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Entries tagged "youth activism"

2012 Letelier-Moffitt Awards Uncut

October 19, 2012 ·

Brave activists from Chile and Boston speaking from the heart. A cameo appearance by actor and humanitarian Danny Glover. The former first lady of Costa Rica and hundreds of other fabulous guests. Peruvian wine. Hearty hors d'oeurves. The top U.S. student leader. An elegant venue dedicated to scientific discovery.

The Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Awards reception and ceremony is always moving and fun. This year was truly terrific. We know some of our supporters had to miss this great event, which we filled to capacity. But you can still watch the whole ceremony right here on our blog, including stellar performances by the DC Youth Slam Team and Patricio Zamorano and his band.

The Institute for Policy Studies has hosted this progressive convergence every year since 1976, when our colleagues Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt were murdered in a car bombing near Washington, D.C.'s Dupont Circle. Along with an opportunity to greet old friends and make new ones, it offers a chance to salute new heroes of social movements who are, as IPS director John Cavanagh put it in his speech, "expanding our imaginations on how to make change happen."

 

Tiffany Dena Loftin's Letelier-Moffitt Award Speech

October 17, 2012 ·

Tiffany Dena Loftin at Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award 2012

I consider it a honor to have been asked to present this award to the Chilean Student Movement and to the two remarkable leaders seated here before me, Camila Vallejo and Noam Titelman.

I serve as president of the United States Student Association, the country’s oldest and largest student run student lead organization. For 65 years, we have pressured decision-makers for an accessible and affordable higher education for everyone. This year, student leaders and allies across the country have focused on federal and state-based legislation that give undocuments students an opportunity to apply for federal loans and afford a public education.

We have mobilized students across the country to register to vote, to fight against budget cuts for important programs for communities of color, and we demand corporate accountability and student loan debt forgiveness. All while training young people to build community by learning skills that build real power on their campus to fight for a just society.

Many of our students are inspired and fired up from the strategy and power lead forward by the Chilean Student Movement.

They have created and sustained, for over a year and a half, one of the most dynamic student movements the world has ever seen, raising up the right to education as a fundamental right for every student in Chile and inspiring the tactics of other student organizations across the world.

They have organized a half million people onto the streets of Chile, a nation of only 17 million people. That would be the equivalent of us getting over 9 million people on the streets in this country.

These brave demonstrators have stood up to brutal police repression, and they come back the next day even stronger. Camila has faced death threats. One senior government official tweeted to they wanted her dead but Camila did not stand down. She stood up defiantly and said: “What motivates me most is to fight for the dignity of human beings.”

The organizing that has held this movement together motivates me because the tactics are non-traditional, non-violent, and accessible so that every student is educated.

They have rethought social protest in bold and often humorous ways, from kissathons to superhero dance offs, to a mass zombie Michael Jackson Thriller dance routine.

They have innovated with social media — Camila has a half million followers on twitter.

They have forged alliances with miners and unions and a broad spectrum of Chilean societies.

They have focused and never compromised on their demands for free universal education, and they have rejected “piecemeal” government offers of reform. They have refused to be bought off.

While focusing in on education, they’ve made the critical leap to the larger development model and the inequality that is endemic in that model.

For us in the United States, they are a model of forcing a society to face and grapple with the giant crisis of millions of students who cannot repay their student loan debt.

This Chilean Student Movement is led by internationalists. They are making links to, and helping to motivate, a global movement. They see the links from the indignations of Spain to the revolutionaries of Egypt to the Occupiers of the United States.

Tonight, I pledge to you that students of the United States stand in solidarity with you, we have your back. We join in your demands to end student debt fairly and justly, and will continue to fight for a free education.

Tiffany Dena Loftin, president of the United States Student Association, presented Camila Vallejo and Noam Titelman with a 2012 Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award from the Institute for Policy Studies.


Report from Occupy Boston

October 11, 2011 ·

On the newly ratified "Indigenous People's Day," in place of "Columbus Day," by the General Assembly, students from all over the city marched across Boston in solidarity with the wider movement.

In just one weekend of organizing, more than 1,000 students rallied in the Boston Commons before leading a vibrant march to Dewey Square, where they met with various labor unions and the occupiers. They then continued to march around the city in stronger, larger numbers — by one estimate over 5,000. Unfortunately, this isn't a breaking news story. Instead, we have vague details of an assault by the police and the city on the protestors.

