Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Thursday, December 15, 2016
They face discrimination and fear in the rest of the world as they are lumped in with these religious fanatics. Muslim student’s in this country are subject to bullying; Muslims are victims to hate crimes, and many attack innocent Muslims who have no connection to terrorist to avenge and take out their anger. We are seeing this on a grand scale in the presidential campaign with several presidential candidates fueling the average citizen and this os some subliminal level gives people permission to carry out hate crimes in the name of America.
Despite the lack of any concrete evidence, Japanese Americans were suspected of remaining loyal to their ancestral land because of the large Japanese presence on the west coast. In the event of the Japaneses invasion America Japanese were feared as a security risk. It is my hope that the Justice Department today in 2015 no matter who is Attorney General will maintain their commitment made October 19, 2011 to use criminal and civil rights laws to protect Muslim Americans and to continue their top priority in a return to robust civil rights enforcement and outreach in defending religious freedoms and other fundamental rights of all US citizens in the workplace, in the housing market, in our schools and in the voting booth.
At this time we are headed to a situation similar to that of the Japanese Americans interment camps. Did we not learn anything from this and what followed WWII. Were we not educated on the degradation Japanese internment camps did to respectable American citizens and their families. What are you going to do to stop fueling a similar movement against Muslims? I hope my fellow Americans and elected officials like you stand up against this.
I am asking you to look away from the bad advice and overcome popular opinion through education and information. In this time in the history of our nation we can not stand by and watch history repeat it’s self. I ask you not to succumb to fear and go against our values as a nation. Use your voice as an elected official, presidential candidate to stand up for the rights and safety of Muslim people living in the United States.
Sunday, October 2, 2016
When I returned home from Africa in 2010 the voting landscape was changing, I read story after story on voting ID laws passing, followed by law suites going all the way to the US Supreme Court. In 2013 in the Shelby County vs Holder case the US Supreme Court struck down a key provision in the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Under this provision jurisdictions with a history of discrimination would have to get pre-approval from the Justice Department before changing any voting rules.
Before this landmark decision 15 states were required to seek federal approval for any new voting rules. Mother Jones Magazine reported that 8 out of the 15 states passed or implemented new voting rules after this decision, Texas within two hours of the decision announced that the state’s voter identification law would immediately be implemented this law was previously blocked by a federal court under the provision that was struck down and soon after North Carolina pushed through a package of extreme voting restrictions.
The Brennan Center for Justice believes that the provision struck down prevented more than 700 voting changes between 1982 and 2006 because they were discriminatory. The Brennan Center for Justice says the biggest impact following the Shelby decision has been at the local level and sited two examples. One was in Jacksonville Florida where a voting poll was moved from a well-attended African American neighborhood to a new location across town that had no access to public transportation. In Galveston County Texas all black and Latino constable and justice positions were eliminated a move that was previously blocked under the key provision of the 1965 Voter Rights Act that was struck down.
The other side of the voter restriction advocates are those trying to find ways to bust voter turnout. An independent agency, The Government Accountability Office that prepares reports for members of Congress conducted a study to see the correlation between voter ID requirements and voter turnout. The study found that ID requirement laws impacted both young people and African-American voter turnout in Kansas and Tennessee after the voter ID laws took effect in 2012.
Voter Turnout is alarming even without voter ID laws as an obstacle. According to a Seattle Times article only 39% of registered voters voted in the 2015 General Election. When you consider a candidate can win with 51% of the votes cast that means 20% of registered voters elect a candidate. For me this raises the stakes in voting and voting becomes a responsibility. Washington State is not alone in low voter turnout.
Debates over election regulations and voter turnout are not new. They have been a staple of discussions about elections and the state of our democracy since the birth of the United States. This debate has been heated up since the US Supreme Court’s land mark case and is being played out in the current election. Presidential candidate Donald Trump accused voters in Pennsylvania of potential cheating in the coming election and called for law enforcement to be present at the polls. Hillary Clinton’s campaign implemented a voter registration program with the goal of registering 3 million new voters. In the court system the federal appeals courts have overthrown or modified voter ID laws in North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, Ohio, and South Dakota in the last couple of months.
