Minnesota Fellowship of Reconciliation

North Country Peace Builder

Vol. 54, No. 1, March 2003

In This Issue


Chaos or Community?

Join us for an evening of art and inspiration!

The spring gathering of the Minnesota FOR will be held at the Weisman Art Museum, on the East Bank campus of the University of Minnesota. We will share what peacemakers are doing locally, nationally, and internationally. A special highlight will be stories from local young people who have received Minnesota FOR grants to attend nonviolence training workshops.

After this brief meeting, we will have an opportunity to view the special exhibit at the Weisman:

In the Spirit of Martin:
The Living Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This exhibit, the first major exhibition devoted to celebrating King's legacy, features 115 works including photographs, paintings, sculpture, and mixed media pieces. King's devotion to nonviolence in the struggle for justice is highlighted.

Come - experience an amazing exhibit in the company of fellow peacemakers!

Tuesday, April 1, 2003
7:00 pm
Weisman Art Museum
333 East River Road

East Bank campus of the University of Minnesota. Parking available for an hourly rate in museum parking ramp. Call Katy at 612-721-3884 for more information.


A Perspective on Cuba: Contrasts and Changes

by Don Irish

Yes. I'm well aware of great human tragedies current in the world -- the economic disaster in Argentina, the bitter strife in Venezuela, the ravaging of Colombia, extreme starvation and AIDS in much of Africa, suffering in Afghanistan, the miseries of Israel and Palestine, and the imminence of a U.S. attack on Iraq. But permit me to consider Cuba, which our Witness for Peace delegation visited in January.

Contrasts and Similarities - The UN Declaration of Human Rights "guarantees the rights of all people and encompasses a broad spectrum of economic, social, cultural, political, and civil rights. ... Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth ... without distinction of any kind." The U.S. and Cuba each proclaim their adherence to "human rights," but their selections are different. Neither accepts the validity of all the principles! Of course, the relative importance of each for the "good life" can be assessed.

Cuba endeavors with considerable success to ensure its citizens free education from elementary school through university. It provides basic food needs. Health care is available free for all throughout life. Estadounidenses (U.S. citizens don't constitute all Americans) stress prerogatives of a "free press," the right of assembly to address grievances, "freedom of speech," and security of persons and property from unwarranted search and seizure, among other "rights."

Neither country grants a full and free right to travel. Cuba regulates travel abroad more completely. Both hold political prisoners. Both utilize capital punishment, though not all U.S. states permit it. Currently, with "Homeland Security" and the "Patriot Act," [and talk about a Patriot Act II), civil rights are being strongly challenged here at home, while the Cubans are gaining some.

Cuba is a country in which teachers' salaries are in the same bracket as salaries of MDs. In the U.S., the gap between the "haves" and the "have nots" is widening. Cuba has set a maximum of 20 pupils in elementary school classes, while our class sizes are again growing. Cubans have the same basic curriculum for all schools in the nation, whereas the U.S. pattern varies greatly by state, community, and school type. the U.S. has more serious "race relations" problems than the more mixed Cuban society, but the latter has a growing gap economically between those with kin in Miami who send money to their Cuban relatives and those, usually black and poor, who do not.

Cuba has kept and maintained (often in remarkable condition) many older cars. It has pedicabs, some tiny "ladybug" taxis, and very long, high "camel" buses (humps on both ends, entrances lower in the middle). It has much wider use of bicycles, with buses arranged to carry them.

Cubans have a well-developed cultural life -- a national orchestra, national ballet, drama theaters, art galleries, numerous poets and novelists, regular international film festivals. Cuba's distinctive traditional dances and popular Cuban rhythms abound in public and private gathering places.

The Embargo - The embargo has continued through nine U.S. presidencies! The 40-year unilateral virtually total embargo on Cuba is illegal under international law. UN commissions have repeatedly condemned it (as recently as 2000). The UN Charter, by our Constitution (Article VI), comprises part of the "supreme law of the land," as do all ratified treaties. The U.S. thus violates its own obligations when it unilaterally employs a total embargo against another nation with which it is not at war. Witness for Peace views the embargo (with rationales) as hypocritical, immoral, unfair, and illegal.

