over 1,400 people from all over the world together to demand that Israel end the blockade of Gaza that is stopping building supplies — needed to rebuild the homes, schools, and hospitals destroyed by ‘Operation Cast Lead’ — food, medicine, school supplies, and fuel from reaching the people there. Without fuel they cannot run their water system. Gazan babies are being born blue because of the nitrates in their water which is coming from raw sewage. Health specialists have stated that 95 percent of the water is unfit for human consumption. A variety of observers regard the Israeli siege of Gaza as an act of genocide. Outside the Israeli Consulate in New York, the marchers demanded an end to the blockade which protesters argue is a violation of international law.

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

View Photos/Videos From The Event…

Posted by Special To NLN - December 23, 2009 | News

Santa leaves a note for Rep. McMahon
(Photo: Devra Morice / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. (North Pole News) — On Monday evening, Santa and Mrs. Claus hooked up with anti-war activists from Peace Action Staten Island and Movement for a Democratic Society, SI — for a visit to Congressman Mike McMahon’s Office.

On December 21, the Winter Solstice, anti-war activists were joined by Santa and Mrs. Claus. The group visited the New Dorp Lane office of Representative Mike McMahon (D, NY-13). While there, the activists asked that Santa re-consider giving any holiday gifts to the congressman.

See Santa here:

The activists said that Mr. McMahon has behaved very badly this year.

“He [ McMahon ] voted to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, once again, not only against his constituents’ wishes, but to aid and abet the further destruction of two countries that were invaded illegally and against the will of the people, and to bring further harm to American troops who are exhausted from carrying on nine long years of wars,” a spokesman said.

Apparently Santa agreed with the activists — he decided to venture from the North Pole early just to give the congressman a lump of coal, and to let Rep. McMahon know that his actions had placed him on the Christmas “no gift” list. Santa and Mrs. Claus joined the activists in singing anti-war holiday songs, such as “Oh, Congressman; Oh, Congressman, stop the wars today!”

Santa and Mrs. Claus caroling outside McMahon’s office
(Photo: Devra Morice / NLN)

Tired from the long drive and dealing with holiday traffic, Santa said that his reindeers were parked in a local garage — and would be sufficiently rested for their annual trek, come Thursday evening.

See caroling here:

Onlookers smiled, honked their car horns, and largely agreed with the “gift” of coal.

Mrs. Claus made a public statement: “Although we have so much work to do in getting presents around the world to the children, Santa and I felt compelled to make sure that Congressman McMahon realizes that he has done the wrong thing by those children. Only death and destruction can come of war funding.”

Santa and Mrs. Claus decided to remain on Staten Island since it is so important to end these wars and occupations.

(Photo: Devra Morice / NLN)

They, along with local anti-war activists, will appear AGAIN on Wednesday evening, December 23rd, the night before Christmas Eve, on the corner of Richmond Avenue and Arthur Kill Road. Stop by to speak to the Clauses and hear their demands for peace on:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Corner of Arthur Kill Road and Richmond Avenue, Staten Island
6:00 PM to 7:00 PM

Posted by Fran Korotzer - December 22, 2009 | News

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — On the very cold evening of December 18th, Times Square was the scene of a send-off rally for the New Yorkers participating in the Gaza Freedom March. The event will take place in Gaza on the first anniversary of the brutal Israeli attack (the subject of the Goldstone Report) that killed over 1,400 people, mostly civilians, almost 400 being children.

About 100+ people were at the rally. Many people on the crowded streets approached the group to find out why they were there and to discuss the issue. The comments appeared to be mostly positive. When the NEW YORK TO GAZA banner was unfurled and the bells and chimes were rung, tourists and locals took photographs of the group.

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Rally participants stayed there for about an hour, holding the banner and signs, and chanting, “Free, free Palestine” and, “From the River, to the Sea – Palestine will be Free”.

When the rally ended a small group decided to walk through the crowded, holiday-festive streets, with the signs and chanting. They went through Rockefeller Center (where the police told them they had to stay on the streets) and then up posh 5th Avenue to the Plaza Hotel, where an Israeli flag flies over the entrance. Sadly, several people looking at the “Free Gaza” signs asked, “Who is Gaza?” or, “What did she do?” One person said that she knew all about Gaza and didn’t want to hear anything more about it.

