URB.Com: 5 Ways to Bleed Your Customer w/ B.Dolan

Posted by B. Dolan on February 23rd, 2010

In the song “50 Ways to Bleed Your Customer,” from his new Fallen House, Sunken City album, Knowmore’s creator and co-founder B. Dolan plays a cynical character giving advice to the listener on how to get ahead in the corporate world.

When URB.Com offered him a feature space in support of the new album, B. Dolan took the opportunity to dissect his song a bit and talk about the meaning and issues behind some of the songs lyrics.

URB.COM: B. DOLAN: 5 Ways to Bleed Your Customer

To hear more tracks, see videos, and pre-order B. Dolan’s “Fallen House, Sunken City,” click here.

Rage Against the Machine and Ripple Effect: Eyewitness Report & Interview With Organizer Jim Forrey

Posted by B. Dolan on September 14th, 2008

Rage Against the Machine and Jim Forrey negotiate with Minnesota State Troopers

Rage Against the Machine and Jim Forrey, negotiating with Minnesota State Troopers. Power was being cut while this photo was taken.

September 14, 2008

Report by B. Dolan

Photos: Jonathon Hoffner

Special to the Knowmore.org Blog

On September 2, 2008, a peaceful concert on the Minnesota State Capitol lawn featuring Dead Prez, Rage Against the Machine, Anti-Flag and others, was brought to a halt by state and city officials, leading to an impromptu march, multiple arrests, and a teargas attack by police.  The concert, called Ripple Effect and organized by the activist group Substance, took place during the Republican National Convention.  I was asked to be part of Ripple Effect as a performer and Knowmore.org spokesman,  and am filing this report in an attempt to clarify and raise awareness of the day’s events

According to an article in Minnesota’s Star Tribune, the Ripple Effect concert was cut short when Rage Against the Machine made a surprise appearance “close to the 7 p.m. curfew time and without a proper permit.”

The Tribune also quoted Capt. Mary Schrader of the Minnesota State Patrol as saying “the band could not take the stage because it was not included on the permit for the concert.”  Capt. Schrader also denied that the power to the event was cut prior to the permit’s 7pm curfew.  Earlier this week, however, I spoke on the phone with Jim Forrey, Ripple Effect’s Chief Event Manger and Organizer, who offered a very different version of the day’s events.

Conflict with city authorities began when Dead Prez took the stage.  Jim Forrey and I witnessed city officials threaten to cut the events power due to artists cursing onstage.

Conflict with city authorities began when Dead Prez took the stage. Jim Forrey and I witnessed city officials threatening to cut the event's power due to artists cursing onstage.

Jim Forrey and Substance maintain that Ripple Effect had all of its permits in order on September 2nd, and that neither the permit nor an additional agreement they signed required any notification of performers or provisions for “allowable speech.”  They argue that it was in fact the authorities who reneged on the permit and agreement; by threatening to cut power due to artists’ cursing, and later attempting to stop a specific band-Rage Against the Machine-from performing.  Police also significantly tightened the ‘invisible’ security perimeter organizers and officials had  agreed to.   Instead, the peaceful gathering was subject to a rapidly escalating and aggressive police presence throughout the day.  I witnessed some of this escalation and asked Jim about it during our interview.

J: What they’d discussed with us previously was that State Patrol would be doing security and that we wouldn’t see them, unless there was a huge problem… If we saw them it’d be bad news.  It was implied that we would be shut down then … if things were out of control…And so… it became a huge concern of mine when riot police started circling the place and they started sending different brigades of cops into the grounds with their zip-cords.

B: I was noticing helicopters overhead…

J: Exactly, there were snipers on the roof…Then, I started hearing about people getting profiled as anarchists and searched as they were coming into the grounds.  Shortly after I heard that, I saw them surround a guy in the middle of the grounds and search him head to toe and search his bag.  It was an illegal search and seizure.  The fella did not consent to it at all, but he went along with it peacefully.

