Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Opposing US War in NJ Public Schools



It was an honor to be invited to provide a workshop on behalf of NJ Anti War Agenda at the MAPSO Freedom School December 8 Educator Conference entitled Family Separation, Then, Now and Future Resistance.  Our workshop was entitled “US Military Recruitment: Endless Wars and Family Separation and featured Lisa Davis, an antiwar and justice activist and member of Peoples Organization for Progress and Black is Black Coalition, Tahir Flournoy, Director of Street Opera and Bob Witanek (me), founder of NJ Antiwar Agenda.  The event took place at Colombia High School in Maplewood, NJ.

Lisa provided an overview of the cultural mechanisms being used to drive military recruitment of youth including the film industry which partners with the Defense Department, allowing script and plot review, in exchange for access to military scenes and equipment for settings purposes.

Tahir provided an account of how he organized Street Opera, which is a music and arts troupe, started at Arts High School in Newark, as a way to organize youth artistic support for and engagement in antiwar and other struggles.  Street Opera will present a showcase of the music and other 
performances being prepared in late January or possibly February 2019.  From the flier distributed on the topic at the event:

Street Opera Youth Performance Troupe Plans January Showcase
We have been rehearsing Wednesdays immediately after dismissal, but the ensemble is open to more members and we will arrange rehearsals during lunch.  You can also access the materials at this link and learn on your own or arrange for rehearsal times with members who have been attending the rehearsal sessions: http://goo.gl/rCexMU

We hope to hold the showcase in a room at Arts High School.  We want to invite parents and friends to see our first showcase.  We also invite more students to participate in the pieces we have begun working on as well as to sign up to perform vocal, instrumental, dance, and spoken word acts – pieces of a topical nature that highlight the legacy of struggle and the need to carry forward to improve our condition.  Vocalists, a piano accompanist will be available.

Reception featuring pizza and soda will be available after the performances.  If you are interested, please text Tahir ASAP:  862-754-6691

In the second of the two sessions we presented, a sampling of a Street Opera rehearsal featuring piano performance and lead vocals by Robert Colby-Witanek was provided.

The most important component of the morning session was the participation of 5 students from Colombia High School, all of whom are students of T.J. Whitaker, a founder of MAPSO Freedom School and one of the key organizers of the event who teaches English and Writing at Colombia High School.

The students seemed genuinely interested in the issue and possibly starting up some activities there at Colombia around the issues of US war and recruitment.  There also was serious interest in possibly initiating Street Opera efforts at Colombia HIgh School.  We discussed with them what activism was already in place including what groups were there - and who might be a good faculty member to advise if a new group or effort were to be started.  One of the students was an elected school board member and we discussed finding out exactly that are Colombia High School policies regarding military recruitment.  We did confirm that the military is recruiting at Colombia and is meeting students for recruitment purposes on the high school premises - which is fairly typical for high schools.

In between the workshops, I was able to speak to several high school teachers and they all told a common story - the military is all over NJ high schools, recruiting and several reported ROTC programs at their schools.  I spoke with high school teachers and staff from Franklin Township, Perth Amboy, Jersey City, Paterson, East Orange and Roselle, to name a few.  There was interest from all of them in the concept of connecting with antiwar students and helping to oppose recruitment,

One school counselor raised a challenging question, to which there is no perfect answer.  The question: What is the alternative given financial challenges the student and their family is facing, when the military is promising virtual worry free existence,  Of course we can raise skepticism about that recruiters tell and point out that no promises made are binding and if the order is to deploy - you are on your way to the front lines.

But the dismal economic options, with the difficulty of receiving scholarship and loans, the ridiculously high cost of higher education - unless we can offer a solution to those issues, suggesting to a student to turn down the recruiters is a hard sell.  I think the best answer, especially for a counselor, is to offer to work with the student to do a self assessment, to get a clear understanding why they are interested in the military, to help them identify their skills and assets and to help put all of their alternative options before them so they can at least make an informed choice.

NJ Anti War Agenda is going to proceed with the strategy of organizing high school students and teachers to resist war recruitment and build an anti-war movement.