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The events that evening put the horrific living conditions of our fellow human beings in Gaza, hopefully, back into people’s minds. It was also an opportunity to explain what is happening there and why.

1,300 people have registered to go on the Gaza Freedom March. Others are just going, without registering. They are planning to enter through Egypt. Once there they will march through Gaza with 50,000 to 100,000 citizens of Gaza. Israeli peace and justice groups will try to connect with them along the way. It is hoped that the march and the publicity in generates around the world, will put enough pressure on Israel to force them to lift the 3 year genocidal siege and allow food, medicine, building supplies, and fuel into Gaza where people are homeless (thanks to ‘Operation Cast Lead’ which destroyed their homes), freezing, and starving.

View Photos From The Event…

Posted by Fran Korotzer - December 21, 2009 | News

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — The week of December 6th, all around the country, was a week of activism for serious health care reform. In New York City there were 3 substantial actions: held a rally in the heart of Times Square the evening of December 8th, Mobilization for Health Care for All had a demonstration and sit-in at Senator Charles Schumer’s office on December 10th, and Private Health Care Must Go had a demonstration at Grand Central Station on December 11th. emphasized the extreme cost of delaying meaningful reform – the 45,000 Americans who die each year from lack of health insurance and the 2,457 Americans EACH DAY who are forced into bankruptcy by medical costs (the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S.). Health Care reform with a strong public option would help cut costs and expand access to health care for millions.

The rally attracted people in the theater district who were either there to see a play, dine, or to shop and many tourists.

On the morning of December 10th about 50 people, organized by Mobilization for Health Care for All, gathered outside the office of Senator Schumer. This was one of 20 actions at senators offices in 16 states and Washington, D.C. Organizers said that the sit-ins and demonstrations would spotlight the “complete inadequacy” of both bills being considered by Congress.

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

December 10th is Human Rights Day, the 61st anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the demonstrators outside Schumer’s office made the point that health care is a human right.

For about 30 minutes people walked up and down the block chanting, “Medicare for All” and carrying signs. There was a heavy police presence. At a certain point the picketing stopped and some of those planning to sit-in told their stories. Bev Rice, a retired nurse said, “Throughout my career I’ve seen so many people suffer and die prematurely because insurance companies denied the care they needed. I have Medicare and it works.”

“I want a publicly funded health care system because my life should not be in the hands of insurance CEOs who profit from denying me care,” said Kate Barnhart. Her doctor ordered a brain scan for her in September but her insurance company has not approved it. “I have been paying $900 a month for my premium…last week my insurance company terminated my policy. Does my senator think this is O.K.?”

Dr. Laura Boylan, a neurologist, said, “It’s very simple: you take out the private middleman and what do you get? $400 billion worth of profits, CEO salaries, stock options, and administrative waste.”

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Then 8 people linked arms, chanted “Medicare for All”, and stood in front of the doors to the building where Schumer has his office. The crowd chanted with them. After a few minutes they sat down, arms still linked. The police gave a warning and started making arrests. All those being arrested walked to the police vans. There was no resistance of any kind, either from those being arrested or from the crowd. Despite that, an officer was roughly shoving people that she perceived to be in the way. After the vans were loaded the officer was seen arresting a very senior demonstrator who had not participated in the sit-in. When I asked why I was told, by a demonstrator, that the officer alleged that the woman pushed her. The woman explained that she was trying to pass behind the officer and apologized profusely. The elderly woman was handcuffed and placed in the police van. The arrest appeared unnecessary and vindictive to the observers.

Andy Richards of the Coalition of the Uninsured and Underinsured for Single-Payer said, “While Obama was courting my vote he said…health care is a right. Does it sound like a right to you when people go without health care or pay so much for it that they go bankrupt? My senators need to do the right thing: stop accepting BRIBES from insurance companies and pass single-payer amendments in the Senate.”

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a single-payer amendment to the Senate leadership’s health bill that would replace the existing bill’s language with an improved Medicare-For- All plan. He also announced plans to introduce another measure that would permit individual states to experiment with their own single-payer programs.