According to Jim Forrey, these violations came to a head when Rage Against the Machine, the concert’s surprise headliners, arrived on the scene.

Minnesota police make their presence known in riot gear during a peaceful, permitted concert.

Jim Forrey: So then, we got ready.  Anti-Flag went on… Rage’s management got prepped, and they showed up on site around 6:30pm and were greeted by a line of state troopers who wouldn’t allow them onto the stage… Rage had been stopped by the State Patrol.  We had people watching the power board, but then I had to go negotiate with the State Patrol… As that was going on, the crowd was chanting various things… And then we heard the whole power got cut.  That was about 6:45.  The capital staff came and cut the power and locked the box.  And then it was kind of ‘what to do we do now?’

What happened next has been reported widely and Youtubed extensively: Zack de la Rocha and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine walked into the middle of the assembled crowd with a bullhorn, spoke briefly, and performed acapella renditions of two songs.

When they were finished, the band reportedly walked off towards the nearby Xcel center, where delegates were gathering for the Republican National Convention, and were followed by the crowd.

By chance, this sudden movement of people met up with the Poor People’s March, a like-minded demonstration that was making its way toward the Xcel center simultaneously.  The two marches found themselves spontaneously combining, creating one massive movement of people.

The days events culminated in the spontaneous combination of two marches, moving in unison towards the RNC.

The day's events culminated in the spontaneous combination of two marches, moving in unison towards the RNC.

By this time Jim Forrey was back at the capital, making sure that the Ripple Effect event was properly cleaned up and dispersed.  I had left about an hour before, heading to do my second show of the day in Minneapolis.  What news we had of Ripple Effect’s conclusion was secondhand, though in the coming days we would both witness equally harsh tactics from the authorities in St. Paul.  According to Jim’s sources at the scene, protesters marched downtown to find the Xcel convention center gated.  Police gave a dispersal notice, after which protesters were first penned, then teargassed and arrested.

Jim Forrey and Substance now contend that it was Minnesota state and city authorities who were in violation of the law of that day; violating not only the group’s permit, but first amendment rights to speech and peaceable assembly. The group wishes to take legal action against the city but sites a lack of resources (the group’s organizers shouldered massive debt to make the free event happen) and the fact that, after the RNC, “all of St. Paul’s civil rights attorneys are very busy right now.”

To learn more, donate to defray Ripple Effect costs, or contact Substance, click here.

My Forrester Groundswell Awards Submission!

Posted by B. Dolan on September 8th, 2008

Knowmore.org is applying for a 2008 Groundswell Award!

Here is our application info!

Screenshot of Knowmore.org

Knowmore.org describes itself as a “Corporation-Watch Search Engine,” designed to aid activists and responsible consumers in shopping with a conscience.

Users visit Knowmore.org, enter the name of any brand, product, or company, and view the corresponding company’s Knowmore rating.  Companies are rated  for Worker’s Rights, Human Rights, Enviornmental Concerns, Political Influence and Business Ethics.

Using a modified version of MediaWiki software, Knowmore allows its hundreds of volunteer editors and contributors to collaborate on the most audacious of social impact projects:  the creation of a Social Responsibility profile for every major company in existence!

In June 2008, Knowmore launched it’s revolutionary new Firefox Extension, which delivers Corporate Abuse alerts straight to users’ web browsers.  The Knowmore Firefox Extension is fully integrated with Amazon.com and Google, allowing users to view Knowmore ratings as part of Amazon shopping pages and google search results.

As consumers, we vote every time we open our wallet.  By buying a company’s product we send the message: “I approve of this product and the way it was manufactured and marketed to me.”

Knowmore.org teaches consumers to educate themselves, spread knowledge, and shop accordingly.

How does Knowmore.org accomplish business or non-profit goals?

Since it’s creation in 2005, Knowmore has been promoted and enabled by thousands of volunteers and donors.

The site’s co-founders, Sage Francis and B. Dolan, double as hip hop performance artists, and have used national and international tours to promote the site and engage their fanbase with the project.