Changes - Proverbially, "it's an ill wind that blows no one good!" One effect of the embargo has been to foster greater ingenuity among Cubans, to compensate for the very real suffering it has brought the people. They developed new sources for imports and exports; developed substitutes (e.g., in medicine) for items unavailable or costly to import; fostered "organic" horticulture as chemical fertilizers became unaffordable and less desirable; reverted to earlier, simpler forms of transportation and farm mechanics, needing less fuel; developed extensive recycling programs; created hundreds of urban gardens (80% of vegetables for Havana are grown in the city); organized cooperatives; and introduced a partial dollar economy and a "free market" for some products.

Since 1991 "religious believers" have been permitted to join the Party and be candidates for public office (candidates are initially chosen in communities by category: women, youth, labor, peasants, etc.). "Believers" are now members of the national assembly. The nation's constitution was changed to define Cuba officially as a secular state, and not atheist. The freedoms to speak and reach out that were granted to Jesse Jackson in Cuba in 1989, the presence of Pope John Paul II in 1998 and of Jimmy Carter within the past year or so, are commendable and have had positive impacts.

Cuba has sharply reduced its military since 1990, adopting a "war by the people" strategy that is defensive in nature. Alternative options to military service are offered to "conscientious objectors"--Quakers, Seventh-Day Adventists, Evangelicals.

Dissent is discouraged in both Cuba and the U.S. (pressures augmented recently here). There is greater control of media in Cuba. Their only newspaper, Granma, appears daily in Spanish, weekly in English. Our major media, however, are controlled by a few large corporate conglomerates, reflecting their influence, "informing" us regarding what they wish to foster but not about what they want to ignore.

The U.S. and Cuba can learn from each other. Cubans have much to teach us about more relaxed living, simpler life styles, greater economic equality, conservation and "greening," greater civic participation at the base, having priorities on education, health, and the arts (wonderful architectural examples), and nonthreatening foreign policies.

And how about baseball!



AmeriCorps on the Southside

by Board Member Matthew Ryg

Working with the K-8 students at Southside Family School this year has meant so much to my work for peace and justice. It was at Hamline University where I first experienced what Civil Rights leader Diane Nash calls "Agapic Energy," which is, in essence, the energy that moves and sustains us in working to create nonviolent social change. I experienced this energy in class, on campus, with fellow students, staff, and faculty -- and, I experienced it at Southside Famliy School.

It was from Hamline professor and FOR member Colleen Bell that I first heard about a little known alternative elementary school in south Minneapolis with an extraordinary pedagogy. From the end of my third year up till graduation, I knew that teaching was what I wanted to do, and Southside was the place I wanted to start doing it.

Upon graduation, I was eager to enlist and serve in the City of Lakes AmeriCorps program based in Minneapolis. Our City of Lakes Corps is an educationally focused program, which provides daily tutoring, mentoring, and all around assistance to the students and staff at five local elementary schools.

"Good theory is good practice," said lead teacher Susan Oppenheim of Southside's unwavering dedication to placing social justice at the heart of its curriculum. It almost goes without saying that Southside provides its students with conventional educational alternatives.

Southside is the school, in retrospect, I wish I could have experienced as a young person. I truly believe that you'd feel the same way if you could experience the excitement about learning that I, right along with the students, experience everyday in the classroom. I continually ask myself how my learned presumptions about race, gender, sexuality, class, violence, oppression, and resistance would have been shaped differently if I had attended a school whose mission is to provide its students with an atmosphere free of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. Would I think differently if I were taught to honor diverse cultural identities rather than marginalize them? How would I see the world differently if I were taught in a school with a 9:1 student-to-teacher ratio? I can only imagine my rough and tumble journey toward working for social justice would have been made much less painful. I feel blessed, however, to have had the students, teachers, and staff at Southside in my life at all.

The best part of my day is the Reading and History classes where I've had the fortunate opportunity to connect my love of the classroom to my passion for activism and service with AmeriCorps. I've also had the opportunity to work with the SAACP, or Student Association for the Advancement of Children as People, which was founded and is led by the 6th- to 8th- grade students. The SAACP works and organizes around such social justice issues as War and Peace, Welfare Rights, Child Labor and Slavery, HIV/AIDS, Affordable Housing, and the case to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, to honestly name just a few. The SAACP also teaches civil rights history by presenting slide shows about their triennial Civil Rights History Trip down south. They talk to groups that range from education classes at local universities to the Food and Drug Administration.

