Friday, August 31, 2018

Stop bombing children in Yemen!

Today I took part in a demo at the LA Federal Building, sponsored by Code Pink and ICUJP. We called on our elected officials to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia until they cease bombing children and other civilians in Yemen,

Please let your elected officials know where you stand. Here's what I wrote to my elected officials today:

The U.S. government is supposed to follow the Arms Export Control Act, which requires that U.S. arms transfers be used only for self-defense, internal security, and in United Nations sanctioned operations; the Foreign Assistance Act, which bars military aid and arms sales to countries with poor human rights records; and the Export Administration Act, which regulates the sale of items with both civilian and military uses.

Clearly the Saudis are in violation of these Acts and weapon sales should be curtailed until they are in compliance. 

Call your Congressperson (202-224-3121) urging them to invoke War Powers Act to force congressional vote ending US participation in Saudi war crimes in Yemen

Image may contain: 5 people, including Anthony Manousos and Grace R. Dyrness, people smiling, crowd and outdoor

Why Are U.S. Bombs Killing Civilians in Yemen?

The United States, by providing weapons and support to the Saudi-led coalition waging indiscriminate war in Yemen, shares in the blame.
The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.
  • Aug. 28, 2018
CreditCreditIllustration by Alex Merto; photograph by Fayez Nureldine/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The top American air commander in the Middle East voiced frustration in an interview last week over the murderously incompetent Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen. Though welcome, his sentiment was far too mild. It should have been more like horror — and shame over American complicity in what a new United Nations report views as criminal carnage.

Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies intervened in Yemen more than three years ago to rout Iran-backed Shiite rebels who had driven the internationally recognized government out of the capital and into Saudi exile. As the conflict has dragged on, the rebels have also been accused of atrocities, but the United Nations body and human rights groups say it is the Saudi-led air war that has done the most to turn an already impoverished country into a humanitarian nightmare and an indiscriminate killing field.

Again and again, Saudi-led airstrikes have struck civilian targets, slaughtering innumerable innocents. Last Friday, the United Nations said the coalition killed at least 22 children and four women as they fled a battle zone. Two weeks earlier, on Aug. 9, a coalition air assault struck a school bus, killing dozens of children. Countless more civilians have been killed by bombs at markets, weddings, funerals — more than 6,500 by the official count, but certainly many, many more. Millions more civilians are suffering from shortages of food and medical care.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Peace is a group effort: report on my current peace and justice activism

I've been reflecting on the truism that peace and justice work is not a solo act. I am able to do what I do because I have the support of various communities and groups to which I belong, namely, FCNL, ICUJP, Orange Grove (Quaker) Meeting, and the Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group (GPAHG). From time to time I send reports to my Quaker meeting because I am their liaison to ICUJP. This is my August report. 
I feel that the work I am doing is deeply faith-rooted and Spirit-led,  I am grateful to God that I have the health and means to do work that brings me a sense of joy and inner peace. To stay spiritually grounded, I meet once a month with my spiritual director, a Benedictine Episcopal monk named Dennis Gibbs, and we often talk about the spiritual aspects of my activism. Jill and I also have two weekly Bible studies and prayer in which we seek to be open to how Spirit is guiding us in our work.  I have a daily practice of prayer three times daily--when I get up, around noon (just before my nap) and in the evening before bedtime.

In addition to the activism described below, I was invited to speak about Quakerism at a UCC Church in Manhattan Beach on July 29, which is why I missed Meeting last Sunday. My talk was entitled: "Everything you wanted to know about Quakerism and aren't afraid to ask." People were very interested and weren't afraid to ask questions so a good time was had by all. They even bought some of my books. I had a blast being an "ambassador of Quakerism."

Here's my monthly report on my peace-related work. In addition to this work, I am also active with the Social Change Ministry led by Arthur Kagerreis, a member of Orange Grove Meeting. We're collaborating with Neighborhood Unitarian Church on immigration issues and visiting detainees at Adelanto Detention Center. We just crafted a minute on immigration that we plan to present to business meeting this month.