As part of that we are reaching out to high school teachers around NJ to help assess the level of military recruitment going on and the potential for anti-war organizing and opposition to the recruiting.
https://goo.gl/forms/UGO5YJZHzRR5BX7n1

Please click and complete the survey as soon as possible and also please forward to your colleagues who might also be interested.

We have a student survey as well and we ask all students who are in high school or will be within the next year to complete this survey:
https://goo.gl/forms/cWcg1I4H7NSEtvAm1

The following is the list of suggested steps that we offered for teachers and students to work on these issues on the flier that we distributed at the MAPSO Freedom School event:

Suggested Actions for Countering War and Militarism in Schools

  • Engage in discussions among teachers and with students on the impact of war and US foreign policy on the community.
  • Teachers, parents, students let it be known of willingness to provide an alternative narrative to that of the recruiters and make written resources available to the students to resist recruitment pressures.
  • Teachers, students and parents should be aware of what the military recruitment rules of your district and should actively raise questions about such policies and refine them toward being more restrictive of military (and ultimately opposing) while providing space for recruiter challenging narrative within schools.
  • Conduct a survey of NJ schools about the prevalence of recruiters, analyzing disparities between focus on impoverished vs. wealthier school districts.
  • Organize discussions, education and develop curriculum on the impact of US war - on the planet and other peoples, on the US families with members participating in warfare, on the scarcity of funding to address the pressing community needs, like potable water, clean air, housing, fully funded education, disaster preparation, relief and rebuilding, meaningful livable labor with full benefits, national health care and many other needs.
  • Local, regional. statewide committees can form of students, faculty and administrators opposing war and war recruitment.
  • Antiwar and other issue based struggle of students and teachers should be encouraged and organized by faculty and students - an example Street Opera. Teachers who can serve as advisor to such groups can help in navigating district rules for student participation and organizing.
  • Coach students and help them and participate with them in how to organize meetings, protests, rallies - near high school site, and how to navigate school rules to advocate antiwar in front of school, in cafeteria, etc.  Teach organizing skills like event organizing, how to draft, print and then distribute fliers, banner and sign making, role play how to talk other students out of enlistment.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Voting for Menendez is a Pro-War Act - Elect Hoffman / Moxley Instead!

As published in Pricneton Packet:

http://www.centraljersey.com/opinion/the_princeton_packet/counterpoint-a-vote-for-bob-menendez-is-not-a-vote/article_7a93c483-aaf8-5531-a3df-049d67f34ec5.html

In an October 3rd letter, Rev. Moore urged voters who care about peace to vote for Senator Menendez. I disagree 

Senator Menendez is the largest recipient of campaign contributions from AIPAC and NORPAC, the nation’s two strongest pro-Israel PACs.

No coincidence, then, that Senator Menendez never criticizes the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Since March 2018 almost 200 Palestinians, including women, children, journalists and medics, have been killed by live sniper fire, simply for protesting the conditions of the occupation.

Senator Menendez refuses to advocate for blocking U.S. weapons sales to Saudi Arabia to use in Yemen, saying he “needs more information,” about the brutal war, dubbed by many as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. This even after 40 Yemeni school children were killed by a bomb made by Lockheed Martin.

Menendez may have voted for a new nuclear arms control treaty in 2010, but he also accepted, without criticism, the plan supported by President Obama to spend $1.7 trillion over 30 years to create a nuclear arsenal bigger and more powerful than at the height of the Cold War.

Nor has the Senator advocated for the U.S. to sign and ratify the International Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons developed by 122 nations in July 2017.

Lastly, Senator Menendez supported the last two military budgets -standing at around $700 billion annually.

How can this be a profile of a Senator who cares about peace?

There are truly only two ways to vote for peace in NJ in 2018:

Voting for Green Party candidates Madelyn Hoffman who directed NJ Peace Action for decades (recently retired) for US Senate and Diane Moxley for the 7th Congressional District seat – both of whom play critical roles in New Jersey in organizing against US warfare.

