This Friday, we'll be continuing to raise money for Eve Ensler's City of Joy. Mike has posted two videos and a beautiful, bald picture of Eve on the announcement for last week's dinner just under this menu. I'll also have Goods in the Hood available for those who missed it, with a few additional items like Conserve wallets made in India with upcycled plastic bags:
As a special treat, Veronica's friend Avi Tutman will play the piano before dinner. Avi, who's a UCSC economics graduate at 18 years old, is a magnificent piano player. Along with my all-time favorite song, Hallelujah, he also plays many of his own compositions, which are breathtaking. Even if you can't stay for dinner, come hear him between 6:30 and 7:00.
Tomorrow (or today, depending on when you pick this up) Kim and Daniella have opened their beautiful home for a holiday potluck. It's across the street at 614 Walnut Avenue and starts at 5 pm. This week we're raising donations for Eve Ensler's City of Joy.
Bald, brave and beautiful: Those words can't begin to capture the remarkable Eve Ensler. She sat down with me last week, in the midst of her battle with uterine cancer, to talk about New Orleans and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Eve, the author of the hit play "The Vagina Monologues" and the creator of V-Day, a global activist movement to stop violence against women and girls, told me how "cancer has been a huge gift."
Eve's moving essay "Congo Cancer" begins, "Some people may think that being diagnosed with uterine cancer, followed by extensive surgery that led to a month of debilitating infections, rounded off by months of chemotherapy, might get a girl down. But, in truth, this has not been my poison." The poison, she went on, was the epidemic of rape, torture and violence against women and girls in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo...
These rapes are brutal, leaving the victims with deep wounds and fistulae that require surgery. V-Day has been working with Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, the only facility in the region where the women can receive adequate treatment. V-Day is also building a woman-controlled safe zone attached to the hospital called "The City of Joy."
Eve said the women themselves developed the plans for the City of Joy, "a place where they could heal, where they could be trained, where they could become leaders, where they had time and a respite to rebuild themselves and redirect their energies towards their communities." If all goes well with her own treatment, she will be joining them to open the City of Joy in February.
To join in the holiday spirit, Food in the Hood will be offering Goods in the Hood - for each donation, we'll give you a present. Actually, we'll give you a choice of present, from Indian embroidered cushion covers for a $10 donation to owl backpacks from Thailand for $55. We have iridescent scarab wing earrings for $11-$25, coin purses from recycled sarees for $15, or Cambodian dolls, mice, and grasshoppers from $15-$35. These are beyond fair trade, and are often made by handicapped or disadvantaged artisans. They're free thank-you gifts for helping the women of the Congo find a safe harbor. Checks can be written directly to V-Day DRC, or you can take a 20% discount with a cash donation where half goes to the cause and half pays for the product.
Please join us! Bring a dish and/or beverage to share and celebrate the most giving neighborhood in Santa Cruz 2010. We rock!
Thanks to everyone who made our last dinner party extra special! It was especially nice to get acquainted with Rusten and Donna of Cleveland Street. I met Rusten in the early days, when I was going door-to-door handing out bread and telling people about FitH. I took one look at his bumper stickers - something about organic or gleaning - and knew he was one of us. Little did I know that we'd get Donna as a package deal, who told great stories about the History of Consciousness and UFO's. This week Donna gave her final lecture and joins the illustrious company of retired professors in our neighborhood. C'mon - we've gotta be better set up to start a microversity than any other 'hood in the cruz.
We also donated £125 to the Sahrawi's Artist Fund through Sandblast Arts. I'll figure out what that is in dollars when I get the bill. The 2010 Running the Sahara participants have raised £20,000 so far to help build a recording studio to bring their stories and music to a global stage.
This week we're going to do a low-key FitH with some soups, salad, bread, and strawberry cheesecake to go. We're in the chaos stage of rearranging the house so we can do the UniverseCity and FitH more easily. Also, Cassandra has the flu, so it's a good time to go back to the basics. If the weather's nice we'll be back outside at 4 until it's dark. But if it's raining, we'll be inside.
Our cause this week is the families of six Honduran farmers killed in their fields and two others critically injured by security forces for a biofuel corporation called Dinant, trying to possess their land. This happened on the same day that the coup-installed President, Pepe Lobo, was meeting with the director of the US Millennium Challenge Fund to talk about investment in renewable energy - palm oil plantations and dams, which are a whole other story.
