Monthly Archives: January 2017

Atlantans Protest Trump’s Banning Order at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport – January 29, 2017


by Heather Gray
January 30, 2017
Justice Initiative International

Atlantans Rally Against Trump’s Immigration Policies
Posters: “Rednecks Against Xenophobia” “Will Trade Racists for Refugees”

This has been a week of protests in Atlanta. First, the protest on January 20th calling for Atlanta to become a Sanctuary City with estimates of some 700 protestors. Next, the “Atlanta Women’s March” on January 21rst with some 70,000 protestors. Then Trump issues bans on seven countries and all havoc erupts around the country. Atlantans quickly organized a January 29, 2017 “Banning Order Protest” march at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport to rail against Trump and his tragic banning orders. There were estimates of some 7,000 protestors at the Atlanta airport.

At the Women’s March and the Banning Order protest, I talked with those who had never participated in a protest in the past. This is a good sign – evidence that the Trump administration, even in its first week, has alarmed countless Americans and that the fight against this oppressive presidency will continue.

Below is a heartfelt comment, written by Brian Levenson, who attended the protest yesterday at the airport, regarding his feelings about being at a protest for the first time and reflections about it all and dismay about what is happening in America. We had not met each other before. I am thankful for him sharing his profound thoughts.

Below, also please find a listing of protest messages from the demonstrators in Atlanta.

Just me writing what I was feeling during my first protest!

Atlanta Protest at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport – January 29, 2017

By Brian Levenson

I didn’t say a word.

There was chanting, cheering, songs, speeches; all of that going on and I didn’t say a word. I came to Hartsfield-Jackson airport for my first protest feeling so uncertain, so downtrodden, so fearful. John Lewis walked by as people chanted “thank you John.”

Still not a word.

Just seeing it all was so necessary for me, so cathartic. I fought back tears for about 30 minutes before I could even manage a whispered chant of “Where the hell are you/ Isaacson and Purdue.” By then I had started and stopped fits of tears a dozen times.

While speakers did their things, I looked at the crowd: a mix of every type of person you can imagine.

A young Asian woman with a baby gave me a true test of fortitude, but I choked back the tears. Chants of “this is what democracy looks like” were another test. Hijabs on young immigrants, Yamakas on elderly Jewish men, drums, chanting, “What would Jesus do” signs, it was… such a relief.

Obviously I’d heard about all the protests, and yes I’d seen aerial shots of the women’s March and a thousand others since November but it all rang hollow, because the backdrop for everything I heard was stark:

Behind the outrage was the simple fact that the country I used to say I loved voted for this. We chose it as a country.

And that was in my mind the whole afternoon. While driving to the airport, i considered buying a ticket to somewhere. Not sure where. I’ve lived in Israel. I speak some Spanish. I had cashed a check from my grandparents large enough to cover expenses for at least 6 months. I was really thinking those thoughts, which is… just beyond a horrible feeling to have about the place where you are born and raised.

While I was pressed into crowds of strangers, it was such a goddamn relief to be around people who were fighting.

I don’t want to get into policy or specific beliefs. Any other time, sure, but not in this piece. Because really I wasn’t at this protest for policy reasons. I wasn’t even really here to badmouth Trump or his supporters. I was here because for the first time in my life, I felt like America was the bad guy and I WILL NOT BE THE BAD GUY.

Maybe next time I’ll have something to say, but at my first anti-trump protest it was enough for me to simply put myself, silently, on the right side of history.

Some of the many posters at the demonstration
Dump Trump
Atlanta welcomes everyone
Deport Trump
Freedom of religion for all
Muslims are our friends
Not on my watch
Refugees make America beautiful
Salam Ya’ll
Rednecks against xenophobia
Trump you do not speak for me
They came for the Muslims and we the people said, not today, tomorrow, or ever
We stand for no ban
I’m with them
Ya’ll means all
No ban, no wall
Dump fucking Trump
My mom taught me to stand up to Bullies
Ban trump – not Muslims
Jesus was a refugee
Muslims are our friends
Resist tyranny
Only cowards fear difference
Migrant rights are human rights
Remember who you are and what you represent
Now is time for all people who love this country to ensure we are on the right side of history
No ban no wall – sanctuary for all
Hate is not what we stand for or support
Love is what we value here
First they came for Jews
I will not let history repeat itself
Watch out
My generation votes next
We became a family because of immigration and love
Hitler did it to the Jews, Trump, will not do this to the Muslims
Aliens too busy to hate
Liberty and justice for all
Will Trade Racists for Refugees
Rise up over hate
Solidarity in the face of Fascism
I’m with her (the Statue of Liberty)
She says “Let them in!”
Fight Muslim Ban
Ban Ignorance
ATL – Rise up for refugees
Stop religious profiling
Trump: you do not speak for me
I can do this every weekend assholes
Rise up over hate
Fight Muslim Ban
United we stand
Stop religious profiling
Mother of exiles
From her beacon hand
Glows world-wide
Welcome, her mild
eyes command
Muslims welcome here
I’m with them
We are the popular vote
Trilogy of Terrorists
Pence, Ryan, Trump
If you’re not worried
You’re not paying attention
Activism is not temporary
No Ban
No Registry
No White Supremacy
No Trump
No fascist USA
My grandfather is from Syria
The people united will never be divided
Great does not equal hate
I can’t drink oil
Silence is consent
Fuck white supremacy
A veteran against Trump
Trump out
Immigrants in
See may have all come on different ships
But we are all on the same boat
Call your Congressman
Hate will never make us great
Fear is not an American value
Bigotry is not an American value
Intolerance is not an American value
Melting pot
all races
all religions
all backgrounds
all creeds
To keep our humanity
Recognize theirs
Fight Racism
Muslim and Proud
I won’t bow to the
Tangerine Tyrant
No ban
yes to Syrians
1939: we turned away refugees,
they died at Auschwitz
Never again.
Don’t ban my family
Keep families together
Narcissistic Personality disorder
Deport Trump
Trump is a terrorist
Humans are not illegal
His is not us
This policy does not make us safer
Japanese-American in solidarity with Muslims
Fuck the wall
We’ll tear it down
USA impeach this clown
Wrong on many levels
Islam = Peace
This Rabbi welcomes Muslims
My brother’s keeper
no ban, no wall, no division
We all belong here
We will defend each other
Ban ignorance
Not immigrants
Say it loud
Say if clear
Refugees are welcome here
State sponsored injustice
Dishonors America
Keep the flame of liberty ablaze
Number of Americans
Killed by Citizens
of 7 Banned Nations
Build Bridges Not Walls
Great does not equal hate
Nicht Mein Fuhrer
To keep our humanity
Recognize theirs
Education not Deportation
Dear Trump,
Your Mom was an immigrant
So was mine
Our love will conquer
President Chaos

Media: a New Paradigm  A brief summary of the “sixth estate”


By Heather Gray

April 5, 2016

I first became involved in community radio in 1991.

A few years earlier, in 1989, I had been in the Philippines and sending letters to friends in Atlanta about my reflections and experiences while in the country.

When I returned to the states, a friend of mine, Gary Washington, who produced the Labor Forum at WRFG-FM in Atlanta, and is also a former Black Panther member, told me, “Heather, you need to be involved at the radio station. No one is talking about the Philippines.” So I did get involved and the rest is history as they say. I’ve been fortunate to produce a show called “Just Peace” since 1991. At first, I was thankfully working with Beth Ann Buitekant who had been producing “Just Peace” years prior to this and before she left to pursue more graduate work.

WRFG-Atlanta (Radio Free Georgia) was then, and still is, Atlanta’s only community radio station. In other words, WRFG is owned by the community, is independent and therefore not owned by and/or serving corporate interests. All of its producers are volunteers. Here is a description of the station and its mission:

WRFG is a community oriented, educational, alternative medium and our programming must reflect this. We are for those alternatives that uplift human dignity and give people more control over their lives.

WRFG is opposed to those forces in our lives that dehumanize and oppress people, especially economic exploitation, racism, sexism, militarism, anti-immigrant chauvinism, and sexual orientation discrimination.

But it was also a time for me to learn about media and its history. So I did exactly that!

Historically Media is considered  the “Fourth Estate”

You might ask, as I did, what is the “fourth estate” or, for that matter, what is an “estate”?

“Media” or “press”, I learned, is generally referred to as the “fourth estate”. Here’s the short history of the concept:

The fourth estate is a term that positions the press (newspapers) as a fourth branch of government and one that is important to a functioning democracy.

The phrase is attributed to Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797), a British politician, as quoted in Thomas Carlyle’s book, “Heros and Hero Worship in History” (1841):

Burke said that there were three Estates in Parliament, but in the Reporters Gallery yonder, there sat a fourth Estate more important far than they all.

In Britain, the three branches (estates) of government referenced Parliament: The House of Lords (the Lords Temporal and the Lords Spiritual – nobles and clergy) and the House of Commons.

In modern times, the “press” has been expanded to include all news media, not just newspapers.

….The First Amendment to the Constitution “frees” the press but carries with it a responsibility to be the people’s watchdog”. (U.S. Politics)

So that is the “British” concept of the “estates”, but in the contemporary United States I discovered that the four estates are generally considered as follows:

(1) Executive (2) Legislative (3) Judicial (4) Media.

Media as the fourth estate is supposed to report on the other three estates or branches of government. It is a way, some have said, to make these so-called democratic institutions accountable to the people in a “functioning” democracy. But this does not necessarily mean the media itself is accountable. Therein lies a serious problem.

It is also important to note that while I am referring primarily to community radio in this article, independent media and corporate owned media can be all platforms be it television (cable, etc.), newspapers, radio, newsletters, internet, on and on.

A new paradigm: Independent Media as the “Sixth Estate”

I am now of the opinion, however, that in reality there are six estates. And that independent media should instead be considered the “sixth estate”. Here is my own reconfiguration of it all regarding estates: (1) Corporate interests (2) Executive
(3) Legislative (4) Judicial (5) Corporate “Major” Media (6) Independent Media.

Here’s why.

I have designated “corporate interests” as the first estate. This is because corporate interests control virtually all of the 2nd through the 5th estates. Independent media, therefore, stands alone.

Corporate interests control and/or have significant influence and/or ownership of  the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Most congressional representatives and the executive branch solicit significant corporate support for their campaigns. In many cases, the judicial branch solicits contributions where judges are elected and/or the influence of corporations seems paramount as is speculated was the case with the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision.

More on this: the “Citizens United” decision by the U.S. Supreme Court was decided at the expense of democratic principles in that it essentially handed over corporate interests to own and control American politicians and to basically dominate and influence all government offices and agencies more blatantly than had been the case previously.

The fifth estate, corporate “major” media, that represents most of the media in America, is also, of course, corporate owned.

