Archive for the civil rights Category

as I take care of the pupil of my eye

Posted in asylum, civil rights, Human Rights, refugee crisis with tags , , , , , , , on June 22, 2019 by Louise Steinman

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[photo: LS2019]

I have been corresponding with inmates at Otay Mesa Detention Center, where asylum seekers to the US are being detained. There are detainees from Mexico, Yemen, Iran, Tajikistan, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Eritrea, Columbia, and many more countries– fleeing persecution, rape, gangs, torture, police, threats to family and livelihood.  One young man from Congo, has been detained for two YEARS and 28 days.  As ICE ratchets up new raids and threatens deportations, please think about these people kept behind bars in a country (once upon a time) predicated on the idea of offering safe harbor to those fleeing persecution.  With this letter-writing system, every week you are given the name of someone in detention to write to, and all the letters (redacted) are published on-line. These letters are a life-line to those in detention separated from their families. They need to know that someone cares.  People who come to this country fearing for their lives should not be treated like criminals. Find out more here: Detainee Allies    This young man from Yemen (words below) would take care of our country like he would THE PUPIL OF HIS EYE.  What a good measure for any citizen!

Honorable Judge,

I hope that you will give me the right of protection and let me live

in this country like any citizen.

For I pledge to you that I will serve this country and will work

to build it up night and day and will take care of it

as I take care of the pupil of my eye,

and I will be a trustworthy watchman for it

and contributing member of society,

not a destructive one.

-refugee asylum seeker from Yemen, in ICE custody

and read this letter from Horacio, from Mexico to his pen pal Dora in Maine… I was so moved by this.

To Dear Dora and Otay Allies

It is a pleasure to write you and all members of Otay allies, I am so happy to receive your letters of support every week and to know that there is still people that care for the human rights nad actually still have comprehension, compassion ,and kindness. I also feel admirable towards you for you generosity every time you help me to buy my needs here in detention thank you very much for your kindness, I love to read yours letters and when you tell me about the water in Maine and the things you do every day I can imagine everything in my mind about what you do every day in your house and believe me I know where Maine is I know the names of all the states of U.S. A. in my case I used to live in a realy beautiful area close to Monterey CA, Carmel Valley, Santa Cruz is a very place places in California nice places in California where is located the Salinas valley where all of vegetables grows like lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, strawberries, artichokes and all kinds of vegetables. I don’t know if you of Clint Estwood, very good actor for the Western movies, he lives in Carmel Valley very close where I used to live, if you have the chanse to look it in google or even visit those places you will be amazed How beautiful they are. I receive the letter that you wrote me and I ma glad to know that you guys can be able to understand every single letter that all the detainees write to you guys even and knowing that there must be hundreds of languages that write to you guys Google translate is very good that’s the one I used to use every time I needed. I like the way that you send me the letter half in Spanish and half in English, for me when I was barely 16 year old I was brought to U.S. right after I started working in the field of Salinas CA my job was irrigate all of those vegetables with irrigation sprinklers that are really long and heavy but I was very happy because I was with my two older brothers, I them started going to ESL clases every afternoon after my work that how I learned som grammar I also used to love to take my younger brothers or sometime I used to go to those cities that are by the sea like Monterey, Santa Cruz just to take walks and to talk with the American people that honestly were and are very nice and kind and I remember I loved to make conversation with that people just to improve my English so that way I could practice more and more people in that area are honestly so sweet and is always are willing to help you I know that most of the American people are like that, I can say that because threw the years that I lived here I had such a good memories with the people from this country. I also must say that my situation is critic and sad I have to be truth about it it is sad the price that we “Mexico” people must pay just to be neighbor of the most rich and powerfull country of the world I say that because I see a lot of discrimination against us, like for example Mexican don’t get asylum almost never I don’t know why even knowing what is going on in that country with the cartels and all of that corrupted goberment that Mexico has all of those massive killings are happening just because they are fighting for territory why because that envolves a lot of money because this country has it. I always ask myself if Mexico will be situate where Argentina and Uruguay are it wouldn’t be that bad in crime people will be working decent it would not be all of those killings that are happening now that’s is one of my points of views. I am plenty fighting to be deported to Mexico I askin the court that I m fighting now to please try to send me to another country I have send letters to the embassis of Guatemala and else of the Panama to see if they fix something, that’s is what the deportation officer has told me to do, to try to get in contact with the consulates or embassis and ask them if they can give me what is called asylum humanitarian so I can avoid to go to Mexico or get deported again there, it is else part of my argument what I’m telling the court please send me to another country   Well Dora it is a pleasure to hear from you and also to write you every time I have the chanse I hope you can understand my situation that it is so difficult. I hope you had the chanse to listen to those wonderful songs that I mention to you in my last letter that I send you last time I hope you enjoy them, but I totally forget o mention about one other band of music of my favorites which is the Bee Gees I really love their music Barry Gibb is one of my favorites one of my favorite songs are “Alone” something in the Dark by Barry Gibb and I also know all about them Barry Gibb has a couple of CDs by himself listen to them they are wonderful I am sure they are going to like a lot. Well Dora thanks for everything and I hope for the best for you

