Ancient Aeschylus play and today’s refugees


This video from Scotland says about itself:

29 September 2016

Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh and Actors Touring Company Present

THE SUPPLIANT WOMEN

by Aeschylus, in a new version by David Greig.

1 – 15 October 2016 at The Lyceum and then touring.

The creative team talk about staging this 2500 year old play that feels more relevant than ever, working with a community chorus and combining ancient and contemporary music….

Learn more about the play here.

By Paul Foley in England:

Women begging immediate attention

Tuesday 21st March 2017

Written almost 2,500 years ago, a drama on the migrants’ plight is a play for today if ever there was one, says PAUL FOLEY

The Suppliant Women

Royal Exchange, Manchester

5/5

THIRTY-FIVE women, fists defiantly aloft, chant: “Power to women!” The lights snap off and the theatre erupts with cheers.

As endings go, they don’t come much better than this and David Greig’s scintillating adaptation of Aeschylus’s The Suppliant Women deserves that audience response.

In it, migrant women risk everything as they cross treacherous seas before washing up on Greek shores. Fleeing forced marriage, incest and rape, they seek asylum. As the women enter at the opening, suppliant batons in hand, they chant and move as in some native American ritual dance. Their fear is palpable but their pride is intact.

“To act or not to act” is the dilemma facing The King of Argos. Protecting these migrant women will lead to war but fail them and Argos will be shamed for ever. His solution is to rely on democracy and let the people decide.

On the eve of the vote, the women are reminded that as migrants they will be feared and mistrusted. They must remain meek and respectful so that the people — and we — can see the merits of their cause.

Ramin Gray’s spellbinding production for the Actors Touring Company, aided by Sasha Milavic Davies’s choreography and John Browne’s music, has 35 women — all volunteers from the local community — making the case on behalf of refugees around the world, with Gemma May superb as the ringleader corralling her sisters.

Aeschylus inverts the normal Greek dramatic tradition by putting the chorus, usually a device to drive the narrative forward, centre stage. But here it is itself the story, with the main protagonists merely on the periphery.

Moving to the rhythm of the sea, they sway back and forth like hypnotised snakes as they dance to the haunting sounds of Callum Armstrong’s Aulos pipes.

Then, suddenly, they’re whipped into a frenzy, as if an ill-wind is tossing them into a vortex of doom.

In a world where scapegoating migrants and refugees escaping poverty and war is the norm in some quarters, Aeschylus reminds us of our common humanity.

Highly recommended. Runs until April 1, box office: royalexchange.co.uk.

Angela Davis about feminism and anti-racism


This music video says about itself:

“Angela” Davis, by John [Lennon] & Yoko [Ono]/ Plastic Ono Band

16 Febuary 2009

Everyone should read Angela Davis‘ story. Hope you enjoy this small homemade token to her. She is a true “people” teacher. Love.

Lyrics…”Angela”
Album: Sometime In New York City [1972]

Angela, they put you in prison,
Angela, they shot down your man.
Angela, you’re one of the millions
Of political prisoners in the world.

Sister, there’s a wind that never dies,
Sister, we’re breathing together.
Sister, our love and hopes forever,
Keep on moving, oh, so slowly round the world.

They gave you sunshine,
They gave you sea,
They gave you evrything but the jailhouse key.
They gave you coffee,
They gave you tea,
They gave you ev’rything but equality.

Angela, can you hear the world is turning,
Angela, the world watches you.
Angela, you soon will be returning
To your sisters and your brothers of the world.

Sister, you’re still a people teacher,
Sister, your word reaches far.
Sister, there’s a million diffrent races,
But we all share the same future in the world.
They gave you sunshine,
They gave you sea,
They gave you evrything but the jailhouse key.
Yeh, they gave you coffee,
They gave you tea,
They gave you evrything but equality.

Hey, Angela, they put you in prison,
Angela, they shot down your man.
Angela, you’re one of the millions
Of political prisoners in the world.

By Felicity Collier in Britain:

Women have been right at the heart of every mass movement

Tuesday 21st March 2017

The activist, author and intersectional feminist Angela Davis led an inspirational discussion at the Southbank Centre [in London, England] recently. FELICITY COLLIER was there

FORMER leader of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), civil rights activist and academic, Angela Davis has dedicated her life to freedom fighting. She has been described as “the most recognisable face of the left in the US.” Over the last five decades, she has been involved in revolutionary movements such as the Black Panther Party in the 1960s. She also co-founded Critical Resistance — an organisation which exists to counter the US’s prison system, and she has set up an alliance of black feminists.