Regarding U.S. media it is generally stated that there are 6 corporations that own it and those are Time Warner, Walt Disney, Viacom, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, CBS Corporation and NBC Universal. The chart below provides a sense of the change of media ownership from 1983 to 2012 – the consolidation and therefore control of information by but a few corporate entities was considerable. In 1983, 90% of the U.S. media was owned by 50 companies and by 2012 90% of the media was owned by 6 corporate giants. (Exposing Truth)

Media Consolidation 1983-2012

Internationally, there are also other players including Bertelsmann AG and Sony. They own television networks, cable channels, movie studios, newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, music labels and many successful websites  (Exposing Truth)

Corporate Media versus Independent Media, the origins of Independent Media and the “sixth estate”

The credit for the creation of independent media and/or community radio goes to Lewis (Lew) Hill. In the 1940’s, Lew Hill was a pacifist during WWII. This was not a popular stance at the time. He had been working in Washington, D.C. as a scriptwriter and announcer for an NBC radio network known as “Blue Network” – WINX.

Lew Hill became frustrated that as a radio announcer he was presenting information to the public that was not credible – rather like telling lies over the airways that primarily served the interests of the corporate owners of the media. He realized that as an announcer he was being manipulated and was not allowed to present his own views. He decided he had enough of this and resigned. (The Lengthening Shadow)

Hill ended up in California in the 1940’s and by 1949, thanks to him, the first independent community radio station – Pacifica – was on the air.

This was a time when the idea of a listener-sponsored radio station was a new one which had never been implemented. Many people doubted the viability of a broadcast model which didn’t rely on some kind of corporate or government funding. But the idea was too compelling for Hill and others who agreed with him. Pacifica was born and in 1949 KPFA went on the air from Berkeley, California. (Pacifica)

In 1949, then, the independent “community” media model had been launched. It was what I am now referring to as the “sixth estate” which is supported and funded by the people, by the community and serves the people, minus corporate control.

Throughout the world this independent community radio model has now spread significantly with producers expressing their concerns/interests and providing opportunities for the voices of the community to be heard. It is powerful. It’s role should also be to report on the first five branches including, of course, corporate major media and many independent media entities do precisely that.

I will often compare independent media to organic production. Regarding food, your choices are generally (1)”junk food” produced by corporate agribusiness with all kinds of chemicals and genetically modified crops that make your health vulnerable; or (2) “healthy food” that is organically produced from healthy soil, traditional seeds, without chemicals and produced by rural and urban organic farmers – it is far better for your health.

By comparison, I say that corporate controlled news is  similar to “junk food” grown by corporate agribusiness which is not good for you. Corporate controlled news serves primarily the interests of corporate America rather than community or democratic interests.

Independent media, however, is more like healthy organic food. It offers a healthy variety of reliable news and information that is community based and in which you can have a say along with the opportunities to learn about the other estates. It gives you more control, knowledge and opportunities for change and enhancement of collective democratic systems. Essentially, independent community owned media can be and usually is empowering for communities and individuals.


WRFG-Atlanta is one of the thousands of independent community radio entities throughout the world that is the independent voice of the people. It was first on the air in Atlanta in 1973 and ultimately was a Pacifica affiliate as well – meaning that it broadcasts some of the Pacifica programs. I am eternally thankful to Gary Washington for introducing me to it all.

We at WRFG, therefore, along with other independent media entities, are proudly the “sixth estate” providing a voice for and with the people in Atlanta, the South, the nation and the world.

HEATHER GRAY is the producer of “Just Peace” on WRFG-Atlanta 89.3 FM covering local, regional, national and international news.

Trump is Wrong – Torture does not Work and Water Boarding is Torture

January 28, 2017
Justice Initiative International 


I heard on the news that Trump had talked with advisors who said that torture and water-boarding work effectively. He and they are wrong. Torture doesn’t work. It only leads to more violence and more destabilization. And by all national and international criteria water-boarding is definitely torture.  Further, torture becomes a vicious cycle. Bringing peace to the world and an end of war? Torture is definitely not the answer and it leads not only to more violence internationally but to more violence domestically as well. Torture is also against international law.  Nevertheless, here is some history of water-boarding by the US that is often referred to as the water cure.

It is rather interesting that while the US used water-boarding in the Philippines in the Philippine-American War in the early part of the 20th century, when the Japanese used water-boarding on U.S. personnel in World War II, America tried the Japanese for war crimes.

Chase J. Nielsen, one of the U.S. airmen who flew in the Doolittle raid following the attack on Pearl Harbor, was subjected to waterboarding by his Japanese captors. At their trial for war crimes following the war, he testified “Well, I was put on my back on the floor with my arms and legs stretched out, one guard holding each limb. The towel was wrapped around my face and put across my face and water poured on. They poured water on this towel until I was almost unconscious from strangulation, then they would let up until I’d get my breath, then they’d start over again… I felt more or less like I was drowning, just gasping between life and death.” In 2007, Senator John McCain claimed that the United States military hanged Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American prisoners of war during World War II (Wikipedia).

Below is information about the first significant and devastating water-boarding practices by the United States in the Philippine-American War (1898-1902).

This is followed information about the United States Congress and it’s actions on and against torture that include restrictions on water-boarding and also on CIA practices. Go to the Congressional Research Service “UN Convention Against Torture (CAT): Overview and Application to Interrogation Techniques” for the full statement.

US Water-Boarding in the Philippines

The Americans began to utilize the deadly “water torture” against Filipinos – forcing huge amounts of water into their stomachs to then attempt to gather information. US General “Howling Jake” Smith insisted on its use in island of Samar in the Philippines. The US, however, was not pleased with Smith about this and court-martialed him, but the charges and punishment were flimsy at best:
In May 1902, Smith faced court-martial for his orders, being tried not for murder or other war crimes, but for “conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline”. The court-martial found Smith guilty and sentenced him “to be admonished by the reviewing authority.”
To ease the subsequent public outcry in America, Secretary of War Elihu Root recommended that Smith be retired. President Roosevelt accepted this recommendation, and ordered Smith’s retirement from the Army, with no additional punishmen. (Wikipedia).
U.S. soldiers torturing a Filipino in 1901. When the U.S. military waterboarded Filipinos – the practice was accepted. When the Japanese later waterboarded U.S. personnel in World War II- America tried them for war crimes. (Ohio State University)

Donald Trump boldly states, if in a position to do so, that he would have the military engage in water-boarding. Under the circumstances, it is worthy of a comment about the current status of water torture in the international and domestic arenas.

Unfortunately, it is not widely known that the “water cure,” that was utilized by the US in the Philippine War, has been on-going by the US intelligence and military services. It has also been used by the US domestically in the 20th century by some police forces (NPR).

It was discovered during the George W. Bush administration that the “water cure” was used by the CIA in the post 9/11 “enhanced interrogation” practices.  After the 9/11 revelations about the “water cure” tactics being used by the US, in 2008 the United Nations’ Report of the Committee Against Torture ruled that:

It’s a clear-cut case: Water-boarding can without any reservation be labeled as torture. It fulfills all of the four central criteria that according to the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) defines an act of torture.”

(Regarding the criteria for torture, as referred to by the United Nations, waterboarding fulfills all four criteria for torture): (1) (It) “causes severe physical and/or mental suffering” and can lead to death; (2) (It is) done intentionally, (3) for a specific purpose and (4) by a representative of a state – in this case the US (Wikipedia).

While President Bush vetoed the Congressional bill in 2008 that would have banned waterboarding, on 22 January 2009 President Obama stressed that all military personnel were to use the Army Field Manual that prohibits the use of waterboarding which then moved away from the tactics of the Bush administration (Wikipedia).


Below is information about the U.S.  Army Field Manual Restrictions as well as information about Restrictions on Interrogation of Detainees by the CIA from the Congressional Research Service’s “UN Convention Against Torture (CAT): Overview and Application to Interrogation Techniques“:

Army Field Manual  Restrictions on Cruel,  Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment 

On September 6, 2006, the Department of Defense implemented the requirements of the McCain Amendment by amending the Army Field Manual to prohibit the “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” of any person in the custody or control of the U.S. military. Eight techniques are expressly prohibited from being used in conjunction with intelligence interrogations:

  • forcing the detainee to be naked, perform sexual acts, or pose in a sexual manner;
  • placing hoods or sacks over the head of a detainee; using duct tape over the eyes;
  • applying beatings, electric shock, burns, or other forms of physical pain;
  • waterboarding;
  • using military working dogs;
  • inducing hypothermia or heat injury; conducting mock executions; and
  • depriving the detainee of necessary food, water, or medical care.
  • In addition, the Manual restricts the use of certain other interrogation techniques, but these restrictions may be due to other legal obligations besides those imposed by the McCain Amendment.

Restrictions on Interrogation of Detainees by the CIA

In October 2007, the New York Times reported that in early 2005, the DOJ issued a legal opinion, which remains classified, authorizing the use of certain harsh interrogation techniques by the CIA against terrorist suspects, including head-slapping, simulated drowning (waterboarding), and exposure to frigid temperatures. Later that year, as Congress considered enactment of the DTA, the DOJ reportedly issued another classified opinion declaring that these techniques would not be barred under the DTA, at least when employed against terrorist suspects with crucial information regarding a future terrorist attack. According to the New York Times, the memorandums “remain[ed] in effect, and their legal conclusions have been confirmed by several more recent memorandums” that are not publicly available. These opinions were the subject of controversy, with some Members of Congress disputing their legal conclusions and claiming that they had been unaware of the opinions’ existence at the time the DTA was considered, for it’s part, the Bush Administration claimed that appropriate congressional committees or Members were informed about interrogation techniques that had been approved by the Administration. According to CIA director Michael Hayden, the CIA waterboarded three high- level Al Qaeda suspects but had not used the technique since 2003.Gen. Hayden further stated in congressional testimony in 2008 that waterboarding was not a part of the current CIA interrogation program, and that “it is not certain that the technique would be considered to be lawful under current statute.”

On July 20, 2007, President Bush signed an Executive Order concerning the detention and interrogation of certain alien detainees by the CIA, when those aliens (1) are determined to be members or supporters of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated organizations; and (2) likely possess information that could assist in detecting or deterring a terrorist attack against the United States and its allies, or could provide help in locating senior leadership within Al Qaeda or the Taliban.The Executive Order did not specifically authorize the use of any particular interrogation techniques with respect to detainees, but instead barred any CIA detention and interrogation program from employing certain practices. Specifically, the Order prohibited the use of:

  • torture, as defined under the Federal Torture Statute (18 U.S.C. § 2340);
  • cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, as defined under the DTA and the MCA;
  • any activities subject to criminal penalties under the War Crimes Act (e.g., murder, rape, mutilation);
  • other acts of violence serious enough to be considered comparable to the kind expressly prohibited under the War Crimes Act;
  • willful and outrageous acts of personal abuse done for the purpose of humiliating or degrading the individual in a manner so serious that any reasonable person, considering the circumstances, would deem the acts to be beyond the bounds of human decency, such as sexual or sexually indecent acts undertaken for the purpose of humiliation, forcing the individual to perform sexual acts or to pose sexually, threatening the individual with sexual mutilation, or using the individual as a human shield; or
  • acts intended to denigrate the religion, religious practices, or religious objects of the individual.

