Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “AIDS”

Happy Birthday Kiva!

 Dealing with global issues can sometimes seem so overbearing because of the sheer size of the problems -world hunger, AIDS, population explosions, natural disasters…the list is endless, and it involves billions of dollars needed for billions of people. It can be daunting and lead to paralysis.

The solution is really on two levels. We need to lobby our governments to take on such issues. The United Nations, probably best suited for such a task, is in desperate need of an overhaul, but that isn’t going to happen soon.

On the personal level, we can get involved, in a proportion that we can identify with. I have written a number of times about microfinancing, where for just $25, you can help a father of four in Tanzania set up a coffee shop, or a woman in India establish a juice bar. It is truly inspiring.

This brings me to KIVA, a non-profit microfinance bank that raises money through small gifts to help people invest in family or community enterprises. KIVA has just celebrated its 6th birthday and is growing in both scope (different countries) and size. 

You peruse the list of individuals who have been approved and invest by donating small increments of money. These are essentially loans, and you will receive notice as the money is being repaid. When it does, your ‘account’ with KIVA is credited and you could take the money back, though donors often reinvest the money back into helping another person through KIVA. For more on microfinance, click here.

The Jewish teacher, Maimonides, taught of eight levels of giving. The highest level is to offer someone the opportunity to become financially independent. For the last six years, KIVA have been doing just that. With six very successful years behind them, I hope we can go on saving the world together, one person at a time.

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

I HAVEN’T died on schedule.

I’ve been holding off on this one for a while, primarily because of my close friend, Rebecca, who passed away 10 days ago. But she, like so many, defied the doctors and statistics, to go on living far beyond what was expected of her.

“I haven’t died on schedule.” So begins a beautiful article by Mark Trautwein from San Francisco in The New York Times.

Mark Trautwein

I have now met a couple of people who have lasted longer than they thought, or rather than they were told by their doctors. My grandmother lasted several years more than anyone expected. Anyone, that is but her. She announced that she would see all her grandchildren have their barmitzvahs. Mine was still several years in the future and some in the family raised eyebrows. She passed away shortly after my barmitzvah – when she was ready, people said.

How do you live under such a cloud, a death sentence, really? Where do these people find the strength not just to survive, but live. My friend, Rebecca, lived her life in full until the end, helping people as she had all her life.

My heart is full of admiration for those people who live in such conditions. They seem so brave, so strong. I think how much the rest of us can learn from their example. Please take a moment to read the article. You can also follow Mark’s blog.

It has occurred to me that unless we are living under the same roof as that person, it is really difficult to keep their struggle in our minds or to normalize it. Probably, we only see them when they are feeling good, certainly not when they are having treatment or lying awake in the middle of the night. Often, they don’t want to dwell on their struggle when you visit, preferring to hear about your life (don’t your problems seem so insignificant at that moment?) or discuss what they crave for – normalcy.

Do you know someone who is fighting a life-threatening disease, illness etc.? Maybe it’s time to go round, hang out with them, be in the picture. If you can’t, give them a call. It’s Labor Day weekend coming up. You have time, not that you can measure time. Ask these people.

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

——————————————————————————————————


Sir Punk Rocker

Bob Geldof is/was a hero of mine. It is not often that Her Majesty knights a punk rocker who freely swore on TV (when it was not okay to do so), who wore his heart on his sleeve, called it as he saw it, and never flinched from courting controversy.

The Boomtown Rats were my favorite band in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s. One hot English summer, the youth were incarcerated by the sound of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John crooning Summer Nights at each other every night at 5.50pm as they stood at No. 1 in Capital Radio’s daily Top Ten. And then there was Rat Trap, crawling up the charts and it was, I believe, on a Thursday that Rat Trap reached No. 2.

London held its collective breath (wildly embellished from a then 14-year-old’s memory) and that Friday, Capital Radio boasted record listening statistics as at 5.45pm, whatever song had reached No. 3 finished and whoever had obliviously booked that advertisement slot months before enjoyed unexpected exposure.

Then the DJ announced: “After six Weeks at No.1, their reign is over.” London (well, at least me and my mates) cheered even if we couldn’t text each other or update our Facebook statuses. Five minutes later, the Boomtown Rats had arrived.

But it takes more than displacing John Travolta to earn a knighthood. Even the most stodgy Brits nodded in approval as six years later Bob Geldof galvanized the music world with the Live Aid concerts.

For the next 25 years, Geldof has led the activist charge to relieve the massive debt in Africa. He has never shied from controversy or let politics get in his way. When George Bush publicly stated he was willing to fight AIDS in Africa, Geldof embraced him.

Bob Geldof is not a model of chivalry or the kind of gentleman that one conjures up an image of a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, on his knee, head bowed as Her Majesty nobly swings her sword. In the music world of cheap commercial popularism, he never embraced the grovelling need for marketable acceptance.

