"For me, the most important lesson
[of the Freedom Movement] is that by respecting the fact that fellow activists could passionately disagree over strategy and tactics—yet remain allies—they strengthened SNCC and the Movement as a whole."
From Bruce Hartford's article in the current issue of Urban Habitat.
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Monday, December 31, 2012

Humor is more Effective than Anger in Achieving Social Change

Bruce Hartford has argued that humor is more effective than anger.
Laughter and ridicule undermine authority and diminish its ability to compel obedience. You can weaken, unbalance, and ultimately overthrow the king quicker by laughing at him than by futilely screaming fury at him.
Below are excerpts from an article in the NYTimes about how Bassem Youssef is "weakening and unbalancing" the religious right in Egypt.  One can tell Youssef is effective because he has become a target himself.

December 30, 2012
For Liberals in Egypt, a Champion Who Quips

CAIRO — As a new Constitution engraves Islam ever more firmly into Egyptian law, a young comic’s escalating battle with a group of ultraconservative television sheiks has become an early skirmish over the application of Islamic law, or Shariah.

In the weeks leading up to the referendum over the Islamist-backed charter, sheiks hosting Islamist variations on “The 700 Club” have spent weeks attacking the protesters who clogged Cairo’s streets, calling them perverts, drug users, paid thugs and Christians. When a 38-year-old television comedian, Bassem Youssef, began mocking the sheiks for their outlandish allegations, they turned on him, too, accusing him of sexual immorality and even poor hygiene.

“Bassem Zipper,” one called him, “the varmint.” Mr. Youssef “doesn’t know how to wash after he uses the bathroom,” another one said.

Far from offended, Mr. Youssef replayed clips of their attacks. “To those who tell me, ‘You insult the sheiks and scholars,’ I say, ‘The equation is very simple,’ ” he told his audience. “ ‘Just like you don’t consider us Muslims, to us, you’re not sheiks or scholars.’ ” ....

....during his war of words with the sheiks, young men at street cafes in poor neighborhoods far from Cairo could be seen watching his show and shaking with laughter. ...

“He makes a point of saying, ‘We are reclaiming Islam. Islam belongs to us and not you. As Muslims we are offended by what you are saying, so we are defending our religion by ridiculing you,’ ” said Hossam Bahgat, the executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. ....

“You could write a Ph.D. dissertation on the contradictions in Salafi discourse, or I could write a human rights report about its bigoted rhetoric,” Mr. Bahgat added, “but none of this is half as effective as one of Bassem’s weekly shows.” ....

....Another Salafi sheik, apparently speaking in a mosque, urged his listeners to recapture Tahrir Square from protesters. “No matter who dies and no matter who’s killed,” he said. “And the rule is well known: our dead are in heaven, and their dead are in hell.”

“So to become a martyr, you need apply for the party’s ID card?” Mr. Youssef asked, displaying a membership card for the Brotherhood’s political arm. “Is everyone going to tailor the path to paradise to their own measurements?”

Soon the sheiks were aiming their fury mainly at Mr. Youssef.
Sheik Khaled Abdullah, another television preacher, lashed out at Mr. Youssef’s audience, calling them “paid kids from downtown.” Nabih el-Wahsh, a lawyer and frequent guest on Salafi networks, called the same viewers “a bunch of gays and hermaphrodites.”

.......But after reprimands for reducing Islam to an exchange of insults with a late-night comic, Mr. Abdullah last week professed a change of heart. He asked Mr. Youssef’s forgiveness for being “tough on him.” ....

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Western Workers Labor Heritage Festival

  Western Workers Labor Heritage Festival

Martin Luther King Jr. weekend  January 18-20, 2013  

 IAM Local 1781 Hall  1511 Rollins Rd., Burlingame, CA

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s contribution to the civil rights and labor movements.  A weekend of solidarity in an era of war, racism, and hard times.

Registration: $75 for the full weekend, $15 Friday night, $35 Saturday only, $60 Saturday-Sunday, $10 single workshop, $15-30 sliding scale for the concert
No one turned away for lack of funds.
Scholarship funds available for attendees under age 30- application form here.

Hotel: Crowne Plaza, 1177 Airport Blvd Burlingame, CA (650) 342-9200
Call hotel directly and ask for the Western Workers Labor Heritage Festival rate
$89 Festival rate, $10 each for a third or fourth person in a room with two double beds
Overnight Parking $18

YouTube of previous festival video highlights here.
27th Annual Festival
Tentative Schedule of Events

Friday, January 18
6 pm Registration opens
7-10 pm Solidarity Circle (Machinists, Main Hall)
Featured performer: Lyn Marie Smith, Detroit Motown Labor Diva
Song, poetry, and story swap

Saturday, January 19
9-10 am
Muffins, juice, coffee available – donations please; informal song swap/arts exchange


Occupy Songs, with Hali Hammer and Bobbie Rabinowitz (10-11)
“We Were There” with Bev Grant (11-12)
MoTown Labor Music, with Lyn Marie Smith
Labor Organizing (Eleanor Roosevelt, Rose Schneiderman) with Brigid O’Farrell

Film: "Walkout," directed by Moctezuma Esparza, 115 min. A school boycott by Chicano students in Los Angeles protesting their unfair treatment.

