Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Pictures from the WSF Nairobi

There is a good discussion of the Nairobi Social Forum by Jordan Flaherty, who is an activist from New Orleans at http://kenya.indymedia.org/news/2007/01/526.php For a video interview with one of the founders of the Social Forum movement, go to http://movies7.arcoiris.tv/movies/WSF_nairobi_2007/
interviste/sylvia_borren_eng_big.ram I also recommend the comprehensive notes from Terry Wolfwood.
For an interview (in Spanish) with Roberto Savio, founder of Interpress Service: http://movies7.arcoiris.tv/movies/WSF_nairobi_2007/
interviste/savio_es_big.ramOne of the booths promoting organic agriculture.The organic booth also had a group of Massai women selling their beadwork.Ugo Vallauri, my former student from San Diego, is now in Nairobi working with Computer Aid International, which refurbishes computers from Europe for NGOs in Africa. This photo was taken during a panel on media and information which was sponsored by CRIS, Campaign for Rights in the Information Society, that was organized by Sally Burch and Jason Nardi.At the final ceremony there was a group of students from the Nairobi Aviation College.This fancy restaurant was one of the few food venues inside the stadium grounds of the WSF. The food was extremely expensive and all the food consessions at the venue were the property of Kenya's Interior Minister, a hated thug who is well known among the Niarobi populace as a torturer and murderer. Small food producers were not allowed in, and forced to hawk their wares outside the gates. Protests against this situation eventually lead to the "liberation" of the restaurants and the giving out of food free to many hungry youngsters. This is how the BBC reported it:Dozens of street children have invaded a five-star hotel food tent and feasted on meals meant for sale at the World Social Forum in Kenya's capital. The hungry urchins were joined by other participants who complained that the food was too expensive at the annual anti-capitalist get together. The police, caught unawares, were unable to stop the free-for-all that saw the food containers swept clean. The gathering in Nairobi is discussing social problems, including poverty. A plate of food at the tent being operated by the prestigious Windsor Hotel was selling for $7 in a country where many live on...

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Sunny Solutions at WSF

For an interview with Faustine Odaba, go to http://movies7.arcoiris.tv/movies/WSF_nairobi_2007/spazi_e_stand/solar_cookers_intl_big.ramOne of the reasons I wanted to come to Nairobi was to help promote the wonderful work of Margaret Owino and the Sunny Solutions crew of Solor Cookers International. (http://solarcookers.org ) Margaret was able to get a great spot at the Forum (directly across from the main entrance to the stadium and the press room) to display a vast array of cookers. The big attraction was the food which was cooking in each of the kits. Participants were invited to sample the roasted ground nuts, solar-baked cakes, ugali, muranda and other delicious African foods.Margaret Owino explains the differences between various types of solar cookers. Faustine Odaba explains to members of a dance troupe from Barundi, who stopped by the solar exhibit.A solar enthusiast from Switzerland came by the first day and became a "regular"-- helping explain to the hundreds of people who stopped by the exhibit.Two young men stopped by to purchase a cookit. They are biking around the world and plan to solar cook all the way to China. Check out their trip at www.biciclown.com/

Friday, January 26, 2007

Joel on Nairobi

Much to say about this place and the wsf, all full of contradictions.But Nairobi is a cosmopolitan city and the people are lovely--with the significant exception of the thieves, who really make life problematic. Let's just say that Nairobi has the unenviable reputation of being the crime capital of Africa, worse--yes--than Johannesburg and Lagos, and of course, far worse than Durban. The police shot dead 25 people between last Friday and Tuesday, while losing two of their own. A very nice cabblie with whom I was riding, when asked about this, opined that it was a good thing, then went off into the time his car was stolen, shot-up, robbed at gunpoint, etc, plus how his friend was murdered. This is not WIllow.
Wsf, just over, was a lovely mess. The best thing about it is the wonderful spectacle of humanity in struggle, interacting, meeting, touching. There's no Big Breakthrough at events like this, but the networking definitely has positive results, and nobody I spoke to regretted being here despite the innumerable silliness and irritation. And there's a special joy in being close for a moment to the African people.
(From Joel's letter to Molly)

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Some shots from a bookstore in central Nairobi. Barack Obama seems to be taking his place as the local hero. Next to Martin, Maathai, Kenyatta, Armstrong and Mandela.

Opening Ceremonies

At the opening ceremony, held in Uruhu, the downtown Nairobi park, a small group held up signs protesting the fact that the WSF charged local Kenyans 500shillings to enter the forum grounds.

