Flying Focus Video Collective
August 2002 Newsletter
One focuses on US foreign policy in Iraq, as it relates to the "War on Terrorism" and America's domestic problems. "Iraq Peace Gathering: 11 Years Later" (VB #42.10&11) features a vigil held by Peace and Justice Works on the 11th anniversary of the so-called "Gulf War." Speakers include an Iraqi-American woman, members of the American Friends Service Committee and Northwest Veterans for Peace, and a representative of Dignity Village, Portland's mobile tent city for the otherwise homeless. There is also a short analysis by Zaher Wahab, an Afghan- American professor who connects the war on Afghanistan and US sabre-rattling in Iraq (which continues well over 6 months later). Speakers focus on the devastation caused by sanctions and war, and call for change.
Another country affected greatly by US sanctions is featured in "International Women's Tribunal Against the Blockade on Cuba" (VB #44.3). Flying Focus member Yvonne Simmons went to the Tribunal in Cuba this past March, and put together interviews with several members of the informal judge's panel. They include Fatima Meer of South Africa and Denis Halliday, former UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq. Yvonne also talked to Corinne Kumar of El Taller International, founder of the women's world courts, and videotaped local music. The focus of the Tribunal was the Cuban embargo as a human rights violation.
"Cross-Cultural Understanding" (VB #41.13&42.1) covers a workshop given about a month after the start of the war on Afghanistan. It provides information to help end racism and cultural misunderstandings. Counselors Pari Mazhar, President of the Iranian Women's Association of Oregon, and Gabrielle Ross, diversity trainer, lead a discussion which addresses many forms of racism, including anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiments after 9-11, emphasizing women's issues.
Christian Parenti, the author of "Lockdown America," gave a talk later in November covering civil liberties concerns at home and a history of US involvement in Afghanistan. He discussed the USA/PATRIOT act, which allows much greater intrusion by law enforcement into people's lives, and other acts of Congress and the Justice Department that threaten to set back human rights here in the "homeland." Despite the frightening subject matter, Parenti manages to keep his talk inspirational. ("Christian Parenti: The Effects of September 11," VB #43.4&5).
Finding Peace Amidst War
Women congregate in a community center in Jan Haaken and Caley Haymann-Haaken's documentary "Diamonds, Guns and Rice," featured in our program "Women Working for Peace in Sierra Leone" (VB # 42.8&9).
Shell's Nigerian oil operations resulted in over 3000 oil spills, extensive gas flaring, and the ruin of the livelihoods of many indigenous Ogoni people. Saro-Wiwa called for Shell to clean up, and for the Ogoni to have a say in the development of their region and to share in profits of oil extraction. The military regime arrested him on trumped-up murder charges. His arrest created an international outcry, but after a trial marked by irregularities and a lack of evidence, he was hanged in 1995.
Wiwa's talk is an inspiring call for activists to fight against the cancerous effects of unchecked corporate globalism that despoils and loots local communities for shareholder profits at the expense of indigenous people.
Although there are still some battles worth fighting,
The Fifth Annual Homelessness Marathon was broadcast live from KBOO radio in Portland, this February. Our 25-minute program (VB #43.12) includes excerpts from the national radio show and features interviews and music from participants. People involved included members of the homeless community, academic experts and advocates.
Kensington Welfare Rights Union activist Cheri Honkala delivered a talk at a Social Welfare Action Alliance event in May 2002, addressing specific tactics her group used to demand fair treatment of the poor. "The Politics of Welfare" (VB #44.1) features most of her keynote talk, including stories of sit-ins at the Pennsylvania capital and inspiring calls to action.
Finally, a different form of empowerment shines in "street roots Chapbook Party" (VB #42.5). This is our second program to feature poets and other artists who are involved in Portland's homeless community newspaper (street roots). At an August 2001 event, several people made humorous, insightful and heartfelt talks and readings, showed slides and raised awareness.
Speaking Out for Children
Marian Wright Edelman, author, activist, and mother, spoke in Portland in December, 2001 as part of a series on children sponsored by the YMCA ("Defending Our Children," VB #43.8&9). A staunch advocate for the rights of all people since the 1960's, Edelman spoke eloquently of the need for adults to be good role models and to work to pass legislation to protect and provide for a safe and healthy future for all children.
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In November, three Portland-area activists who were there reported back on the activism and the police repression surrounding the meetings ("Remembering Genoa: Portland Eyewitness Reports," VB #42.13&43.1). During the course of a few days, one protestor was killed in the street and dozens injured in a raid on sleeping quarters. The first-hand accounts of what happened are chilling, moving, and in the end, uplifting, for their message of international solidarity. Some of the descriptions are quite intense, so viewer discretion is advised.
Thanks to you, we have been able to present an alternative to the suffocating imagery of mass consumption, violence and apathy that pervade so much of mainstream television.
These days the news is especially grim, with civil liberties being rolled back, and the drumbeat of militarism drowning out voices for peace and justice. But voices in the alternative media continue to speak out, arguing that dissent is not treason, that investing in people gives a better return than investing in prisons.
Flying Focus has been busy in the last two years, producing more than fifty shows since our last catalog went out. We have printed 1000 copies of our new catalog (which we hope you will enjoy and share with others!) and have so far received about $1050 toward buying digital editing equipment. We're specifically looking at mini-DV camcorders and decks, G4 Macintoshes and Final Cut Pro or similar software, and swappable firewire hard drives so each producer can keep their own project going. Please consider a donation of equipment or money to enable us to continue to provide an alternative point of view.
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