Mobilization for Health Care for All said that they will urge support for Senator Sanders amendment. It is the only solution to the health care crisis in America. “We are not going to give up and accept the inadequate bills considered in Congress.”

The same day the arrests took place outside Schumer’s office, Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton, wrote in his blog:

“The public option is dead, killed by a handful of senators from small states who are mostly bought off by Big Insurance or Big Pharma, or intimidated by these industries’ deep pockets and power to run political ads against them.”

View Photos From The Event…

Posted by Fran Korotzer - | News

(Photo: Ed Hedemann / WRL)

“The largest spending bill in history is going to turn out to be the war in Iraq….I don’t understand why…building a road, building a school, helping somebody get health care, that’s wasteful spending, but that war in Iraq… is going to cost us over $1 trillion before we’re through….” — Congressman Barney Frank, This Week, ABC, 2/1/09

NEW YORK — On December 10th, as Obama was receiving his Nobel Peace Prize, the War Resisters League, with support from Veterans for Peace, World Can’t Wait, and CodePink, organized a mournful, slow walk, single file, across Manhattan from 1st Avenue and 47th Street, west on 42nd Street, to the Recruiting Station at Times Square. About 40 people carrying signs that read, “No Peace Prizes to War President” and “War Is Peace” with George Orwell’s name crossed out and Nobel Committee in it’s stead. Four coffins were carried, one draped with an American flag. Some wore photos of wounded Afghan civilians. The Veterans for Peace led with their flags showing a peace dove, flying in the breeze. All the while a drummer slowly beat a drum. Some handed out leaflets explaining why the procession was taking this walk.

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Motorcycle police accompanied the procession, stopping traffic at each corner. All along the was people in the streets stopped to take photographs.

When the group arrived at Times Square the 4 coffins were placed on the ground in front of the Recruiting Station while everyone stood in silence for a few moments around the coffins.

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The statement the War Resisters League made regarding this event said that they were in opposition to the war because it is killing Afghan civilians, it is not “working” to end terrorism, it is killing U.S. military personnel, and it is expensive. The Leaflet being handed out said:

“Today we march with coffins and the faces of Afghan victims of war as a reminder of the human costs of war and to protest the giving a ‘peace’ prize to a commander-in-chief who is brazenly escalating war. We stand in solidarity with people around the world who are protesting this award. We march because we believe that war is never the answer, that it is a failure of the imagination, something to be mourned and resisted instead of celebrated and extolled.”

View Photos From The Event…

Posted by Next Left Notes - December 20, 2009 | News

NWU president Larry Goldbetter stands with NLN editor Tom Good
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — December 21, 2009. On Saturday, National Writers Union President Larry Goldbetter issued a statement defending union writer, and NLN editor, Thomas Good who had recently been on the receiving end of what Goldbetter described as “an unprincipled attack” by Staten Island GOP boss John Friscia.


Goldbetter’s statement was only the most recent salvo fired by two sides that have squared off over the issue of Good receiving a Congressional certificate from Congressman Mike McMahon (D, NY-13) this past October. Honored by Peace Action for his work as a photojournalist, Good, along with three other honorees, received a certificate from McMahon’s office for “community service.” The Tea Party and the Staten Island GOP leadership attacked McMahon for issuing the certificate, prompting a response from Peace Action’s Sally Jones and subsequently a statement from Goldbetter.

Ironically, neither Peace Action, Goldbetter or Good support McMahon’s political positions. In his acceptance speech, at a Peace Action dinner, Good said that “I hope that it’s okay that I didn’t vote for this guy.” For their part, Peace Action will be holding a protest at McMahon’s office tomorrow — objecting to his support of the escalation of the Afghanistan War — and Goldbetter is annoyed that McMahon voted against health care reform.


