DizneyWords

Just another WordPress weblog

Entries Tagged as ''

Clinging to hope in Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India — Eighteen years ago, Mughli Begum’s only son left one morning for his teaching job at a local school and never came back.

A woodcutter in the area reported seeing Nazir Ahmad Teli, 30, being bundled away by Indian security forces, then in the early days of a campaign to root out violent separatists opposed to Indian rule in Kashmir, a predominantly Muslim Himalayan territory uneasily divided between India and its old enemy, Pakistan.

Teli, like at least 8,000 Kashmiris caught up in the bloody conflict, vanished, leaving his anguished mother to exhaust her energy and savings to try to find him. Today she fears his body might be in one of nearly 1,000 unmarked graves recently discovered near the disputed border with Pakistan.

“Nobody should see the kind of day I saw,” said the 66-year-old, weeping. “Had he been a militant, I wouldn’t hurt so much. But he was nothing.

“I’m still looking for him,” said Begum, who has waged a long court battle seeking information about his fate. “How do you say when enough time has passed? How does a mother ever stop looking?”

India is better known these days for its gleaming office towers and outsourcing-industry successes than for the abject poverty and militant uprisings that are still a big part of life for many Indians.

In Indian-controlled Kashmir, violence has waned in recent years as relations between India and Pakistan thaw and peace talks slowly progress. But thousands of families of Kashmir’s missing remain in limbo, caught between security laws that give the half-million Indian troops in Kashmir near carte blanche to kill suspected militants, and a legal system that has allowed court cases to drag on for years.

Effectively, laws and the system have blocked attempts to prosecute soldiers involved in disappearances, and they have kept Kashmiri families from information about the fate of the missing.

India’s security forces “say we are fighting insurgency, we are fighting terrorists, we are fighting militancy,” said Shafat Ahmad, a Kashmiri lawyer who has tracked nearly 100 disappearance cases making their way through the courts. “They have suggested if these laws are not in place, the whole of India is under threat.”

“Even the army has admitted that the extraordinary powers to shoot have led to ‘mistakes,’ ” Human Rights Watch noted in a 2006 report. Today, “most Kashmiri families have lost a relative, friend or neighbor in the violence” committed by Pakistani-government-backed militants and “abusive Indian government forces,” it said.

In recent years, Indian security forces, long believed to have routinely executed suspected insurgents, have in a few cases detained villagers, staged fake armed encounters with them, then passed off their bodies as those of Pakistani terrorists to win promotions and bonuses for bravery, according to Human Rights Watch and Kashmiri activists.

“There’s a lot of impunity, and impunity is at the core of this entire debate,” said Muzamil Jaleel, a journalist at the Indian Express newspaper, which has tracked the cases of more than 200 of the disappeared. In most cases, “there are no traces, no investigators, nothing.”

Unmarked graves

In villages around the Himalayan foothills, investigators from Kashmir’s Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons this spring discovered 940 unmarked graves believed to hold the remains of some of those who have vanished.

Villagers in Chalan, a hamlet with 170 of the graves dug into a rocky field, said the faces of most of those buried there by police were mutilated beyond recognition, and some were wearing clothing that indicated they may have come from Srinagar or other urban areas.

“They were killed in a manner they would not be identified,” said Raja Shukeel Khan, a local man who helped police bury the bodies. Locals were told the remains were of militants, but Khan was not convinced.

“These could be anyone, common men. Who knows their story before they came here?” he said.

The parents association hopes to exhume the bodies and carry out DNA tests to identify them.

“The government will never do it,” Khan said. “It is their secret, and they will never open it up.”

India’s government insists any bodies in the graves are those of insurgents.

‘It eats you up’

Kashmir is home to thousands of “half widows”—women whose husbands have disappeared but who cannot access their husbands’ pensions or remarry because of uncertainty about their spouses’ fates.

“Without a dead body, there is still a hope, a hope he has been kept somewhere,” said Parveena Ahangar, who founded the parents association after her 16-year-old son Javed was arrested by Indian security forces in 1990 and vanished. Waiting for answers, she said, “is an incurable disease. It’s worse than cancer. It eats you up.”

Few have suffered as much as Mughli Begum, who has no close family apart from her vanished son and who survives on a handout of about $18 a month from her son’s teaching department.

