Archives for category: 100 Days

100 Rosa Park
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a 42-year-old African American woman who worked as a seamstress, boarded this Montgomery City bus to go home from work. On this bus on that day, Rosa Parks initiated a new era in the American quest for freedom and equality.

She sat near the middle of the bus, just behind the 10 seats reserved for whites. Soon all of the seats in the bus were filled. When a white man entered the bus, the driver (following the standard practice of segregation) insisted that all four blacks sitting just behind the white section give up their seats so that the man could sit there. Mrs. Parks, who was an active member of the local NAACP, quietly refused to give up her seat.

Her action was spontaneous and not pre-meditated, although her previous civil rights involvement and strong sense of justice were obvious influences. “When I made that decision,” she said later, “I knew that I had the strength of my ancestors with me.”

She was arrested and convicted of violating the laws of segregation, known as “Jim Crow laws.” Mrs. Parks appealed her conviction and thus formally challenged the legality of segregation.

At the same time, local civil rights activists initiated a boycott of the Montgomery bus system. In cities across the South, segregated bus companies were daily reminders of the inequities of American society. Since African Americans made up about 75 percent of the riders in Montgomery, the boycott posed a serious economic threat to the company and a social threat to white rule in the city.

A group named the Montgomery Improvement Association, composed of local activists and ministers, organized the boycott. As their leader, they chose a young Baptist minister who was new to Montgomery: Martin Luther King, Jr. Sparked by Mrs. Parks’ action, the boycott lasted 381 days, into December 1956 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the segregation law was unconstitutional and the Montgomery buses were integrated. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was the beginning of a revolutionary era of non-violent mass protests in support of civil rights in the United States.

It was not just an accident that the civil rights movement began on a city bus. In a famous 1896 case involving a black man on a train, Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court enunciated the “separate but equal” rationale for Jim Crow. Of course, facilities and treatment were never equal.

Under Jim Crow customs and laws, it was relatively easy to separate the races in every area of life except transportation. Bus and train companies couldn’t afford separate cars and so blacks and whites had to occupy the same space.

Thus, transportation was one the most volatile arenas for race relations in the South. Mrs. Parks remembers going to elementary school in Pine Level, Alabama, where buses took white kids to the new school but black kids had to walk to their school.

“I’d see the bus pass every day,” she said. “But to me, that was a way of life; we had no choice but to accept what was the custom. The bus was among the first ways I realized there was a black world and a white world” (emphasis added).

Since May, artist Brandan Odums has been painting graffiti-style murals inside the ruined remains of the Florida public housing complex in the 9th Ward. His energetic spray-paintings depict many of the heroes of the civil rights movement: Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, James Baldwin, Gordon Parks and several others. He calls the suite of paintings Project Be. Notice the rusty water mark on the iron back staircases that marks the height of the 2005 flood.

Since May, artist Brandan Odums has been painting graffiti-style murals inside the ruined remains of the Florida public housing complex in the 9th Ward. His energetic spray-paintings depict many of the heroes of the civil rights movement: Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, James Baldwin, Gordon Parks and several others. He calls the suite of paintings Project Be.

Only a handful of people have walked through Brandan Odums’ graffiti masterpiece “Project Be,” a series of bigger-than life portraits of civil rights heroes painted on the walls of the ruined Florida public housing complex in the 9th Ward. Photos of the work have made it possible for many more to appreciate the project from a distance, but Odums’ suite of stunning paintings has special power when viewed inside the empty, once-flooded buildings.

Unfortunately, the site is off-limits to the public. The dilapidated pastel townhouses where the murals are located are scheduled to be demolished and redeveloped in 2014.

What if, however, the custodian of the buildings, the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO), would join forces with a local art organization to make a weekend tour possible? The art organization that jumps to my mind immediately is Prospect New Orleans, the folks that brought us Prospect.1, the phenomenal citywide art exhibit that took place in 2008.

Prospect New Orleans is going to present another big international show in the fall of 2014. In the meantime, they plan to whet the appetite of the Crescent City public with educational programs and other preliminary projects.

A weekend tour of a civil rights-oriented series of graffiti murals in a flood-ruined, old-style, public housing complex sounds like a teaching moment to me. And Odums’ paintings would tie in perfectly with Prospect New Orleans’ plans to exhibit works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, a graffiti tagger turned New York art scene superstar.

Sure, somebody would have to sweep up the broken glass in the Florida complex apartments and carpenters would have to replace broken steps, but with plenty of security and volunteer guides to help visitors safely navigate the site, it could be done.

