So this entry is to pay homage to all the thought-provoking things I’ve encountered over the last weekend (my computer is a tad under the weather now. I started this post on Monday and it’s now Friday. haha.. oh well):

First, “The Political Economy of African Responses to the U.S. Africa Command.” On Friday (a week ago), a co-worker and myself went to the Institute for Policy Studies for a lecture about Africom, the United States military presence. The lecture was presented by Carl LeVan, a professor from American University and Jillian Emerson, a graduate student at American. Now what I’m posting here is not me taking a side either way in regards to the military. I’m just stating the research that was presented. It was VERY interesting.

In 2007, the government starting making plans for a military command to be established in Africa. Prior to this, the United States involvement in Africa was more humanitarian, election monitoring and democratization. LeVan himself had been involved with some election monitoring, he said at the presentation. Also, between 2001 and 2008, U.S. exports doubled and trade tripled in regards to Africa. Africom was instated in 2008.

Their research pointed out a few things. One, it’s harder for non-governmental organizations to provide aid because the military is also providing aid. They said that some aid workers were killed in Darfur because they were thought to be a part of the military. So NGOs worry about that. Also, their research said that Africom claims that their mission is not about terrorism. Yet disarming the Lord’s Reistance Army, a group that has been labeled as a terrorist group, is an interest of theirs. However what was the most interesting part of their research was what they found about the African response to Africom. They surveyed news oped pieces and quotes from news stories between 2007 and 2008 and found overwhelming opposition. They found that countries that received less U.S. aid were more outspoken. They also found that some U.S. allies were outspoken against it (Kenya, South Africa). Anyway, the presentation was very interesting. It kept my focus which was good.

Second, I heard John Perkins speak twice last weekend. First was a fundraiser at the Festival Center and second was Sunday morning at The District Church. Perkins is a pastor from Jackson, Mississippi. He has been involved with the civil rights movement and was almost beat to death in prison. But all thanks to the grace of God, holds no resentment towards those who beat him (at least that’s what he’s said the few times I’ve seen him speak and in his book “Let Justice Roll Down.” Amazing read). He started the Christian Community Development Association. One thing we talk about a lot within the Church of the Savior community is the inward-outward journey (your inward relationship with God and your outward expression of the gospel). Perkins probably exemplifies this the best of anyone I’ve seen. He’s very theologically sound but also has a true commitment to justice, racial reconciliation and social transformation. If you have not heard him speak or read one of his books, change that. Now.

He spoke about church being God’s powerful unit on earth. It’s to be the counter revolution in the world. That truth is to be sought out in a collective. One quote of his I wrote down is “I think we think bigness equal effectiveness.” Now I’m not saying megachurches are bad.. you can often find a good intimate small group within that. But there’s just something so great when a church can be a community and not just people you see on Sundays. That’s when the Lord REALLY works. And Perkins speaking at the District Church was so pertinent since they’re a church just being planted. What an encouragement and a challenge all wrapped up in one.

And third was our Safety in the City seminar led by Marty Langelan, a woman who gives seminars on urban safety. She used to be the director of the DC Rape Crisis Center. So before the seminar, I thought it would be made up of a few self-defense mechanisms and some stereotyping. But I was pleasantly surprised.

First, she told us to make friends with everyone in the neighborhood. One, this helps to stop the psychological violence that happens every day when we treat people like they’re less than human. And two, it helps to know people when we’re in an unsafe situation. And three, it just creates good community. She said we should introduce ourselves to bus drivers, homeless people, neighbors and whoever else we see every day. It’s quite counter-cultural.

Her way of dealing with unsafe situations was very non-violent as well. She said what often works is if you can sort of announce unsafe behavior. Like if you’re being assaulted in the subway, she said to pick up the dude’s hand and say loudly “Oh! That’s so interesting. Why was your hand on my crotch?” This alerts the rest of the Subway and the perpetrator is way less likely to assault you because one, everyone on the Subway knows and two, you’re not an easy target. And it’s kind of funny. She did acknowledge that it’s different for women than men and challenged the men in the seminar to take an active role in stopping violence against women. Men, you all have such an important role to play in respecting women and helping to stop this stuff!

She stressed the importance of speaking confidently with authority. For example, a good response to comments that make you uncomfortable would be “Stop harassing women. I don’t like it. No one likes it. Show some respect.” And if they continue, you repeat it again.

In an attack, you’re supposed to yell “kiya! It’s an attack! Call the cops.” And then the caller is supposed to say “I see you! I hear you! I’m calling the cops!” This makes a ruckus and also may scare off the attacker. She also addressed getting mugged and how you’re calmly supposed to drop the bag and step away saying “take the bag, take the bag, take the bag.” You then remember three things about their appearance and run to safety to alert the police. Overall, I was impressed and empowered by her non-violent approach.

Well, I’m a sleepy Nina. Night.

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