Palm plantations are a leading cause of deforestation. The lands are taken from indigenous communities at gunpoint and sometimes given to the same paramilitaries, under the guise of "alternative income." As we know from WikiLeaks, the US has been aware that the military coup was illegal and unconstitutional. Yet the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank have given Lobo $30 million to fund biofuel production, at any cost. The World Wildlife Fund is urging a $27 trillion dollar biofuel market to be set up by taxpayer dollars funding US corporations in Lesser Developed Countries.
Our little bit of soup money will go a long way for funeral costs, for solidarity, and to repair a farmer's face who was shot through the jaw. Cash or a direct donation to Rights Action will get there soonest. You can read more about the Aguans here.
We also made a record $250 for Partners in Health to control the cholera outbreak. Veronica says that Haiti has rotten luck but I think there's something else rotten in Denmark - or in the septic tanks of the UN peacekeeping forces from Nepal, which flow into the river. This is where the cholera is said to have originated. As the death toll passed 1000 today, thousands of protesters tried to torch a UN compound. The unpopular UN forces are called the MINUSTAH. What an indignity - to suffer a devastating earthquake only to have your country militarized and infected with a deadly epidemic. UN out, Aristide in!
This week we're going to focus on another country with the misfortune to be in the news this week. Listeners to Democracy Now have been hearing about Western Sahara's indigenous people, the Sahrawi's. Morocco has occupied Western Sahara since 1975, in violation of a UN Security Council order for Morocco to withdraw and recognize Western Sahara's right to self-determination. The US blocked enforcement of the UN resolution and has given Morocco more aid than any other Arab nation except Egypt. Most of the Sahrawi's have been in refugee camps in nearby Algeria, some for their entire lives. In 1981 the Polisario, Western Sahara's government, was able to regain 85% of the country, but with US and French backing, Morocco now occupies 80%.
Last week Moroccan forces attacked a protesting refugee camp and arrested over 100 activists. They've been severely beaten in detention and tortured to exact confessions. It's not easy to figure out how to help them, but the organization I found is a UK arts and human rights nonprofit called Sandblast Arts. They empower the Sahrawi's to tell their own stories, promote their own culture, and earn a living through the arts. One of their events is the Saharamarathon, a fundraiser which draws athletes from around the world. Sandtracks are music produced by Sahrawi bands. But the particular project I'd like to support is the Sahrawi Artist Fund:
They are working to build a professional recording studio in the refugee camp. Because this charity is in London, you can donate cash or go directly to their JustGive page, and forward the receipt so FitH can take credit!
This week we'll be raising funds for Partners in Health in Haiti, who seem to be most proactive about the cholera outbreak. I've read that the Red Cross has only disbursed 1/3rd of the $400 million they collected in Haiti aid. Charity Navigator gives charities higher ratings for keeping a years-worth of operating expenses in the bank - as I explain in my Third Paradigm show on AIDS. So I'm feeling good about our Haiti choices, who, like Dorothy Day, do the work and figure out how they're going to pay for it later.
The scenario we imagined was one month without water, sanitation, food, or power. Many good questions were raised, like "What happens with the 17,000 students at the university?" and "Should grocery stores ration sales or not?" People were going to research different things - a water-purifier straw, a water cone, porta-potties from hospice , or food-share 'insurance' with farmers - and continue the discussion at future FitHs. The Red Cross is looking for a neighborhood to be the model for an organized readiness plan. I think Walnut Avenue could be a candidate!
The process of organizing a neighborhood to be able to grow and store its own food, purify and store water, generate electricity and create emergency sanitation systems can cost about $5,000, according to Red Cross Santa Cruz County Chapter CEO David Wright. With 91,000 homes in the county, the Red Cross estimates its needs 91 resiliency programs at the cost of $455,000.
"Preparedness is a part of the Red Cross mission," David Wright said. "The idea is to get people to make a plan, get a kit and stay informed, but you can't skip that first step."....
We also brought our Oaxaca donations up to $200.
This week we'd like to help Witness for Peace bring four powerful speakers on tour in the US:
For a mere $1000 each, these brave and outspoken leaders will be able to reach over 6000 listeners. For our participants, showers are expected for Friday, so we may be trying out our new Farmer's Market canopy.
