Thursday, December 14, 2006

Last night I looked at a most remarkable program on PBS. I tell you when you are on this journey towards light and truth, the great wonderful universe, some call the Great Spirit, others, God, others, Buddha or Krishna, Zoroaster, provides the right sustenance just when it is needed.
The topic of the documentary was love. At this time of the year more than ever we become more in love with the idea of love and yearn for someone to love or for someone to love us in return.
The kind of love we generally seek is romantic in nature and when that does not satisfy us we wonder, what is wrong with us?
The program explored various kinds of love and a few stories stuck with me. There is the story of an opera singer Camilla who is black and a pianist Boris, who is white from a European background. According to the producer of the show, “like long-time married couples or close siblings, the two of them speak a private language with subtle physical movements and tones of voice. Their love takes the form of friendship based on shared history, easy companionship, and most of all, a deep artistic collaboration.
These two people have worked together for more than 50 years. Their families came to know each other and developed deep friendships. During the days when a Black person could not mingle with a White person publicly or share public spaces, Boris would rather give up his privilege and sit with his friend Camilla, behind the curtain. Camilla said she would overhear people saying why a white man would degrade himself to be with a black person. She said she used to cry. And Boris would tell her not to let those people get to her. When her husband passed away at the young age of 49, Boris and his wife stood beside her and mourned his loss. Years later, his wife of more than 50 years died and he was alone. When his sons didn’t know how to take care of their aging dad and thought of putting him in a senior’s home somewhere near to friends and a piano, they asked Camilla for advice and she would not hear of Boris going into some old folks home. She made up her spare bedroom and he moved in with her. He is now 95 years old and their friendship and platonic love for each other has survived still. She said he is a blessing in her life and well for him this woman, this friend is a savior.
This story touched me so much. Love can overcome any barrier. Love does not have to involve sex and romance, love is the gift of the Creator to us that connects us to that higher
Can we love without conditions? Can we love a person for who he or she is without regard for what they believe in, whether they are rich or poor, black or white? Can we see past the physicality of the individual and peer through their eyes deep into their soul and see the oneness of mankind? This is the love that binds. This is the love that can change hearts and souls. This is the love we at Zaadz must try and cultivate. It is difficult but it is with fire that a piece of iron can bend.

Tomorrow I will bring you the other inspiring story that touched me. In the meantime keep a look out at PBS for this story, I am sure they will re-broadcast it again over the holiday season

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Principle of Bringing Good Into the World

This year the Theme of Kwanzaa is Bringing good into the World.
How appropriate is this theme. Let us meditate on what it means to bring good into the world. at the present time the world is crying out to us on many levels. Crass materialism has mercilessly raped its mercilessly to make a few extra dollars for those whom money making is just another hobby. They have so much already that making another dollar is like pouring water into a glass that is already full. It just pours down the side.

One of the primary resources of our earth, human beings, are lost the darkness of wars, slavery, violence in the family, exploitation and corruption by leaders. Keeping people poor in this world has become an economic strategy for others to become rich and to have power over the less fortunate.

We need to bring good into the world that will cause light to shine in every corner of the landscape. We have work so that there is no more wars, no more hunger, no more slavery and lessened pollution of the environment. We have to change the way we work and live.
While Kwanzaa is an African American tradition developed by Dr, Mualana Karenga, it is not only for African Americans but can be adopted by all peoples.

Kwanzaa is ancient and living cultural tradition which reflects the best of African thought and practice in its reaffirmation of the dignity of the human person in community and culture, the well-being of family and community, the integrity of the environment and our kinship with it, and the rich resource and meaning of a people's culture.

Kwanzaa is celebrated between December 26 and January 1.
Kwanzaa was created to introduce and reinforce seven basic values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing family, community and culture among African American people as well as Africans throughout the world African community. These values are called the Nguzo Saba which in Swahili means the Seven Principles. The Principles are:

