Archive | September 2010

Forgiveness Between Sand and Stone

Sand and Stone

Two friends were lost in the desert, trying to find their way to the nearest town.  The strong rays of the sun were taking its toll on the friendship. Food was none existent, and the water they had was no longer, and each began to think only of themselves.

At one point of the journey they had an argument – and one friend slapped the other one in the face.

The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand:

“TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SLAPPED ME IN THE FACE.”

They kept on walking until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath. The one, who had been slapped, got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but the friend saved him.

After the friend recovered from the near drowning, the friend who was slapped wrote on a stone:

“TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SAVED MY LIFE.”

The friend who had slapped and saved his best friend asked him:

“After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now, you write on a stone, why?”

The other friend replied:

“When someone hurts us, we should write it down in sand where winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But, when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it.”

More Moral Tales:
The Lesson That Cannot Be Taught!

Live to Work or Work to Live!

Fajr and Shaytan

How Not to Master a Skill!

The Echo of Life

The Sieve

The Gift of Sharing 

Love and Time

All Things Are Linked!

The House of Three Rooms

The Emperor’s New Clothes

The Flowering Tree 

When the Waters Were Changed 

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Israelis Stoked the Riot in Silwan

Riots Grip East Jerusalem

By Mel Frykberg  in Silwan, Sep 27, 2010 (IPS)  

Tension, the twisted carcasses of gutted vehicles, buses with smashed windows, smouldering dumpsters, streets riddled with rubber-coated steel bullets and empty cartridge cases, teargas, and air thickened with black soot from burning tyres marked the beginning of the fifth day Monday of continuous rioting in East Jerusalem. A Palestinian man was killed by an Israeli settlement security guard in disputed circumstances, a Palestinian toddler asphyxiated on teargas, and dozens of Palestinians were injured by beatings, rubber-coated metal bullets and teargas inhalation.

 The East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan has been tense for months with clashes breaking out between protesting Palestinian youths and Israeli security forces on a regular basis. Jerusalem municipality has demolished many Palestinian homes.

The planned demolition of dozens more homes, the eviction of many Palestinian residents, and the pending eviction of hundreds more to make way for illegal Jewish settlements and a Jewish theme park has led to a time-bomb waiting to explode. The spark that ignited the flame took place last Wednesday morning at approximately 5am when father of five 31-year-old Samer Sarhan was shot dead on his way to work following a confrontation with Israeli security guards outside the City of David Israeli settlement….

Read More>>> Riots Grip East Jerusalem

 Related Topics:

From Silwan to the City of David

Anti-Austerity Protests Sweep Through Europe

The ongoing budgetry cuts into education, and needed social services, have taken a toll on European citizens. Airlines cancelled flights, picketers blocked trucks from delivering produce and police clashed with protesters as Spanish workers staged a general strike on Wednesday 29, 2010 to protest against austerity measures imposed by  governments. Greek docotrs walked out, alon with railway workers, along with strikes and demonstrations in Portugal, Slovenia, Poland, Italy, Serbia and Ireland; while protesters in Brussels focused on UN institutions becuase of the E.U. plan to to fine governments that continue to service certain social support mechanisms. Organized by European unions, 60,000 – 100,000 people turned out.

Related Topics:

G20 Reasons Why Your Fortune is Not Your Own! 

New Intellectual Property Right Laws Increase Risk of Bad Medicine

The American Iron Curtain

The American Iron Curtain.

By Hwaa Irfan

If you bought the property of a neighbor without that neighbor getting the benefit, and decided to live in that property, how would you expect that neighbor to behave? If that neighbor had bad behaving relatives, relatives who earn money in the illegal way because you deprived them of their legal means of income how would you behave? What if that neighbor was you?

One cannot compare with the Great Wall of China, which was not built to keep neighbors out, and the Berlin Wall was eventually pulled down because it divided people, and prevented true prosperity for the people as a whole. The 400 mile Israeli Wall only creates the illusion of sovereignty, inflaming a justified anger as they are being starved into submission. It is the ignorance of man that has created borders and separate countries, when the Creator made it a wide expanse for all. The problems of drug trafficking after all exists because there are willing Americans ready to buy from Mexicans – the trader exists, only because there is someone willing to buy!

