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2018 Martin Luther King Celebration Is Announced : “Where We Stand”

MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE—Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, who serves as the Minister for Ecological Justice at Bethel AME Church in Boston, will be the guest speaker at the 36th annual Martin Luther King Day Community Celebration, Monday, January 15 in Manchester, sponsored by the Martin Luther King Coalition.

Russell and Jacquelyne “Jackie” Weatherspoon of Exeter, who have served as co-emcees of the Celebration for many years, will receive the 2018 Martin Luther King Award in recognition of their dedication to civil and human rights.

The theme of the 2018 Celebration is “Where We Stand,” a phrase adapted from this longer quotation from Dr. King: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

The Celebration will take place at Saint George Greek Orthodox Church Community Center, 650 Hanover Street in Manchester.  The Celebration begins with a light meal catered by local businesses at 2 PM, followed by the program beginning at 3 PM.

The Coalition will also award the 2018 Vanessa Johnson Award to Gabrielle Greaves, a student at UNH in Durham.

Deo Mwano will serve as emcee.

About the Speakers and Awardees

In addition to her pastoral work, the Rev. White-Hammond serves as a fellow with the Green Justice Coalition, a partnership of environmental justice groups. From 2001-2014 she was the Executive Director of Project HIP-HOP, where she used the arts to help young people to find their voice and create artistic pieces on issues ranging from juvenile incarceration to funding for public transportation. In April 2016, she was ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and in May 2017 she graduated from Boston University School of Theology with a Masters of Divinity.

Jacquelyne “Jackie” Weatherspoon served three terms in the NH House of Representatives, where in 1999 she was a sponsor of the bill that finally created a state holiday named for Dr. King.  Jackie has worked globally on democracy promotion and is currently a member of the New Hampshire Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.   She is known for her commitment to getting young people involved in politics.

Russell Weatherspoon has served since 1987 as an instructor of religion at Phillips Exeter Academy, where he has taught English and drama, as well.  Russell has also served as a dean of residential life and multi-cultural affairs, coached sports, and advised student journalists.  He is known for his ability to lead freedom songs and teach youth about the enduring significance of the African American freedom struggle, and also for his love of jazz.

Gabrielle “Gabby” Greaves, who will receive the Vanessa Johnson Award, is a student at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) whose activism has influenced institutional, community, and individual change in response to racist incidents on the Durham campus.  The award is given to recognize and encourage emerging leaders in movements for social justice.

Awards will also be given to winners of the Martin Luther King Arts and Writing Contest, a project open to New Hampshire students in grades 5 to 8.

Deo Mwano, who will serve as emcee, is a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo who uses dance, workshops, and public speaking to motivate others to work for change.

The Martin Luther King Coalition has organized annual observances of Dr. King’s birthday since 1983.  Its members include diverse local organizations dedicated to carrying on Dr. King’s work to end racism, eliminate poverty, and promote peace through active nonviolence.

The program will be interpreted for the deaf by ASL students from UNH-Manchester.

The Martin Luther King Day Community Celebration is open to all.  Donations will be accepted at the door to defray expenses.

More information is at www.mlknh.org.

Author And Activist To Discuss Abolishing The Death Penalty At Events In NH On Nov 11th

Christian activist and author Shane Claiborne will speak about abolishing the death penalty and his book, Executing Grace: How the Death Penalty Killed Jesus and Why It’s Killing Us, at public events in Manchester and Durham on Saturday, November 11.

Mr. Claiborne, who worked with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, heads Red Letter Christians, a movement of folks who are committed to living “as if Jesus meant the things he said.” Shane’s activism has led him to jail advocating for the homeless, and against war and the death penalty. His work has appeared in Esquire, SPIN, Christianity Today, and The Wall Street Journal, and he has been on Fox News and Al Jazeera to CNN and NPR.

Mr. Claiborne will speak and take questions at two public events on Saturday.