In 1979, Davis was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize from the Soviet Union. In her autobiography, she described Communism as “a natural, logical way to defend our embattled humanity.”

Ronald Reagan sacked her from her teaching job at the University of California when he was governor of the state beacuse of her involvement in the CPUSA. She was later reinstated. She once wryly described herself as “the big, bad, black Communist enemy.”

Famously, Davis also withstood arrest by the FBI and imprisonment when a gun owned by her turned up as part of a murder case involving prison guards.

The campaign to free her was massive and international, with support from over 60 countries, as well as from cultural figures John Lennon and Yoko Ono. She was acquitted and went on a worldwide speaking tour which took in Cuba. Her visit had such an impact on her that it led her to pronounce: “Only under socialism could the fight against racism be successfully executed.”

Now aged 73, she continues her social activism and work in education, is a prolific political author and gives speeches around the world. Her scholarship focuses on women, workers and people of colour. She currently teaches in History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

She describes herself as an intersectional feminist. She is in favour of the abolition of prisons and the death penalty, favouring education over a system of punishment, and does much campaigning on the issue.

The sense of resounding respect for Angela Davis was palpable in the Royal Festival Hall during the Women of The World Festival earlier this month. There were several standing ovations, rapturous applause, and one activist from the audience — who campaigns on the issue of deaths in prison custody — rushed up onstage to embrace her heroine. The two stood together, each motioning a black power fist in the air.

One of the immediate topics it seems apposite to ask Angela Davis about is the Donald Trump administration, and she tells a packed hall: “It’s created a disaster. But with Hillary Clinton elected, it would not have been a substantially different situation.

“The difference would have been more room to do more of the organising we need to do during this period.

“People often ask me if I feel disturbed or depressed that the same issues come up again and again. It is true. And structurally, racism is more powerful than ever before.”

But, Davis insists, in relation to activism: “If we don’t acknowledge things have changed, it makes no difference at all.

“The difference is that young activists have more profound ideas — and the conceptual tools they have are based on decades and decades of struggle. So we have made progress.”

The difficulty of conversations about racism is broached.

“It is one of the most effective conversations to take place in activism, within the context of trying to change the world,” she states. But, there are contradictions, she says. “Racism has seen the integrating of people of colour with white supremacism.”

It gives her optimism that there are currently powerful movements of resistance, such as the protection of Muslims and undocumented migrants.

“We’re now reaping the fruits of activists’ work. We’re creating terrain for something that may happen 50 years from now.

“Capitalism compels us to measure the world in a small way. We cannot measure the work we do by our lifetimes.

“We are living the world of imaginaries who are long gone,” she says.

“We are inhabiting a new world that’s made possible by the activism of today.”

The complexities of feminism are discussed. Davis considers it a problem that it is assumed that women would want to replace men.

She urges the importance of intersectionality, a term coined by her peer Kimberly Crenshaw. Davis’s concern is that new ways of tackling the “messiness, interconnectedness, crosshatched nature” are not being explored.

“I was often the target of the question: are you black or are you a woman?” she says.

The category of “woman” is internally racilialised, she states. “We have to say: who are we talking to when we talk about women?

“We will finally have made progress when those who have had to struggle become the sign of that category.” She goes on to give the example of a black, trans woman who has experienced struggles against the US prison system.

Privileged people have become the standard, she warns, before urging: “Why can’t those who have struggled become the sign of what we should strive for?”

Angela Davis authored the book Women, Race and Class in 1983. She recalls how, around that time, she realised that she was being called a feminist.

“I’m not a feminist,” she asserts, “I’m a revolutionary black woman.”

Surrounded by cheers from the hall predominantly made up of black women, she adds: “Over the years, women of colour have redefined the project of feminism. So feminism today is intersectional.”

Davis relates her time in prison, which she now considers “a gift,” as she learned so much about her identity through the experience.

She recalls how she explored the assertion of women of colour in the women’s movements of the 1960s that were emerging.

The feminism that Angela Davis identifies with is “abolitionist feminism,” being anti-racist, anti-capitalist and intersectional.