It was September 14 2010, the first of 3 days that a group of 60 bishops of the Episcopal Church decided to commemorate the dead – those that died trying to cross the border. It was an immersion exercise for the parishioners, and spouses to help increase understanding of the lives of the migrants – 300 crosses were placed on the border to represent the number of bodies found in the desert in Cochise County since 1994. The commemoration was followed by a discussion with the police, the Border Patrol, the Border Action Network, a local rancher, and a physician who treats those seeking a better life. On the second day of the commemoration, a visit was made to local churches, shelters, migrant resource centers, medical clinics, and other support services for the migrants, Sonora, Mexico. A water station in the desert maintained by volunteers from Humanitarian Border Solutions was also visited. From a town with a migrant population of 2,000, one migrant told the Episcopal Church:

“My wife fell and hurt her ankle,” he told the group through an interpreter. “We were trying to cross into the country because this is where our children are. We want a better life for them because our country is so poor. We want them to have an education, to have better than what we had. But the coyote was just taking our money; he did nothing for us. We tried to reason with him but all he wanted was more money.”

Detained and deported, the man was separated from his three children. The immersion exercise worked to increase understanding for the churches involved in support some of the services made available for the migrants. Bishop Suffragan Gayle Harris of Massachusetts said it is not a new story, in fact the story of those who seek a better life for themselves, yet there is failure to honor them by those who have made the same journey.

Erecting the Curtain

From the mid-1800’s, U.S. politicians have been trying to reinforce the Wall – not a physical wall, but a psychological wall that turned into an economic wall, and then a racial wall to keep out the previous owners of Texas and its bordering states under the 1848 inception of “A Manifest Destiny” or “The Doctrine of Discovery. Those walls have alienated, criminalized and impoverished a people that have led them to the living conditions that they face today.

“The U.S. government has fostered an atmosphere of collective paranoia, given a green light to its spies … and institutionalized torture,” Salvadoran novelist Horacio Castellanos Moya told Los Angeles Times.

“The only thing missing was a wall.”

Even Bush friendly Eduardo Stein, Guatemalan Vice-President was none too pleased:

“It seems to us a real affront that a government that calls itself a friend and regional partner only wants our money and our products, but treats our people as if they were a plague”

This unsurprising fact has been known to Mexicans and others who have been confronted with the ugly face of racism. Bleeding Mexico economically, poverty is the legacy that prevails, and a legacy that a wall will not prevent them from redeeming their economic plight.

It was way back in 2008 that the motion to build the wall was set in motion. The aim was to build a 370-mile reinforced fencing along the southwest border by 2008. The 700 miles was in addition with a completion date for both fences/walls by 2009.

Affecting not only Mexicans, the 700 mile physical wall with electric sensors was the brainless child of F. J. Sensenbrenner Jr. Signed in by former President Bush as a step towards a more comprehensive immigration reform, ignoring the fact of an per capita differential where U.S. citizens earn  an average of $30,000 and Mexican citizens earn an average of $4,000 – desperate people will seek desperate measures as proven by the San Diego wall built in 1990, which only served to re-route migrants through the Arizona desert route where many have died in the attempt. There might have been some alleviation to the problem if Bush was able to push through a proposal allowing a 3-years renewable work visa for guest workers who would take up jobs Americans do not want and already resident in the U.S. to be allowed to claim guest workers status.

By 2005, 80 miles of the fence was already in place, mainly in Texas and California with 14 miles of fencing in San Diego. By 1993, a 10 foot high fence of steel was in place at the Otay border, with an additional 14 foot high fence. While the Egyptian authorities with the financial support and engineering of the U.S. built a wall $32 mn. bomb proof wall, 11km long, 5 – 10cm thick, and 18 m deep did not prevent the Palestinians from building tunnels to access food, medical supplies etc, likewise tunnels were build to cross the southern border. One tunnel on the San Diego border went as far as 60 – 80 feet deep, had concrete flooring, wired for electricity and had drainage. Unfortunately, instead of food the tunnel was used for drug smuggling, as well as the smuggling of migrants.

Inconsistent in size and design, parts of the $30bn wall that took 19 construction companies, 350 engineers, 7, 000 construction workers, and 120,000 tons of metal, still has large gaps/holes. The tennis court-style, parts are liken to that used for barbeque grills, and in other parts the wall consists of slabs of steel, and 30 feet high bars. Equipped with floodlights, armed soldiers, tracking devices, ground sensors, and infrared night vision scopes, the deterrent is made quite clear.

The nearest town in Arizona, Nogales, call it the “iron curtain”. The southwest border has become the option for one stands to make $5  day, when one can make $60 a day as an illegal immigrant, and still send money back to one’s family, yet one really does not have to go too far, with what has been a huge  investment into a bad idea. One part of the fence in New Mexico had to be pulled down because it was built inside old Mexico. Parts of “American” territory was left outside America itself, because it proved to be too difficult and expensive to build along the Rio Grande, and the large gaps in the wall make it possible to still make the journey across the border. Even the land speaks!

