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Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Beyond Vietnam speech

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In 1967 MLK delivered a prophetic speech. I want you to help commemorate the 50th anniversary.

Moral principles should provide a foundation to the choice of what to actually do

Moral principles should provide a foundation to the choice of what to actually do

Our Better Future is organizing three events commemorating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1967 speech “Beyond Vietnam – A Time To Break Silence” delivered in NYC exactly one year before his assassination. (Links to read and hear the speech can be found in the final section.) The National Council of Elders has encouraged people to create events commemorating the speech – gatherings of local people to hear the speech and spend time together. Our Better Future has taken up the challenge for Northern Westchester and is organizing three separate events for May 21st, 2017 – one in Peekskill, one in Katonah / Bedford, and one in Ossining.

Learn all the details here (PaulStark.name/projects/mlk-beyond-vietnam).

These events are just one manifestation of multiple OBF projects intended to find new ways to work together for transformation in Northern Westchester. You can learn more here here (PaulStark.name/Projects/Our-better-future) or here (Facebook.com/OurBetterFutureNow) You can support OBF here (Generosity.com/Fundraisers/Our-Better-Future-s-first-three-months).

Varieties of American Experience

Varieties of American Experience

Our Better Future #3 — Fund-Raising and Awareness Campaign Launched

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People Get Ready ...

People Get Ready …

In a somewhat breathless announcement today Our Better Future (OBF), the organization supporting progressive transformation and activated citizens in Northern Westchester, unveiled its first-ever crowdsourcing campaign, inviting support from the public for its many projects and initiatives.

Founder Paul Stark provided the following background on OBF, which he referred to as “something new under the sun.”

The fundraising campaign is available here (Generosity.com/community-fundraising/our-better-future-s-first-three-months)

All the details about OBF are available here (PaulStark.name/projects/our-better-future/)

The Story

This day has been a long time coming.

Since October 10th, 2010, 10/10/10, 350’s global day of work for climate change – I organized four separate events, including a theatrical afternoon, moving, direct, and suffused with hope. That was more than six years ago.

Or since the Club of Rome, in 1976, when I discovered computer simulations showed infinite human expansion on a finite planet would, inevitably and obviously, lead to difficulties. That was more than 40 years ago.

Like sharks trying to bite the giant peach, we’re confronted with questions so big we can’t bite into them. Enormous forces are in motion. We are so little, each with our singular circumscribed lives, and the forces are so big.

What to do, why to do it? Today I’m announcing my answer. Since I’m not so different from anyone else, at least around here; since I’m living on the same planet subject to the same enormous forces as anyone else, I’m confident my answer will be part of other people’s answers. Maybe yours.

It’s got, as they say, moving parts. Simply: it makes sense to engage the world, to work hard for transformation, to act from sane and human-sized values. And, as should have been obvious all along: we’re on our own. No institutions or leaders will provide guidance or structure to support the creation of our so-obviously-required new world, our so-obviously-required better future.

Raising Money

For the last six years I’ve worked for free. Now I’m raising money so I can get paid, and I’m asking for help. And I’m hiring five part-time project coordinators.

There are people who know me, my work, and my intentions. For three months OBF will be financed through individual donations. During April, and May, and June OBF will arrange money from other sources and be self-sufficient by July 1st.

Description

Our Better Future supports citizen engagement and resilient community in Northern Westchester. We believe in the work of transformation. We run projects, host events, write, create journalism, and performance, and promote similar work done by others.

We bring together groups and individuals of differing identities. We provide life-changing experiences to young people and interns.

We’ll find meaningful work for anyone with an impulse to work for transformation. We exist to deploy Northern Westchester’s enormous talents and resources to help save the world.

Success here will be replicated in other communities across the country.

Progressives, activists, radicals, and other hotheads need the broad support of a community of citizens. Not everyone is ready to derail her or his life to join an all-consuming struggle.

Why

It was already an emergency – between ruining the biosphere, selling off our democracy, and the biggest wealth gap since four minutes before 1929’s collapse into the Great Depression – so the sudden all-too-obvious lurch toward American Fascism is a vertigo-inducing surrealistic awfulness that’s almost too much to comprehend.

Projects

New projects underway during the campaign period. Including Events in three Northern Westchester communities marking the 50 anniversary of Martin Luther King’s fiercely truthful speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break The Silence” (April 30) (NationalCouncilOfElders.com), and from The Ossining Documentary & Discussion Series (OssiningDocumentaries.org) A Fierce Green Fire (April 20) (Facebook.com/events/1647467638895487/), and 13th (July 20) (AvaDuVernay.com/13th).

