Thank you Therese Patricia Okoumou! None of us are free, if one of us is chained.
There is so little to be proud of being an American in Portugal on July 4th 2018. I awoke this July 5th to the news of her (s)heroic act, in my mind, Therese Patricia Okoumou stands tall with Bree Newsome and many, many, many others, too numerous to name here. Numerous, yet a small minority as most Americans were grilling, drinking and setting off fireworks on July 4th; celebrating the allusion of freedom.
Of course, the list of those of privilege who celebrate each Forth Of July without any remorse; seemingly oblivious to the history of colonization, genocide of the American Indian, the enslavement of Africans and how that legacy lives today in the oppression of women, LGBTQAI+, people of color, folks of low to no means, this list goes on and on and is perpetuated in the school to prison pipeline that insures oppression is a profitable business in this so called land of the free and the home of the brave.
You inspire me Therese, and hence this video, which I dedicate to you. As we say in Portuguese; Obrigado! This Veteran For Peace salutes you Therese Patricia Okoumou, thank you for your service.
July 4th in the U.S. is Independence day. As a veteran and a supporting member of Veterans For Peace, July 4th is a special day for me. It is a day that I typically set off for a long hike, get away and definitely do not want to be around any fourth of July celebrations which glorify war with explosive fireworks.
This summer I am in Portugal, working on a documentary about the wildfire situation here in Portugal as they relate to climate change. Desertification and climate refugees are issues which will have a huge impact on this country and it’s people.
As luck would have it, the Free Party is hosting an event in Lisbon which I’m looking forward to attending. It will most likely be in Portuguese and I anticipate most of it I will not understand. No matter, showing up is important to me and it will be an honor just to breathe that air.
242 years after the Independence of the United States of America, FREE asks: “Against Global Trumpism: A Declaration of European Independence?” A conversation with Rui Tavares, historian, former MEP and founder of FREE and Richard Zimler, journalist, writer and Portuguese-American professor
Google has a mobile app, Google Translate, which is simply amazing IMHO. It’s not that it works that well yet, however what it is attempting to do and currently does well enough that I use it quite often, is allow you to point your mobile device at, say a sign, and it translates that sign in real-time.
Here in my castle, an AirBnB condo decorated in what I like to refer to as Nuevo Portuguese Gaudy, there is a picture on the wall with text naturally in Portuguese.
Here is Google Translate in action:
The text in the framed wall picture is in Portuguese and the text on the phone’s screen is >>mostly<< English. For some reason calma is calma on both and perhaps the correct English is calmer.
My translation at this moment (esta momento – that one is easy) is:
It’s not true that the night is calmer than the day
Google Translate is most useful when I’m out and about, a stranger in a strange – to me anyway – land. Strange not in a odd way, but an unfamiliar one.
I’ve tested this text:
não. não. é Verdade que hoje a noite esta mais calma.
and none of them provide the same translation and I’m still not exactly sure what is the best english translation.
So, I’ll ask a Portuguese amigo next chance and update this post with their translation.
In 1979 while a freshman BSEE student at Northeastern University in Boston the theme of my required English class was “Great Journeys in Literature”. One of the required readings was written by my favorite author, Mark Twain, and the book assigned, “The Innocents Abroad”, the first edition dated 1869.
Twain begins chapter 6 remarking that among the ship’s company, “not a solitary individual who knew anything whatever about them“; them being the Azores, islands from which my paternal grandparents immigrated from in the 1910’s. However, his description of the people there has remained with me these 4 decades:
The community is eminently Portuguese—that is to say, it is slow, poor, shiftless, sleepy, and lazy.
At that point I thought I’d like to go there someday and see for myself, what exactly it was about these Azoreans that caused him to write such a critical statement as I nor my memory of either of my Portuguese grandparents (meus avos) fit this description. Certainly not a significant sample set, however obviously significant enough for me and my insatiable curiosity, which could not possibly exist with any of those atrocious descriptors! Of course, it’s Twain, so potentially he jests.
In the meantime, during the summer of 2017, I was surprised to learn about the deadliest wildfires in the history of mainland Portugal in which over 100 people perished. As I asked around in my circle of environmental activist friends, I found not a one knew anything about these fires nor the situation I had discovered from just a bit of research.
