Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Ofelia Rivas, Paloma Oldham, Claire Bergstresser, and other marchers declare state of human rights emergency in Arizona

What follows was found by me at Censored News. With thanks to Brenda Norrell.
This is a cross-post with a link, *here*, back to her website and the article's appearance there.

Marchers declare state of human rights emergency in Arizona

Please read this Peaks update as well: Stop Snowbowl: Upcoming Flagstaff Elections, Know Where They Stand (

By Klee Benally
Censored News
Photos by Ethan Sing and Shelby Ray

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- More than 300 people including dozens of organizations rallied in Wheeler Park, then marched through the streets of downtown Flagstaff, Arizona in response to escalating human rights violations.

"Arizona is in a state of human rights emergency," stated Eli Isaacs, a volunteer with the Repeal Coalition and an organizer of the march. "We may come from different parts of this community and face different issues, but this racist state and greedy corporations can only push us so far. With our backs against the wall, its easy to see the same forces are oppressing us all, its natural to find unity against common oppressors."

Community members and students addressed reproductive justice, hetero-sexism, cultural survival, racism, sexism, ageism, police brutality and racial profiling. The gathering spoke out against racist laws such as SB1070 and HB2281, and John McCain and John Kyl's water settlement. They urged protection of the San Francisco Peaks and all other sacred places. They agreed to be in solidarity and to support one another in the struggle for human rights.

Luis Fernandez, from Arizona ALCU, asked the crowd what human rights were. Voices rang out, crying "Access to shelter, enough food, safe birth control, freedom to worship as you please" and more.

In August 2011, The Havasupai Tribe, Klee Benally, a Dine’ (Navajo) activist, and the International Indian Treaty Council, filed an Urgent Action / Early Warning Complaint with the United Nations (UN) CERD Committee, on the desecration of Sacred San Francisco Peaks, Arizona. The complaint addressed Arizona Snowbowl’s clear-cutting of 40 acres of pristine forest and the laying of over 5 miles of a waste water pipeline in furtherance of a US Forest Service and City of Flagstaff supported project to spray artificial snow made of waste water effluent on the Holy San Francisco Peaks.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, known internationally as the CERD Committee is charged with monitoring compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

“The Forest Service, the City of Flagstaff, and the courts have proven that they do not understand or respect our spiritual ceremonies and practices and our spiritual relationship to the Earth,” said Klee Benally, arrested multiple times while demonstrating to protect the Holy Peaks. “We have no guaranteed protection for our religious freedom as Indigenous Peoples in the US. The desecration of this Holy site is an attack on our cultural survival.”

Steve Kugler, an advocate for the homeless, stated, "During 2007’s winter solstice, a Homeless Memorial Day Service was conducted on city hall lawn. Twelve names of the city’s unsheltered people that died from exposure during the winter were read.

Unknown to the public, twelve more people had died. These twelve were not acknowledged by city officials, nor were they mentioned in Flagstaff’s media. I feel that the officials did this, because the unreported twelve people were not substance abusers, they are a blight to Flagstaff’s service industry.

My take is that Flagstaff has 2,500 all season, homeless, people who do not have a voice. Thirty percent of the 2,500 homeless are students. Let me be their voice. Flagstaff’s city’s officials were elected by the people to be a proxy voice for the people. Do Flagstaff’s citizens have justice when its elected officials feel that they are above the law, adhere to their own agendas and are not accountable to the people that elected them to office?"

Ofelia Rivas from O'odham Voice Against the Wall, talked about resisting border militarization and how she just testified before a UN special rapporteur in Tucson, Ariz. "The rights of mother earth is what we need to protect today to survive as human beings." stated Rivas.

Paloma Allen, O'odham, who has been working to stop loop 202 from desecrating the sacred South Mountain in Phoenix stated, "Indigenous rights and indigenous identity don't mean anything to this state, that's why we have to be vocal."

Lola, a youth member of a new Flagstaff based group called B.L.A.S.T. spoke passionately about how she has been impacted by Arizona's immigration laws, "This has affected me by my family getting deported, I cannot see them any more because they are on the other side of the border. It just hurts me inside to have them leave and just wake up one day and they're not there. What if that was your family getting deported, what if that was your mother getting put in jail? That is not good, that's not a way we as humans should be treated. We all have rights we all should be treated equal, so I do not understand why they are trying to take away our families."

