Archive for March, 2008

With my new found fondness for Somalia I have taken a greater interest in the oft-forgotten country.

Why the new Fondness?
I have always had a fondness for Africa, so that part isn’t new. Somali hasn’t been on the radar much but now is mostly due to the fact that we are now living in the metro area with the highest concentration of Somali Refugees in the United States. Also in part because I am working in a school that is at least 1/3 Somali students – most whom are learning English. Many of our neighbors are Somalian and we live within 3 blocks of two Somali Mosques.

Somali Family Night
Last night my school held a Somali Family Night for the first time in several years. We were excited to have about 40 people show up and hope to keep the momentum rolling. You see in Somalia the parent’s weren’t overly involved in the educational system. Children went to school and the school handled everything. That isn’t quite the case here in the US as I’m sure you know. So we had some of our Somali and non-Somalian teachers talk about how the families can help their students succeed.

Somalian Refugee Crisis?? That was so 90’s
That’s true many people have forgotten about the conflict in Somali partly because there are so many conflict in Africa and partly due to fatigue and overall lack of apathy. I would also conjecture that it is in some part because everyone in Somalia is Muslim (that might be very cynical of me). The conflict has continued with very little respite since the mid-1990’s (remember Black Hawk Down?). The country has been in some state of conflict since post-colonialism in the 1960’s. On a tangential note, much of the African conflicts could be traced back to how colonists acted when they left. One of the teachers at the school has been in the US for 20 years – so the conflict has been prominent for at least that long.

Refugee’s Are Dying
All of this came to mind today because of a news report I received from the UN yesterday. It is titled: Somali Refugees Surviving on Less than 1 Meal a Day. Much like everyone else, refugees aren’t guaranteed anything when the seek refuge from their homes. But we generally expect there to be some level of safety and comfort at refugee camps. This report said:

Large numbers of families displaced by violence in Somalia are surviving on less than one meal a day and spending large proportions of their meagre income buying drinking water, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Severe droughts in parts of the country has exacerbated the problem for Somali’s who are fleeing urban areas due to violence.

“Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced,” the ICRC said. “Their situation has been exacerbated by a chronic lack of rainfall. The cost of living has risen so steeply that many people cannot afford to buy food and other essential items.”

In some parts of the country, the population was entirely dependent on animal breeding and trading. However, pastures had become barren in many places and herders were losing animals that had become too weak to walk the lengthening distances between fresh pastures and scarce water points.

Highlighting the plight of some 3,500 families who arrived two months ago in Guriel, 300km from Mogadishu, Gagnon said: “These families are enduring the extremities of suffering. The living conditions are shocking. In some places, food, water, essential household items, and sanitation facilities are scarce or non-existent.”

A severe drought had hit Mudug region, with some communities having lost their basic means of sustaining themselves.

We should be praying for peace and finding ways to support the refugee system to bring in water and other necessities. I haven’t found a Save Somalia group, like the Save Darfur groups – but it is just as important.

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Chillicothe, Ohio is my hometown – almost. It is the county seat and my house is 15 minutes from downtown Chilli-bobo as we fondly called it!

There isn’t a whole lot there although it has grown up, mostly after I left and now has quite the shopping district full of strip malls and restaurants! It is always a little exciting to have your hometown mentioned in major news magazines, although it probably isn’t because of something good that is happening.

Last week’s mention was in relationship to President Bill Clinton and his several visits to town. In case you fell asleep for a little while, Ohio is a “battleground state” in the general election and was also a hotly contested state this year for the Democratic primaries. Bill came and spoke with his “friends” about why they should vote for Hilliary and I’m sure a large part of the county did vote for her and supported her win in Ohio’s primary.

Here is an excerpt from the beginning of the article:

With just over a week to go before the Ohio primary, Bill Clinton’s arrival in Chillicothe was greeted as a homecoming of sorts. More than a few in the audience at the college gym could remember the first time he came to the city. It was 15 years before, almost to the day, and the new President was in town to sell his economic plan. The 46-year-old baby boomer had seemed the very embodiment of the freshness and change that the people of this downtrodden burg on the edge of Appalachia had been praying for. They were giddy when he jogged through Yoctangee Park with the mayor in 3�F (-16�C) weather and dropped by their new McDonald’s for a decaf. But it was the hope in his words that thrilled them most of all. “None of us have all the answers,” Clinton declared back then. “This is a new and uncharted time. And I want to encourage you to continue to believe in your country.”

