Letter to Membership

August 2008

Dear WESPAC Foundation Friends and Members,
This summer has been a really busy and inspiring one for WESPAC Foundation on many levels. We are witnessing renewed progressive youth activism and initiative, and we are also helping to create a more collaborative culture in our local area regarding community organizing for progressive social change.
Around twelve WESPAC members joined me at the Northeast Climate Confluence which was organized and attended by many folks under the age of 25. I am copying a portion of YouthPAC member Jon Booth’s press release regarding the confluence:

"This past weekend approximately 250 people came together in High Falls, New York for the first Northeast Climate Confluence. The Confluence ran from July 31st to August 3rd, with workshops, trainings and panels ranging from immigration raids and the prison-industrial complex to mountain top removal and disaster relief. This wide range of workshops aimed to address the root causes of climate change.

‘The same system that wages a daily war on our communities is poised to destroy our very life blood: the earth, the water, our food, and our culture,’ said Sundeep Sood, Confluence organizer. ‘By combining our knowledge and energy we will create real solutions and decrease our dependence on the institutions that are attacking the planet and all life.’ With these ideas in mind people of all ages and backgrounds from across the Northeast came to the Epworth Center in High Falls to create the kind of world they want to see.

The Confluence opened on Thursday night with a speech from Tom Porter, the elder of the Mohawk Nation. He blessed the event and gave permission for the Confluence to take place on land that had once been part of the Mohawk Nation. In his beautiful speech he expressed hope for
the future and a willingness to work with those attending the Confluence to help build a better world.

The three workshop streams, Ice Storms to ICE Raids, Self Sufficient Communities and Connecting Grassroots struggles all had a variety of workshops and came up with concrete action plans for future activism on a variety of issues. "

I have to say that all of the "older" WESPAC members present at the confluence were deeply moved by the organizing skills, sincerity and commitment of these young organizers. It truly felt as though we had come together to create the world that we want to live in, a world that respects the rights of Indigenous communities and a world that is willing to re-learn from Indigenous communities how to live in harmony with our natural environment and with each other.

In other positive news, I am really pleased to report that there is an organic push in our local communities to form more effective coalitions to work on various specific issues affecting the Lower Hudson Valley. WESPAC is a member of the Hudson Valley Community Coalition which is a coalition of concerned individuals and groups working together to encourage immigration solutions that include and work for everyone, to expand the conversation about our diverse community and the value it brings to the people of the Hudson Valley. We intend to bring the voices of immigrants to places of worship, community groups, schools and other venues starting in the Fall to humanize the issue of comprehensive immigration reform. If you know of a group that may be interested, please let us know. For more information about this coalition, please visit http://hvccoalition.org.

WESPAC is also a member of the newly formed Task Force on Racial Justice in Westchester County, a group working to eliminate racism through education, action, and community building. Our purpose is to challenge and transform people, policies, and institutions that perpetuate poverty, disparity and limited access. We are committed to the healthy progress of humanity and assuring the full participation and dignity of all people. We have been meeting every two weeks for the past three months and are planning a community forum at the Yonkers Riverfront Library on Saturday, October 18th at 10:30am entitled "Rethinking Race, Power & Politics in Westchester County through the Lens of Civil Liberties".

In the same vein, the Anti-Racist Alliance is organizing a critically important Undoing Racism training with the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond at the Center for Racial Justice at WESPAC in White Plains on October 5th, 6th and 7th. The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond believes that an effective, broad-based movement for social transformation must be rooted in the following Anti-Racist Principles:
Undoing RacismTM: Racism is the single most critical barrier to building effective coalitions for social change. Racism has been consciously and systematically erected, and it can be undone only if people understand what it is, where it comes from, how it functions, and why it is perpetuated.

Learning from History: History is a tool for effective organizing. Understanding the lessons of history frees us to create a more humane future.

Sharing Culture: Culture is the life support system of a community. If a community’s culture is respected and nurtured, the community’s power will grow.

Maintaining Accountability: To organize with integrity requires that we be accountable to the communities struggling with racist oppression.

Networking: The growth of an effective broad-based movement for social transformation requires networking or "building a net that works". As the movement develops a strong net, people are less likely to fall through.