Feminism is not just about gender and women, she urges, emphasising the fact that “marginal issues are most important in giving us a sense of the way the system functions as a whole.”

Our host, the theatre director, producer and the artistic director of the Southbank Centre Jude Kelly, refers to a quote from Angela Davis that urges women to invite men to their struggle, which, with some amusement, she gently refutes having said.

“Men need to take the initiative themselves,” she says, “they don’t need to be invited.”

She states that issues such as domestic violence and sexual violence are “by and large men’s problems.”

Looking back to the anti-violence movements of the 1970s, she recalls that she kept thinking that a wave of men of colour would join the cause.

“But it never caught on,” she reflects, adding: “Movements like Black Lives Matter recognise that feminist ideology is going to allow us to begin to push past questions that have never been pushed past.”

She considers how levels of violence against women “remain the same. So there’s something we’re not doing.”

Prison is not the answer, she urges. “We shouldn’t be relying on punitive measures, throw people in prison and the work is done. These methods are designed to not solve the problems but make us forget that we need to engage this problem.

“Sexual violence is so hard to confront, to even think about. But the more we put men in prison, the more violent they become.”

Feminism is not about taking over the leadership of men, Davis urges, stating that it is in fact necessary to change structures.

“It’s important that we don’t see masculine, individualist, charismatic leaders,” she says, urging for collectivity, stating the need for identities such as black, queer women to be seen.

History ought to remember that at the heart of the work of every mass movement is women; “they have done most of the work!”

She urges that the poor black women, domestic workers, maids, cooks and washerwomen that made the US civil rights movement possible are remembered, as much as Martin Luther King.

When asked about how we can best support women in prison, Davis alerts us to the fact that it’s widely assumed that men constitute most of the prison population, and that it’s a male issue.

“We have to think about what we can learn from women prisoners.

“We can’t assume that all the important knowledge gets produced by universities,” she says, outlining the experiences of women in prison who told her that the system replicated the feelings of gender-based violence.

“The institute as a whole is a gendering institution,” she says, urging the need to recognise that prison “consolidates a gender binarism.”

The rights of transgender prisoners are not addressed, she believes, and in abolishing prisons, gender policing would be abolished also.

Davis met with young activists from Black Lives Matter earlier in the day, and she emphasises the need for older activists to look to younger activists to learn, just as they too can look to the experience and knowledge of those who have been involved in campaigns over the decades.

She reveals that she is proud of her age, proud to have made it this far. “I’m a survivor,” she says.

She recalls her time at Brandeis University, where she said she learned from her Jewish friends the importance of doing Palestine solidarity work.

“It’s the best way to challenge anti-semitism and Islamophobia,” she asserts.

Expressing her belief that black people in the US need to look outwards beyond struggles there, she cites the abolitionist politician and ex-slave Frederick Douglass who in the 1840s travelled to northern Ireland which was experiencing the Great Famine.

On his return journey, funded partly by Irish campaigners, Irish people escaping the famine travelled along with him. Moving away from an individualistic approach, she says, is the way to fight, because “we can continue for aeons and the racist structures of state violence will remain.”

Palestine is an important part of intersectionality, she argues, “Palestine taught us to be anti-violence.”

“We have to stand up to Islamophobia,” she continues.

“It is the most violent expression of racism today, and women are the first targets.

“We must recognise the global connections and the impact of global capitalism.”

Countless women from the audience express their heroine-like admiration for Angela Davis in the hall, but she tells them: “I’m just another person, making whatever contributions I can to the struggle for freedom. That’s all I am.

“But millions of people joined the movement to save my life.

“They demonstrated that if we come together, unite, we can achieve the impossible. That’s the lesson I symbolise.”

CIA against British pro-peace women


This video from Britain is called 1980s Greenham Common, Women Protest for Peace, CND, Police.

By Solomon Hughes in Britain:

The ‘punks and crazies’ of Greenham

Friday 3rd March 2017

SOLOMON HUGHES trawls through recently released secret CIA ‘intelligence’ documents which reveal how the 1980s Greenham Common peace camp terrified the US spooks

WHAT did the CIA think about the women’s peace camp at Greenham Common?

This January the CIA made thousands of formerly secret papers available via its website. Some answer this question.

