New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Archive for the ‘Diane Lefer’

Memorial Day Redux

May 01, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Diane Lefer, Economy, Family, Politics

Working Smarter to Save Workers’ Lives

by Diane Lefer

According to US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, more people die in the American workplace in a single year than have been lost in nine years of war in Iraq. “Each day in America, twelve people go to work and never go home,” she told the audience at the Action Summit for Worker Safety and Health held at East Los Angeles Community College on April 26, one of many events leading up to Workers Memorial Day, April 28, an annual date of remembrance for those killed, injured, or sickened on the job.

María Elena Durazo, Executive-Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, reported there were 500 work-related deaths in 2011 in California and “Workers are still being fired for speaking out in order to avoid death.”

This loss of life and countless serious injuries, continue to occur although the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), intended to protect workers, was signed by Richard Nixon 41 years ago. (more…)

Equal(ity) Time

April 05, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Diane Lefer, Economy

Seeking Unity Across Sex, Race, and Class

by Diane Lefer

In an era when we see the faces of women, people of color, gay and lesbian people and people with disabilities among the 1%,”All the movements we have founded for our liberation are now represented in the establishment,” said women’s rights and anti-racist activist Selma James, “but we are not.”

And we remain unlikely to prevail without unity.

James, born in New York, one-time resident of South LA, veteran of anti-colonial struggles in the Caribbean, and now UK-based, was back in the US to launch her new bookSex, Race and Class — The Perspective of Winning. As the keynote speaker at the Teach-In, “Sex, Race & Class: What Are the Terms of Unity?” on Saturday, March 24 at the Southern California Library in South LA, she drew on  decades of organizing experience to talk about how to bridge the divide among the different sectors that make up the 99%.

The answer may well be “Money.” Not as the root of all evil, but the source of both autonomy and commonality. (more…)

Lessons from Bolivia

March 07, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Diane Lefer, Family

Try a Little Tenderness…

by Diane Lefer

Imagine working in an office where as people enter they hug and kiss all their co-workers every morning. You start the day with about a dozen hugs and kisses and of course more each time you leave and return. Here we might call it sexual harassment. But I loved these gestures of affection and solidarity while I was collaborating with Educar es fiesta, a nonprofit organization in Cochabamba, Bolivia, serving young people living in difficult circumstances and families in crisis.

Edson Quezada, known to all as “Queso” — Cheese (from his last name, not because he’s the Big Cheese) founded the organization believing that training in the arts is also training for life, that children have an intrinsic natural right to joy, and learning must go hand-in-hand with happiness.

Educar es fiesta draws young people into the program by offering theatre and circus arts–trapeze, aerial dance, juggling, unicycle riding, gymnastics, even some tightrope-walking, to develop self-expression, self-confidence, and perseverance. The kids learn that to develop a new skill, they may fail many times till they achieve success. (more…)

Writing Instruction as Social Practice

August 16, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Diane Lefer

What I Did (and Learned) in Barrancabermeja, Colombia

by Diane Lefer

Friends and family expressed concern when I said I was going to Colombia. Isn’t it dangerous? So I got a kick out of the tourism video Avianca showed en route: Colombia! The risk is that you won’t want to leave!

Apparently something of the sort happened to Yolanda Consejo Vargas, dancer and theatre artist born in Mexico, and her husband Italian-born director Guido Ripamonti when they found themselves in 2007 in Barrancabermeja, specifically in Comuna 7, which began as a neighborhood of squatters–people who’d been driven out of the countryside by violence, had landed in the city and were struggling to get by. The area was controlled by the guerrilla forces of the ELN. Then rightwing paramilitary death squads swept in, disrupting a Mothers Day celebration in 1998, killing and disappearing civilians, including children, while the Colombian military failed to intervene. The people of Comuna 7 organized, intent on reweaving the social fabric and creating a culture of peace. (more…)

Your Job Shouldn’t Kill You

July 20, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Diane Lefer, Economy, Politics

Protecting Workers from the Dangers of a Broken System

by Diane Lefer

“Regulation kills jobs.” We keep hearing that mantra from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. What became clear at the forum called on Tuesday evening by the Southern California Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health is that we need to say loud and clear that “Lack of regulation kills people.”

According to “ Dying at Work in California,” recently released by SoCalCOSH and Oakland-based Worksafe, 40 years after President Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), an estimated 6,500 workers in California die from chronic exposure to chemical, biological, or physical agents each year and in 2009 (the latest year for which data is available) there were over 300 confirmed worker deaths and 491,000 reported work-related injuries. (The report can be downloaded here.) (more…)

Reckoning with Torture

July 14, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Diane Lefer, Politics

Insisting on Responsibility and Justice

by Diane Lefer

Stephen F. Rohde, Chair of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, holds the distinction of having confronted John Yoo twice. As you’ll recall, Yoo was one of the torture apologists in the Bush administration who came up with tortured legal reasoning to justify the president’s violation of federal and international law. He became notorious for asserting that if the president felt it necessary, he could order a child’s testicles crushed in order to get the father to talk. The first time Rohde confronted him, giving Yoo the opportunity to amend his statement, the former Office of Legal Counsel mouthpiece still insisted torture was OK, as long as “limited to what is necessary.” (more…)

Women in the Crossfire

July 05, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Diane Lefer, Family, Politics

Navigating Challenges in Colombia with Dignity and Perseverance

by Diane Lefer

“When I was three years old, the army bombed my village,” the girl told me. She was sixteen, which meant the bombing happened in 1998.

“You’re from Santo Domingo?” I had protested that very bombing in demonstrations in front of the Los Angeles headquarters of Occidental Petroleum. The Colombian Air Force, intent on killing guerrillas who threatened Oxy’s operations, had relied on inaccurate information provided by the US. At least 17 civilians were killed and many others injured. Now I was talking to one of the survivors. “You were so young,” I said. “Do you remember?”

“A little,” said María Fernanda. “I remember my father lifting me onto his back. Like this, I crouched holding his shoulders. And I remember the sounds, the shells coming through the palm trees.”

We met in Barrancabermeja, Colombia where I was offering writing workshops and she was performing in the First International Theatre Festival for Peace which from May 20-30, 2011 brought us together with 400 artists and community members from different regions of Colombia and from 14 countries around the world, everyone committed to social justice. (more…)