Although some types of conduct barred by the Order are easily recognizable (e.g., murder, rape, the performance of sexual acts), it is not readily apparent as to what interrogation techniques fell under the Order’s prohibition against acts deemed to be “cruel, inhuman, and degrading” or “beyond the bounds of human decency.” Certain interrogation techniques that have been the subject of controversy and are expressly prohibited from being used by the military under the most recent version of the Army Field Manual-waterboarding, hooding, sleep deprivation, or forced standing for prolonged periods, for example-were not specifically addressed by the Order. Whether or not such conduct was deemed by Bush Administration officials to be barred under the more general restrictive language of the Order is unclear.

On January 22, 2009, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order rescinding President Bush’s order of July 20, 2007, and instituting new requirements for interrogation by the CIA and other agencies. The new Order generally bars anyone in U.S. custody or control while in an armed conflict from being subjected to any interrogation technique or treatment other than that authorized under the Army Field Manual. The Order does not preclude federal law enforcement agencies from continuing to “use authorized, non-coercive techniques of interrogation that are designed to elicit voluntary statements and do not involve the use of force, threats, or promises.”

The Executive Order also provides that when conducting interrogations, U.S. government officials, employees, and agents may not rely on any interpretation of the law governing interrogations issued by the Department of Justice between September 11, 2001 and January 20, 2009 (i.e., the final day of the Bush Administration), absent further guidance from the Attorney General. It further establishes a Special Interagency Task Force on Interrogation and Transfer Policies, chaired by the Attorney General, which is required to study and evaluate whether the interrogation practices and techniques in [the]Army Field Manual … when employed by departments or agencies outside the military, provide an appropriate means of acquiring the intelligence necessary to protect the Nation, and, if warranted, to recommend any additional or different guidance for other departments or agencies.

HEATHER GRAY produces “Just Peace” on WRFG-Atlanta 89.3 FM covering local, regional, national and international news. She can be reached at:  

Trump’s wall: Time to honor Mexicans rather than alienate them

By Heather Gray
January 28, 2017
Justice Initiative International

Walls? There have been infamous ones to control the people and/or simultaneously to advance elite interests. And Trump wants to build another of these infamous walls? I’ve been to two that I want to mention – the “Great Wall of China” and the “Berlin Wall”. Both had something to do with historical development, politics, economics, benefits for the wealthy elite, both were devastating for the people and plus did not work!

The “Great Wall of China”
The “Great Wall of China”

In 1995, I was fortunate to attend the “United Nations NGO Forum on Women” in Beijing. I stayed in China for a while to see more of the country that, of course, meant a visit to the “Great Wall of China” close to Beijing. What I witnessed was impressive to be sure. I also learned that hundreds of thousands of workers died while building the wall over its long history (estimates of some 300,000 to 1 million workers) and that many of them were buried under the wall. I kept thinking about that fact while walking down the portions of the wall and the huge exploitation.

The “Great Wall of China” has a number of portions that were built by numerous Chinese kingdoms until there was a unification of China that, then, resulted in the various walls being combined into what became known as the “Great Wall.”

The wall construction began in 7th century BC although, as mentioned, these were small portions at first. What was the most famous portion was the wall built in 220-206 BC by the first Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang and then by the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) which is what largely exists today.

The intensification of the wall construction was around the time that China’s agriculture system was expanding exponentially due to the use of cast iron tools and of animals in plowing fields (Wikipedia). The intensification of agriculture and use of fields for this purpose conflicted with the neighboring nomads that existed largely on livestock and who were always seeking new grazing territory. Here’s more information about this development:

The engineer Sunshu Ao of the 6th century BC and Ximen Bao of the 5th century BC are two of the oldest hydraulic engineers from China, and their works were focused upon improving irrigation systems. These developments were widely spread during the ensuing Warring States period (403-221 BC), culminating in the enormous Du Jiang Yan Irrigation System engineered by Li Bing by 256 BC for the State of Qin in ancient Sichuan (Wikipedia).

In summary, for the Confucian Chinese, who considered themselves the cultural center of the universe, trading with these livestock “barbarians” was not an option for them as they considered these so-called barbarians beneath them culturally and economically. (Does this sound familiar regarding Trump, his wall and attitudes toward Mexicans? I think so!.)

In any case, for the Chinese leaders, war was also considered too expensive, so they built a wall.

Regarding the Chinese and agriculture, it is important to note that agriculture is thought to have begun some 10,000 to 12,000 years ago in the fertile crescent in Iraq or, as least, this is where we witness the first sizable storage of grains. There are some who have studied the advent of agriculture, who note that this was the beginning of hierarchical societies and when workers were forced to work in the fields for the benefit of feeding the developing elite and others in the society. Thanks to agriculture itself, the new elite now had resources – such as food – readily available for them. They were not going to lose this resource. Along this line of thought, some have also inferred that the Great Wall of China was built not to keep the potential invaders “out” but to keep the workers “in”. There is likely some relevance to this argument. In other words, the wall assisted in controlling the masses of the Chinese people’s freedom and flexibility.

It is also inferred that a wall is only as strong as the individuals that defend it, so in some ways the wall is but peripheral and in most cases violence toward the other is immoral and unacceptable. In the Chinese scenario, ultimately the so-called “barbarians,” or in this case, the Manchu Qing, ultimately figured out a way around the “wall” in 1644. They then over-turned the existing Ming rulers who were  “the most ardent of the wall-building dynasties” (Wikipedia). This was known as a “peasant” revolt and various versions of it, albeit changed as ultimately these so-called peasants became elite rulers themselves, stayed in power until 1912.

The Berlin Wall

American controlled “Check Point Charlies”

In 1961, the Berlin Wall was created during the Cold War. It prevented both East and West Berliners from visiting each others’ portion of the city. Many had family members in both East and West Berlin. It is said that for many East Berliners the economy was anything by vibrant and they sought other opportunities. The fact is, with the wall, flexibility and opportunities for both East and West Berliners were curtailed. Everyone, it seems, felt constrained. The wall was maintained until 1989.

While hitchhiking through Europe with my Canadian cousin in the early 1960’s, I was fortunate to visit West and East Berlin. Going into East Germany, however, was the one part of Europe where we could not hitchhike. We needed to take a train through East Germany into West Berlin with very cautious train security who constantly checked our ID. The feeling of oppression, suspicion and fear was rather overwhelming during that brief trip. Finally, we reached West Berlin and while there we decided to walk through the American controlled “Check Point Charlie” into East Berlin, where we stayed for much of one afternoon.

As we walked through the Check Point, for the first time, I witnessed border guards with mirrors that swept under the cars. The point being that it appeared everything, both inside and outside of the cars, were aggressively  ‘checked’ before going back and forth from East to West Berlin and vice versa.

It so happened that during this particular day in East Berlin, the Russians were holding a military parade. We witnessed huge tanks and other military apparatus, but we also talked as much as possible with East Berliners, such as small shop owners, whenever we could get beyond our language barriers. The trip was too brief. I would like to have stayed longer and talk with more people.

My lesson from it all is that the separation of people is never productive. Perhaps no one can say this betetr through actual experience than the present Mayor of Berlin, Michael Mueller. Here are his recent comments about walls, while encouraging Trump not to build a wall because it causes pain and suffering.

Berlin mayor to Donald Trump: ‘Don’t build this wall’

January 27, 2017
Michael Mueller says the long-divided city ‘cannot look on without comment when a country plans to build a wall’

The mayor of Germany’s once-divided capital, Berlin, Michael Mueller, offered some advice to Donald Trump
on Friday: “Don’t build this wall!”

The US president, holding true to his campaign promise, this week ordered US officials to begin to design and construct a wall along the 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometre) US-Mexico border.

While the White House has also threatened to tax Mexican imports to cover its cost, Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto cancelled a planned Washington protest.

Berlin’s mayor said his city – which was split by the Berlin Wall during the cold war from 1961-89 – “cannot look on without comment when a country plans to build a new wall”.

“We Berliners know best how much suffering was caused by the division of an entire continent with barbed wire and concrete,” he said in a statement, referring to Europe’s “Iron Curtain” division.

In the early 21st century, he said, “We can’t just accept it if our historical experience is disregarded by those to whom we largely owe our freedom, the Americans.”

Pointing to the continuing division of the Korean peninsula and the island of Cyprus, the Social Democrat urged Trump “not to go down this wrong path of isolation and exclusion”.

Mueller also recalled former US president Ronald Reagan’s famous 1987 challenge to then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall!”, and said in his message to Trump: “Dear Mr President, don’t build this wall!”


Who would benefit from the wall? Certainly not the Mexican and American people. The American elite (the 1%), however, would benefit with monies, as always, going into their pockets from the US taxpayers, for one, to build the blasted thing. Read what Bill Sandbrook, CEO of U.S. Concrete, had to say about this in Fortune Magazine.

Overall, however, the wall will lead to more divisiveness and suspicion between Americans and their neighbors south of the border. This is the last thing we need. The lessons learned from the Great Wall of China and the Berlin Wall are that walls don’t work. They lead to more pain and suffering.We are far stronger if we are generous, reach out and try to negotiate “fair” deals and have the people on both sides of the border working together and learning more about each other. I have found in my research, both in the United States and Australia, that migrants in both these countries helped to advance opportunities economically and socially. In other words, migration is good for the economy altogether. (The article on this is entitled “The Inspiring Face of Immigration.”)

And, as has been speculated, with the Great Wall of China as well as with the Berlin Wall, with this Trump wall is there an attempt here to better control workers on both sides of the Mexican/US border? This could be the case. The NAFTA agreement did not protect worker and union rights but, as per usual with trade agreements, provided huge opportunities for large corporations to exploit workers in both Mexico and the United States through, for one, competition on wages making the workers less secure and vastly increasing CEO wealth in both countries.And the Chinese connection with the Great Wall and agriculture? Similar connections are here as well with NAFTA. Mexican farmers have been devastated after being accosted by huge US subsidized corporate agribusiness that dumped their products on the Mexican market that then destroyed thousands of small farmers in Mexico. It was not fair any way you look at it.

To repeat, as stated at the beginning of this article, walls have something to do with historical development, politics, economics, benefits for the corporate elite, are devastating for the masses of the people, and plus, do not work!

The US should NOT build this wall but instead should honor and work with its neighbors rather than alienate them!!!

The Inspiring Face of Immigration

By Heather Gray

In that much of the discussion in the recent political debates appears to be about immigration I thought I would offer a positive perspective on the issue. I have been witness to it throughout the world and originally wrote this article in 2006, but it is relevant today – there are some universal truths here. The intersection of different cultures can most definitely be inspiring and beneficial for us all.

The United States and Australia, like most western countries, benefit from immigration, but the United States in particular often can’t see beyond its own intolerance to understand this. It does so at its peril.