Sources:

Barry, J. U.S-Mexican Border: Can Good Fences Make Bad Neighbors? http://www.speakout.com/activism/issue_briefs/1370b-1.html

 McCaughan, P. Bishops and Spouses Visit U.S.-Mexico Border http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79425_124532_ENG_HTM.htm 

 Fletcher, M. and Weisman, J. “Bush Signs Bill Authorizing 700-Mile Fence for Border”.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/26/AR2006102600120.html

Tobar, H. Border Plan Seen as U.S. Conceit”. http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0226-05.htm

Garvin, G. Review: The Fence (La Barda): Film Examines Border Boondoggle”. http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/09/16/1825746/film-examines-border-boondoggle.html

New America Media, Commentary, Richard Rodriguez, Posted: Sep 09, 2010

Rodriguez, R.  The Great Wall of American and the Threat from Within”. http://newamericamedia.org/2010/09/the-great-wall-of-america-and-the-threat-from-within.php 

US-Mexico Border Fence / Great Wall of Mexico
Secure Fence http://www.globalsecurity.org/security/systems/mexico-wall.htm

Related Topics:

Humanity as a Goal

The Doctrine of Discovery

How the Human Spirit Triumphs Against Inhumanity to Man

 The Hypocrisy of Anti-Immigration in Arizona 

Partial Victory Over Arizona Immigration Law

U.S. Set to Destabilize the Rest of the World

Xenophobia on African Shores and Elsewhere

A Black Independence Day?

New Intellectual Property Right Laws Increase Risk of Bad Medicine

New Intellectual Property Right Laws Increase the Risk of Bad Medicine

From Avaaz.org

This week, the world’s wealthiest governments are negotiating a secretive deal that could cut off poor people from life-saving medicines. Millions rely on generic medicines to treat diseases like malaria and HIV. If this agreement goes forward, many peoples’ access to such drugs could be cut off, leaving those unable to afford name-brand medications to face death.
The treaty would set rules on “intellectual property” in a wide range of areas — from genetically modified crops to online file-sharing to drug patents. But four fifths of the world’s countries are excluded from the talks — including India and China. The negotiating governments are trying to rush through an agreement before public outcry can become too loud to ignore — but word is leaking out, and a tide of opposition is rising.

Our voices can tip this outrage over the edge. Public pressure has stopped unjust trade talks in previous years. Now, we can again ensure that no rotten deals are struck behind closed doors. Join the petition now for an open process and justice on essential medicines — Avaaz and partners will deliver it at next week’s negotiations in Tokyo if we reach 50,000 signers.
The so-called Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement had been intentionally kept out of the public spotlight. But no longer: public health and internet freedom advocates are sounding the alarm, and China, India, and the European Parliament have all spoken out against it in recent weeks.

The proposed deal raises many concerns, but its most outrageous provision is its treatment of essential medicines. ACTA would treat many “generic” and “counterfeit” drugs identically, making cheap competition for name-brands subject to the same seize-and-destroy tactics applied to fake medicines.

Pharmaceutical giants claim that this is needed to protect consumer safety — but they themselves sell generic versions of medicines whose patents have expired. Generic medicines, which are often 90% less expensive, are not inherently more or less safe than name-brand drugs. The real differences are drug company profits — and poor people’s lives.

Mass citizen mobilisation has stopped similar moves by drug companies and rich country governments several times before. Let’s not allow a few countries to decide the fate of billions behind closed doors — sign the petition and spread the word:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/acta/?cl=767382522&v=7276

Getting treatment when we are sick is something we all feel strongly about. Our vigilance this week can help fend off attempts to prevent medicines from reaching all who need them. Together, right now, we can begin to build a future in which each of us can equally overcome disease and stay healthy.

With hope for a better world,

Ben, Alex, David, Maria Paz, Iain and the whole Avaaz team

SOURCES:

European Parliament passes anti-ACTA declaration:
http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2010/09/european-parliament-passes-anti-acta-declaration.ars

Threat to online free expression from imminent international accord:
http://en.rsf.org/threat-to-online-free-expression-25-01-2010,36198

EU, US Consumer Groups Issue Resolution On Enforcement; Demand Role In ACTA:
http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/2009/06/23/eu-us-consumer-groups-issue-resolution-on-enforcement-demand-role-in-acta/

IP Enforcement through Anti-Counterfeit Laws: The ACTA Negotiations and Their Implications:
http://www.southcentre.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1355:sb49&catid=144:south-bulletin-individual-articles&Itemid=287〈=e

More ACTA talks this week:
http://techdailydose.nationaljournal.com/2010/09/more-acta-talks-this-week.php

Bitkom Blasts ACTA:
hhttp://www.techeye.net/internet/bitkom-blasts-acta

Related Topics:

Do You Use Antibiotics Frequently?

