LOS ANGELES - In a world where we sometimes feel overwhelmed by tragedy and sorrow, the best antidote to helplessness is to get out and do something, be with people, and imagine a better future.
June is Torture Awareness Month in Greater Los Angeles. Many activities are scheduled to increase awareness of the issue and make a difference. The month is being coordinated by ICUJP (Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace), whose motto is "Religious Communities Must Stop Blessing War and Violence." (see www.icujp.org.)
Saturday, May 31, 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.: hear Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of the School of the Americas Watch-Los Angeles, at All Saints Church, 132 N. Euclid Avenue, Pasadena 91101. There's no charge at the door, but donations are gladly accepted to support the School of the Americas (SOA) Watch. The guest speaker will be Blase Bonpane. Co-hosts for the evening are Theresa Bonpane and Frank Dorrel and music will be by Fidel Sanchez. The event is co-sponsored by the Office of the Americas and Addicted to War.
Sunday, June 1, 2:00 to 4:30 p.m.: Father Bourgeois will speak against torture at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Los Angeles, 2936 W. 8th St., Los Angeles 90005 (just East of Vermont Ave.). The afternoon is sponsored by SOA Watch-LA and UULAMOR (Unitarian Universalist Latino Americano Monsignor Oscar Romero). Music will be by Andrea Zuniga. This is a bilingual event. There is no official admission price but donations to SOA Watch are greatly appreciated! For further information, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Father Bourgeois was a naval officer in Vietnam. After he returned home, he joined the Maryknoll Society, an American Catholic organization, and went to Bolivia, where he ministered to the poor. He was ordered to leave the country after speaking out against General Hugo Banzer's oppressive government, which arrested, tortured, and killed many dissidents. From there he went to El Salvador. After witnessing numerous human rights abuses that the Salvadoran government committed against its own population (with U.S. financial support and military aid), Roy focused on exposing where the soldiers had received their training - the School of the Americas.
Roy founded the School of the Americas Watch in 1990. SOA Watch exposes the school, located at Fort Benning, Georgia, and its role in training Latin American soldiers in repressive tactics and then deploying them throughout the region. The School of the Americas changed its name in 2001 to the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security and Cooperation (WHINSEC). In large part because of Father Roy's efforts, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Venezuela no longer send soldiers or police to the school.
Tuesday, June 3, 7:00 p.m.: There will be a performance of If the SHU Fits: Voices from Solitary Confinement, at the Vortex, 2341 E. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles 90041. The event is sponsored by Dramastage-Qumran, ICUJP and Public Works Improvisational Theatre. The play, by Andy Griggs and Melvin Ishmael Johnson, is based on stories of people held in state-sanctioned torture-total isolation for 23 hours daily, sensory deprivation, no contact with family, poor food, and minimal medical treatment. Admission is by freewill donation. There will be a discussion afterward.
Friday, June 6, 7:00-9:00 a.m.: Dolores Canales from California Families Against Solitary Confinement will speak at ICUJP, Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 3300 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles 90010. Immediately following, from 9:15-10:15 a.m., there will be a vigil and press conference to announce other activities taking place during Torture Awareness Month.
Saturday, June 21, 2:00 p.m.: Exposing the Truth of U.S. Torture: Restoring Human Dignity, will feature Dr. Azizah al-Hibri, of the Constitution Project's Task Force on Detainee Treatment and Karamah (Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights). The location of the event will be at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 3300 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. The National Religious Campaign Against Torture is a cosponsor.
Sunday, June 22, 3:00 p.m.: An interfaith gathering about detention and deportation of immigrants will be held at the United University Church, 817 W. 34 St., Los Angeles 90089.
Sunday, June 22, 3:00 p.m.: Fundraiser for Human Rights (for a program for torture victims) will be held at SoulCycle, 8570 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. For more information, see ptvla.org/soulcycle/
Thursday, June 26 is United Nations International Day of Support for Victims of Torture. At 10:30 a.m. the Stand Together and End Torture Vigil will take place at the corner of Jefferson and Hoover, near the USC campus. At 10:45 a.m. there will be a press conference. At 11:30 a.m. the ICUJP Justice Luncheon will feature the attorneys of two of the Guantánamo Bay detainees, Anne Richardson and Michael Rapkin. The event will take place at the United University Church, 817 W. 34th St., Los Angeles 90089. The suggested donation is $20, but no one will be turned away. Register at http://icujpjustlunch.eventbrite.com.
Sunday, June 29, 3:00 pm.: Members of St. Michael and All Angels Church will read If the SHU Fits: Voices from Solitary Confinement, at 3646 Coldwater Canyon Ave., Studio City 91604. A discussion will follow.
Photo: Mary Button/ICUJP.org