Viva (life!) was the theme of the weekend of November 17-19 down in Fort Benning, Ga., outside the gates of the School of the Americas.
Among the delightful sights, sounds, and tastes were: smorgasbords on front lawns; accordion artists on stage; and the brilliant show by the “puppetistas,” who bill themselves as “a provocative mix of circus, puppetry, political satire and original music.”
Combine these joyous creative gatherings with impassioned speeches, religious processions, 110 exhibitors and 20,000 inquisitive participants, and you’ve got one heck of a “conscious party.”
I tabled at the rally from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Sunday and the responses were fabulous!
The diverse crowd of activists ranged in age from infants to grandparents, in affiliation from churches to hip-hop groups, and ranged in seniority from first-timers (like me) to people who have attended all 17 annual demonstrations.
I particularly enjoyed speaking with Elena Lacayo, NETWORK’s lobby associate, about alternatives to current lending practices in impoverished countries and with Leah Humes a researcher at Food & Water Watch who works with Jessica, the spouse of Jubilee USA’s national director Neil Watkins.
Many of the attendees I spoke with were totally inspired by her call for ending poverty as a way to ensure peace in the world. Many of the people I spoke to were familiar with the issue of debt cancellation and even Jubilee, and all were an absolute pleasure to be around.
I couldn’t have tabled and spoken with so many people without the help of Jubilee volunteers and supporters. Thanks to Amanda and Steve for helping me greet! And a big thanks to Dick Heidkamp from the Mary Seat of Wisdom Parish in Illinois for helping me greet and for bringing the peanuts. He knew how hungry protesters get!
I said hello to Dan McGuire (also from Mary Seat of Wisdom), Theresa from the Columban Justice and Peace Office, Chris Kerr, the youth and young adult coordinator at the InterReligious Task Force on Central America!
At the Saturday morning breakfast hosted by Latin American Solidarity Network, I learned about the boycott on Coca-Cola products for the multiple murders of union workers at bottling plants in Columbia. And at the concert, I heard inspiring music from Rod Starz, David Rovics and many other inspirational artists!
Sunday morning, I was only there long enough to have a couple of conversations and to see the beginning of the solemn funeral procession commemorating the lives of the many victims of violent SOA graduates.
I said a sad goodbye to my table neighbors, the mourners I passed on my way out, and to Sara and Atlanta Palestine Solidarity who had an elegant and informative table just a few down from mine.
post by Nate Fishman