1) ICUJP and FCNL. ICUJP, FCNL and half a dozen other peace groups are working together to promote peace on the Korean peninsula and denuclearization there and here at home. We are supporting  the "Back from the Brink" anti-nuke campaign of Physicians for Social Responsibility in addition to FCNL's campaign.  Our next lobby visit will take place at the office of Kamala Harris on Aug 17 at 1:30 pm. You are welcome to join us! For more details about recent visits, see

This Sunday, Aug 5th, ICUJP is co-sponsoring this Hiroshima Day event in Santa Monica to which you are warmly invited.
73 years ago, the nuclear bombs dropped on the cities of Hiroshima & Nagasaki, shocked the world and birthed a movement with the mantra “Never Again.”  This Sunday, August 5th, Peace Action is co-sponsoring a public peace vigil in Santa Monica to remember the victims of the atomic bombings and reflect on the ways we are working to prevent history repeating itself.  I hope you’ll join us from 3:30 pm until 5:00 pm at the landmarked public art peace sculpture 'Chain Reaction' located in the Santa Monica Civic Center on the 1800 block of Main Street just north of Pico Blvd. Last year, I had the privilege of representing Peace Action at the 2017 World Conference to Abolish the A & H Bombs. There, I had the honor of hearing directly from Hibakusha, survivors of the blasts, and from peace activists from across the globe. In addition to other speakers, I will be sharing a bit about my experience there and some of the reasons I have hope for our movement.  Please join us if you are available – and invite your friends!  You can find the complete details, including parking information here on the event’s facebook page.Thanks for all you do for peace! In Solidarity, Frances Yasmeen Motiwalla Peace Action 
ICUJP is also co-sponsoring the upcoming events of the Parliament of the World's Religion
next week, Aug 11-12.  Saturday's event will focus on Eco-Justice and Sunday's event will focus on "Sharing Our Stories: Celebrating Harmony in our Broken World." Both events take place in the afternoon and evening at the Baha'i Center in LA.  I will be giving a workshop on the Poor People's Campaign on Sunday's event.

I organize the weekly program of speakers for ICUJP. I thought you might like to know our program for this month. I'm pleased that my friend Liza Diniakis (who organizes visits to the Adelanto Detention Center, where I visit detainees) will be speaking about Freedom for Immigrants.  "Pray the Devil Back to Hell" is a documentary about the women in Liberian who received the Nobel Prize for their nonviolent efforts to get rid an oppressive regime. Marium is a young Muslim who is deeply involved in interfaith work, especially building bridges between Muslims and Jews through a program called "New Ground." "Valentino's Ghost" is about how Muslims are portrayed in the media. As you can see, we have an engaging program every week dealing with social justice issues from an interfaith perspective. We also have coffee and bagels.

3-AugParliament of World's ReligionsDebra Van Zyl et al
10-AugMuslim JourneyMarium
17-AugFreedom for ImmigrantsLiza Diniakis
24-Aug"Pray the Devil Back to Hell"Anthony
31-Aug"Valentino's Ghost"Michael Singh

2) Housing Justice:  We had a very successful action at the Ed Tech Committee of the Pasadean City Council, where they decided to recommend affordable housing and commercial development at Heritage Square South. This seemed like a big win for us, but the battle isn't over. Ed Tech did not recommend permanent supportive housing for seniors, so we still must rally the community for a crucial meeting of the full Council where the final decision will be made, perhaps as soon as Aug 20. Below is a letter we're sending to the Council.

In addition to these campaigns, we are making good progress on our nonprofit called "Making Housing and Community Happen." God willing, we'll have nonprofit status by the end of this month. We hope that this new organization will be supported by our Meeting.
Here's a letter we sent out this week regarding our current housing justice efforts:

 Dear Friends, The battle to provide homeless housing is far from over. We need to take action on the following items:

1) Advocate for Model A, not Model C, at Heritage Square South. We had a meeting with Pasadena Housing Director Bill Huang in which he told us that housing homeless seniors on Heritage Square South is far from a done deal. The devil is in the details. Model C (which Ed Tech recommended) says "housing," but that could mean market rate, or affordable, or permanent supportive housing or a combination of these—what was recommended does not spell out that it would specifically be for Permanent Supportive Housing( PSH). It calls for underground parking, which sounds good but may be not economically feasible since it costs over $30,000 per parking space. Model C would require a feasibility study and could take years to develop since there is nothing like it in NW Pasadena. Therefore, we need a big turnout again when Heritage Square South comes up for consideration by the whole City Council so we can advocate for Model A, which definitely specifies permanent supportive housing and surface parking for a modest amount of retail space (preferably medical offices). We also need to contact individual City members to let them know our talking points. Please review the letter below before it is sent to the CC. And please contact the City Council and let them know that you support Model A and the other points in this letter. Write to the city clerk:,