Immigration in Australia

After World War II Australia began to rapidly increase its immigrant population. It’s growing industries needed laborers. For some reason Australians seem to think they are located somewhere close to the European continent rather than in the Pacific Ocean and within a few miles of the highly populated Asia. So, Australia appealed to European laborers and many were paid for their relocation. Italians, Yugoslavs, Turks, Portuguese, Scots, Greeks and others “officially” made their way into the coal mines, steel mills and other Australian laboring jobs. While I was in Australia in the late 60’s and early 70’s these migrants were transforming Australian culture.

Of course Australia, like other British Commonwealth countries, has a history of excessive racism. Those of us of European descent, regardless of where we might live, are usually arrogantly obsessed with ourselves. The official “white Australia policy” allowed Caucasians “only” to migrate to Australia.

Robert Tierney writes in Class and Class Conflict in Australia (1996) “Ours is a traditionally racist society. The second half of the 19th century witnessed intense conflicts between European workers and non-white immigrants, particularly the Chinese and Kanaka.” Anti-Chinese legislation in Australia started appearing in the 1850s and 1880s. In 1893 New South Wales Premier Dibbs introduced a Bill which extended the provisions of Chinese exclusion to ‘all the colored persons on earth’. In 1901 the first Federal Government of Australia promulgated the Immigration Restriction Act, also known as the White Australia Policy.”

Tierney says that the White Australia Policy was supported by “political parties, the media, the church, the official union movement and the employers, with the exception of those who exploited immigrants as cheap labor in the 1800s”. “Non-whites,” says Tierney, “were commonly regarded as ‘immoral’ and ‘inferior’.” These attitudes are parallel to the United States now and in the past to be sure.

The White Australia Policy remained in place until the early 1970’s when the Labor Party’s Gough Whitlam government introduced a “non-discriminatory” immigration policy. Unlike previous Australian Prime Ministers, Whitlam was not blind to the fact that Australia’s neighbors were, in fact, Asian. As a result, thousands of Southeast Asians and others have since flocked to the Australian shores.

However, from 1901 to the end of World War II, most migrants to Australia were British and Irish, and the next largest groups were Italians and Greeks. After the Second World War and up to the early 1970’s and beyond, vast numbers of southern European immigrants arrived ‘down under.’ Some thought they were coming to “Austria”, only to find themselves half-way around the world in “Australia”.

It’s important to realize that for generations, most Australians had been isolated from on-going exposure to different cultures. Australian men had been in the world wars, but beyond that the worldview of most Australians was severely constricted. Anyone or anything different was viewed with suspicion. Not unlike the southern United States in most of its history, Australia was a “closed society”.

In the late 1960’s and in the 1970’s I lived in Melbourne and Wollongong, Australia. It was a period of intense introspection on the part of Australians. Much of the debate in the media focused on Australian identity. The questions posed were “who are we and what are we as Australians? Are we European? Are we Asian? ” I don’t suppose these questions have ever been adequately resolved.

I do know, however, that with the vast numbers of southern Europeans migrating to Australia, there was a transformation taking place. The “Aussies” were engaging in their usual name-calling and finger pointing at the migrants and complaining at their lack of “assimilation” and “integration” into Australian society, as well as their strange languages and customs. Simultaneously, however, many Australians were climbing out of their shell. These migrants were introducing Australians to a whole new and exciting world.

To describe what was happening at the time is difficult. In some ways it was almost non-tangible, yet expressed daily in practical ways. Melbourne was experiencing an excitement and experimentation with newly discovered Italian and Greek herbs and spices, new sauces, and all kinds of pasta. An interest in an abundance and variety of wines was taking hold. Eating fresh salads was introduced along with a vast array of different vegetables, peppers and fruits. New Italian restaurants in downtown Melbourne were the talk of the town. The Women’s Weekly was filled with recipes introducing herbs and spices never before thought of by Australian women. Anyone not familiar with typical English or Australian cuisine needs to realize that this was an incredible departure from the diet of fish & chips, beer, lamb chops & mint sauce, potatoes, pumpkin and meat pies.

“Wollongong” is an aboriginal term meaning “where land meets water.” Indeed, Wollongong is 50 miles south of Sydney on the Pacific coast with lovely beaches, an abundance of fish, prawns, and hills filled with coal. A city of 250,000 at the time, it was a paradise with vast resources. The Aborigines were nowhere to be seen. As with European invaders to North America, the English trespassers of Australia had blood on their hands. They had savagely killed and marginalized the indigenous Aborigines and forced the remaining ones into desolate areas of Australia.

Wollongong had its university, but the primary employer was Australian Iron & Steel and, of course, the coal mines. The steel mill was filled with migrant laborers. Many of the steel mill migrants worked excessively long hours ­ often two shifts in one day. Accidents at the mill were commonplace. The work was dangerous to put it mildly.

While in Wollongong, I was fortunate to assist in researching the migratory patterns of laboring steel workers for the Australian National University in Canberra – ­ Australia’s capitol city. It was fascinating work. I would go from house to house and spend hours talking with Yugoslavs, Italians, Greeks, Portuguese, Scots and others about their work and families. More than the research itself, I was fortunate to learn about and spend time with these workers and their families. Many migrant communities had their own cultural enclaves and held wedding celebrations and parties with smoked hogs in pits, dance and live music. Many of them, of course, also made their own wonderful sherries and wines.

The migrants were forever altering the Australian landscape and staking their claims on culture, worldview and the importance of family and community.

For scores of these migrants, the long hours worked was to make a living for their families and to send as much money back home as possible to their parents and other family members not in Australia. This was a priority. Like the so-called “illegals” in the United States and other migrants today, family values and assisting family members back home, as well as their own nuclear family, took precedence over virtually anything else. While changing, this is still the responsibility of male children in most societies. I recall how my father in the 1950’s would send money from Atlanta in the U.S. to his mother, my grandmother, in western Canada to help her with rent and general living expenses. Some in Georgia would now penalize or complain about my father and others for doing this.

Immigration in the United States

A similar transformation to what I witnessed in Australia is now taking place in the southern United States and opportunities are opening up across the region. The South and Central Americans, Asian and African communities in the southeast are providing enormous opportunities and markets for tens of thousands. People in the southeast are now eating and cooking in ways they would never dreamed of just 15 years ago.

On the market and production side, both black and white, as well as small to large, farmers in the south had been finding labor a major problem, and our neighbors from across the border have been helping considerably to resolve this. Some U.S. farmers began learning Spanish to help not only to converse with laborers, but to access new markets that are increasingly available. Goat, for example, is eaten by South and Central Americans, Africans and Asians. The meat goat market has expanded exponentially in the Southeast U.S. Farmers in Texas are growing corn to meet the taco and other demands for local Mexican consumer markets. Fresh herbs are being grown by women and male farmers in the region to appeal to all these new and growing additions to the southern palate. Farmers are now growing snow peas, varieties of chili peppers and other new vegetables to access the expanding migrant population. All of these are exciting new and productive markets.

The market opportunities and creativity resulting from this most recent influx of migrants south of the border seems endless.


In spite of all these benefits, Australians or Americans are, unfortunately, far from resolving the problem of “white supremacy” that hampers local market growth. As Greg Burns of “Rights Australia” wrote in December 2005, “Despite the fact that one in four Australians today were born overseas, this is a nation where intolerance and xenophobia often lurks just beneath the surface.” Intolerance and xenophobia are also great hallmarks of the United States and is often expressed openly as we are now witnessing with recent anti-immigrant debates in Congress and throughout the country. The targeted migrants Congress and others are complaining about, after all, are people of color.

We also need to realize that for the most part the concerns and well-being of family are motivational for the majority of workers in the world. It is also likely that all waves of migrants to the U.S. from the English, when they first arrived, to the Africans, the Irish, to the Germans, Mexicans, Italians, Asians, those from the Middle East and others were the same. They did every conceivable thing to help their families here and abroad. All of us in the world benefit from this goodwill. It is an important investment in the future socially, economically and diplomatically.

The selfish disdain expressed toward the present wave of Mexican and other South American migrants and those from the Middle East to the U.S. by politicians and others in the United States is not only immoral, it’s not practical. They also want to use religion as a criteria. Did they forget that among the first Europeans to the Americans shores were those seeking relief from religious intolerance in Europe? Rather than exploring ways of embracing migrants, they want to build walls and pass draconian laws to punish and isolate our migrant communities and thousands of us that work with them. U.S. politicians are shooting themselves in the foot and they might never recover if this continues. Next they might build a wall across the Canadian border, which the some Canadians would likely appreciate. Finally, they will have a way of keeping Americans out of Canada.

HEATHER GRAY is the producer of “Just Peace” on WRFG-Atlanta 89.3 FM covering local, regional, national and international news. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia and can be reached at

Reversing Corporate Feudalism “Conclusion: What’s Next?”

Note: Please consider reading the final chapter, “Conclusion: What’s Next?, inserted below. It is from Denis Marker’s book “The Fifteen Steps Toward Corporate Feudalism“. In it Marker offer some excellent solutions to reversing Corporate Feudalism in America. They are well worth considering in developing a plan to move forward, away from the present Trump debacle and toward democracy and fairness for all. In the chapter he notes:

(Below) are just a few of the ideas that should be considered. The important point is that the top 1 percent figured out a step-by-step plan to convince the middle class to eliminate themselves in thirty years, and now it is time for the 99 percent to develop a step-by-step plan to reverse this disastrous direction and restore America’s middle-class democracy. (Dennis Marker)

Here is biographical information about Marker. As you can understand when reading this, Marker’s experience in Congress, and with the government overall, helped him to witness first hand what was happening to undermine American democracy, and then he wisely wrote about it in his book:

About Dennis

Dennis Marker was twenty one when he embarked on his career in Washington, DC. While there he worked for the US Congress, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), various political campaigns, and Jim Wallis at Sojourners magazine. In addition, he helped launch and directed Washington, DC-based progressive nonprofits, including Witness for Peace and The Pledge of Resistance, where he specialized in national and international media operations. This work took him from every country in Central America to Iraq and many countries in between, where he negotiated with government officials and nongovernmental organizations looking for ways to avoid war and limit civilian causalities. Marker has appeared on numerous network and cable television news and talk shows in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, and throughout Europe. He has also been used as an on- and off-the-record source by many publications, including Newsweek, Time, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post, USA Today, and other major newspapers in the United States and internationally. In addition, he has written, edited, and been the on-air voice for a weekly UPI syndicated political radio commentary.

Here also is a listing of the Fifteen Steps – the book provides detailed information about all of these steps:

The Fifteen Steps Toward Corporate Feudalism


Step One: Controlling the Media
Step Two: Rush Limbaugh and “Foxaganda”
Step Three: Destroying the Unions
Step Four: The Magic of Tax Cuts
Step Five: Teaching People to Hate Their Government
Step Six: Privatizing (“Piratizing”) Government
Step Seven: Deregulating American Business
Step Eight: The Global Free Trade Hoax
Step Nine: Destroying Public Education
Step Ten: Promoting Unnecessary Wars
Step Eleven: Conning the Evangelical Church
Step Twelve: Developing the Policy of Lying
Step Thirteen: Exploiting the Lack of Accountability
Step Fourteen: Corrupting the Courts

                                               Step Fifteen: Bankrupting the United States

Heather Gray
Justice Initiative International


Conclusion: What’s Next?