But today’s Bill Clinton after a quadruple bypass has given up jogging in favor of long walks, and his hair is a halo of white. And he had come to deliver a very different message. Don’t fall in love, he cautioned, simply because someone tells you that “we need to turn the page in America, and we need to adopt something fresh and new — whatever that is.”

Chillicothe was last mentioned in TIME just over 7 years ago. This was a gloomy mention talking about the economic problems of the US and how “Chillicothe’s fortunes typically mirror those of the rest of the country.” The overall article was about the Bush tax cuts, asking ordinary residents if the cuts would have a positive impact on the struggling economy.

I’m no economist, but there are a lot of new businesses in town. Most of them are in the service and hospitality industry, with lower wages than the old manufacturing jobs. So who knows!

Keep on, keeping on Chillicothe!

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Check 2 more things off the list of Minnesotan things to do for Team Cross.

This weekend we went snowshoeing and drove our car on a lake.

We went to the Hyland Park Preserve to learn about Maple Syruping, but since it was a ton of little kiddos we decided to slip out and rent some snowshoes. We took them out for about an hour and a half and explored some trails and lakes! Below is a picture from the adventure. We spelled our names on the middle of a lake and had a good time.

We also decided to give driving on a lake a whirl – there was a small lake nearby the park with 5 -6 other cars and trucks on it so we figured it was a safe bet, despite the “thin ice” sign. The below picture was taken afterwards with the car safely on the beach. It is a very weird feeling to be driving on a lake!

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I thought this was great when I found it –

In 2003, a couple of major things happened. 50 Cent blew up and G-Unit took over the music industry, Jay-Z “retired,” and Eminem won an Oscar. It was a big year for Hip Hop. These things we remember vividly, as they were the subject of endless media fanfare (seriously, how many articles did you read about Hova claiming he was done with the rap game?).

Sadly, while you and I were bumpin’ “Dirt Off Your Shoulders” and “In Da Club” that year, a tragedy that has been dubbed the number one humanitarian crisis in the world began – the genocide in Darfur.

Who knew that Hip-Hop had a soul and even a positive side? This particular post: Hip-Hop and Darfur:Part One give a pretty basic overview of the conflict and what has been done. The series continues with an interview with Ankh Amen Ra in part two. Ankh Amen Ra wrote a song called Darfur which can be heard here. Here is the final dialouge from the interview:

DX: What is the most important thing the “average” person can do to help?
AAR:
Raise awareness in his or her community – however they feel they can bring more attention to the issue. Talking to people at work, your neighbors, going door-to-door – we have to put this issue on people’s radar, and they have to feel that this is something that needs to stop immediately. Helping raise awareness in your close circle is really the way to make this issue resonate in the hearts and minds of the international community.

I would also like to personally call upon the hip hop community to peacefully assemble as a unified front on the steps of the United Nations and demand that the United Nations Security Council fulfill the promises of UN Resolution 1769, which effectively created the UNAMID Force, an international force consisting of African Union and European Union troops, responsible for establishing security in the war torn region.

In fact, due to the recent attempted coup of the Chadian government by allegedly Sudanese government supported rebels, the situation in that region is deteriorating rapidly as the Chadian prime minister has apparently called for the immediate removal of all Darfur refuges from the his country. Therefore, we must act now!

Part Three is the final (at least for now) installment connecting Hip-Hop and Darfur at HipHopDX and is an interview with Don Cheadle and Adam Sterling. Here is a good excerpt from that interview:

DX: When actors get involve themselves in activism, it puts their careers into a different light. Do you talk to your friends about it, like George [Clooney] or Brad [Pitt]?
DC:
I don’t know where it fits, vis a vis. I think a lot of people think doing advocacy work really helps in your career. I think, as you are a human being, and you’re feeing off of being a human being, giving value and meaning to your life, then in all walks of your life it absolutely helps. As far as acting goes, it sometimes cuts against it. It makes it more difficult, as a career. It makes it more difficult in our business, because you get pigeon-holed. It’s just another way to get pigeon-holed and people don’t think you can do a bunch of things and those doors start shutting.

