March 2006 Archives

Chicano students finally arise

I am so thoroughly thrilled at the thousands of Latino high school students here in Houston who are taking to the streets to protest the immigration legislation passed by the house of representatives. Adelante, raza! I think it's the family issue that has ignited their imagination -- this is relevant to life. Leaders should take this opportunity to creatively strengthen school interest and performance. Lack of education is our Latino community's Numero Uno challenge.

A report in 2004 from Harvard's Urban Institute found: "while 75 percent of white students graduated from high school in 2001, only 50 percent of all Black students, 51 percent of Native American students, and 53 percent of all Hispanic students got a high school diploma in the same year. The study found that the problem was even worse for Black, Native American, and Hispanic young men at 43 percent, 47 percent, and 48 percent, respectively."

I don't agree with the threats some school administrators are using against the students(up to $500 fine)particularly when other misdeeds get by.

But I do think our superintendent of schools got it right when he said:
"Our schools are working closely with our young people to encourage them to find the right ways to express their feelings on these issues. Some schools are assigning students to write papers about the proposed legislation. Others are holding group meetings with students to talk about the issue. We want our students voices on these issues to be heard. But it is vitally important, for their own safety and their academic standing, that students be in school and learning during the school day, and that they follow the standards of conduct."


Here's a bit of good news that, in my still naive hopefulness, may start a trend.

SAME (Straight Alliance for Marriage Equality)
Press Release
For Immediate Release:
March 24, 2006
Tarek Farouk Maassarani
Voice: (202) 398-4166

Straight Couple Launches Project for Marriage Equality with Canadian

Pair Takes Ceremony Out of US to Protest Discrimination against Gays

Washington , D.C. - Angry about the denial of basic equal marriage rights to gay and lesbian Americans, a straight couple has launched a new project to provide allies in the fight for marriage equality with a way to be heard. Their first effort happened last week when they took their wedding ceremony out of the U.S. and to Canadian soil.

"It originally felt strange politicizing our personal lives, but the truth is that getting married is a political act," said Holly DeeAnn Smith, bride and now civil rights activist. "At a time when Congress is again considering a constitutional marriage ban and many states have barred gay couples from adopting, we couldn't help but reflect on our privilege to marry."

Her husband, Tarek Farouk Maassarani, explained their decision by saying, "Gay and lesbian Canadians have marriage equality, and we wanted to show our support for them as well as our rejection of American marriage discrimination, so we decided to hold our wedding in Canada."


"Either we are or we're not"

This morning I had a delightful breakfast with Claudia Peña y Lillo, a charming and disarmingly insightful Pauline sister in Santiago, Chile.

She is undertaking an ambitious project that moves her large publishing house from content creator and distributor to content enabler and promoter. To this end, she will explore open source, free software, freeing material from copyright, and train and encourage parishes to create their own materials and share them. She has a vibrant vision and is not deterred by the fact that others in her organization may not easily warm up to this type of change. It is a move away from the corporative neo-liberal model of patents and copyright to the original mode of community sharing and creating.
She told me across the croissants: "O somos o no somos." I'll keep this quote about Christian identity, an identity which is dyamic and about choices: "Either we are or we're not."


The World Is Changing for the Better

These are some of the experiences in Santiago, Chile that confirm the strength and historical endurance of the movement of humanistic values, Christian passion for justice and peace.

2 nights ago I met with a group of women,leaders, from various community projects (housing, education, abused children, etc)in the southern neighborhoods of Santiago, Chile. Last week they finished a University course (designed especially for them) on computer technology. They told me about the processor, the motherboard, the hard drive. How to repair the fan, download audio drivers from the Internet.
Their vision is to install a small computer lab in the community center where they will teach other women, who, in their turn, will teach others. They will spend time this year learning Linux and open source software. They are: Martiza Alegria, Ana Rosa Rivera, Veronica Valenzuela, Gabriela Rivera, Marcela Rubro and Patricia Celis. They will start blogging about their experiences, and I'll link to it here when they begin

Saturday and Sunday I attended the first Chilean "Open Community" conference. Twenty-somethings mingled with their older (in the minority)participants. This community is grounded in a philosophy of sharing and helping. This is probably hard to believe, but at several points during some of the workshops I held back tears when hearing very young persons describe their projects. Rodrigo Ramírez says the open source idea led him to make new friends. His community of five (four boys and 1 girl) go to schools and public events to promote Linux and free software. They are crystal clear about their philosopy, the idea that "we can help each other, we can share." He looks down, shakes his head, "It's hard to find people who will listen."

Next week, March 25, they participate in Installfest. On this one day,over 100 cities in Latin America, will install Linux and open software. Members of the open source community hold public events, or go door-to-door in their neighborhoold to install the software for those who want to "open up your hearts and your computers to a world of sharing and solidarity."

I could go on and on. The spirit, the grand idea, is greater than any of us and thrives beyond institutional religion, beyond all institutons....while it enlivens them.


WACC North America

This is a plug to consider the work of the Canadian and USA members of the World Association for Christian Communication.

The site of this association offers concise explanations of media and religion issues.

Two of the issues that we are working on are:

Communications Rights

Fundamentalism and the Media

You might want to become a member and join the movement.

Thomas Merton Center

I'm in Buenos Aires, visiting a Catholic parish elementary school that wants to renew its curriculum, integrating media education. They don't want to re-do that old media education model of "I'll show you how to de-code TV and properly defend yourself." No one-dimensional approach here. They want to affirm as well as critique. But resources are a problem.

Several years ago The Argentina government started funding private as well as public schools. Surprise! Private schools now have yet another source of funds.

Poor children must go to public schools, underfunded, where they receive poor education. Resurrection parish school grew out of the need to upgrade the level of education in the parish community, becoming a kind of hybrid between a private and public school, involving the poor, but able to leverage other sources of income. As you walk in this little school, you just feel happy.

It is a fun, warm place that is beginning to enthusiastically explore and discuss free/open computer software and the benefits of open source sites for education.

I was feeling so hopeful....Then I get news that the FBI in the US is taking pictures and spying on The Thomas Merton Center in Pittsburgh. The FBI, in a memo,points out that the Merton Center “is a left-wing organization advocating, among many political causes, pacifism.”

I demonstrated and picketed in Houston before we went into Iraq, feeling a sense of dread and desperation. I have little doubt that our FBI has pictures of me holding my sign. There were about 10 of us at first,,,then as time went on we were several hundred. If groups like these continue to grow, The FBI will need super powerful computers to secretely hold all of those pictures and files.
Maybe when they get bored with spying on Catholic peace makers, they won't have need for so much computer power and.....they will share their old computers with some of the Catholic schools in Argentina.


Back to Work

I've recovered from my stomach bacteria attack.
On LinkTV I saw a fascinating documentary about aesthetics, a conversation between two indigenous artists, James Luna (Luiseño tribe in Souther California), Ningali Lawford (Walmajarri tribe in Western Australia). "Vis a Vis: Native Tongues" is truly unique. The two artists meet and talk via a video link. They view each other's performance works and walk together (metaphorically) through each other's family history, colonization, slavery, pain and sorrow.
A great piece, whose format is itself an examination of technology today and how indigenous artists (actually ALL artists)are indispensable for community cohesion, coherence, celebration.

Rodrigo is in the final week of planning "Open Community 2006" the 2-day gathering of those of us who are convinced about the inevitability of a humane, free, respectful media world. I'll be in Santiago, Chile for the event. The program looks great. Congrats to Rodrigo and his friends who have organized it.

What a wonderful Prayer that will be with me all day today, thanks to Mary
St. Theresa's Prayer:
May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you....
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.... Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.


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