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Apr 24th
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Movement Starts in the Heart PDF Print E-mail
Written by Carlton Turner   

A movement starts in the heart. The pulse of the blood rushing in and out provides the drum, the rhythm of our collective actions, the heart pumps life into all of the parts of the body of the movement and feeds the brain allowing for collective vision. Without the heart the movement can’t live.

A look back through time will show that culture has always been the heart of any substantial movement. The historical achievements of the Civil Rights Movement could not have been possible without the Freedom SingersFreedom Singers, theaters such as the Free Southern Theater, musicians like Pete SeegerPete Seeger, Dr. Bernice Johnson Regan and even James Brown. Just as such, the movement to close the School of Assassins can not happen without the active engagement of the voices of singers, musicians, theater makers, puppetistas, visual artists, and an engaged citizenry that can communicate and be facilitated through community cultural practices.

At the November 2009 Vigil at the gates of Fort Benning arts and culture once again provided the heart to fuel the movement with the type of sustained energy that it will take to shut down this school for good. Professional musicians and singers, theater and visual artists that are united by the common desire to see peace and equity come to the people of Latin America converge on the gates of Fort Benning. These cultural bearers know, just as Dr. Martin Luther King did, that their freedom is inextricably entwined to that of their brothers and sisters south of the border.

The Musician’s Collective, which is made up of singers and musicians from around the country weave a beautiful thread of continuity through the parade of messengers from around the world that come to those gates to spread personal stories of tragedy and triumph in the battle to free their sons and daughters from the grips of the soldiers that rest comfortably behind the gates at Fort Benning.  My brother Maurice and I have, for the past three years, been privileged to add our voices to this collective. Elise Witt, a friend and beautiful voice of peace and hope, first introduced us to the cultural organizer Chris Inserra, a long-time member of the SOA Watch Stage and Program Team. Elise knew our work as performers and community organizers and our passion for justice and introduced us to this process, one that we had no prior knowledge of.
Much like the Civil Rights Movement, the music of the SOA Watch in essence is the voice of solidarity uniting people in the face of fences, guards, and guns. Rebel DiazWe are the cultural reporters, charged with translating the news into the common language of the masses. With constant streams of music, drums, chants, speakers, puppetsPuppets, protesters, and preachers, we create a ceremony of resistance that grows in numbers and strength each day. It won’t be through policy that our world begins to change, that is merely the outward reflection of the change that precedes it. The real change takes place when communities share food, stories and songs with each other in an attempt to define their own humanity. Artists are the conduits by which those messages travel to the masses.

Carlton Turner is the artistic director and co-founder, along with his brother Maurice Turner, of the performing group M.U.G.A.B.E.E. (Men Under Guidance Acting Before Early Extinction) a group performing a theatrical blend of jazz, hip-hop, spoken word poetry and soul music. He is also the Executive Director of Alternate ROOTS, a thirty-five year old organization that supports artists working in community for social change. He lives in Raymond, MS.

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Featured Article
Download the Spring 2016 issue of Presente

The Spring issue contains mobilizing information for the SOA Watch Border Convergence, which is taking place from October 7-10, 2016 at the US/Mexico border in Nogales, and also focuses on recent developments in Latin America and within the SOA Watch movement.

Click here to download a PDF version of the Spring 2016 issue.

As this issue of Presente went to print, our hearts were heavy. The assassination of our dear friend and comrade Berta Cáceres, and the increased repression against social movement groups, have left us shocked and saddened. SOA Watch Latin America liaison Brigitte Gynther traveled to Honduras the morning after she learned about the assassination and has been coordinating SOA Watch’s response together with our partner groups on the ground. If you do not already receive Urgent Action emails from us, please click here to sign up now.

The recent decision by the U.S. judge in North Carolina to extradite one of the perpetrators of the 1989 massacre at the University of San Salvador gives us hope that justice will prevail in the end. It will take all of us to create change! Please join us as we mobilize to the U.S./Mexico border from October 7-10, 2016!

Other articles in this issue cover a protest by SOA Watch in Chile against US bases in Latin America, the FBI surveillance of SOA Watch, updates from Colombia and Mexico, news about the first Border Patrol agent to receive training at WHINSEC, background information about Direct Action, the Youth Encuentro in Guatemala, and more.

Download this issue of Presente here.

SOA Violence
Image SOA Grads Responsible For UCA Massacre Face Extradition, Military Officers Arrested in El Salvador The 1989 massacre of 16-year-old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba Ramos, and six Jesuit priests in El Salvador, that galvanized opposition to the U.S. relationship with Central American death squads and that sparked the movement to close the U.S. Army School of the Americas, is making headlines again.
International Human Rights Encuentro in Bajo Aguán, Honduras

fathermila.jpgInterview with Father Fausto Mila in Honduras

SOA Watch participated in the International Human Rights Encuentro in Honduras in February 2012. Laura Jung spoke with Father Fausto Milla, a religious leader in the Honduran movement who has been persecuted by the State of Honduras.  

Local Organizing
For 25 Years the SOA Watch Movement has been on a Journey A journey to live into the radical hope that marked the lives of  14-year-old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba, and Jesuit priest dissidents Ignacio Ellacuría, S.J., Ignacio Martín-Baró, S.J., Segundo Montes, S.J., Juan Ramón Moreno, S.J., Joaquín López y López, S.J., Amando López, SJ.
Direct Action
Moving the 2016 November Vigil to the Border? The 2015 Vigil is still going to take place at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, but there are discussions within the SOA Watch movement to move the 2016 vigil to the militarized U.S./Mexico border. What do you think?
Image Latin American Resistance & U.S. Solidarity Latin America has a 500 year history of resistance to the violence of colonialism, militarization, and elite domination. It is a legacy to treasure and honor.
SOA Watch in Latin America
SOA Watch Chile Declassified List with Names of WHINSEC Graduates

By Pablo Ruiz, Equipo Latinoamericano of SOA Watch
SOAW Chile achieved an important victory; to declassify the names of over 760 Chilean soldiers who took courses at the School of the Americas/WHINSEC during the past decade.

Image Looking Back to Move Ahead I was asked to write a piece about people of color organizing to attend the 2009 SOA Watch vigil and about our plans for 2010. I believe everything happens for a reason.
Ron Teska Ron Teska, a stone carver and organizer from Wind Ridge, Pennsylvania worked on this piece of art throughout the November Vigil weekend in Georgia.


We are winning because ours is a revolution of mind and heart.

- César Chávez


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