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Wangari Maathai PRESENTE!!

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Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai, 1940-2011

We have lost one of the most important voices of our time.  The loss is great at this critical moment in history. Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmental and political activist was the first East and Central African to receive a doctorate.  Her degrees are in biology and anatomy. 


Two of Maathai's books I've read, Unbowed:  A Memoir (2007) and Repleneshing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World (2010) describe a passionate, brilliant woman who disobeyed the law in order to make significant changes in the environment and significant changes in society for women. And she gives us such innovative and powerful suggestions to replenish the earth, to heal ourselves. In 2010, she was in Mexico for the UN Climate Summit and said the following:

"[G]overnments must do what they have promised: take concrete action to reduce their emissions; deliver finance and work together to make low-carbon development a reality; and protect those least able to cope with the impact of climate change . . . 
If we truly want to tackle climate change, poverty, and conflict, we need to think holistically.  We need to, as Ban Ki-moon said at the launch of the UN global sustainability panel, "think big, connecting the dots between poverty, energy, food, water, environmental pressure and climate change."  

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During the UN''s 3rd global women's conference in Nairobi in 1985, Maathai introduced her organization, The Green Belt Movement and this connection greatly aided her efforts in setting up countless programs in various countries (including Mexico) to combat deforestation, water crises, rural hunger.  May her efforts continue even though she is no longer with us!  Que Viva The Green Belt Movimiento!!  Que Viva la Profesora Wangari Maathai!

There is a wonderful award-winning documentary about Professor Maathai's life and environmental work.  It is entitled, Taking Root:  The Vision of Wangari Maathai.  I strongly recommend seeing it!  And you can order it from The Green Belt Movement website (just click on the title above).  

Gracias Profesora Maathai, for your courage, your tireless work, your constant smile in the face of adversity, your willingness to stand up and question, to stand up and disobey. Dissent!  Gracias.  Your efforts will not be forgotten.  Wangari Maathai:  PRESENTE!

Last Day of LGBT History Month!

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University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) English Department
table at the LGBT Banquet.  Left to right: Wendy Oleson,
Emily Danforth, Sonam Singh, Dave Madden, Claire Harlan-Orsi, 
Ariana Vigil, and Joy Ritchie, Chair of the English Dept.

On the last day of LGBT month I am posting a celebratory nod for what was accomplished this month--namely the passing of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. I am also posting what still needs to be done. Since 1991, over 100,000 LGB hate crimes in the U.S. have been reported and documented and thousands more have gone unreported.  After 11 years trying to get this hate crime legislation passed, the Democrats attached it to a $680 billion defense bill they knew would pass and it did, 

What does this mean?  It means that the 1969 U.S. federal hate-crime law has been expanded to include sexual orientation, gender, disability.  The Justice Department can become involved if local/state legislators are unable/unwilling to investigate a hate crime based on sexual orientation.  It also requires the FBI to track statistics on transgender hate crimes (LGB victims are already tracked).  

I think of transgender individuals who were brutally murdered like Gwen Araujo & Larry Fobes King (both from California); Angie Zapata (Colorado);  Imani Williams & Emonie Kiera Spaulding (both from Wash. D.C.); Sanesha Stewart (New York). The list is long.  

There is much more work to be done especially in education.  LGBTQ individuals do not have the same rights as others.  Far from it.  They cannot share health benefits, they cannot be sure that if her/his partner falls ill and must be taken to the hospital that she/he will have access to her/his partner's medical care, even to her/his hospital room. If a partner dies, the other must pay an exhorbitant tax fee to buy back half or all of the house (because she/he is not recognized as a spouse and therefore not a lawful homeowner). Then there is the complexity of children and parental rights.  In Nebraska, LGBTQ individuals are not recognized in a court of law--as if we do not exist.  

When people say, "That's fine that you're gay. It's no business of mine. It's a private matter."  It is not a private matter.  Our lives are public because our lives are constantly scrutinized,  monitered, policed. 

The above picture shows a room full of people.  And it was full! The LGBTQ Banquet at UNL has grown from a small room in the union years ago to a huge banquet hall at The Cornhusker Hotel this year. May it continue!

Sonoma Students Read Ruiz de Burton!

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On the way to California State University at Sonoma!

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Sign for Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo's adobe home--of which
Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton visited often.

Thank you to my dear friend and colleague, Professor Anne Goldman, who arranged 
this visit with the students of Sonoma--and what a wonderful discussion!  They were 
ready for discussions on race, class, gender issues that Ruiz de Burton's novel presents for us to consider in the twenty-first century!  Their questions helped me think more about Ruiz de Burton's publishing and the question of reception.  How many people read Ruiz de Burton in the 1870s?  Did Lippincott sell many of her books?  The answer lies at the New York Library archives (Lippincott records)!  I also enjoyed discussing issues of class and race with the students.  They see how Ruiz de Burton's novel connects with our present day preoccupations on these subjects.  

Here are pictures of the students who were quite thoughtful, smart, inquisitive! --such a pleasure to be with you.  Thank you!

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The Sonoma University students with their professor,
Anne Goldman (left--in red).

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I met students who had grown up in the northern California area as well as students who were born in Mexico and then grew up in Sonoma and San Francisco.  They all commented afterwards on how Ruiz de Burton's novel helps them think about the sometimes painful but instructive ways we are all implicated in issues of race, class, gender, sexuality. The nineteenth century doesn't seem so distant after such discussions!

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Professor Anne Goldman (in red) and Amelia.  

Thanks again, Anne!  And thanks for many good years of friendship and academic collaboration--may there be many more.  Just in case you don't know, Professor Anne Goldman and I published the anthology, Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton:  Critical and Pedagogical Perspectives.  It was a great collaboration that included Ruiz de Burton scholars from across the nation.  Since then, Professor Goldman has been writing non-fiction.  Look up this summer's 2009 edition of The Gettysburg Review to see  Anne's non-fiction piece entitled "Double Vision."  

Silenced on 9/11 and Today

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Countless undocumented workers lost their lives on 9/11. They were hard-working parents, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts who kept the World Trade Center windows, bathrooms, offices sparkling clean, worked the restaurants, maintained the lobbies. Today we honor the dead, but in the media no mention will be made of these individuals.  No mention will be made of their family members who mourn today. 

There were also countless undocumented who were not inside the buildings but came to the site and spent many weeks in the rescue, recovery, and clean-up efforts.  "According to Oscar Paredes, director of Latin American Workers Project in Jackson Heights, about 3,000 undocumented workers assisted with the clean-up. . . most without the proper equipment to protect against exposure to hazardous materials. . . They and thousands of others hired by subcontractors got paid between $5 to $8 an hour for 8-12 hour shifts, sometimes working up to seven days." ("Sick 9/11 Shadow Workers")  Many of these individuals are also suffering psychologically.  

Two bills:  "The September 11 Family Humanitarian Relief and Patriotism Act" and "The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act" are eight years old. Legislators are still trying to get these bills passed.  

I post these sites as well as the following link to a testimonio in honor of all of these individuals.  Testimonio:  read the story of Nayibe Padredino and her sister here.  These sisters are brave to tell us their story of how they cleaned buildings that were near the WTC site.  All they were given were paper facemasks.  

Read also Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney's efforts to pass these 9/11 health bills here.
Next:  give a call/e-mail the legislator in your state to help make these bills a reality.