Tuesday, December 9, 2014

SOY in Cougar Country

Today, we had a great lunch tabling at Crockett HS, home of the Cougars.  Because of that, we had added a question to our t-shirt challenge about cougars: where are they native?  None of the students we asked really knew for sure!  In truth, we had to do the research first ourselves...

Also, because tomorrow, December 10, is International Human Rights Day, we asked students to write down the human rights most important to them.

We added #BlackLivesMatter to the Peace Wheel, hoping students are involved and learning about what's happening all around the country.

We really appreciated all the students coming by and taking on the t-shirt challenge.  Penny poll results:

Environment: 30% of the budget
Education: 20%
Military: 18%
Health Care: 16%
Humanitarian Aid: 16%

SOY tabling at Lanier HS

Last Tuesday, we had a SOY table at Lanier HS and we had a full crew of five!  We had a steady stream of students passing by and becoming curious about the materials and getting interested in the t-shirt challenge.  Penny poll results were:

Education: 42% of the budget
Environment: 24%
Military: 16%
Health Care: 13%
Humanitarian Aid: 5%

I especially liked seeing students clustered around the globe, not only to find the countries we asked them to find, Syria and Afghanistan, but to show us what countries they would like to travel to if they could.  The first countries mentioned were Japan, Spain and Italy.  This made me think about the time in the not-so-distant past when Japan was considered an enemy nation, and it was bombed relentlessly during WWII.  It is the only country to have suffered the horror of two atomic bombings of their civilian population.  Japan has risen from that period of terrible suffering and destruction to become a world economic power and tourist destination.  Today's students are not likely to say that would like to travel to Afghanistan or Syria.  But, I hold out hope that years down the road, wars there will end and students will name those countries as places they would like to go to witness the beauty and character of the people and the land.

One of the ribbons on the peace sign in the school's lobby

Other ribbons on the peace sign


Monday, December 8, 2014

There is no future in war: a youth manifesto

We, the youth of the United States of America, oppose war. 
We oppose war not because we don’t care about the rest of the world; we oppose war precisely because we do.
We oppose war not because we don’t care about our security; we oppose war precisely because we do. 
We oppose war not because we don’t care about our troops; we oppose war precisely because we do.
We oppose war not because we aren’t concerned with our future; we oppose war precisely because we do. 

There is no future in war.

-- Statement written by Ben Norton, Tyra Walker, Anastasia Taylor, Alli McCracken, Colleen Moore, Jes Grobman and Ashley Lopez

Read the entire statement here

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mayan Day of the Jaguar at LBJ/LASA High School

We had a great SOY tabling visit today at LBJ/LASA HS.  Students in both schools were interested in doing the t-shirt challenge, which keeps getting more challenging.  We added a jaguar question since we were in Jaguar country.  Most students had to do some research on that one.  As is often the case, students voted for Health Care above all in the Penny Poll (Health Care: 93 pennies, Education: 76, Environment: 62, Military: 61, Humanitarian Aid: 34).

We posted these photos from Ferguson on the chin-up bar, asking students whether police armed to the max or unarmed protesters showed more courage

a school hallway poster

hallway poster about LBJ's Early College program

Our list for the t-shirt challenge

t-shirt designs we made for today

Monday, November 3, 2014

A tribute to Jacob George, by Geoff Millard

From the Huffington Post:

Jacob George, Hillbilly Storyteller, Survives 3 Tours in Afghanistan But Not His Road Back Home

by Geoff Millard

Posted: Updated: 