After reading about the plan for Corporate Feudalism, it is natural wonder: What’s next? But before creating a strategy to move forward, we need to carefully examine where we are. The first thing to realize is that the Corporate Feudalists have won this round. Their efforts over the last thirty years have succeeded. The middle-class democracy that made America great is seemingly in an irreversible decline. The concentric circles of poverty will continue to grow as more and more formerly middle-class people will be unable to maintain their middle-class status. At the same time, the wealth of the top 1 percent will continue to increase at staggering rates of growth.The second thing to understand is that incremental change will not bring back our middle-class democracy. The Corporate Feudalists have rigged the system in their favor to such a degree that the massive changes needed to restore the America middle-class democracy are completely out of reach using normal political channels. We cannot simply reverse the fifteen steps that brought us here and return to where we were. If we had a magic wand and could turn all of our legislators into true public servants like Senator Bernie Sanders or Congressman Dennis Kucinich, we would get the job done. But there are no magic wands, and the closest thing to one is the huge cash advantage Corporate Feudalists use to buy pro-corporate legislators and lobbyists.Even so, we need not abandon the traditional political process. Using traditional political measures we can slow down the realization of Corporate Feudalism. People wanting instead to reverse this trend who were disappointed with President Obama might take into account the fact that during the administration of Georgie W. Bush and the Republican-ruled Congress, the nation moved at breakneck speed toward Corporate Feudalism. During the Obama administration, progress continued but at a much slower pace. Although this is not what people hoped for when they voted for Obama and “change,” it may very well be all that is possible at this country’s current political juncture.

One change that may make a long-term difference is the Occupy movement, which has already altered the debate in the United States. By simply identifying the “99 percent” and the “1 percent,” it opened the eyes of many middle-class Americans to a more accurate view of the wealth and income disparity between different groups of people in this country.

Another impetus for forward momentum will come from learning how the Corporate Feudalists succeeded in implementing their plan and then imitating their strategy and tactics.  True, they have a distinct advantages over middle-class citizens, but then middle-class citizens have a few advantages of their own.

How did the Corporate Feudalists nearly succeed in transforming our country from a middle-class democracy to a corporate feudal republic in thirty years? First, they had a goal to replace they middle-class democracy with Corporate Feudalism. Second, to accomplish this goal they created a plan that was radical, comprehensive, visionary, and not limited in any way by what seemed possible at the time. And third, they were able to convince a large segment of the population that their plan was good for the middle-class and for America.

It’s easy enough to state a new goal. Let’s say our goal is to reverse Corporate Feudalism and the decline of America’s middle-class democracy. Now we need to create a plan to accomplish this goal. Like the Corporate Feudalists’ plan, it must be radical, comprehensive, visionary, and not limited by what seems possible. And it must contain specific steps for exactly how to accomplish it.

Throughout this book you have been asked to imagine what you would do, as a useful exercise to help see how the plan for Corporate Feudalism might look to the people benefiting from it. In addition, this exercise makes clear just how well thought out each part of the plan was toward accomplishing the over-all goal of eliminating America’s middle class. Used well, the exercise can also help stimulate answers to the question: What would you do to reverse the trend toward Corporate Feudalism and restore America’s middle-class democracy?

Even when a goal is easy to identify, the steps necessary to accomplish it may not be. For example, one obvious step toward the goal of reclaiming middle-class democracy would be to change how political elections are financed in  the United States. The “whoever spends the most money wins” system now in place clearly serves the interests of Corporate Feudalists. We might think we could accomplish this step by simply convincing legislators to change the system. But many of our legislators have already been bought and paid for by the Corporate Feudalists and benefit directly from the current system. We might consider appealing to the highest court in the land. But, as discussed earlier, the majority of the current justices of the Supreme Court already side with the Corporate Feudalists.

Consequently, to achieve our goal our task must be to formulate a plan outside the box that is not limited by what we think is possible and clearly lays out the changes we want to see. Efforts are underway to amend the Constitution so it states that corporations are not people and to make public financing of campaigns the law of the land are examples of this approach.

Part of the brilliance of the Corporate Feudalists has been the way they set out to accomplish all of their steps at once to reverse Corporate Feudalism in order to return the 99 percent to a place of power will need to adopt this same strategy. Let’s look at a few possible ideas for moving in this direction.

One idea is to eliminate voting and return to the original Athenian custom of election by lottery. The reason Athenians, the originators of democracy, used a lottery instead of a vote was because they feared elections could be manipulated by very wealthy or powerful families. A look at our current system shows that the Athenians were right: big money wins elections. While this system work great for people and corporations able to spend the amounts of money required to buy elections, it no longer works for ordinary people. If a lottery by congressional district was used for elections, then housewives and plumbers would be as likely to be members of Congress as lawyers and millionaires.

Another idea for reversing the advance of Corporate Feudalism is to put a 90 or 95 percent tax on all lobbying, or even outlaw lobbing altogether. It’s no secret that corporate lobbyists are having a significant negative impact on our democracy. The least we can do is insist they help pay for all their damage.

Yet another idea is for a massive public works program like those of  FDR’s era, including a project to build nationwide water pipelines crisscrossing the country to help alleviate at least some problems related to the effect of global climate change on the economy. Due to global climate change, the weather is much less stable than even a few years ago. We have seen an increase in the number and intensity of floods, droughts, fires, tornadoes, and hurricanes, and scientists say to expect this pattern to continue. Shipping water from overly wet areas to drought-stricken regions could reduce flooding; help end crop loss due to droughts, and give dry communities water for daily needs and to fight fires. A project this massive would also create jobs in every state in the nation for building, managing and maintaining the water highway. It could be required, by law, that all equipment needed to complete this project be manufactured in the United States as well. The millions of jobs necessary to complete a project this large would be a game changer for America’s middle class and would help restart the US economy. What would it take to initiate such a project, and how could we prevent the Corporate Feudalists and their political allies from privatizing it to reap excessive profits from it?

Another easy-to-imagine publicly funded project could be to end all oil and nuclear subsidies and use the money saved to install solar collectors on every residence in the United States. The benefits would include thousands, if not millions, of jobs in this country, a radical reduction of greenhouses gases, elimination of the need for more polluting power plants, and much more localized generation of electric power.

We know giant multinational corporations are destroying our middle-class democracy, so we need to consider how to limit the influence and power of such mega-corporations and their owners. One idea is to limit the lifespan of mega-corporations to twenty-five or fifty years, after which their assets would go to the US Treasury to benefit the US government. A second idea is to limit executive pay to a certain percent more per hour than the average worker at the same company, such as 15 or even 45 percent, instead of the 450 times more per hour currently paid to some CEOs. This restriction would bring pay equity more in line with that of other developed nations. A third idea is to require that all corporations with more than one hundred or even five hundred employees be unionized and that boards of directors be made up of workers and management. In addition, if we reversed global free trade and went back to the trade policies and tariffs in place before the Reagan Revolution we might be able to stop multinational corporations from benefiting at the expense of American Workers. A fourth idea is to eliminate the mega-corporation model completely in the United States. Maybe the opposite of “too big to fail” should be  “too big to exist.”  A more moderate approach would be to return taxes on giant corporations and their millionaire owners to levels that preceded the Reagan Revolution, when the US middle class was thriving. A 75 to 90 percent tax on all income assets and dividends over $1 million per year might be reasonable.

A plan to reverse the trend toward Corporate Feudalism could emerge from the following ideas as well: publicly finance all political campaigns and outlaw all campaign contributions; reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act to re-regulate the banking industry; create an independent board responsible for examining media accuracy and for stopping the media from using the word “news” if they are are found to be consistently wrong or misleading; reinstate the fairness doctrine; begin Medicare single-payer health care for all citizens; provide free public education at all levels; reinstate trade protections to keep jobs in the United States; make all trade agreements reciprocal, ending the practice of letting a country maintain a different policy for imports and exports; stop exporting natural resources and only export finished products; abolish any law that gives corporations the rights of  individuals without the responsibilities; punish political and economic criminals like the people whose lies got us into the wars in Iraq and created the housing crash; institute a mandatory national service requirement for all citizens; add an annual surtax to all estates worth more than $5 million; return to pre-Reagan tax rates; tax capital gains at the highest level; change the 1872 mining law to recover fair return for government resources; and tax all transactions in the financial markets.

These are just a few of the ideas that should be considered. The important point is that the top 1 percent figured out a step-by-step plan to convince the middle class to eliminate themselves in thirty years, and now it is time for the 99 percent to develop a step-by-step plan to reverse this disastrous direction and restore America’s middle-class democracy.

Reviewing the advantages and disadvantages of the Corporate Feudalists’ strategy can help the 99 percent more clearly envision its own advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage the Corporate Feudalists have is their access to unlimited money. This has allowed them to create their own national television network and hundreds of smaller media outlets, as well as influence politicians at every level of our political system. One disadvantage the Corporate Feudalists have the need to convince people that black is white and up is down, in order to hide the true goal of their plan from the middle class. This is why they need to create movements like the Tea Party to keep middle-class people from discovering the true causes of the decline of the middle class.

By contrast, the two most obvious advantages of people wanting to reverse the trend toward Corporate Feudalism and restore America’s middle-class democracy are numbers and openness. The nature of Corporate Feudalism requires that a very small number of very powerful people and corporations control all the wealth and power, meaning that potentially 95 to 99 percent of the population, upon becoming more aware of what the Corporate Feudalists have done to America, could be mobilized to oppose them. The second advantage is that once the people who want to reverse the trend toward Corporate Feudalism have a plan, they don’t have to hide it or pretend it is doing the opposite of what it’s supposed to do. An obvious disadvantage for this same group is that they lack unlimited money and therefore cannot buy their own television network, major media outlets, or enough politicians to restore the middle class through legislative means.

We don’t know which people or organizations created the plan for Corporate Feudalism in the first place. However, we do know what their plan has accomplished. We are aware of the legislators who have been behind it. And we can identify and benefit from it. The challenge for those of us who are not part of  the top 1 percent is to create a radical, comprehensive, and visionary plan to reverse the trend toward toward Corporate Feudalism and restore the middle-class democracy that made this country great.

What will you do?

The Road to Corporate Feudalism

Note: In 2012, I was contacted by a publicist in California encouraging me to interview Dennis Marker who had just come out with the book “Fifteen Steps to Corporate Feudalism: How the Rich Convinced America’s Middle Class to Eliminate Themselves.” I was fortunate to interview him.