Occupiers in Boston hold a rally during the day, before the police arrests. Photo by Andrea Gordillo.Interestingly, the police issued a warning to the occupiers that they would be forcibly removed shortly after the march and after they expanded their camp into the Rose Kennedy Greenway Park. A Twitter war and a showdown between the Boston Police Department and Occupy Boston began at nightfall. The police explained that they were there to "curtail additional damage to newly developed green space" because, "the Greenway Conservancy recently invested over $150,000 in new plantings for all to enjoy." Occupy Boston's twitter feed encouraged their followers to adhere to their protocol of non-violent resistance. As they indiscriminately arrested medics and legal observers, beat Vietnam War veterans, and arrested hundreds of peaceful protestors, they destroyed and discarded their personal property.

It's no secret that the state has much to gain in discrediting and destroying popular social movements, particularly now that our government is colonized by corporations. In a smooth, but transparent, PR move, the city's Commissioner Ed Davis told the Boston Herald that "a new group, the anarchists, wanted to take control."

Nothing could be further from the truth. Since its recent birth, the Occupy movement has successfully aimed to be completely inclusive and horizontal. That's beginning to the reshape social norms and mores, and it scares those with power who believe they are champions of the common good. As the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek eloquently put in his address to the General Assembly of New York, "They will tell you that you are dreaming, but the true dreamers are those who think that things can go on indefinitely the way they are, just with some cosmetic changes. We are not the dreamers, we are awakening from a dream which is turning into a nightmare."

People everywhere are waking up from this dream, feeling empowered. The powers-that-be must realize that we're on a deadline, that our options have been exhausted, and that we're here to stay. Yes, it's a sad day when the Boston police department beats up our veterans, but our tenacity is already showing and hundreds of people have donated to bail out the people who were arrested.

I can't reiterate enough that the ideas behind the occupations can't fit in a sound bite. I encourage you to engage in imagining a better world. If you find yourself scared by these PR tactics by the police and the government, remember that history will absolve us. The whole world is watching. 

Andrea Gordillo is a member of Occupy Boston, a student at Northeastern University, and an intern at the Boston office of the Institute for Policy Studies. She was researcher on the recent IPS report, America Loses: Corporations That Take "Tax Holidays" Slash Jobs.

The New Age of Journalism

July 13, 2011 ·

The media has ADD.

One minute the hot story is a citizen revolt in Egypt and the next is a tsunami in Japan.

How much time was dedicated to the disaster in Haiti before mainstream media shifted its focus to yet another story? Meanwhile, the mainstream media has forgotten about Haiti, even though that country continues to suffer from the earthquake's aftermath.Interns from across the city came to listen to IPS Fellow Phyllis Bennis and Al Jazeera correspondent Sebastian Walker. Photo by Messay Shoakena.

Al Jazeera, however hasn't abandoned Haiti. Sebastian Walker, an Al Jazeera English correspondent, was on the ground 24 hours after the magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastated the country. He has remained there for over a year to document the progress of the relief effort, making Al Jazeera English the only international TV network to maintain a permanent presence in Port-au-Prince.

National and international reports are disseminated every hour of the year, yet we're exposed to the same stories hour after hour, day after day for all of one week and then it’s on to the next cycle. If news is aired 24 hours a day why is it that frequently only one story gets so much attention at any given time?

Clearly, there's room to provide more in-depth reporting regarding pertinent international issues. While many mainstream media sources skimp on important international issues, Al Jazeera places more emphasis on the stories that deserve attention. This one-of a- kind news outlet is dedicated to focusing greater efforts to report real international issues from many angles and questioning why decisions are made.

Al Jazeera English was the first 24-hour English-language news and current affairs TV channel produced in the Middle East. Its programming includes news and analysis, documentaries, business, technology and sports.

At a recent event featuring Walker, Rethink Press and IPS’ New Internationalism Project were able to attract many student interns. There was standing room only in Busboys & Poets’ Langston Room as the speakers attempted to persuade this group of young adults to participate in a campus call-in action to spread the word about the greatness that is Al Jazeera English.

On June 27, 2011, we were urged to take action in our hometowns and/or college campuses to bring Al Jazeera English to local cable networks. Currently, Al Jazeera English channel is available in only four U.S. cities. Since 2006, the primary method of dissemination for Al Jazeera programs in the United States has been through online streaming and is the most watched news channel on YouTube. It receives approximately 2.5 million views per month.  Rethink Press is advocating for Al Jazeera news to be included on cable tv in order to reach a broader audience. IPS Fellow Phyllis Bennis spoke to the attendees about the importance of a new voice in the media that is not controlled by U.S. corporate interests: 

Prior to this event, I wasn't familiar with Al Jazeera English but the intern mixer has definitely piqued my interest in becoming involved in the cause. Kudos to Rethink Press for making the case for the expansion of this news station and bringing it to the attention to over 80 students representing at least 10 organizations in the DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia metro area.

Timeka Smith is an Institute for Policy Studies intern.