First, my neighbors, Randall, Chinshu, and Melie, have opened their lovely backyard for our event at 621 Walnut Avenue. It's a beautiful and magical design that will be exquisite if the weather is anything like today's. Starting at 5:00 pm, we'll have the dough and fixings to make your own pizzas. In keeping with our earthquake-resilience theme, we'll then cook them in their wood-fired oven. Feel free to bring salads, appetizers, drinks, or desserts to share.
While snacking, you can listen to the ukulele guys - Otto and Desmond (pictured in the FitH photos.) You might also ask Harriet Talan about her solar oven, and about her experience in Oaxaca with the wonderful organizations who are reforesting and working with indigenous groups and amaranth. While we're preparing for our own emergencies, we'll be continuing to raise funds to rebuild Oaxaca after the mudslides. Donations will go through Grassroots International, a phenomenal group, for whom we raised $150 last FitH.
At 6:30 David Wright, CEO of the Santa Cruz County Red Cross, is ending a packed weekend by coming to speak to us! He presented at the last Transition Santa Cruz meeting, which focused on neighborhoods coming together to imagine a month without power, water, sanitation, or food. In the scenario he describes, it's likely that Santa Cruz may not be hard-hit in the next earthquake, but may be cut off from outside help for quite awhile. For those of us in the retro movement, a month is a good exercise for taking steps towards more community self-sufficiency. David is a real asset to Santa Cruz - this is not your grandmother's Red Cross! Or maybe it is, and that's a good thing.
We plan to end at 8:00. PLEASE RSVP if you'll be able to join us, so we can make sure we have enough chairs, plates, etc. And Veronica and I will be going back East for the following two weeks, to visit family and go to DC. We'll be meeting with some of the groups we've raised funds for. So the next FitH will be October 29th. If you were thinking about subscribing to Gardner's bread, this would be a good month - 818-1496 is his phone number.
This past week we attended a collaborative event between Transition SC and the Red Cross. They're working together to help neighborhoods with long-term earthquake resilience. There was a surprising amount of synergy, since the Red Cross is focusing on growing food, identifying water sources, finding alternative energy, and dealing with sanitation.
For next week, we won't be having a Friday FitH. Instead, my next door neighbors - Chinshu, Randall, and Melie – have offered their backyard for a potluck on Sunday, October 10th from 5 to 8. So I'd like to focus discussion on how we could build up our own neighborhood interdependence for emergencies. We were already the envy of the Transition group – no one else has weekly dinners. I think that we could be a model for how to do earthquakes right! At the same time, we'll benefit victims of current climate-induced disasters. So save the date.
This week, I'd like to help Oaxaca dig out of their mudslides through Grassroots International, who writes:
The hillsides of Oaxaca literally slipped into mud and slid through community villages nearby. Among those affected by the deluge are Grassroots International partners: Mixe Peoples' Services; Center to Support the Popular Movement in Oaxaca; and Oaxaca State Coffee Producers Network. The full extent of the damage is yet unknown, but already we can see a clear need to fund recovery efforts."
Rainfall continues as the remnants of Tropical Storm Matthew pound this impoverished southwestern state of Mexico. The New York Times estimates that as many as 300 houses in the village of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec, in northern Oaxaca, may have been buried in the landslide, and that as many as 1,000 people are missing. In addition to the immediate threats to lives and homes, the rains have also washed away women's vegetable gardens and polluted precious water reserves.
Emails from our partners and allies in Oaxaca indicate the urgency of the situation. Hugo Aguilar, director of Mixe Peoples' Services, wrote to us:
"Due to the extensive damage, we are making an urgent call to each one of you. We need your invaluable support to mitigate the impact of this catastrophe on Mixe families. We need support for: food, bedsheets, tents, electrical generators and financial support to help provide first aid services and rebuild roads and bridges that are washed away."
Grassroots International is committed to supporting our partners as they recover from the floods. Please contribute to the Oaxaca Mudslide Fund to help small farmers and indigenous communities rebuild once the floods subside. Fully 100 percent of these emergency funds will go to rebuilding and recovery efforts.
On Democracy Now, David Riker, a filmmaker based in Oaxaca, gave a moving interview about the resiliency and community reforestation efforts of the indigenous community. These are good efforts that can make a little money go a long way.