Begum, who has sold virtually everything she owned to travel to search for her son, sits alone in her room each day, praying.

She pulls out a well-worn black-and-white photo of her son, kisses it and slaps her forehead in agony.

“How can we forget? How can anyone forget?”

Web still taking backseat to TV at Olympics

The Olympic Games are supposed to be about international brotherhood and friendly competition, but it seems NBC doesn’t want the competition or to be friendly.

 

NBC, which has the exclusive rights to televise events from the games in Beijing, has made great strides over the years in bringing more content to viewers. For the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, the network set up NBCOlympics.com, but alas it offered little more than photos and schedules intended to drive Web surfers to their TVs.

In 2004, the network discovered high definition, which was nice–unless you weren’t too keen on waiting an extra hour for the opening ceremonies to be broadcast, or had no interest in watching the same footage of a diving competition for days.

In 2006, NBC seemed to discover the Internet, offering live Internet streaming of the gold medal hockey game at the Turin Winter Olympics.

So it seemed the entertainment giant had finally got its act together: in addition to the 1,400 hours of TV coverage, the network plans to enlist the Internet to offer 3,000 hours of on-demand highlights , blogging, analysis, and even fantasy league gaming.

However, the Internet will still be taking a backseat to the TV. NBC will not make events scheduled to be televised available online until after they are seen on TV, Perkins Miller, senior vice president for digital media at NBC Sports, told the Associated Press .

And NBC, which ponied up $3.5 billion to the International Olympics Committee for rights to televise the games, isn’t making friends with other Web sites. NBCOlympics.com is the only site you will see video coverage of events on the Web. Other Web sites are permitted to show Olympic trials events, but they must link to NBCOlympics.com–and all that video content must be taken down before the Beijing Games start.

Is NBC being a bit paranoid about Web sites stealing its TV viewership?

“It’s not that we aren’t nervous,” Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics, told the AP. “But we’re up to it and we’re going to perform as we always have in the past.”

Maybe NBC will surprise us and do better.

The Bourne Supremacy

POLISH teenager Agnieszka Radwanska grabbed her third title of the year at Eastbourne last night after a hard-fought battle with Russia’s Nadia Petrova.

The 19-year-old moved up to 11 in the world rankings after her 6-4 6-7 6-4 win and has her sights on more Wimbledon success.

Radwanska won the junior title three years ago - a feat younger sister Urszula emulated last year.

Both sisters will feature in the full draw this year.

She said: “Winning is great but you can’t stop if you want to achieve your goals.

“We both have great memories at Wimbledon and we are looking forward to going back.”

7 die as medical helicopters collide over Arizona

PHOENIX (AP) — Two medical helicopters collided Sunday afternoon about a half-mile from a northern Arizona hospital, killing at least seven people and critically injuring three, a federal official said.

All three people on one of the helicopters were killed in the Flagstaff collision, including a patient and the pilot, said Ian Gregor, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Four others were killed and three critically wounded, Gregor said. He wasn’t sure if they were all on the second helicopter or whether some were on the ground.

Capt. Mark Johnson, a spokesman for the Flagstaff Fire Department, said the helicopters crashed in a wooded area about a half-mile from Flagstaff Medical Center. The helicopters spread debris across the scene.

“They’re not recognizable as helicopters,” he said.

Johnson said two emergency workers with a ground ambulance company suffered minor burns in an explosion on one of the aircraft after the crash. The injuries were not life-threatening, he said.

Both helicopters were Bell 407 models, according to the FAA. One was operated by Air Methods of Englewood, Colo., and the other by Classic Helicopters of Woods Cross, Utah. Neither company returned calls from The Associated Press on Sunday.

The crash started a 10-acre brush fire that authorities were able to extinguish, said Coconino County sheriff’s spokesman Gerry Blair.

The cause of the crash about a half-mile from Flagstaff Medical Center is being investigated. Hospital spokeswoman Starla Addair said she did not have any information to release.

National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Keith Holloway said a team will leave for Flagstaff from Washington, D.C., on Monday to take over the crash investigation from the FAA.

Two news helicopters collided while covering an auto chase last summer near Phoenix, killing all four people on board.

Flagstaff is about 130 miles north of Phoenix.

