SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

Sep 24

Ask Your Mama

By Lee R. Haven, SpeakOut | Op-Ed
“I got a question.”

I didn’t see him—or the other kid with him—approaching. In their teens, I’d guess. My back was turned to them. I was interviewing a lady selling stuff in a tent. This was late last century, in Savannah, when I worked for the daily newspaper. Savannah has a lot of festivals. I don’t recall what this one was—Greek, German, something.

The teens looked middle-class, clean cut. They were carrying cups, drinking. A lot of drinking goes on during these festivals. The kid with the question was closer to me. His face was likely reddened from the liquor I smelled, and he looked a little nervous.  If only belatedly, I wasn’t surprised something smart-ass would come with the smirk.

Last week at a meeting packed with parents who wanted to support the Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU) during their strike, a Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teacher who had been on the strike line with his CPS teacher wife and their three kids for days said “We haven’t closed the classroom to our kids by going on strike, we’ve expanded it.”

After walking the picket line with my 10-year-old daughter every day for the duration of the strike, I have to agree. From hanging out with her teachers every day on the strike line, talking with other parents and me, and reading the clever signs at the daily rallies, she and her fellow students have a pretty sophisticated understanding of the issues at hand. Actually, it seemed as though the general public in Chicago and parents of CPS students in particular also “got it” – with 55.5 % of the general pubic and 66 % of CPS parents supporting the strike. And indeed, the eyes of the nation were focused on our strike as a bellwether of labor and public education fights in the national arena.

Sep 21

Marshall Islanders Stand Before UN Council

By Barbara Rose Johnston, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

September 13, 2012 was a historic day at the United Nations and in the Marshall Islands. The Human Rights Council considered for the first time the environmental and human rights impacts resulting from the radioactive and toxic substances in nuclear fallout. And, Marshall Islands citizens stood for the first time before the United Nations Council to offer survivor testimony on United States nuclear weapons fallout on the environment, health and life.

As residents of a United Nations designated trust territory governed by the United States, the Marshallese people endured the loss of traditionally-held land and marine resources without negotiation or compensation; were exposed to fallout contamination compromising the environmental health of individuals, communities, and an entire nation; suffered through the documentation of health hazards in a decades-long medical research program that involved human radiation experiments; and, when negotiating the terms of independence in free association with the United States, were severely hampered by the US refusal to fully disclose the full extent of military activities, including the scientific documentation of the environmental and health impacts of serving as the Pacific Proving Ground for weapons of mass destruction.

Annette Fuentes is the author of a compelling new book, entitled Lockdown High: When The Schoolhouse Becomes A Jailhouse.

Fuentes is on the faculty of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. She has written for the New York Times, and she contributes to USA Today and others. Fuentes is also part of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project; an organization founded by Barbara Ehrenreich, whose mission is to "force this country's crisis of poverty and economic insecurity, to the center of the national conversation."

In the following exclusive interview, Fuentes talks about her work, her book and shares insight into the "school-to-prison pipeline," including zero tolerance policies that puts kids in harm's way.

Ahead of today's actions, Occupy anniversary events also took place throughout the weekend, including an "inaugural assembly," break-out groups, direct actions and the release of a collaborative publication, "The Debt Resistors' Operations Manual." Saturday's education-themed gatherings were followed by celebratory events on Sunday, during which activists assessed the movement and what lies ahead. FSRN's Andalusia Knoll was there and files this report.

Sep 20

When Savages Unite

By David Zlutnick, Upheaval Productions | Video

This video of spoken word artist Mark Gonzales is in response to the hateful and racist advertisements purchased by Pamela Geller and her organization the American Freedom Defense Initiative on city buses in San Francisco, New York, and elsewhere. The ads read: "In a war between the civilized and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad." This is of course extremely offensive, dehumanizing language that should not be left unchallenged. Mark's piece, "When Savages Unite," and our video are therefore a challenge.

Sep 20

A View of What's to Come

By Joe Tenyen, SpeakOut | Press Release

It is Saturday, September 15, 2012 and I am on a pier overlooking Gangjeong Village, the site of the Jeju Island, South Korea naval base site. Giant tetrapods, each leg of the four-legged, cement behemoths are over four feet wide and six feet long, litter the Jeju coast for what looks like about a mile.

Three visible excavators are busily scratching away at the volcanic rock coastline where at one time local fisherman used to fish, women divers dove for sea food, and the community gathered on the unusually smooth sacred rocks as they had done for hundreds of years.

Under Four large dredges sit in an area offshore surrounded by what looks like several miles of bright orange flotation devices that block off an area where no one is allowed to enter without risk of arrest.

Sep 20

Citizen’s United (A Poem)

By Hakim Bellamy, Be-Side | Poem

If we kidnapped

THEIR children

They would find us

If we put guns

In the hands of those young

They would tag them

"Child soldiers"

But here

We prefer to leave them

Clinically depressed

And decorate them in marine

The current round of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership ended today. The trade negotiators were met with a week of protest against the largest trade agreement in history.

"The secret is out, after three years of secret negotiations, except for 600 corporate advisers who participated throughout, people are finally becoming aware of the Trans-Pacific Partnership," said Margaret Flowers, co-director of Its Our Economy who blocked the entrance to the Landsdowne Resort by climbing into a 15+foot tripod where the TPP was being negotiated, see article and photographs here. Flowers explained in an article that she blocked the TPP because "millions will lose their jobs or have poverty wages and slave working conditions, will suffer or die because they are unable to afford necessary medications and that the planet will be poisoned even more by large corporations if the TPP isn't stopped."

Ce. Uno. One: First memories. Through his daughter Raquel, I meet Gustavo Gutierrez in 1992, who by then, is already a legend. In Arizona, his name is synonymous with workers, farm workers, Cesar Chavez, the United Farm Workers movement and the Arizona Farm Worker's union. Had Cesar not lived, Gustavo would still have organized; he would have still fought for the rights of all workers, with or without documents. This is a man who is truly ahead of his time; before his time. Early on, he recognized the existence of no borders; Un Continente y Una Cultura.

Ome. Dos. Two: Despite all that history, he will most likely be remembered for his work with the Peace and Dignity Journeys. Born of the Prophesy of the Eagle and the Condor, the journeys continue to connect the continent. The Journeys were birthed in Quito, Ecuador at a 1990 gathering of indigenous peoples, convened to counteract the so-called 500-year encounter between Spain and the Americas. There was no encounter; instead there was invasion, land theft and slavery. All the peoples of the continent know this, understand this. Gustavo was no different; those that gathered in Quito, including him, would hear no talk of encounters.