Monday, February 27, 2017

New This Week (Feb. 27, 2017)

Ash Wednesday is upon us.

This year I'm thinking about the coincidence of Ash Wednesday (March 1) with the day when the US carried out massive nuclear tests on Bikini Atoll. (See  Why People Want a Pacific (and World) Free of Nuclear Weapons.) Considering that nuclear ban talks go forward in a few weeks at the the UN, I'm wondering - will church leaders step up to call on all of us to repent our nuclear folly during Lent?

(And I wonder: will banning nuclear weapons will be on the program when world leaders gather at Westminster Cathedral on March 13 to recognize "2017 - A Peace-building Commonwealth.")

I'm also thinking about another type of ashes and dust . . . .

Anthracite Fields in performance.

Sunday night at Cal Performances, I saw a performance of the earth-shattering oratorio Anthracite Fields. There is a good summary of the piece on Wikipedia.

I've written a lot about my anthracite coal miner Grandaddy Melker:

I wish every person who has ever worked could have their labors commemorated in a piece as moving as Anthracite Fields.

You can listen to all five movements on Youtube. But start by watching this video that gives an overview of the whole project:

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UPDATE 2/28: There are now twenty (20) co-sponsors on the bill to rein in presidential first use of nuclear weapons. Please use this script to call and get YOUR representative on that list!

A Peace-building Commonwealth Wants to Ban Nuclear Weapons

Some blog posts just write themselves.

March 13, 2017, is "Commonwealth Day" - "the annual celebration of the Commonwealth of Nations held on the second Monday in March, and marked by a multi-faith service in Westminster Abbey, normally attended by Queen Elizabeth II as Head of the Commonwealth . . . . ".

The Commonwealth of Nations includes these countries:

Commonwealth Countries

This year, the theme of Commonwealth Day is "A Peace-building Commonwealth."

So what I can't figure out is how certain prominent Commonwealth countries voted "no" to the UN negotiations on a global nuclear weapons ban, when it was approved this past October:

Vote on resolution to negotiate a ban on nuclear weapons in 2017 (L-41)
Green - Yes (123, 76%)
Red - No (38, 24%)
Beige - Abstained
(Via @ILPIwmd - share on Twitter)

Make no mistake -- the majority of the countries of the world approved the resolution to move forward with nuclear ban negotiations . . . the preparatory meetings have already taken place . . . and the first formal sessions will begin at the end of March.

And let's be clear: so many Commonwealth countries were actually sponsors of the resolution that you could practically call it a Commonwealth project:

New Zealand
Papua New Guinea
Sierra Leone
South Africa
Sri Lanka
St. Vincent and The Grenadines
Trinidad and Tobago

Almost all the rest of the Commonwealth countries voted yes. (See the "Full voting result on UN resolution L.41" page on the ICAN website.)

A few Commonwealth countries (such as India and Pakistan) abstained on the vote -- and they may very well participate actively in the negotiations themselves. (There were some reports that India attended the preparatory meeting.)

A peace-building Commonwealth
But there are some "refuseniks."

Australia and Canada, as well as the UK itself, all voted "no." To date, all indications are that those three countries will boycott the negotiations. All of three countries are under the pressure of the ultimate refusenik -- the United States -- to stay away from this vital peace effort.

The Commonwealth really is central to banning nuclear weapons. But right now there remain a few missing pieces in the puzzle.

During this year of "A peace-building Commonwealth," urge the governments of the UK, Canada, and Australia to participate in the the nuclear ban negotiations. You can get involved at


Who would possibly vote "NO" to banning nuclear weapons???

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Which Comes First? Loyalty? or Equity?

About 50 people gathered on Sunday at First Church Berkeley for an art response to the anniversary of the 1942 executive order #9066 that resulted in the internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans. Two survivors of those internment camps shared 1,000 paper cranes with the participants. We were asked to think of ways to make use of them to say, "Never again." So now I'm sharing with you.

One of a thousand cranes distributed at the 2/19 event.

I moved to California about a year ago. While the US internment of people of Japanese descent during World War II is a legacy that every person in the US must own, it is particularly relevant to California, the home of so many of the people interned.

During the past year, I read Farewell to Manzanar - a memoir that is frequently assigned in high school and college classes here. It is a high impact book -- easy to read, and full of insights about the life of a second-generation girl of Japanese descent who was sent with her family to an internment camp in central California.

Farewell to Manzanar
I say "easy to read," but there is a part of the story that I just can't seem to get past.  Up until 1924, hundreds of thousands of Japanese were allowed to come to the US (plus Hawaii) to work, but they were not allowed to become US citizens. Then, in 1924, immigration from Japan to the US was cut off entirely by US law. (Details here and here.) Any children born to those immigrants in the US were automatically US citizens. All of them were rounded up and interned after war broke out. The pretext was: "You are of Japanese descent and we don't know where your loyalties lie."