3 hurt, 1 critically, in AZ medical chopper crash

PHOENIX (AP) — A medical helicopter crashed early Friday in northern Arizona as it was landing to pick up a patient, hurting three crew members aboard, one critically, officials said.

The pilot, flight paramedic and flight nurse were hurt in the crash near Ash Fork, according to Jonathan Collier, a spokesman with Air Evac Inc.

They were taken about 50 miles east to Flagstaff hospital, where one was in critical condition Friday afternoon. Another crewman was in serious condition, and the third, the pilot, was in good condition.

Collier said their families had asked that they not be immediately identified.

The crew of the Eurocopter AS350 were on their way to pick up a motorcycle accident victim and were landing about 2 miles west of Ash Fork when the accident happened, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said. The FAA will investigate.

An ambulance crew and members of the Juniper Hills Fire Department were waiting for the chopper when it tried to land in a field about 3:30 a.m.

“When he came in there was lots of dust and dirt, and we believe he was browned out,” said Denny Davenport, chief administrator of the fire department. A “brownout” refers to circumstances in which a helicopter pilot loses bearings in poor visibility.

The flight originated from Air Evac’s base at the Prescott airport, one of several it runs in Arizona.

Air Evac is a subsidiary of Louisiana-based PHI Inc., which provides helicopter services for the energy industry and has a medical evacuation division.

Coast Guard aids Hampton couple

HAMPTON — The Coast Guard just before 1 p.m. on Thursday rescued a local couple whose boat was foundering roughly four miles off the Gloucester, Mass., coast.

John Muxie, owner of the 30-foot sailboat Pooka, called for help over his radio, and members of the U.S. Coast Guard based in Gloucester dispatched two vessels, according to information released by the agency.

“There were about 50 gallons of water on board, and there was water in the cabin,” Petty Officer 2nd Class Gary Fleming, a crewman on the response boat, told the Portsmouth Herald.

Fleming boarded Pooka and found water rising above the deck. With Muxie’s help, he scooped enough water from the vessel to let the Coast Guard to tow it to Gloucester Harbor.

“Initially they couldn’t get to the on-board dewatering pump because there was too much water in the bilge,” Fleming said. “But, once inside the harbor, they got it started and pumped off more water.”

No one was hurt. It’s unclear whether the vessel is back at its home port.

Calls to a number listed under Muxie’s name were not returned Saturday.

Phelps sets new world record

Six-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps broke his own world record in the 400 metre individual medley at the 2008 US Olympic team trials on Sunday.

Phelps clocked 4mins 05.22secs to break his previous mark of 4:06.22 and edge out Ryan Lochte.

The 22-year-old Phelps clocked the second-fastest time in the event’s qualifying swim, finishing in 4:13.43.

Lochte, who holds the world record in the 200m backstroke, was the fastest qualifier in 4:13.38.

Katie Hoff quikcly followed Phelps’ lead, winning the women’s 400 metre individual medley in a world record 4:31.12secs.

Hoff erased Stephanie Rice’s mark of 4:31.46 to qualify for the trip to Beijing alongside 15-year-old Elizabeth Beisel, who finished second.

FAMILY MATTERS: When the poor are at your window

SXC.HU

We’re walking one day. “What did she say Mummy?” Caleb, my four-year-old, said. “Nothing darling,” I said dismissively. But my little man wouldn’t let go of this bone. “Mummmmy,” he pleaded, “What did she saayyy?” All the parenting books that I have ever started to read, but have never quite finished, have said how important it is to answer your kids’ questions in a straight-forward and non-condescending manner. But I found it hard that Sunday morning, to explain to my child why I had just refused to give some money to the poor lady. It didn’t escape me, either, that we had just come out of church.

As if in mutiny, my other son, who is five-and a-half, also piped up. “Mummmmy,” he began. And I knew from the tone of that one single word that I wasn’t going to escape this one.

So I began recounting to them my own personal insights on the topic of begging. I explained to my four- and five-and-a-half-year-old boys how people should work. And how if we give money to people who beg, then it will only encourage them to keep on begging and not look for work, especially if they are able to work and are young and healthy.

