Friday, August 21, 2009

Clips from the Woodstock Forum

Building a Peaceful, Just and Sustainable Economy

Introduction and Background

It is 40 years since the historic Woodstock Festival crowned an era now associated with peace, love and rock and roll. Although the 1969 festival itself did not take place in Woodstock, but in Bethel many miles across the Catskills, the town of Woodstock, New York, nevertheless, has become a pilgrimage point for people seeking to either rekindle those years of love and music, or at the very least to buy a tie-dye T-shirt. Despite the great deal of hoopla surrounding the 40th anniversary of the famous festival, very little attention has been paid to the philosophical culture which permeated the event and its aftermath.
In 1969 the Vietnam War was a central focus for the passion of the crowd and the many songs of protest. At the Woodstock Forum, which took place August 15 and 16, well over 300 people heard and discussed the many pressing issues of OUR time. We are overwhelmed with on-going wars, continuing exploitation of people and resources around the world, worsening ecological devastation and usurpation of our communities for weaponry and repression. In 2009, although the name Woodstock is synonymous with "peace and love", the biggest employer in our own town is a military contractor. Given the perilous state of New York, the nation and the world, we need more than ever to discuss how to convert the engines of war for a peaceful future.
In the sessions held at the Woodstock Town Hall on Saturday we heard from historians, poets, workers, social critics and journalists such as:
Peter Woodruff, worker in a Maine weapons factory; grass roots organizer, Mary Beth Sullivan; legendary activist Diane Wilson, author, An Unreasonable Woman and co-founder Code Pink; poet and teacher, Janine Vega; curator and gallery director, Ariel Shanberg; award winning journalists Jeremy Scahill and Jeff Cohen; economist Robert Pollin; historians Silvia Federici, Simon Harak, SJ, and Richard Grossman; social critics Joel Kovel and George Caffentzis; filmmakers DeeDee Halleck and Tobe Carey.
The speakers painted an ominous view of how militarism has gripped our communities, our culture and our lives.
On Sunday the Forum switched from presentations on what was wrong to reflections on how citizens could right those wrongs. A day of deliberation, contentious at times but essentially forward moving, led to the drafting of an initial statement and the framing of ways to build movements, local as well as regional and national, to carry the struggle forward.

Statement from the Woodstock Forum

We, participants of the Woodstock Forum, meeting August 15 and 16, 2009, the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival, reclaim the authority for our lives and our communities. We reject the usurpation of our rights by the military-industrial-media complex.

We reject the actions of our country to foment wars around the world and to manufacture, export and sell weapons. Weapons are the number one U.S. export. Our cities and towns have become home to industries for death and destruction.

We declare that:
1. we will map and research the military industries that control the economies of our communities, that control the minds and pockets of our government officials, that pollute and destroy our land and waters.
2. we will draw attention to these industries of death through educational outreach to local and national media and with imaginative and creative non-violent actions.
3. we will build coalitions to convert weapons-making to peaceful manufacturing and to create meaningful work in education, the arts, health care, and ecological development.
4. we vow to take personal responsibility for the products in our workplaces and in our lives.

We will not cease our resistance to the death machines in our midst and to the laws that support them.

The Woodstock Forum Committee:
Nicholas Abramson, Laurie Arbeiter, DeeDee Halleck, Tarak Kauff, Laurie Kirby, Joel Kovel, Helaine Meisler, Fred Nagel, Katya and Paul Rehm, Laurie Sheridan

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Anniversary of Death of Kerwin Herdenking

'Kerwin-herdenking' -- Poster for the 2005 edition of the yearly memorial of Kerwin, one of the most well known victims of racism in Holland. He got murdered on the Dam square in Amsterdam. His memorial day became an important anti-racism event. This edition was organized in coöperation with Samen tegen racisme. Also visit: and 20 August 1983: Kerwin was walking with a friend in Amsterdam when he was pestered by a group of skinheads. He went into a nearby snackbar but when he came out, one of the group told Kerwin he had no right to walk there and abused him racially. Kerwin said he could walk wherever he wanted to, whereupon he was stabbed in the stomach. The attacker had the words '100% white' tatooed on his arm.