A pillar of the curriculum at Southside is the treatment of the world as a classroom. Clear examples of this are their history trips. So far this year I've participated in two Minnesota history trips. Students visited the White Earth Indian Reservation in northwestern Minnesota, where they met with activists leading the White Earth Land Recovery Project. At White Earth, kids spoke with Winona LaDuke, political activist and WELRP founding director, and learned about organizing to protect and preserve cultural heritage, biodiversity, and the Food for Elders/Diabetes Project.

Students read selections from Michael Fredo's The Lynchings in Duluth on the bus ride from White Earth to Duluth, Minnesota. Along the way they studied how the events in history have shaped current issues in political organizing. We met with members of the Clayton, Jackson, McGhie Memorial Committee and NAACP in Duluth, who are organizing support for a memorial to the men who were lynched in 1920. Overall, the history trips are a fun and engaging way for kids to learn history and connect it with the issues they face everyday.

The family at Southside has been an extraordinary group of people to learn from and work with. My experiences in AmeriCorps and at Southside have caused my love and passion for social justice to soar to new heights. bell hooks wrote that education can be the practice of freedom. I wholeheartedly believe this because I see it happen everyday. Through its unique curriculum, this community of learners not only transforms, teaches, and inspires, but also liberates themselves and the world around them from the many shackles of violent oppression.




The MN FOR lost an important member; Marjorie Sibley, on January 21. Marjorie had been ill for some years with Alzheimer's disease. She was tended faithfully and lovingly by second husband and FOR member Don Irish. Memorials can be sent to Augsburg College Sverdrup Library, where Marjorie worked for many years (c/o Prof. Grace Sulerud, 2211 Riverside Ave., Minneapolis 55454) or to Friends for a Non-violent World (c/o Phil Steger, Executive Director, 1050 Selby Ave., St. Paul 55104).

New (and ongoing) officers of the board are Katy Gray Brown and Jo Clare Hartsig, co-chairs; Rachel Mordecai, secretary; and Leslie Reindl, treasurer and newsletter editor.

Board member Katrina Dolezal and husband had their first child, a girl, on January 6. Katrina is longing for a good night's sleep.

Board member Katy Gray Brown has been appointed assistant professor of Philosophy and Peace Studies in the General College at the University of Minnesota.

Board member Matthew Ryg is teaching at the Southside Family School this year. See his article above.

Michael Brown has just returned from an extensive trip to India. He writes: "The India trip was too short, of course, but it was fantastic for me...I was helping to lead a group of students studying Gandhian nonviolence. We stayed at the Gandhi Peace Foundation in Delhi, and spent a good bit of time at his Sevagram ashram, near Warda, before going on to Bombay. A fine introduction, and quite a bit of sight-seeing thrown in. After the rest of the group left for the States I took another week and went to visit a friend in Pakistan, then spent some time in Ethiopia on the way home. Too much to pack in, but there were too many things I just couldn't pass up. A good scouting trip, I keep saying, for a longer stay in the future. I'm still reeling a bit from re-entry, though."

Board member Don Christensen finished his term as interim pastor at St. Luke Presbyterian Church on March 2. He will spend a month as interim pastor at the Ark Retreat Center in Minnesota, and then travel to Jerusalem as part of a World Council of Churches group, for a month-long stay.

Candace Lautt of Northfield reports that a new FOR group is forming in Northfield. That's wonderful news, Candace.

From board member Laura Wilson: "I attended the midwest campus anti-war conference at the University of Minnesota on the weekend of Feb. 9. It was a fairly productive weekend; we came out with a few specific actions that all of the campuses will be doing in solidarity. I just wanted to update you about the happenings with the Hamline Students FOR Peace. We've made a contingency plan; if and when Iraq is attacked, we will join the citywide student walkout at noon on the day after news of the bombing hits the papers. We will march or ride the bus to U of M to join their day of teach-ins, then march with them to the federal building.

"On the day of the attack we will fast, donating the money we save by not eating to a food shelf. We will continue fasting on the same day each week (for example, each Wednesday) for a month or until the bombing stops.

"We are tentatively planning a sign-making brunch for Saturday Feb. 15, before the march in Uptown."