“So if they work somewhere or do something which is work, then they can be given some money for what they do. Ok?” I didn’t go in to the lengthy details of how some beggars don’t even keep the money that they receive, as some of them are sent to beg by bullies or how some beggars use the money for alcohol and drugs. I just gave my boys a nice and simple explanation.

And I thought that was good enough, until the next time the subject arose. We were driving past a couple of teenagers rummaging through the street bins. And Cedar, the five-and-a-half-year-old said, “Mummy why don’t we make lots of jobs so that they can work and then we can pay them money. Then they won’t be poor anymore.” Well I almost welled up. His straightforward solution to what he was seeing was very compassionate and a bit unrealistic. I tried to explain that there were some good people that helped poor people find jobs so that they could work, but I didn’t broach the idea of us personally as a family setting up job-training schemes and employing the poor in order to alleviate their suffering.

It was clear that this issue about the poor wasn’t going to go away. And a couple of weeks later, driving in the muck and slush of the winter’s snow, my five-and-a-half-year-old made another wild statement.

And as a sideline, I have noticed that some of the most important conversations that I have had with my children have taken place as we’ve been driving. (I’m not quite sure what that reveals but… there you go!)

We were at the traffic lights of Tsar Boris III and the Ring Road. And the young kids that congregated there with their soapy water bottles and wipers were approaching the car, eager to “smear” my window – as I saw it. I automatically wagged my finger “No”. And as I looked back at the rear view mirror in preparation to drive off, I could see it in my boy’s face. A question was forming, and his little brain was tick-tick-ticking away… What would come out of those pursed little lips of his, I wondered.

“Mummmy,” he began, “Why did you say ‘no’?” “Well, I didn’t want him to mess up my window,” I explained nonchalantly, as instructed by my many half-read parenting books. “But Mummy,” came the adamant reply, “he was working!!” I could see the injustice of what he had just witnessed written all over his face. And with furrowed brows he declared, “Mummy, you said”(and I hate those three words) “you said that if he is working then we can give him money. And he was working, cleaning our windows!!”

It was too late for me to allow the window cleaner another chance to clean my car window again, but I did feel convicted at my son’s words. Convicted because his words placed a mirror in front of me and showed me how I had to walk the talk; I couldn’t just say good sounding soundbites and walk on by. There were people’s lives at stake that my life could affect for the better. And so, humbled in front of my son, I agreed to pay generously any kid who offered to “work” for us by cleaning our car windows. He contentedly agreed to this suggestion, quite appeased that his silly Mummy was going to do the just thing next time.

I have to say that from that day onwards, I have made sure that there are always coins in the car for the specific purpose of “paying” the poor boy or girl who “work” and “clean” my car windows. And I do this even when my son is not in the car!

Poverty is not just exclusively a Bulgarian problem – of course not. While I was living in London, it was a regular thing for me to travel by tube. And being squashed in London’s bustling metro is an experience that begs to be quickly forgotten. Rattling on those trains in rush hour from Leyton Station to Tottenham Court Road, often under somebody’s armpit, was not something I particularly enjoyed. But for a while there it was part of my sorry life.

One of the few pleasures of travelling by tube were the rare moments of spilling out of a train and being met by a waft of music, a smooth saxophone melody here or the strummings of a guitar there. I always found it beautiful, soothing and almost rosy smelling, especially after the often foul sardine experience I would have just had.

I was never “offended” or threatened by the musicians’ “begging”, partly because I never felt it to be confrontational. If you liked the music you placed a quid in, if not you didn’t, no big deal, and there was never a fear of the musicians hurling profanities at you for not being charitable.

But begging isn’t always so “nice” and polite. Sometimes it’s raw, and pitiful and almost enough to arouse anger in those witnessing its sensory-overloading smelly sourness.

It was after my second year of living in Bulgaria that we went back to England for a visit. And there on East Ham High Street, in East London, I witnessed something I couldn’t believe… a young gypsy mum squatting on the pavement with a baby in her arms. The High Street shoppers diverted their heads away from her as they passed, and their conversations went mute just as their shadows hit her skinny frame. And what did I do? Well, I did exactly the same as everybody else.