On December 11 of this year, Staten Island Republican Party Chair Friscia, a personal injury lawyer whose firm has as its motto, “Representing the people, not the powerful,” issued a press statement condemning McMahon for giving an award to Good. Friscia’s ostensible objection to McMahon’s office issuing the award was that Good is a “radical” who helped the new SDS in 2006. Friscia appeared to be repeating charges levelled at Good by Staten Island realtor Frank Santarpia who earlier had written a letter to the editor of the Staten Island Advance. In the letter, Santarpia identified himself as an “organizer” with the Tea Party, an ultra-right group that claims to be “non-partisan” despite the fact that they regard President Barack Obama as a “socialist” who is responsible for their members being “crushed under the boot-heels of radicals.” Santarpia’s website argues that Obama’s administration is “making capitalism a dirty word.” “They and their minions work day and night” towards this end, Santarpia said.

The Staten Island Advance reported that Friscia, like Santarpia before him, had come to the conclusion that McMahon’s giving a certificate to a radical was evidence of “Mike McMahon’s liberal agenda despite his conservative press releases.”

According to the Advance, “McMahon spokeswoman Lauren Amendolara called Friscia’s statement ‘inane.'”


Peace Action responded to Friscia by issuing a press statement, “correcting” the GOP party boss. The statement said that:

Peace Action of Staten Island wishes to correct Staten Island Republican Chair John Friscia’s public statement criticizing Congressman Michael McMahon’s office for issuing a community service certificate to Peace Action honoree photojournalist Thomas Good.

Peace Action of Staten Island feels this honor was well-deserved. Mr. Good has given countless hours to record and document many Staten Island events on the online news website Next Left Notes (, including rallies and forums for health care reform, marriage equality, living wage jobs, and for bringing the troops home from eight long years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Staten Island Advance has benefited from Mr. Good’s work to cover events that they do not have the resources to cover. Whether or not Mr. Friscia believes in the position of the hundreds of Staten Islanders who have participated in these events, as someone who believes in the free press, he would have to agree that the coverage of these events is a community service.

Mr. Friscia’s statement condemns Mr. Good for his support of the “radical” Students for a Democratic Society, which is a network of multi-issue student groups around the country grounded in the principle of participatory democracy that was revived in 2006. The new SDS members consider themselves “radical” because they want to change society to end oppression, create a sustainable economy, and end wars of aggression.

Peace Action of Staten Island stands for the “radical” ideas of ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as soon as possible and negotiating now for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Many Staten Islanders have come around to believing in these “radical” ideas, too. We want to thank Congressman Michael McMahon for the certificate his office gave to photojournalist Thomas Good in recognition of his documenting these efforts.


On Saturday, Larry Goldbetter, President of the NWU — Local 1981 of the United Auto Workers – issued a statement expressing his support of Good:

I want to congratulate photojournalist Thomas Good on receiving his certificate of recognition from Congressman Mike McMahon. I am proud to count Tom among the more than 1,400 members of the National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981, the only union for freelance writers of all genres. Tom has spent thousands of hours and covered countless struggles of working people and in the service of progressive causes. Frankly, the Congressman could learn a thing or two from him, especially in relation to the current struggle for healthcare. Congressman McMahon was the ONLY Democratic Congressman from New York City to vote against the health care bill.

As for the unprincipled attack by Staten Island GOP boss John Friscia, a trivial job if ever there was one, Tom should consider that yet another award, a badge of honor. As a former member of SDS myself, I consider the years spent actively opposing the genocidal war in Vietnam, opposing racism and building a worker-student alliance as having set the course of my life on the side of working people. There’s an old union song called, “Which Side Are You On.” We know the answer with both Tom and Friscia. And I’m standing with Tom Good.

Heth Weinstein of Heth and Jed, performing at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — One of the great things about New York City is the ubiquitous street music. In recent years a number of musicians have moved beneath the street — and have come to specialize in doing public performances on subway platforms. “Jambient” musical brothers Heth and Jed Weinstein, on guitar and bass, respectively, are members of this tradition. Their website indicates that they enjoy interacting with the public in this kind of setting — it’s exposure and they bring a smile to people who may not be entirely enthused about the MTA’s latest fare hike or service cut. On Sunday, December 13, the brothers set up shop in the Ferry Terminal in St. George, Staten Island. If you like the idea of brothers playing music, if you like the pop sensibilities — underscored by good singing and playing — of folk rockers America, if you like the spacy, prog rock feel of Syd Barrett, odds are you’ll like Heth and Jed. Their hooks are every bit as catchy as America’s best material — and their approach as fresh and quirky as early Pink Floyd. En route to cover a story I happened on to their performance and hastily powered up a small, handheld videocam. The unplanned shoot may not win any prizes for production values — I didn’t have a tripod handy — but the music makes it all okay. To see the video click HERE. You can also check out the band on Facebook.