That was it; I would spend next summer in Portugal and work the intersectionality of my Personal, Political and Professional areas of interest and experience.
Little did I know that as I write this first “Portuguese” blog post on June 23rd, 2018 after 18 days here in Azeitao Village, Setubal District, about 20 miles south of Lisbon, that I would be witnessing small, brown, Spanish-speaking children in cages on Portuguese news broadcasts, as back in the USA President Donald J. Trump would be single-handedly destroying the image of my homeland, the so called: land of the free, the home of the brave!
Or perhaps what he is doing is showing all of us exactly who and what Americans are? I don’t totally believe that, I believe that our political system is very corrupt and is controled by Wall Street, the 1%, whatever you want to call them. The problem is, IMHO, we let them, that it’s time to stand up and make it right! (I say as I sit typing this! 🙂
Anyway, my reasons for being here are being turbo charged as the USA has caused a hugely disproportionate amount of global warming and, along with the USA’s history of meddling in other countries internal affairs – especially in Central America where many currently are desperately trying to escape violence and upheaval – the USA is, to my estimation anyway, a major factor in a lot of these migration issues worldwide.
Not to mention that Trump just recently withdrew from the UNFCCC’s Paris Agreement, an effort of every other country on the planet to change our use of fossil fuels which are causing Climate Change! All told, these are certainly precarious times!
Tomorrow I will be attending my first General Assembly of the FREE Party, the progressive political party here in Portugal, a party whose membership is open to all and whose mission is that of DiEM 25, the Democracy in Europe Movement, 2025 as the European Spring ignites here in Portugal and the EU and freedom and democracy are crashing right before the world’s eyes in the USA.
And finally, certainly global weirding exists here as this past week alone started out with 2 days at 100 degrees, 38 Celsius, a full 20 degrees above normal. On Monday, while the southern most parts of Portugal were at the highest levels of forest fire alert due to the above average temperatures and below average rain fail; to the north, violent rain and hails storms battered the Douro Valley where over a month’s worth of rain fell in just a few hours!
The hail damaged over 80% of the still developing foliage and flowers on the grape vines. Portugal is one fo the top 10 wine exporting counties in the world having first exported wine to Rome during the Roman Empire. And as I walk about Setubal district, the sweet smells of blooming grapes have been a treat to my olfactory receptors.
An eBook version of The Innocents Abroad is available for anyone anywhere and at no charge made available by the Project Gutenberg . And WordPress is about to release to the world a major revision, 5.0 which includes”a new publishing experience for WordPress”; coincidently named Gutenberg.
Intersectionality abounds as an innocent is again, abroad! Innocent, me? Surely I jest!
Recently, in a phone conversation with Suzanne and Brayton – founders of Agape Community in Ware Massachusetts, I was sharing with them how wonderful my experience of this St Francis Day ended up being for me, in fact it was somewhat life changing. When they asked if I would write what I felt “drawn to share from my perspective as one of the organizers of the event as well as one of the videographers” it seemed like it was the least I could do to express my gratitude.
My involvement all started back in May when I was asked to send out an announcement of Agape’s upcoming St Francis Day – Standing Rock is Everywhere event to the Traprock.Org email list; one of the initial fiscal sponsors of this event and where I volunteer to help send out emails and keep their website running and up to date for the last couple of years.
The flyer I was given to send out was rather plain so I volunteered to give it a facelift as creating graphics is a fun hobby which I enjoy. Also, it is a really useful way to “contribute toward the cause” as all activist organizations need to communicate their work and messages to their constituents and pictures speak louder than words.
Also, it occurred to me how much fun and how important it would be to have the full day of talks recorded on videoespecially Chief Arvol Looking Horse giving the keynote talk about Standing Rock, so I also volunteered to videotape the event, something I love doing even more than graphics because video is pretty much graphics that move with sound. Oh yeah, I also set up the sound system. I was in my element.
My expectations of a positive experience were greatly exceeded and the whole process from planning to clean up went smoothly.
First off, 2 other valley videographers Robert Jonas and Robbie Leppzer apparently also felt a similar, strong desire to record this special event because probably, like me, they sensed the timely importance of this special event and clearly have a similar feeling about the power of video. It seems before we knew it, we had a team of 3 ready to capture this event on “digital celluloid”. You can see the full day of talks as well as the water ceremony, burning of the doctrine of discovery and more on Agape’s website.