In a way characteristic of this country, the US had created a situation combining mistreatment based on "race" identity with discrimination based on (involuntary) lack of citizenship

In 1943, the US government began to try to undo what it had done. It circulated a questionnaire to the internees, including "loyalty questions." If you answered the questions properly, you could obtain leave from internment.

Imagine having been rounded up and sent off to an internment camp, held for a long period, and then being given the "opportunity" to state where your loyalties lie. How would you feel? How would you feel if you were a US citizen? How would you feel if you were an immigrant who had been denied the possibility of ever becoming a US citizen?

The situation faced by those internees in 1943 is relevant to the continuing situation of various groups in the US today, especially immigrant populations and people subject to discrimination. Which properly comes first: loyalty? or equitable treatment? (Is the answer different if you're "white"?)


SANCTUARY (Church, City, State) and Solidarity with Immigrants 

Dirty Wars and Extrajudicial Execution (So 1984!)
Does a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) need to be part of a "new plan of Chicago"?
360 Degree Feedback in New York (2014 NPT Prepcom and How the World Views the United States))

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Why People Want a Pacific (and World) Free of Nuclear Weapons

In the US, if we think at all about our use of nuclear weapons, we think of Hiroshima (and perhaps Nagasaki).

But we should also remember the way we (and others) have subjected people in South Pacific nations to nuclear danger by tests of more and more enormous atomic and hydrogen bombs over the course of decades.

Laurence Hyde: woodcut print from the novel Southern Cross,
a book about atomic testing in the Pacific.

I, myself, got a wake-up call when participating in a commemoration of Hiroshima in Chicago in 2012 and finding the image above, depicting atomic testing in the Pacific.

My eyes were opened further by the film Lucky Dragon No. 5, by Kaneto Shindo. It tells the story of fishermen exposed to nuclear fallout from the (in)famous Castle Bravo nuclear test at Bikini on March 1, 1954.

Castle Bravo h-bomb test at Bikini Atoll, March 1, 1954.

Then, in 2014, a lawsuit was brought to get justice for people in the Marshall Islands.

In 2015, I was at a conference in Hiroshima and obtained a much more comprehensive sense of what US atomic testing in the Pacific was about. (See MARSHALL ISLANDS HIBAKUSHA: Can social media trump empire and entertainment? and the Wikipedia article on the so-called "Pacific Proving Grounds.")

Last year, I was listening to a hymn in church, and it led me to learn more about the leading role of New Zealand in working for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

New Zealand's representative for Foreign Affairs and Trade says,
"We will certainly be active participants in the negotiations
beginning at the UN in New York this coming March.
(Please share this message.)

NOW . . . Fiji, Indonesia, the Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Samoa, and Tuvalu have been among the co-sponsors of the UN resolution L.41, the passage of which set the stage for negotiations in 2017 on a global ban on nuclear weapons.

2017 is the year in which these countries and others will bring about a global ban on nuclear weapons.

For people in the US, this is a moment to understand the problem of nuclear weapons through the eyes of others -- particularly people who have lived under the shadow of US nuclear weapons. We need to urge our government to stop obstructing the nuclear weapons ban negotiations, and instead give their full support to this effort. Go to to find out how.

Working for a Nuclear-Free and Independent PACIFIC
(Image via @DimityHawkins)


Who would possibly vote "NO" to banning nuclear weapons???

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New This Week (Feb. 20, 2017)

Nuclear weapons: are we done playing God yet?

I'm thinking about Lent - which begins next week. In particular, I'm encouraging faith communities everywhere to use this time of repentance to speak out in support of the UN nuclear weapons ban negotiations and put an end, once and for all, to the threat that a few countries pose to everyone else in the world.

Coincidentally, Ash Wednesday this year falls on March 1 - the anniversary of the Castle Bravo nuclear test on Bikini Atoll. (See my new post below on Why People Want a Pacific (and World) Free of Nuclear Weapons.)

Here's more about the GLOBAL network working to ban nuclear weapons in 2017.

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A piece of folded paper at an event Sunday in Berkeley has me thinking: Which Comes First? Loyalty? or Equity?

Thursday, February 16, 2017


Preparatory meetings for the UN conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination, commence today. The first full meetings will take place at the end of March at the UN in New York.

Which leads me to a modest recommendation . . . .