View A Video Clip of Heth and Jed Live At The Ferry Terminal

Posted by Fran Korotzer - | News

Protesters caroling at Leviev’s
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — Early in the morning on December 4th, about 25 anti-occupation, anti Israeli-apartheid activists, organized by Adalah-NY, presented a noisy surprise to the members of the Israeli Business Leaders Delegation having breakfast at a reception for them at the Leviev jewelry store on Madison Avenue in N.Y.C. Astonished, disturbed faces appeared at the window above the Leviev store. The demonstrators chanted and sang parodies of holiday songs that were critical of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinian people in general, and of Lev Leviev in particular. They used their voices, a guitar, a banjo, and a pot being banged with a spoon, while others handed out leaflets.

I Made a Little Settlement
(to the tune of "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel")
Apartments for Jews only-
Discrimination, sure!   
He thinks Palestine's the problem
and Apartheid is the cure!
Oh, boycott, boycott, boycott
Don't buy Leviev today.
Funds crime with all that profit.
Who needs diamonds anyway?

Several Israelis left the reception to come down and address the demonstrators. One said that Israel was going to pull out of the West Bank and leave all that good housing to the Palestinians. Another brought his camera and solemnly photographed the demonstrators.

At one point the police were called. Two officers went into the store for a few minutes and then came out and left. A police van drove up and remained outside the store. When a member of the delegation came out and became argumentive with the demonstrators, one of the police officers stepped between him and the demonstrators and urged him to disengage.

At about 11 AM the reception ended and the guests began to leave. As they filed out some made flippant gestures, some tried to defend Israel’s dismal human rights record, and others gave hostile glances, but most avoided eye contact. One of those in the group was TV personality, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, who seemed to be trying to avoid notice. Another woman glanced at the demonstrators and found herself looking into the face of a friend. The person protesting said, “What are you doing here?” and the friend replied, “You know I’m against the occupation and settlements.” The other answered, “But this man [Leviev] is the settlements and the occupation!”

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Ethan Heitner from Adalah-NY explained, “By holding this breakfast at Leviev, the Israeli Business Leaders Delegation and the American-Israel Friendship League have endorsed Israeli settlements. People should not be attending lavish breakfasts hosted by Leviev when his settlements are cutting off Palestinian villages from their farmland and impoverishing them, and Palestinian activists like Mohammed Othman from Jayyous are being imprisoned for protesting against them.”

According to a press release issued by Adalah-NY, “The breakfast at Leviev’s store came at the end of a 3 day N.Y. program for the delegation, organized by the America-Israel Friendship League that featured business and government VIPs from Israel and the U.S., including guest speakers like AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, Loews president James Tish, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, and Israeli Government Ministers Gideon Sa’as and Uzi Landau.

In addition to Leviev, other Israeli companies featured in the delegation are deeply involved in Israel’s apartheid policies. Michael Federmann, Chairman of the Board of Elbeit Systems Ltd. spoke in the’Homeland Security Roundtable, ‘ though the Norwegian government divested from Elbit due to its provision of surveillance equipment for Israel’s wall that cuts through the West Bank…. Another speaker was Moshe Gaon, Chairman of the Board of B. Gaon Holdings, owner of Ahava, the Israeli cosmetics company that has been the subject of a successful worldwide boycott campaign, organized by CodePink, over Ahava’s exploitation of Dead Sea minerals from the Occupied West Bank, in violation of international law.