Bob Witanek
Founder NJ Anti-War Agenda

Monday, July 16, 2018

We are all guilty of treason today

We are all guilty of treason today and need to hang our heads in shame - the Democrats, the Republicans, Trump, Clintons, Obama, Bushes, Carter . . . all the way back and me and you!
Big storm over the theatrics from Helsinki and meanwhile a huge US backed bombardment is being carried out in Gaza!
We are distracted and even those posting about the assault on Facebook - there are no emergency protests!
There have been in the past and will be in the future - there is lots of good work being done around the issue by millions throughout the planet yet we have committed treason to the cause of human rights, life itself, dignity.
The US supports a government that actually sends excrement shooters to shoot raw sewerage at people's houses and throughout the country laws are being introduced to bar protest of such heinous acts (and much worse) in Gaza.
We committed betrayal today focused on the silly debate over the Helsinki show while this much more significant event is occurring - confused and distracted we are while the crimes are being committed - people are being slaughtered and bodies are being collected.
We have significantly betrayed the struggle throughout our lives allowing the circumstances to get where they are on that front and every other front throughout the planet.
All of us equally guilty of such betrayal and our only remedy is to recommit to the struggle and to determine the way forward that brings true end to the atrocities and depredations on every corner of the planet.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Emergency Rally to Protest Trump's Decision to Withdraw from Iran Nuclear Agreement!

Media Contact: 

Madelyn Hoffman
Executive Director
New Jersey Peace Action
Phone: 973-259-1126 (office) and 973-876-1023 (cell)
Email address:nj_peaceaction@yahoo.com

Jeff Hoey
Program Coordinator
           New Jersey Peace Action
                                 Phone: 973-222-0368
                                 Email address: jeffhoey@outlook.com

Event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/196826534376043/

New Jersey Peace Action Organizes  Emergency Rally to Protest Trump's Decision to Withdraw from Iran Nuclear Agreement! 


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 8, 2018

Who:  New Jersey Peace Action (NJPA) is an affiliate of Peace Action and is celebrating its 61st anniversary this year. NJPA began its opposition to the 2nd Gulf War in the summer of 2002 and continues to this day to call for that war to end.  NJPA;s primary mission includes the abolition of nuclear weapons, ending and preventing wars and shifting federal spending priorities from war to peace. 

What:  In response to President Trump's decision on Tuesday, May 8th, to withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Agreement, New Jersey Peace Action, headquartered in Bloomfield, will have an Emergency Protest Rally calling for our leaders to reverse that decision. In lieu of reversal, we ask that our Senators and Representatives speak out strongly against the withdrawal and stand firmly against renewing any sanctions against Iran, which international inspectors confirm is in compliance with the terms of the agreement. 

Where: 5 Points Vigil corner in Montclair, NJ - corner of Church St., S. Fullerton Ave. and Bloomfield Ave.

When: Wednesday, May 9, 2018 at 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM.


Why:  The Iran deal is the only diplomatic agreement in place in the Middles East. It is it totally short-sighted to walk away from it. It could lead to another war. The United States, the region and the world cannot afford another US war of aggression.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Immediate Release: Newark Arts HS Students Protest War / All Out May 5


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Tahir Flournoy 
852-754-6691 
#NJAntiWarAgenda 908-881-5275
Peace - A (pizza) party 12:30

On May 5, 11 am at the MLK Statue on MLK Boulevard, about 2 blocks from Arts High School, there will be a youth led “MLK Jam” rally against war.  This rally will be organized by youth, working together with the NJ Anti-War Agenda group and Peoples Organization for Progress and other peace and justice groups.  Unlike other anti-war protests that have been going on in Newark, the speakers at this rally will all be youths – from Newark and other communities.  This rally will also feature music, spoken word, and possibly other performance and visual arts presentations.  Opportunities are available for youths either from Newark or other area communities to make presentations of opposition to US warfare and also to perform music, spoken word, dance or present visual art as statements against US war.
Outside Arts HS as Korean ;leaders
announce peace

As part of the effort, around 50 students of Arts High School in Newark, on April 26, participated in a banner raising and sign holding event outside the school on MLK Boulevard in Newark.  The students held signs in opposition to US warfare and pledging their commitment to participate in the May 5 event.  Organizers of the event captured their participation as photos on an Instagram account called AntiWarYouth .  Participants were also given a letter inviting participation in the May 5 protest an a copy of the NJ Antiwar Agenda paper.