Projects include: Little House on the Planet, a podcast that tells the intertwined stories of young and older people pursuing progressive and radical goals. (PaulStark.name/projects/little-house-on-the-planet/) This Day in Civil Rights, an online database designed, run, promoted, and funded by young people. (PaulStark.name/projects/this-day-in-civil-rights/) There’s also Pro Bono PR, (PaulStark.name/projects/our-better-future/obf-project-page-probono-pr/) Pray for All of Us, Art for Activism, Northern Westchester Monthly, Climate Comedy, (PaulStark.name/projects/climate-comedy) and Our Friendly Town. (Facebook.com/Our-Friendly-Town-Peekskills-Own-Our-Town-1067185669989415/)

Link to CV
Here’s some of what Paul Stark and OBF’s ancestors have been doing for the last six years. (PaulStark.name/projects/our-better-future/obf-topic-page-cv-first-draft/)

Yes, You Can Help!
Please visit the campaign page here and seriously consider donating. There’s many kinds of rewards (Generosity.com/community-fundraising/our-better-future-s-first-three-months). Please share and post widely.

People Like It When Someone Tells The Real, Actual Truth

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At the Little House on the Planet Development Party last week we worked on using comedy to tell the truth. Lord knows, there’s plenty of difficult truths these days. Some ways the truth has been told are deeply beloved. People return to them again and again as a kind of talisman, an article of a certain kind of faith. And my goodness, there’s been an awful lot of lying and lying and lying on the national political stage these days.

If I didn’t include one of your favorites, please include it in the comments.

Some of my Favorites
Greatest County in the World?

Greatest County in the World?

It’s been called “the most honest three and a half minutes of television, EVER” Jeff Daniels on The Newsroom250 width
They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking.

They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking.

It’s a big club and you ain’t in it. George Carlin spills the beans on the oligarchy.
It's like everything everywhere is going crazy

It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy

I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore! Network
He’ll see everything! He’ll see the big board!

He’ll see everything! He’ll see the big board!

General Buck Turgidson, George C Scott, Frying chickens in the barnyard. Dr. Strangelove brilliantly told so many different kinds of difficult truths
Here is the fucking news ...

Here is the fucking news …

Reporter gets angry and tells us the REAL news. This has been viral for a while now. It’s not hard to believe it’s a real reporter who’s had more than enough — but it’s satire from British actor and comedian Tom Walker
War always encourages a patriotism that means not love of country but unquestioning obedience to power.

War always encourages a patriotism that means not love of country but unquestioning obedience to power.

Robert Shetterly’s Americans Who Tell the Truth portraits and narratives highlight citizens who courageously address issues of social, environmental, and economic fairness.

What a labor of love! There’s more than 200 of them. I’ve been using his Wendell Berry portrait for years when I was tweeting one quotation a day from “Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community: Eight Essays.”

Here’s a bunch of Americans who tell the truth that are particular heroes of mine, as they are for many other people. These are some of my favorites from A through H, plus Z of course

Noam Chomsky “…jingoism, racism, fear, religious fundamentalism: these are the ways of appealing to people if you’re trying to organize a mass base of support for policies that are really intended to crush them.”

Wendell Berry “The most alarming sign of the state of our society now is that our leaders have the courage to sacrifice the lives of young people in war but have not the courage to tell us that we must be less greedy and wasteful.”

Grace Lee Boggs “People are aware that they cannot continue in the same old way but are immobilized because they cannot imagine an alternative. We need a vision that recognizes that we are at one of the great turning points in human history when the survival of our planet and the restoration of our humanity require a great sea change in our ecological, economic, political, and spiritual values.”

Major General Smedley Butler “I served in all commissioned ranks from second lieutenant to Major General. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism. I suspected I was just part of the racket all the time. Now I am sure of it.”
Received 16 military medals, 5 for valor. Is one of 19 men to receive the Medal of Honor twice.
Wrote the 1935 exposé that linked business and the military titled “War Is A Racket.”

Frederick Douglass “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe. ”

Eve Ensler “I am proposing that we reconceive the dream. That we consider what would happen if security were not the point of our existence. That we find freedom, aliveness, and power not from what contains, locates, and protects us, but from what dissolves, reveals and expands us.”

Emma Goldman“…The greatest bulwark of capitalism is militarism.”

Amy Goodman “I really do think that if for one week in the United States we saw the true face of war, we saw people’s limbs sheared off, we saw kids blown apart, for one week, war would be eradicated. Instead, what we see in the U.S. media is the video war game. Our mission is to make dissent commonplace in America.”