Alexis Stern from Adalah-NY explained, ‘the visit of this Israeli business delegation to the U.S. was shameful because there should be no business as usual with Apartheid Israel. Many Israeli companies are directly or indirectly involved in supporting Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people. They should be boycotted, not celebrated.’ ”

View Photos/Videos From The Event…

Posted by Fran Korotzer - | News

The Grannies performing in Times Square
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — On December 4th the Ragging Grannies and the Granny Peace Brigade created a wonderful holiday peace event at the crossroads of the world, Times Square. The purpose was to send the message, no more war toys and no more war. They met near the Recruiting Station where 2 NYPD officers, polite but not particularly interested in the first amendment, told them that they had to move on. Debate was futile. So, they moved to the huge Broadway Toys’R’Us where several Grannies had entered minutes earlier, got on the 3 story high Ferris Wheel in the store, and unfurled large yellow banners that read “No More War Toys – No More War”. The other Grannies and a few Grandpas stood in a central area and sang peace versions of traditional Christmas songs. By then the number of demonstrators had grown to about 25 people – many were wearing peace signs. Shoppers stopped to photograph the happening.

Civil rights attorney Norm Siegel talks to one of the Grannies
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

After about 10 minutes the Ferris Wheel was stopped and the Grannies were asked to get off while 3 very respectful and courteous young men were dispatched to ask the demonstrators to either stay and shop without their signs or sing outside the store – as long as entrances were not blocked. And that is what they did.

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The weather outside was sunny and mild. Since that area of Broadway was turned into a pedestrian mall last spring, the area in front of the store was full of strolling tourists and people just sitting and relaxing. Educational leaflets were distributed urging people not to buy war toys (many being extremely violent) and military infused clothing (like camouflage prints) for their children. At the same time the Grannies sang their songs, for example:

Rudolph’s Dream (Tune: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Words by Corinne Willinger)

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer
Had a very shiny nose.
Children thought he looked crazy
Because they said that his nose glows.
Rudolph was playing Star Wars
Shooting at strange warrior drones,
He fell and hurt that bright nose
War games made him accident prone.
Then one sunny Christmas day
Santa came to town.
He said war toys can instill
The idea it's OK to kill.
Santa said that we need practice
In having fun without a fight.
Learn to solve all your problems
By talking about what is right.

People stopped to listen, took pictures, and applauded. The response was extremely positive. It really seemed that people’s hearts and minds welcomed the peace message in the season of peace.

Click to see a Video of the Grannies at Toys R Us

View Photos/Videos From The Event…

Posted by TAG - December 12, 2009 | News

Human Rights Commissioner Galen Kirkland
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — When asked what he thought of western civilization, Mohatma Gandhi famously quipped, “I think it would be a good idea.” New York State Human Rights Commissioner Galen Kirkland agrees.

On Wednesday, December 9, The Staten Island Advance sponsored the Sixth Annual Anti-Bias Summit. The summit was co-sponsored by a number of community groups, including the NAACP and the Staten Island Clergy Leadership. Project Hospitality organized the event, which took place at the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center, a mosque on Staten Island’s North Shore.

Imam Tahir Kukiai opened the proceedings, offering a prayer for blessings on those who had, “[..] Gathered to implement one of God’s teachings: justice, mercy and peace amongst his creatures.”

The NAACP’s Ed Josey, President of the Staten Island Branch, told the crowd, “We need to create a community that cares proactively — not just communities that respond when things go bad.”

After recognizing the representatives of local elected officials — Bill Tate from Rep. McMahon’s office, Tom Aiello from Governor Paterson’s office, Chris Bowers from Assemblyman Matt Titone’s office, Angelo Thornton from Council Member James Oddo’s office and Chris Johnson from Council Member-elect Debi Rose’s office — Josey introduced attorney Galen Kirkland, the keynote speaker.

Ed Josey of the NAACP
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

In May of 2008, Galen Kirkland was appointed by Governor David Paterson to the post of Commissioner of the Division of Human Rights. At the time, Kirkland was working as the Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Bureau at the New York State Office of the Attorney General. Prior to working at the OAG, Kirkland was the Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York, overseeing educational advocacy programs in the New York City public school system. From 1989 to 1990 Mr. Kirkland was the Executive Director of the New York City Civil Rights Coalition, a coalition of civil rights, religious, and community organizations. In this capacity, Kirkland responded to bias-related violence and organized multiracial coalitions in various neighborhoods to prevent violence.