This tug-a-war of regulating voting and encourage voter turnout will continue in this fashion just as the people in this country are polarized into conflicting philosophies on most of the major issues, and congress cannot build consensus and show strong leadership to unite us in common goals.
I believe Voting is a right and have learned that voting is a responsibility which gives individual’s a way of participating in our democracy. I ask you please vote no matter what your political leanings are and please encourage everyone you know to vote.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Years ago as I was filling out the Peace Corps application all I knew was that I had always wanted to join the Peace Corps, beyond that I couldn’t express why. Never did make it through that application process. Two years ago at age 58 I did finish the application process and receive my invitation to serve in the Peace Corps I still couldn’t answer the question “Why.” Today I think I can.
Recently a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer said he joined the Peace Corps to become a better person. As most of us I too struggle with the good and evil within myself. After 25 years in the business world my good self could use a good pep talk along with some new points of references. The Peace Corps was guaranteed to do that. It will be interesting going home and testing out my new perspective. Since I am still in the changing phase I only have some idea what those new perspectives are.
A lot of reasons for joining the Peace Corps have to do with my nature. My hopes and dreams never did match my father’s advice to me in high school which was to take shorthand so that I could have a skill to support myself in case something happened in my marriage. With this advice my future looked grim. Luckily I did not take his advice. My life goals, successes and dreams have never been motivated by money or security. As an Aquarian my thoughts tend to first go locally than globally.
The same goes with having foster children. Having foster children gave me an extended family with outreach into the community. The kids were and are amazing every single one of them. There is a moment I remember with my daughter that I will never forget, she thanked me for having foster children and said it enriched her life. She put into words things that sometimes I have a hard time saying. Again as in my community work in the 70’s I gave a lot and got a lot.
The times of organizing the community and having foster children were the times when the good in me shone through, times of meeting and working with great people. Before coming to Mali I had no idea that these skills would transfer to being a Peace Corps volunteer. Even in the beginning as a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa I was skeptical that with cultural and language barriers the skills I learned doing community organizing and raising foster children might not get anything done.
Luckily I was wrong. Koro my Malian counter part and I networked from Ghana to the Ivory Coast to Segou and Bamako in Mali. We met great people saw their work and even received some help along the way. We learned about their production, skills and marketing programs. Koro and I became the best of friends. We met each other’s families and have become family to each other over the last two years.
Meeting members of the community here in Koutiala, Mali and participating in activities such as the Collective des Femme a Koutiala, the Union of Associations of Artisans of Koutiala (UAAK), and the twenty five professional associations that are members of the UAAK have given me endless resources and projects to work on. My host family where I live has been welcoming and supportive.. There are so many others I can’t list them all.
Now with less than a week here in Mali I can say I did tap into my community organizing skills. The Bogolan Association has new products, new production skills and new math skills to further develop their business. Many artisans have attended literacy classes, the women’s association has acquired the skills to start a soap production business, and recycling has been introduced with the skills to make some products out of the recycled material as an incentive.
Peace Corps offered great support in the way of technical training, language classes, medical coverage and the encouragement to be a part of the community where we live. And because of this there are so many friends that I will be taking back to America in my heart never to be forgotten. What a gift.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
As a volunteer I have attended many shea butter trainings. Trainings on how to make quality shea oil, soap making, skin lotions, oil for cooking and many other products. Many of you may remember the shea butter making training that I help fund and plan as my first funded project here in Mali.
In Mali shea is the main oil for cooking and often is an income generating activity for women in villages. Shea nuts are so easy to get you just collect them during growing season out in the fields. Shea is so important in Mali that is illegal to cut down a shea nut tree. Shea butter products in the United States are gaining popularity. You will find shea products in the fair-trade, organic, beauty product isle at your health food store.
Luckily a volunteer told me about a woman, Fanta Diollo, in a small village just outside of Bamako who makes soap for exporting and was willing to come and teach the women of Koutiala how to make four different kinds of soap, cucumber, heemé, honey and Bf.
The women enjoyed the training and are going to start soap production soon. They wanted to pick a name for the soap so that others would not copy it and to implement a marketing strategy. They decided to call it Koutiala Kounadi, Kounandi being my Malian name which means good luck in Bambara. I was over whelmed at the gesture. What a privilege to have a brand of soap named after me.