Reclaiming Nature’s Knowledge Base

Bill Gates and Population Control

The Pill, Our Bodies, and Ourselves

There’s Nothing Superior to Mother’s Milk

There’s Nothing Superior to Mother’s Milk

(Revised 09-27-10)

By Hwaa Irfan

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was born at a time when it was customary among the wealthy of the Quraysh tribe to have their babies nursed by Bedouins around Makkah. It was believed that a Bedouin wet-nurse gave a strong physical constitution to the child, as well as the easy manners of the desert Arabs. The free open-air life of the desert and a clean and healthy environment clean for the mother contributed towards the provision of a complete and nourishing food…milk. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) gained much from the milk of his wet-nurse, Halima.

So it no surprise that research keeps on declaring what many know to be true, like the recent study of Greek researchers led by Professor Emmanouil Galanakis. They found that to exclusively breastfeed one’s child for a period of 6 months to be the best defense against infection, containing diseases fighting antibodies and immunological nutritional factors being passed from mother to child.  Mixed feeding i.e. breast and bottle, just did not compare; neither did vaccination programs nor being under a good healthcare program! Allah (SWT) provided us with all we need, despite our denial.

The researchers found that the special composition of mother’s milk provides the necessary protection for the infant. They tracked 926 infants for 12 months recording any common infections that might occur. Newborns under a vaccination program were under a high standard of healthcare. Only two-thirds of the mothers’ breastfed for the first month of life, but overall 91 infants were exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of their lives. The exclusively breastfed infants caught fewer common infections in their first year of life, whilst the others, both vaccinated and mix-fed caught respiratory infections and thrush amongst others. When the exclusively breastfed infants did get an infection, it was less severe, and they were able to recover more quickly than their counterparts.

Breastfeeding is an important period of bonding between mother and child. The process of breast-feeding, soothes the baby – new to the strange noises, smells and sensations of this world. It brings warmth, love, and security to the new child; but just as importantly, it brings complete nutrition, immunity and health protection. This is because breast milk, Allah’s intended food for babies, is nature’s perfect “formula”. Man-made formulas will never replace what Allah has created.

Breast milk allows the baby’s immune and digestive systems to develop and be nourished before the baby begins taking on more complex foods. It also provides increased immunity.

So far, scientists have divided the not-completely-understood agents of human milk into three categories:

1. Germ fighters 
2. Inflammation Soothers 
3. Immune System Enhancers.

Breast milk composition even changes throughout the day and the baby’s growth in order to fit the needs of the child. For instance, a mother with a premature baby has different milk, more suited for her child’s needs, than a mother who gives birth to a full-term baby.

Formula baby foods can never reproduce this quality that Allah (SWT) has blessed women with. Cow’s milk, often the base of man-made formulas, frequently causes lactose-intolerance. In fact, very few populations remain able to tolerate lactose; and the ones who are tolerant are populations that have had to rely on the milk of their herds for food under difficult environments. However, over 70% of African, Chinese, Japanese, Ashkenazi Jews and Mediterraneans have lost their lactose tolerance ability. In the U.S. up to 25% of Caucasians are lactose intolerant. There also seems to be a relationship between colic in breast-fed infants and the cows’ milk drunk by their mothers. Furthermore, many children are allergic to the alternative soy-based formulas recently being sold; many minerals and vitamins are hard for babies to digest in synthetic form. For instance, the minerals zinc and iron are easier to absorb when taken in human milk.

The ratio of phosphorus and calcium in cow’s milk makes it difficult to digest properly. The ratio of calcium to phosphorus in human milk is 2.35:1 but the ratio is 1.27 in cow’s milk. Frank Oski of the Department of Pediatrics at Upstate Medical Center, State University of New York in Syracuse said:

 “Only foods with a calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of 2-1 or better should be used as primary source of calcium.” Phosphorus can combine with calcium in the digestive tract and actually prevent the absorption of calcium. Therefore, humans absorb less calcium from the high-calcium cow’s milk than from the lower-calcium human milk”.