The artwork is undeniably a product of trespassing. But, as far as I know, no one was harmed and no property was damaged – if you allow that the property was already slated for demolition. Anyway, civil disobedience is an American tradition, right? Without it, there would have been no civil rights movement. I’d agree that illegal graffiti shouldn’t be encouraged, but this was hardly what I’d call an antisocial enterprise.

A tour of Odums’ paintings is worth doing.

Eliezer “Boy” Billanes, an anti-mining activist was shot in Koronadal City in March 2009. He was awarded posthumously as Most Distinguished Awardee in GBK 2009. (Photo courtesy of Panalipdan Mindanao / - See more at:

Eliezer “Boy” Billanes, an anti-mining activist was shot in Koronadal City in March 2009. He was awarded posthumously as Most Distinguished Awardee in GBK 2009. (Photo courtesy of Panalipdan Mindanao / – See more at:

Obituaries to fallen warriors and visionaries of the ecological resistance movement

Francisco “Chico” Mendes, 1988, Brazilian ecologist and environmental activist who worked in defense of the Amazon rain forests, shot to death near his home in Xapuri.

Leroy Jackson, October 1993, Diné (Navajo) activist engaged in campaigns to end logging in the ponderosa pine forests of the Chuska Mountains, found murdered by poison atop the Brazos Cliffs near Chama, New Mexico.

The Ogoni Nine, November 1995, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kio- bel and John Kpuine; hanged by the military dictatorship of Nigeria for struggling against the destruction of Ogoni land by the Shell oil company.

Carlos Roberto Flores, June 2001, Honduran environmental activist, shot to death by guards of hydroelectric company Energisa, which was building a dam in the Sierra de Agalta National Park.

Bartolomeu Morais da Silva, July 2002, Brazilian farmer who led the struggle against illegal logging, land fraud and destructive large-scale infrastructure projects; found with his legs broken, shot to death.

Carlos Arturo Reyes, July 2003, Honduran anti-logging activist shot after Amnesty International found a death list with his name on it.

Dorothy Mae Stang, February 2005, US-born activist, environmentalist and nun, murdered in the city of Anapu in the Amazon Basin of Brazil. She had a 30-year history of organizing in the region, receiving numerous death threats from loggers and large landowners.

Valmir Mota de Oliveira, October 2007, Shot and killed during a protest at a Syngenta farm in the southern Brazilian state of Parana. According to the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST), the farm illegally produced genetically modified crops within a protected environmental zone close to the internationally acclaimed Iguacu water falls.

Stanislav Markelov, Anastasia Baburova January 2009, Markelov was a lawyer for environmental, anti-fascist, labor and Chechen activists. He and Baburova, an activist and journalist, were assassinated in Moscow by a neo-Nazi affiliate.

Eliezer “Boy” Billanes, March 2009, Filipino anti-mining environmentalist in the Mindanao region shot dead confronting the multinational mining corporation Xstrata. Others who were killed recently for the anti-mining cause in the Phillipines include Fernando Sarmiento, Armin Marin, Ricardo Ganad, Gensun Agustin and Samson Rivera.

Ramiro Rivera, Dora Alicia Recinos Sorto, December 2009, Members of the Cabanas Environment Committee, organiz- ing against mining by Pacific Rim corporation in El Salvador. Rivera was shot dead while under 24-hour police surveillance. Prior to his murder he survived being shot eight times in the month of August. Recinos Sorto was pregnant at the time of her murder.

Desidario Camangyan, June 2010, Anti-logging activist, journalist and radio host in the Philippine province of Davao Oriental, gunned down while hosting an amateur singing contest. His wife and child were in the audience.

13 percent of Americans claim that they would commit some form of non-violent civil disobedience to get action on climate change

13 percent of Americans claim that they would commit some form of non-violent civil disobedience to get action on climate change

According to a fascinating poll that came out last week, 13 percent of Americans claim that they would commit some form of non-violent civil disobedience to get action on climate change. To me, this is a dramatic number. Americans are not willing to put up with denial any longer. Opinions are shifting — hard and fast. People understand the risks as they begin to see and feel the impacts, and are tired of the dysfunction that is preventing change. All that these individuals need is a clear, direct action to take.

This week marked the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, and there has been much focus on Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech — but it caused me to re-read another King work, his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

When you consider the impact climate change will have on our collective future, it is instructive to remember what Martin Luther King had to say about the power of non-violent civil disobedience in that letter in 1958.

