Human Rights

By Powell, Sara; Hanley, Delinda C. | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, April 2006 | Go to article overview

Human Rights


Powell, Sara, Hanley, Delinda C., Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


BVFP Celebrates Dr. King's Legacy

Black Voices for Peace (BVFP) remembered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy on Jan. 16 at the Plymouth Congregational Church in Washington, DC. Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies recollected that, in his famous Riverside Church speech, King laid out the steps to ending the war in Vietnam: End the bombing, declare a unilateral cease-fire, leave the rest of the region, negotiate with the resistance, and set a date to remove all troops. The war on Iraq could be ended the same way, Bennis said.

Palestinian Chief of Mission in Washington, Ambassador Afif Safieh, said he grew up listening to King's speeches, and contrasted the U.S. of Lincoln and Wilson at the Versailles Peace Treaty with the U.S. which killed and dispossessed indigenous peoples. He told the crowd of several hundred that they were the America that the Palestinians wanted to stretch their hands to for help in escaping their bondage under Israeli oppression.

BVFP founder Damu Smith challenged the audience to consider King's entire message, including his stance on economic equality, and not focus only on "I have a dream..." Smith urged his listeners to "make connections, work together, act up!" He cited the Bush administration's war on Iraq as well as its backing of the Israeli government as urgent concerns requiring citizen action.

Ruby Sales of Spirit House pointed out that the civil rights movement defeated U.S. apartheid without firing a shot, and reminded the audience that it was ordinary people who did so.

Next Elaine Johnson, whose son was killed in Iraq, described how insulted she was when, at a meeting with bereaved family members, George Bush adjured her not to sell the presidential coin she was given on EBay. Bush also told Johnson that the U.S. would finish its mission in Iraq. "What mission?" she asked, but Bush did not answer. Johnson then stated that since nearly a third of the U.S. Army was African-American, other black mothers needed to be standing up for their children and letting Congress know they should impeach Bush if they wanted to win re-election.

Patricia Roberts also spoke about her son who was killed. While she never had the opportunity to meet with Bush, she said, it made no difference, because he was not listening. She would fight to stop the war, Roberts vowed, because it lived in her every day, and because one day she will have to tell her grandson that his father is never coming back. A third bereaved mother, Evelyn Allen, quietly said she would do whatever she could to stop the war, explaining that her son, killed by a U.S. tank shell, never thought he would be fighting an unjust war. …

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