Nairobi WSF: First Impressions

It has been impossible to post on the slow lines from our Nairobi hotel (the Methodist Guest House) or the overcrowded cyber centers at the World Social Forum. But now we are at Cathy's and we are able to actually download and upload, so I will try to catch up and give some information about the Nairobi World Social Forum. These are photos from the WSF Cyber Room on the first day. Lots of keyboards. No chairs.My face lost the swelling, but gained some wild color streaks!

Friday, January 19, 2007


”We won’t take it any more!” Or will we?
The Media Reform conference was a rousing meeting of 3,500 people who care enough about the situation of the media in the U.S. to come to Memphis to complain, document, strategize and scheme about ways to change it. Several times over the weekend the gathering was compared to the civil rights struggle. The presence of the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel down the road from the conference center reinforced that connection.

It will take more than panels and well meaning internet petitions. At some point we have to go to the streets and the lunch counters and eventually even the jails.
Media Justice History: March Against the Moguls
For some of us this “movement” began at the time of Don Hazen’s 1996 Media and Democracy Conference in New York when Paper Tiger and FAIR and others organized the March Against the Moguls. That march was initially refused, then discouraged by the leadership of that conference. But when it was clear it would happen anyway, the conference did announce it and reluctantly got on board. A double decker “tourist bus” was leased and banners made to hang off the sides. The Bread and Puppet Theater made Hounds of the Press paper maché puppets, posters and chants were distributed. The march of several thousand went from Times Square to CBS, ABC, the MTV building and Fox. Angry speakers and fierce rappers were applauded with gusto.

In Memphis, Bill Moyers gave a speech which quoted Danny Schecter’s description of that march, which according to Moyer’s quotation, left Danny feeling impotent and defeated:
"Danny Schechter recalled how some years ago he marched with a band of media activists to the headquarters of all the big media companies concentrated in the Times Square area. Their formidable buildings strutted with logos and limos, and guarded by rent-a-cops, projected their power and prestige. Danny and his cohorts chanted and held up signs calling for honest news and an end to exploited programming. They called for diversity and access for more perspectives. "It felt good," Danny said, "but it seemed like a fool's errand. We were ignored, patronized and marginalized. We couldn't shake their edifices or influence their holy business models. We seemed to many like that lonely and forlorn nut in a New Yorker cartoon carrying an ‘End of the World is Near’ placard."
I don’t know about Danny, but that day was quite the opposite for me and for many of us there. For FAIR’s Jeannine Jackson, Steve Rendall, Jeff Cohen, Laura Flanders and Paper Tiger’s Michael Eisenmenger, Carlos Pareja, Linda Iannacone, and DCTV’s Hye Jung Park, the event was an initiation into the potential of a real media movement for justice, not just reform. They have all stayed with the struggle—for example, Hye Jung is now the director of the Media Justice Fund, Eisenmenger is now Manhattan Neighborhood Network’s main policy strategist, Carlos is doing similar work at Brooklyn Cable Access Center, and of course FAIR has deepened their commitment.Of course there were other even earlier occasions when people went to the streets to protest the media: during the First Gulf War in 1991 we had Operation Storm the Media, which, borrowing the name of the military action, brought several thousand marchers to the networks. TV sets were burned in effigy and weird zeroxed masks of network anchors looking like clones. The camcorder commandos made their first appearance in fluorescent camoflauge carrying cameras and signs to Make Video Not War. This march was documented in one of my favorite Paper Tiger tapes called Storm the Media. Xav LePlae and May Ying Welsh were the principle producers of that exhuberent tape.

And there have been other occasions. A big demonstration was held in front of Fox right after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Linda Iannacone and Reverend Billy were speakers at the rally. One of my favorite actions was in the NAB exhibit hall in 2000. There was a rally and march in San Francisco in conjunction with the radio meeting of the NAB (the National Association of Broadcasters—the trade organiztion that lobbied heavily against low power FM. Activists locked themselves together and police were unable to remove the locks or move them for quite a while. So the authorities, in essence, created a radio station: they put up partitions around the protesters, presumably to shield the NAB members from seeing this disruption, but this turned the protesters into a live radio show, shouting out chants that the people owned the airwaves and that low power FM had a right to be heard.To achieve media justice we need to raise our level of commitment. Next Media “Reform” Conference needs to speak of strategies that go beyond internet petitions to Congress. An authentic movement needs to march and to encourage the sort of non-violent civil disobedience that helped to open the airwaves for low power FM.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Memphis Blues Again

Letter From Jane

The Media Reform Conference in Memphis ended with a rousing keynote by Jane Fonda, who was passionate, funny, and radical. She began by asking who in the huge audience of around 3000 people could recognize the name of Abeer Qassim al-Janabi. Only around three people raised their hands. She then recounted the sad plight of the young Iraqi girl aged 14 who was raped by two GIs, and then she and her family were murdered by the group of four who had invaded their home. This is a picture of Abeer from her Iraqi ID card issued in 1993.