1) Ordinance to facilitate motel conversion to permanent supportive housing needs our support. As you may have read in Monday's Star News, the Planning Committee and the City Council are considering an ordinance that would make it easier for the City to convert motels into permanent supportive housing. This is a very good policy, In order for this to happen, however, it is important that the city ordinance makes approval of these conversions "by right" or "ministerial," thereby avoiding a lengthy and time-consuming process involving environmental impact studies and community input that invites NYMBYism.  Pease let us know if you are willing to go to the Planning Committee meeting on Aug 8th at 6:30pm to advocate for this policy.

2) Oppose over-concentration policy that will stifle city-funded affordable housing in NW Pasadena. Mr. Gordo wants the City Council to adopt a very bad policy that would curtail city-funded affordable housing in NW Pasadena due to "overconcentration," based on State Code Section 34176 1(c) (2).. As the data clearly shows, NW Pasadena has become gentrified and therefore needs more, not less, affordable housing to prevent increasing homelessness and displacement of long-term residents. Bill Huang (along with many other experts) points out: "Affordable housing in all its forms is the best way to combat gentrification." We need to convince the City Council to study the gentrification issue carefully before adopting a misguided and obsolete policy that would hurt the long-term low-income residents of NW Pasadena.

Here is a letter we are sending to the City Council on Aug 2:

Dear Honorable Mayor and City Councilmembers:

Ed Tech's approval of Model C--housing and commercial development--is a step in the right direction, but we want to be sure that "housing" means "permanent supportive housing" (PSH) and not market rate housing. Market rate housing would require that the City forfeit $2.3 million to HUD and the state, and lose a golden opportunity to build PSH on a site ideal for housing homeless seniors. There is county, state and federal funding for PSH, not so much for affordable housing.  Your constituents have made it very clear that we want permanent supportive housing on this site.
We have other practical concerns about Model C. It calls for 15-20 K of retail space with underground parking. Is this realistic? The cost of underground parking is approximately $30,000 or more per car. This would add considerable cost to retail rental. Is there a market for more retail development on this corner? The site of Blaze Pizza was vacant for 4 years. Rents on a site with underground parking would be much higher than one with surface parking.  There would need to be a feasibility study to determine if Model C is economically viable.
We feel that Model A is more realistic. It calls for 69 units of affordable housing and 15-30 spaces for surface parking and a modest amount of commercial development. If we house 69 homeless seniors and have medical offices on the first floor, that number of parking spaces would probably suffice. We could move forward with Model A without a lengthy and time-consuming feasibility study.
It is important for the city to come up with a realistic plan expeditiously so this project doesn't drag on for years, as has happened in the past. Permanent supportive housing is fundable now and we can access millions in non-city funds that would provide an immediate economic boost to our area since affordable housing requires that 20% of those hired are local, 20% are local contracts and 20% local materials.. The number of homeless seniors is increasing at an alarming rate so we need this housing as soon as possible. The latest figures for San Gabriel Valley show that the number of homeless seniors 62 years old and older has gone up 116% in the past year. Pasadena's homeless senior rate has gone up 58% in the last three years. Housing homeless seniors is a crisis that needs to be addressed now. That's why we recommend that the City Council approve Model A. 
We also strongly urge the City Council not to adopt a policy based on Code Section 34176 1(c) (2) that would greatly restrict building affordable housing in Northwest Pasadena due to "overconcentration." This is not what your constituents want and it is not good policy. As the data clearly shows, NW Pasadena has become gentrified and therefore needs more, not less, affordable housing to prevent increasing homelessness and displacement of long-term residents.  
Before adopting any policy changes like this, we need input from the Northwest Commission and from residents. We are quite certain that the residents of NW Pasadena do not want you to stop building affordable housing in this area where rents are skyrocketing and the African American community and others are being priced out.