The prophetic points of this message are numerous, but I will highlight two here that standout for their timeless wisdom.

The first was his outline of the preparation needed for mass, non-violent protest. He advocated a four-step process of analysis, negotiation, self-purification, and, finally, confrontation. The ordering here was crucial; only after the first three stages did he advocate the last.

Dr. King’s second observation was that even after the deliberate execution of those careful steps, confrontation was always “untimely” for the so-called moderates, arriving too soon for their comfort.

Dr. King’s key insight is not just that outright oppressors never give up their advantages willingly, but also that moderates never advocate any direct, non-violent, attack on the status quo because they are actually satisfied with it.

For the sake of our own struggle, this point is worth keeping in mind. Because of self-interest, the dirty energy industry will always engage in fierce, intense opposition. But what about the moderates of our era? Are they still satisfied with the status quo? I think not.

Returning, then, to the 13 percent who would personally engage in civil disobedience, how should we interpret this level of commitment?

Interestingly, Thomas Jefferson thought that 15 percent of the general population was the number needed for accomplishing significant transformation. If he was correct, this may represent a tipping point. We may be on the precipice of major change.

Let’s hope we are.

96 Amnesty International

This Essay by John Greenwell, originally prepared in 1970, was intended as background to the problem of civil disobedience which then confronted Amnesty International.

Amnesty International’s mandate was “to work for the release of and provision of assistance to persons who in violation of the provisions of (the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) are imprisoned, detained or otherwise physically restricted by reason of their political, religious or other conscientiously held beliefs or by reason of their ethnic origin, sex, colour, or language, provided that they have not used or advocated violence”.  During the 1960s as a result of the war in Vietnam, the civil rights movement, the struggles against colonialism and apartheid, many people refused to obey laws and claimed the right to break them on the ground they conscientiously believed them to be wrong.

Amnesty International was born in the cold war and its work had at the outset focussed upon the prisoner of conscience who was being physically restricted for his or her conscientiously held ‘beliefs’.  Questions arose at the time this essay was written whether and to what extent the organisation should work to sustain those imprisoned for conscientious civil disobedience.

It’s excellent and well worth a read:

95 Plastic-Bomb

Preserve Planet aims to influence Costa Rica to choose reusable glass bottles over plastic.

A 40-foot tall missile disrupted Monday morning in the Avenida Central shopping district in downtown San José.

An environmental group, Preserve Planet, created the 12-meter high sculpture to highlight the environmental damage of the missile’s material — plastic bottles.

The sculpture’s artist, Francesco Bracci, oversaw the installation of his piece above the walkway on Avenida Central, near the National Theater. A crane and a crew cordoned off half of the avenue, while the missile suspended over pedestrians with the help of wires attached to buildings on both sides of the street.

“It’s a direct statement,” Bracci said in an interview. “It is a direct bombardment, a bombardment that affects beaches, seas and everything.”

Bracci said the organization’s goal is to convince Costa Ricans to pressure businesses to switch from plastic bottles to glass bottles.

“Recycling is one option, but it is not the only option,” Bracci said. “Reusing is the No. 1 option.”

The site of the sculpture is one of the major shopping centers in Costa Rica, attracting thousands each day to its clothing stores, beauty salons and restaurants.

Bracci, from the San José’s southwestern suburb of Escazú, created a similar work to highlight air pollution. His “Urban Lung” sculpture sits behind a row of bus stops in the central neighborhood of La California, only slightly east of the site of his latest work.

In Costa Rica, the options for a consumer to recycle, even glass bottles, are few. Trash pickup does not have options for separating recyclable material from garbage such as in the United States. The government does not sort through trash to separate recyclables as in some other Latin American countries, such as Argentina.

Páginas Verdes, a yellow pages for eco-conscious consumers, has a posted list of recycling centers in Costa Rica — called “centros de acopio” in Spanish.

Luis Marín, regional coordinator for Preserve Planet, said projects like the giant missile are aimed at public education.

“If the people push for returnable bottles, it will get businesses to change,” Marín said in a phone interview.

The missile sculpture is composed of 8,000 plastic bottles, Marín said, only a fraction of the estimated 666 million consumed by Costa Ricans every year.

Marín’s group will continue to plant striking images to affect the public’s perception, and their next project aims to address air pollution in Costa Rican schools.

Caption: A 40-foot-tall sculpture composed of bottles hovers above pedestrians in the shopping district along Avenida Central in downtown San José on Monday morning. Francesco Bracci made the sculpture at the request of environmental group Preserve Planet.