Little did I know, at first, that what Marker writes incorporates much of what I had also been exploring for a number of years in trying to better understand what has been happening in America economically and socially in the 20th and now the 21rst century. Marker brings it all together with much appreciated clarity. Noted here, however, is one of my articles in 2005 about this as I began to piece together what has happened during and since the Reagan administration, that Marker also notes is the beginning of the end of the American middle class: Privatizing the Social Contract. I am sure this will also resonate with many of you as well.

While below I will be sharing an excellent 2012 article by Sharon Kyle of LA Progressive about Marker’s book, I do want to also give a brief comment below about Marker’s relevant narrative. Also, importantly, Kyle writes toward the end of her article that what we are now experiencing was a “planned attack”. She states:

As we look at our country and wonder how we could have gotten into such a sad state, laden with economic injustice and inequality – ironically, it’s good to know we didn’t get here by accident. We are involved in a planned attack. Understanding the plan, or at the very least – understanding that we are being attacked puts us in a better position to do battle.

What is particularly intriguing is that I gather most of us assume there has always been a middle class of sorts but we are mistaken in that assumption. America’s European economic background has been one of feudalism with the controlling lords and their workers and/or serfs. What made the difference was the industrial revolution and ultimately unions to strengthen worker rights and protect the middle class. Much of this model has  dissipated as global capitalism has expanded exponentially.

In the model of lords and serfs, what the wealthy capitalists have wanted is but 2 classes in the “Corporate Feudalism” model – the wealthy and the rest of us. Think for a moment about NAFTA and it’s negotiations. There were no protections for workers and unions in Canada, United States or Mexico with the so-called “free trade” agreement. Instead, we have witnessed a vast increase in income inequality, no collective bargaining rights to speak of and certainly no encouragement of union expansion: American workers losing jobs? Absolutely! Mexican workers exploited by American corporations? Absolutely!

What Marker notes is that all of this effort to destroy the middle class was deliberate and if we don’t understand this it’s hard for us to fight back and to make sure there are opportunities available for all workers regardless of so-called class status. Trump is only a small part of this picture – all this development of corporate feudalism in America has been going on for quite a while. Please read the article below and listen to the interview by Thom Hartmann with Dennis Marker and then organize-organize-organize!!!!

Heather Gray

Justice Initiative International

The Road to Corporate Feudalism
Thom Hartmann interview with Dennis Marker

I was introduced to Dennis Marker by a mutual acquaintance who encouraged me to read Marker’s recently published book, “Fifteen Steps to Corporate Feudalism – How the Rich Convinced America’s Middle Class to Eliminate Themselves“.

Although the title sums up the premise of the book, I was surprised that the author set out to make the case that “the rich” have consciously and intentionally taken up the mantle to destroy the middle class. The notion seemed like an easily dismissable conspiracy theory – one I’d heard before. Had the recommendation to read the book not come from someone whose opinion I respect, I wouldn’t have taken the time.

As I tried to get through the first couple of chapters, my inner thoughts kept whispering, “conspiracy theory”. The main premise – that the rich have specifically targeted the middle class for economic annihilation – was just not believable to me.

To be clear, I’ve been aware for quite some time that our economic policies favor the rich and that corporate interests generally win out over the public interest in this country. But, like most, I assumed the shrinking of the middle class was a by-product of greed on the part of powerful interests and a lack of a coordinated counter-effort on the part of those affected – the 99%.

I figured that it was in the best interest of everyone, including the top 1%, to have a healthy middle class. Somehow I just expected there would be a course correction of sorts and perhaps the Occupy movement was going to be the engine that drove that correction. The notion that the rich had implemented a diabolical strategy to erase the economic power of the rest of us just didn’t compute.

I needed to contact the author, if I was going to get through the book at all.

I called Dennis Marker not knowing what to expect. To my delight, he is an affable guy who has spent the last few years of his life raising his now teenage son. But before that, Marker was an “insider” in the Beltway. He spent years in D.C. establishing a successful career. He worked for U.S. Congressman Stan Lundine, served as in-house consultant to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Doug Costle, and was special assistant to Jim Wallis of Sojourners Magazine among others.

Marker told me that the years he spent in Washington helped to clarify his vision. Initially, early in his career, before the damage to the middle class had taken such an exacting toll, Marker was content working in the Beltway – earning a decent living. But he says that the policies that began to surface during the Reagan Administration gave him pause. Expecting these policies to fail, Marker thought he’d see a reversal over time but, he said, “the bad policies were never reversed, in fact, over the past 30 years, beginning with the Reagan administration, the middle class has been fighting a losing battle.”

Emphasizing that these policies were specifically designed to hurt the middle class, Marker first reminded me and the reader that the American middle class is a relatively new phenomenon, prior to the Industrial Revolution, an employee-based middle class didn’t exist. Speaking from an historical perspective, Marker points out that people working for someone else have typically been bound in some type of economic servitude where the worker has had little to no value.

Then, the labor movement that came about as a result of the Industrial Revolution helped to establish value in labor and a healthy middle class was born. But, says Marker, the rich never wanted the establishment of a middle class – they fought against policies that supported it every step of the way. As he spoke I could see where he was going and I was reminded of the Frederick Douglass quote, “Power concedes nothing without a demand”. Marker was beginning to open my eyes.

As I listened, I too started to get some clarity on this issue but I continued to hold to the notion that, like the rest of us, the rich have benefited from having a strong middle class, in spite of their opposition to the policies that created it – why would they want to get rid of it? I asked Dennis what would motivate the top 1% to get rid of the middle class when it is clear that they need it – who’s going to buy the goods that are manufactured?”, I asked.

Conceding that my point was a good one, Marker went on to explain that 30 years ago the question of who would buy the goods protected the middle class but today, he said, technological advances in communications, transportation, automation and the like have changed the mutual dependencies that once existed between the American middle class and the super rich. They just don’t need America’s middle class the way did in an earlier era. Those days are gone.

According to Marker, in the rich’s grand scheme of things, the American middle class has become an unessential element. They’ve outlived their purpose because they’ve been replaced by a world market.

Marker set out to make a point I initially found difficult to swallow, but as our conversation continued, he began to give me an overview of fifteen policies that set the stage for the demise of the middle class. This helped me to see the importance of his book. We talked a bit longer but I wanted to end the conversation because I was now ready to read the book – this time giving it my full undivided attention and so should you.

He explains that the failure of the US middle class is the direct and intentional outcome of fifteen separate policies first advocated during the Reagan administration and implemented over thirty years. He discusses how and why this is happening, which gives the reader the information needed to counter this attack.

Florida Congressional candidate, Alan Grayson asks, “Can’t find a decent job: Can’t afford to see a doctor when you’re sick? In danger of losing your home? Can’t save for retirement? Have no idea how to pay for your children’s college? The right wing says it’s all your fault, but it’s not, and this book explains why.”

As we look at our country and wonder how we could have gotten into such a sad state, laden with economic injustice and inequality – ironically, it’s good to know we didn’t get here by accident. We are involved in a planned attack. Understanding the plan, or at the very least – understanding that we are being attacked puts us in a better position to do battle.

I strongly encourage everyone reading this article to click this link to learn more about 15 Steps to Corporate Feudalism

Atlanta Women’s March – January 21, 2017: Video and Interviews


 by Heather Gray

January 22, 2017
Photos and videos of the Atlanta Women’s March,
January 21, 2017-  including interviews (by Heather Gray)
On January 21, an estimated 60,000+ women in Atlanta and throughout the region marched through the streets of Atlanta to protest the Trump presidency, honor Atlanta’s 5th District Congressman John Lewis,  demand their rights as women under the constitution, call for peace and respect of migrants, etc, etc. Below see a list of some of the compelling poster messages. Atlanta joined the rest of the country in participating in what is considered to be, as noted in the Politicus USA, the largest US protest in a single day in US history (see article below). On this day women’s marches also took place in other parts of the world – Europe, Australia, Africa:

….similar marches were happening around the world–a demonstration of what participants said was global solidarity.

Cities where protests were held included Sydney, Australia; Cape Town, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Budapest, Hungary; Rome; and London, bringing tens of thousands into the streets to stand up for  women’s rights and civil liberties, which many fear are now under threat with Trump in the White House (LA Times).

On January 21, an estimated 60,000+ women in Atlanta and throughout the region marched through the streets of Atlanta to protest the Trump presidency, honor Atlanta’s 5th District Congressman John Lewis,  demand their rights as women under the constitution, call for peace and respect of migrants, etc, etc. Below see a list of some of the compelling poster messages. Atlanta joined the rest of the country in participating in what is considered to be, as noted in the Politicus USA, the largest US protest in a single day in US history (see article below). On this day women’s marches also took place in other parts of the world – Europe, Australia, Africa:

….similar marches were happening around the world–a demonstration of what participants said was global solidarity.

Cities where protests were held included Sydney, Australia; Cape Town, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Budapest, Hungary; Rome; and London, bringing tens of thousands into the streets to stand up for  women’s rights and civil liberties, which many fear are now under threat with Trump in the White House (LA Times).
Women’s March Is The Biggest Protest In US History

On January 21, an estimated 60,000+ women in Atlanta and throughout the region marched through the streets of Atlanta to protest the Trump presidency, honor Atlanta’s 5th District Congressman John Lewis,  demand their rights as women under the constitution, call for peace and respect of migrants, etc, etc. Below see a list of some of the compelling poster messages. Atlanta joined the rest of the country in participating in what is considered to be, as noted in the Politicus USA, the largest US protest in a single day in US history (see article below). On this day women’s marches also took place in other parts of the world – Europe, Australia, Africa:

As An Estimated 2.9 Million March
By Jason Easley on Sat, Jan 21st, 2017 at 6:28 pm

Politicus USA


Millions of Americans have taken to the streets from New York to Los Angeles and everywhere in between as the Women’s Marches on Washington is estimated to be the biggest one-day protest in US history.

Millions of Americans have taken to the streets from New York to Los Angeles and everywhere in between as the Women’s Marches on Washington is estimated to be the biggest one-day protest in US history.

UConn professor Jeremy Pressman is keeping a running total of crowd estimates across the United States in a Google document.

An estimated 60,000 people marched in Atlanta. 250,000 are marching in Chicago. There are estimates of 250,000 people in Boston, and 200,000 more in Denver. In New York, the estimate ranges from 200,000-500,000. City officials estimate that 500,000 people participated in the main march in Washington, DC. In Los Angeles, the estimate is anywhere from 200,000-750,000.

There were also protests of 60,000 in Oakland, CA, 50,000 in Philadelphia, 100,000 in Madison, WI, 20,000 in Pittsburgh, 20,000 in Nashville, TN, and 60,000 in St. Paul, MN.

In the history of the United States, there has never been a one-day protest that was this large.

1982’s anti-nuclear march in New York City drew an estimated crowd of 1 million. The 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington drew 250,000. 1969 anti-Vietnam war march in Washington was attended by an estimated 500,000-600,000. 1995’s Million Man March was attended by 400,000-1.1 million. In 1993, the LGBT March for equal rights had a crowd of 800,00-1 million.