Kerwin ran to the Dam Square, got into a taxi and asked to be taken to hospital. The taxi driver said he didn't want blood all over the seat, took him out of the car, lay him on the ground and told him to wait for the ambulance

Kerwin lay there while onlookers stood round him watching his blood seep into the cracks between the cobble stones. It was almost 20 minutes before the ambulance arrived to take him to hospital. He died shortly after.

Both Kerwin and his killer were 15 years old.Every year on 20 August you will find us at the Dam Square, remembering what happened here in 1983, affirming our commitment to the condemnation of attitudes which say that one colour is better than another, one belief is better than another, one culture or language or custom is better than any other culture, language or custom.
By doing this we hope to remind people of the other side of tolerance; the side which allows children to kill each other and fascist mindsets to sanction such murders. We do it also to repeat that no matter how individuals or the media may try to reframe it, there is no denying that this murder was racism - plain and simple.

While some of them will hunt you down
to kill the rest of you
the others will hold festivals
to have something to do

And even while they make of you
the very first to die
because of age-old Dutch racism
we both know it's a lie

And even if it were the truth
what would it really change?
the jingle of the guilder
is the rattle of the chains

The chains they used to bind the blacks
and certain whites as slaves
strange the ways they have devised
to get folks to behave

Lord knows the list is long
no space is left to fill
the names of those they've wronged
the unknown ones they've killed

A-h-h Europe - your rope - your rope
around my people's neck
after all you have taken and done
what more do you expect?

Yes!!! they come and why not
to see theirdiamondstolen sparkle in your sky
for us poor / folk / of a darker race
it's always been a place to go and die

The 1st black to set a foot
in America as a slave
was left in trade
from a Dutch man-o-war

Kerwin: what makes you differ
from the others racism had die
is that your case of death by race
is one they can't deny

A blood-stain on a taxi-seat
meant more than your life
that's why you layed down on the street
when you were wounded by that knife

When they decide
that one must die
it's while the blood is wet
that we're obliged
to ask ourselves
which one of us is next?

Remember the friends close to you
who did not look like you?
who did not treat you as
so many of the others do?
Friend is a friend is a friend
is not a color of a skin
but a way of being
this! hate cannot relate
and this is where racism steps in

Racism is one thing we learn from history
has done more to damage man than any one disease
people live and people die: that is a natural fact
but not so if the reason why is
just because you're black

Kerwin you were not the first
but we want you to be the last
we want fascism to stop
and we must do it fast

No one believes it - Kerwin did not - had he - alive
he would be - but he didn't believe -
racism - fascism - Adolf Hitlerism
or just plain Amsterdam snobism

No one really believes there is a thing called
it's always something else -
it's not because of your color
they say: it's the way you carry yourself -
School children in Kenya reenact the death of Kerwin.

Who knows what reasons they'll retrieve
racism is something no one believes
even when the black lays dying in the street
no one believes it

Closed eyes don't see it
racial abuse / an excuse
no one believes it though it is true -
Kerwin didn't believe / why should you?
Plus how could he?
no one believes racism to be -
like they didn't believe the Vietnamese
pleas to live in peace
they didn't believe blacks should be free
after 400 years of misery

They didn't believe / they didn't
believe that we too should
have a right to breathe -
no one believes racism to be /
that people are people
with a right to be happy and free - happy and free

No one believes that to be the way it should be
no one believes it possible because no one believes
people don't even believe
what their eyes can see
the injustice / the waste / the inhumanity
they just don't believe - they just don't believe

The horror is so normal
so, so, so informal
that the normal horror is believed good
even at the cost of blood �

Maurice Di, 25 August 1984One of the annual memorials for Kerwin and against racism organized in Holland by Amina Marix Evans.

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