Since 2005, Knowmore.org’s readership has doubled every year.  The site is currently accessed by 30,000 unique visitors monthly.

Networking with other sites and organizations has also been a continuing process, leading to exciting partnerships with sites like Alonovo.com and news organizations like Corpwatch and Democracy Now!

Funding for the organization is provided by hundreds of private donors, as well as the sale of Knowmore merchandise.

Additionally, Knowmore was awarded $15,000 from Netsquared in June 2008, for it’s revolutionary new Firefox extension.  This money is being used to expand the organization’s infrastructure and develop the site’s search and edit features further.

Wish us luck!  When we put it like that, Knowmore sounds like a pretty cool site!

The Knowmore Firefox Extension is live NOW!

Posted by Tom Inhaler on May 27th, 2008
компютри

Today, at the NetSquared Conference, Knowmore.org is launching its Firefox Extension! You can download the extension by clicking here.

Because our Firefox Extension is brand new and considered “Experimental”, you need to log in to Mozilla to download the extension. If you don’t already have an account on Mozilla, you can use our temporary log in, username knowmoretest@gmail.com , password netsquared1 .

Below is the two minute intro that I am giving in a few hours, introducing our non-profit and Featured Project to the Netsquared Conference:

We live in a world that is threatened and endangered by corporations.

The cocoa that Nestle uses to make its chocolate bars is produced by child slaves in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, and even though the company has been alerted of this, it has made little effort to clean up its act.

Coca-Cola is guilty of sucking up the local water supply in regions of India to manufacture its soft drinks, and contaminating the rest of the potable water with their byproducts.

Even American Apparel, a company rightfully lauded for its sweatshop free clothing line, has been the subject of multiple sexual harrassment lawsuits, and has gone to great lengths to ensure their workforce isn’t able to unionize.

Those are just a few examples of the thousands of injustices committed by corporations every year.

The problem is, we continue to support these corporations, whose actions don’t always line up with our beliefs. By purchasing certain products, we compromise our values and allow these injustices to continue.

We created Knowmore.org in 2005 to act as a clearinghouse of information on companies, brands, and products. Our network of volunteers have added profiles on hundreds of corporations to our wiki, allowing anyone to search our site and Know More about what their purchases support. We believe that in providing information on corporate abuses to the world, we can inform consumers and help them make purchasing choices more in line with their values.

We want to provide our corporate data to as many people as possible, in the places they need it most.. which is why today, at the Netsquared conference, we are launching the Knowmore.org Firefox Extension. Our extension automatically alerts you whenever you visit the websites of unethical companies, warning you of potential abuses of Worker Rights, Human Rights, Political Influence, Environmental Issues, and Business Ethics.

We’ve also seamlessly integrated KnowMore’s corporate ratings into Google’s search results, mashing our data into the world’s most popular search engine. You only need to download our extension once, to bring our corporate ratings to you when you need them most.

Check out our demo in the Carnival, hack our new API in the hack room, talk to us about our organization, and most importantly, download our extension today at Knowmore.org! Thanks very much.

Top 25 Censored News Stories of 2007

Posted by B. Dolan on December 28th, 2007

Project Censored is a media research group out of Sonoma State University which tracks the news published in independent journals and newsletters. From these, Project Censored compiles an annual list of 25 news stories of social significance that have been overlooked, under-reported or self-censored by the country’s major national news media.

They just released their report on the “Top 25 Censored Stories of 2008″ , which is a hell of a read. Did you know Dick Cheney’s Halliburton stock rose 3,000 percent last year? I didn’t. Must be all those detention camps KBR’s been hired to build in the US.

Knowmore is going to cover the entire Fortune 500.

Posted by B. Dolan on December 20th, 2007

Knowmore’s goal, throughout 2007, has been to create a corporate profile on each of the global Fortune 500. Our site re-design took a bit longer than expected, so we’ve extended our deadline a bit: Our goal is now to have every company covered by March.