Raquel, a former member of Tucson based U.N.I.D.O.S., the youth organization that occupied Tucson Unified School District's (TUSD) school board meeting last year, stated, "It's very clear the path that this state lays for youth of color.

It's very clear from the militarization of schools, from the militarization of neighborhoods, from the militarization of the border itself on O'odham lands. The reason that ethnic studies is under attack is because these classes represent a rupture in the plan that Arizona had for youth of color. The TUSD fears resistance so much that every parent or teacher has to go through metal detectors."

Claire Bergstresser, an NAU student and member of Immigration Action Research Team, directly addressed SB1070 and HB2281. Bergstresser quoted HB 2281 as "prohibiting ethnic solidarity" and responded to it by expressing, "I could not understand why our government had mixed politics with education, why students were being limited education on ethnic studies, the things that they can connect with, understand, and love." Bergstresser addressed the crowd, "Your voice and your passions hold no borders and will be heard. At the end of the day, it is not the loudest voices that are remembered but the ones with the passion and courage to listen, express and act in the name of something bigger than yourself. We will march today for our passions, we will march today in the name of human rights, but also we will march today to have our voices heard."


Navajo Testimony from Forgotten People at the Open Forum on the Rights of Indigenous People in Tucson, AZ, USA

What follows is being cross-posted from Brenda Norrell's Censored News website. You can link to and read this story at that site by clicking *here*.

Navajos testimony to UN Rapporteur: Housing and Water Rights

Forgotten People goes to the UN to secure
housing and water rights
Press statement by Forgotten People
Photo credit: Forgotten People
Censored News
TUCSON, Ariz. --  Mary Lane, Glenna C. Begay, Leta O’Daniel, Leonard Benally, Marlene Benally and Norris Nez of Forgotten People presented on Land and Resources, Self-Government and the Open Forum on the Rights of Indigenous People in Tucson. 
A delegation of 14 members of Forgotten People met with the UN to call for recognition of the human right to housing and water. They urged the U.S. to pass legislation that abides by the declaration they signed in 2010, which establishes minimum basic rights for indigenous people globally including the U.S.

Forgotten People appreciates the significance of this historic mission by the United Nations to conduct an investigation into the plight of US Native Americans. Forgotten People believes greater investigation needs to be conducted into the lack of housing, poisoning of water sources, and neglect by the US government in our region to identify how the standards of the declaration are reflected in US law and policy and needed reforms and good practices.

A 43-year US government imposed Bennett Freeze affecting approximately 1,500,000 acres denied Navajo people electricity, running water and adequate sewage disposal. Even though the freeze was lifted by President Obama in 2009, they cannot find any funding or plan for rehabilitation for infrastructure, housing, water and roads.  Only 3% of the families have electricity.  Over 90% of the homes do not have access to piped water, requiring families to haul their water from other locations. Only 24 % of homes are habitable today. 

Since 1966, the population in the area has increased by approximately 65 percent, forcing several generations of families to live together in dwellings that have been declared unfit for human habitation.

A Relocation Act passed in 1974, resulted in the forced eviction of over 15,000 head of households and their families. Those that resisted relocation are under siege to this day by the US Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs using federal monies to confiscate livestock, bulldoze and dismantle water wells and deny people their civil and human rights. Due to a lack of infrastructure, families live in substandard homes, are forced to haul their own water, suffer negative economic and health impacts, are trapped in a circle of poverty and are still drinking contaminated water because they have no choice or have no water at all. 

The U.S. Department of Energy calls Navajo land a “National Sacrifice Area” in a region at the heart of the global warming issue. Black Mesa, Big Mountain is a microcosm of the global problem. The energy is produced on our lands using our resources, yet we receive no benefits from this activity. We suffer the local costs of this production, such as environmental damage and interference with sovereignty. In addition, our traditional lifestyle hangs at the edge of survival in an arid climate, and scientists predict that global warming will cause a permanent drought and dust bowl in the American Southwest, making this life impossible.

