Planted By the Waters

Winter 1999

Ecumenical Peace Institute/CALC
P. O. Box 9334 • Berkeley, CA 94709 • (510) 548-4141

Remarks by Martin Luther King, III
President, Southern Christian Leadership Conference
International Committee to Save the Life of Mumia Abu-Jamal
January 12, 2000

Conscience compels me to unite with Nelson Mandela, Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbelton, elected representatives of the European Parliament, the Congressional Black Caucus, Amnesty International, Harry Belafonte, Paul Newman, Ossie Davis, Danny Glover, Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, and millions of others around the globe to fight for the life of our brother in ‘the struggle,’ Mumia Abu-Jamal.

SCLC’s commitment to justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal, dates back over a decade. We thank God for the energy of Ralph Schoenman, our board member Dick Gregory, and others, who have made today’s international witness a reality. First of all, at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference we are unequivocally opposed to capital punishment. The conductors of the evil system of injustice made Abu-Jamal a political prisoner and now they have planned his execution. As ‘conscious-raising members’ of the global society, we cannot afford to sit back and let an innocent man die.

The world must know that the judge purposely withheld ‘crucial evidence’ from Abu-Jamal’s case. Experts say this evidence alone could have brought an acquittal. We can no longer afford to allow bias in the criminal justice system to continue.

We must stand by Abu-Jamal’s side just as we stood by the sides of Nelson Mandela, Angela Davis, Ben Chavis, and Joann Little.

I do not believe it is incidental that I find myself protesting for the life of this innocent man, one month after my family and I received the verdict from a multicultural jury that said my father’s assassination was part of a conspiracy. Martin Luther King, Jr. was brutally murdered because he spoke out against social injustices.

Today, almost thirty-three years after he was killed, we must unite together in the name of justice to stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a young man who was respected in the community for reporting stories about economic and social injustices.

My family was able to find out who killed my father because my brother, Dexter never gave up. He persevered in his search for the truth and our family let our faith sustain us until we found out who killed my father. We must come together as a family in the spirit of my father who said, ‘the arc of the universe is long but is bent towards justice,’ and never give up until we save the life of our brother, Mumia Abu-Jamal. American should know that the world is watching to see if she will do the right thing. Under the system of government dictated by our Constitution, the judicial system is the final repository of public power. It should be held inviolate from racism and other prejudices, which plague our society. We demand that all those with the power to intervene do so now in the name of justice! do so now in the name of all that America holds, claims to hold, true and fair! do so now in the name of humanity! do so now, in the name of all those who have already died to force America to live up to its motto of liberty and justice for all!

From the Board President
by Janet Gibson
A Critical Time for Mumia

All members of the faith community who work for peace and justice should feel the imperative to help save the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Although we may start from the position that capital punishment is morally and ethically wrong, we can also point to a series of injustices from the suppression of evidence to the unmistakable factor of race and class bias in the application of the death penalty. Is there anyone who has not heard of someone imprisoned falsely? A contemporary movie, Hurricane, tells the story of “Hurricane” Carter, an innocent man who was almost executed and who spent 20+ years behind bars. Northwestern University law class students recently uncovered evidence that led to the exoneration of several death row inmates and spurred a move to impose a moratorium on any further executions in Illinois.

Sometime this spring, a federal judge is expected to decide whether or not to grant Mumia an evidentiary hearing. If the judge rules in the affirmative, evidence suppressed in the original trial will be entered into the official transcript of the case. This includes ballistics reports that show the bullet which killed the officer does not match Mumia’s gun; evidence that Mumia’s “confession” was a police fabrication based on intimidation of witnesses; and critical procedural evidence pertaining to the systematic exclusion of African-Americans from the jury.

If the judge decides against granting the hearing, all future appeals will be based on the transcripts from Judge Sabo’s original court trial. Sabo is known as “the hanging judge”, a prosecutor in judicial robes who has sentenced more people to death row than any other judge in the USA. Using his transcripts virtually assures Mumia’s ultimate execution.

Unfortunately, our system of justice is not “blind”. It is affected by local and national politics. Ed Rendell, recently selected as the new national chair of the Democratic Party, was the DA when Mumia was framed and also presided over the attacks on MOVE, including the murderous aerial bombardment, which burned down a whole city block. Rendell was a long-time apologist for Philadelphia’s notorious (many say “racist”) police chief-mayor Frank Rizzo. This summer a publicist on Rendell’s staff planted a phony story about Mumia “confessing” in Vanity Fair, a story that even the Philadelphia press refused to buy.