It just seemed weird for me to see somethiing in one country that one associated mostly with another. This weird parallel universe experience was further drilled home when we came to a traffic light somewhere on the 406 dual carriageway. There seemed to be a whole family of gypsies gathered there, a couple with soapy water-filled plastic bottles and window wipers and the others with babies under their arms tapping on car windows. It was a shocking scene for me, partly because I wasn’t used to seeing it in England. And the truth is, I’m still not used to seeing it in Bulgaria, either.

Poverty is unpleasant to the eye, it’s challenging, confrontational and heart-tugging.

And being quite a private and introverted kind of person, I often opt to the looking away approach, and only give a coin or two if I don’t feel “threatened” by the beggar.

We all have coping strategies when it comes to meeting beggars. And none of those strategies are wrong or right; they are just ways in which different people cope with an awkward situation.

But my son’s comment of “but Mummmy you said that if he is working then we can give him money” jolted my conscience into gear. Because that’s what I truly believe. I would like nothing more than not to see or smell or touch poverty, but it is the challenging reality that I live in and in that which my kids live in. And my conscience screams that those children at the streetlights should be educated, should be skilled and given job opportunities. And my conscience shouts that poor young girls in orphanages and ghettoes shouldn’t be hunted down by predators for the sex trade.

It’s hard to address poverty. It is the challenge of every age. But turning the other way and hoping it will disappear isn’t going to make it go away. So what am I going to do about it, according to my conscience? And may I ask, what are you going to do about it?

Rick Wilson

In the last year, West Virginia has taken quite a few hits in the media. A journalist friend described it as a “target-rich environment.”

The hits I’m thinking about now are images hurtling through the Web and airwaves portraying us as racist and xenophobic. Obviously, West Virginia, like other places, has its share of racists and bigots - and quite a few of them wound up talking to the press.

But I get upset when people paint the whole state and its history with that brush. West Virginia has a pretty interesting past in terms of race relations. Even before statehood, there were tensions between western mountaineers and the slaveholding elite that dominated Virginia politics.

Speaking of what would become West Virginia, John Brown believed: “These mountains are the basis of my plan. … God has given the strength of the hills to freedom; they were placed here for emancipation of the negro race. …” While his plans didn’t work out as intended (or then again, maybe they did), West Virginia did secede from the secessionists and played an important if contested role in a certain sectional dustup in the 1860s.

It is fitting that the site of Brown’s raid was the place of the first public meeting of the Niagara Movement in 1906, which was founded by W.E.B. DuBois, William Monroe Trotter and others and called for full civil rights for African-Americans. It is widely viewed as a forerunner of the NAACP. DuBois later said that “here on the scene of John Brown’s martyrdom. … We reconsecrated ourselves, our honor, our property, to the final emancipation of the race which John Brown died to make free.”

Writing of the birth of the state during the Civil War, John Alexander Williams said, “Few of the 25,000 black people who found themselves living in West Virginia after the Civil War are likely to have wept for the loss of the Old Dominion. What was Virginia irridenta for some of their former masters became a haven of freedom for ex-slaves. Some blacks served as spies or couriers for Union troops operating in the Shenandoah region; others followed the soldiers northward to freedom.”

West Virginia played a role in the lives of two men central to the making and preserving of black history. After the Civil War, Booker T. Washington made the long trek over the mountains from Virginia to work at a salt furnace in Malden. Conditions were harsh, but it was there that he began his education together with other former slaves.

Washington described that time thus:

“This experience of a whole race beginning to go to school for the first time, presents one of the most interesting studies that has ever occurred in connection with the development of any race. Few people who were not right in the midst of the scenes can form any exact idea of the intense desire which the people of my race showed for an education. As I have stated, it was a whole race trying to go to school. Few were too young, and none too old, to make the attempt to learn. … The great ambition of the older people was to try to learn to read the Bible before they died. With this end in view, men and women who were fifty or seventy-five years old would often be found in the night-school. Sunday-schools were formed soon after freedom, but the principal book studied in the Sunday-school was the spelling-book. Day-school, night-school, Sunday-school, were always crowded, and often many had to be turned away for want of room.”

Another African-American who came here to work and stayed to learn and teach was Carter G. Woodson, widely regarded as “the father of black history.” As a young man, he enjoyed listening as friends read from newspapers and books and discussed current events. He said, “In this circle the history of the race was discussed frequently, and my interest in penetrating the past of my people was deepened and intensified.”