Check the project page to see our progress! Like 99% of Knowmore’s pages, it can be edited by anyone with a login. Once you have created an account, click on one of the companies.

If there isn’t already a profile of that company, you will be prompted to create one. Select “company profile” from the list. Even putting in the company name, location and a one paragraph description of what the company does helps a lot to get the ball rolling!

Proctor and Gamble, Connecting with African American women?

Posted by cara powers on November 20th, 2007

From “Advertising Age”

By Jeff Neff

“Najoh Tita Reid has one of those classic childhood stories from when she was 4 or 5. One of her white friends wouldn’t let her white doll play with Ms. Reid’s black doll, which she termed “ugly.”
ImageThen her friend pointed out the doll’s resemblance to Ms. Reid, who went home crying. Her mom, after reassuring Ms. Reid, also got her some Essence and Ebony magazines and put up a “Black Is Beautiful” poster in her bathroom. “This being the 1970s,” Ms. Reid said, “it wasn’t hard to find.”

But unlike most people, Ms. Reid, now 34, is in a position to do much more than that. She’s multicultural marketing director for the world’s and country’s biggest advertiser, Procter & Gamble Co. And she’s convinced P&G to start putting its considerable marketing heft — “scale marketing” as they say at the Cincinnati headquarters — behind a new multibrand campaign called “My Black Is Beautiful.”

Forging bonds
The campaign’s goal is to make all black girls and women feel that way regardless of skin tone or origin and, of course, forge a closer relationship between P&G brands and their black consumers in the process.

The campaign obviously bears some resemblance to the idea behind a globally lauded effort by one of P&G beauty’s key competitors, Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” from Unilever. The formula for both: Find a group that feels slighted by popular culture, then position your brand(s) squarely on their side.”

So, in checking out the website for “My Black is Beautiful,” you are greeted with a video of the “manifesto” (http://www.myblackisbeautiful.com/images2/content/mbib-manifesto.pdf), recorded by African American women of different ages. Other than the refrain “my Black is beautiful,” the one line that stood out IMMEDIATELY to me was “Whether natural from inside, or skillfully applied.” What?

Exploring further, I stumbled across their “gallery,” a collection of photos and videos from the BET awards. I think I will need to write an entirely different blog entry about how strongly BET does NOT align with the agenda of empowering Black women.

There is a downloadable guide for starting conversations in your community about how women of color are portrayed in the media. I totally support this effort, but the lack of resources put behind it is apparent in that I have been unable to find any coverage not directly related to advertising and marketing magazines and websites. There is also an invitation to join the “movement” or “conversation” with no message boards, forum, or even link to contacting. How effectively can you build a movement without providing forums to bring people together?

I completely support the idea behind this “campaign,” but I would welcome other people’s ideas on how to more effectively engage the tools being presented here in a way that does not directly support the idea of needing to buy beauty products (like Pantene’s “relaxed and natural”) and that actually brings people together in conversation.

Cops Kill Youth Armed with a Hairbrush

Posted by M Hanora on November 14th, 2007

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I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the latest black youth murdered by police.

If you haven’t, check out coverage by the New York Times yesterday and today

The loss of this young man has been on my mind and I’d like to send hope for healing and peace to the family. When the media sensationalizes tragedies like this one, the police often hold the moral high ground in the eyes of the public for “doing what they had to do” or “following protocol.” But the people living it know the cops were doing “what they always do”: using racist, excessive force to destroy, rather than protect, the community.

What concerned me most about the media coverage was the angle that the young man had been trying to commit what police apparently call “suicide by cop.” From the Times:

A similar description of the shooting was given by Precious Blood, 16, who said she heard about 10 shots fired, most if not all by one officer. Another officer called out: “Stop, stop, stop shooting — he’s down,” she said, but the shooter kept firing, “like he was playing with a toy.”

The law enforcement official gave a different version of the encounter, saying that Mr. Coppin charged toward the officers and refused repeated orders to stop. The police said they were also exploring the possibility that Mr. Coppin was trying to prompt a shooting, a phenomenon known as “suicide by cop.”