On January 12, 2000, Martin Luther King III, President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, made a statement for the International Committee to Save the Life of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His statement is printed in this issue of Planted.

Opposing what Martin Luther King III referred to as “the conductors of the evil system of injustice,” each of us can be part of the action needed to pressure the federal judiciary to grant Mumia a new trial. Letters to the judge, arguing for an evidentiary hearing and a new trial should be sent to Abu-Jamal’s attorney. The judge has requested that Atty. Leonard Weinglass compile and submit the letters to him by April 2nd. So far over 10,000 have been received, about half from the US, and half from abroad. Letters should be addressed to:

          Judge William H. Yohn, Jr.
          c/o Leonard Weinglass, Esq.
          West 20th Street
          New York, NY 10011

Efforts are also being made to persuade the U.S. Justice Department Civil Rights Division to open an investigation of Mumia’s case. You are encouraged to contact EPI at (510) 548-4141 for suggestions regarding topics to cover as you write to:

          United States Justice Department, Civil Rights Division
          Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart Ishimaru
          PO Box 65808
          Washington, DC 20035



That Justice is a blind goddess
Is a thing to which we black are wise.
Her bandage hides two festering sores
That once perhaps were eyes.

          –Langston Hughes

Comments on the current situation in Haiti
by Max J. Blanchet

Since the resignation of Prime Minister Smart in June of 1997, Haitian society has been experiencing a deep, multifaceted crisis that has manifested itself in the political, economic, and social life of the country. In the political arena, the crisis has been about the inability of the warring factions of the Lavalas Political Movement, which effectively controls all venues of political power, to arrive at a consensus over a replacement for the PM and a resolution of the gridlock resulting from the aborted parliamentary/municipal elections of April 1997. At a deeper level, Haiti is in the throes of a difficult transition from dictatorship -- the norm during most of Haiti’s history -- to the rule of law.

In the economic sphere, the high expectations that jobs would be created on a substantial scale which would lead to a better life for the majority following the return to democratic rule in October 1994 have been dashed. This is happening against a backdrop of rapid increases in the cost of living and severe constraints on all, especially producers in the agricultural sector, imposed by the requirements of structural adjustment forced upon Haitian society by international institutions.

In the social arena, the dislocation of large segments of the rural population forced to migrate to the cities and abroad, the repatriation by the United States and Canada of groups of felons of Haitian background and the easy availability of weapons imported illegally or traded by members of the disbanded army, have created the ideal breeding ground for a rapid increase in criminality. This is further compounded by the efforts of Duvalierist elements to de-stabilize the current administration and restore the old order. All of this represents a taxing challenge for the newly-created police force which is having to cope with a complex and difficult situation for which a quick fix is not likely to be found in the short term.

This situation has created a deep sense of malaise and frustration in the Haitian population. In recent months, this has resulted in serious disturbances in downtown Port-au-Prince which have further heightened the sense of insecurity in the country.

On the positive side, the political class has become aware of the gravity of the crisis and has taken steps to remedy it. A new consensus government was formed in January 1999 under the leadership of PM Jacques Edouard Alexis. A new electoral council which incorporates elements representative of the major political parties has been formed and is taking steps to organize parliamentary/municipal elections in March 2000. The new government has announced new programs aiming at job creation in the short term in order to alleviate the suffering of the poor.

These developments have created new hope that indeed the political process is back on track and that things will get better.

“When Are Children Not Children?”
by Laura Magnani

It was almost exactly 100 years ago that the US created a juvenile justice system that was distinct from the adult system. It was a giant leap forward for humanitarian treatment of children, recognizing developmental differences between youth and adults and making a commitment to educate and rehabilitate youthful offenders. The primary mission of the new laws was rehabilitation. Johnny B. was recently brought into a Sutter County courtroom, chained at the wrists and surrounded by stern men in suits. The dimple-cheeked 14 year old looked around the room for his mother, and finding her burst into tears. He was accused of brutally stabbing a shopkeeper to death, and county prosecutors said: “He is not a child. He is a calculated killer who must be put away for the rest of his life.”

Although Johnny can already be tried in adult court in California, at the discretion of a judge, a measure on the March 2000 ballot by former Governor Pete Wilson, would make Johnny B’s case the rule instead of the exception.

