Landmines Continue To Be A Global Crisis

Continuing on from last week’s post on international military spending, in that same UN exhibit I visited, there was also a photo gallery of young people from around the world who lost body parts because of undetected landmines.  An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people are killed or maimed by landmines every year, according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.  You can actually buy landmines for as cheap at $3, but it would cost up to $1,000 to safely unearth them by professional weapons handlers.  It costs thousands of dollars to provide lifelong care for a landmine survivor.

I remember going to Cambodia many years ago and meeting young people who lost limbs to landmines.  The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) estimates that there may be as many as four to six million mines and unexploded ordinances in Cambodia.  Most of the mines were installed during the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s and are still active.  These young people weren’t even alive when the Cambodian Genocide occurred.  As a matter of fact, Cambodia may have held its last Khmer Rouge trial just last week.

A few years ago, I used to host a fundraising effort called Night of a Thousand Dinners, where you invite friends and co-workers to feast on a dinner I prepared.  I would invite someone from the United Nations Association of USA to speak to the crowd about the landmine crisis globally.  I also had in attendance my colleague Sharon, who is a Mozambican freelance journalist and landmine survivor, to give her firsthand experience.

I am thinking of doing the dinner again either before Christmas or after the new year, in addition to a similar fundraiser to support victims of police brutality in the United States.  Whether stateside or on the other side of the world, there are way too many victims of violence in the world, and everyone’s effort to fight it counts.  More compassion is needed in the world.

Here is a video about landmines:


Do You Have Your Digital Citizenship?

Four children at computer terminals (depth of field/high key)Last week I went to a dinner party with other families where the conversation naturally gravitated to getting kids ready to get back into school mode.  A couple of mothers were concerned about and asked me how their tween daughters can use the Internet safely and responsibly.

I usually teach something called “digital citizenship” to all my students in my basic computer literacy classes.  Some of these tips are based on my own experiences – both good and bad. Here are the citizen tips I gave to the concerned mothers:


Like I discussed a couple of weeks ago, online personal branding is very important today.  What you say and do today online give others a perception – both good and bad.  Most kids don’t realize that their actions on Facebook or Instagram permanently stay online, and can affect them later in life, like getting accepted into college or getting a job.  It is always better to side on your conscience.  I always say that if you are not sure you want to say or post something online because it might be seen as offensive, go with your gut feeling.

Password Security

Make sure your kids know how to create secure passwords for all their various social media profiles.  This is especially important for online banking and email accounts.  Having a hard time remembering all your passwords? Use LastPass or other apps that allow you to safely store your passwords.


Kids (and everyone for that matter) love taking pictures on their mobiles, but it is not a good idea to post every type of image online. Images that reveal where you live can entice some really creepy people.  It’s a good idea to turn off the geotagging feature.   Also, don’t post provocative (sexual, violent etc.) images.  In many municipalities, sharing sexually explicit images online, especially of minors, can get you arrested and put on the sex offender registry!

Private Information

It’s a given to not share home addresses, private phone numbers and emails online.  But you also want to be careful about sharing information about your family members online as well.  There is a reason I don’t really talk about my private life online.  Also, be careful about revealing too much about routine behavior, like where you go for your coffee or morning jog.  If you go on vacation or leave your home for any extending period for any reason, it’s better to wait until you are home to share your vacation pictures.  Don’t inadvertently let potential burglars know when you are not home.


You might have thousands of “friends” or followers on Twitter or Facebook, but I am pretty sure most of them are not actually your friends.  Heck, you may not have actually met most of them in person.  If you don’t know someone who is seeking a friend request, carefully vet that person.  You are not obligated to be “friends” with everyone online.

Online Protection

Teach your kids about viruses, malware and how to protect themselves from identity theft.

 Intellectual Property

The Internet has made it easier to use someone else’s words or images without giving the author credit.  It’s a good idea to learn and understand basic copyright law at Creative Commons so you don’t run into a problem later.

Fact vs. Fiction

If you find something online that is too good to be true, it most likely isn’t.  Not everything you see online is true or a truthful source.  Wikipedia is a great resource, but because it is mostly an open source website, a lot of stuff there is false, erroneous and just plain wrong.  Vet and verify information you find online.  I like using a website called Snopes to get the truth.

General Netiquette

The lines between our professional and personal lives are blurring more and more every day.  How you talk to your boss in an email is not the same as how you text your buddies on a late night.  Also, the Internet is global; pretty much anyone in the world can see your social media or websites.  Be careful about using colloquialism and double entendre online.  What might be a silly joke among your American “friends” might be taken the wrong way by someone else living in another country.

I may have rained all over your digital parade, but this is the new normal of dealing in cyberspace, and the moms definitely took note.  Everyone should be a responsible digital citizen!

The Black Panthers: Diplomats for Revolution

Black Panther Newspaper Panthers in Kasbah AlgiersLast weekend I saw the new documentary “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution.”  I have read a lot about the Panthers since I was in high school.  Much of what I know comes from the larger context of the Black Power Movement, which includes Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael and the Nation of Islam.  The film is really meant to be a primer for people who don’t know much about the Panthers to get a basic understanding of their most important milestones, like the breakfast program and the murder of Fred Hampton.  The two-hour movie is packed with a lot of information; so much information that many of the topics brought up could be their own documentaries.   

Following the film screening, director Stanley Nelson was present and took questions from the audience.  The most common questions were why was this or that not included in the film.  The reality here is that it was meant to be a two-hour movie, and only so much time to cover all the important topics.  A true movie that included every aspect of the Black Panther timeline would be a 10-hour mini-series!  

Some of the topics that were briefly discussed in the film that I would have liked to have learned more about include the misogyny within the Party, the alleged crimes committed by Ericka Huggins, Jamal Joseph and others, and the weird, criminal behavior of Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver.  But, again, maybe these subjects need their own dedicated movies.

What stood out to me was the international solidarity the Panthers attempted to create after Cleaver went into exile in Algeria via Cuba, following a police ambush in Oakland that killed young panther Bobby Hutton in 1968.  By this time, the Panthers had already gained a reputation as revolutionaries by other oppressed groups worldwide and connected with other liberation struggles.  

Algeria was already a hotbed of revolutionary acts, since its violent independence from France in 1962.  (To learn more about the Algerian struggle, read Frantz Fanon’s A Dying Colonialism and watch Gillo Pontecorvo’s powerful The Battle of Algiers. – both well worth your time!)  By the time Cleaver and company came to Algeria in 1972, President Houari Boumediene had turned his country into a haven for other revolutionaries seeing refuge.  The Panthers were granted an office space in the old North Vietnamese embassy, a small, monthly stipend from the Algerian government and were allowed to grant asylum to other Panthers coming from America.  Kathleen Cleaver once said that the BPP international chapter was the “embassy of the American Revolution, receiving revolutionary visitors from all over the world,” and sharing news about “revolutionary developments within the United States.”  

However, the Cleavers overstayed their welcome and were eventually kicked out of Algeria, after the fiasco behind the hijacking of Western Airlines Flight 701.

By the time the Cleavers left, Pete O’Neal, former chairman of the Kansas City BPP chapter, found refuge in Algeria and became the new leader of the international section.  O’Neal was a hardcore Marxist who felt that his prosecution by the US government on gun charges was politically motivated.

Eventually O’Neal and his wife Charlotte were also forced out of Algeria and moved to Tanzania, which was ruled at the time by socialist President Julius Nyerere.  O’Neal still lives in Tanzania on his farm where he advocates for community development and self-reliance.  PBS also produced this documentary about O’Neal a few years ago, which I highly recommend.

My Boston Cycling Craze

Boston's Cycling Craze Book CoverAs a disclaimer, sometimes I get free books at my office to review.  I don’t read most of them, and when I do, I only write about the ones that appeal to me here.  The latest book to come across my desk is one by Boston historian Lorenz J. Finison. Boston’s Cycling Craze, 1880 – 1900: A Story of Race, Sports & Society tells the story of the rising popularity of bicycles one hundred years ago and the social politics that arose out of it.

In the late 1800s, everyone was cycling all over the city.  Most communities had their own cycling clubs.  However, African-Americans were barred from joining these clubs and had to form their own black clubs.  Women were chastised for not wearing long dress while riding bikes and called unladylike (because it makes so much sense to wear long dresses while cycling…).

I really enjoyed reading the book.  I’m a recreational cyclist myself.  I mostly bike during the weekends along the Southwest Corridor and the Charles River Bike Path.  Like the cyclists featured in the book, I feel a certain level of freedom with my cycling.  Because I don’t own a car, I have to either walk or take the T to get around the city.  Having a bike allows me to travel when I want to without having to wait for the next bus or train, I can get to where I need to be for free, and most importantly, I don’t create a carbon footprint.

I used to cycle a lot more when I was a kid and only recently took up cycling again in the last four years to help recover from an injury and have a complementary activity for running and yoga.  Cycling is such a great way to be active for a long time and not injure your knees while keeping in shape.  The only downside here is that sometimes I cycle so much, I lose too much weight!

Also, I get to notice a lot of things about today’s social politics from just peddling around the city for a couple hours.  I see an equal number of male and female cyclists on the roads, but a lot of times its the men who wear the fancy, expensive bike wear to live out their inner Lance Armstrong. Is this ungentlemanlike?

I am more casual, wearing a helmet, a t-shirt and jeans or sometimes running capris if I am cycling long distances.  A far cry from the days of bloomers.

I don’t see a lot of cyclists of color, however, I think that is starting to change.  Over the summer, I went on a couple of trips with a group of my black, Latino and Asian friends along the entire Charles River Bike Path.  We also did the annual Hub on Wheels last September to celebrate and promote cycling in Boston.  It was great to see people from all different backgrounds come together – men, women, black, white, young and old.

It shows how much our society has changed over the last one hundred years, and it would be interesting to see what happens in the next century!