Planning for Justice in 2009: Planners and Calendars

With autumn’s arrival, many people start thinking about their schedules for the coming year. We have a few suggestions for justice-oriented planners and calendars for 2009, and for some important dates to put in them, too. This post will tackle planners and calendars, while tomorrow’s will include important social justice dates and campaigns to be aware of in the coming year.

Many people rely on their calendars to tell them which days are important, historic, and worth celebrating. Calendars frame how we view time, seasons, growth, and change. For this reason, I prefer calendars which mark the anniversaries of important strikes, protests, court decisions, and changes in the Earth and lunar cycles. My co-workers and I have compiled a list of some of our favorite calendars, and some we’ve never seen but sound cool, below.

Planners and Calendars

2009 Peace Calendar – According to the Syracuse Cultural Workers, based in Syracuse, New York, the 38th edition of their annual peace wall calendar is “greener than ever.” Printed on paper made from 100% postconsumer waste (PCW) which is processed free of chlorine and dioxin, the calendar is sold without wasteful extra packaging like plastic shrinkwrap and cardboard stiffeners. Sweatshop free, made in the USA, and Union-printed, the Peace Calendar is packed with social justice/peoples’ anniversaries, holidays of many faiths, and lunar cycles. Inside, inspirational art touches on topics including resistance to US militarism at home and abroad, urban sustainability, indigenous women, response to gay hate crime, and the celebration of the 77 year history of the Highlander Center in New Market,TN. Click here for more information.

Slingshot 2009 Organizer

The Slingshot Organizer is produced by an all-volunteer collective–“no bosses, no workers, no pay”–in Berkeley, California. The organizer has a strongly anti-capitalist tone. It opens with an essay entitled, “False Hope, Real Transformation,” which slams the notion that a new leader produced by a corrupt capitalist system can solve the nation’s problems. The essay also sounds the call to “seek forms of organization that re-localize decision making,” and make “our day-to-day existence more meaningful, engaged, and connected with others.” The following 160 pages of the Slingshot organizer mark the forgotten history of people of color, immigrants, indigenous peoples, women, working class people, and members of queer communities. Also included are a list of radical bookstores and infoshops, information on sexuality, transgenderedness, interacting with police, and a calendar for recording menstrual cycles. Click here for more information.

The War Resisters League 2009 Peace Calendar

From the War Resister’s League website:

“A desk calendar and state-by-state account of the places where radical history happened, from the civil rights and anti-racist struggles of Alabama and Mississippi to centuries of war tax resistance in Massachusetts, indigenous opposition to oil-drilling in Alaska, and union organizing in Kentucky and California.”

Includes a directory of U.S. peace and justice organizations and publications, and international contacts. Click here for more information.

Mothers Acting Up in 2009

Also produced by the Syracuse Cultural Workers, Mothers Acting Up is “[d]edicated to moments that change our lives– that take a person and give back an activist.”

Changingworld.com describes the calendar as “a weekly engagement calendar for mothers that also offers tools, information, weekly actions, and most importantly, portraits of people who inspire our own activism–from the mom next door to movie stars and elected officials.”

Click here for more information.

Autonomedia Calendar of Jubilee Saints

Features radicals & rebels for every day of the year. Last year’s “saints” included Audre Lorde, Frederick Douglass, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Frida Kahlo, James Joyce, U.G. Krishnamurti, Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs, Jesus Christ, Albert Einstein, William Blake, Cesar Chavez, Bob Marley, and more, with short bios on each one. Check the Autonomedia online bookstore for the 2009 calendar release date, which may not be until December.

Now that you’ve got your radical calendar, now what? Check back tomorrow for a schedule of UUA Advocacy & Witness social justice campaigns for 2009.

Summer Reading

Summer Reading

Adam’s Pick

I recommend The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli. This book is an insightful and balanced chronicle of the economic lifespan of an actual t-shirt purchased out of a Florida bargain bin by a Georgetown economics professor. The t-shirt’s journey takes the reader from its birth in a Texas cotton field to its manufacturing in a Chinese factory, back to the U.S. marketplace and then on to the second-hand African clothing market. The story is rich with fact, intriguing characters, and fascinating textile history. This book provided me with just as much insight into the workings of globalization, as an entire semester course in college I took called “Globalization”. Read an excerpt at http://www.fastcompany.com/bookclub/excerpts/0471648493.html.

