Dear Friends: Spring always feels like movement...
Spring always feels like movement—a time when things shift, and grow.
In that spirit, we’re celebrating some exciting changes:
New board member jumps in! An attorney with experience in real estate and a passion for nonviolent social change, Bruce Levinson joined us in February. Welcome Bruce! We’re also thrilled that Peter Muste is back on the board following a leave of absence.
New board chair steps up! Martha Thomases, former vice chair, was elected chair in February when Jim Cole handed over the post after nearly two years of dedicated service. Martha is supported by Brian Drolet as vice chair, Nina Streich as treasurer, and Robert Taylor as secretary. A great team!
A.J. Muste Staff Union is born! Formally recognized by the board in December, the union upholds our shared values and honors A.J.’s labor activist legacy.
Peace Pentagon on the move! Our building is being marketed for sale or co-development, and we’re in the final stages of determining a way forward. Our goal? To strengthen support for social justice organizing around the world, and to host a newly energizing space in New York City where nonviolent activists can work, meet, collaborate and make real change.
Can we count on you to sustain this work?
Reclaiming MLK Day
January 2015: Members of YA-YA Network (Youth Activists-Youth Allies) march from Harlem to the United Nations to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by demanding an end to racial and economic violence. The Muste Institute sponsors YA-YA’s youth-driven activist training and leadership work. (Photo: Erik McGregor)
Internships “Honor the Person Doing the Work”
The Muste Institute supports interns working at the War Resisters League (WRL) office by funding their stipends through the Freeman Internship Endowment and the Sara Bilezikian Peace Internship Endowment. Bilezikian intern Seelai Karzai (SK) and Freeman intern Leani Auxilio (LA) were interviewed in December 2014 by Muste Institute Administrative Assistant Sky Hall.
How did you become interested in interning with WRL?
LA: Seelai! She told me there was an internship position open and so I looked into it and I liked the tasks and what the War Resisters League is all about.
SK: We were organizing with AF3IRM, the transnational Filipina feminist organization, and we met through there. I thought she’d be a great person for the Freeman internship and just to have Leani here at WRL would be a blessing.
What are some exciting things you have been involved with at WRL?
LA: There’s an anti police-militarization workshop in the works and the organizers have asked me to help with the design of their resources. We’ve got the flier down, and we are working on some videos so we’ll see how that goes.
SK: In addition to working on the campaign development of what is now being called “Demilitarize Health and Security,” I’ve also been working on updating a counter-recruitment brochure called “What Every Girl Should Know” that’s geared toward primarily young women of color. I am excited that it’s going to be out soon.
LA: Oh, and we are about to revamp the website so it looks prettier! It will be ready soon.
How do you see WRL’s focus on anti-militarism and revolutionary nonviolence connecting with what’s happening in the world today?
LA: It’s a nice change, with how the world views militarization. I come from the Philippines so we all, I would say, “worship” the military there... and then when the U.S. soldiers come in it’s like “woohoo! They’re here to save us!” but it’s not really. They’re just messing around with us. I should know first hand because my father was a victim. So that happened and then I come here and I see that: “Oh, some people are actually resisting in the U.S. about all of these policies.” It’s cool. What WRL is doing is cool.
SK: I think there is really great potential for War Resisters League and their anti-militarism to build with international coalitions who are actively working against not only U.S. occupation but all sorts of occupation outside of the borders of the United States. That for me is really hopeful and inspiring. Thinking in terms of where my parents are from, which is Afghanistan, and the more than decade-long occupation there—I think there is a lot of great hope with building international communities already resisting occupation and militarism.
Have there been any surprises?
LA: Would it be funny to say the cat was a surprise? It was a happy surprise.
SK: I would have to say that the cat was a happy surprise. I have never had a cat friend in my life.
What's next for you after you are done with this internship?
SK: I want to continue anti-violence work, anti-militarist work, and anti-imperialist work in my academic work so I am interested in going to grad school for women and gender studies.
LA: I've been thinking of going back to school for design and then to apply what I've learned from WRL into making social justice work more accessible, making people like it more and understand it more visually. Peoples' interest usually starts if there is a good visual.
SK: Leani's already a great designer and artist, so I think the world needs to see more of Leani's work.
Can you say something about the importance of having stipends and how this makes it possible to do the work you are doing with WRL?