James Hansen “Coal is the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on our planet…the dirtiest trick that governments play on their citizens is that they are working for ‘clean coal’. The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains. Coal-fired power plants are factories of death. ”

Howard Zinn “The rule of law does not do away with the unequal distribution of wealth and power, but reinforces that inequality with the authority of law. It allocates wealth and poverty in such calculated and indirect ways as to leave the victim bewildered.”

Baby’s First Steps

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I had a transcendent experience Friday night. I’ve been working on a podcast called “Little House on the Planet.” It tells intertwined stories of engaged citizens in a place just like Northern Westchester. Some extraordinary people are working on it, and some of us met on Friday to develop characters and stories, and actually record some audio. It was a milestone reached after six years of work, and it felt great.

For years, I’ve known, written about, worked with, many people who know another world is possible, and make efforts to hasten the day. These transformation workers focus on different issues and use different methodologies, but what they have in common is a hunger for change and hope and meaning. And since the last election, many more people are finding themselves possessed of these same hungers.

Some Highlights
A live bilingual radio show celebrating the beauty and intelligence of Spanish-speaking culture interrupted by a phone call from a friend with immigration agents pounding on her door.250 width
Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda

A comedy team struggling to choose how much truth tell and what to tell the truth about on their first big break into TV.
Lenny Bruce told the truth

Lenny Bruce told the truth

Activists vividly imagining the experience and effect of chaining themselves to equipment while wearing no clothes.
Naked protesters protesting nakedly

Naked protesters protesting nakedly

An artist partnering with recently-unemployed circus professionals using a zip line to say what needs to be said.
The daring young artists on the flying trapezes

The daring young artists on the flying trapezes

Our Better Future #2 — Inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr. Day — Again

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Pettus Bridge

Pettus Bridge

Three Martin Luther King, Jr. Day’s ago I had an inspiration while attending the special MLK Day service at the Antioch Baptist Church in Bedford Hills. The preacher made the point that Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn’t a solitary hero, toiling away by himself. There were thousands of people: leaders and allies and followers, nearly all of whom have been forgotten by history. But every single person made their own contribution.

I felt the loss of that, that so much suffering and determination and love shouldn’t part of the story we tell ourselves about our country’s relationship to justice.

I decided to create a project called This Day in Civil Rights. Because I don’t want the stories to be forgotten, and I want the next generation to know the fights which have been waged, and they can fight too. I’ve been developing it these last years, and it’s now ready to go out into the world and find its community and destiny.

You can find out about the TDICR project here (PaulStark.name/projects/this-day-in-civil-rights/)

You can find out about Our Better Future, the organization I’m running to facilitate this project and a bunch of other projects here (PaulStark.name/projects/our-better-future/)

You can learn an amazing story about a contribution that hasn’t been forgotten, about how a whole lot of baked goods supported the Bus Boycott, here (KitchenSisters.org/girlstories/a-secret-civil-rights-kitchen/)

Our Better Future #1 — New Endeavor for a New Year

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This is an announcement and a meditation.

Announcement: Our Better Future now exists. It’s an umbrella organization that supports real community, a clear-eyed relationship to our current realities, and the faith that working together from stubborn hope and creative intelligence will make the world a better place than it would have been without us. More and more people are feeling impulses toward doing something, anything, given everything. Our Better Future will entice and empower those impulses.

I’m going to raise money and pay myself (modestly) after six years of working for free, and pay a few other people, also modestly.

This is the first subjective yawp of my new endeavors. Details, websites, social media, all sorts of stuff, is TK.

Meditation: Happy New Year. It’s a particular moment. The new year is under way. Our country’s lurch toward fascism has taken only its first few official steps. And I am right this present moment crossing the line from preparation to execution.

There’s been shock, and grief. I’ve been taking refuge in positive statements from some people whose work I deeply admire. In summary:

  • It’s time for sensible citizens of good will to be engaged as never before;
  • We’re going to need to take good care of each other;
  • The forces of darkness are strong now, and the stakes are vertiginously enormous;
  • It will take the best of ourselves, from a whole lot of us, to avoid catastrophe.

I believe in us. I believe in the activated citizens of Northern Westchester (which, when I say it, means everything from Mt. Kisco to Hudson, NY). I’m not going to stop acting on those beliefs.

Joanna Macy, who has been a lifeline of hope amidst clarity for years, makes the point that “it is good that we … find our strength and our sanity in each other.”