12:00 – 1:00 pm
– Sandwiches and salad available at a reasonable price

1:15 – 1:45 pm
Featured Performers: La Peña Community Chorus

2:00-3:30 pm Workshops
“Telling Stories Through Art” with Eric Drooker
“Politics of Catastrophism” panel with Sasha Lilley, Jim Davis, and Eddie Yuen
“Latino Worker Songs” with Jose Luis Orozco

Film: "Our Right to Sing," by Carolina Fuentes, 45 min.  Documentary of the Popular Resistance in El Salvador, with talk by Fuentes and questions afterward.

3:45-5:15 pm

Jazz workshop with Avotcja
“Documenting Communities Standing Up Against Hatred: Not In Our Town” with Patrice O’Neill
Theater workshop with James Tracy and others to be announced

Film: “Meeting Room," by Jim Davis and Brian Gray. A social history of the Concerned Parents Against Drugs movement in Dublin. Davis and Jai Jai Noir also featured in filmmakers' panel Sunday 10am

5:30-7:00 pm
– Hot meal available at a reasonable price

7-10 pm Arts Exchange (Machinists, Main Hall)
Featured performers: Bay Area Rockin’ Solidarity Labor Heritage Choir
Arts Exchange (song, poetry, and story swap)

Sunday, January 20
9:00-10:00 am
Muffins, juice, coffee available – donations please; informal songswap/arts exchange


“Post-Election Reflection” with Nina Fendel or Shelley Kessler
Independent filmmakers panel, with Jim Davis, Jai Jai Noir and others to be announced. Moderated by Mark Wright.

Film: "Shift Change," by Mark Dworkin and Melissa Young. 120 min. Cooperatives in Mondragon, Spain and the United States.

Noon – 1 pm
- Sandwiches and salad available at a reasonable price

1:30-2:30 pm (Machinists, Main Hall)
Mid-Day Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Jimmy Collier, civil rights songs
Vukani Muwethu

3:00-4:45 pm
Practice for concert performance
(TWU Hall) Chorus group, directed by Lichi Fuentes

Films: 3:00-4:00:  "This Way Out, by Jai Jai Noir, a guide to starting a worker cooperative.
4: 00-5:25:  "Brother Outsider," 83 min.  Documentary about Bayard Rustin, gay civil rights leader in the 60's.
5-6 pm
– Hot meal available at reasonable price

7 pm
Benefit concert for workers in need
Elise Bryant, MC
Labor Arts Award presented to Nina Fendel
Performers to be announced

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

No "Back of the Bus" for Women of the Wall

An interesting manifestation of the continuing influence of the Southern Freedom Movement.  In this case, the reference to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Freedom Rides.

The Women of the Wall are engaging in civil disobedience (disobeying and "unjust law") in order to move the debate beyond  
"talking about who’s going to take care of the air-conditioning in the back of the bus."

From the New York Times today:
Israel to Review Curbs on Women’s Prayer at Western Wall

JERUSALEM — Amid outrage across the Jewish diaspora over a flurry of recent arrests of women seeking to pray at the Western Wall with ritual garments in defiance of Israeli law, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency, to study the issue and suggest ways to make the site more accommodating to all Jews.

The move comes after more than two decades of civil disobedience by a group called Women of the Wall against regulations, legislation and a 2003 Israeli Supreme Court ruling that allow for gender division at the wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites, and prohibit women from carrying a Torah or wearing prayer shawls there.
.....Critics, particularly leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements in the United States, complain that the government’s recent aggressive enforcement of restrictions at the wall has turned a national monument into an ultra-Orthodox synagogue. ...

Mr. Sharansky. . .  and Mr. Dermer said the agenda would include improvements for Robinson’s Arch, a discrete area of the wall designated for coed prayer under the court ruling, and the easing of restrictions in the larger area known as the Western Wall plaza, along with the more sensitive questions regarding prayer at the main site. ...Anat Hoffman, the chairwoman of Women of the Wall, reacted with cautious optimism to Mr. Netanyahu’s initiative, but said it would not stop the Israel Religious Action Center, of which she is executive director, from filing a Supreme Court petition as soon as next week challenging the makeup of the heritage foundation’s board. ....

“It’s a good thing that after 24 years the highest echelons in Israel are actually paying attention to this rift that is breaking diaspora Jews from Israel,” she said. “The table that should run the Western Wall should have everyone who has an interest in the wall sitting around it.” ...

“If in the end what happens is that the Robinson’s Arch area will be run by the Jewish Agency instead of the antiquities department, then we’re talking about who’s going to take care of the air-conditioning in the back of the bus,” she said. “I don’t care about that. I don’t want to sit in the back of the bus. I want to dismantle the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.” ....