Umoja (Unity)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
To build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together.
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
Nia (Purpose)
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Kuumba (Creativity)
To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
Imani (Faith)
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Each day of Kwanzaa one of the principles is celebrated with lighting of a candle pouring of libation, calling to ancestors and remembering those great ones who have passed on followed by a feast and giving of gifts to children.
There are seven candles on the table which is decorated with fruits and vegetables as a symbol of harvest. There are three red, three green and a black candle in the centre. Red represents the struggle the black stands for the people, green for home. There are special readings and incantations for each night.
Last Week the Congress of Black Women of Winnipeg, held its annual Kwanzaa celebrations and it was beautiful.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Chuck Duboff and Tasha Carriere Spillett are Human Rights Award Winners
December 10th is international human rights day. Each year the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, Canadian Human Rights Commission and Manitoba Association of Rights and Liberties jointly sponsor a Human Rights Awards Luncheon to recognize community members who had worked hard to promote human rights in the community. Two awards are presented at this time – the Adult Human Rights Award and the Dr. Sybil Shack (a human rights promoter who died and left some of her fortune towards this award) Human Rights Award to a young under 30 years old. In addition to a plaque, the award comes with, a presentation of $500 to the winner. This year there were two awards handed out, one to an Aboriginal Youth and the other to a high school English Teacher. His name is Chuck Duboff.
For the past 12 years Chuck has been Coordinating the Maples Collegiate Unity Group. They organize marches against racism, unity dinners and last year for the first time, the group organized a “Rock Against Racism“ concert to raise funds for immigrant serving agencies concert at which more than 2000 participants attended. It was only $2.00 entrance fee.
In accepting the award Chuck said that the Unity Group started in response to angry reaction by some immigrant youths to one of our Reform Politician statement in 1989 when he said that we should put immigrants on a carpet and send them back where they came from. Some students were angry and went to Chuck, their teacher and asked what they could do. He said he told them they could write letters. They did that and got back a generic response. They were not satisfied; they asked what else we could do. He said he told them that back in the 60’s if something like that had happened they would have marched with pickets. They said that what they were going to do. Those kids marched 12 kilometers from their school to the legislative building with placards with words like, “stop racism”, “Promote human rights” “unity in diversity”. Then they decided that this should become an annual event. He volunteered to be part of the group and to keep it going. This group has won several awards in the City of Winnipeg. Today there were two exchange students from Germany who was part of the ceremony. They said when they returned to Germany, they’d like to form a group like this to welcome everyone and promote unity.
Isn’t that wonderful? The work in this group is done voluntarily through extra curricular activities by the teacher. He gives his time and today he was rewarded for that. He could hardly get his words out in the beginning so touched he was.
The young woman who received the other award, Tasha Carriere Spillett, is only 17, and is a role model in the Aboriginal community. She has given more than 600 hours of volunteer work to get the ground United Against Racism started. She facilitates anti-racism work, and says she plans to do much more work in the future because it is important. She said all we need to do is to respect one another and work together for change.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Remembrance Day for Women and Girls Killed
All across Canada today vigils and memorial ceremonies are held to remember women who have been killed for no other reason except that they are women. Primarily it is to remember the 14 girls who were killed on this day in 1989 at Polytechnic Ecole in Montreal. Marc Lepine was the man who pulled the trigger on these young, promising engineering students and then finally on himself.
For most of these young girls their day had started out with hopes and promise, they had kissed their loved ones good bye promising to “see you later”. They never knew that there would be no later. That was it.
This morning in Winnipeg Manitoba, I attended such a ceremony at the Legislative Building (by the way, I think our Legislative Building in Winnipeg is the best). The morning started off with a beautiful song in French by Dominique Reynolds singer/Songwriter. This was followed by some speeches and the reading of the names of the 14 women killed in Montreal along with a few other names of women killed in Manitoba by their male partners. As their names were called young women walked up and place a rose for each in a vase set in the middle of the staircase.
Surrounded the audience were some 15 silhouettes in the shape of women. They represented the women who had been killed plus one which represented “every woman” who was killed in family violence, who was murdered in sex trade and whose murderer had not been found who had committed suicide because she could not see a way out of her abusive situation.
This event always moves me to tear. It could have been me and so we must remember all the women some of who may be our mothers, our sisters, our daughters and those women who still remain nameless.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Last week I attended a workshop sponsored by the Provincial Council of Women in Winnipeg, Manitoba on this topic. It was an eye opening experience for me listening to the vast number of women and girls who are being trafficked daily across the globle from one country to another to satisfy men's appetitie for young women - mostly virgins as a strategy to lessen their chances of contracting the AIDS Virus.
Victor Malarek was among the first reporters who blew open this topic through his brilliant undercover work in European countries. He wrote a book “The Natashas” a heartwrenching story of this modern day slave like condition in which women and girls are the main targets.
The top major countries for this illicit trade is the new republics of Europe, Thailand, Nigeria and many South American countries. Girls from poor countries are sought by this highly organized trade supported by big businessen. They are lured with the promise of lucrative modelling jobs for younger girls and the older women are lured with work in the domestic field for high pay. Their expenses are covered by the business and when they arrive at their destination countries their passports are immediately taken under the guise of “protection”.
According to one woman, a former model, a popular destination for young girls trafficked is Greece. Once they get their their scout might send them out on a fake job. They will then tell the girls that the prospects did not like them, they didn't have what the buyers were looking for. The girls will then get anxious as to how they will survive or return home. They will then be offered waitressing in a bar. Within a week they'd be exotic dancer and the next they'll be having sex for money. The downward spiral is fast and furious. The girls are never paid enough to find their way back home and because they come from poor circumstances, no one pays much attention to them. Voices of their parents and/or family members go unheard.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Challenges and Choices
The Immigrant Women's Association of Manitoba, Inc. held its annual forum for immigrant and refugee youths entitled Challenges and Choices. The event took place at the University of Winnipeg. More than 100 students and teachers from several schools across the city attended the event.
The forum is part of a new program of immigrant women which involves recruiting role model youths from the immigrant/refugee first and second generation to speak to newcomer youths in school and share their stories of adjustment and settlement.
Four youths spoke. They shared the challenges they faced and the choices they had to make in their early years. A lot of the challenges came from overprotective, achievement oriented parents who pressured them to keep the customs of the old country alive.
They spoke of the shame and alienation they felt, not being able to speak or understand the language, the shame in eating their ethnic foods in front of their peers for fear of being ridiculed.
One student who is a first generation Filipina said she never befriend youths from her own ethnic background because she was ashamed of them and did not want to be associated with them. She alienated herself from her ethnic ties and had nothing to do with it.
Looking back, she said she feels a deep sense of sadness for rejecting them and wish she could go back and change things. She said that she knew there was racism but ignored it because she did not want to offend her peers.
Many of the problems immigrant youths face stem for their ambivalence of adhering to their parents wishes or those of their peers. It is a difficult challenge for most and the choice at that

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