There has never been anything in US history like the Women’s March. It is nationwide, and proof that the American people are not going accept the agenda of the Trump administration without a serious fight.


Some of the Poster Messages in the Atlanta March

Disclose taxes

Equal rights for all AmericansLove trumps hate

Women’s rights are American rights

Nasty Women

Wage Peace

Trump is a Symptom

Capitalism is the disease

Revolution is the cure

The Future is Female

Women’s Rights are Human Rights

Thank You Hillary

The American dream is big enough for us all

John Lewis

Our Congressman

Our Hero

God is love not hate

CNN is not our enemy

God is famous
(more than Trump)

and he loves everyone

Why I March

– Love is Love
– Sexual Assault is Inexcusable
– Climate Change is Real
– Immigrants Make American Great

– Piss off Tomi Lahren


Stop the Hate

Women are People too!

Women speak truth to power

Back Lives Matter

Terrible role model


Reclaim your divine energy

Men 4 Women

Real Men don’t

Brag about Rape
in the

Locker Room

This Pussy Grabs Back

Who needs spies

Russia Has Trump

I march to:

Protect my planet
Protect the education system

Fight for the Rights of Women, Minorities and LGBT

I March for ALL People

We Can Do It!

Women’s Rights are Human Rights

Our Bodies

Our Minds

Our Power

Love Trumps Hate

Men of Quality Don’t

Fear Equality

Our Rights are not up for Grabs….
Neither are We!

Tweet This:

Donald T
American Horror Story –
NarcissistDump TrumpI am not an “Enemy”
I am a “Citizen”Love Heals

Give me your Tired

Give me you poor
Huddled Masses
Yearning to Breathe Free

(From the Statue of Liberty in New York)

(Image of hanger)
Never Again!

Not my President

Love is the Future

Not Your Pussy

Not Your Problems

The American Dream is

Big Enough for All of Us

Legalize Empathy

Girls Matter

Build Kindness

Now Walls


Join hands to
Seek racial justice
Welcome immigrants
Support Women’s Rights
Embrace Mothers
Help each other

Love yourself

My Mom Fought for my Rights

We make America Great

Survivors of Rape

Unite 2 resist
President P- Grabber

and Rape Culture

Women Lead
to the next


Make Racists Scared Again!

Our lives begin to end

The day we become silent

About things that matter!

Power to the 99%

Misconceptions About King’s Methods for Change

by Heather Gray
January 16, 2017
Justice Initiative International

Preface: I first wrote this article in 2005 and it was posted on Counterpunch. I am sending it out again given the challenges we will all likely face with the Trump administration and the need for us all to have clarity on what needs changing in the United States and what is needed to create and maintain a just society for all. It is little known that marching during the civil rights movement in the 1960s was initiated after there was clarity about the demands for change. As is referred to in this article below, not having clarity about your demands can be a matter of life and death when challenging a powerful state.

An unknown Beijing citizen who would come to be known as “Tank Man” stands in front of tanks on the Avenue of Eternal Peace on June 5, 1989, as military clashed with protesters in Tiananmen Square. (Photo: Stringer/Reuters/Newscom)

As the 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday is celebrated, the popular “I Have a Dream” speech delivered by him in 1963 in Washington DC will be featured as if it was one of his primary messages. Yet, King was about far more than dreaming. His mission was about “action” coupled with concrete and definitive change.

Unfortunately, many of his methods for social and economic change have been distorted since his death in 1968. And, as organizing for social change is often a matter of life and death, everyone concerned about injustice should take another look at King’s nonviolent methods. Nonviolent social change requires long, hard and sustained work, research, development of solutions, and, importantly, on-going commitment. It demands far more than bringing folks together to march and wave banners.

It appears that King’s involvement in massive demonstrations is invariably touted as his ultimate method for change, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Unfortunately, many activists throughout the world seem to be of the opinion that if you are concerned about an issue you should organize huge “feel good” rallies, which is hoped will almost magically result in changes.

The considerable risks in social change work can be demonstrated in the 1989 Chinese democracy movement. Like many throughout the world, the Chinese students wanted to demonstrate their dislike of the Chinese system through organizing a mass mobilization. And, like many, it was as if they seemingly had the mistaken notion that the mass gathering was an end in itself.

In June 1989, while in the Philippines, I talked with Filipinos activists who had been in constant communication with the young Chinese “democracy” leaders in Beijing who helped plan and implement the 1989 Tiananmen Square hunger strike. It was a mobilization that ended in tragedy. There was a lack of political consensus and unity in the impromptu coalition between students and workers and because of this, confusion prevailed in their negotiations with the Chinese government. It was just a matter of time before the brutality of the Chinese state would violently demonstrate its impatience.

On June 4, 1989, at the behest of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, troops descended upon the students and workers encamped in the square and against the solidarity movement throughout the country. In what is now known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, estimates of some 4,000 Chinese were killed and 20,000 wounded.

What concerned my Filipino friends was the lack of unity, organizational infrastructure, and clarity in the demands of the students and workers to the Chinese government, which, they said, likely helped contribute to the violent response from the Chinese government. They were by no means apologists for the Chinese violent behavior but rather stressed the need for clarity and unity in any demands for social change when challenging a powerful state.

Mass mobilization or direct action, in fact, is only one part of the non-violent methods for social change. There are other misconceptions I would like to mention but first here’s a description of the steps King and other used in their social change work.

Based on the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, the Kingian method for nonviolent social change is a systematic one. Here is a brief summary: (1) once the problem is identified it is essential to research the issue (i.e. define the problem, who are the key players, who or what is being affected) – the research and analysis should be above reproach as disputed or incorrect facts and figures can completely undermine the efforts for the evolving campaign; (2) based on the research, state clearly what needs to change to solve the problem and identify the strategy for solving the problem; (3) recruit others to join the struggle, share your findings and strategies, get their input if necessary, but essentially seek a commitment from them (i.e. this is the problem, this is what we intend to do, are you with us?) (4) teach them in nonviolent tactics (i.e. being non-confrontational during direct action); (5) attempt to resolve the problem through negotiations (i.e. negotiations with whoever controls the policies needing to be changed); (6) if that doesn’t work, apply pressure through direct action techniques, which at times need to be sustained for a lengthy period (i.e. boycotts, mass demonstrations); (7) negotiate again, if necessary engage in direct action again – often more research is required or more clarity on the solutions needs to be developed; (8) finally, if the problem is solved, seek reconciliation.

The first issue that gets lost is that King sought “reconciliation” with his adversaries and an improvement of life for everyone. This is the end goal and if victory is all that’s wanted then that’s not Kingian nonviolence. Reconciliation is also probably the most difficult aspect of the Kingian philosophy for activists to embrace. In his book “Stride Toward Freedom” King said that the nonviolent methods are “not an end in themselves; they are merely means to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent. The end is redemption and reconciliation. The aftermath of nonviolence is the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.”

There is almost always a misunderstanding of how to define the adversaries in nonviolent social change. Dr. King said it is not a “battle” against individuals who commit evil acts but against the evil itself. Regarding the Montgomery struggles, he said, “The tension isbetween justice and injustice. and not white persons who may be unjust.” King said further that “the nonviolent resister would contend that in the struggle for human dignity, the oppressed people of the world must not succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter or engaging in hate campaigns. To retaliate in-kind would do nothing but intensify the existence of hate in the universe. Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate.”

Another misconception is that complaints can be made without concrete demands for change. Those who seek change should always develop the solutions because you don’t want to leave that in the hands of your so-called “adversary” – otherwise you’ve wasted your time. King also called for a fair hearing from the adversaries and to listen to them, as there might be some wisdom to gain from that experience. However, if you don’t like what politicians or others do, you certainly don’t want them to be the chief architects in resolving problems. So don’t just engage in a “feel good” march in front of the White House, Congress, State House or the WTO and assume that you have completed your mission, made your statement. If you haven’t developed your solutions to the problems you’re addressing, you’ve only done a quarter or less of what is necessary.

It is often thought that nonviolence and pacifism are the same. Not so! It is probably true that most advocates of nonviolence are also pacifists. Nevertheless, nonviolence is a “method for change”. Pacifism is “being against war”. Within this misconception is the assumption that nonviolence is cowardly, a “turn the other cheek” method, which is not true. As a method for change, nonviolence is confrontational. King said, “it must be emphasized that nonviolent resistance is not a method for cowards; it does resist. If one uses this method because he is afraid or merely because he lacks instruments of violence, he is not truly nonviolent. This is why Gandhi often said that if cowardice is the only alternative to violence, it is better to fight.”

King said that every nonviolent campaign should be anchored in a boycott and, importantly, voter education and voter registration. While everyone could do more on this, voter education and registration are often included in various movements. Rarely these days, however, do U.S. activists choose to challenge the bulwark and muscle of corporate America, even in spite of the unfettered capitalist abuse in which we live. King wisely recognized that going against corporate America was one of the most vital ways to change behavior. Referring to the Birmingham movement, King said, “it was not the marching alone that brought about integration of public facilities in 1963. The downtown business establishments suffered for weeks under our unbelievably effective boycott.”

King once said that the “Arc of the moral universe is long and it bends toward justice.” I would venture to say that the progressive community throughout the world needs to place consistent and considerable pressure on that arc.

HEATHER GRAY produces “Just Peace” on WRFG-Atlanta 89.3 FM covering local, regional, national and international news. In the early 1980s, she conducted research in non-violence at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta and, from 1985-86, she directed the nonviolent program at the King Center for Coretta Scott King.

                          Heather lives in Atlanta and can be reached at

Honoring Martin King, John Lewis and Remembering 1965


Note: I need to start by saying that John Lewis (D-GA) is an iconic yet humble warrior for freedom, my friend, and the Congressman of our 5th Congressional District here in Atlanta, Georgia.  Lewis is unique in United States history for his exemplary role in demanding freedom as well as standing and acting forthrightly for justice. He doesn’t sit around and talk when he’s concerned. He takes action!!

The 2017 King Holiday marks the 31rst year of the event. When it was first celebrated, on January 20, 1986, I was directing the Non-Violent Social Change Program for Mrs. King at the “King Center for Non-Violent Social Change” in Atlanta.

Heather Gray & John Lewis, Selma 1985

I had attended meetings in the mid-1980s that Mrs. King held at the Center with Water Fauntroy  (District of Columbia House of Representative member),   John Lewis and others as they reported and strategized on what was happening in Congress regarding the establishment of the King Holiday.

John Lewis in the 1980s served on the Atlanta City Council.  Later, in 1986, Lewis ran successfully for the House of Representatives to represent Georgia’s 5th Congressional District. He has been re-elected 14 times and only once going under 70% of the vote which was 69% over Dale Dixon in 1994 (Wikipedia).

While on the Atlanta City Council, however, John Lewis was a consistent visitor at the King Center to attend meetings with Mrs. King and also to help me with the teaching of the Non-Violent program. He helped educate the youth about the civil rights movement and to also visit some of the critical sites, such as Selma and Montgomery, Alabama.