As a side benefit of working with Robbie and Jonas, I learned so much about being a videographer as Robbie is a professional, progressive filmmaker whom many activists in Western Mass know from his work. And Jonas is an amazingly upbeat and positive human being with a catalog of very creative, artful video work. So, 2 new friends, 2 new colleagues AND, Jonas and I have already teamed up with Robbie for a “gig”; the 3 of us did an avant garde poetic concert together since St Francis Day.
Second, Beatrice Menase Kwe Jackson and Peggy Noonan arrived early in the week and on Wednesday we were treated to a Grandmother’s Teaching and then a Grandmother Moon Ceremony which, for me and in hindsight, began and established what, looking back from this vantage point now feels like what in Lakota is “Oceti Agape” or Spiritual Camp at Agape. On Friday, the teepee would go up and on Saturday over 350 “Water Protectors” from the valley, western Mass and beyond would gather for this, the 35th annual St Francis Day.
On Saturday, during his keynote talk, Chief Looking Horse said a lot in a short time including this gem; a gem which I’d like to share now because in just a couple of months, this concept has been like a constant and helpful companion:
The old ones say… we have a choice to make good or to do something that you know is not right. Everything good or bad makes that complete circle. If you’ve done wrong, it will come back to you twice. If you do good, it will come back to you twice.
He was talking about the Cangleska Wakan or Sacred Hoop and how, when we sit in a sacred circle or even just in life, which really is a giant circle, that the energy we emit comes back twice and if the energy is negative it comes back twice. Send out good energy and that is what comes back, doubled.
Now probably the reason this feels so profound to me is the current world situation seems to be filling up with negative energy emitters. Also, all the division, resentment and hatred being sown world over because, I think, the power structures are collapsing from, as best I can tell, the 1% greedily scooping up as much wealth and power as they believe, the climate is changing and the social turbulence coming will be major. Mother earth just isn’t able to handle 7 plus billion humans that all want to live an American mainstream, middle class life certainly not while being bamboozled by our elected leaders.
This concept of the Cangleska Wakan insight is simple in concept yet powerful in practice. For example, now as I drive around, I practice the de-escalation techniques I learned in truth school Peacemaker training combined with knowing that by sending out good vibes, even when cut off or treated disrespectfully, the world will be a better place if I send out only good energy and soon, maybe even the next intersection or cross walk, that goodness will return, doubled.
But you know what? Most of all, it just feels sooooo good to be positive, being change, not giving up because, maybe that’s what they want us to do and our American Indian friends have a lot to teach us there!
Thank you Chief Looking Horse, Bea, Peggy, Dixon, Jonas, Robbie and many others but most of all Suzanne and Brayton, you changed my world, you are changing the world for the better and we need a whole lot more of that right now.
Now perhaps more than ever, an activist with a modern smart phone can quickly learn the skills of an eWitness; a videographer can bear witness to injustice in all its manifestations.
In this skill share, we’ll aim to improve our abilities using video and technology to protect and defend human rights and to create human rights change in a safe, respectful and paradigm changing way.
Introduction to the video advocacy resources available thru witness.org & video4change.org, their mission, resources and collaboration possibilities and considering incubate Pioneer Valley: Witness, some kind of local resource and organization for eWitnesses.
Video Production Basics, Intro To CameraV and Video making
How to conduct Interviews, character Portraits and B-Roll and creating a Shot List
Video as Evidence and Filming Immigration and Customs Officials (ICE), Film Safely and Obtaining Informed Consent, Storytelling with Video
Filming Protests and Police Misconduct and Livestreaming, Conducting Hostile Interviews, Video for Advocacy
Essentials of Archiving Video & Video4Change Network and wrap up with what next?
Resources selected are guided by the needs of important current issues in the Pioneer Valley in Western Massachusetts such as the situation with Immigration and Customs Officials (ICE), filming hate and documenting the important work of movements for peace and justice.
This training and resource library is guided by and derived primarily from witness.org. This skill share also looks at how we can participate in a growing network of activists; eWitnesses using technology to help change the world.