Kirkland is charismatic, articulate and possessed of unflinching resolve. Taking the podium, he immediately set the tone of his remarks by noting that the subtitle of the event — “from tolerance to trust” — should be changed to “from acceptance to trust.” Kirkland told the sympathetic crowd that, “Tolerance is still a very negative frame of mind, it’s a closed heart.”

Kirkland looks and sounds the part of the civil rights old-fighter. He grew up in Harlem, raised by a single mother. His mother, who will be 92 in February, instilled in him a passion to be a part of the fight for social justice. Coming of age in the Sixties, Kirkland heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speak and came away inspired. Seeing civil rights activists beaten and sprayed with water cannons, Kirkland felt confused. Struggling to understand why southern whites hated African-Americans, young Kirkland read whatever he could get his hands on.

Galen Kirkland
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

“I read a book by a woman, a Polish woman, who had survived the Holocaust in Europe and her account of the absolute absence of compassion in the Nazis and their total cruelty was horrifying. But what it did was to help me as a child understand that the same mass insanity that was empowering Europe at the time was what was operative here in the United States and it helped me understand what was going on. Once I understood that I realized that I wanted to become a lawyer and fight for social justice,” Kirkland said.

In the 1986 Howard Beach incident, a mob of whites attacked four young black men. The mob chased a badly beaten Michael Griffith onto a highway where he was struck by a car and killed. Reflecting on the incident, Kirkland came to the conclusion that silence in the face of bigotry produced a “degradation of our humanity” — people of conscience must act. But how?

“The basic question that confronts us is how we overcome the most repressive, violent, bigoted instincts that some people have,” he said.

The answer to Kirkland’s question resides in a sense of community.

Noticing that many people are willing to stand up for decency and justice “as long as they have somebody to lock hands with,” Kirkland said that “Organizing to overcome the ignorance of people who don’t want to accept others who are different from them requires really hard organizing: person to person, in small groups, on a sustained basis, innovative thinking and dedication.”

But it requires something else that Kirkland said he was never taught in law school.

“There also has to be love in your heart,” he said.

“And here we are, in the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center, meeting while the United States is at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. At a time when many people feel as if they’re free to vent aggression and hatred towards Muslims because of the fact that radical jihadists have attempted to sieze the mantle of Islam. But the fact of the matter is, we are all under a responsibility to defend the rights of Muslims in this country, in this city, in this state,” Kirkland said.

“If we don’t defend our Muslim brothers and sisters we are all diminished because our human rights are interdependent,” he added.

Recalling the Buddhist concept of interbeing — and Martin Luther King, Jr’s “beloved community,” Kirkland appealed to the young people in the mosque to pick up the mantle of nonviolent activism in the name of peace and social justice.

As someone who practices what he preaches, Kirkland invited a former Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee field secretary to address the NY State Division of Human Rights. Shortly after he was appointed to his current post at the Division, Kirkland asked Bob Moses, who worked in Mississippi in 1964 — during the Freedom Summer voter registration drive — to visit New York. Moses, one of SNCC’s most influential organizers back in the day, told the Division’s staff that “The civil rights movement [ of the Sixties ] stopped short.” Moses argued that the movement failed to address the issue of education. Moses said that today, African-Americans receive a “sharecropper education” — and he called for a second civil rights movement. According to Kirkland, Moses electrified the Human Rights Division staffers. He was so impressive that the Division asked him back a second time. And he came.

A recipient of the War Resisters League Peace award in 1997, Bob — now “Robert P.” — Moses teaches trigonometry at Lanier High School in Jackson, Mississippi and is working to pass a constitutional amendment that states that “every child in this country is a child of this country and is entitled to a quality public school education.”

Inspired by Moses and other Sixties-era activists, Kirkland continues to work diligently for civil rights and social justice. And he urges others to do the same. Kirkland told the crowd at the mosque that to organize a community to respect human rights, “You reach out to the good people and you never stop reaching out. And you never stop meeting. And you never stop discussing. You keep fighting, day after day after day.”

Although he was heartened by the number of young people who attended the summit, Kirkland realizes that full enfranchisement of all who live in the U.S. is a long way off.

“Some people say we’re civilized. I say, we’ve made a lot of progress but we’re not there yet,” he said.

View Kirkland’s Speech In Its Entirety
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

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