  • 2pm, Brookside Congregational Church at 2013 Elm Street in Manchester.
  • 7pm, The Community Church of Durham at 17 Main Street in Durham.

In a 2010 statement, agreed unanimously by the ten member churches, the Council stated,

Scripture cautions us: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all” (Romans 12:17). From this Christian perspective we are led to conclude that the death penalty does not provide justice.

The Executive Director of the Council of Churches, Rev. Jason Wells further said, “Shane is an engaging and faith-filled speaker who can help Christians reflect on their beliefs more deeply as next year the New Hampshire legislature debates a bill to abolish our state’s death penalty.”

This event is sponsored by the New Hampshire Council of Churches and the New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.


About the New Hampshire Council of Churches

The New Hampshire Council of Churches is a community of ten Christian denominations in the state. Through the Council, the denominations co-operate to promote Christian unity, prayer, interfaith dialogue, and to strengthen Christian values in society.

For more information, please visit http://www.nhchurches.org or contact Rev. Jason Wells at (603) 219-0889 or jason@nhchurches.org. For more information about the New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, please visit http://www.nodeathpenaltynh.com.

Vigil at ICE Office Calls for End to Deportations

30 members of faith communities pray #LetThemStay at ICE office in Manchester, NH on Sept 5th. Image from Arnie Alpert Twitter.

Interfaith advocates celebrate victory for Indonesian immigrants, but say more is needed.

Vigil Planned for October 3, at 8:30 am

Buoyed by a federal court decision putting a halt to the imminent deportation of about 60 Indonesian immigrants, members of area religious congregations will return to the Norris Cotton Federal Building on Tuesday October 3 to pray for a halt to all deportations. The vigil comes on the heels of a victory for the interfaith coalition, after an order issued on September 26 by Judge Patti Saris of the United States District Court in Boston halted plans to deport 11 Indonesians. The decision applies not only to the named plaintiffs, but to approximately 50 other Indonesian immigrants.

“We are called to continue our prayers for a halt to the deportation machine, which is tearing apart families, congregations, and communities,” said the Rev. Tim Roser, Associate to the Bishop, New England Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

The interfaith prayer vigils began on June 6, coinciding with scheduled appointments that dozens of immigrants had with officials of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the federal agency responsible for immigrant detention and deportation. Such appointments are typically held on the second Tuesday of each month.

The October 3 vigil will be led by Rev. Sarah Rockwell of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church  and Father Joseph Gurdak, ofm, Cap. of St. Anne- St. Augustin Parish.

Prior to the Trump administration, these appointments took place on a more or less annual basis for immigrants who had “orders of supervision” from ICE.  Since then, immigrants have been ordered to return to ICE with greater frequency. Starting on August 1, many of the immigrants were told to return with plane tickets to their countries of origin or risk getting jailed and forcibly deported. Since then, prayer vigils have also been held outside the federal building on each day the faith-based activists knew of anyone needing to report to ICE.

The October 3 vigil will be the 11th to take place since June. The vigils have attracted anywhere from a couple dozen to a few hundred prayerful protesters. Participants have included local and regional leaders from a variety of faith traditions. The vigils are coordinated by the Granite State Organizing Project, American Friends Service Committee, and Untied Valley Interfaith Project.

The vigil will begin at 8:30 AM with prayers, songs, and a “Jericho Walk” around the building.  “According to the Hebrew Bible, it was prayer that brought down the walls of Jericho,” said Father Joseph Gurdak, pastor at Saint Anne-Saint Augustin Parish in Manchester. “Today, we are praying for the walls of injustice, intolerance, xenophobia, and racism to come crumbling down.”

The Indonesians fled from religious persecution about twenty years ago, explained the Rev. Sandra Pontoh of Indonesian Community Support in Dover. Since then, they have been living, working, and raising families in the Dover-Rochester area. “We are hopeful that the courts will put a total halt to the deportations, which are tearing our community apart,” she said.