Perhaps this is why studies consistently show that nursed children are healthier in general, suffering less from allergies, eczema, diarrhea, and skin disorders due to the immunity factor in human milk. In places like the Chinese province of Hubei, babies are taller and weigh more the longer they are breast-fed. Breast milk also contains antibodies to protect babies against salmonella, E. Coli, candida and botulism; and help in the defense against polio and respiratory infections. Antimicrobes in human milk ease inflammation and fight bacteria, whereas cow’s milk in humans nurtures harmful bacteria.

A study by a Finnish scientist used 237 healthy children to discover that the longer an infant was nursed the fewer ear infections they had. This fact was taken even further if the child received no supplementation other than mothers’ milk. When a baby is taken off human milk and given formula, an allergy may develop to the cow’s milk in the formula. Sometimes, cow’s milk irritates the Eustachian tube that connects the ear to the throat. Researchers have also noticed that people who were breast-fed as infants are less likely to get diabetes, Crohn’s disease (a digestive disorder) and some types of cancer.

Obesity is another health problem that is less prevalent in breast-fed babies. Recent research by Matthew Gillman looked at 15,000 children and found that there is a lower risk of being overweight by age 14 in breast fed children. Gillman’s logical explanation was that babies who breast-fed regularly regulated their own food intake and stopped eating when were full; while a bottle-fed baby may continue to eat more, feeding until the bottle is empty. One can liken human milk to organic/fresh foods that provide more bulk in the stomach; whereas formula is more like processed foods that don’t satisfy the hunger because they provide less bulk. Gillman also found that the mother’s weight played a role. Thinner mothers were more likely than heavy mothers to breast-feed, and for longer periods.

British researchers found that, in addition to better health, mother’s milk increases IQ’s. They tracked 300 children until they were seven or eight years old. Children who were nursed had IQ’s 8.3 points higher than formula fed babies.

Modernity

The importance of maternity leave cannot be underestimated for the 1st year of a child’s life at least. However it is the mothers of certain Middle Easter countries like Egypt, where nursing mothers do best, because they are not excluded from the public. Many western and increasingly non-western countries have developed a schizoid approach to the nursing of infants, as a result of objectifying the woman’s body purely as a tool of pleasure. As a result one will not find mothers nursing their infants as nature intended other than in the home. Unlike in the Middle East where facilities like women only transport, allows for women to feel free to nurse their children. The consequence is that women have increasingly view their bodies that must be kept in “good shape” as a tool of pleasure, and/or they develop a complex about their bodies are for.

Current debate in the U.K. asks the question as to how to make breastfeeding a normal process. It is however not enough to expect health experts, and doctors to advise mothers of the newborn, when the socio-cultural dynamics works against such a possibility. At the same time any advice has to bear this in mind, and rather put pressure on mothers to go against the mis-perceptions of their own body, health counseling for both mother and father might initiate a better outcome, as often the other source of the problem is the husband.

Referring to the research led by Galanakis, Janet Fyle of the Royal College of Midwives responded recently as follows to the BBC:

 “This research is very welcome and adds to the growing weight of evidence about the many benefits of breastfeeding.

“We know that breastfeeding is the default method of infant feeding for babies; good for mothers and good for the health of the nation. That is why we need to continue our efforts to ensure that we maintain a high rate of breastfeeding in the UK.

“The UK needs to see breastfeeding as a normal process, and to move away from some of the outdated and negative stigma that is depressingly still attached to it, specifically breastfeeding in public.” 

We try to provide the best we can and make the most of what Allah (SWT) blessed us with. Therefore we should continue that effort, especially when it is in the best interests of our children.

Sources:

Aesoph, L. M. “Breast Milk: The Perfect Food”. Delicious! Magazine. http://healthy.net/asp/templates/article.asp?PageType=Article&ID=268

Bashier, Z. “The Makkan Crucible.” Britain: The Islamic Foundation. 1991. 

Breastfeeding Prevents Baby Infections Research Suggests. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11417490

Colbie, A. “Food & Healing.” US: Ballantine Books. 1996. 

El-Geyoushi, M. I. “The Life of the Prophet. Vol:1.” Britain: Alam Printing Services. 1986. 

McKeown, L, A. “Breastfeeding May Protect Kids From Obesity.”Health WebMD. http://content.health.msn.com/content/article/1728.79778

Related Topics:

Giving Birth Naturally 

The Pill, Our Bodies, and Ourselves

Making Cities Women Friendly!