A Heart Made of Bread

by Annie Soldi, age 11, Italy

I saw at the bakers a heart made of bread
Big, hot and fragrant, and I thought,
If I had a heart of bread how many children could eat?

For you, my friend, who are hungry,
For you a mouthful of my hearts bread.
And for you, and for you, and for you.

Its not enough to say, I love you
To a child whos hungry and scared.

Its not enough to say poor mite
If you see a child in tears.

If my heart was made of bread
How many children could eat!

And you who are in command,
What's keeping you back,
Why dont you make bombs of bread?

At the end of the battle each soldier
Joyfully would take back home
A basket of golden bombs fragrant and crusty.

But this is a dream,
And my hungry friend is still in tears.
If only my heart was made of bread!



Spring 2003

Wed. 3/12, 8 am: "The American Way in the Presence of Fear" Reflection and discussion on an essay by Larry Rasmussen. People of Faith Peacemakers, St. Martin's Table, 2001 Riverside, Minneapolis

Wed. 3/26, 8 am: "Caring for Creation: Faith Communities and Creation" with Betsy Barnum, Great River Earth Institute. See 3/12 above.

Sat. 3/29, 9 am - 4:30 pm: VANISHING DEMOCRACY - CHALLENGING CORPORATE POWER: Issues & Actions Defending Our Rights, Restoring Democracy. John Nichols, speaker. $20 registration (8-9 am) includes lunch. 1st Universalist Church, 3400 Dupont Ave S., Mpls. Register/info from WILPF: 651-458-7090 or <wilpf@earthlink.net>.

Tues. 4/1, 7 pm: "Chaos or Community?" FOR spring gathering.

Fri. 4/25, 7-9 pm, Sat. 4/26, 9am-4pm: Every Church a Peace Church, Central Lutheran Church, 333 S 12th St., Minneapolis

The Importance of the American Flag

 The American flag stands for the fact that cloth can be very important. It is against the law to let the flag touch the ground or to leave the flag flying when the weather is bad. The flag has to be treated with respect. You can tell just how important this cloth is because when you compare it to people, it gets much better treatment.

Nobody cares if a homeless person touches the ground. A homeless person can lie all over the ground all night long without anyone picking him up, folding him neatly, and sheltering him from the rain.

School children have to pledge loyalty to this piece of cloth every morning. No one has to pledge loyalty to justice and equality and human decency. No one has to promise that people will get a fair wage, or enough food to eat, or affordable medicine, or clean water, or air free of harmful chemicals. But we all have to promise to love a rectangle of red, white and blue cloth.

Betsy Ross would be suite surprised to see how successful her creation has become. But Thomas Jefferson would be disappointed to see how little of the flag's real meaning remains.

Charlotte Aldebron, 12, wrote this essay for a 6th-grade English class competition, at Cunningham Middle School, Presque Isle, Maine. Comments may be sent to her mom, Jillian Aldebron: aldebron@ainop.com. Reprinted from Broken Bread, Vol. 19, No. 2, Newsletter of Social Ministries for Peace & Justice, Des Moines Presbytery.



To have a complete set of Fellowship Magazine from 1948 through 2002, the MN FOR is looking for the following issues:

October 1948; March 1949; September 1950; September 1951; February 1952; May and December 1954; May, 1956; January 1962; September 1964; September 1965; January 1968; October/November 1990.

If anyone has one of these issues and would be willing to donate it to our archive, please contact Katy Gray Brown at (612) 721-3884 or send it to her at 2700 16th Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55407.

The North Country Peace Builder is produced four times a year--March, June, September, and December. Deadline for submissions is the 15th of the preceding month. Please e-mail to alteravista@earthlink.net or mail to Leslie Reindl, 1233 Ingerson Road, St. Paul MN 55112.

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* * *   * * *  L I N K S  * * *   * * *

National FOR | MN FOR
Minnesota Peacemaker Project
Peace and Justice Websites (nonviolence.org)
Benedictines' Website | Justice and Peace Links

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North Country Peace Builder

Produced quarterly (September, December, March and June) by the Executive Committee of the Minnesota Fellowship of Reconciliation. Send submissions, letters and comments to Leslie Reindl <alteravista@earthlink.net>, editor, in care of

1233 Ingerson Road
St. Paul, MN 55112

Or use the online form to send comments or contributions.




© 2003 by MN FOR / www.osb.org/for/2003/