Jacob George described himself as a "hillbilly storyteller." He told the most beautiful tales as he softly strummed his banjo, tapped his bare foot on the ground, and let his long hair brush his smiling face. He was the last person most of us thought would become one of the 22 veterans each day who commit suicide.
Maybe the thought that it would never be him is part of why the veterans community who knew Jacob is grieving so hard right now. But the reality is that deep down, Jacob carried the wounds of war that so many of us bear after experiencing combat. On September 17, 2014, Jacob, just 32 years old, took his own life. It was not an act of cowardice or selfishness on his part, but a failing on ours. We failed Jacob as a community of veterans and a country as a whole.
Jacob was not an imposing figure from a physical standpoint, but his energy captured the attention of a room, whether he was performing from the stage or he'd just stepped in the door. His presence was electric, and it was hard not to smile when he smiled and sing along when he would transition from a soft whisper to a bellowing boom. Whether he had a microphone, a megaphone or just the night's air, every event he was at turned into a show and a Jacob George show always turned into a sing-a-long.
Jacob told me that he joined the army in 2001 to defend our freedoms and thought that was what he would be doing in Afghanistan. His first tour in Afghanistan began in 2001, just a month after September 11. Having grown up a poor farmer in Arkansas, he saw his reflection in the faces of poor farmers in Afghanistan. He saw the will to live free, the struggle of constant hard work, and felt the pain our occupation was causing the people.
When he finished his third tour in Afghanistan and was discharged from the army, his opposition to the war became very personal. He set out to change the world the only way he knew how: to tell people his stories and to listen to theirs. It was how he did it that made him so special to so many people.
A bike tour was the first introduction Jacob made to the antiwar community. He called it "A Ride Till the End," as he set out with other veterans and friends to ride across the country and tell his stories to anyone who would listen until the war ended. That is where his antiwar activism started but not where it ended.
From the seat of his bike with his banjo across his back he went to Chicago where he joined nearly 50 other veterans and threw his medals back at NATO in protest of its wars in 2012. This act -- he explained in his song "Warrior" -- was part of a "right of passage into warriorhood," which he learned by sharing time and energy with many native and indigenous healers and elders. Singing about the difference between a soldier and a warrior, he road to D.C. and New York, to San Francisco and Denver, to Texas and back again to Arkansas. He understood that as a warrior he would always have issues with following orders, but never in following his conscience, loving and fighting for what he believed in.
Returning to Afghanistan may have been the hardest thing Jacob did as an activist, because he expected to find a public dead set against American occupation and Americans, but what he found was a complicated political landscape and a beautiful people with whom he fell in love. Jacob frequently talked so fondly of his return trip to Afghanistan and the youth he met there while working with Afghan Peace Volunteers. He wore a blue scarf for them -- a symbol of peace, solidarity, and his experiences there -- and many times kept it with him even when not wearing it.
He carried all his experiences in his heart and had empathy for all living beings. Ultimately, it was those experiences that were too heavy for even his tales. Jacob talked often of moral injury, and the complicated relationship he had with his deployments, his trauma and a world of people who did not understand what these wars are doing to soldiers and the people who will still live there long after the war ends.
Jacob was as much a product of his three tours in the Afghanistan War as he was the mountains of Arkansas. In addition to his antiwar and humanitarian work, he adored talking about his love for the mountains; the farms of Arkansas that raised him; and the support and love from his mother Robin, sister Jasmin and brother Jordan. His experiences in life before enlistment ultimately created the empathy and compassion he had for those he could not resolve to call "enemy," as his training demanded. So much of his stories were based on seeing himself and those he grew up with in the faces of the Afghan farmers he met -- both during his tours and on his voluntary trip back to Afghanistan as a civilian.
His practice trying to explain war to anyone who would listen left Jacob feeling conflicted and wounded -- emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. He identified most with the Solider's Heart -- the term for what was PTSD during the Civil War. He talked publicly about his experiences as a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and how protest and alternate forms of healing did more to treat his soldiers heart then any treatment the VA could offer him. IVAW is a very different organization then it was when Jacob first found us and we partially have him to thank for that.
He challenged our views on "the good war" and held a mirror of song for us to reflect how and why we fought the war. We are better people today because Jacob graced us with his being and he will always be one of us. He will always be carried in our hearts. He will live on in his songs. He will always be part of our family and the loss of that one hillbilly story teller from Arkansas is a loss to the world.
The Music of Jacob George can be downloaded from iTunes and anyone wishing can make a donation to help his family through the Jacob George Celebration of Life Fund.
Photo credit: Ironside Photography.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bulldogs, whales and monarchs for peace at Bowie HS

Today, four of us had a SOY table at Bowie HS, and it was a great day!  Right from the get-go, students were interested in doing the t-shirt challenge, making their way up and down the table to try the Peace Wheel, name the 5 First Amendment freedoms, find Afghanistan and Syria on the globe, vote in the Penny Poll, try a chin-up, and -  just added - name the largest animal in the world, which insect makes the longest migration, and what are some of the threats to these amazing creatures.  This led to discussion of how Navy sonar hurts marine life - an environmental effect students may not have thought about.

Penny Poll results showed top priorities for Education (101 pennies), the Environment (92) and Humanitarian Aid (92), with 80 pennies for Health Care and 34 pennies for the Military category.  As they could see, their priorities were quite opposite of actual government spending choices.  If today's students could decide, military spending would drop to 8.5% of the budget instead of 45%.

One student, while trying the Peace Wheel, mentioned that he had seen Rosa Parks when she visited his elementary school the year before she died.  That is a special memory to keep.

We appreciated the participation of all students who stopped by the table today!

and when we got home, we were met by this world traveler migrating through Austin

Friday, October 10, 2014

Nobel Peace Prize honors the rights of all children to education

What good news to hear that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 has been awarded jointly to Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India.  At 17 years old, Malala Yousafzai is the youngest recipient ever of the Nobel Peace Prize.  She has championed education rights for girls and, even though she is a victim of gun violence, she has taken a strong stand of nonviolence in confronting violence and inequality.  Kailash Satyarthi has focused his work on ending child labor and child trafficking.  Both Nobel recipients share a passion for the right of children to education and the right to not be exploited by adults.

We at SOY also believe that children should not be subject to military recruitment in schools when they are younger than 18 years old.  As Malala has said and proven through her own life, the power of education is stronger than the power of a gun.