Saturday, January 20, 2007

Farewell Party for Alice!

Last evening, the Buffalo War Resisters League and other supporters threw a "good bye party" for me. It was held at El Buen Amigo, a store in downtown Buffalo.
El Buen Amigo is a store that was started by Santiago, who is originally from Chile. He and his family had to leave Chile after the U.S.-sponsored coup d'etat in 1973 that overthrew that country's elected president, Salvador Allende, and replaced him with a terrible dictator, Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet was associated with some very terrible human rights abuses and had been indicted for them. Before he could go to trial, however, he died. But, anyway, Santiago found his way to Western New York and he bacame a teacher here. He also founded El Buen Amigo as a place where clothing and a variety of crafts made by people in Latin America could be sold and where the profits would go directly to the craftspeople. Now, there are goods from all over the world. The store is always colorful and cheerful, with clothing, jewelry, crafts, and artwork. It is a delight to behold.
Santiago, always a gentleman, was very happy to offer his store as a place to hold the party.
And the party was a great delight, with plenty of food to eat, people to chat with, and lively Latin American music to listen to.
Toward the beginning of the party, I had a chance to talk to the group, to tell them what led me to cross the Fort Benning fence... um... more than once(!) I told them my story, about my trip to the Texas-Mexico border, about my time at language school in Guatemala, about the things that I had learned about SOA/WHINSEC, about my legislative work. I was also happy to answer questions. In addition, I brought the looseleaf binder that I had put together for my trip to the midwest, with articles that I had written, articles written about me, my prison journal, my newsletters, drawings of the Fort Benning fence from my sketchbook, drawings from my prison sketchbook, information about legislative stuff concerning closing the school, and photographs.
After the talk, I had the chance to chat with a variety of people and to dance and to enjoy some delicious food! It was a great party and we all had a good time.
The party was so good for me, and for everyone else, I think. I am headed back to Georgia on Thursday, January 25, for my upcoming trial. I am very grateful for this display of support from my friends here in Western New York!
(below are pictures from the party)
Here is a view of the party in full swing, with people all excited about the camera! I don't know why the taller people ended up in front and the shorter ones in the back!!!
"Bitsy's Dad," on the right, has been to Palestine to share his computer knowledge with the people there. He plans on returning to Palestine again soon to spend four weeks there, doing, I suppose, computer stuff.
Here are Barbara and Jinni. Barbara is the one with the cup. She is a retired teacher who has a very wacky sense of humor and a great gift for water color painting. Jinni is an artist. Her favorite medium is water color painting. She teaches art classes in various places in Niagara County. Every other week, Barbara and I go to Jinni's art class at Stella Niagara. We enjoy the peacefulness of Stella Niagara and the kindness of the Franciscan sisters. Barbara and Jinni brought me to the party in Buffalo, where we discovered that everyone in the city must have gone out for a night on the town!!! There were very few parking spots to be found!!!
Here is Joe, who formerly published Alt Press in Buffalo. I was the assistant managing editor of that publication for a long time. It ceased publication about a year ago, and Joe went into radio work. I've spoken about the School of the Americas (now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) a few times on the radio show that he and Grady Hawkins hosted until fairly recently, called "The Voice of Reason." The show is now off the air because the radio station abruptly changed format. Everyone was canned!
Marie is Joe's wife. She has been a special education teacher in the Buffalo school system for a number of years, and she currently works in a high school. She has been active in the movement to close SOC/WHINSEC far longer than I have. She arranged for Father Roy Bourgeois to come to Buffalo in 2001 and 2002. She and Joe arranged for me to interview Father Roy at some length for a few articles for Alt Press.
Marie and Joe have three sons and one daughter and are now the proud grandparents of a happy baby girl, named Hannah.
Santiago, Barbara, and me in Santiago's store, El Buen Amigo, where clothing and other crafts from all over the world are sold. The profits go directly to the crafts people. In back of us is the banner that I made for the War Resisters League of Buffalo. The broken rifle symbolizes their hope for a world free from war.