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Haiti, Venezuela, Benton Harbor, New Orleans: The Grassroots Mobilizes

by Sharon Lungo Friday, Dec. 16, 2005 at 10:27 PM 323-292-7405 PO Box 86681, Los Angeles, CA 90086

LA public meeting a historic coming together of grassroots struggles in the United States with the movement against US/UN occupation in Haiti and Venezuela’s ‘peaceful and democratic revolution’.

Haiti, Venezuela, Be...
sharmini_fist703406-r1-050-23a.jpg, image/jpeg, 1800x1215

Haiti, Venezuela, Benton Harbor, New Orleans: The Grassroots Mobilizes

In a historic coming-together of grassroots movements, speakers from Venezuela, Haiti, Benton Harbor Michigan, New Orleans and Los Angeles addressed members of LA’s Black and other communities on November 17th at Holman United Methodist Church. The public event, coordinated by Women of Color in the Global Women’s Strike (WOC/GWS) and the Global Women's Strike/LA, brought together path-breaking community struggles in the United States with the movement against US/UN occupation in Haiti and Venezuela’s ‘peaceful and democratic revolution’. The meeting was chaired by Margaret Prescod of WOC/GWS and host of “Sojourner Truth” on KPFK radio.

Reverend Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor, Michigan, and board member of BANCO (Black Autonomy Network Community Organization) opened the panel. Benton Harbor, whose residents are 97% Black, has long been plagued by police brutality, poverty and unemployment despite the presence of the multi-national corporation Whirlpool. In June 2003, residents rose up in rebellion following the police killing of a young Black man. Heavy police repression followed. Last February, the grassroots movement led by BANCO organized a successful recall election of a corrupt city commissioner who was backed by Whirlpool, a victory seen as a threat to power brokers including Whirlpool and corrupt city officials. In an effort to demoralize, undermine and stop grassroots efforts, a judge set aside the recall and ordered new elections, and Rev. Pinkney was charged with several counts of election fraud! Rev. Pinkney faces a lengthy prison sentence if convicted and thousands of dollars in legal fees. But the people of Benton Harbor are not giving in. Rev. Pinckney said if they do this in Benton Harbor today, it will be in your community tomorrow. He followed, "We've got to start moving forward…and it's going to take unification to get this thing done. So let's get ourselves together and say, 'Let's fight. Let's fight!' It's time to fight!"

Leah Jah, evacuee from New Orleans and chair of the Causeway Concentration Camp Committee, shared horrors post Hurricane Katrina. "Those of us with the [least] sustained the heaviest loss of life and property." During the crisis in New Orleans, Jah and others were taken to a causeway, which Jah described as a "dumping ground for human beings." Residents were blocked in by military vehicles and told they were going to be evacuated by bus to other cities. Instead of evacuation, people were held for up to four days by military personnel with weapons in extreme heat and with little food or water. "No one knew where we were, there was no help for us. Things got so bad we knew we were going to die," she said. Jah has drafted a human rights violation petition to present at a hearing in April in Geneva, Switzerland.

Sharmini Peries, International Relations Advisor to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and a native of Sri Lanka hit by last year’s tsunami, expressed sadness at the devastation following Hurricane Katrina. Peries has been working with President Chavez, the Global Women’s Strike and Vanguard Public Foundation to provide resources to Gulf Coast survivors. Venezuela recently started a discounted heating oil program for poor communities in the US through Venezuela's oil company CITGO. Peries also reported on the recent Summit of the Americas. “No other president went to the People's Summit to speak except for President Chavez…and he got so much energy from the people that he went to the leaders' summit - the debate was unbelievable, and they buried the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Regional Free Trade Agreement, and all the other proposals that President Bush brought to the table were squashed.”

Working in the Haitian Parliament as Commissioner of Peasant Affairs before the US-led forced exile of president Jean Bertrand Aristide, Bolivar Ramilus, who currently lives in the US, continues to fight for the return of democracy in Haiti. A member of Fanmi Lavalas, the party of President Aristide which means ‘flash flood’, Ramilus said that we have to put our own economic structure into place. “We can take the example of women - women do all the work in the household but they don’t even count that in a capitalist system, and that represents over billion dollars in the economy annually. And the more the sisters can organize and pull their resources and their strength together, they will be a formidable army that will defeat the kind of armies that the Haitians defeated”. He brought the cheering audience to its feet when he concluded, “Let me put my hand in your hand – people from Haiti, people here in the U.S., and people in Venezuela, people who are fighting all over the world for justice, so that we can have a global Lavalas, Lavalas for those who don’t have anything, Lavalas for those who are struggling for justice, for food, for healthcare, so that all together we’ll be very strong.”

Giving an example of the grassroots mobilizing themselves in Los Angeles, El Sereno resident Roberto Flores from Eastside Café Echospace called on all to support the South Central Farmers who are facing eviction from 14 acres in South Central LA where dozens of families have small farming plots, where people can “live as human beings with a sustainable source of food.” Flores, who also works to bring Black and Latino/a youth together, referred to LA’s “youth criminalizing policy - anything youth do they take offense to,” and spoke against the removal of community murals and mayor Villaraigosa's recent support for gang injunctions.

The audience responded to the panelists with standing ovations. KPFK was the event’s media sponsor. Co-sponsors included Danny Glover, Alexandria House, ANSWER-LA, A New Way of Life, Eastside Café Echospace, Every Mother Is a Working Mother Network, Haiti Action Committee/National, International Action Center/LA, Payday Men’s Network, UCLA Labor Center. For more information: 323-292-7405,

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Rev. Edward Pinkney, Black Autonomy Network Community Organization (BANCO), Benton Harbor

by Sharon Lungo Friday, Dec. 16, 2005 at 10:27 PM 323-292-7405 PO Box 86681, Los Angeles, CA 90086

Rev. Edward Pinkney,...
rev_pinkney703406-r1-020-8a.jpg, image/jpeg, 1800x1215

BANCO has been fighting the same racism, political corruption, police brutality and land-grabs that Hurricane Katrina exposed for all to see.

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Haitian peasant leader Bolivar Ramilus with Pierre Labossier who provided translation

by Sharon Lungo Friday, Dec. 16, 2005 at 10:27 PM 323-292-7405 PO Box 86681, Los Angeles, CA 90086

Haitian peasant lead...
bolivar_spkg703406-r1-042-19a.jpg, image/jpeg, 1800x1215

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Sharmini Peries, Int'l Relations Advisor to Venezuelan President Chavez

by Sharon Lungo Friday, Dec. 16, 2005 at 10:27 PM 323-292-7405 PO Box 86681, Los Angeles, CA 90086

Sharmini Peries, Int...
sharmini_stand703406-r1-048-22a.jpg, image/jpeg, 1215x1800

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