What the measure would do:

• Mix children with adults in prison.
• Eliminate informal probation even for minor offenses.
• Erode confidentiality of juvenile records.
• Permit prosecutors to file adult charges against youth 14 and older without any
          type of judicial hearing.
• Expand the list of “three strike” offenses for youth and adults.
• Create new crimes and penalties for youth only casually associated with groups
          labeled by police as street gangs.
• Require youth to register with the police after conviction for so-called “gang related”
• Expand the death penalty.

Voters must ask themselves: are children different from adults? It was Jane Addams who convinced people a hundred years ago that children did not have the same cognitive skills as adults, or the same ability to anticipate, make choices, or evaluate actions. Nor should they be responded to and treated with the harshness that we may apply to peers. If children are the same as adults, why don’t we allow them to drink, smoke, vote, sign legal contracts, or get married? Why do we require them to attend school? Do we really think that a fourteen year old who commits a serious crime should be sent to prison for the rest of his or her life?

Furthermore, Prop 21’s broad gang provisions are invitations to widespread discriminatory practices. For example will fraternities engaging in dangerous behaviors be prosecuted as adults, or will these provisions be reserved for inner city youth of color? Police and prosecutors will have complete discretion in these matters. Judges will have been removed from the equation. Legal standards would be loosened at every step of the way. Prop 21 will make all youth suspect because of the clothes they wear, the people they “hang out with”, the time they spend on the telephone, and more. What used to be considered the antics of youth, or the sowing of wild oats, will suddenly become behavior that could send some children to prison for life. We should not be willing to give up on our youth, even when they commit heinous acts. These children are all of our children. To get more information or schedule a speaker for your group, please call Laura Magnani at the American Friends Service Committee, (510) 238-8080 ext. 308.

Goodnight!! Vote NO on Knight!!
by Lee Williamson

[Rev. Lee Williamson, pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church in Hayward, is a member of the EPI Board of Directors and one of the co-officiants at the Celebration of Holy Union of Ellie Charlton and Jeanne Barnett in Sacramento last fall.]

Proposition 22, known officially as The Limitation of Marriage Act and known by many people as The Knight Initiative, will change the California Family Code by adding this statement: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” It sounds simple and it is. Would it change anything?

Currently only man-woman (two-gender) marriages are allowed by California law. Federal law, “The Defense of Marriage Act” enacted in 1996 allows states to refuse recognition of same-gender marriages performed in other states. No state in the union currently recognizes same-gender marriages. But, if some other state should decide to recognize same-gender marriages the Knight Initiative would serve to give California “double protection” from having to recognize such marriages.

A major problem is that the Knight Initiative, if voted in, would provide a basis for those inclined to work against any liberalization of rights for domestic partners. Lambda Legal Defense and Education (a national organization seeking full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV/AIDS) has documented such activity in other states. They report that, “Relying on recently-enacted state laws that resemble the Knight Initiative, extremist right wing legal organizations have sought to invalidate domestic partnership ordinances adopted by local governments in Florida, Illinois, Virginia, and Washington.” Similar laws erode efforts to provide fairness for domestic partners, whatever the gender mix of the partners. Can you imagine that this initiative would not also be used as a wedge issue to erode domestic partner benefits? Proposition 22 is unfair, reason enough to vote NO.

Any who wish to know more about the proposition’s sponsor, California State Senator William J. “Pete” Knight (R- Palmdale) should check out an article in the Sacramento Bee, October 6, 1999. Or you could check out the history of the initiative’s major financial backers, Howard F. Ahmanson, Jr. and Edward G. Altsinger III, co-founders of the California Independent Business Alliance and Allied Business PACs. They were also major donors to Propositions 174 in 1993, 209 in 1996, and 226 and 227 in 1998.

A good study guide on this issue is available from The California Council of Churches, 2700 L Street, Sacramento, CA 95816, Phone: 916-442-5477, or email: The C.C. of C.

Or you could connect with the No On Knight Office 505 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA 94105, Phone 415-227-1020, or on the web at: For some direct involvement (leafleting at BART during the week of February 14-18) contact Mike McClune. of East Bay Says No On Knight, Phone 510-540-1191.

Jubilee 2000 Around the World
by Marilyn Jackson

A lot has been happening in the Jubilee 2000 movement around the world this past fall through New year’s, though the Jubilee tradition goes back to Biblical times. In the book of Leviticus (RSV), the Lord’s instructions are given to Moses on Mount Sinai, that the fiftieth year is to be hallowed and liberty proclaimed throughout all the land. Humans are not to sow or reap but eat what the land “yields.” Everyone is to return to their own property and if they sell to or buy from their neighbor, they are not to “wrong one another.” If a brother becomes poor and is forced to sell his property, the next of kin is to come and “redeem” what the brother has had to sell. If no one comes to redeem it for him and the brother later gains the money to buy it back, he should be allowed to and if he doesn’t gain the money to buy it back, then at the Jubilee year, the owner must give it back to him. More instructions are given for how to deal with property in ways that respect the dignity of others and helps out those who have come across hard times.

