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A personal reflection from Leslie Cagan, National Coordinator of UFPJ

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  • Rosenthal Family
    Hello, Below is a moving piece written by Leslie Cagan, national coordinator of United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ). LAPC, as well as other groups in the IPJN
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 26 11:29 AM
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      Below is a moving piece written by Leslie Cagan, national coordinator of
      United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ). LAPC, as well as other groups in the

      IPJN are members along with over 1500 local and national groups around the country

      that make up UFPJ. I have been impressed with the work of UFPJ, especially its efforts to bring the
      peace movement together. Their website is at www.unitedforpeace.org.

      On the occasion of the death of Rosa Parks, the death of the 2,000th
      U.S. serviceperson in Iraq, and the 3rd anniversary of the founding of
      United for Peace and Justice I wrote the following piece last night.
      Please feel free to share this with others.

      in struggle,

      Leslie Cagan
      National Coordinator

      Tuesday, October 25, 2005. It's been a long, strange day.

      I woke up this morning to the news that Rosa Parks had died yesterday.
      She had lived a long, full life and had contributed to the struggle for
      human dignity, for freedom and justice more than most of us can even
      imagine doing. Nearly 50 years ago she took one seemingly small step
      that set off a campaign that shook the south and sent repercussions
      throughout the nation and around the world. Her refusal to go to the
      back of the bus was not, as some would tell the tale, because she was
      physically tired. No, on that day in
      Montgomery, Alabama Rosa Parks took

      an action that reflected just how sick and tired she and a whole
      generation was of being treated like second class citizens.

      When Rosa Parks sat in the front of that segregated bus, refusing to
      give up her seat for a white man, she sent a clear statement about the
      power of one, the importance of individual action. But her action grew
      out of a social context and an emerging movement. Right from the
      beginning, her action was part of something bigger than herself, and the

      strength of her seemingly singular action was that it was tied to a
      community and part of a movement. When we recall the bravery of this one

      woman we must also remember the power of collective action.

      Today, I came to work thinking about Rosa Parks and how much we owe her.

      It is profoundly true that we stand on the shoulders of those who
      struggled before us, those who chartered new paths and opened up new

      By the time I was at my desk, I knew it would be impossible to stay with

      Rosa Parks today. Instead, my attention was quickly moving to the almost

      surreal death count...would today be the day that we heard of the 2,000
      death of a
      U.S. serviceperson in Iraq? Would today be the day we needed
      to put out our call and urge tens of thousands of people in every corner

      of the country to make their opposition to this horrible war as vocal
      and visible as possible? And yes, by early afternoon the news came
      through. This war that never should have happened, this war based on
      lies, this war that has already taken thousands of innocent Iraqi lives
      - perhaps more than 100,000 lives - is raging every single day.

      Today the news came about the 2,000th
      U.S. serviceperson. It is strange
      to use this as a marker and not, at first, even know the person's name.
      And no, of course, their life was no more important or precious than the

      previous 1,999 people from this country who have died, nor more
      important or precious than any of the Iraqis who have been killed in the

      daily carnage brought by our government to their nation. And yet it
      makes sense to mark this date, this death. It makes sense to use it (if
      I might even think in those terms) as a rallying cry, as a moment to
      mobilize people. The reality is stark and we simply must use every tool
      we have available if we are going to become a force that is actually
      strong enough to stop this war.

      All of this - Rosa Parks, the 2000th U.S. death - on the very same day
      that also happens to be the third anniversary of the founding of United
      for Peace and Justice. Just 3 years ago about a dozen of us convened a
      meeting with representatives of 55 organizations to see if it made sense

      to form a new coalition that would hopefully tap into the antiwar
      sentiment already expressing itself throughout the country, and a
      coalition that would offer a vehicle for many groups to work
      cooperatively and thereby strengthen all of our efforts.

      October 25, 2002 we did not know if this new coalition would work:
      would other groups join us, would we be able to make a meaningful
      contribution to the efforts to prevent a
      U.S. war against Iraq, would we

      last beyond our initial plans for work? We did last and we have grown.
      Now, with about 1,300 member groups from every state, we are the largest

      peace and justice coalition in the nation. We are unique in our ability
      to maintain a coalition that includes national organizations and
      community groups, organizations that have been around for decades and
      groups that have just formed, groups that work against the war on
      as their only issue and organizations that have a multi-issue agenda.

      In our brief 3 years we have done a great deal of work, and there is
      much we can feel good about. We've organized some of the largest
      mobilization's in this nation's history, let alone in this period. We
      have helped to re-energize public protest, sometimes having to fight for

      the very right to gather in large numbers in public spaces. Our
      coalition has helped hundreds of local groups organize, do educational
      work, mobilize in their own communities. We have built bridges with
      other social and economic justice movements, lending support when
      possible and encouraging their involvement in the antiwar movement. We
      believe our collective work has helped change public opinion in this
      country, to the point where now in poll after poll it is clear that most

      of the people want an end to this war.

      But for all that has been done, we know full well that our work is far
      from finished. The war in
      Iraq is far from over, unfortunately, probably

      very far from over. And the Bush administration, even with record
      setting low ratings and publicly embarrassing situations constantly
      emerging, continues its saber rattling. Who knows what plans they have
      Syria or Iran or Venezuela or Cuba or North Korea? It's all too
      clear what their plans are for our own country - just look at how they
      handled the crisis in the
      Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

      And as this rainy, dreary day comes to a close in
      New York City, I once
      again think about Rosa Parks and how much our country has lost with her
      death. Tonight I will go home with a heavy heart as I think about the
      senseless nightmare of death and destruction in
      Iraq and knowing how
      hard our struggle really is. But I also will go home knowing that too
      many lives have been taken, too many lives ruined for us to give up or
      give anything less then every ounce of our energies. Tomorrow they say
      the sun will come out again in
      New York, tomorrow always offers the
      possibilities we long for. Let us learn from our own histories, take
      stock of the present realities and prepare for what will certainly be a
      hard road ahead. Let us do all we can to ensure that, in the end, peace
      prevails and justice triumphs.

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