April 2000 - Mae Verta Bowks de la Rosa
I started out just like any kid listening to Rage Against the Machine. Took me a couple of years, but I actually started reading the lyrics and trying to understand the meaning of them. And I can’t lie — the main reason I got into activism was because of the band. Without the band I wouldn’t have gotten into this, I wouldn’t even care right now… but they opened my eyes to a lot, and I thank them for that. Other influences have been Allen Ginsberg & the Beat Generation, Bob Marley, Huey P. Newton, all the freedom fighters in America and beyond, and of course, as of late, Simona Sharoni.
I started out in high school, petitioning, putting up flyers, etc. My first rally was the Free Tibet Rally in front of the Capitol a few years back. Then when I got to college, I got more into work with organizations and trying to help them out, but I was involved in too many at a time, and none of them really fulfilled my need to help all the causes I wanted to help. So, last year, I decided to start my own organization, Human Deeds for Human Rights (HD4HR). It started out really slow, but now it’s starting to pick up.
For the civil disobedience on February 28th in Washington, DC, I served as a support team member, having 17 members of our affinity group get arrested (go AU!~) and I also did legal-follow up for them (which is an ongoing process).
This experience allowed me to gain essential knowledge that I know I will need later on in life as I continue in activism. I also have been assisting the organizers in the planning for the A16 actions against the IMF and World Bank (The Battle After Seattle). Working with the Mobilization for Global Justice has really taught me a lot about organizing on a grand scale, and I gained more knowledge that I can use for my own organization. I have worked to assist many groups in the past, and have taken all of this and put it into HD4HR.
Right now HD4HR is working on a Zapatista Student/Youth Alliance. It is calling for 3 very important things which are essential to the survival of the Zapatistas, the indigenous people, Mexico, and the world as a whole: (1) Demilitariarization of Chiapas, (2) End to U.S. Military aid to Mexico, and (3) Implementation of the San Andres Accords.
This project is designed to get students, their campuses (schools and colleges) and groups, and youth in general involved in the Zapatista fight. It allows them to use their individual talents to participate in the Movement from all parts of the US, and of the world. I am planning benefit shows, benefit dinners, a fashion show, a poetry/writing anthology, documentaries/films and an art exhibition — all raising awareness about the situation in Chiapas and also raising funds for the campaigns and for the organization.
I think it appeals to the youth because we encourage the use of art, music, and writing as tools of activism. They can be used as weapons if they are fired the right way, and the youth, especially students, can be a positive force if they want to be. They can participate on their own level, at their own pace, doing the things they love and know how to do best.
The first benefit concert should be in Los Angeles in May 2000, hopefully that will happen. A lot of obstacles have been knocking us down, and therefore all the other planned benefits got pushed back, mostly because of financial reasons. So we need support more than ever, financially and beyond. We need people to come show their support and participate in these events.
And of course, HD4HR is also planning other things to help other causes. We will stand with Mumia on his first day in court and participate in the Day for Mumia , we are planning on being active as a group in the fight against the School of the Americas (SOA), and we are setting up things to help the homeless in Washington, D.C. and other cities. Down the line, after we gain more and more support, we want to branch out and do more, but we can’t do it without you, your ideas, your support, and participation.
Being Freedom Fighter of the Month really means a lot to me. First of all, because I’m being recognized as an activist by the same individuals who gave me the chance to become one in the first place. It not only gives me recognition, but it recognizes HD4HR, too, and everything we are trying to do. Exposure is the best medicine for a struggling organization, and I am glad to have this chance to tell everyone about what I do, and what’s going on.
Besides my organization and direct action, I also use poetry and art to get across the messages of freedom and human rights. I will have examples of my works online as a part of our websites soon, so check them out from time to time for these and for all the information about our campaigns and work! Also, I am going to Northern Ireland through a college program to study the troubles, and have taken numerous courses which enhance my activism on an academic level, pushing me even more to get out there and make things happen.
For more information about the Zapatista Student/Youth Alliance, contact [email protected]
For more information about Human Deeds for Human Rights, contact [email protected]