Tuesday, July 1, 2008

countdown to border crossing .... july 3rd

july 1st, mcallen texas 8:52 am

it's colonialist celebration day in canada. our home on native land.

the affinity groups are meeting, here at the pastors for peace cuba friendshipment gathering. we're talking about ways to improve our collective experience. today's topic seems to be food - there needs to be enough, there oughta be fair trade coffee, it'd be cheaper to serve veggie food (and we'd all live longer). the regular cook, ishmael, lost his mother this week and the kitchen organizing has changed - there has been an attempt to collectivize the process (heaven help anyone who takes on the task of attempting to serve 125 people). i signed up early to help in the kitchen, and so did hazel - we decided to team up for our try at 'cook of the day' but now i'm afeared we're in over our heads!

on the bus ride on the way here, hazel and jim and katie and i plotted a vegan course of action for our day in the kitchen. when we got here, we heard that the only day available was the fourth day, and we willingly and exuberantly signed up. now i feel like a war resister - i didn't know what i was getting myself into!!! in addition to the kitchen challenges, i've learned that the fourth day is when all the really important workshops happen - civil disobedience, non-violent resistence, our legal rights, etc. and it's not a good idea for us to miss those. we spoke to john about this, and he agreed that it's imperative that all we newbies attend those workshops. unfortunately, there seems no easy way to get out of our commitment so, i guess we'll spend all night tonight chopping and preparing and hope there are lots of helpers tomorrow to do the last minute stuff while we're learning what we need to learn to save our lives.

there's so much happening here in mcallen, it's incredible. discussions about all manner of things, and moving around of aid in and out of buses and trucks, the hustle and bustle in the kitchen, the little computer lab set up in the main lobby, music blasting from the boom box or emerging from the small rehearsal circles, and of course jovanna's delightful youthful presence. this morning there's the organization of laundry - one or two people from each affinity group responsible for a big pile of it. i warned katie not to touch my stinky slimy hankies. (i can't believe how much crap has emerged from my nose these past few days!)

on thursday we attempt the border crossing. here's the press release that ellen prepared for distribution:


Monday, June 30, 2008 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACTS: In McAllen, Texas: Ellen Bernstein 646/319-5902

In New York City: Lucia Bruno 212/926-5757

19th Pastors for Peace Cuba Caravan to cross border on July 3rd


TUESDAY JULY 1, 2008, 2:00PM

More than 100 Pastors for Peace volunteers from the US, Canada, and Europe have assembled in McAllen, TX to challenge the immoral US blockade on trade and travel to Cuba. Participants in the 19th US/Cuba Friendshipment Caravan arrived last night in McAllen and are currently preparing for their journey. They are camped out at Our Savior Lutheran Church for several days to inventory the 100 tons of aid they have collected for Cuba, to decorate and maintain their vehicles, and to prepare their border-crossing strategy. The aid includes medical, educational, arts and sports equipment for the blockaded island nation. Six brightly painted school buses and a mobile library will also be donated to Cuba. The caravan plans to cross the Texas border into Reynosa, Mexico early on Thursday, July 3, on their way to visit Cuba.

Members of the caravan will hold a press conference at Our Savior Lutheran Church, 1105 W. Fern Avenue in McAllen, on Tuesday afternoon July 1 at 2:00pm. It will feature a brief performance by The Movement, a live hip hop band traveling with the caravan from the San Francisco Bay area.

The caravan has just traveled through the US and Canada, stopping in 125 cities to hold educational events and collect aid and good will for the people of Cuba. Nearly half of the members of the caravan are people of color; nearly half are in their teens and twenties; they include a contingent of musicians and spoken word artists who have been performing as the caravan crosses the US, and who will meet with their counterparts as part of the caravan program in Cuba. Seven members of the caravan are Cuban-Americans. More than half of the caravanistas are visiting Cuba for the first time. The oldest is 86 years old, and the youngest is 7. They come from 21 states of the US and six other countries - all united in their determination to bring about a change in US/Cuba relations.

"This caravan is the true face of the US people," said Rev. Lucius Walker, Jr., executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace. "The immoral and ignorant policy of the US government toward Cuba represents the power of a mean-spirited minority. This caravan embodies the true inner feelings of the US majority. We will keep challenging this unjust blockade until our government rescinds this inhuman policy that causes our neighbors so much suffering."

Pastors for Peace is a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), an ecumenical agency with a 40-year history of work for social justice. More information and photo images of the caravan are available at www.pastorsforpeace.org.