The Milk You’re Supposed to Drink

Society’s Obligation to Mothers

African-American Women and Childbirth

Bill Gates and Population Control

The End to a Ghettoized Spiritual Home

The End to a Ghettoized Spiritual Home (Aborigines in Sydney, Australia)

By Hwaa Irfan

On a grey day (of which there are many) in South London, U.K., it looks as if there has been a pact between the sky and the Barrier Block to make the locals feel disconnected. Often mistaken for Brixton Prison, the Barrier Block or Southwyck House built in the 1960s, with prison-like or fortress like windows, one is dumbfounded as to how  such a monstrosity of 176 apartments could have been built for people to live in. There is not a photograph that seems to convey that overwhelming feeling, along with the number of suicides that have taken place there.  This was the image that came to mind when I heard about The Block in Sydney, Australia.  

The Block, in Sydney is Redfern, a series of squat-like terraced social housing similar to the housing provided for factory workers and coal miners in the North of England in the Industrial Revolution – the only saving grace in Redfern is that the homes are red-bricked and not grey like those of North England. It is to be demolished in order to break the cycle of crime and unemployment for which it has become notorious for by “outsiders”, and replaced by a $60m redevelopment project at the relief of many Australians, who consider the graffiti riddled an insult to the surrounding harbourside.  The remaining 74 residents have received eviction notices to leave and to find accommodation elsewhere by November 19 2010.

Indigenous Australians were squatting in Redfern when it was first condemned for demolition being 80 – 100 years old at the time. This was not acceptable to the local non-indigenous landlords; hence these landlords  carried out a campaign to have all the indigenous Australians evicted. It was after successfully lobbying of the Whitlam administration by indigenous community leaders that led to a grant being given to the Aboriginal Housing Company, AHC to renovate, and begin buying the properties. Bought over a 30-year period, the project worked well under the AHC, who managed the buildings employing residents. Redfern, which covers 4 streets, marked the first urban land rights claim by the indigenous Australians or Aborigines as they are more commonly known.   

By 1994, all houses had been bought. In 1997, the AHC demolished some of the houses becuase of the growing problem of drug dealers, which was turning The Block into a no go area. However, not long after, government funding dried up.  Facilities fell into disrepair, and drug dealers began to habituate the project in the 1990s.

The Ethos of Redfern

By 2004, riots were to take place in Redfern when a 17 year-old boy was impaled on a fence in an attempt to escape the police. Over 40 police officers were injured, and the locals believed that the boy’s death was instigated by the police, which the police deny. Though some Australians realize the debt they owe indigenous Australians, the perception of them remains one as an inferior race. Not equating their indigenous land claims with an awakening awareness, changes were taking place. One of the few to recognize those changes was Dr. Herbert Cole Coombs, Chair of the Council of Aboriginal Affairs, Governor of the Reserve Bank, and advisor to 6 Australian Prime Ministers. Coombs mentioned as much on Australia Day in 1973.  

“The emergence of what might be called an Aboriginal intelligentsia is taking place in Redfern and other urban centres. It is a politically active intelligentsia…I think they are the most interesting group to emerge from the political point of view in the whole of the Aboriginal community in Australia”.

That awareness arose from a devastated people relegated to a status of worthlessness, who identified with the Black Power Movement of Malcolm X and other African-Americans. One method of acquaintance was through the Victorian Aborigines Advancement League, which organized a talk by Caribbean academic and activist Dr. Roosevelt Brown in Melbourne. The indigenous youth responded well, and some of those youth were from Redfern.

There were differing perspectives on this new identity that was to help give back the dignity that they had lost. For Roberta Sykes it was about:

“…the power generated by people who seek to identify their own problems and those of the community as a whole, and who strive to take action in all possible forms to solve those problems”.

 For Paul Coe indigenous Australians had a need:

 “…to take control both of the economical, the political and cultural resources of the people and of the land…so that they themselves have got the power to determine their own future”.

For Bruce McGuinness as Director of the Victorian Aborigines Advancement League (AAL) the movement:

“…does not necessarily involve violence’ but rather was ‘in essence…that black people are more likely to achieve freedom and justice…”

The youth of Redfern were different from the others in the black power movement of Australia, according to Gary Foley, an expert, and an indigenous Australian. They worked as a group unlike others who could easily draw parallels with power struggles that occurred in the American Black Power Movement.

“A growing disillusionment in black Australia today with the apparent limitations of the Native Title Act and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) mirrors a similar community disaffection with Aboriginal organizations and leadership in the late 1960s. The disaffection then resulted in indigenous communities supporting more radical forms of action advocated by the Black Power movement. Thus there are important lessons to be learned from serious study of the events of that era”.

