26 May 2010

Messages from Houston

Aileen Suzara writes from Houston:

It's the second day in Houston. With FACES and our Manila partners, I've come here to join the story and the fighting spirit of the Philippines fencelines FACES partners with, together with communities around the globe - from Nigeria, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, Angola, Nigeria, Colombia, Iraq, Alberta, and from Richmond to Houston, USA. 

It's one powerful mix of people. In two days, we have already spoken to media at a press conference, voiced our stories at a public teach-in, and stood our ground outside and within Chevron's offices.

This morning, we woke early to stage a powerful action within and outside the Chevron Annual Shareholders Meeting. Waiting in line to enter the meeting, it was heartbreaking to witness dozens of allies denied access to the meeting, despite having legal documents as shareholder proxies. While a powerful sit-in was staged outside, a handful of us allowed into the meeting.

Inside the meeting, Chevron affirmed its continued profits despite the economic downturn. It praised its "Chevron Way" of respecting human rights, the environment, and claimed it improves the quality of life "everywhere it operates." There was a filmscreening of Chevron funded health clinics in Africa. But while intended to pull our heartstrings, we were not fooled. Our team of seven delegates took the floor and clearly delivered the call for accountability to Chevron representatives and stakeholders. 

We closed out the meeting with chants of "Chevron Lies, People Die" until the meeting was abruptly ended and the True Cost of Chevron lead editor, Antonia Juhasz, was arrested. Outside the meeting, where a nonviolent rally continued throughout the meeting, several activists were arrested for speaking truth.

Exhaustion, elation, outrage for our disenfranchised allies courses through my body. I'm proud to be here in solidarity with the Philippines, and humbled to be in the company of such courageous people - from a 71 year old grandmother from Ecuador speaking out about Chevron's poison pits, to Native youth from Canada speaking of Chevron's toxic extraction at ground zero. 

These are the toxic trails linking the depot in the Philippines with communities across the globe. And as the BP oil spill continues, it is a stark mirror for many Americans of the everyday issues faced by Global South and poor communities around the world.

"Our future and our destinies are connected - whether we like it or not," testified an Angolan activist to Chevron CEOs. So, too, is the fate of communities resisting Chevron. What we have gleaned out from this toxic tragedy is a great strength, and an even stronger drive to build our collective power. There is just too much at stake.

I'm excited to return and report to our friends and allies in the Philippines and with FACES. We must all work together to open more minds and hearts to the true costs of Chevron. More to come...

No comments:

Post a Comment