Category activism

Help Open WildFlower, the First Vegan Pop-Up Restaurant


Chef Ayinde Howell believes that food — amazing, distinctive, plant-based foods — can create a dialogue that challenges the way our culture sees animals raised for food and along the way create tangible, peaceful, delicious alternatives on our plates. Wildflower, is a migratory pop-up restaurant project that will bring critically acclaimed vegan food into some of the most discerning venues. Like seed-born wildflowers in the field, the Wildflower project is a short-lived bloom of beauty that hopes to burst apathetic bubbles of grey with brilliant colors, unforgettable aromas, and warm feelings.  Moreover, just like the wind-blown seeds of wildflowers in the field this pop-up project will be here today and gone tomorrow …off to a new city to conjure up a new dialogue, to challenge the cultural isms that enable the abuse of animals for food, through undeniably brilliant vegan meals that celebrate compassion.  Wildflower is part vegan outreach, part health advocacy, and part traveling foodie roadshow. Ayinde’s first stop will be the exclusive Broadway East in Manhattan, NYC.  To assure that the temporary nature of these pop-up restaurants has an element of permanence the entire process will be filmed and made interactive online, continuing the open-ended dialogue, one plate and conversation at a time.

HOW YOU CAN HELP!

Pledge to Fund Wildflower on Kickstarter.com! – Chef Ayinde Howell will need $17,000 to get the Wildflower project up and running. You can most directly help him reach his fundraising goal on Kickstarter.com by pledging towards the project HERE.


Help Spread the Word About Wildflower Through Your Blog, and Social Media Accounts! – Ayinde will need the help of bloggers, writers, press, and activists LIKE YOU in spreading the word about Wildflower.  At first Wildflower will need your help promoting their fundraising efforts through Kickstarter.com, and once up and running Wildflower invites you to become part of the process by promoting the pop-ups and cultivating the seeds of vegan outreach when Wildflower comes to your city!

FOR THE PRESS

About Pop-Ups - Wildflower is the first all vegan pop-up restaurant. The trend of mobile food has expanded from food trucks to the pop-up concept—a great option that allows a chef to showcase his/her talents without the financial burden and risk associated with opening a restaurant. Already very popular on the West Coast, the pop-up is just making its way to the Big Apple with early success.

  1. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/12/dining/12sfdine.html
  2. http://bit.ly/m3RoeR
  3. http://nyp.st/9cf9YH
  4. http://articles.latimes.com/2010/mar/08/travel/la-tr-popup-20100308
  5. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129370687

About Chef Ayinde Howell & Wildflower – What happens when a food blog takes its food to the streets? You grow a WildFlower! — A plant based pop up restaurant by Chef Ayinde Howell. WildFlower, being funded via micro-lending site Kickstarter.com will open for one week in late spring of 2011 the menu will rotate every night, exploring all different aspects of vegan cuisine from Bistro Style, Americana, Raw-Fusion and Brunch.

Howell, a life-long vegan and DIY green entrepreneur, has had his recipes published in the New York Times combines his 12+ years in restaurant experience with his new title of founder/content creator for the cult followed vegan food & lifestyle blog iEatGrass.com.  Ayinde’s brand of activism takes place on the stove, breaking bread and no better place to exchange ideas than over a great meal. When Ayinde is not cooking he is filming and editing content for iEG. Howell and team at iEG are responsible for creating new recipes and engaging short form video content for the viewers.  Ayinde take his flip camera along on most of his jobs and catches noted artists, celebrities, and everyday folks tasting creative, flavorful creations and happily confessing “I eat grass.”

With a rotating teaching spot at Whole Foods Bowery, food coaching Miss New York, a laundry list of TV appearances including BET’s 106 and Park, private clients living with chronic disease and critically acclaimed waffle brunch club, the Seattle’s Stranger Newspaper aptly titled Ayinde’s work ’feeding the revolution’.

 

Chef Ayinde Howell shares simple vegan recipes on BET’s 106 & Park

 

 

 

 

 

Ayinde has teamed up with a production company to film and produce a series of docu-sodes of the WildFlower concept as well as all the hectic work that goes into coordinating a pop up restaurant. The Wildflower docu-series will premier on www.ieatgrass.com summer 2011.  For a look at Ayinde’s work &  Wildflower’s menu visit ieatgrass.com

 


 

Presentation at Green Mountain College, 4/28

Vermont!

We will be presenting at Green Mountain College & we’d love to see you there!