There is no way of reading “suicide by cop” that does not spell oppression. First, there is the fact the the police are able to be so unaccountable for the shooting that it must have been the will and intention of the person to be murdered. Second, it seems the reputation of police as killers is so proven that holding a hairbrush (or wallet, or candy bar, or set of keys) is suicidal.

But perhaps most importantly, and most overlooked in the media coverage, is the repeated trauma of living in an urban, working class neighborhood, particularly for people of color. Police violence is not incidental here, or sensational; it’s systematic. Murder and loss are very often constant presences in people’s lives who are then denied access to means to get care or care for themselves.

It was only briefly mentioned in the Times coverage that Mr. Coppin was on anti-psychotic medications. While speculating as to why would be inappropriate, as the matter is private and the possibilities are many, Mr. Coppin’s case underscores the fact that many youth of color who are arrested or incarcerated have mental illnesses and stress disorders. Growing up watching cops beat or murder young people, or them do it to each other, has profound effects on a person’s body, mind, and spirit. Punishing young people with jail or committing them to the custody of the state does not address the root causes of violence; it perpetuates the cycle and most often releases youth onto the street with no skills to heal or cope. Or it kills them outright.

Mr. Coppin’s death reminded me of two youth who were also killed in custody of the state several years ago in Boston. From the Globe:

Two recent suicides by young offenders have jolted Bolden and other state officials. In
December, 15-year-old Myron Watkins hanged himself with a sheet in the Metro Youth Services
Center, a Dorchester youth lockup that houses six detention and residential programs operated
by both the state and private vendors. Earlier this month, 17-year-old Charish Williams hanged
herself in another section of the facility.

The ultimate goal, says Childs, is to introduce the proper level of mental health services into the
juvenile justice system. But that can’t happen so long as young people are taken into DYS
custody without staffers even knowing about their earlier placements in the state’s mental health or social services system. For too long, says Preston, agencies have been “literally sealed off from one another,” leaving intake workers to scramble for information about a detainee. And it is around the time of handoff from one agency to the next, says Childs, that the young person is often the most emotionally defenseless.

Watkins, who had spent a lengthy period in a Department of Social Services facility in Natick,
took his life less than a week after arrival in DYS lockup, according to Bolden. Williams, who had
been in foster care before her detention, committed suicide nine days after arrival. State officials, according to both Childs and Bolden, are still trying to determine whether staffers missed signs of suicidal behavior on Williams’s part.

One obvious weakness in the system is the intake process at DYS, which can be conducted by
anyone ranging from a social worker with a master’s degree to a relatively low-paid direct care
worker. Bolden expresses confidence in all of his staffers, who he says are highly resourceful. But, other state officials, including the DSS commissioner, Harry Spence, are urging investigators to determine the proper level of clinical review for young people entering the system.

The analysis is just beginning. But if, as expected, more than half of the boys and girls entering
DYS custody exhibit signs of mental illness, then the system might do well to shift from its current clinical base of social workers toward more psychologists or psychiatric nurses.

The article clearly points out that the mental health of young people getting in trouble is absolutely a matter of the highest concern. Like in the case of Mr. Coppin, these youth were unable to access adequate services to address their needs. Mr. Coppin’s killers did not know how to deal with his potential illness even though it appears the mother reached out to communicate that. So without trial or treatment, Coppin got the death penalty. Watkins and Williams were unable to survive their sentence due to lack of care, either during or before their incarceration.

As a low-paid direct service worker at a women’s health clinic, I have often been in situations with clients that were way, way beyond my training. While I think I have provided consistently high levels of care, the strain on staff is intense when dealing with issues like murder, rape, HIV, abortion, sexual abuse, assault, drugs, and domestic violence. There is room for self injury due to stress as well as the potential to hurt someone else who requires a higher standard of care. Even when services exist for people, what is the quality and long term impact? Are we treating people as whole human beings, or as parts?