The March 7, 1965 Selma, Alabama action to demand voting rights was where Lewis almost lost his life. He was beaten unconscious by the Alabama State Patrol. This occurred as John and others began to walk across Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge to the renowned Alabama Highway 80 on their trek to Montgomery and the headquarters of Alabama’s Governor George Wallace. It was to demand their constitutional rights and the registration of Black voters in Alabama. Here’s an apt description of it all:

Lewis became nationally known during his prominent role in the Selma to Montgomery marches when, on March 7, 1965 – a day that would become known as “Bloody Sunday” – Lewis and fellow activist Hosea Williams led over 600 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. At the end of the bridge, they were met by Alabama State Troopers who ordered them to disperse. When the marchers stopped to pray, the police discharged tear gas and mounted troopers charged the demonstrators, beating them with night sticks. Lewis’s skull was fractured, but he escaped across the bridge to Brown Chapel, the movement’s headquarter church in Selma. Before Lewis could be taken to the hospital, he appeared before the television cameras calling on President Johnson to intervene in Alabama. Lewis bears scars from the incident on his head that are still visible today (Wikipedia).

John told me, as we stood at the top of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1985, that all he could observe on the other side of the bridge, when he and others began the march in 1965, was a “sea of blue” – the  uniforms of the Alabama State Patrol.

In response to this disastrous violence in Selma, on March 21, 1965 Dr. Martin Luther King, .Jr. led what swelled to some 25,000 marchers in a federally protected “Selma-to-Montgomery March”. This then soon generated the passage of the “Voting Rights Act” on August 6, 1965 (Stanford).

At the end of the March 21 “federally protected march” in 1965, however, Alabama resumed it’s violent, discriminatory reputation:

Afterward a delegation of march leaders attempted to deliver a petition to Governor Wallace, but were rebuffed. That night, while ferrying Selma demonstrators back home from Montgomery, Viola Liuzzo, a housewife from Michigan who had come to Alabama to volunteer, was shot and killed by four members of the Ku Klux Klan. Doar later prosecuted three Klansmen conspiring to violate her civil rights (Stanford).

Years later, in the late 1990s, I drove the Reverend Joseph Lowery  (who was head of SCLC at the time) down Highway 80 for a meeting in Selma. Dr. King had asked him to lead the Selma-to-Montgomery March in 1965.  As we drove on the legendary highway, Lowery stated, profoundly, “this is hallowed ground!” Indeed!

Later in 1965, on December 10, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave one of his renowned speeches at the Human Rights Day at Hunter College in New York City. In it he compares the civil rights struggles in the United States and the fight for freedom in South Africa. Much of what he stated is still, unfortunately, relevant today given especially the present political situation in the United States. As King asks below,  who are the brutes and savages in Africa?  They are not black, he says, but white Europeans. Further, he notes, “To assert white supremacy, to invoke white economic and military power, to maintain the status quo is to foster the danger of international race war.” King also honors whites who join in the struggle for justice, of which he says there are many. As he wisely states at the end:

Negro and white have been separated for centuries by evil men and evil myths. But they have found each other. The powerful unity of Negro with Negro and white with Negro is stronger than the most potent and entrenched racism. The whole human race will benefit when it ends the abomination that has diminished the stature of man for too long. This is the task to which we are called by the suffering in South Africa, and our response should be swift and unstinting. Out of this struggle will come the glorious reality of the family of man.


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Hunter College, New York City

Human Rights Day, December 10th, 1965

Africa has been depicted for more than a century as the home of black cannibals and ignorant primitives. Despite volumes of facts controverting this picture, the stereotype persists in books, motion pictures, and other media of communication.

Africa does have spectacular savages and brutes today, but they are not black. They are the sophisticated white rulers of South Africa who profess to be cultured, religious and civilized, but whose conduct and philosophy stamp them unmistakably as modern-day barbarians.

We are in an era in which the issue of human rights is the central question confronting all nations. In this complex struggle an obvious but little appreciated fact has gained attention-the large majority of the human race is non-white-yet it is that large majority which lives in hideous poverty. While millions enjoy an unexampled opulence in developed nations, ten thousand people die of hunger each and every day of the year in the undeveloped world. To assert white supremacy, to invoke white economic and military power, to maintain the status quo is to foster the danger of international race war . . . What does the South African Government contribute to this tense situation? These are the incendiary words of the South African philosophy spoken by its Prime Minister, Dr. Verwoerd:

“We want to keep South Africa white. Keeping it white can only mean one thing, namely, white domination, not ‘leadership’, not ‘guidance’, but control, supremacy.”

The South African Government to make the white supreme has had to reach into the past and revive the nightmarish ideology and practices of nazism. We are witnessing a recrudescence of the barbarism which murdered more humans than any war in history. In South Africa today, all opposition to white supremacy is condemned as communism, and in its name, due process is destroyed; a medieval segregation is organized with twentieth century efficiency and drive; a sophisticated form of slavery is imposed by a minority upon a majority which is kept in grinding poverty; the dignity of human personality is defiled; and world opinion is arrogantly defied.

Once more, we read of tortures in jails with electric devices, suicides among prisoners, forced confessions, while in the outside community ruthless persecution of editors, religious leaders, and political opponents suppress free speech -and a free press.

South Africa says to the world: “We have become a powerful industrial economy; we are too strong to be defeated by paper resolutions of world tribunals; we are immune to protest and to economic reprisals. We are invulnerable to opposition from within or without; if our evil offends you, you will have to learn to live with it.”

Increasingly, in recent months this conclusion has been echoed by sober commentators of other countries who disapprove, but, nevertheless, assert that there can be no remedy against this formidable adversary of human rights.

Do we, too, acknowledge defeat? Have we tried everything and failed? In examining this question as Americans, we are immediately struck by the fact that the United States moved with strikingly different energy when it reached a dubious conclusion that our interests were threatened in the Dominican Republic. We inundated that small nation with overwhelming force, shocking the world with our zealousness and naked power. With respect to South Africa, however, our protest is so muted and peripheral it merely mildly disturbs the sensibilities of the segregationists, while our trade and investments substantially stimulate their economy to greater heights.

We pat them on the wrist in permitting racially mixed receptions in our Embassy and by exhibiting films depicting Negro artists. But we give them massive support through American investments in motor and rubber industries, by extending some forty million dollars in loans through our most distinguished banking and financial institutions, by purchasing gold and other minerals mined by black slave labor, by giving them a sugar quota, by maintaining three tracking stations there, and by providing them with the prestige of a nuclear reactor built with our technical co-operation and fueled with refined uranium supplied by us.

When it is realized that Great Britain, France and other democratic Powers also prop up the economy of South Africa-and when to all of this is added the fact that the USSR has indicated its willingness to participate in a boycott-it is proper to wonder how South Africa can so confidently defy the civilized world. The conclusion is inescapable that it is less sure of its own power, but more sure that the great nations will not sacrifice trade and profit to oppose them effectively. The shame of our nation is that it is objectively an ally of this monstrous Government in its grim war with its own black people.

Our default is all the more grievous because one of the blackest pages of our history was our participation in the infamous African slave trade of the 18 th century. The rape of Africa was conducted substantially for our benefit to facilitate the growth of our nation and to enhance its commerce. There are few parallels in human history of the period in which Africans were seized and branded like animals, packed into ships holds like cargo and transported into chattel slavery. Millions suffered agonizing death in the middle passage in a holocaust reminiscent of the Nazi slaughter of Jews and Poles, and others. We have an obligation of atonement that is not cancelled by the passage of time. Indeed, the slave trade in one sense was more understandable than our contemporary policy. There was less sense of humanity in the world three hundred years ago. The slave trade was widely approved by the major Powers of the world. The economies of England, Spain, and the U.S. rested heavily on the profits derived from it. Today, in our opulent society, our reliance on trade with South Africa is infinitesimal significance. No real national interest impels us to be cautious, gentle, or a good customer of a nation that offends the world’s conscience.

Have we the power to be more than peevish with South Africa, but yet refrain from acts of war? To list the extensive economic relations of the great Powers with South Africa is to suggest a potent non-violent path. The international potential of non-violence has never been employed. Non-violence has been practised within national borders in India, the U.S. and in regions of Africa with spectacular success. The time has come to utilize non-violence fully through a massive international boycott which would involve the USSR, Great Britain, France, the United States, Germany and Japan. Millions of people can personally give expression to their abhorrence of the world’s worst racism through such a far-flung boycott. No nation professing a concern for man’s dignity could avoid assuming its obligations if people of all States and races were to adopt a firm stand. Nor need we confine an international boycott to South Africa. The time has come for an international alliance of peoples of all nations against racism.

For the American Negro there is a special relationship with Africa. It is the land of his origin. It was despoiled by invaders; its culture was arrested and concealed to justify white supremacy. The American Negro’s ancestors were not only driven into slavery, but their links with their past were severed so that their servitude might be psychological as well as physical. In this period when the American Negro is giving moral leadership and inspiration to his own nation, he must find the resources to aid his suffering brothers in his ancestral homeland. Nor is this aid a one-way street. The civil rights movement in the United States has derived immense inspiration from the successful struggles of those Africans who have attained freedom in their own nation’s. The fact that black men govern States, are building democratic institutions, sit in world tribunals, and participate in global decision-making gives every Negro a needed sense of dignity.

In this effort, the American Negro will not be alone. As this meeting testifies, there are many white people who know that liberty is indivisible. Even more inspiring is the fact that in South Africa itself incredibly brave white people are risking their careers, their homes and their lives in the cause of human justice. Nor is this a plea to Negroes to fight on two fronts. The struggle for freedom forms one long front crossing oceans and mountains. The brotherhood of man is not confined within a narrow, limited circle of select people. It is felt everywhere in the world; it is an international sentiment of surpassing strength. Because this is true, when men of good will finally unite, they will be invincible.

Through recent anthropological discoveries, science has substantially established that the cradle of humanity is Africa. The earliest creatures who passed the divide between animal and man seem to have first emerged in East and South Africa. Professor Raymond Dart described this historical epoch as the moment when man “trembled on the brink of humanity”. A million years later in the same place some men of South Africa are again “trembling on the brink of humanity”; but instead of advancing from pre-human to human, they are reversing the process and are traveling backward in time from human to pre-human.

Civilization has come a long way; it still has far to go, and it cannot afford to be set back by resolute, wicked men. Negroes were dispersed over thousands of miles and over many continents, yet today they have found each other again. Negro and white have been separated for centuries by evil men and evil myths. But they have found each other. The powerful unity of Negro with Negro and white with Negro is stronger than the most potent and entrenched racism. The whole human race will benefit when it ends the abomination that has diminished the stature of man for too long. This is the task to which we are called by the suffering in South Africa, and our response should be swift and unstinting. Out of this struggle will come the glorious reality of the family of man.