You have a very noble kind heart, we definitely need more people like you in this world.

A++ your friend Horacio

 

 

“Happiness is Bullshit” Celebration of the Life of Judge Harry Pregerson

Posted in civil rights, homelessness, Human Rights, Life and What about It, Los Angeles, Pacific War, social justice with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 16, 2017 by Louise Steinman

Judge Harry Pregerson, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

I never got a chance to meet the legendary Judge Harry Pregerson, who served over fifty years on the Ninth Circuit federal court in California (stepping down at age 92) and died last month at age 94. When I got word of his Dec 1 memorial at the Shrine, I decided to make Harry’s posthumous acquaintance. I parked, passed through a security check, settled into one of the back rows of that vast hall, listened to the musical preamble of dirges performed on-stage by the Salvation Army brass band.

The seats were filled with people who loved Harry, were related to Harry, had worked with Harry, had been helped by Harry or mentored by Harry, or all of the above. Harry’s signature cowboy hat placed on the podium bore witness to their heartfelt stories over the next two hours, stories that created a vivid portrait of this tough, tenacious, cantankerous, loveable man.

Harry Pregerson, son of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, raised in a free-thinking home in diverse Boyle Heights. At 21, a Marine lieutenant on Okinawa, he sustained serious wounds in both thighs. He was rescued from the battlefield by two Marines, surnamed Martinez, Mexican-American cousins, compadres from Boyle Heights. “Leave no one behind,”—the Marine code of honor became Harry’s life-long mantra. Just a week before he died, he told his wife, “…the hardest thing is that I don’t have strength anymore to help people.”

Judge Harry had been the sentencing judge in several trials of draft resisters during the Vietnam era. One activist, Bob Zaugh explained to me how Judge Pegerson was known for visiting ALL the people he sent to prison and when… “on a visit at Lompoc to visit a bank robber, he inquired who else was on the manifest. The judge learned that one of the resisters he’d sentenced—Michael Schwartz– was in solitary confinement for non-compliance. Schwartz had also been on a hunger strike. Judge Pregerson was so disturbed to learn that resisters were being sent to this type of prison. When he got back to Los Angeles, he drafted papers to change the sentences to time served.” After that visit, he decided he could no longer send resisters to prison.

When asked once what guided his decisions, Judge Pregerson explained: “My conscience is a product of the Ten Commandments, the Bill of Rights, the Boy Scout Oath and the Marine Corps Hymn. If I had to follow my conscience or the law, I would follow my conscience.”

Another judge, a former Marine, stepped up to the podium and described Harry Pregerson as “a man with no guile. Either you were a guy you hit the beach with, or just no damn good.”  A former law clerk, now a judge, described how Harry frequently hired women as his clerks—unusual at the time—and, if one of them became pregnant, Harry would say: “That’s fine; we’ll just put a crib in the chambers.” City Attorney Michael Feuer described him as “…a force of nature. He was on a mission. No one could say no to Harry Pregerson. ‘Ok ok maybe the Supreme Court, once in awhile.’”

Harry’s moxie could move mountains, jump-start homeless shelters. During a particularly cold winter in LA in the mid-eighties, with people sleeping on the streets, Harry sent his law clerks to research a little used federal statute which he then used to commandeer an empty federal warehouse in Bell (built to house supplies for troops of the Pacific Theater in WWII) as a temporary shelter for the homeless.

The Bell Shelter, administered by the Salvation Army, is now one of the largest homeless shelters in the nation, providing over 1500 meals a day, to 500 former Skid Row residents, and offering job training as well. As Lt. Col Doug Riley of the Salvation Army testified at the memorial: “Harry made it happen.”