Others swept up in the deportation surge include people from Brazil, South Sudan, El Salvador, and other countries where violence and extreme poverty have forced people to leave their homes and come to the United States to try to make a better life for themselves and their families.

“Rescinding DACA Is Inhumane,” Quakers Vow To Keep Fighting For Immigrant Rights

30 members of faith communities pray #LetThemStay at ICE office in Manchester, NH on Sept 5th. Image from Arnie Alpert Twitter.

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE —The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) – a Quaker organization that has worked for immigrant and refugee rights for almost 100 years – condemned today’s decision by the Trump administration to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that has provided temporary deportation relief to almost 800,000 people who came to the U.S. as children, including nearly 1,000 in New Hampshire.

“The decision to rescind DACA is an inhumane attack on young people, their families, and our communities,” said Maggie Fogarty, co-director of the organization’s New Hampshire Program. “This decision puts thousands of young people at risk of deportation, and a six-month delay does nothing to mitigate that. We support DACA because we strongly believe that no one should be deported.”

Fogarty received the news while standing outside the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement office in Manchester, where dozens of immigrants were given deportation orders today.  “We will continue to support individuals and families threatened with deportation,” she said.

Since the DACA program was announced by executive order in 2012, AFSC has been involved in helping people sign up for the program, providing know-your-rights information,  advocating for DACA expansion (which was effectively blocked by the Supreme Court in 2016), and mobilizing constituents to contact their congress people in support of the program.

“DACA has created opportunities for young immigrants to work, pursue educational opportunities, and support themselves and their families,” said Arnie Alpert, the NH Program’s other co-director. “In the absence of just and humane immigration policies, the program has provided some necessary relief for thousands of people. These protections should be expanded, not rescinded.”

Many DACA recipients have also spoken out about how DACA has impacted them and why future programs or legislation need to be expanded. “As an undocumented student, I was able to benefit from DACA. This enabled me to continue my education, get a job with AFSC, and pursue a master’s degree,” said Jesús Palafox, Regional Administrative Associate in AFSC’s Chicago office. “DACA has been very helpful to me, but I am just part of a tiny minority of millions of people living in this country who need to be able to adjust their status. We need solutions that include everyone.”

Despite the setback, AFSC and immigrant rights groups across the country say this movement for immigrant rights, family reunification and social justice is not over. “We will continue our work – in the courts, in our communities, and in the streets – until everyone has access to legal status,” said Fogarty.

Interfaith Groups To Hold Prayer Vigil To Show Support For Immigrants

Interfaith prayer vigil at federal building June 6 to show support for immigrant families facing threat of deportation

 

MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE —New Hampshire faith leaders will host an interfaith prayer vigil outside the offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Tuesday, June 6, from 8:30 to 9:30 AM to show support for immigrant families who are facing the threat of detention and deportation.

The peaceful vigil outside the Norris Cotton Federal Building, 275 Chestnut Street in Manchester, will call upon ICE to “Let them stay,” and to “Keep families together.”

More than 70 immigrants are scheduled for appointments with ICE on that day.  “Each time they report, they fear ICE will take them into custody for deportation,” said Rev. Eric Jackson, pastor of Brookside Congregational Church and president of the Greater Manchester NAACP.

“In many cases, these are people who have lived and worked as our New Hampshire neighbors for more than a decade,” he continued.  “We are praying for ICE to let them remain in New Hampshire with their families.”

Leaders of Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish congregations are expected to participate.

INZANE TIMES: A Workers Memorial Day Speech By Arnie Alpert

Workers Memorial Vigil, April 27, 2017, Concord NH

This is what I had to say at the Workers Memorial Day vigil sponsored by the NH Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health.

Four years ago, this past Monday a building in Bangladesh called “Rana Plaza” collapsed and came crashing down.

The building housed five garment factories which employed 5000 people.

