The following are several brief reports from organizing coordinator Kimber Heinz and field organizer Ali Issa on their travels across the country from Chicago to New Mexico, and Pittsburgh to Detroit.
On May 31st, field organizer Ali Issa made a trip to Chicago where he took part in a joint strategy session with Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, United for Peace and Justice, Civilian-Solider Alliance and Citizen Soldier. Discussion of overall strategy and coordination between the groups was supplemented by thoughts about how things like reparations and protest movements from within occupied countries can relate to work focused on veterans’ immediate needs, like IVAW’s Operation Recovery, their campaign to stop the redeployment of traumatized troops. With a sizable and growing anti-occupation and pro-democracy movement in Iraq, there is no better time to put some of these ideas into practice. This session led to plans for an October 7th coalition that would tie in the many issues surrounding 10 years of the US-led ‘War on Terror.’ Another concrete outcome of this meeting has been IVAW infusing its outreach at Fort Hood in Texas, from which about 3,000 are being sent to Iraq this summer, with reports on Iraqis demanding that the occupation leave.
From April 15- 18, WRL, along with the South Asian Solidarity Initiative, had the honor of hosting former Afghan parliamentarian and independent activist Malalai Joya. While originally slated to be the first stop in her month-long US tour, New York City ended up being her last, due to the US government denying her an entry visa, and only granting one after a successful campaign launched by her supporters. Click here for a powerful article about her US tour. While in New York, Malalai Joya participated in a dialogue with Eve Ensler at the CUNY Graduate Center attended by over three hundred people. Joya also met with members of Iraq Veterans against the War, who are attempting to build on their resolution against the occupation of Afghanistan by making links with democratic-minded groups and individuals based there. Check out this short video documenting their conversation. Finally, Malalai also met with several community organizers based in New York City and interested in engaging in solidarity work, including: Ya Ya Network, Raha – Iranian Feminist Collective, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, the Persian Poetry Project, Girifna, and VAMOS Unidos. This was a rare opportunity for grassroots organizers to have a face-to-face exchange with an independent Afghan voice, and is what we hope will only be the beginning in an effort to link movements for justice globally and build concrete solidarity campaigns accountable to the people of occupied countries.
On May 5th, Ali gave a brief presentation at AFSC Friend’s Center in Philadelphia entitled ‘Iraq’s Tahrir Square’ about the pro-democracy movement there, attended by about 50 people. Ali also got the chance to connect with delegates that had recently visited Afghanistan with Voices for Creative Nonviolence, and strategized how to amplify the voices of Afghan-driven alternatives to US military strategy there.
Also in May, Kimber traveled to New Mexico, where she met with anti-uranium organizers with the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment from towns affected by the uranium industry, from toxic waste being dumped on their lands and getting into their water supply and, for some, having worked in the mines or mills. She spoke with them about their ideas for what should be done with the video and audio recordings that were created during last summer’s Think Outside the Bomb anti-nuclear youth encampment in Chimayo, NM. These recordings will soon go into an anti-uranium storytelling project created by WRL in collaboration with MASE and other groups.
From there, she attended the GI Rights Network’s annual conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. WRL has teamed up in NYC with Iraq Veterans Against the War to revitalize and relaunch the NY node of the GI Rights Hotline! A group of counselors-in-training in NYC will be working with experienced counselors on the East Coast to take calls from military service members and veterans and get them linked up to the resources and support they need.
On May 13-14 Kimber teamed up with WRL New England Office Coordinator Joanne Sheehan to organize and facilitate the pilot of WRL’s training, “Beyond the Peace Vigil: Movement Building for Allies,” geared towards white folks in the U.S. peace movement and folks who are involved in antimilitarist organizing in some other capacity who want to deepen their relationships with organizations and groups led by people of color and become stronger allies to the communities most affected by U.S. war and militarism. The training was held at Voluntown Peace Trust in Voluntown, CT and participants got to know each other and build up their ally skills through two days of intensive activities and discussions much informed by popular education tools and principles. Kimber and Joanne prepared for this training at a weekend workshop for popular educators in March at the Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, TN. The curriculum will go up on the WRL website in the month of August. Kimber also presented a piece of this curriculum at the Allied Media Conference in late June, in Detroit, MI during a curriculum fair organized by Ali along with other members of the Palestine Education Project. WIN editor C. Moen also attended the AMC to build with other media makers (see picture of the WRL crew above.)
Finally, Ali also spent some time in Pittsburgh in early June, collaborating with IVAW board member and videography Joyce Wagner to produce a video interview of Iraq protest organizer and shoe-thrower’s brother Uday al-Zaidi (see here.) Ali also got a chance to meet with a member of the United Steel Workers strategic campaigns team, who have been consistently donating to an Iraqi Oil Union newspaper project in the south of Iraq.