Pregerson established numerous other homeless shelters, including the Salvation Army’s Haven Program on the V.A. West Los Angeles campus which offers services for veterans with PTSD, job and addiction counseling. “Lemme tell you,” Harry remarked on one of his frequent visits there, “the finest people in the world live in these shelters.” The list of good works is astonishing: among them, the modernization of the Hyperion Treatment Plant, which revitalized marine life in the Santa Monica Bay; creating affordable housing and child care programs for those displaced by the 105 Century Freeway.

When Harry called, people answered, even in the middle of the night. When you shook Harry’s hand, his grandson Bradley recounted, it meant you were being swept up into the good fight, “joining Grandpa’s army, brought in with a Kung-Fu grip.” No one was ever a stranger to Harry, his daughter Katy told us because, “you never knew who a stranger could be… someone to help… or someone who could be a resource.”  He also once told her, “Happiness is bullshit.” Real satisfaction came from service to others.

At the end of the almost two hour memorial, a lone bugler from the Salvation Army Band stood stage right and played TAPS. The notes were sweet and clear. I let the cleansing tears run freely for the sheer goodness of the man. I came alone, but I didn’t feel like a stranger. I will store the stories I heard about Harry Pregerson on the solar grid of my psyche for those dark hours ahead when the discouraging news– the meanness of those in positions of power– drain me of hope and energy.

Mayor Garcetti told the crowd that Harry Pregerson was “the greatest angel the City of Angels has ever known.” On this Hanukah night when we celebrate miracles, I raise a toast to the miracle of Harry Pregerson’s life and work. Of blessed memory.

(thanks for photo: Jason Doiy)

July 4th 2017

Posted in civil rights, history, Human Rights, Life and What about It with tags , , , , , , , , on July 5, 2017 by Louise Steinman

Today seems a good date to start a new document, a new journal. A date that is supposed to be patriotic. In which we might feel the weight of our national experiment, now verging towards national calamity. In which we try to keep our chins up and our hearts strong. In which we feel the sickness churning in our stomach as our malevolent buffoon-in-chief insults twists lies trammels all the values we hold dear. As he creates suffering for the vulnerable. As he loosens restrictions on pollution. As he pulls out of the Paris Climate accords. The list is long and growing. Hold back the tears and bring out the magic markers. Make our signs. Make our phone calls. Steel our wills.

A second visit to the Kerry James Marshall show at MOCA, the last weekend before it closes, is a stirring reminder of what an artist can do to deepen our understanding of our country’s tortured race history and as well, its resilience. He does so by including those who have been excluded from the shared narrative, by painting them back into the national story,putting them center-stage into the American storybook, into small towns, into the backyard barbeques in Culver City,CA in the 50’s of my childhood, barbecues in parks to which no African-Americans were invited. To the neat streets-on-a-grid post-war stucco one-story houses in the city where I grew up– where African-American families were not allowed to buy a home, not allowed to live. It was called a covenant. it was silent. And for what was absent– I then had no questions.

The galleries at MOCA are more crowded than I’ve ever seen them. Everyone in this diverse crowd is absorbed in these astonishing paintings. I watch a man pushing his diminutive fine-boned grey-haired mother’s wheelchair through the exhibit. They pause in front of each painting to examine it closely. He is tall; so he kneels down beside her in the chair, pointing out the images– the yellow birds, the couple in the grass. The two of them enter the painting, smiling, occasionally frowning. Taking it in. As does the little girl whose sequined shirt glitters in gold synchrony with the drapes of rope—– a sinister signifier– on a painting of the blue sea. The angel in them middle of the living room adjusts a vase of flowers, bends before a wall-banner of mourning—JFK, RFK, MLK, reminds of the Watts living room of David Ornette Cherry’s aunt Barbara, Ulysses Cherry– who wanted his grandchildren to see all of Los Angeles, to see the Los Angeles beyond Watts. Who’d pile them into the station wagon on Sundays to drive west from Watts to the west, through Culver City, through Beverly Hills. But, David told me, “We always had to be back before sundown.” And why was that? I asked in all innocent ignorance. Because Culver City was a Sundown town, he said. And what, I asked in all innocent ignorance, was a sundown town? A town where African-Americans were not wanted. A town where you’d best leave before sundown. This the unofficial policy until the 1960’s in the town where I grew up. I didn’t know. I am ashamed I didn’t know. Until now.

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