In short, the CIA knew the Greenham protesters had a big effect but they also thought they were “punks and crazies” who freaked out the intelligence men. The CIA documents are generally “secret” analysis reports rather than records of actual CIA operations.

The ones we’re concerned with here cover the “new cold war” of the 1980s. In 1983 president Ronald Reagan’s US started putting cruise and Pershing nuclear missiles in Europe, aimming them at Russia.

In the documents, the CIA refers these intermediate range nuclear forces as INF, which becomes the codename for cruise and Pershing throughout the documents.

Big peace movements arose across Europe among people who didn’t want the US’s new cold war being fought on European soil. Those living in the “intermediate range” didn’t want it nuked.

As I noted in January, the US government’s spymasters didn’t like the peace movements but they did understand these movements were powerful enough to make profound changes.

In a 1984 paper, the CIA writes: “We believe that increased democratisation of defence policymaking in western European countries will be the peace movement’s lasting legacy. Western European governments can no longer make defence policy primarily on the basis of expert advice.

“They feel compelled to take account of public concern about the escalating arms race and to refute accusations from opposition and peace movement spokesmen that they are subservient to the United States. They have already been putting more emphasis on arms control and less emphasis on defence programmes than Washington would prefer.”

In the end, the arrival of reforming Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachov thawed the new cold war that had spurred the 1980s peace movement. A 1987 Gorbachov-Reagan arms treaty pulled both Soviet SS-20 nuclear missiles and US cruise and Pershing rockets out of east and west Europe respectively.

The peace movements were not strong enough to force Western unilateral nuclear disarmament. But the CIA knew they were strong enough to encourage multilateral disarmament and put a little democracy in defence policy.

Along the way, the women’s peace camp at Greenham Common was one of the largest, most dynamic and direct-actiony parts of the movement. The CIA papers show that while they respected the strength of the peace movement, they couldn’t keep their normal analytical sobriety when it came to Greenham. Something about the protest got under their skin.

There are many reports like the undated but early ’80s Daily Summary of Public Postions on INF in Europe, which says that the British press are “stressing the effect of the women’s protest at Greenham Common on public opinion,” showing that nearly half of those polled said: “The women’s protest had led them to reverse their opinion on stationing cruise missiles in the UK.”

Looking back, in 1984, the CIA says: “Greenham Common, where cruise missiles are being deployed, is a major focus of peace activity. A feminist peace group not directly associated with the [Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament] has maintained a ‘peace camp’ near the base since 1981.

“The women’s determined efforts to obstruct and, at times, penetrate the base have gained substantial publicity for the movement.”

A September 1983 secret report on “radical tactics against INF deployment in Europe” shows CIA anxiety about direct action by Greenham and other activists.

The paper worries about “some antinuclear radicals” using “direct action” — including the Greenham women who “penetrated a fence and reached an SR-71 aircraft,” a “Blackbird” spy plane “which they damaged with paint” and break-ins at Upper Heyford Airbase.

The CIA worried that “these modest successes may encourage militants — especially in the women’s camp, which continues to dominate the Greenham Common scene — to try again.” The CIA worried they would reach nuclear equipment and that “an important aim of the more radical protesters will be to provoke a confrontation with US security personnel.”

The challenge of the more radical Greenham Common protesters made the US intelligence people drop their normally pragmatic, technocratic talk.

Alan W Lukens, a senior US diplomat, wrote a “confidential memo” of “reflections on the mood in Europe” for the State Department in December 1983. He toured Europe and had an “allday session” at the British Foreign Office arranged by the British intelligence liaison office with British Foreign Office “intelligence-gathering” staff like Harry Burke.

Luken’s views reflected briefings by British intelligence staff. Lukens said: “In analysing the peace movement in the UK, these officials thought it had peaked and that only a lunatic fringe would continue to demonstrate.

“Nonetheless, they admitted that even without the punks and the crazies, the UK peace movement had deep roots which no government could ignore. ‘The early Greenham Common rallies, in the eyes of these officials, had discredited the peace movement. There was a lack of seriousness, a ‘rent-a-crowd’ psychology which many British citizens resented.”

Only British intelligence could think the Greenham women lacked “seriousness.” The CIA and their British friends putting Greenham in a “lunatic” category with “punks and crazies” shows that the women drove the CIA and their friends out of sober analysis and into knee-jerk prejudices.