The banner the students were supporting was created by NJ AntiWar Agenda – an organization of groups and individuals that coordinates monthly antiwar protests in Newark and publishes a paper.  The banner states “Fund Newark’s Needs, Not War; US Out Now!”  It also provides details on this Saturday, May 5 antiwar protest.

The following are some Instagram pictures of the Arts High School students taking a stand against US warfare:





In a recent letter inviting youth individuals and groups to participate in the even, Arts High School Junior and antiwar organizer Tahir Flournoy stated:

We are calling for youth of Newark and area communities to participate because it is the youth being recruited into these wars to fight for a country that is not fighting for us back at home.  We of course also are not interested in having our lives cut short by nuclear war nor do we want US guns trained on the our sister and brothers - young people in countries throughout the world.

The solutions for our problems here at home can not be found in battle fields near and afar.  Some of the issues at home that are concerning to youth are lack of funding in schools, as well as allocation of funds in the government. The US government is spending close to $800 billion per year on warfare.   Flint’s water system only costs 50 million to fix and yet nothing has been done.  In some Newark schools we are also dealing with water just as toxic as in Flint.


We need free higher education and training, health care, opportunities doing meaningful work, benefits, livable wages, adequately available recreation opportunities, housing, potable drinking water, and a lack of violence including by the police often against youth members of our communities.”

One of the participants outside Arts High School was Rakhyriah Foster.  She states that instead of spending funds on war, “I think that’s the US money collected from taxes should go to public school because most parents can’t afford for their children to go to a charter or private school. I do think that cleaning up the toxic chemicals in Newark and Flint Michigan are important because this is the water that we drink and bathe in and it is unsafe.”  She stated further “I feel good that I took a stand. I have attended a protests before and I honestly think I would attend another protest.”

Tahir Flournoy, who organized the banner raising / sign holding event outside Arts High School stated of the activity. ”Giving oppressed children a chance to protest outside their school to me shows them just a little more of exactly how oppressed they are. Often times when the oppressed are surrounded by the oppressed, they don’t see it as being oppressed. It’s normal to them, so them being able to protest opens them up a little more and helps them want to get involved.

I do think it’s important to do because sometimes all a kid needs is to get that one spark of activism in them to start them on the rest of their journey. Sometimes they don’t have an outlet to know when and or where protest rallies and different things are going on, and us bringing the protest to them is a touchdown for all activists."

Tahir states that pizza will be provided at the May 5 event.

Those interested in speaking or performing, participating or supporting the May 5 event can call or text Tahir Flournoy at 852-754-6691 or through the following:

Facebook event
https://www.facebook.com/events/199249074015369/.
Via E-mail AntiWarYouth@NJAntiWarAgenda.org

PLEASE RT:




Solidarity with The People’s Caravan for Peace and Justice in the Philippines

On April 25th, at the Stop The Killings Speaking Tour 2018 NJ event, many gathered to join ICHRP-US Northeast and Malaya Movement to call for an end to the state-sanctioned violence in the Philippines made possible in part by US aid. Henessa Gumiran, an organizer with Rutgers Against Campus Militarism delivered a solidarity statement in support of the Philippine people, condemning the involvement of US intelligence and its presence on campus.

The following is the solidarity statement given:
Rutgers Against Campus Militarism stands in solidarity with the Philippine people who organize against fascism and continue to resist the US-Duterte regime. US intelligence has perpetuated and aided the oppression of the Philippine people both historically and presently, and now has the direct and implicit support of universities, including Rutgers to do so. The involvement of US intelligence at Rutgers has been active since at least the 1950s, with active campus resistance to the presence of US intelligence since the 1980s. In January 2015, Rutgers received a nearly $2 million grant for the establishment of the CCIS or the Center for Critical Intelligence Studies, funded by the DIA, making Rutgers the only “Big 10” school to be federally recognized as an “Intelligence Community center for academic excellence.”

As stated by the DIA, the mission of the Intelligence Community Centers for Academic Excellence is to: “Provide grants to competitively chosen universities and colleges to enhance the recruitment and retention of an ethnically and culturally diverse Intelligence Community workforce with capabilities critical to the national security interest of the United States.”