Alex’s Picks
A Problem form Hell by Samantha Power. This book is written by Pulitzer Prize winning correspondent for the New Yorker Magazine, Samantha Power. Here, Power systematically traces the history of genocide in the 20th Century and the American response to these events. Power shows the daring and ironic escape of the coiner of the term “genocide” from Nazi Germany. She also shows how the United States dragged its feet while cultures were wiped out in South East Asia, The Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa. This is a must read for people concerned about the current state of affairs in Darfur.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I plan to reread this novel this summer. It tells the heartbreaking story of the Joad Family, a migrant family forced off the land by a bank during the Great Depression. This amazing book speaks to me right now as we see xenophobia in our political discourse surrounding migrant workers, a new generation of people without homes, and an economy teetering on the brink of collapse. It is especially special to me as my family had left their dust bowl farms for California during the Great Depression, just like the Joads.

Eric’s Pick
Three Cups of Tea-is the inspirational (and true) story of the international relationships formed between American mountain climber, Greg Mortenson, and the people of Korphe – a village in Pakistan. The book’s title is based upon a regional aphorism that, “The first time you share tea, you are a stranger. The second time, you are an honored guest. The third time you become family.” These relationships lead to the creation of Korphe’s first school, and ultimately to the creation of more than 50 schools in Central Asia.

Grace’s Picks
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. This a great book for those interested in a comprehensive history of the United States that isn’t sugar coated. The detail and depth of this book is amazing and Zinn accurately portrays the struggles of all people in the United States.

Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks. Whether you are new to feminism or were on the front lines of the reproductive choice movement this book is a great read. bell hooks breaks down what feminism is and the variety of issues it addresses in an easy to understand way that leaves you feeling empowered and proud to be a feminist.

Lisa’s Picks
My Year of Meats, by Ruth L. Ozeki. Ozeki’s story follows Jane Takagi-Little, a Japanese-American documentary maker, who is hired by a beef company to film American women preparing their favorite beef dishes for broadcast in Japan. Jane’s experiences touch on race, gender, sexuality, nationality, and the environment in ways which are both hysterical and sobering.

My second recommendation is The Year of Living Biblically, by A.J. Jacobs. Jacobs chronicles a year of trying to follow the Bible as literally as possible, and along the way he meets Isreali Samaritans, Appalachian snake handlers, biblical creationists in Kentucky, and the Pennsylvanian Amish. What Jacobs and the reader learn is that there are many, many ways to “literally” interpret the Bible. In addition to making me laugh out loud, I learned so much from Jacobs’ book that I proceeded to talk about it at work every day for the next three months.

I love My Year of Meats and The Year of Living Biblically because they fuse social concerns with art, romance, spirituality, and humor. But if you need a dose of straight up facts, you can always print out the following reports and build your activist knowledge with some powerful data about sexism and racism:

* Report of the APA Taskforce on the Sexualization of Girls.
* Foreclosed: State of the Dream 2008.
* Cracks in the System: Twenty Years of the Unjust Federal Crack Cocaine Law.

Rob’s Pick
Happy All The Time by Laurie Colwin. Since I’m in seminary, the reading I do for pleasure tends to be on the lighter side. This is a fun, easy read about the relationships (friendly and romantic) of four compelling characters.

(Photos by:Paul Watson, Lin Pernille ♥ Photography, Rumintarix , Spigoo, LWY courtesy of Creative Commons)

Update on the Evolution Debate in Florida

About two months ago, I blogged in recognition of Darwin Day, at which time I pointed to a disturbing trend in Florida. Twelve county school districts had passed resolutions banning the teaching of evolutionary theory.