But Bob Geldof is a relentless activist, a showbiz man who kept it real, and kept it real for many others in the celebrity world and on the street. So what if he used profanity on T.V. in the middle of the Band Aid concerts, it shamed people into reaching into their wallets and answering the call of a desperate nation.

Bob Geldof has saved millions of lives. He has often single-handedly led a charge for a desperate and forgotten part of our world. He has woken many of us up and released us from our own Rat Trap …

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/

Movies That Matter: MILK

I love everything connected to San Francisco. I never thought that I would fall in love with a city but I have. The reasons why are a matter for another post. MILK is about Harvey Milk and gay rights, but it is also about San Francisco.

When I went to see MILK, I was visiting with family in Southern California. Part of the ritual is that my in-laws kindly take our children out to the latest Pixar movie, allowing my wife and I a rare date – usually a meal and movie.

Being still new to the US, I knew nothing about Harvey Milk or the history of the Gay Rights struggle in San Francisco. But the combination of Sean Penn + San Francisco = our night out.

For a basic synopsis, please see the review from Kathleen C. Fennessy on the movie’s Amazon.com page. Here is the first paragraph.

In 1972, Milk (Sean Penn) and his boyfriend, Scott (James Franco), move from New York to San Francisco. Milk opens a camera shop on the Castro. Though considered a safe haven for victims of discrimination, Milk sees enough injustices decide to enter politics. With each race he runs, Harvey’s relationship with Scott unravels further. As he begins to accrue victories, Milk takes on Proposition 6, which denies equal rights to homosexuals.

What draws me to the character of Milk is the fact that he was not a polished politician, groomed from birth as seems to be the case in so many present day leaders. He can be both intense and funny. He makes mistakes, listens, and takes on the ideas of others.

Moreover, he had the ability to inspire people to get involved in grass-roots activism. We observe Cleve Jones (Emile Hirsch), the ex-street hustler who created the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial. It is a different kind of leadership when you can empower others to take charge of their own lives and effect change.


It was particularly poignant that MILK was released during the struggle for Proposition 8, California’s anti-gay marriage amendment. As Ms. Fennessy concludes: “Milk is inspirational in the best way: one person can and did make a difference, but the struggle is far from over.

My wife and I watched MILK in Ventura. The couple sitting next to me had been there, faces in the crowd. Usually I can’t stand when someone talks during a movie, but there was something magical hearing their reminiscing.

There is a section in the movie where they show a map of California and the gradual election results of Prop 6. When the results were shown for Ventura County, a huge cheer went up around the movie theater.

Very cool.

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

 

 

Small Business Saturday

I’ve just returned from my Black Friday Shopping foray. Mrs. Blog and I rose at 4am (Friday at the time of writing) and made some new friends outside the Office Max in Oxnard. Having secured our new treasure – a laptop for the lady – I came home and saw an email sent to remind me that Saturday (today) is Small Business Saturday. In a recent post, I wrote about the challenges of the endangered species – the small, independent business.

Today’s initiative is a great response to Black Friday. It is interesting that the day is being sponsored by American Express Credit Card Company – yes you read that correctly I went online to check it when I was told. Here is the Facebook page so it must be true!

Though I am 300 miles away, here are a few of my favorite local businesses in Berkeley.

1. Manhattan Bagels is over on 4th Street. There isn’t a lot to say – they have the best bagels in town, a great variety (check out the Cranberry Orange), and the service and parking is smooth.

2. East Bay Vivarium – when you’ve finished your bagel, why not pop over to the East Bay Vivarium. Okay, this is for reptile lovers, but I want to point them out because they care about their pets, even after you have purchased and taken the little critters home. As nervous new parents, my sons and I have often returned for advice from the staff, and they have always been happy to dispense from their wealth of experience. I am particularly impressed when someone says: “I’m not sure. Let me check with the others.”

Meet the beautiful, latest addition to our family – Nanchuk, a Crested Gecko.

3. The Bread Workshop – I realize I’m pushing the carbs here, but this a great place to eat, to hang out for coffee, and to feel good with a vendor using a fair amount of local products and organic ingredients.  I might be biased since they hosted the book launch of my previous incarnation of The Accidental Activist, but this really is an excellent example of a business that aims to be sustainable. You can find The Bread Workshop at 1398 University Avenue.

4. Out of the Closet – This is a thrift store (there are a few around the Bay Area) on University. The thing about this place is that there always seems to be something to surprise you and this probably explains why it is a favorite venue in the run up to Halloween. It also helps to know that Out of the Closet supports AIDS projects and was set up by one of the all-time basketball greats – Magic Johnson.

5. Rasputin Music – is an icon up on Telegraph Avenue. They have a great stock of discs at affordable prices. I’ve also picked up several movies here.

So while you plan your day, here is the latest offering from my favorite musician, Lloyd Cole. I can’t think of any reason to link the song to the article, I’m just excited that he has a new disc out!

And while you are here, why not list below in the comments your favorite local, small business, and give them a plug.

Happy Small Business Saturday.

——————————————————————————————————-

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

Post Navigation

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: