Thursday, May 18, 2006

Civic responsibility

The last two evenings we have attended programs on “Marriage Equality” and “Escape from Slavery”. Quite a swing in topics.

Tuesday evening was a panel discussion on the Jewish perspectives on marriage equality. The panel featured a straight Conservative rabbi, a lesbian Unitarian Universalist minister, an activist from Marriage Equality and a same-sex couple involved in Immigration Equality. Out comedian, Heather Gold, provided some queer humor at the start of the evening. California Assemblyman, Mark Leno, made a surprise appearance. He vowed to re-introduce a Marriage Equality bill next session. (The California legislature passed a bill this last year but Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed it.) The discussion focused on the status of civil marriage and the importance of it for the GLBT and Jewish communities. Suggestions were also made about what steps you can take to advance marriage equality in California.

Wednesday evening we met and heard Francis Bok speak for two hours. Today he is an activist committed to combating world slavery. When he was 7 he was carried away by Sudanese militia after they butchered all the men in his village. For 10 years he was a slave to a farmer in northern Sudan. Mr. Bok was expected to tend the family’s vast herds of livestock. He endured daily threats and beatings, slept with the cattle, and eat rotten food. Finally, at 17, he escaped.

Mr. Bok is committed to spread awareness about modern slavery across the world. Slavery didn't end during the Civil War. Today, 27 million men, women and children around the world endure brutal working conditions, for no money, under the constant threat of beatings, torture, and rape.

This presentation was the third in a series exploring issues of civic responsibility. Previously, we saw Paul Rusesabagina, the Rwandan hotel manager who rescued more than 1,200 refugees from certain death during the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and South African Justice Albie Sachs, a civil rights lawyer and activist that struggled against apartheid since the 1960's. He gained world recognition for his role in creating South Africa's new constitution.

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