SK: Living in NYC, it’s already so tough financially for a lot of people, and I think stipends are one of the ways that an organization can show their appreciation for the work, and honor the person who is doing the work. I think it’s really important for an organization to be able to sustain doing that work down the line. I help pay the bills for my parents so I don’t think I could have done that without having a stipend. That’s just one example.
LA: For now, my mom’s out of work so I am the only one who can provide for us right now. It’s kind of scary but at least there’s a stipend.
Any parting words?
SK: I am really grateful that I have had this opportunity. A lot of people don’t have the time and space to learn about politics and how you can build movements. That takes a lot of dedicated time. I am really privileged to have this political education that I have been going through. Of course that’s a life-long process, but to be able to be supported in that process through brilliant organizers such as Ali Issa and Tara Tabassi and the staff at the War Resisters League—it’s been a great opportunity and a really great experience, and something I will carry with me forever.
LA: WRL is a fun place to work. It’s awesome.
A Steadfast Resister:
Longtime anti-war activist, World War II conscientious objector, and Muste Institute supporter Albon Platt Man IV died at age 95 on October 22, 2014, at his home in Palisades, New York.
During World War II, Albon was sentenced to three years in prison for refusing induction into the Army. In prison he and other objectors went on strike against racial segregation in the mess hall. “We were promptly put in a separate wing of the prison, locked up in individual cells with solid doors and solid walls. So we had to communicate with each other by lying on our stomachs on our cell floors and hollering through the cracks under the doors,” Albon wrote years later. “After about four months we won the strike and we were let out into the general prison population.”
Following the war, Albon served for a time as executive secretary of the Committee for Amnesty for All Objectors to War and Conscription. He later worked in publishing and raised two children with his wife Yolanda, who died in 1991. Albon retired at age 80 but remained active as a volunteer in anti-war and other efforts. We are grateful for his lifelong commitment to nonviolent action.
In 2006, Albon Man joined fellow war resisters Ralph DiGia, Bill Sutherland, George Houser, and Larry Gara in a letter urging support for the Muste Institute. You can read the letter, and see more photos of Albon and other resisters, here.
New York to Ferguson
As thousands protested violence and abuse by police in Ferguson, Missouri, in New York City, and across the country, the Muste Institute collaborated with artist Carlito Rovira of the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home to produce this 50-foot banner. Shortly after the banner went up on the Muste building in late December, the news website Common Dreams published an opinion piece about it by Muste Institute executive director Heidi Boghosian titled “Grassroots Message Against Police Violence—and All Violence—Stands Firm.” (Photo: Heidi Boghosian)
Colombia: Resisting Impunity
March 6, 2015: Members of MOVICE Valle del Cauca commemorate a day of dignity for the victims of state crimes with a vigil in the Colombian city of Cali. MOVICE was founded in 2005 by family members of people killed by the Colombian armed forces, in order to demand justice and defend human rights. The Muste Institute’s Social Justice Fund granted $2,000 in December 2014 for MOVICE’s work generating collective spaces and materials for its members in the Pacific coast city of Buenaventura to strengthen their organizing for memory and against impunity.
Where Your Money Goes – Year Ending June 30, 2014
Complete financial statements are available here.
2014 Grants – What You Helped Support
Social Justice Fund — 17 grants ($32,158) in the U.S. and beyond for community peace-building; nonviolent activist networking; women’s empowerment; environmental justice; education about the cost of war; and nonviolent resistance to occupation, mass incarceration, displacement, and torture. (Read more about our Social Justice Fund grants in 2014 and 2013.)
International Nonviolence Training Fund — 5 grants ($17,349) for nonviolence trainings in Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Ecuador and Western Sahara. (Read more about our INTF grants here.)
Sheltering Fund — 7 grants ($35,655) to tenant groups in the Muste building for undocumented youth organizing, media justice, anti-war and antimilitarism education, labor solidarity, tenant advocacy and related work. (Read more about our current tenant groups here.)
NOVA Fund — 3 grants ($45,000) in Peru, Costa Rica and Mexico for indigenous rights and empowerment, environmental organizing, and peace education. (Read more about our NOVA Fund grants in 2014 and 2013.)
Sponsored and endowment grants — $660,357 in support for 17 projects in the U.S. and beyond promoting feminism, self-determination, human rights, international justice and nonviolent resolution of conflicts; opposing war, militarism, imperialism, occupation and displacement; educating about climate change, nuclear power and the environment; and organizing immigrant street vendors in NYC. (Read more about our current sponsored projects here.)