Wars of the future will be fought over water, as they are over oil today, as water, our Blue Gold, the source of human survival, enters the global marketplace.  Currently, President Ben Shelly of the Navajo Nation is working with Senator Kyl and McCain to pass legislation for the Little CO River Water Rights Settlement that gives away our water rights to Peabody Coal Company and NGS. Forgotten People believes the Settlement is a tragedy not only due to the minimizing Navajo rights but is waiving hundreds of millions of dollars in potential compensation for rights waived.

To compound the effects, the water rights settlement forever waives without redress for past present and future contamination of water sources when the U.S. EPA reports the presence of over 1,300 abandoned mines on reservation land and up to 25 % of the unregulated sources in the western Navajo Nation exceeds drinking water standard for kidney toxicants including uranium.

Forgotten People believes the US should be held accountable under the declaration and to commitments made internationally which establish minimum basic rights for indigenous people, including UN General Assembly (GA) Resolutions on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation and a commitment by the U.S. EPA at the 2002 United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development to reduce the number of its citizens lacking access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 50% by 2015.

Forgotten People believes President Obama and Navajo Nation should sign a binding version of the declaration to ensure access to clean and potable water and housing as fundamental human rights and participation in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights under the declaration and international law.

Copies of Forgotten People’s interventions are available. For more information please contact Mary Lane, Vice-President, Forgotten People at (928) 401-1777 or via email:
Forgotten People

P.O. Box 1661

Tuba City, AZ 86045

(928) 401-1777


Critique and Commentary about US Sexual and Gender Politics

image if from here

Part I: Viewpoints and Vision

a. The dominant cultural discourse on gender and sexual politics is, as far as I call tell, most hatefully expressed by orthodox allegedly heterosexual and non-trans religious leaders. It is most liberally expressed by Academics. And there is a kind of liberal-conservative version expressed in some corporate media and through some law.

b. All of those institutions (dominant religion, the Academy, corporate media, and Law), and more—such as marriage and the military--exist to promote and protect CRAP: corporate, racist, atrocious patriarchy, which is also to say capitalism, white supremacy, and male supremacy.

c. Seen this way, contemporary discussions and agendas by marginalised-while-dominant and/or oppressed-while-advantaged gendered and sexed people are usually uncritically white-centered, male-centered, and pro-capitalist. They don't or won't offer the larger society, or ourselves, terminology and campaigns, analysis and understandings, that oppose holding on tightly to those three pillars of CRAP.

d. If the alleged spokespeople for all of us who are sex and gender outsiders don't oppose those three pillars, among others, of CRAP, what happens to the radical and CRAP-resisting spokespeople's voices? Are they heard? By what means and mechanisms do over-privileged people among us—let alone the more dominant members of society—listen for them, and more importantly hear them, and even more importantly take them to be wise and worth adopting, centrally, into our own politics and cultures? How likely is it that their/our own alternate analysis and agendas will be accepted as “the right view” or “the most liberating project”?

e. Naming and agenda-setting, theory- and practice-building is happening in communities and through networks of people who are not white, not male, and not pro-capitalist. But to hear dominant contemporary conversation online and off, you wouldn't easily know it unless you're already part of those communities and networks.

f. How progressive or radical is it to ignore and/or silence the voices of those who are so marginalised that they don't even appear in corporate media (and most alternative media either)? How progressive or radical is it to believe and act as though these voices don't ought not matter to white and male supremacist spokespeople on matters of gender and sexual politics?

g. If our politics—our viewpoints and vision, our theory and our practice—is counter-CRAP, is at least attempting to be CRAP-resistant (if not also explicitly anti-CRAP), how do those of us who are white, male, and class-advantaged support and be responsible and accountable allies to the people promoting radical political positions who are not white, are not male, and are not class-advantaged?

I'm asking.

Part II: Theory and Practice

Contemporary theories and practices building from transgender, queer, and women's experiences tend to protect or deny either the oppressive and genocidal force of white supremacy, the subordinating and gynocidal power of male supremacy, or the generally dehumanising and Earth-murdering power of corporate capitalism.