Many developments were to take place, some fruitful, and most not so fruitful. It was the Freedom Ride that led to an awakening for the Redfern youth. The Freedom Ride, grew out of a notion, a notion that bears parallel with the underground Freedom Train of Harriet Tubman, who led many African Americans out of slavery to the North, and the bus ride that tired Rosa Parks took with one available seat left (for whites), which she would not deny herself, and led to the Civil Rights Movement. In February 1965, indigenous Australian, Charles Perkins, and Reverend Ted Noffs organized the Freedom Ride. Involved were 30 white Sydney University students from SAFA (Student Action for Aborigines). They took SAFA on a hired bus ride to the most racist towns in NSW. It was not until they tried to desegregate the Moree swimming pool, that they were pelted with eggs, and rotten fruit. So frightened for his life, the bus driver left half way through the trip! The Freedom Ride exposed the extent of Australian racism internationally,

“Internationally inspired, a product of cooperation between whites and blacks committed to the same ideals, confrontationist but non-violent, the Freedom Ride was a consciousness-raising exercise that was very effective. Awakening media interest in Aboriginal affairs was, for the first time, marshalled in favour of the Black Australian cause, to the severe embarrassment of many white townspeople in rural New South Wales. All of these elements foreshadowed a pattern of protest that was to continue and expand in the 1970s and 1980s.” – Adam Shoemaker.

The Freedom Ride inspired some indigenous Australian youths to stand up for their rights. These youth were part of the migration to the city that was to take place in the 1960s seeking to take their place in the mainstream of life. However, this was more difficult than they thought. A few succeeded in education, but many found the education system to be the very system that oppressed them with books that represented indigenous Australians as Aborigines, – primitive and passive. Paul Coe, one of those who migrated found:

“…the ‘isolation of the black kid going through the present education system’ in which they were ‘forced to aspire towards lower middle class values’ and ‘conditioned to uphold and try to keep white material values”.

There is always a centre of gravity for any migrating people, and for young indigenous Australians migrating to the city, that center of gravity was a social welfare center, established by Charles Perkins one of the organizers of the Freedom Ride, and other community leaders. That center was the Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs, FAA. Centers like those, tend to generate a lot of high energy, as each person learns from the other. To support that learning, one turned to literature, of which there was plenty, as this was a time of social upheaval in global history when student rebellions were taking place in Paris, riots at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, the emergence of the Civil Rights Movement, U.S., the move towards independence from colonialism in Africa, and then the Middle East; and of course the social protest around the world, against the Vietnam War. Sydney was the location for protest against the Vietnam War, which brought together white and black activists who were influenced by the anti-colonial movements in India, and Africa, according to Foley who was amongst them, as well as the literature of Frantz Fanon, Jean Paul-Sartre and Camus. The only bookshop that sold material that they were interested in was Third World Bookshop, which sold literature on the African American and indigenous American struggle. The presence of American servicemen on leave in Sydney provide face-to-face contact, as many of whom were African American, African Americans who considered that they were fodder for the Vietnam War! Some engaged with the indigenous Australian community of Redfern to escape the racism of Australia, and shared their experience, their views, their literature and their music.  

The indigenous Australian youth of Redfern found a common experience with the African American experience who set to surveillance of the police, who in turn surveilled, and harassed the indigenous Australian youth in Sydney. Quotes Foley:

“Here was the shared experience of Aboriginality. Here was the point of intersection. Foley was arrested at Central station about this time on a trumped up charge. Brindle was beaten up by Redfern police. Perkins was arrested in Alice Springs after he had rung up police to complain about a publican. What the Sydney Aborigines…understood intuitively…was the brutal reality of Aboriginal daily life”  – Peter Reid. 

Through Paul Coe who was studying law at the University of NSW, Professor J. H. Wooten, the Conservative Dean of the Law Faculty, set up shop front legal aid for indigenous youth, which in turn led to the establishment of the Redfern Aboriginal Legal Service from a grant given by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, W. Wentworth in 1970. This marked the first time that indigenous Australians obtained legal representation in Sydney courts.

The Rugby Springbok Tour of 1971 marked another campaign due to apartheid when the Redfern group had already developed strong views with the leaders of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, along with the campaign to release Kevin Gilbert, indigenous poet, playwright, and activist, as well as the campaign for land rights. By the end of the Springbok Tour, the Redfern group has a higher profile, and a greater desire to sustain issues of racism on their doorsteps.