The teaching of evolution is no more a matter of ideology than the teaching of the Big Bang theory or thermodynamics. These are scientific theories, and whether or not one agrees with them, valid scientific theories are what is taught in a science class room. I myself have serious misgivings about the theory of natural selection, but I would still put it forth if I were teach high school science. To censor the teaching of evolution in a science curriculum is like censoring the teaching of Plato in a Greek philosophy curriculum. Teaching Plato has nothing to do with whether or not you agree with him.

At that time the Florida State Board of Education was scheduled to vote on the new science standards. The good news is that the board did vote to adopt standards of science education that require the teaching of evolutionary theory in Florida schools.

However, in response to this, anti-evolutionists then took on the strategy of requiring that Intelligent Design be taught as an alternative theory. Eight Florida school boards have since passed resolutions insisting that “alternative theories of organismal origin” be presented alongside evolution. On February 29th, Florida State Senator Ronda Storms introduced a bill in the legislature to the same effect.

The claim is that it’s not about religion (as that would obviously violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment) but about allowing teachers to teach alternative theories. The problem with this, as I said in my previous post, is that Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory. It is by its very nature unscientific. This has nothing to do with whether it is “true” or not. I myself believe in a God who interacts in the world. But theories involving God as a cause simply cannot be empirically tested, and one of the criteria for a valid scientific theory is that it makes testable predictions.

When the bill was first introduced, the Florida Citizens for Science blog predicted it would go nowhere. Likely, that was the author’s hope. It so far has passed through two committees. And once again, these events have gone largely unreported in mainstream media, being carried mainly through blogs.

Happy Darwin Day

Most people know today as Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. What you might not know is that the man who saved the Union shares his birthday (to the year) with the man who proposed natural selection as the driving force for evolution. February 12th is “Darwin Day,” promoted by some as an “international celebration of science and humanity,” mainly in reaction against those that favor creationism/intelligent design.

As a former biologist, there is no doubt in my mind that the diversity of life on earth today came about by evolution. The common genetic origins that we share with all living organisms is seen not just in evolutionary theory but also genetics, developmental biology, molecular and cellular biology… In short, all of biology points to this unifying explanation. Even so, I would not normally be holding up Charles Darwin’s birthday as something particularly important to note. So why am I doing it now?

Yesterday, February 11th, the Florida Department of Education held its final public hearing on new state-wide science standards that would supercede any policies at the local levels. The proposed standards, which have been favorably received by teachers and scientists, would make the teaching of evolution a required part of Florida’s science education for the first time. This little fact drew people from all over the state to testify both in favor and against the proposed state standards. The controversy was so great that it eclipsed discussion on any other aspect of the proposed standards.

While I appreciate their sincerity, the arguments presented against the teaching of evolution show a fundamental lack of understanding of science and highlight the desperate need for improved science education. People argued that the word “theory” means it’s unproven, ignoring the fact that science doesn’t use the term that way. Few people go around disputing the theory of gravity, for example.

Nor do proponents of teaching intelligent design in science classrooms understand that while “God did it” is a valid theory, it is not a valid scientific theory. The assumption seems to be that “science teaches the truth and since I believe that creationism is true, science should teach it.” In reality, science describes the natural world and thus has no room for supernatural explanations. Science is not saying that there is no God; it makes no statement about God whatsoever.

One seemingly open-minded suggestion was that kids should be exposed to “all theories of creation,” and then free to decide which one they like best. That is great on a personal level. Every one of us is free to decide what we will and will not believe. However, we are not free to decide what is science and what is not science. Science is determined by an objective set of standards, not by subjective feeling nor popular vote.

Most shocking of all in this debate was the revelation that twelve county school districts in Florida have passed resolutions against the teaching of evolution in schools. Yes, twelve. First, I had no idea, after the Scopes (Monkey) Trial, that it was still possible to ban the teaching of evolution in schools. (What exactly does this mean? – will teachers be arrested or fired for teaching science?) Second, I would have thought that something like this would have received more attention than it has. A school board here and there is a blip; twelve school boards in one state is a movement. Yet so far, I’ve only been able to find scant mention of it in local Florida newspapers.

The Florida State Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the new science standards on Feb 19th. On this Darwin Day, let us pray that it votes to uphold education for future generations.