Brands that were sourcing from the factories in Rana Plaza building include Benetton, Bon Marche, Cato Fashions, The Children’s Place, Walmart, and JC Penney.

The owners ignored warnings about the building’s structural flaws.

The workers did not have a union.

The laws were weak and unenforced.

When the building collapsed, one thousand one hundred and thirty-four workers lost their lives. Thousands more were injured.

The scale of the disaster was so large, and the capacity of NGOs like the International Labor Rights Forum and the Clean Clothes Campaign was strong enough, that even though the workers were unorganized it became possible to pressure the companies and the government to reach agreements for inspections, compensation for affected workers and families, and renovating factories to make them safer.

But workers in Bangladesh still face repression when they try to organize.

That makes reforms hard to defend, especially when workers are inter-changeable pieces in a global supply chain, thousands of miles away from the consumers of the products they make, and several corporate intermediaries away from the firms whose logos they sew onto the apparel they make.

That’s one reason why we need to stand together, as workers, as consumers, as citizens.

One hundred and thirty-one years ago next Monday, hundreds of thousands of American workers went on strike calling for an eight-hour day. (The eight-hour movement followed the earlier ten-hour movement, which was led largely by young women like New Hampshire’s Sara Bagley and conducted in places like Dover, Manchester, Exeter, and Lowell.)

In Chicago, at the same time, a strike was going on at the McCormick Reaper plant, whose owner was trying to replace workers with machines. Several days of protest followed the May Day strike. Police killed 2 strikers on May 3. During a rally the next day protesting killings by police, a bomb went off. No one ever knew who was responsible. Several police officers and strikers lost their lives in the violence.

To be brief, Albert Parsons and August Spies, leaders of the eight-hour movement, were blamed, tried, convicted, and executed, despite the lack of any evidence tying them to the violence. (Hanging, not injection of toxic chemicals, was the method used back then.)

The following year, May Day was observed in their honor throughout the world and became known as International Workers Day.

In this country, over the past decade or so, International Workers Day has become associated with protests, rallies, strikes, and marches led by immigrant workers. That includes this coming Monday in Manchester, 5 to 7 pm, in Veterans Park.

Why does this matter?

When immigrants are afraid to complain about the toxic chemicals they use to clean our schools or the excessive heat in bakeries, factories, and laundries, the rights of all workers to a safe workplace is threatened.

When immigrants can be scapegoated and threatened with loss of jobs, the rights of all workers are weakened.

When capital can cross borders with barely any restriction, but workers face walls and troops, we have to stand together.

When workers are so desperately poor that they will take jobs that put their lives at risk, we have to stand together.

When the number of people forced to flee their homes dues to violence, climate disruption, and economic desperation is at an all-time high, we have to stand together.

When xenophobic and nativist movements are on the rise the world over, we have to stand together.

When workers anywhere are afraid to organize, we have to stand together.

And when workers do organize, despite the fear, despite the risks, despite the threats, despite the scapegoating, we have to stand with them.

During Workers Memorial Week, we say, injustice anywhere is still a threat to justice everywhere.

We still say, an injury to one is an injury to all.

We still say, Solidarity forever.

– Arnie Alpert

Rally for Immigrant Justice May 1 in Manchester

Image of Latino American (Image by LBJ Foundation FLIKR)

MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE – A rally for immigrant and refugee justice will be held Monday, May 1 from 5 to 7 p.m. in Veterans Park in downtown Manchester.

“For more than 100 years, May Day has been a day for marches, rallies and other events to celebrate the rights of workers.  But for at least a dozen years, it has also been a day to show support for immigrants and refugees who seek a better life in America,” said Eva Castillo, of the New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees.

The Manchester event is one of many May Day rallies, parades and demonstrations throughout the country in support of the immigrants and refugees who seek a better life in this country.  Many of them are already a part of our workforce, realizing their dream of a life in America.  Some face the threat of detention and deportation.

