Portland: Veteran Organizing and Economic Justice

This past week, WRL organizers Kimber Heinz and Ali Issa attended the Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace 2011 conventions. In addition to attending workshops on the GI resistance movement now, as well as building relationships with veterans who were present at a leadership and power/privilege trainings,  both Ali and Kimber took part in workshops that are part of WRL’s ongoing collaboration with members of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

IVAW Board Member and Videographer Joyce Wagner and Field Organizer Ali Issa

Ali Issa co-led a workshop with IVAW board member and videographer Joyce Wagner entitled ‘Reparations from the Grassroots: Supporting the Iraqi Pro-Democracy Movement and Alternative Reconciliation Projects.’ At this workshop, the participants discussed what ‘reparations and reconciliation’ mean to them. We then moved to snapshots of already existing projects such as Joyce’s drawing and story-telling work with an Iraqi refugee in Pittsburgh, Ali’s original reports on the Iraqi nonviolent protest movement, as well as the video interview of shoe thrower’s brother and organizer Uday al-Zaidi, created jointly by Ali and Joyce. In addition, students with the Iraqi Student Project–an initiative to provide Iraqi refugees with college educations in the US–spoke about some of their experiences and how they understood reconciliation. Finally, the almost all-veteran participants discussed next steps for future projects and how they might strengthen IVAW’s reparations committee.

National Committee member Clare Bayard and Organizing Coordinator Kimber Heinz

Kimber presented at a well-attended workshop with the organizers of the current GI coffeehouses. Before coming to the IVAW convention, one of the veteran organizers at Coffee Strong, based walking distance from the gates of Ft. Lewis, WA, had planned to leave for grad school in the Fall. After the IVAW leadership training and strategic planning discussions between the GI coffeehouses (the other GI coffeehouse being Under the Hood Cafe outside Ft. Hood, TX), that organizer decided to stay at Coffee Strong to build up the momentum of Operation Recovery and the resilience of the GI coffeehouse movement in the U.S. Kimber joined with the folks at Coffee Strong to talk about the rebirth of GI Voice, a veteran and servicemember-led media project that will amplify the voices of people in the military on issues including war, trauma, and GI-led organizing against war and occupation. GI Voice will allow for soldiers across the country to hear from each other about their experiences In the military and ask questions about things like finding good healthcare advice or legal representation, their right to disseminate lefty literature on base, or what to do if they’ve gone AWOL. The GI Voice website will be relaunched in October, and we need volunteers around the country to help us work on it! If you have basic web skills and are interested in working with veterans and servicemembers to build our collective power both in and outside the military to end war and occupation, contact kimber@warresisters.org.

Members of WRL Portland as well as WRL affiliates Recruiter Watch and Washington Truth in Recruiting also participated in the conventions by tabling and volunteering throughout the weekend.

Ali also met up with organizers with the Rural Organizing Project to discuss their use of WRL and the South Asia Solidarity Initiative’s War Economy curriculum this coming September 7th through October 7th, also known as ‘Decade of War Awareness Month.’ This curriculum aims to foreground the experiences and leadership of those most effected by budget cuts in the related struggle against militarism. It also hopes to add strength and capacity to campaigns that are already going on, by showing for instance, how Chase Bank, or a local politician, is involved in profiting off of war, which may help in efforts to further delegitimize them [see this link, and this link.]  Stay tuned to this blog for the curriculum’s launch and for reports on economic justice and community organizations that have used it to link issues and build new strategies to take down all forms of war.

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