Be the Cause
A mellow type of fellow that's changign alot these days

“What is service?”

I just woke up after having dinner at Bharti’s and learning about indicorps.

I think it was brilliant that the invite to this dinner said, “What is Service?” instead of “Meet Indicorps.” Right now I woke up with not just thinking about something creative that Indicorps is doing, but also with parallel thoughts on service.

First, Indicorps is a network of fellows, NGOs and young activists that share oppurtunities to share time, energy, and money among social entities in India and sons and daughters of the “Indian Diaspora”. They have a good model that is based on global community outreach and sustainability. They offer fellowships to college graduates of Indian decent to take on 50+ projects that have been set up by trusted NGOs in India that need a very specific skill set. Fellows apply to be placed in one of the projects and then are given the tools to communicate directly with the people and places where they will be serving. Every young Indian that wants the freedom to impact the world in some positive way should read about this network of people, ideas, and action.

Even though Indicorps is exclusive for expatriot Indians, their approach to how they do things answers the question, “What is Service?”.

So, I wanted to ask everyone that reads this post:

What is Service to You?

(please click the comment link–sign up for btc blog account before you save, though)

Women’s Issues on 2/3/2008

While we were serving at The Downtown Women’s Center (would you like to join us?)on 2/3/2008, Melisa asked, “Did you know that Super Bowl Sunday has the hightest rate of domestic violence?” And everybody reacted “No Way!”, “Is that true?”, “Is that just in the USA?”, “why?”, etc.

Critically thinking (in this case, guessing) about some probable guesses for the stat that one of my college friends verified that he had also heard, come of the probable causes that I could assume were Gambling Losses, Alcohol, Too Many Sexual Suggestive Ads, Male Inferority Complex after watching “their” women cheering for what our media deems as some sort of atheletic “Alpha Male”… Melisa threw in “raging testosterone levels” and “men suck”. It’s one of those things that makes you think about a day that’s almost become a national holiday for consumers and sports fans. I’ll let you research or bring that up as a critical magnet of discussion amongst your circle of peers.

Serving food was more fun than watching the game. The last 3 years, I always made plans because my friends invited me to come over to watch. And I am a football fan (even though I’m less of one now because I think alot of the major sports are fixed now… but that’s a different topic).

The mission of the Downtown Women’s Center is to provide permanent supportive housing and a safe and healthy community fostering dignity, respect, and personal stability, and to advocate ending homelessness for women.

We met Julie, a talkative sixty-two year black woman that has been living on the streets who had just been approved for permenant housing. The DWC has an application process for granting residence for one of their 47 apartments. The founder of DWC saw the need for permanent residence on Skid Row (especially) for women. Julie was so excited about having a place to cook again that she went to Food 4 Less and bought a bunch of food. She said she was excited to be able to bring in things to make her room feel like her home. The day before, we met Sophia who told us that the DWC has a few women who have been living there for 0ver 30 years. Julie said she used to do yoga, and now she can think of starting again. I asked if she knew about the yoga lessons that were on a flyer in the elevator and asked if she’d think of leading any of the sessions. She smiled and said she might after she gets back into it. The reason we were talking about this is because she said the meal that was served on 2/3/2008 was the best meal she ate in a looooong time–“Love Food”.

Next I went to Solidarity Hall near Western and Washington to meet with Yuisa, a short hispanic american woman who was the god-daughter of a college professor of my friend, Shamila. Yuisa is part of Radical Women’s Movement and The Socialist Freedom Party. Her group gathers a few times a month. Shamila brought a few gifts, some of the literature Shamila had written about incorporating gender into economic development and a copy of the Deepa Mehta movie Water, which became my favorite movie of alltime because of how the characters were constructed and Gandhi-ji comes at the end and says “my dear brothers and sister, I used to think God is Truth. But today, I believe that Truth is god. The pursuit of truth has been invaluble to me… I hope it will be the same for you.” as the cathatic moment in the film happens. Shamila noted how the dynamic of gender development was different in Sri Lanka vs. the US. She was a little confused why woman’s right’s was so tightly coupled with Sexuality in the US. There was a sign in Solidarity Hall that said “I want the right to rule over my body”. Critically thinking about this, I wondered if Americans are still so afraid of Lesbianism. I remember how the debate of “Civil Unions” kind of distorted the polictics of the last presidential election and we ended up nominating 2 of the stupidest candidates in Bush and Kerry. I didn’t get a chance to ask Yuisa about what she thought about Hillary Clinton vs Barrak Obama since the democrats have constructed them as the shrewd woman running vs the somewhat icononclastic son of an immagrant. I wanted to know if either of them was Radical enough for Yuisa or if she was in the mind set of “I’ll take what I can get.” I also wanted to ask her if Gandhi and Malcom X could replace Che and Marx spokes persons for radical struggle in her mind even if they came from cultures where the treatment of women was questionalble (eg. the Nation of Islam hasn’t given women an equal platform and there is still a struggle in the broader muslim culture. Also there is a conterversy about if Mohandas actually beat Kasturba at soeme point in his life–I can’t recall any direct references to beating in his autobiography but he does mention lots of regrets that came from being married at a young age before he had gotten control of his “carnal desires”)

Yuisa had invited Shamila to the Mazer Lesbian Archives for an event that celebrated the role of Black Women in radical women’s movements. We got lost trying to find the place. But the poets that were coming had canceled, so when we showed up with just 15min in the event, it wasn’t a great loss. Shamila still had the chance to network with some of the women there. We met a theatre actress that had helped create a documentry piece about the Lesbian Archives on her laptop. She was still revising it. The Mazer Archives is a group that wants to chronicle the polictical literature and creative works that have come from the Lesbian movement for rights. Shamila invited her to visit Sri Lanka saying, “I will host you.” She also recommended another Deepa Mehta movie, Fire. We had a short discussion about how Mehta had to move production of Water to Sri Lanka because of death threats and threats of riots to disrupt the filming. Conservatives Indians (Gandhi is rolling around in his grave right now) thought they should violently oppose the iconoclastic ideas toward some of the ideas that Mehta was critical about in her previous 2 movies.

I should also mention some things about Shamila. She is very reserved and radical. She feels she’s a trailblazer in Sri Lanka. She’s written some of the first reports of it’s kind regarding gender in development in Sri Lanka. She’s worked with some of the biggest NGOs in Sri Lanka and UN inititives. She just finished her degree to become a lawyer at Bradeis Universtity in Massachuesets. She has publised 6 books of poetry and some of her poems has been cited by other international women leaders. 2 of her poems have become songs in Sri Lanka. She’s leaving  on Wednesday. So let me know if any of you would like to meet her. Tuesday is a good oppurtunity to meet her. Email me for her contact details if you think you can support her or she can support you. She has some cool ideas.

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