After killing the family and attempting to burn the house to cover their deeds, Fonda said, the GI's returned to their base for a bar-be-que. Fonda then questioned why this story didn't get the kind of attention that Britany Spears has had with her escapades.

Jane Fonda's speech was an eloquent call to arms for media by and about women. She spoke about founding the Women's Media Center, which is housed in the Empire State Building. http://www.womensmediacenter.com/index.htm
Fonda invited everyone in the audience to stop by.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Academics and Activists Kick Off Superbowl of Media Reform

All Aboard! Two conference participants were spotted on the Memphis trolley. Sarah Olson is a radio journalist who has been subpoenaed by the US Army. She was covering the charges against Lt. Ehren Watada who faces six years in prison, four of which is for speaking to the press. Sarah could spend up to six months in prison if she doesn't testify. Military Reporters and Editors President James Crowley has written about the case: "Trying to force a reporter to testify at a court-martial sends the wrong signal to the media and the military...One of the hallmarks of American journalism....is a clear separation of the press and journalists."
The LA Times says: "There is something especially chilling about the US military reaching beyond its traditional authority to compet a non-military US citizen engaged in news gathering to testify in a military court simply to bolster a court-martial case"
Sarah has been a reporter for Making Contact, which is a project of the National Radio Project, whose producer, Lisa Rudman, is a participant in the Media Reform conference.
To read more about the Memphis conference, check out Harold Feld's blog at http://www.wetmachine.com/totsf/item/699
Here are two other bloggers, Josh Breitbart and Dharma Dailey. More on the conference tomorrow! Or read Josh's blog at www.josh.fm

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

raccoon in Memphis

So my injury progressed to both eyes today. I'm in Memphis for the Media Reform Congress. A report on that tomorrow. Meanwhile I get to watch Bush surge ahead.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

punch drunk

I fell on Grand Street and smashed my head into the granite stone of the sidewalk. The first thing I thought was thank god my computer in my knapsack didn't get hit. But my forehead took the blow and I look like a prize fighter. Because I take cumadin, I bleed very easily and it drained into my eye socket.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

exhibitions in NY closing soon!

Shulea Cheang is one of the original Paper Tiger collective. She currently resides on the road, making installations and creating happenings all over the world. This time she has created an elaborate venue for mpg music files: bumper tea cups! Don't miss this spectacular show at the Chelsea Art Museum.
check out www.babylove.biz

Zulma Aguiar was an undergraduate student of mine at UC San Diego. She is currently an MFA candidate at RPI. Her thesis show is showing uptown on 106th street.
161 East 106th Street, First Floor
New York, NY 10029
A transnational, interactive installation by Zulma Aguiar
December 14, 2006 - February 2, 2007

Recreating the experience of crossing the U.S. - Mexico border is by its very nature controversial and new media artist Zulma Aguiar plunges waist deep into the fray with her interactive video installation Turnstyle.

As any tourist, day laborer, businessman, or immigrant (legal and illegal) will attest, these border crossings run North and South. Turnstyle cleverly delivers the style of each side through the persona of its border agents who are portrayed by the Mexican American artist herself. According to the Aguiar, “One is María and the other is Maria. The Mexican guard’s name has an accent over the “i.” When I play the American border agent, I am portraying my American self. When I play the Mexican one, I am steeped in my Mexican identity. The same white-gloved hand waves people through and keeps them from entering.”

Turnstyle represents the reality of border crossing as a transnational experience, where both sides are patrolled by Mexicans or their descendants, exploding popular myths about any simple white/brown dichotomy. In an urban landscape unfamiliar with border life, Aguiar reconstructs an emblematic turnstile through which visitors pass back and forth, under the encouragement or harsh scrutiny of the border agents.

Zulma Aguiar is a new media artist from Calexico, California. She is a Masters in Fine Arts candidate at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where she collaborated with Aeronautical Engineer Rafael Antonio Irizarry and Max MSP/Jitter Artist Johnathan Lee Marcus to create an interactive installation based on her U.S. - Mexico border experience.

MediaNoche is a project of PRDream and is located in Spanish Harlem, just blocks away from Museum Mile. By subway, take the IRT#6 train to 103rd Street and walk north along Lexington Avenue to 106th Street. Turn right on 106th Street. MediaNoche is on the north side of the street, in the middle of the block. Gallery hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 3PM – 7PM.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

office clean up