By Liza Smith
After 21 days on the road, 2557 miles driven and countless cafeteria meals — things are both different and the same. For example, before the tour our van was just another rental car with nothing unique about it. We returned it well used, more fragrant (!) and with a new name: the planet of Tranquilandia.
Maybe more importantly, when the tour started the entire country was waiting with baited breath for the results of the election. Now we know that Obama will be our next USpresident. According to most people I’ve talked to, this means that some positive changes are likely to come about, but that we are not going to see an overhaul of the entire world order. Before the tour, political hip hop from Detroit had nothing to do with youth resistance in Colombia. Now Invincible’s rhymes and Paula’s stories of creative resistance are flowing together — in people’s imaginations, thoughts and maybe even dreams. And yet, there is
still war in Colombia, displacement in Detroit and a poverty draft of young people of color and the poor.
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By Maryrose Dolezal
Here’s a slideshow of photos from the tour so far. Click the arrow in the center to start the show.
By Liza Smith
Me (at left) facilitating the transformation of the war machine at Goshen College in Goshen, IN. At Goshen we had over 100 people gathered for both Paula’s keynote lecture and Invicible’s show, and we facilitated two Not Your Soldier workshops & one Art and Action workshop, all well attended. Go Goshen!
By Liza Smith
It’s the eleventh day of the tour and we’ve introduced a new word to both the Spanish and English languages — it is a cross between “tranquila” which means “relaxed” and is a pop cultural reference to Transylvania: the place in Romania where vampires originated and the planet where the dancing extra-terrestrial transvestites in Rocky Horror Picture Show come from.
Our new word is tranquilandia and it describes the peaceful world of our van; everything else is a rush between places and people, a different bed every night, new streets and getting lost, loading and unloading our suitcases at each stop. But in the van we chill, take a deep breath and reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going. Right now, somewhere between Wooster, Ohio and Allentown, Pennsylvania, we just passed a sign that read, “Dusty Bibles Lead to Dirty Lives” and a confederate flag. It’s slightly raining and Jill Scott is playing in our world of Tranquilandia.
I take this opportunity to chat with Paula about her impressions of the tour so far. What has she liked the most? The yellow leaves she says (we’ve taken a number of pictures featuring Paula and the leaves) and the egg quiche that we ate this morning for breakfast. She’s a bit tired (we’ve been packing it in and always seem to be running a bit behind schedule) and she misses Colombia too.
I ask Paula what inspires her about what she has seen up to this point? She talks about one interesting and exciting example of campus organizing: the Coke boycott. A student we recently met at Loyola University described the organizing process — collect as many signatures as possible among the students and present a petition to the university, with information about the human rights abuses in Colombia in which Coke is implicated and then pressure the university to cancel the contract. Paula saw value in this strategy because organizers don’t have to depend on the usual avenues of state infrastructure (like lobbying politicians), but rather can push for a change in their own community and in the process educate and politicize as many folks as possible.
Next I asked her what seemed like the biggest challenge or obstacle to doing this work in the US? She responded that the students at each campus focus on the war in Iraq or Colombia or maybe another crisis in another place, but notices that the tendency is to focus on issues “over there” and that it seems there aren’t local issues that unite them where they are. For example, at Wooster College after talking about the relationship between displacement and militarism in both Colombia and Detroit, we brought the discussion back into the here and now — and talked about race relations on campus. The all white audience at our panel recognized that while there might not be overt racism at their school, there are “invisible lines that divide us.” Paula connects these “invisible lines” to a culture of individualism where everybody has their own computer, phone, house and car and where people don’t step across those invisible lines to be interested in one another’s struggles. During her talks she often shares how the Red Juvenil also fights against the forces of individualism and works to create a horizontal structure based on a culture of collectivity and solidarity.
Paula talks about how students have access to so much information and many possibilities to learn about different issues. She wonders what makes a person take a step beyond their own education and move into action. How can we encourage folks to go beyond just learning about the issues? With these questions unanswered we continue orbiting in our world of Tranquilandia and head to the next stop — Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA.
By Maryrose Dolezal
We kicked off the Carbondale stop last Sunday with an Art and Action training attended by ~20 students and community members.
The Art and Action workshops are facilitated by Invincible and Isaac Martin. Along with a mix of pop ed, it includes Invincible’s docu-music video “Locust.” Directed by Joe Namy, Locust features Invincible and fellow Detroit-based hip hop artist Finale rhyming about the impacts of unsustainable development on the Motor City. The video includes interviews with community activists discussing displacement and prederatory planning vs. sustainable development in Detroit. Check it out below or at http://emergencemusic.net.
Invincible frequently says that Detroit is what the rest of the country has to look forward to — the failure of industrialism and capitalism and the opportunity to create new alternatives for resistance. Militarism in the belly of the beast. Further south in the Americas, the people of Colombia are getting hit by the other side of US militarism — a 66% increase in extradudicial killings during the first 5 years of US military aid to Colombia, with a total of $5 billion spent from 2000 to 2008.
Monday we started the day with a radio interview at WBDX 91.1 FM on the weekly radio show “The Composters,” online at radiolive.com, where we continued to make connections between militarism in the communities in the US and in Colombia, focusing on creative youth resistance.
Invincible spoke about starting her independent label, Emergence Media, her solidarity with the people of Palestine, and her work with Detroit Summer.
Briefly, Detroit Summer is “a multi-racial, inter-generational collective in Detroit working to transform ourselves and our communities by confronting the problems we face with creativity and critical thinking. We currently organize youth-led media arts projects and community-wide potlucks, speak-outs and parties.” Learn more at:http://detroitsummer.blogspot.com/ Paula Galeano, our guest from the Red Juvenil in Medellin, Colombia, spoke about the empowering tactic of reclaiming public spaces with art. Red Juvenil frequently turns streets or parks into direct action opportunities, creating a carnival atmosphere that engages and invites others to be part of the action. One impressive example of this is the anti-mili sonoro, an annual concert of political musicians that takes place every year on May 15 to celebrate and mark International Conscientious Objectors day.
In Carbondale, Paula participated in a US version of reclaiming the streets through music — the Carbondale Students for a Democratic Society’s Funk the War dance party. A few dozen students danced in the busiest pathway on campus, passing out balloons with a “Books Not Bombs” message to passerbyers.That evening, we shared vegetarian and vegan food with Carbondale students and community members at the Interfaith Center while Paula shared stories from Colombia.
On Monday night, the eve of Veteran’s Day, the Drop Beats Not Bombs tour participated in an IVAWbenefit show at the local Independent Media Center. Liza Maytok, Dave Adams, president of the Carbondale chapter of Iraq Veteran’s Against the War, gave an emotional appeal to young vets and vet supporters to join in IVAW’s strategy to end the occupation in Iraq, provide reparations for the Iraqi people and provide full health care for vets. More on the Carbondale IVAW chapter at: http://www.ivaw.org/node/2232
Following Carbondale we hit Goshen, Indiana. Check back here for our next blog on that! And tomorrow we hit Wooster College in Ohio. We hope to see you there!