 

 Community Spirit 

Redfern/The Block stands on a small part of Gadi land – tribal land, which was a gathering place for the Gadigal, the name of the land, means Green Family, and they had lived there for 40,000 years before occupation. The small part know as Redfern is where they feasted, held competitions, carried out rites of passage, and settled disputes up until the 1800s, after they were almost wiped out by smallpox from the settlers.

In the 1800’s the area was known as Boxely, because a convict named Boxely bought it! Redfern is the namesake of the person who bought Boxely’s farm. Under the jurisdiction of New South Wales, the NSW Housing Commission was not established until the 1940s. In a speech given by Mike Allen, Director-General of Housing, NSW in 1998 at the conference on The Shape of Public Housing, Allen began his speech as follows:

“Firstly, I would like to begin by acknowledging the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, the traditional owners of this land on which we are meeting today.”

The Eora Nation consists of Tharawal, Daruk, and the Gadi, but The Block consists of many clans.

Opposite The Block, is Redfern Station, which trundles past a vibrant indigenous community with a recent history to tell above and beyond the reports of crime in the mainstream Australian press. Passengers will be unaware that they are trundling through Gadigal, the indigenous name for Sydney. Passengers will be unaware of a history that provides the energy that feeds the community, a community that  has many ongoing activities to enrich the community. Activities like “Gathering Ground, ” a Redfern Community Center production of acrobatics, multimedia, song, dance, rap duels, protest and, of course, traditional ceremonies; where regardless of race, one can join in their journey – or to go to a fashion show with s difference, where each child participating gets to share their dreams – or the block mode study (study offsite) in conjunction with Sydney University, offering diploma courses, and graduate and postgraduate courses in indigenous culture, history, and language,  as well as education.

Despite what outsiders think, many of the residents on The Block have a good feeling about their community, which is generally seen as the spiritual home.  It allowed for them to be a community, to share, learns from one another, and the raise their children by values closer to their own. This was made evident when Prince William (U.K.) went visiting. On speaking to Prince William, Charles Madden, director of the Aboriginal Medical Service for Redfern conveyed to The Australian newspaper:

“It’s good to have him here because The Block has produced a lot of positive things for Redfern,”

“Redfern isn’t the bad place people make it out.”

It was the spirit of the Gadigal people on The Block who reclaimed Redfern from the drug dealers though initiatives on the part of the government were employed, but failed. The Block holds many memories, and with those memories, emotions,  not only as the only indigenous run housing project, but is viewed by the mainly rural indigenous population of NSW as a spiritual home in the largest of Australia’s cities.  In its demise, the AHC did present redevelopment plans called the Pemulwuy Project, but this had been opposed by the government. Now the residents have to move out by November 2010 for which a the AHC plan to build 62 new homes to be called the Pemulwuy Project – residents will be invited to return on completion in 2013. Poor and unemployed, it might be both difficult to find a place to live in the meantime, and the means to return.

 The significance of the name is that Pemulwuy was a famous indigenous warrior. Prince William was handed a letter by the residents, to return the severed head of Pemulwuy for proper burial.  The ties that bind do not die whether dead or alive for the indigenous peoples of Australia

 “There is no greater sorrow on earth than the loss of one’s native land.” – Euripides 431 B.C

 

Sources:

AHC. “1972 Transfer to the Aboriginal Housing Company”. http://www.ahc.org.au/redevelop/redevelop.html/

AHC “Time to Help Redfern”. http://www.ahc.org.au/history/history.html

Fairytale as Prince William visits The Block in Sydney’s Redfern http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/fairytale-as-prince-visits-the-block/story-e6frg6nf-1225821403692

Foley, G. Black Power in Redfern 1968- 1972”. http://www.kooriweb.org/foley/essays/essay_1.html

Gadigal Clan of Coastal Darug http://redfernoralhistory.org/Timeline/GadigalclanofcoastalDarug/tabid/240/Default.aspx

Ghassan. “The Block.” http://blogs.usyd.edu.au/sydneylife/2006/11/the_block.html

Malkin, B. “Sydney’s Notorious Aboriginal Ghetto to be Demolished.”  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/8013160/Sydneys-notorious-Aboriginal-ghetto-to-be-demolished.html

Shelter. Shelter NSW Conference – The Shape of Public Housing http://www.shelternsw.org.au/docs/sem0806publichousing-allen.pdf

Sydney University Uni Home / Koori Centre / Studying at Sydney Uni / Block Mode Study. http://sydney.edu.au/koori/studying/blockmode.shtml

Related Topics:

The People of the Dreamtime