Stories from Quick Reads and U.S.A.
The reclaiming of history as an ally of marginalized groups is key to their very survival. This is especially true in a colonial context such as Puerto Rico, where history has been and continues to be used as a means to justify inequalities and deny visibility.
In the spirit of doing justice to the men and women who have contributed greatly to Puerto Rico, and yet have been sidelined by years of official history, the digital magazine La Respuesta, which focuses primarily on the Puerto Rican diaspora in the United States, recently published a short post titled 10 Afro-Puerto Ricans Everyone Should Know, which briefly highlights the legacy of people such as pro-independence leader Pedro Albizu Campos, literary critic and lawyer Nilita Vientós Gastón, and intellectual leader Arturo Schomburg.
The application RhinoBirdTV, developed by the Chilean Felipe Heusser, who founded the NGO Ciudadano Inteligente, allows users to share video experiences in real time. The makers of RhinoBirdTV hope their product will help facilitate a more democratic world by breaking down boundaries and connecting people through simple-to-distribute live videos.
RhinoBirdTV chose to launch its Android version on April 20, the day of the 119th annual Boston Marathon, allowing users to broadcast and receive live videos from the event, following the hashtag #bostonmarathon.
On Twitter, people welcomed RhinoBirdTV with enthusiasm and high expectations:
— Matias del Rio (@matiasdelrio) April 20, 2015
Far from the Marathon is a marvel made in Chile the USA.
— Rhinobird.TV (@RhinoBirdTv) April 20, 2015
Los Chilenos en Boston son unos capos. Aguantando el frío y la lluvia para apoyar @RhinoBirdTv Emocionante.
— felipe heusser (@fheusser) April 20, 2015
Chileans in Boston are bosses. Enduring the cold and rain to support.
Scholars, writers, journalists and researchers write an open letter to 60 Minutes producer about the misrepresentation of Africa by the Tv program:
Dear Jeff Fager, Executive Producer of CBS 60 Minutes,
We, the undersigned, are writing to express our grave concern about the frequent and recurring misrepresentation of the African continent by 60 Minutes.
In a series of recent segments from the continent, 60 Minutes has managed, quite extraordinarily, to render people of black African ancestry voiceless and all but invisible.
Two of these segments were remarkably similar in their basic subject matter, featuring white people who have made it their mission to rescue African wildlife. In one case these were lions, and in another, apes. People of black African descent make no substantial appearance in either of these reports, and no sense whatsoever is given of the countries visited, South Africa and Gabon.
The third notable recent segment was a visit by your correspondent Lara Logan to Liberia to cover the Ebola epidemic in that country. In that broadcast, Africans were reduced to the role of silent victims. They constituted what might be called a scenery of misery: people whose thoughts, experiences and actions were treated as if totally without interest. Liberians were shown within easy speaking range of Logan, including some Liberians whom she spoke about, and yet not a single Liberian was quoted in any capacity.
An original post published on January 29, 2014, on the US Department of Agriculture blog was republished in several websites about Native Americans. It refers to analysis and protection of historical findings at holy grounds of the Lacota tribe and the efforts of Department of Agriculture to cooperate with local leaders and learn from them, in order these very important findings to be listed and preserved effectively.
Our curiosity was palpable in our expressions, we visitors to this South Dakota field, as we pondered the patterns produced by the tops of rocks pressed into grass and soil, patterns tantalizingly organized and purposeful: shapes of things that have been. What stories were held in this small corner of the Black Hills National Forest?
Forest Service staff were guided and educated by Arvol Looking Horse and Tim Mentz, among others:
Many years ago, when he was only 12, Looking Horse had been given the enormous responsibility of being the 19th generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe. He is a spiritual leader for the Lakota Dakota Na-kota Oyate, the great Sioux Nation. Mentz is a cultural resource expert with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. He was their first Tribal historic preservation officer and continues to be an amazing source of information about cultural sites for his Tribe.
Esta Vida Boricua [This Boricua Life] is a digital storytelling project which explores the past and present of Puerto Rico through the collection of experiences of people from all walks of life and all ages. At its most basic level, it is “a place to share stories,” as explained in their “About” section. Elaborating on that thought, they write:
Thus, the stories herein are a journey. They offer splashes of color and texture, shades of shadow and light as well as fragments of shape and depth to the existing Puerto Rican mosaic. They unravel the stereotypes and biased images of Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican culture presented in the media and beyond. They speak of a generation of young people struggling under the uncertainty of colonialism —and a backlash from the slow cultural genocide that has taken place since US occupation after the Spanish-American War and the advent of modernism.
The content, which can take the form of writing (in either Spanish or English), video or audio recordings, is entirely produced by volunteers, most of whom are students from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, on the western coast of the main island. Poets, musicians and writers are also welcome to contribute original content.
NEW ZEALAND Prime Minister John Key has been accused of allowing the secret installation of equipment that would enable spooks to tap into New Zealand’s undersea fibre optic cable as part of a covert mass surveillance system of citizens.
This was the word from globally acclaimed whistleblower Edward Snowden and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (both speaking via video link), Kim Dotcom and US Pulitzer prize-winner Glenn Greenwald last night at a packed meeting of more than 2000 people in Auckland.
What better than the seventh art to mobilize? In another effort to push for Elections in Lebanon and prevent an extension of the Parliamentary term #NoToExtension, Lebanese NGO Nahwa Al Muwatiniya (meaning Towards Citizenship) held an “Election Film Week”.
Six works from Chile, Iran, China, Ghana and the US, varying between documentaries and fiction are being screened between August 28 to September 2 at Cinema Metropolis (a theater promoting indie movies) in collaboration with the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE).
On the Facebook Page of the event, where the programme is listed, the organisers note:
We have been struggling with a fragile democracy in Lebanon, ever since its independence. Today, more than in the darkest days of the civil war, the foundations of our democracy are at risk. But we’re not alone in this. The world is full of stories about the human struggle for self-determination and democratic participation. Broadening our perspective serves our effort to improve the quality of the political system in Lebanon.
The films we picked share stories from different countries, all which portray the election process. Collectively, they reveal a combination of human values and ideals and the efforts politicians make to win an election.
To see a glimpse of the movies, check out the trailer posted on Nahwa Al Muwatiniya Youtube Page.
The current parliament extended its four-year stay for the first time in May 2013. And like a year before, various parties are supporting the move this time around under the pretext of security conditions.
The end of the parliamentary term comes amidst a period of turmoil in Lebanon. The country has lacked a president since May 25 after parliament failed to elect a new head of state and top officials could not reach political consensus. A general strike by syndicates demanding to approve a new enhanced wage scale for civil servants has threatened to paralyze the entire country. Lebanon has experience instability on both Syrian and Israeli borders after soldiers were kidnapped by members of Islamic militant organization ISIS.
Danstan Obara shows how Kenyans can lead a double life in the US:
The American double life starts by making sure that your social security card does not have the stamp that says “Valid for work only with INS authorization”. The things that people do to get rid of this stamp are amazing. I will not go into those details here.
The next step is to walk into an organization or business and apply for a job. You will have to pretend that you are an American, born and raised in America. This can be a very dumb thing to say sometimes because in many cases when you are fresh out of Kenya, it is difficult for anybody to miss the accent. Amazingly almost everybody I know has always gotten away with it. There is a law against racial and ethnic profiling in America so, employers would rather go with the information they are provided with and stick with what they can prove.
Individuals with visiting visas, who opt to extend there stay do not even get the social security cards. What this means is that they cannot legally work anywhere. The things they do are even more hilarious. It is a psychological fact that white people cannot easily differentiate black people. So people simply share identification documents. Imagine of a guy walking into an office to apply for a job with an identification card that has someone else’s photo on it. Once again, not even one person I know has ever been caught.
From Tegucigalpa, capital city of Honduras, Madame Gumbeaux tells she will return to live in the United States in a few weeks, and lists what she will miss… and other things she won't:
I will miss….
1. the guy on the motorbike who rides through the ‘hood twice a day, selling his mom's fresh tortillas. What could be better than hot-off-the-grill tortillas sold by a cute guy on a bike?
3. the sound of children everywhere. Honduras is a young country. Children playing ball, walking to and from school, calling out to one another is a constant in this place.
4. the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables on sale on street corners and parked trucks all over the city and countryside.
I WON'T miss…..
4. the loud music pouring out of every neighborhood, church, market, etc at any given hour, day or night. It may make Hondurans dance, but I get cranky when I am confronted with amplified music day and night.
5. the slooowwww service in almost every restaurant, supermarket, or store. No one, I mean no one, is in a hurry here. It's just so against my cultural upbringing.
Puerto Rico's most widely circulated newspaper, El Nuevo Día, published an editorial [es] in its Sunday edition on June 1, 2014 in which it questions the moral standard of the United States’ government to intercede in favor of political prisoners around the world while insisting on unjustly maintaining Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera [es] incarcerated:
Habría que preguntarse cuál es el empecinamiento de un gobierno, el de Estados Unidos, que presume de sus acciones en favor de los presos politicos del mundo entero -en Ucrania, con Yulia Timoshenko; en China, con el artista Ai Weiwei; en Venezuela, con el opositor Leopoldo López; en Cuba, con el exprisionero Guillermo Fariñas, y hasta en Rusia con el grupo feminista punk “Pussy Riot”, – pero que en su propia casa mantiene sepultado a un puertorriqueño que, de 1986 a 1998, sufrió uno de los regímenes carcelarios más crueles que existen, el de confinamiento en solitaria en la prisión de Marion, Illinois.
El gobierno de Estados Unidos está moralmente impedido de interceder por ningún preso político, en ningún lugar del mundo, mientras continúe el presidente burlándose de la memoria de [Nelson] Mandela y violando los derechos civiles, políticos y el derecho a la libertad de Oscar.
We should ask ourselves about the stubbornness of a government, that of the United States, which boasts of its actions in favor of political prisoners around the entire world – in Ukraine with Yulia Timoshenko, in China with artist Ai Weiwei, in Venezuela with political candidate Leopoldo López, in Cuba with former prisoner Guillermo Fariñas, and even in Russia with feminist punk group “Pussy Riot” – but keeps a Puerto Rican who suffered one of the cruelest prison regimes that ever existed, from 1986 to 1998 in solitary confinement in a prison in Marion, Illinois.
The government of the United States is morally unable to advocate for any political prisoner anywhere in the world while the President continues to mock the memory of [Nelson] Mandela and violates Oscar's right to freedom as well as his civil and political rights.
Osekre, the leader of New York based Afro-punk band Osekre and The Lucky Bastards, reveals the trials and tribulations of being an African musician in New York:
I wish I received a heads up by friends in the real world about the reality of being a musician in New York City. It is no joke! I had decided to pursue music full time, some time in 2010. I had just graduated from Columbia University, and I saw this as my time to break away from certain kinds of responsibilities, expectations and deadlines set by college, my family, my friends, and the burden of “being a migrant in Rome.” I just wanted to pause, to live, and breathe easier. The only thing on my agenda was to get my band, Osekre and The Lucky Bastards going once again.
At the time, I was inspired by an increased interest in African music in New York in general. Columbia alumni, Vampire Weekend, were heroes on campus, and had sparked debates in the world and indie music communities with their song “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” as they fused what they felt were soukous licks with indie sounds. The spirit of Fela Kuti’s work was being reinvigorated in the underground music spaces, where DJs and hip hop artists were finally spinning and sampling Afrobeat. K’naan was making waves with incredibly poignant stories through rap, wit and lyricism; introducing the world to the struggles of Somalis on his album Dusty foot Philosopher. Nneka had released her song “Kangpe”, which was all over EA Sports’ FIFA soccer games, and was about to debut on Letterman in New York. I had enough sources and stories to keep me motivated about the opportunities and possibilities for young African cats doing their music thing in NYC. What no one explained was exactly how much work that was going to involve and what it meant to start from the scratch, or scratch the start.
On March 29, Taiwanese celebrity Janet Lee, along with some other people, was brought to see AH-64E Apache helicopters, the latest model of Apache attack helicopters.
These Apache helicopters were delivered to Taiwan in 2013, as part of a $6.4 billion arms deal with the U.S. signed in 2008.
After Lee posted several photos of her posing with the helicopters on Facebook, the Republic of China Army was criticized for letting unauthorized people enter the off-limits zone, where sensitive technology information is stored.
The scandal has led to the sacking of 18 military officials as of April 11. Ten of them belong to the 601 Air Cavalry Brigade.
Netizens made fun of the incident by comparing Janet Lee with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. All of them have taken on armies single-handedly, but while the guys did that in the movies, Janet Lee crushed a real life brigade with her Facebook check-in.
Prominent investigative journalist Meri Jordanovska wrote a testimony about her experience on receiving evidence that she was one of allegedly twenty thousand individuals who have been subjected to state surveillance in Macedonia. In an op-ed on Balkan Insight, Jordanovska explains:
Each report on one of my wiretapped conversations was true: the date, the story I was working on and the sources I was getting briefed by. Everything was correct. I am not sure I will get another “diploma”. This folder was more than enough for me to clearly see what is happening in my country.I can clearly see that someone knew in advance what story I was working on. Enough for me to conclude that my sources of information were endangered. Enough for the centers of power to be able to react preventively before the story was published. Enough to become aware, even though I had always suspected this, that some people know the problems of those closest to me – people who had shared personal matters with me over the phone.
Jordanovska received a file containing surveillance of her communications during a press conference by the opposition party SDSM, at which representatives of the party also revealed that journalists had been wiretapped en masse in Macedonia. Besides publishing several conversation as proof, twenty journalists were given folders with CDs containing their own files, leaked by sources from within the Ministry of Interior. Her text is also available in Macedonian and has been republished by several independent portals in her home country, including Mojot grad.
SDSM leader Zoran Zaev claims that National Security Services illegally targeted over twenty thousand people with the surveillance, which involved illegally recording and storing phone conversations of these individuals over at least four years. His party has not yet published a list of all the alleged victims, nor a list of the wiretapped phone numbers. According to SDSM representatives, these included both citizens of Macedonia and foreigners using local telecom services, including several diplomats.
Follow our in-depth coverage: Macedonians Demand ‘a New Beginning’
President Barack Obama's announcement regarding migratory reform, introduced via executive action, generates, on one hand, relief within the Latino community. On the other hand, however, there are voices expressing discontent. Sonia Tejada explains that, although the measure grants undocumented migrants three-year working permits, that will benefiit five million people, it doesn't guarantees legalizing status nor citizneship. According to Tejada, the measure has created two types of undocumented migrants: those with conditions to be benefited and those who are still at the mercy of the immigration agency. To be benefited by the regulation:
[…] los inmigrantes deben haber residido en el país por cinco años, tener niños, sean ciudadanos estadounidenses o residentes legales, y, por supuesto, no haber delinquido.
[…] migrants should have been living in the country for five years, having children, be American citizens or legal residents and, of course, not having a criminal record.
Sonia also expresses her criticisms to Obama's speech, that she considers penalizes migration:
Obama habló incesantemente de que los EE. UU. es una nación de leyes, y de que los inmigrantes por haber cometido “el crimen” de entrar al país sin documentos ni autorización, deben expurgar su culpa.
Obama talked incessantly that U.S. is a nation of laws, and that migrants, having committed the “crime” of entering the country without documents nor authorization, must make amends.
The measure would be just an incomplete solution, as to be benefited by it, migrants will continue being undocumented, even though with a limited working permit now. Meanwhile, for six million undocumented migrants, uncertainty about their migratory status hasn't changed at all.
You can follow Sonia Tejada on Twitter
On September 5, the U.S. Department of Justice issued to the organization and Web hosting provider May First an inquiry about one of its members, Greece-based Center for Independent Media Athens, also known as Indymedia Athens. Founded in 2005, May First is a non-profit organization dedicated to provide cooperative Internet services, such as Web hosting to individuals and organizations. The data required by federal agents is specific information from the Indymedia Athens account, stored on May First servers.
In a statement, May First noted that the request could be interpreted as an attempt by the American government to help the Greek government. They also noted they won't provide the required information unless the Center for Independent Media Athens requests it — they assert that complying with this request is a violation of the right to privacy.
For now, lawyers with Electronic Frontier Foundation, who are representing May First, are in touch with the U.S. Attorney General. Upon publication of this piece, US officials had offered no explanation of their motives in requesting said data.
In an opinion piece for the American newspaper Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Global Voices contributor Jamie Stark wonders, “What kind of parent would pay $10,000 for a stranger to bring a child 1,400 miles through gangland and hostile border crossings? A good parent, perhaps.”
As a concerned citizen about the crisis of migrant children, Stark reflects:
What do we do with these kids? An important decision, to be certain, but one that overlooks the humanity, the story, of each child crossing our border.
When a parent from Central America hears the rumor that children are being allowed to stay in the U.S., it's not so hard to imagine spending life savings of $10,000 to $15,000 for a stranger to guide a son or daughter north.
These kids are not mere statistics. Many never wanted to be here in the first place.
Global Voices has published stories on this issue in the past:
– The Humanitarian Tragedy of Children Emigrating Alone
– An Open Letter to Salvadoran Migrant Children
– Trafficked Ecuadorian Children Pass Through Hell on the Way to the US
Eric Garner was a 44-year-old African-American man who died following an attempted arrest by the NY Police Department. On July 17, 2014, when police officers attempted to arrest Garner, he had broken up a fight. Garner who suffered from asthma was wrestled to the ground. Medical examiners concluded chokehold and chest compression as the primary causes of Garner's death and Garner's heart problems, obesity and asthma as additional factors. Here is a video of the accident [Warning: Graphic Images]
A few days later (28 August) in Roissy, France, Abdelhak Goradia, a 51 year old Algerian citizen also died inside a police van. The police was carrying Goradia to the airport to be deported back to Algeria when they initially affirmed that he died of a heart attack. Justice department corrected that assessment and stated that Goradia died from choking on his own gastric fluids. His lawyer stated that Goradia called him to say that he was taken away in handcuffs and a head gear. Goradia was previously charged with theft, petty crimes and violence.
Though gays and lesbians are gradually gaining more acceptance in Puerto Rico, the same cannot be said yet of transgender people. That is why a film like Mala Mala, a documentary in which trans people speak freely about their stories, is so important. The film, directed by Dan Sickles (@dan_sickles) and Antonio Santini, is on the official selection of the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.
One of the people interviewed for the film is Paxx Moll, a chef who is also a transgender female-to-male. In an article published in La Respuesta, a digital magazine about the Puerto Rican diaspora, he talks to E. J. Dávila about who he is, his experience being part of the documentary, and about the lack of social and medical spaces for trans people in Puerto Rico, particularly for transgender men.
This is the teaser trailer for Mala Mala, which will premier in Puerto Rico in the coming months:
China File invited economist William Adams and Political Economy Professor from Peking University, Zha Daojiong, to comment on the upcoming high-level bilateral diplomatic exchange known as the Strategic and Economic Dialogue between the U.S. and China.
Sean Jacobs writes about American author and poet Maya Angelou, who died at age 86 yesterday May 28, 2014:
In 1961, Maya Angelou, already a civil rights worker, and her then partner Vusumzi Make, an exiled activist from South Africa (he was a leading Pan Africanist Congress member), moved to Cairo, Egypt, where she found work at a small radical newspaper. One year later, Angelou and Make broke up and she moved to Ghana with her son. There they joined a small, tight-knit expatriate African American community that included the great scholar and activist W. E. B. Du Bois, the writer William Gardner Smith, lawyer Pauli Murray, journalist Julian Mayfield, and sociologist St. Clair Drake. Angelou continued her work as a journalist and also worked as an administrator at the University of Ghana. Angelou made such an impression on her hosts honored her with a postal stamp. It was also during this time that Malcolm X visited Ghana; a meeting which prompted her move back to the US in 1965 to help Malcolm X build his Organization of Afro-American Unity. Shortly after her return, Malcolm X was assassinated.