Brian Eno, whose inspiring creativity offered to the world has always struck me as deeply mature and deeply playful, says, “People are thinking hard, and, most importantly, thinking out loud, together.” A strategy that’s not all that oblique after all.

Rebecca Solnit, whose confidence in the strength and humanity latent in all of us justifies hope in the dark, introduces her New Year’s message like this, “Oh I wrote something hopeful again. Fiercely so, I hope. To launch us all on the new year, an occasion that’ll need plenty of rising to.”

Van Jones, uncompromisingly optimistic in the face of all of it, asserts that “We have to build a massive Love Army” to take back our country and government from the “little hate army of very cynical, nasty people who took over our government”

Here’s fuller quotes and links to the whole pieces:

Joanna Macy

Joanna Macy

Now, a triumphant Trump brings into the spotlight at stage center those who have been waiting in the wings: the lords of coal and oil, the masters of surveillance, the white supremacists, the war-ready generals, those eager to rule the bodies of women.

So it is good that we reach for each other, find our strength and our sanity in each other.

JoannaMacy.net/component/content/article/266-latest-updates.html

Brian Eno

Brian Eno

2016 was indeed a pretty rough year, but I wonder if it’s the end – not the beginning – of a long decline. Or at least the beginning of the end….for I think we’ve been in decline for about 40 years, enduring a slow process of de-civilisation, but not really quite noticing it until now.

There’s been a quieter but equally powerful stirring: people are rethinking what democracy means, what society means and what we need to do to make them work again. People are thinking hard, and, most importantly, thinking out loud, together.

This is the start of something big. It will involve engagement: not just tweets and likes and swipes, but thoughtful and creative social and political action too.

Facebook.com/brianenomusic/posts/1543156529031866

Rebecca Solnit

Rebecca Solnit

Oh I wrote something hopeful again. Fiercely so, I hope. To launch us all on the new year, an occasion that’ll need plenty of rising to. It goes like this:
The time when you don’t need hope is when your hopes have been fulfilled. Hope is for when you don’t have what you need and for when things are not OK. It is the belief that liberation might be possible that motivates you to make it more possible, and pursuing hope even when it doesn’t lead to the ultimate goal can generate changes that matter along the way, including in yourself.

Many people are still trying to figure out what to do; others are doing it. They give me hope, in some portion of humanity, the portion that will resist Trump and defend our ideals. It will be hard. It will be ugly. Our job will be to be embody and protect all of those things most antithetical to authoritarianism, racism, misogyny, kleptocracy, an atmosphere of lies and indifference to science, fact and truth.

Facebook.com/rebecca.solnit/posts/10154682721550552

Van Jones

Van Jones

Tight around Trump is a little hate army – not every Trump voter – but tight around him is a little hate army of very cynical, nasty people who took over our government. We have to build a massive Love Army that can take the country and the government back in a better direction. That is completely doable. Because there’s now many more people wanting to get involved

the fundamental nastiness and cynicism that is Trump’s calling card can be overcome by a beautiful, loving, determined opposition. There’s got to be a center of gravity that we hold that continues to insist that the America that we believe in is the real America.

Rollingstone.com/politics/features/van-jones-only-a-love-army-will-conquer-trump-w454026

Michael Moore

Michael Moore

I want you to ask 5 to 10 friends, family members, co-workers, classmates or neighbors to be part of your Rapid Response Team. Pick a name for it — the “Oak Street Rapid Response Team”, the “Gilmore Girls Fan Club Rapid Response Team”, etc. Set a plan to contact each other online as soon as word goes out on any given day to oppose what Trump and Congress are up to. Your Rapid Response Team will agree with each other to email elected reps, make calls, post on social media, go to protests and/or organize others at work, school or in the neighborhood.

Facebook.com/mmflint/posts/10154046637756857

Feelings! #2 — Did You Hear the One About the Election?

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Can you find the feeling you're having?

Can you find the feeling you’re having?

I think I had a delayed reaction to the election last week. I often have emotional reactions a week or two after a traumatic event, as if I’m repressing my own responses until I make sure everyone else is okay. If you know what I’m talking when I call the election traumatic, I don’t have to tell you. If you don’t know what I’m talking when I call the election traumatic, I’m surprised we know each other, but, tell me.

Regarding the trauma of the election, here’s one recurring thought, as I articulated to Mattathias Schwartz yesterday:

I think the increasingly bitter lesson we’re all going to learn from here until eternity, is that we have to find a way to make lemonades out of these very sour lemons. Try to find the silver linings of kleptocracy and a biosphere unable to support 10% of the life it used to. You know, etc.