In the last year, West Virginia has taken quite a few hits in the media. A journalist friend described it as a “target-rich environment.”

The hits I’m thinking about now are images hurtling through the Web and airwaves portraying us as racist and xenophobic. Obviously, West Virginia, like other places, has its share of racists and bigots - and quite a few of them wound up talking to the press.

But I get upset when people paint the whole state and its history with that brush. West Virginia has a pretty interesting past in terms of race relations. Even before statehood, there were tensions between western mountaineers and the slaveholding elite that dominated Virginia politics.

Speaking of what would become West Virginia, John Brown believed: “These mountains are the basis of my plan. … God has given the strength of the hills to freedom; they were placed here for emancipation of the negro race. …” While his plans didn’t work out as intended (or then again, maybe they did), West Virginia did secede from the secessionists and played an important if contested role in a certain sectional dustup in the 1860s.

It is fitting that the site of Brown’s raid was the place of the first public meeting of the Niagara Movement in 1906, which was founded by W.E.B. DuBois, William Monroe Trotter and others and called for full civil rights for African-Americans. It is widely viewed as a forerunner of the NAACP. DuBois later said that “here on the scene of John Brown’s martyrdom. … We reconsecrated ourselves, our honor, our property, to the final emancipation of the race which John Brown died to make free.”

Writing of the birth of the state during the Civil War, John Alexander Williams said, “Few of the 25,000 black people who found themselves living in West Virginia after the Civil War are likely to have wept for the loss of the Old Dominion. What was Virginia irridenta for some of their former masters became a haven of freedom for ex-slaves. Some blacks served as spies or couriers for Union troops operating in the Shenandoah region; others followed the soldiers northward to freedom.”

West Virginia played a role in the lives of two men central to the making and preserving of black history. After the Civil War, Booker T. Washington made the long trek over the mountains from Virginia to work at a salt furnace in Malden. Conditions were harsh, but it was there that he began his education together with other former slaves.

Washington described that time thus:

“This experience of a whole race beginning to go to school for the first time, presents one of the most interesting studies that has ever occurred in connection with the development of any race. Few people who were not right in the midst of the scenes can form any exact idea of the intense desire which the people of my race showed for an education. As I have stated, it was a whole race trying to go to school. Few were too young, and none too old, to make the attempt to learn. … The great ambition of the older people was to try to learn to read the Bible before they died. With this end in view, men and women who were fifty or seventy-five years old would often be found in the night-school. Sunday-schools were formed soon after freedom, but the principal book studied in the Sunday-school was the spelling-book. Day-school, night-school, Sunday-school, were always crowded, and often many had to be turned away for want of room.”

Another African-American who came here to work and stayed to learn and teach was Carter G. Woodson, widely regarded as “the father of black history.” As a young man, he enjoyed listening as friends read from newspapers and books and discussed current events. He said, “In this circle the history of the race was discussed frequently, and my interest in penetrating the past of my people was deepened and intensified.”

Woodson graduated from and later served as principal at Douglass High School in Huntington, later serving as Dean of the West Virginia Collegiate Institute, now West Virginia State University. In addition to being the first son of slaves to earn a Ph. D. from Harvard, he devoted his life to preserving black history and struggling for justice. In his book The Mis-Education of the Negro, he wrote:

“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his ‘proper place’ and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.”

One could argue that the problem of mis-education today is not confined to any one group.

Interestingly, Woodson’s passion for preserving African-American history was shared by a contemporary scholar and native West Virginian, Henry Louis Gates Jr., who among other things edited with Kwame Anthony Appiah the Encyclopedia Africana.

In the arena of labor, there are many examples of interracial cooperation and solidarity in the history of United Mine Workers, a union which has played a large part in our history. The UMWA also have given birth to the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in the 1930s, which created interracial and multiethnic industrial unions on a large scale across the country.

The labor movement helped bring many marginalized workers into the mainstream of American life.  Many labor activists, such as West Virginia’s own Walter Reuther, were strong supporters of the civil rights movement. Workers here also united across racial lines in the black lung movement and in pushing for coal mine and occupational safety.

Space doesn’t allow me to do more than mention the contributions of Charleston native Leon Sullivan and many others with West Virginia connections, black and white, who have worked for the common good.