It is then clear that the ultimate goal of these centers is not to “provide students with essential knowledge related to the field of Intelligence Studies and enhance their understanding of different regions, cultures, and value systems that inform the effective
use of intelligence” as posited. Rather, the underlying initiative is to create a pipeline of direct recruitment into the intelligence community. This conditions students to act as proxy recruiters for US intelligence, and by extension, US imperialist violence, which of course is reinforced in countries like the Philippines, due to US political interests in maintaining the status quo of exploitation.

The center is headed by a former acting under secretary of DHS, the Department of Homeland Security, John Cohen. As we know, DHS is responsible for the inhumane treatment and denial of basic human rights to peace activist Jerome Aba. We should hold Rutgers accountable for sponsoring the presence of DHS and other US intelligence agencies on our campus, when such agencies have always and continue to be a threat to peace and inflict violence on both our local and global communities. It is time to demand that Rutgers terminate its ties to the intelligence agencies that actively preserve its complicity in state-sanctioned global violence, and we cannot do so without standing with peoples who are directly impacted by such.

And in the spirit of eternal solidarity with our motherland, I share with you all an excerpt of Ruby Ibarra’s "Us" featuring the spoken word of Faith Santilla:
So let it be known, if you don’t already
Pinays have always been part, and parcel, if not, imperative and critical to the struggle
Filipinas are no strangers to wielding our own power
Of all the privileges that exist in this world, none of which you may be a benefactor of
There is at least one you bear
And that is the privilege of having been born a Filipina
Your DNA contains building blocks made from the mud of over 500 years of resistance and survival
And when you are ready, sis, we’ll be right here
Thank you to all participating organizations and individuals for graciously speaking out against human rights abuses.

STOP THE KILLINGS!

NO TO FASCIST DICTATORSHIP!

STOP THE WAR ON THE POOR!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

May 5th Youth Led Protest in Newark: MLK Jam The Stake for Youth in the Anti War Struggle


Newark Youth Taking a Stand for Peace (Pictures)

Dear friends of peace and justice,

On May 5th, youth around Essex county and beyond will come together in an effort to promote the anti war effort.  The event will be held in Newark at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr/ Blvd and Springfield Avenue at 11 am at the Martin Luther King Monument.  The event is a legal event and NJ Anti War Agenda has a legal permit for the sound system.  I invite all youth organizations, individuals, adults who work with youth and parents of interested youth to contact me as soon as possible to help make this event a huge success.

Youth and young adults will be performing dances, singing, essays, music, as well as art displays as well as speaking out against US war making.  If you might be interested in performing or speaking, please contact me - ASAP!  All are welcome to attend but this event will be youth organized and led and the presenters and performers will be youths.

We are calling for youth of Newark and area communities to participate because it is the youth being recruited into these wars to fight for a country that is not fighting for us back at home.  We of course also are not interested in having our lives cut short by nuclear war nor do we want US guns trained on the our sister and brothers - young people in countries throughout the world.

The solutions for our problems here at home can not be found in battle fields near and afar.  Some of the issues at home that are concerning to youth are lack of funding in schools, as well as allocation of funds in the government. The US government is spending close to $800 billion per year on warfare.   Flint’s water system only costs 50 million to fix and yet nothing has been done.  In some Newark schools we are also dealing with water just as toxic as in Flint.

We need free higher education and training, health care, opportunities doing meaningful work, benefits, livable wages, adequately available recreation opportunities, housing, potable drinking water, and a lack of violence including by the police often against youth members of our communities.

On May 5th, we will be saying NO to US wars abroad and no war at home in our communities.  We will demand money for the needs of Newark and other NJ communities - not for the profits of the multinational corporations that manufacture the weapons for war nor those extracting resources from the countries around the planet that are subject to US warfare.

If you are an artist, performer, someone who has something to say about opposition to US war, please contact us immediately and help us to make this event a large success.

Phone 852-754-6691

Sincerely,
Tahir, lead organizer of 

MLK Jam: The Youth State in the Anti War Struggle
Saturday, May 5, 11 am - 2pm
MLK Monument, MLK Boulevard (Near Springfield Av), Newark NJ