Nuclear Ban Treaty Negotiations -- United Nations, New York
27-31 March 2017 / 15 June - 7 July 2017

What if faith leaders everywhere spoke out on the need to support the effort to ban nuclear weapons? This seems particularly important in the US, Canada, Australia, and most of the countries of Europe, whose governments are opposing these negotiations. (See: Who would possibly vote "NO" to banning nuclear weapons??? )

For instance, Christian leaders could designate Sunday, March 26 -- the day before the UN sessions begin -- as a day to lift up this important peace work. This date midway through Lent seems appropriate for talking about the need to make a change, while there's still time.

Woodcut print by Sadao Watanabe
I've checked the lectionary for the day. It includes John 9:1-41. ("One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.")  A fitting text . . . .

So . . . Preach it! Let the bells ring out!

Related posts . . . 

Ring Them Bells for Nuclear Disarmament in 2015

Nuclear Disarmament: Are the Churches the Key?

#NOwar Music: Sometimes you hear it in church

Key resources . . . 

Network of Christian Peace Organizations (NCPO) Nuclear Weapon Ban Briefing 2017

Nuclear Disarmament: The Time is Now (A Resolution Adopted by the General Assembly of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and Church World Service) 

World Council of Churches pushes for a prohibition on nuclear weapons

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Monday, February 13, 2017


Several groups worked together on Monday in Berkeley to lift up the names and stories of people who have suffered from police violence and other forms of systemic racism in the US. The vigil by members of Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action (BOCA), Justice 4 Kayla Moore, and Berkeley Copwatch was titled "Remember Our Names Black History Month Prayer Vigil" - and took place for five hours between noon and 5:00 p.m. in the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, facing Berkeley City Hall and the headquarters of the Berkeley Police Department.

Members of St. John's Presbyterian Church share names and stories.
(Photo: Mark Coplan)

February 13 is the anniversary of the murder of transgender African American woman Kayla Moore by the Berkeley Police Department 4 years ago. (See SAY HER NAME: Kayla Moore and the Struggle for Justice)

"Remember Our Names Black History Month Prayer Vigil"
(Photo: Mark Coplan)
The photo at right shows the backdrop for the event: the Justice for Kayla Moore banner at left, images of victims of killings by police at right, and artwork by event founder (and BOCA executive director) Rev. Daniel Buford on the raised central area. Rev. Buford is at center, wearing the beret. Kayla Moore's sister, Maria Moore, stands at the far right.

Many people gave testimony about the violence being carried out by representatives of the state all across this country, and particularly against people of color. Dozens of accounts, from research compiled by Rev. Buford, were read and discussed. People shared stories of violence and killings and other injustice that they had been subjected to, or that had affected their friends or families or other members of their communities.

Many people from the congregation I attend, University Lutheran Church (ULC), participated in the vigil. We at ULC have made an intentional commitment to anti-racism work, joining in solidarity with other justice activists in our city, our state, and nationally.

For my own part, I used my time at the microphone during the vigil to lift up the names of some people I have known and/or learned about through my work in Chicago before coming to Berkeley.

I talked about Flint Farmer, who was shot in the back by Chicago police and killed, as he lay face down on the ground. (See: We need to get the police off the streets of Chicago. QED. ) And I talked about Flint's father, Emmett, who I has become a tireless campaigner for justice on behalf of all people subjected to police violence. I said that each time I see the way Maria Moore has devoted herself to activism in response to what happen to her sister, Kayla, I always think of Emmett Farmer.

"Remember Our Names Black History Month Prayer Vigil"
(Photo: Mark Coplan)
I talked about Rekia Boyd, who was shot in the head by an off-duty Chicago police officer. (See: Chicago Vocabulary Lesson: "Overcharging" and "Undercharging") I talked about how people in Chicago made a commitment to #SayHerName, so that everyone would know Rekia's story. I talked about how the systemic injustice included not just the police, but the also the district attorney's office that failed to hold the police accountable. And I talked about how the people of Chicago voted states attorney Anita Alvarez out of office for her failures in cases like that of Rekia Boyd.

I talked about people who had suffered from police torture in Chicago -- people like Darrell Cannon and Mark Clements. I talked about seeing Mark show up to speak at protest after protest after protest against police crimes. If Mark -- freed after spending 28 years imprisoned on trumped-up charges -- can find the energy and courage to keep showing up to be an advocate for others, what's stopping the rest of us?

In the course of the afternoon, we lifted up the names of stories of people from dozens of places around the country. Systemic violence against people of color is not just a Bay Area thing, it's not just a Chicago thing, it's happening everywhere. (Flashback: National Forum on Police Crimes, May 2014)

A full album of photographs from the event is available on Flickr.


CHICAGO: Accountability ... Police AND City Council
Chicago Justice: Connecting the Dots

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