Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween!

(Testing my image upload capabilities...) Here's a mask made by one of my students at Villa Parke Art Project.

While we are on the topic of masks, take a look at some Ogoni masks here and here. I especially like the antelope masks. Try to picture antelopes grazing along the rivers and streams of Ogoniland. Just a little counterpoint to the slideshows of gas flares and oil spills in the Niger Delta I posted a few days ago.

Friday, October 28, 2005

LAT: Shut Down Death Row

Here's the Los Angeles Times editorial on Stan Williams. I think they get it right. Think about the pleas we have coming up for clemency, who is more deserving? Stan Williams, author of children's books, anti-gang crusader? Clarence Allen, 75-year-old, wheel-chair-bound blind man? Michael Morales, devoutly religious father of three? These are the decisions facing our governor (and I'm trying to leave aside the instinct to see him as a caricature and imagine myself in his shoes.) It really shouldn't come down to these kinds of choices, the decision should be about our humanity and what kind of society we want to live in.

Aside: The link above is to the Death Penalty Information Center, an invaluable resource of all things DP-related. Explore at your leisure.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Banned Books Week

We're a month or so late for this, but the actions listed on this page are still valid. I note in the "Updates section that Jamphel Jangchub, a member of the Drepung Printing Group was released, probably about the same time as Ngawang Gyaltsen, formerly Group 22's adopted prisoner of conscience and also a member of the group. The Drepung Printing Group received very lengthy sentences back around 1988-9 for the crime of translating and printing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Tibetan. The note says that he was released "reportedly because of good work in the vegetable garden of Drapchi Prison in Lhasa." Who knew? Next campaign we need to send gardening tools!

Amnesty International Banned Books Week Page

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Sister Janet's Juvenile Justice Initiative

NO MATTER HOW LOUD I SHOUT : A Year in the Life of Juvenile CourtToday's Los Angeles Times Column One feature is an article about Central Juvenile Hall's Sister Janet Harris and her crusade for a young man she took note of in the detention center's writing program. This should ring bells for our long-time readers who remember one of our favorite books, Edward Humes' No Matter How Loud I Shout. The article points up the legacy of Prop 21 (recall our candlelight vigil outside Juvenile Hall?) and cites Amnesty's recent report The Rest of Their Lives: Life Without Parole for Child Offenders in the United States. From the article:
An initiative passed in 2000 by 62% of California voters gave district attorneys the power to determine whether juveniles accused of certain serious crimes should face adult punishment.

The most severe sentence that can be imposed in Juvenile Court is detention until age 25. Had Rocha not been tried as an adult, his supporters say, he might have been freed by now.

Last year, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office filed 178 juvenile cases in adult court, and 119 juveniles were transferred to adult court after judicial hearings, according to the agency's statistics.

A report published Oct. 12 by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch found that 2,225 offenders are serving life without parole in U.S. prisons for crimes committed before they turned 18. For an estimated 59% of those inmates, it was their first conviction.

The U.S. is one of only a few countries that allow children to be imprisoned for life without parole. Elsewhere in the world, about 12 young offenders are currently serving such sentences, the study found.
By the way, Edward Humes has a website if you're curious what he's been up to lately.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Rosa Parks, Lady Freedom

From Rita Dove's poetry collection On the Bus with Rosa Parks,



Lady Freedom Among Us

"don't think you can ever forget her

don't even try

she's not going to budge

no choice but to grant her space

crown her with sky

for she is one of the many

and she is each of us"

Stanley "Tookie" Williams

The State of California announced yesterday that they plan to execute Stanley "Tookie" Williams on December 13. While we here at Rights Readers oppose all executions, regardless of the quality and quanitity of the inmate's literary output, we note here that Williams has written an autobiography, Blue Rage, Black Redemption, and several children's books, including Life in Prison. Some resources in the campaign for Tookie's clemency include his website, Death Penalty Focus, and California People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty, which has information on all three up-coming executions in California and is the best source for information about Los Angeles area anti-death penalty events. Finally, be sure to look around for the Redemption, starring Jamie Foxx, the film made about Williams' life.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Nigeria, Oil and Ken Saro-Wiwa

In November we commemorate the ten year anniversary of the execution of Nigerian author and environmentalist, Ken Saro-Wiwa by reading Ken Wiwa's moving memoir of his father, In the Shadow of a Saint. Here are a few background links:

RememberSaroWiwa is the UK-centric 10-year memorial site for KSW:

Price of Oil is a joint project of Amnesty-USA, PEN, Earthrights Intl and Sierra Club, among others. (I tried to get our discussion listed on the site, but its not showing up, at least not yet.) Be sure to check out the slideshow.

Recent NPR series on oil in Nigeria

Recent National Geographic Articles (check out the related links on these too)
Singing Songs for Freedom
African Oil: Whose Bonanza?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

For January: The Known World

At our last meeting, those gathered chose Edward P. Jones' Pulitzer-winning The Known World for our Sunday, January 15 meeting. Bookflap description:

In one of the most acclaimed novels in recent memory, Edward P. Jones, two-time National Book Award finalist, tells the story of Henry Townsend, a black farmer and former slave who falls under the tutelage of William Robbins, the most powerful man in Manchester County, Virginia. Making certain he never circumvents the law, Townsend runs his affairs with unusual discipline. But when death takes him unexpectedly, his widow, Caldonia, can't uphold the estate's order and chaos ensues. In a daring and ambitious novel, Jones has woven a footnote of history into an epic that takes an unflinching look at slavery in all of its moral complexities.

Edward P. Jones was born and raised in Washington, D.C. Winner of the Pen/Hemingway Award and recipient of the Lannan Foundation Grant, Jones was educated at Holy Cross College and the University of Virginia. His first book, Lost in the City was originally published by William Morrow in 1992 and shortlisted for the National Book Award. Mr. Jones was named a National Book Award finalist for a second time with the publication of his debut novel The Known World which subsequently won the prestigious 2004 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Andrew X. Pham Follow-Up

Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of VietnamThe Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three WarsAt our September discussion of Catfish and Mandala, we were surprised at how the author, Andrew X. Pham, had vanished after publication of his memoir. This article describes his efforts to get his parents to visit Vietnam and provides some clues as to his travels since writing Catfish.


Rights Readers is an education and outreach project of Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena - Caltech. We meet every third Sunday of the month at 6:30 PM at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, California. This blog is an effort to facilitate our on-going discussion of the fiction and non-fiction works we read and the human rights issues they illuminate.
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