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May 26, 2008

In remembrance of some of those who died while in service, or for their service, let us salute the following people who made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of human rights and social justice:

Gary Webb, death by reported suicide in 2004 at age 49, a year after his appearance in this School of Authentic Journalism video His 3-part Dark Alliance series in the San Jose Mercury News in 1996 exposed the CIA’s distribution of cocaine into Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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FannyAnn Eddydeath by beating in 2004 at the age of 30. The founder of the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Assn. is known throughout Africa. She testified before the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2004 about the constant brutality suffered by lesbians, gays and transgendered people, which local authorities refused to prosecute.

 “Yet, despite all of the difficulties we face, I have faith that acknowledging the inherent dignity and respect due us can lead to greater respect for our human rights. Silence creates vulnerability. I urge you, members of the Commission on Human Rights, to break the silence. You can help us achieve our full rights and freedoms, in every society, including my beloved Sierra Leone.”

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Rachel Corrie, death by bulldozer in 2003, at the age of 23, while fighting for life, limb and property of Palestinians against Israel’s ongoing genocide. 

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Paul Wellstone, death by plane crash in 2002. “There is no indication today that Wellstone’s death was the result of foul play. What we do know, however, is that Wellstone emerged as the most visible obstacle standing in the way of a draconian political agenda by an unelected government.” Michael Niman’s article catalogs other deaths involving politicians. 

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Steven Biko, death by beating in 1977 while in police custody in South Africa. A former medical student, he organized against apartheid and was arrested under SA’s Terrorism Act.

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Karen Silkwood, death by car accident in 1974, after being exposed to plutonium. She brought nuclear energy safety issues to the forefront of American consciousness and is a hero in Labor history.   

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Sophie Scholl, death by execution in 1943 at the age of 23. The most famous resistance fighter of the Nazi Regime, her intelligence was the driving force behind The White Rose, which crafted pamphlets to expose Nazi atrocities to Germans. 

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Hannah Senesh, death by execution in 1944 at the age of 23. A holocaust resistance fighter, this young woman smuggled Jews and British prisoners of war out of Nazi-occupied Hungary.

There are stars whose radiance is visible on earth
though they have long been extinct.
There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world  though they are no longer among the living.  
These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark.  
They light the way for humanity.

~Poem by Hannah Senesh 

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Intelligent Women and other outside the box thinkers, death by fire for 500 years from the 14th to 18th centuries.  Oh, those midwives, herbalists, pagans, and other free thinkers certainly suffered under the insecurities of the Church, which forbade thought outside its own dogma.

 

Let us continue our work toward peace and justice, while we pause to remember many of the unsung heroes whose work brought relief, and sometimes joy, to the lives they touched.

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