CIA anxiety about Greenham took a very peculiar turn in a November 1986 CIA directorate of intelligence on Colonel Muammar Gadaffi. In April 1986, the US launched a bombing raid on Libya using British air bases.

The CIA papers say Gadaffi tried to break Libyan isolation after the bombing by “courting the left,” among other things, “strengthening groups such as the Greenham Common peace camp in the United Kingdom and the Greens who are putting pressure on European governments who are putting pressure on European governments to restrict or remove US military forces in Western Europe.”

Greenham Common protesters were of course among the very many who opposed US bombing raids on Libya in 1986. The attacks were a deadly and pointless piece of warmongering which led to big protests. But the idea that Gadaffi was behind Greenham Common protests — or indeed the Greens — shows the CIA reverting to its worst instincts, seeing secret enemies behind legitimate protest movements.

In a way, the CIA reports are the best reviews of the Greenham protesters. The CIA recognises the women of Greenham had a major influence but they also drive the “intelligence” people to denouncing them as “punks and crazies.”

British government jails raped African women


One Day Withous Us in Britain

By Elizabeth Tswana and Anna Cross in England:

Victims of rape treated with suspicion and scorn

Friday 17th February 2017

A Ugandan refugee and gang rape victim, Erioth Mwesigwa escaped to Britain. But the government locked her up in Yarl’s Wood. Elizabeth Tswana and Anna Cross tell her harrowing story

WE ARE the All African Women’s Group, a self-help group of women seeking asylum, based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre in London.

Once a fortnight, 90 to 100 women from different countries come together to discuss our legal cases, share experiences and support each other.

One of our members, Erioth Mwesigwa, a 59-year-old woman who suffered multiple gang rape by soldiers in Uganda, has been detained at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre.

Erioth has helped other women with their legal cases, spoken at public events and regularly attends our fortnightly meetings. Last Friday, guards came to her room in detention to take her to the airport but Erioth bravely refused to go.

Now the High Court has refused her claim and told her she has to go back to Uganda to appeal.

We cannot allow this. Erioth won’t survive and we refuse to allow anyone to be sent back to their death.

Erioth was targeted by soldiers because her husband was suspected of opposing former Ugandan president Milton Obote.

A family member who hid her in his house after she escaped from prison was subsequently killed.

She spent years in hiding in Uganda before she finally managed to escape to Britain and meet with her (now ex-) husband and family, who had already been granted refugee status. However, when Erioth asked for the same, she was refused.

Many of us in the All African Women’s Group are victims of rape and other torture.

We too have been in detention and threatened with removal.

A few of our members have been sent back to their country of origin and have suffered further rape and abuse.

It is the actions of governments like the British that fuel wars in Africa that make us flee in the first place.

We are forced to be refugees. Yet when we come here to get safety we are treated like beggars and scroungers.

The Home Office has accepted that Erioth is a victim of rape but they still want to deport her because the rape happened a long time ago.

We hear on the news every day how victims of abuse in this country have come out after so many years and are still scarred and traumatised.

Who would dare say to them that they should just get over it?

Erioth is clearly still very badly affected by what happened to her and has never had the support she needed to recover until she met us.

We have been in touch with Erioth every day since she was detained.

She said to us: “When I was in Uganda I had to spend all those years in hiding and fear that one day I will be found by the soldiers again.

“After all that, I have finally found a place where I feel safe with people who care about me. It has given me hope for my life. I do not have anyone who I can return to in Uganda. Here I have my family and friends who look after me.”

Women Against Rape, which is also supporting Erioth, has shown that 88 per cent of victims of rape and sexual violence are disbelieved when they claim asylum.

Even though it is well known that in some countries rape is widespread and used as a way of waging war on the community, when we arrive in Britain and say we have been raped, we are treated with suspicion and forced to prove in every little detail what we have been through.

We believe that Erioth should be able to stay in here and remain a part of our group.

Please join our protest and write to the Home Secretary to demand that Erioth is released from detention and given the right to stay.

Elizabeth Tswana and Anna Cross are member of the campaigning All African Women’s Group. You can join the protest against Erioth’s detention and removal as part of the One Day Without Us event on Monday February 20 outside the Home Office, 2 Marsham Street, Westminster, SW1P 4DF, from 4.30pm to 5.30pm. For more information on the One Day Without Us visit 1daywithoutus.org.