In trying to make sense out of these passages, I realize that there must be more to know about the Biblical tradition of the Jubilee and that a scholar of these scriptures would have more to say. Though the year 2000 may not be a true 50th or Jubilee year for Jewish scholars, who do not count their years from the birth of Christ, I hope there will be Jewish Christian dialogue this year to more fully understand this wonderful tradition.

In the Bay Area’s Street Spirit, there were two in-depth articles about the Jubilee 2000 movement in the October, 1999 issue. The November issue had an interview of the Rev. David Duncombe on his 45-day fast at the steps of the U.S. Capitol. During the fast, he met with members of Congress and their staff, to urge them to support debt cancellation by the year 2000, to pray with them and offer counsel. “It’s very difficult for me to avoid the knowledge in my life that there are millions of starving people and to go about my life as though there were not. I find it very undesirable to eat when other people can’t. And to take advantage of their poverty because I live in the ‘first world’.... I intend to symbolize starvation...because a lot of people in Congress -- by no fault of their own -- have never seen a starving person.”

A rolling fast was held across the USA, where participants of many communities fasted for one day each, from September 21st to December 31st. In Oakland, the fast was on December 28th, which is also the Day of Holy Innocents, a Christian tradition which remembers the innocent children who have died. 300 people walked in a candlelight vigil along Lake Merritt between two churches. Several dozen people fasted, wearing cards with the names of the 41 most indebted countries.

In Boulder, in September, a human chain surrounded the U.S. mint. Kicking off the demonstrations at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in November, there was a 30,000 human chain demonstration. For a week at the end of December, leading to January 1st, in Chicago, the Christian Peacemaker Teams held a nonviolent vigil at the headquarters for the International Monetary Fund.

At a Christmas service in Washington, DC, the Rev. Desmond Tutu preached on debt relief: “If we knew ourselves to be sisters and brothers would we allow members of our family in developing countries to carry huge burdens of unpayable debt? Would we not all support the Jubilee 2000 Campaign to cancel international debt, to give them a chance to make a new beginning in the New Millennium?

The Rev. Njongonkulu Ndungane also gave a wonderful speech in Johannesburg in November, excerpted here:

We have to take responsibility for our world, for our economic system -- harnessing it to serve us, rather than allowing it to enslave US -- and for one another. We need a fundamental reappraisal of economics, so that need and capacity, rather than supply and demand, provide our guidelines. Life is a challenge to realise our sovereignty, and the responsibility that goes with it. To quote Nurnberger again: “We are not the only one who have a right to live on this singular planet. There are contemporaries in grinding poverty. There are future generations who must be given a chance to enjoy what we are enjoying now. There are nonhuman species which are pushed into oblivion by our mindlessness and greed. In the long run our own worth will be determined by the degree to which we are capable of recognising and defending the dignity of all the creatures of God, present and future.”

Religious people in the U.S. are also taking the Jubilee message home and finding ways to forgive debts owed them in their own communities. In another article on the Jubilee 2000 website, it states, “Across the country, some 30 orders of sisters have ripped up substantial debts as part of the Jubilee movement, according to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.” For “St. Margaret’s in Dorchester, where the search for ways to cancel parishioners’ tuition debts is just beginning,” according to Sister Nancy Duffy, “Y2K should mean a lot more than concerns about computers and the popping of champagne corks.”

Looking ahead, on Sunday, April 9, 2000, in Washington, D.C., there will be a JUBILEE 2000 NATIONAL MOBILIZATION. Citizen action groups, students, people of faith, and all who care about justice for impoverished countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia will gather on the Mall in Washington and make their voices heard. There will be morning religious services, followed by a Human Chain at 1 p.m. Nationally-known speakers and entertainers are being invited to attend. You are encouraged to attend to be part of a massive, public witness -- Demand that the World Bank, the IMF, and the U.S. Congress ACT NOW for debt cancellation for the world’s poorest countries! Stay for the Monday Lobby Day -- Meet with your representative and senators and request their commitment to debt cancellation. This event will be sponsored by the Jubilee 2000/USA campaign, a coalition of national environmental, religious, and social justice groups calling for lifting the crushing burden of debt, through fair and accountable process, by the end of the year 2000. Letters written, demonstrations and fasts seem to have helped get the attention in Congress as some progress was made this fall to cancel the debts, though the sea of red tape has not fully parted and there is plenty more that can be done. At the Jubilee 2000 website you can read more about events around the world this past fall as well as legislative updates. Call EPI at (510) 548-4141 for Bay Area contacts. For more information, contact Jubilee 2000/USA at 222 East Capitol Street, N.E., Washington, D.C., 20003, tel (202)783-3566, or E-mail them.