If we continue to treat people like parts they will continue to come apart. Get an abortion without talking about health care or birth control? Get mental health care without addressing violence in the community? Get a caseworker who abuses you? Go to work and not get child care? Go to jail and not go to school?

As I transition into working both at the clinic and as director of a program for youth who are court-involved and locked up, it’s overwhelming to realize all these intersections between loss, violence, health, sex, crime, police, class, race, and see the same people consistently and systemically not being cared for and unable to care for themselves across all areas of their lives. People like Mr. Coppin, Mr. Watkins, and Ms. Williams.

“Every Nation Has A Flag But The Coon”

Posted by B. Dolan on November 5th, 2007

I’ve been doing some research into minstrel shows lately, and came across this today… It honestly made my eyes well up from pure shame and disgust.

“In 1900 when European immigrants of earlier decades adopted American values (and new Jewish immigrants became instant Americans), African Americans remained the only permanent aliens.

They lacked a national origin which could bestow identity and dignity. In the context of a New York City composed of European immigrants, a composer ridiculed the notion of black identity.

Every Nation Has A Flag But The Coon:

“I really felt so much ashamed, I wished I could turn white/
‘Cause all the white folks march’d with banners gay/
the Scotch Brigade, each man arrayed /
In new plaid dresses marched to ‘Auld Lang Syne’
Even Spaniards and Swedes, folks of all kinds and creeds /
Had their banners except de coons…
Now I’ll suggest a flag that out to win a prize /
Just take a flannel shirt and paint it red /
Then drew a chicken on it, with two poker dice for eyes /
An’ have it wavin’ razors ’round its head /
To make it quaint, you’ve got paint /
A possum, with a pork chop in its teeth.”

A typical ‘coon song’ exposes its racist nature in the title: Plant A Watermelon On My Grave and Let the Juice Soak Through…”
-Men in Blackface, Seymour Stark

Do not adjust your monitor, the following minstrel performance is seriously from the 1950s. That is, roughly 60 years ago, which is not so long at all.

Femicide in the Congo

Posted by M Hanora on October 18th, 2007

Recently, the media has doled out some sparse attention to what the UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, has called the worst sexual violence in the world. Activists, doctors, and reporters agree that the war against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo is nothing short of a femicide and fear future generations of Congolese people are threatened by the overwhelming volume of rape, torture, and disease.

According to Congolese human rights activist Christine Schuler Deschryver,

“The war started in ’96. After the genocide in Rwanda in ’94, all the one who made the genocide arrived in Congo and stayed there in camps. And in ’96, when the war started, they went out from the camps and went inside the forest, and then they started killing and raping the Congolese population. Three years ago, we had the report from International Rescue Committee that already four million people died in Congo.”

You can read Amy Goodman’s interview with Deschryver here.

Goodman has described the conflict as “Africa’s forgotten war” and indeed, the international community has been racked now and again by the brutal and mass sexual terrorism happening in the Congo. But each time, interest and commitment fades in favor of some more elusive, more profitable “war on terror”. Trust that the violence in Congo is very real, very extensive, and very nearly destroying the female population there.

Amnesty International reported in 2004,

“They have seen combatants from around 20 armed factions fighting for control of the land and its resources. In a context of the collapse of state authority in the east, national and international laws are no longer observed and all the armed factions have perpetrated and continue to perpetrate sexual violence with impunity. Rape has been used deliberately and strategically to attack the fundamental values of the community, to terrorize and humiliate those suspected of supporting an enemy group and to impose the supremacy of one group over another.”

Read the full report, including an in depth history and strategies toward healinghere.

Trying to ignite another burst of Western awareness, Eve Ensler wrote an article for Glamour magazine In August entitled, “Women Left for Dead.” In the article she attempts to give context for the ongoing conflict in the Congo.