Our country’s lurch toward fascism is going to lead a lot of people to drop some measure of nonsense, reaffirm their core values, and come together in small groups for protection, mutual support, resistance, and survival. It’s definitely leading me.

My Peekskill — # 24 Creative People for a Better Tomorrow

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Can We Talk?

Can We Talk?

Make Art!

Make Art!


There’s a creative people salon in Peekskill every first Monday. I didn’t know but now I do. I went this week and I’m glad I did. It was two hours of good people doing good work. The recent election has focused a lot of good people’s attention on what can be called anti-fascism. For: Civil rights, human rights, equality, justice. Against: Trumpism, misogyny, racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, plutocracy, kleptocracy, Anti-etc., etc., etc.

The recent election has focused a lot of creative people’s attention. Creative people are in a unique position: what they love most and do best is also one of the strongest forces to entice ordinary people to ground themselves in their own best natures.

Since, in times like these, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” the fight is not exactly against Trump, but for the conversion of good people from people who do nothing to people who do something. It’s gonna be a whole lot of different somethings. That fight is a cultural, emotional, political, personal fight. Exactly the arenas in which creative people shine the brightest. Creative people will take a leading role in this good fight. At first we won’t quite know what to do or how to do it. But we’ll learn and we’re already working. It’s a process. And it’s good to know the process, right here in Peekskill, has already begun.

Creative people got all kinds of reasons ...

Creative people got all kinds of reasons …

This Friday’s installment of Idea Bin is going to be big, huge. It will include ideas from Monday night, from me and others. And a bunch of items from my own personal big, huge Idea Bin.

First Monday Salons are organized by Carla Rae Johnson. I was going to list participants, but I haven’t asked them. If you were there, either physically or in spirit, and you’re okay with being publicly acknowledged, let me know. I met Maureen Winzig, President of the Peekskill Arts Alliance on the streets of downtown right after I finished this! She was absolutely there Monday night.

Hi Everyone! #88 — Sophia and Wayne

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Sophia Wilansky

Sophia Wilansky

It takes a second. To realize what you’re seeing is the bone of her left forearm, showing, exposed to the air.

What goes through the mind and heart of a man who holds an explosive device with a seven second fuse for five seconds then throws it at a 21-year-old woman? It’s difficult to imagine.

I know people who know her, Sophia. I know people who know her dad, Wayne.

There’s a story here. The dad, Wayne. Wilansky. The daughter, Sophia. Wilansky. Photogenic. Passionate. Articulate. They want something good to come from this nearly impossible suffering.

This story has the Army Corps of Engineers in it.

They say corporate officers, like executives at Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics, have a fiduciary duty to maximize shareholder value. (They don’t.)

How Many Law Enforcement Agencies Does It Take to Subdue a Peaceful Protest? So far, 76 from 10 different states. Says the ACLU. And they definitely don’t have a duty to maximize shareholder value. But they’ve been acting like it.

Words like “rapaciousness” fall from the sky as North Dakota’s winter begins to settle in.

The heroism of everyone at the camp, the hardships they’re enduring, are historic, inspiring. A 3.8 billion pound gorilla is convinced he can sleep wherever he wants. That irresistible force has met an immovable object. I don’t know how this story ends. My hope is that steadfast perseverance, non-violence, prayer, and love will prevail in the end.

If you have an impulse to get involved, in a big way or a little way, follow it.

Feelings! #1 — I don’t know what’s going to happen

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Nothing more than ...

Nothing more than …

So, feelings. I’m happy the Dakota Access Pipeline has been stopped, at least for now. Every victory achieved by people standing up and standing together fills me with hope that we will beat the odds. I know January 20th will change everything, and it will be interesting to see what happens if they continue laying pipe without the easement. But something happened, enough political force was generated to be noticed and responded to. That’s cause for hope. And it’s not over.

I’m frightened by our government’s impending lurch toward fascism. I’m dreading there will be catastrophe in our futures. I’m grief-stricken at all the devastation that’s happened, is happening, will continue to happen.

Sometimes I’m overwhelmed with frustration, hopelessness, despair. But it’s the mood of a moment, sometimes half a day.

It doesn’t last long because, against all reason or not, I maintain a stubborn faith that it’s possible to make a positive difference, and I’m one of the people who will. I’ve been considering the questions of What to do, How to be one of those people, for more than forty years. It’s a moral imperative, but it’s also an engineering problem, with considerations like leverage, inspiring people, force multipliers, emotional and psychological insight, timing. When I remember that’s what I’m doing, I’m reminded that I am, among other things, a calm, confident, loving, and capable man.