20 Years Ago

I’m spending a lot of time this summer going through what seems like mountains of material in preparation for my turning over the RFC’s Executive Director job to my daughter Jenn.  My last regular work-day in the office is August 31st. I want to have figured out by then what files Jenn will need for future reference, what should go home with me, what should be recycled, archived etc…

So I’m sorting through a lot of old stuff and that got me thinking – how would the grants we made 20 years ago compare with those we’re making presently?  Obviously, there are a lot more now.  In all of 1993 we awarded a couple dozen grants totaling $26,500.  In just the first half of 2013 we made three times that number totaling $200,000.  But I was more focused on looking back at the movements we were supporting then to see how they measured up against those we are helping today.

In 1993, we aided Haitian activists seeking refuge from that country’s brutal military coup.  We helped a family attacked for protesting police intimidation. We assisted the children of imprisoned Puerto Rican nationalists, African-Americans targeted by COINTELPRO and anti-imperialists, along with Guatemalan torture survivors.   We also aided the son of a slain tenants’ rights organizer, the son of a murdered union organizer, as well as the daughters of an environmental activist disabled in an assassination attempt.

While the range of our support has grown since 1993, many of the issues have not changed.  The granting article in our Spring 2013 newsletter provide a good overview of our aid.   We’re still helping the families of war resisters, union organizers, Puerto Rican and African-American political prisoners, torture survivors and environmental activists.  But now they are joined by Occupy Wall Street veterans, grand jury resisters, Green Scare defendants, along with those fighting for immigrants’ and LBGTQ rights.

But while there are new wrinkles, the issues driving today’s struggles remain strikingly similar to those of 20 years ago. This is because the power relationships haven’t changed for the better since 1993.  In fact, the gap between the rich and poor as well as the disparity between the powerful and powerless has grown.  The disenfranchised and oppressed continue to resist.  They still seek equality and dignity, while those in charge and supportive of the military industrial complex do everything in their power to maintain their privilege and control.

I’m getting ready to step back, but none of us are giving up.  The RFC will continue to aid those on the front lines of so many critical struggles, with awards that I fear will be just as necessary 20 years from now as they were in 1993.   

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Robert--You continue to be an inspiration to peace activists everywhere. I'm giving a sermon on "Swords into Plowshares" at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Muskegon, Michigan next Sunday. We shall begin with your father's "Strange Fruit " sung by a beautiful teeen, followed by a reflection on the travesty of injustice in the trial of Travon Martin. My sermon will connect your birth parents' life and final letter with the upcoming sentencing of the three courageous nonviolent resisters who broke into the nuclear weapons facility in Tennessee. They face 30 years--what amounts to a death sentence. Letters requesting "downward departure" in the sentencing can be sent to the judge via attorney Bill Quigley. See http://transformnowplowshares.wordpress.com/2013/07/07/transform-now-plo....

Several of the children of imprisoned Plowshares activists have benefited from the RFC over the years and the ones who were able to attend the Gathering were strengthened by all the courageous people they met. Thank you, too, for that, and for all the good you've done in a long and fruitful life. It's wonderful that your daughter is able to take over as executive direcgtor.

Rosalie Riegle, author of *Doing Time for Peace: Resistance, Family, and Community* (Vanderbil UP, 2012) and *Crossing the Line: Nonviolent Activists Speak Out for Peace,* (Wipf and Stock, 2013).

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