What I see in plenty of dominant-while-marginalised Queer and Transgender Theory, is this idea: that lack of medical, legal, and cultural acceptance and celebration of “difference” is the central problem to be addressed by pro-liberation queer and pro-queer activists. Racism, misogyny, and corporate exploitation are maintained, in part, through the systematic denial and repression of ethnic and sexual differences. But this is done for the sole purpose of maintaining the power of the elites to protect grossly inhumane race, sex, and class hierarchies. Narrowing our struggle to accepting and celebration of difference among subordinates without opposing the congealed power of the (often ignored or enabled) elites in each hierarchy may allow us increasingly diverse sexual and gendered subcultures but not ones free the least privileged of us from oppressive and lethal raced, sexed, and economic force.

In my experience, no mention (let alone plan) of dismantling these hierarchies is required to come across as progressive. CRAP-denying policies, practices, and points of view pretend that diversity of perspectives and identities is the solution to our problem. In such environments, gender and sexual categories are self-chosen and individually identified. Meanwhile, CRAP's institutions and acted out ideologies force raced, classed, and sexed “identities” (read: denigrated and disenfranchised positions on a hierarchy) on us. They are fundamentally imposed and enforced, not chosen. To highlight the validity of subculturally chosen identities without also identifying how white and male supremacy are systems of brute force that exist in and around them, is to enable that raced and sexed force to continue to rule.

CRAP has demonstrated time and again that its ruling classes may tolerate (or ignore) many forms of difference in oppressed and marginalised people as long as the embodiers of those forms don't threaten to expose and challenge CRAP's key pillars of power-over social control and terrorism.

We have seen how far white, self-defined gay men can get in CRAP as long as they are (admittedly or not) anti-feminist, pro-racist, and pro-classist; they cannot achieve the power of white het men but they can acquire or continue to exhibit power not allowed to anyone female. In such politic practices we see how everything from prostitution to sexual sadism is promoted by white gay men as liberatory. I have seen white gay men condemn feminist critiques of prostitution and sexual sadism as virulently homophobic, ignoring how many of the critics are lesbians who are also harmed by homophobia. Meanwhile, when white het men are challenged in any way (or just as part of the routine maintenance of dominant systems of power), they argue that their oppressive political practice is natural, God-ordained, genetically encoded, or socially inevitable.

We have seen the resistance of white feminists, including lesbian feminists, refusing to acknowledge and center the experiences, voices, and analysis of radical womanist and feminist women of color, lesbian and not. In such politics we see the covert and overt maintenance of white power being promoted as “radical” while the white power that is present is denied. The naming of this has been understood as anti-feminist and woman-hating by some white women, as if the radical women of color being ignored and silenced aren't women and aren't working for women's liberation. But the ignoring and silencing--often enough through overt systematic physical and economic force and chronic murder--is fiercest by white het men.

We have seen how white, non-poor pro-transgender spokespeople (many of whom are not transgender) promote a view of sex and gender that is glaringly white and male supremacist. Women who have always been female, who are socially (and also often intimately) targeted for being female by non-trans men, are sometimes portrayed as anti-trans. Some of those pro-trans people simultaneously neglect to name their threatening, abusive, and oppressive heterosexist, misogynist, and male supremacist practices. These self-uncritical practices currently flourish in gender-conservative and gender-liberal environments, whether non-queer, queer, non-transgender, or transgender. But the most virulently anti-trans, anti-queer, and anti-lesbian communities are those ruled by white het non-trans men.

Part III: Concluding thoughts

Among liberal communities covertly protecting white and male power, there is an accepted practice of promoting “diversity” without radically interrogating such an idea as unequivocally good, or as unquestionably leading us to liberation. From what are we liberated through such a practice? How does a liberal challenge to “the gender binary” with no concurrent work end to white and male supremacy (race, sexual, and gender hierarchies) allow females, women, lesbians, and transgender people to be free from violence and dehumanisation on the collective level? How do we respond to individualistic understandings of liberation (usually sexist, classist, and racist) continually usurping class-based liberation struggles?

Many of these political perspectives and strategies are lacking a revolutionary practice of radical self-critique and accountability to those structurally (not morally) beneath socially advantaged people. These practices are also holding tight to at least one pillar of CRAP. Not naming these pillars when defining our struggles doesn't assist us in the project of liberatory social transformation. I call on all whites, all men, all pro-queer, pro-feminist, and pro-trans people, to responsibly seek out and center the analysis and agendas of Indigenous and non-Indigenous radical feminists and womanists of color.