Analyzing Power: As a society, we often believe that individuals and/or their communities are solely responsible for their conditions. Through the analysis of institutional power, we identify and unpack the systems external to the community that create the internal realities that many people experience daily.

Gatekeeping: Persons who work in institutions often function as gatekeepers to ensure that the institution perpetuates itself. By operating with anti-racist values and networking with those who share those values and maintaining an accountable relationship with the community, the gatekeeper becomes an agent of institutional transformation.

Undoing Internalized Racial Oppression
Internalized Racial Oppression manifests itself in two forms:
Internalized Racial Inferiority
The acceptance of and acting out of an inferior definition of self, given by the oppressor, is rooted in the historical designation of one’s race. Over many generations, this process of disempowerment and disenfranchisement expresses itself in self-defeating behaviors.
Internalized Racial Superiority
The acceptance of and acting out of a superior definition of self is rooted in the historical designation of one’s race. Over many generations, this process of empowerment and access expresses itself as unearned privileges, access to institutional power and invisible advantages based upon race.

Identifying and Analyzing the Manifestations of Racism
Individual acts of racism are supported by institutions and are nurtured by the societal practices such as militarism and cultural racism which enforce and perpetuate racism.

Please consider signing up TODAY for the training! You can register online at http://www.antiracistalliance.com and there is some scholarship funding available for low-income, students and seniors.

I am also pleased to report that WESPAC Foundation is spear-heading a Lower Hudson Valley Social Forum scheduled to take place on March 20th and 21st, 2009. We have several groups and organizations on board and we are meeting twice a month to plan the various streams that will intersect at the convergence: immigration, criminal justice, sustainability/environment, socio-economic justice (housing, healthcare, education) and foreign policy. Please let me know if you would like to get involved. Our website is not yet up and ready but will be www.lhvsocialforum.org and will be linked from the WESPAC website.

The Middle East Committee of WESPAC Foundation and Adalah-NY (www.adalahny.org) are co-sponsoring "The Art of Palestinian Children", a travelling exhibition of 26 paintings by Palestinian children (age 8 to 11) living in Lebanon. Some of the children live in the Shatila refugee camp, others in various locations in and around Beirut. They are the descendants of Palestinian refugees driven from their homes in 1948. The paintings were donated by al-Jana, the Beirut based Palestinian Centre for Popular Arts.

The paintings show a variety of emotions the children have experienced throughout their young lives. Isolation and suffering, as seen in most portraits, seem to have exiled the kids from their childhood into the world of adults as they express feelings older than their age. We are in the process of organizing a series of shows in Westchester and New York, in schools and colleges, in public libraries and art galleries, in churches, mosques and temples. In November 2009 we will have a last show and auction in NYC, where the proceeds will be sent to al-Jana. Should you be interested in setting up a show in your community, in your school or college, please get in touch with us. If you live outside the New York area, we ask you to cover the transportation and insurance expenses.

Save the Dates!
October 14th at 7pm is our Annual Meeting of Members in Pleasantville where members will vote and approve the slate of Board of Directors and discuss other WESPAC business. All members current on their membership dues are encouraged to attend.

Saturday, December 6th is the annual Fair Trade Festival and International Crafts Fair at the Memorial United Methodist Church in White Plains from 10am to 5pm. We do have a few tables available for potential new vendors, so please spread the word. We will need volunteers to help with signage, kitchen, food contributions, vendor relief, set up/clean up, children’s area etc, so please let us know if you are willing to help.

There is much more to say, and many more upcoming events to announce, so I will encourage you all to log onto www.wespac.org to see the full breadth of upcoming activities. Visit your local library if you do not have internet access at home to check out the full schedule.

Finally, we would like to thank all of you who have supported WESPAC and we are asking for your ongoing support. Our mailing, printing, rental, employee, and general operating costs have all gone up. We understand that we are all feeling the pinch of rising inflation and the erosion in our purchasing capacity, but please do not forget your peace and justice group and give us what you can at this time to help us continue our coalition work, our community building and our struggle for social, racial and economic justice.

For the WESPAC family,

Nada Khader, WESPAC Director