Jean Rice's Speech from Riverside Church "Dear Mandela" Screening & Panel Discussion
I am here today, because since the historic transition to a participatory democracy based upon the concept of one person one vote which was declared in South Africa in 1994, my Abhalali brothers and sisters are still being treated as second class citizens and in far too many cases being hunted as if they were targets of a "Fugitive Slave Act."
I am here today to reiterate my brother S'bu Zikode's explanation of the Shackdwellers' "Living Politic", as he explained this credo at the university of Chicago on November 8, 2010: "Our living politic begins with the fact that all of us were created in the image of God and are therefore equal. Our living politic starts by recognizing the full and equal humanity of every human being. We struggle as human beings with equal worth and intelligence to all other human beings against a system that produces inequality by denying every day the humanity of some of us."
And thirdly, I am here today because in 1999 Picture the Homeless wrote into its inception the following:
"We oppose the quality of life laws that criminalize homeless people in any form by the city, state and national governments. We work to change these laws and policies as well as to challenge the root causes of homelessness."
My beloved organization had the foresight, in this age of globalization, not to place our awesome mission within a geo-political, geographical prism. I submit that homelessness and poverty are huge global issues and cannot be diminished with purely local solutions. So my organization's mission statement places me in complete solidarity with the South African Abahlali Shackdwellers.
Noteworthy is the fact that it is through an ironic quirk of fate that I was present at Union Theological's Poverty Initiative when the Abahlali delegation joined us in order to commence a sojourn through West Virginia to witness America's economic injustice firsthand. It was during this immersion trip, lasting over several days, that brother Owen Rogers and I agreed that the struggle of the Shackdwellers and the current struggles of Picture the Homeless as related to the issue of economic justice, has much in common; and here we were, on an immersion trip, sponsored and coordinated by the Poverty Initiative at Union Theological Seminary, the theme of which was the re-dedication to the struggles of the Martin Luther King Jr towards diminishing poverty. And so it is within this premise that I had to recall that the late Dr. King had proclaimed on many occasions that "injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere."
And so in closing I would like to admonish our elitist neo-liberal status quo, who are still holding onto a thoroughly discredited "Washington consensus," this current global struggle for economic justice will not dissolve; it will not go away. Be advised that "Picture the Homeless" are not mere rabble-rousers, we have recently installed a "Liberation Reference Library" within these confines; it is my vision that we will be able to put into place a global electronic communication network.
Yes, PTH needs to be in constant contact with the Shackdwellers of South Africa, but also we need to reach out to our homeless and displaced sisters and brothers in Bahia, Salvador, in Northeastern Brazil. Brazil consists of more than three cities. Also – what about the current plight of our Afro-Columbian sisters and brothers? See Forrest Hylton, "Evil Hour in Colombia, pub.: Verso, 2006. What about their economic plight?
The current South African government must implement all of the consititutional guarantees set forth in its current constitution, and such implementation must extend to all South Africans alike.
Until this is accomplished, a South African government that opposes the will of its people, a South African government that is opposed to transparency, participatory democracy, and the protection of civil liberties and human rights, will find itself opposed by PTH. And using nonviolent actions and our control of our consumer dollars to bring about "equal protection" of the law, as well as due process to all South Africans as a profound step in the process of healing this blood soaked land.
Picture the Homeless