Others, many fleeing war and famine, are barred by country-based entry bans.

“Join us as we commemorate May Day and say ‘No’ to detentions, deportation, walls and travel bans,” said Castillo.

Speakers at Monday’s rally include: Manchester immigration attorney Lina Shayo; Concord Imam Mustafa Akaya; Harrisville resident Lina Hervas; the Rev. Sandra Pontoh of the Indonesian Community Support in Dover ; the Rev. Joe Gurdak, pastor of St. Anne and St. Augustin in Manchester; the Rev. Eric Jackson, president of the Greater Manchester NAACP, and NH AFL-CIO President Glenn Brackett.

Sponsoring organizations are: NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, American Friends Service Committee-NH Program, Granite State Organizing Project, ACLU-NH, Welcoming NH, Sisters of Mercy, NH COSH, NH AFL-CIO, NH State Employees Association/SEIU Local 1984, and Indonesian Community Support.

Quakers to Trump: Sanctuary, Not Walls

AFSC speaks out on executive orders, urges congressional action

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, President Donald Trump announced sweeping executive actions that would expand the border wall, cut federal funding to sanctuary cities and increase the number of people Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will target for deportation. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) – a Quaker organization that has worked for immigrant and refugee rights for almost 100 years – denounced these policies as dangerous and divisive.

“For more than two decades, border wall infrastructure has contributed to the deaths of thousands of migrants fleeing poverty and violence who are forced to cross through deadly terrain,” said Pedro Rios, director of AFSC’s U.S./Mexico Border Program. “This human rights disaster will only be exacerbated with more miles of border walls and excessive, unaccountable enforcement.” While Trump’s executive action paves the way for wall construction, additional congressional action will be needed to fully fund the project. AFSC is calling on Congress to do everything in their power to stop wall construction and to protect the human rights of migrants and those in border communities. 

Trump also signed an executive order limiting federal funding to “sanctuary cities.” More than 350 jurisdictions across the country have enacted policies prohibiting local officials from taking actions like asking people about their immigration status, holding people so ICE can detain them, or sharing information with ICE. 

“Limiting collusion between ICE and local law enforcement has been an essential first step to keeping our communities and families safe from unjust deportation policies,” said AFSC’s policy impact coordinator Kathryn Johnson. “We’re calling on congress to respect the Fourth Amendment and oppose legislation that punishes ‘sanctuary cities.’” 

The executive orders also dramatically expand the number of Customs and Border Patrol agents, call for aggressive immigration enforcement within the country, and for mandatory detention at the border – including of children and families. 

“These policies are immoral, astronomically expensive, racially discriminatory, and threaten to tear apart families and communities” said Johnson. “That’s why AFSC and our partners across this country and around the world are standing together to demand congress oppose these priorities.”

AFSC’s programs outside the U.S. are also voicing concerns. “Through our work in Central America and Mexico we know that many people fleeing to the U.S. are doing so because of violence and extreme poverty,” said Douglas Juarez, AFSC’s Regional Migration Program Coordinator. “Closing the U.S.’s doors to these children, women and men puts their lives at risks as they are returned to the danger they fled. These problems must not be addressed through security and militarization, but through following international law and respecting everyone’s right to migrate.” 

But AFSC and other organizations are not just waiting for congress to take action. They have launched a campaign, called #SanctuaryEverywhere, to help everyday people protect each other from these attacks. According to Lori Khamala, who directs AFSC’s immigrant rights program in North Carolina, they hope to equip thousands of people with training and tools to create sanctuary wherever they are. 

Says Khamala, “whether we are welcoming refugees or working to stop deportations; protecting religious groups who have been targeted and attacked; working to ensure that Black Lives Matter by interrupting anti-Black violence; or protecting the rights of LGBTQI people, we are all in this together.” 