94 Seven_Dirty_Words_WBAI

The seven dirty words (or “Filthy Words”) are English-language words that American comedian George Carlin first listed in 1972 in his monologue “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television”. The words are: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits.

At the time, the words were considered highly inappropriate and unsuitable for broadcast on the public airwaves in the United States, whether radio or television. As such, they were avoided in scripted material, and bleep censored in the rare cases in which they were used; broadcast standards differ in different parts of the world, then and now, although most of the words on Carlin’s original list remain taboo on American broadcast television as of 2013. The list was not an official enumeration of forbidden words, but rather was compiled by Carlin. Nonetheless, a radio broadcast featuring these words led to a U.S. Supreme Court decision that helped establish the extent to which the federal government could regulate speech on broadcast television and radio in the United States.

In 1972, George Carlin released an album of stand-up comedy entitled Class Clown. One track on the album was “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television,” a monologue in which he identified these words, expressing amazement that these particular words could not be used, regardless of context. He was arrested for disturbing the peace when he performed the routine at a show at Summerfest in Milwaukee.

The following is a link to the verbatim transcript of “Filthy Words” (the George Carlin monologue at issue in the Supreme Court case of FCC v. Pacifica Foundation) prepared by the Federal Communications Commission:

93 NSA Shirt

Liberty Maniacs is a merchandising company known for taking smart and snarky digs at the government; its parody T-shirts contain slogans like “Santorum Happens” and “The CIA: Democratizing the Shit Out of the Third World.”

Not surprising then was the company’s recent decision to make a product line that parodied the dreaded NSA. Liberty Maniacs’ new line of merchandise carries the official agency seal, edited to read, “Peeping While You’re Sleeping,” along with the slogan, “The NSA. The Only Part of the Government That Actually Listens.”

Funny, right? Apparently, not to everyone.

According to The Daily Dot, the popular online market site Zazzle quickly removed the line from its site almost as soon as it went live. The reason cited was that Liberty Maniacs’ use of the NSA seal “may infringe upon intellectual property rights.”

But considering the company’s products are an obvious parody, it would seem that T-shirts like this are a protected form of speech and fall under Fair Use.

The NSA categorically disagrees. The agency issued its own statement about the shirts to The Daily Dot:

    The NSA seal is protected by Public Law 86-36, which states that it is not permitted for “…any person to use the initials ‘NSA,’ the words ‘National Security Agency’ and the NSA seal without first acquiring written permission from the Director of NSA.”

The agency also claimed it didn’t contact Zazzle about Liberty Maniacs’ products in particular, but confirmed its policy is to take “appropriate measures” against any attempts to co-opt their logo.


After four years of campaigning (including bearing witness and taking direct action by Greenpeace activists on the Rainbow Warrior against bottom trawling fishing vessels in the Tasman Sea) to bring an end to deep-sea bottom trawling, an international agreement has been made to protect just under 25 percent of the high seas from this incredibly destructive fishing method.

Representatives from countries around the world gathered in Chile to carve out a fisheries agreement for the South Pacific region. Following a resolution made by the UN in 2006, the countries at the meeting responded strongly with measures to stop destruction of deep water corals, seamounts and other sensitive habitats by vessels that  are bottom trawling in international waters.

From September 2007 bottom trawling vessels in the South Pacific will not be able to fish in areas that have or are even likely to have vulnerable marine ecosystems, unless they’ve completed an assessment to show they won’t do any damage.

The New Zealand fishing industry is responsible for 90 percent of bottom trawling in the region. New Zealand delegates told the meeting these measures would “severely constrain the ability of their fishing industry to continue bottom trawling on the high seas around New Zealand”  and suggested that it may even have the effect of putting an end to bottom trawling.

We’ll be watching to make sure that New Zealand – and all the member countries – put the agreement into action, and implement the measures that will protect the irreplaceable biodiversity of deep sea ecosystems.

Image: Crewman on the New Zealand bottom trawler dump a large piece of ‘Paragorgia’ coral dredged from the deep sea in their net.

91 Defoe illustration

In 1702, in an era of religious persecution in England, Daniel Defoe (author of Robinson Crusoe) published a fake pamphlet called “The Shortest Way with the Dissenters.” It proposed that—rather than barring non-Anglicans from office­—it would be faster and easier to exterminate them. Some people believed the pamphlet was real, which so humiliated Anglicans that they had Defoe briefly imprisoned—during which time he produced some wonderful writing.