Perplexing as the present is, there are good things in our past to build upon as we move ahead. Sometimes the world forgets these things - and sometimes we do too.

Wilson is director of the American Friends Service Committee WV Economic Justice Project and publishes “The Goat Rope,” a daily blog on current events.

Woodson graduated from and later served as principal at Douglass High School in Huntington, later serving as Dean of the West Virginia Collegiate Institute, now West Virginia State University. In addition to being the first son of slaves to earn a Ph. D. from Harvard, he devoted his life to preserving black history and struggling for justice. In his book The Mis-Education of the Negro, he wrote:

“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his ‘proper place’ and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.”

One could argue that the problem of mis-education today is not confined to any one group.

Interestingly, Woodson’s passion for preserving African-American history was shared by a contemporary scholar and native West Virginian, Henry Louis Gates Jr., who among other things edited with Kwame Anthony Appiah the Encyclopedia Africana.

In the arena of labor, there are many examples of interracial cooperation and solidarity in the history of United Mine Workers, a union which has played a large part in our history. The UMWA also have given birth to the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in the 1930s, which created interracial and multiethnic industrial unions on a large scale across the country.

The labor movement helped bring many marginalized workers into the mainstream of American life.  Many labor activists, such as West Virginia’s own Walter Reuther, were strong supporters of the civil rights movement. Workers here also united across racial lines in the black lung movement and in pushing for coal mine and occupational safety.

Space doesn’t allow me to do more than mention the contributions of Charleston native Leon Sullivan and many others with West Virginia connections, black and white, who have worked for the common good.

Perplexing as the present is, there are good things in our past to build upon as we move ahead. Sometimes the world forgets these things - and sometimes we do too.

Wilson is director of the American Friends Service Committee WV Economic Justice Project and publishes “The Goat Rope,” a daily blog on current events.

 

Variety defines Fishers Freedom Festival

The church has formed a six-member Mime Ministry that tells the story of Christ through body movements and facial expressions. The troupe formed before a trip to Japan last fall.

“We knew there would be a language barrier, so we tried to think of the best ways to communicate our message,” said Doug Baker, associate pastor at the church.

The Mime Ministry will perform at 11:30 a.m. today at Roy G. Holland Park during the 20th annual Fishers Freedom Festival.

It’s only the group’s second appearance since returning from Japan, so it’s a chance to see how far members have come, Baker said.

“In January we got the team together again and decided it was something we would try to stick with,” Baker said. He said a performance at the Indy Explosion youth ministry gathering at Conseco Fieldhouse was well received.

“It really engages the audience because they have to pay attention to follow what is going on,” Baker said, “and the team members . . . enjoy it.”

The Mime Ministry consists of six players dressed in black, tight-fitting clothes, white gloves and faces painted white acting out their message without speaking.

The act takes only 15 minutes but can be exhausting, said Katie Armstrong, 17, who portrays Satan. The most difficult part is holding poses, Armstrong said. The youth who plays Christ has to hold his crucifixion pose for five minutes.

She said the players exaggerate their facial expressions and keep their body movements realistic.

“You learn to take deep breaths,” Armstrong said.

The mimes will have plenty of competition for eyeballs at the festival, which features 120 arts and crafts sites, 100 business booths, 30 food vendors and 30 booths with free games. Activities and performances include disc-catching dogs, boxing and martial arts exhibitions, scuba diving, watermelon eating, ballet, magic, music and comedy.

“There should be something there for just about everyone,” said Suzie Willard, a spokeswoman for the fest.

The festival, which is expected to draw 45,000 people, has grown along with Fishers’ booming population. Ten years ago, about 15,000 people attended, and about 1,000 visited the inaugural fest.

“Back then it was more like a community picnic and people brought their own food. There were no food vendors,” Willard said.

Two holdovers from the first fest are the 5K race at the beginning and the parade near the end.

The fest features two new activities this year: a cornhole — or beanbag — tournament, and a lumberjack contest with logrolling and ax throwing.

The cornhole tournament is at 10 a.m. Sunday on the large soccer field east of the St. Vincent Carmel Hospital Entertainment Tent.

The lumberjacks will give three performances today and Sunday near the St. Vincent tent.