NH Groups to Conduct Silent Vigil During Trump Swearing-In on Friday

 CONCORD NEW HAMPSHIRE—Several groups concerned about a rising tide of intolerance and violence will conduct a silent vigil in front of the New Hampshire State House during the time Donald T. Trump is taking the oath of office as the nation’s 45th president on Friday, January 20.

“At the time of the swearing in, we will gather to recommit to the values we hold dear and to stand with those who are marginalized, threatened, and afraid,” said the Rev. Gray Fitzgerald of Concord.  “We recognize that at the moment of the vigil we are entering a new epoch in the history of our country. We are joining together to acknowledge that reality and to reaffirm our commitment to multiculturalism, GLBTQ and women’s rights, an economic system that works for all, immigrant rights, inclusion of all people, respect for those with disabilities, racial justice, love and care of the planet, inclusion of all spiritual and religious traditions, and justice leading to peace.”

The Silent Vigil of Hope and Concern will take place from noon to 12:15 PM. 

The vigil will be preceded by a short program beginning at 11:45 AM.  It will also be followed by a short program.  Afterward, participants will adjourn to a nearby office for hot beverages and conversation.

Rev. Fitzgerald said all are invited who share these stated values and who want to join with others in a ritual of recommitment.  “It is our intention to stand even more strongly for these principles in the coming days. As we face this new period, we gather in solidarity as brothers and sisters reaffirming what we stand for regardless of who is president,” Rev. Fitzgerald added.

The Vigil of Hope and Concern is sponsored by the Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ NH Conference, the American Friends Service Committee, Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service, NH Peace Action, and the Equality Center.

AFSC-NH’s Testimony Against SB 11, “Right To Work”

Statement on SB 11, prohibiting collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a labor union

January 10, 2017 

I am Arnie Alpert, Co-Director of the American Friends Service Committee’s New Hampshire Program. I am also a member of UNITE-HERE Local 66L and the UNITE-HERE New England Joint Board. I am pleased to be able to appear before you today both as a union member and as a representative of my employer to urge your rejection of the so-called “right to work” bill.

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that turns 100 years old this year. Throughout almost our entire history, going back to 1922 when we provided humanitarian assistance to unemployed coal miners in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, we have assisted working people who have sought to better their lives and working conditions. In 1936, a year after President Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act, the AFSC Social-Industrial Section drafted a statement “on the attitude that the AFSC should take towards organized labor.” The statement noted, in part:

Collective bargaining by groups of workers with employers is therefore desirable in order that workers may meet management on something like equal terms when they bargain for rates of pay, conditions of work, and security of employment.

Since then, from the textile mills of North Carolina to the orange groves of Florida to the grape fields of California, to the maquiladora factories along the Mexican border, and in countless kitchens and construction sites, the AFSC has stood with people who have sought employment, living wages, and dignity on the job.

The ability of working people to attain a decent standard of living is threatened in our country and in our state. According to the NH Housing Finance Authority, the statewide median rent of a two-bedroom apartment in New Hampshire was $1206 in 2016. That means it takes an income of more than $48,000 a year to afford a typical apartment. That’s more than three times what a worker makes at the current minimum wage.

If the purpose of SB 11 was to provide jobs at decent wages so that working people could afford decent housing, we would be enthusiastic about it. But what is called “right to work” is not about ensuring that all people have the right to a decent job. To the contrary, it is about undermining the ability of working people to organize among themselves and bargain collectively with their employers.

By making it more difficult for workers to organize, “right to work” would force down the wage levels of all working people in New Hampshire. The ability to afford health care would be threatened. The ability to pay taxes to support schools would be diminished. The state’s housing crisis would intensify. More people would seek public assistance.

Over the years, in this country and around the world, the American Friends Service Committee has observed that strong unions help their members better their wages and working conditions, but also can be powerful advocates for human rights and a better standard of living for everyone.

If you are interested in reducing poverty and giving more people access to decent jobs, you should recommend this bill inexpedient to legislate.

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