Two Pictures of Loss
by Carolyn Scarr

My mother died a month ago. I am just beginning to plumb the depths of the hole this loss leaves in my life. This experience opens my feelings more fully to the losses experienced by other people.

Nearly every week for the last year and a half I have stood in vigil opposing the sanctions which are racking the people of Iraq -- particularly the children. As I hold in memory my family gathered around my mother’s hospital bed as she breathed her last breaths, I have to contrast that picture with one of an Iraqi mother holding in her arms a young child dying before it had hardly lived.

My mother was eighty-four years old. Although we could not be ready to lose her, she was ready to go. She died without pain and without fear. Our loss is not poisoned by the knowledge that this was not right, that she could have lived a long full life. She had lived a long, full, creative life -- full of love, full of work for justice, full of the creativity of teaching, full of years of raising a family. A verse rang in my head as she lay there, the words of Simeon “Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.” (Luke 2: 29) This cannot be said about a child only a few years old, dying of a water-borne disease. The U.S. bombed Iraq’s water, sewage and electrical systems in 1991 and has prevented their reconstruction through the sanctions. This cannot be said of the twelve-year-old poet who died of leukemia. Cancers of all sorts, and major birth defects, have proliferated since the U.S. used Depleted Uranium in southern Iraq. The medicines which could save some lives cannot be imported in sufficient quantity due to the sanctions. U.S. government officials have repeatedly stated that the sanctions will stay until Saddam Hussein leaves office. This requirement is not included in the terms of the U.N. authorization of the sanctions. By all impartial standards and according to top inspectors, Iraq is already effectively disarmed. Iraq poses no threat to anyone. People are dying every day for the sake of the U.S. desire to control the region and to “win” against Saddam Hussein. I had never before kept watch beside someone who was dying. Any reader of these words who has, I ask you to place that memory next to a picture of a mother and her child -- whose life is “worth the price” in Madeleine Albright’s geopolitical terms. By the values of every faith and of basic humanism, no person’s life is to be played as a poker chip in another’s game. “. . . no more shall be heard the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be an infant that lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days . . .” (Isaiah 65:19-20)

The vigil to oppose the sanctions against the people of Iraq continues each Tuesday, noon to one, at the Oakland Federal Building, 1301 Clay Street near the 12th Street BART Station. Please come to this, or other gatherings in a number of communities.

A very exciting response to the economic sanctions is being planned by American Friends Service Committee and Fellowship of Reconciliation. The Campaign of Conscience will purchase critically needed items which have not been permitted to be imported by Iraq and send them to Iraq as part of a nonviolent campaign to lift the sanctions. High on the list of prohibited items are parts to repair water systems and sewage treatment plants, the destruction of which in 1991 and the continued lack thereof has been a major cause of water-born diseases and death. These will probably make up part of the Campaign’s focus. For more information contact AFSC or FOR. In the San Francisco area AFSC’s number is (415) 565-0201.

Other responses to this holocaust can include writing or calling the president, our senators and congresspeople, writing letters to the editor. And we can share our concerns with friends who may have forgotten that Saddam Hussein is by no means the worst dictator the U.S. has ever supported (as it did), that his death toll does not match ours world-wide (remember Vietnam?), and that it is the weak, the poor, the old and the very young who are dying. Every day.

March 7, 2000 Ballot Proposition Recommendations From California Church IMPACT Summary.

For pros and cons, and further analysis from California Church IMPACT contact them at: 2700 L Street, Sacramento, CA 95816 phone (916) 442-5447, fax (916) 442-3036, or you may E-mail them.

Regarding that Envelope included in each issue of Planted by the Waters. If each person who received Planted By the Waters put a check into the envelope and mailed it to EPI/CALC, it would greatly improve our ability to do the work for justice and peace which we are called to do together. It doesn't have to be a lot. Every little bit counts.

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