Does that mean that I stop doing it for me? No. Or George? Or others that I’ve spoken to? No. You keep doing it because that’s where your heart lies. It definitely puts everything in perspective. Way more than my acting, it puts my family life into perspective, it puts my children’s relationship to me in perspective–what are you trying to accomplish and achieve as a global citizen in the brief time that you’re here?

What do you want to do? Do you want to be on record between you and your god and your family and your friends as having tried to do something? Or just, you know, to make as much money as you can and get a nice big house and cool ass cars and nice clothes? You can do that too. But I don’t think that’s how you want to measure yourself.

These are well researched and well-written articles, not what I would have expected from a stereotypical Hip-Hop culture. You should go check them out.

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After several weeks of good news and progress related to Sudan, the New York Times reported on Sunday that the scorched-earth policy which initially led to the US declaring the violence a genocide has returned.

The attacks by the janjaweed, the fearsome Arab militias that came three weeks ago, accompanied by government bombers and followed by the Sudanese Army, were a return to the tactics that terrorized Darfur in the early, bloodiest stages of the conflict.

Such brutal, three-pronged attacks of this scale — involving close coordination of air power, army troops and Arab militias in areas where rebel troops have been — have rarely been seen in the past few years, when the violence became more episodic and fractured. But they resemble the kinds of campaigns that first captured the world’s attention and prompted the Bush administration to call the violence in Darfur genocide.

This is not a good development as the UN Peacekeeping force still isn’t fully deployed and able to help protect civilians. Women and children are bearing the brunt of this never-ending violence. While it clear that it is a complicated mess there are also clear paths forward to begin the end.

The Sudan government must allow full access to the country by the UN-AU Peacekeeping force, the government must stop bombing villages and coordinating with rebel groups to eliminate entire populations. Rebel groups must step forward and be willing to negotiate peace and not provoke government action. Both groups should focus on true and lasting peace in Sudan and end the skirmishes for power in neighboring Chad.

The world has had ENOUGH.

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I apologize for the 2 Spam posts, I’m not sure what happened this evening that caused them to be posted.

I sincerely regret that it happened. Please know that that is not something I would allow.

Thanks for your patience.

We are Minnesotans! We were kind of in a weird spot since our Indiana license plates expired on March 15, we had to do something to get them renewed. Also, there is some obscure law about if you live in Minnesota for longer than 60 days you have to get a Minnesota driver’s license.

So we spent the afternoon on Thursday at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Division of Motor Vehicles. It was kind of a mess because I looked at and then decided not to bring our Marriage License – BIG MISTAKE! We went and took our driver’s tests – we both passed, barely! Did you know you only have to be 3ft away from a cyclist or that you only need to stop 20 ft behind a school bus with its flashing red lights. Or how about that if an accident causes over $1,000 in damage you have to file some accident report. Yea those are all questions I missed.

After that is when the trouble began – with her Passport as Sallee and Indiana Driver’s License as Cross – she needed proof of her name change and a changed (meaning correct) Social Security Card didn’t matter at all. UGH. So we finished up my license – which I’ll get in the mail in 3-4 weeks and proceeded to work on retitling the cars into MN. Well guess what, both cars still have Sallee on them since we bought the Honda before we got married. They were pretty adamant that we should wait and put Cross on both of them, but to do that we’d need proof of her name change. UGH.

Luckily, we live only a few blocks from the service center since it is housed in the Midtown Market. I left her at a coffee shop and ran home to get the stupid marriage license so we could get everything finished up.

When I got back everything went fairly smoothly – lines were never very long. We got new license plates for both cars – titles are in the mail. I renewed my passport since it expired in March as well coming in 3-4 weeks. She finished her driver’s license and renewed her passport, both of which will come in 3-4 weeks. The only concern with all of this is that we technically only have our driver’s licenses (with a snipped corner) which with the yellow sheet are valid MN ID, and our Social Security cards as identification, and no original marriage license. We are supposed to get everything back in the mail at some point!

Oh and to top it all off – MN requires license plates on the front and back – both cars only have holders on the back. UGH.

They never did ask for any proof of address or anything throughout the entire process – but you HAVE to have the Marriage License.

What a mess – just to be ethical and legit. I’m still waiting to hear back from the insurance company about switching all of our insurance! UGH.

Isn’t that a nice story! Welcome to MINNESOTA!

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