Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It's Our World - Change It!

I returned last week from a trip North that included attending the National Counter-Recruitment and Demilitarization Conference: IT'S OUR WORLD - CHANGE IT!

Held in Chicago, hosted by the American Friends Service Committee and organized by the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth, this was an excellent gathering of people who represent some 188 counter-recruitment groups in cities and towns across the country. The conference was attended by a large contingent of young people, and several of the workshops were led by youth.

The excitement was contagious. The Oakland-based group, BAYPEACE arrived on a Green Tortoise bus, having made their trip across the country, visiting national parks and doing some workshops in Denver along the way, part of the whole learning experience. The BAYPEACE group has been particularly active, and shared a video that described their Youth Manifesto campaign: "This is what I believe!" Check out the video on Youtube.

Similar to BAYPEACE, but from the opposite coast, came a group of young people from New York city: the YA-YA Network (Youth Activists - Youth Allies) They led a workshop about counter-recruitment basics that was great.

Between Oakland and New York, there are many counter-recruitment and peace education efforts in small and large school districts, and it was inspiring to hear stories from attendees who reflected a broad age range and variety of background.

Another highlight of the weekend was going out on Saturday night with a large group from the conference to the Brave New Voices youth poetry slam finals, which happened to be taking place just a few blocks from where we were meeting. What a night! The poetry was deep, deep, deep. When it comes to making art, not war, these kids showed how it's done.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

"This is Where We Take Our Stand": GI resisters speak

The film, "Sir! No Sir!" is an excellent documentary about the significance of the GI resistance movement in ending the Vietnam War.

Here is an announcement just issued about a new web-based film series beginning July 11th about current GI resistance in the US. The series, called "This is Where We Take Our Stand," is co-produced by the director of "Sir! No Sir!" Check out the film trailer here.

Displaced Films (Sir! No Sir!) and Northern Light Productions (Unfinished Symphony), along with the Iraq Veterans Against the War Winter Soldier Project, are launching the web series "This is Where We Take Our Stand." The series tells the story of last year's Winter Soldier Iraq/Afghanistan hearings from the inside -- going beyond the testimony to the people whose lives, experiences, and struggles made that historic event possible. The six-episode series will be posted consecutively, every two weeks, throughout the summer. Each of the episodes presents key testimony and tells a vital and powerful part of this story.

"In March of 2008, two hundred and fifty veterans and active duty soldiers marked the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by gathering in Washington, DC, to testify from their own experience about the nature of the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq," said David Zeiger, Director of Sir! No Sir' (the 2006 film that told the suppressed story of the GI Movement to end the Vietnam War), and this series.

"It was chilling, horrifying, and challenging for all who witnessed it. Against tremendous odds, they brought the voices of the veterans themselves into the debate. That was then. Today, we present to you This is Where We Take Our Stand, the inside story of those three days and the courageous men and women who testified. This story is as relevant now as it was one year ago, and we hope that the series will help revive the debate about these wars that has virtually disappeared since Barack Obama became President," he added.

Perry O'Brien, a former medic in Afghanistan and spokesperson for the Iraq Veterans Against the War Winter Soldier Project said, "Here is our challenge to the audience: watch the series; spread it far and wide; and ask yourself if this is about the past, or the present and future. Then add your voice. If you are a veteran or active duty, present your own testimony. If you are not, but you are still a living, breathing member of the human race, then do whatever you can to join and fan the flames of debate. This series is here for you. As the Occupation of Afghanistan is expanded and little changes in Iraq, the voices and stories of Winter Soldier are needed now more than ever."

The first full episode will be posted on Saturday, July 11th.