“You have to go back further than 1996 to understand what is going on in the Congo today. This country has been tortured for more than 120 years, beginning with King Leopold II of Belgium, who “acquired” the Congo and, between 1885 and 1908, exterminated an estimated 10 million people, about half the population. The violent consequences of genocide and colonialism have had a profound impact on the psyche of the Congolese. Despite a 2003 peace agreement and recent elections, armed groups continue to terrorize the eastern half of the country.”

Check out the article in it’s entirety here.

What Ensler has done best throughout her career is try, sometimes problematically, to give women affected by war and violence a space to tell their own stories. There is no list that could contain the type of violence Congolese women are still fighting to survive, but it would include forced cannibalism; weapons, wood, and tools being shoved into women’s vaginas; family members being forced to rape their daughters, sisters, mothers; women with fistula or stillborn babies inside their vaginas unable to access proper, prompt medical care. Ensler includes the following account in her article by a Congolese woman who wished for her name to be excluded:

“I am from the village of Nindja. Normally there was insecurity in our area. We would hide many nights in the bush. The soldiers found us there. They killed our village chief and his children. We were 50 women. I was with my three children and my older brother; they told him to have sex with me. He refused, so they cut his head and he died. They flung my baby’s body on the ground like she was garbage. One after another they raped me. From that my vagina and anus were ripped apart. One of the soldiers cut open a pregnant woman,” she says. “It was a mature baby and they killed it. They cooked it and forced us to eat it. When I got away from the soldiers, there was a man passing. He said, ‘What is that bad smell?’ It was me; because of my wounds, I couldn’t control my urine or feces. I explained what had happened. The man wept right there. He and some others brought me to the Panzi Hospital.”

Panzi Hospital has become a colony of Congolese rape survivors. Because so many women suffer from Fistula (holes in the tissue between the vagina and anus), the stench of urine is strong around the medical compound. The hospital does 1,000 fistula surgeries a year as well as other more massive surgeries to repair multiple internal organs that have been ripped apart by rape. The hospital struggles to feed and house these women and their children, being admitted at a rate of 12 new patients a day. The water gets shut off when the hospital can‘t afford the bill. The staff has received death threats. There are never enough supplies.

But there is plenty of courage, spirit, talent, and care. Leading this effort is Dr. Denis Mukwege who has trained four other doctors in how to perform the life-saving fistula surgeries. Though he is clear in his condemnation of the international community’s lack of support for his hospital, he implores those who learn about the femicide in Congo to demand a political response to the violence. To demand that ending sexual terrorism and rape as a war tactic be the nature of a true, just war against terror. Eve Ensler quotes Dr. Mukwege as saying, “I patch them up and send them back home but there is no guarantee they will not be raped again. There have been several cases where women have come back a second time, more destroyed than the first.”

For most of us, the sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo is beyond belief, outside of even our nightmares. However, this must not be a reason to marginalize the stories of Congolese women or negate their ability to outlive such terror. If anything, we must relate to the spirit of resistance lived by the women at Panzi and Dr. Mukwege; try to embody it. Despite having been raised Roman Catholic, I was never able to believe that my body was just an irreverent, irrelevant container for my soul. Sometimes pain, sometimes prowess- I have always had a passionate relationship with my female parts and the things they are and are not capable of: the immense power I have to create and carry life. The shuddering vulnerability of soft holes to invasion. The responsibility to fight for the human right to access care, protection, and autonomy over our physical selves. To use our hands to heal when someone is suffering.

I will close with Dr. Mukwege‘s own story:


“My father was a pastor. He was very gentle, very human. From him I got the caring to treat patients. When we would go and visit sick people together, he would pray. I would ask, ‘Why can’t you give them tablets or prescriptions?’ He said, ‘I am not a doctor.’ I decided then that prayer is not enough. People must take things into their own hands. Asking God does not change anything. He gives us the ability to say yes or no. You must use your hands, your mind. When I receive women here who are hungry, I can’t say, ‘God bless you.’ I have to give them something to eat. When someone is suffering, I can’t tell her about God, I have to treat her pain. You can’t hide yourself in religion. Not a solution.”