Thursday, April 28th 7pm
Terrace 124,
Green Mountain College
1 Brennan Circle
Poultney, VT

RSVP here via Facebook*

Andy Stepanian, cofounder of the Sparrow Media Project & defendant in the SHAC7 trial will dissect contemporary activist movements, highlighting which tactics are working, when they work best, and how a diversity of tactics often yield the largest benefit. Andy will reflect on his past involvement with non-violent direct action movements, his role in the campaign to close down Huntingdon Life Sciences, as well as his current with Sparrow work as a grassroots activism PR consultant.

Local and Vegan refreshments will be served courtesy of Club Activism!

Organizing DIY Solidarity: 100 Shows for Haiti & Forward by Moe Mitchell

Moe Mitchell contacted the Sparrow Project with an idea …a DIY, community-based response to the ongoing needs in post-earth quake Haiti. With the help of Greg Bennick of 100 for Haiti, Sparrow launched the “100 Shows For Haiti campaign, within a few short weeks we planted seeds, the idea took root, you responded and raised $17,500 through events big and small. The following is Moe’s statement …an account that inspiration can be contagious and how one person’s idea became an ongoing project that we invite you to continue with.

At the end of last summer I had an opportunity to remove myself from my daily life and focus on reflection.  I spent several days in silent meditation, facing nothing but myself.  I thought this look inward would provide a better insight into my own consciousness, but I was surprised when I realized how many blind spots I had for other people and my connection with those people. I confronted the reality that I, and those around me, can do more to provide mutual aid, support, care, solidarity, and – dare I say – love to one another.  It was painful and humbling to confront my inconsistencies, but ultimately it spurred me to action.

 

 

I was reminded of the great loss in Haiti and my feeling of ineptitude in response to it.  The suffering was so great, how could one person be of any help?  I donated money but my efforts felt hollow. Surely I could have given more but I was troubled by the idea of giving to an organization that may use the funds in counterproductive ways or to advance a self-serving agenda.  I was worried about contributing to what Naomi Klein defines as disaster capitalism. Disaster capitalism are efforts that corporations and governments make to exploit times of great crisis and can come in the form legislation limiting civil liberties during a time of war or billion dollar contracts offered to multinational corporations for disaster relief.

 

Unsure of the most responsible way to give my resources, I was paralyzed into inaction. This paralysis was a total cop out. Despite the potential pitfalls of charity, I realized that it was my responsibility to discover effective means of solidarity with the Haitian people by doing my homework on the groups or movements worth supporting, staying connected with them, initiating outreach to my community, and being publicly accountable.

 

When I returned from meditation I reached out to my friends Andy Stepanian and Danielle Thompson of the Sparrow Project to collaborate on a week of actions and fundraisers to commemorate the anniversary of the earthquake.  Funds would support Haitian Women for Haitian refugees, a grassroots organization that has built a center in Léogâne to support the work of women in the aftermath. Instead of throwing one big effort, we would use the power of social media to inspire our entire network to take initiative. These new media tools, when used effectively, have proven to be powerful agents for spreading ideas. Why not have the concept of global solidarity go viral?  We could provide materials, logistics, and a rallying cry. The rest is up to each individual in each community.   In this way we’d minimize overhead to almost zero and maximize our impact.

 

We decided not to focus our intentions on the power of charity nor the nobility of do-gooders.  By only giving to Haitian-based, Haitian-run organizations, we hoped to shine a light on the power, ingenuity, and resilience of the Haitian people. The Haitian people are not helpless; they are in crisis. Friends in crisis need support, not pity.  We wanted to expose more people to the truly heroic work on the ground that Haitians are doing for other Haitians.  As more people knew of the work already being done, the better likelihood that direct support could reach local activists.

 

The Sparrow Project immediately swung into action, enlisting the support of a team of folks around the country including Greg Bennick, who had visited Haiti over the past year and created an organization called 100 for Haiti.    100 for Haiti aims to raise $100,000 for a free clinic in Port-au-Prince led by Dr. Jacque Denis. In the interest of collaboration we joined forces by making a call out to our shared networks, asking people to throw fundraisers nationwide and internationally that would support both organizations. “100 Shows for Haiti” was born.

 

 

At first we were unsure about how many people would respond.  Most likely, we thought we were being presumptuous at best by calling our effort 100 Shows for Haiti when we had zero shows on the calendar.  Armed with a helping of hubris and plenty hope, we put the call out to our various networks, through Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, email, conference calls, and the like.  Slowly, people began to commit: a bakery open house in Utah, a dance performance in California, a hardcore show in South Korea.  As momentum built, the calendar filled up. In a few weeks scores of individuals on four continents staged dozens of events, and fundraisers. Events earned as much as $5,000 and as little as $12.  All of these interactions were important opportunities to raise consciousness, build community, and support Haiti.  All in all we raised $17,500.00 in a few weeks, and more events are on the calendar.

 

 

Motivated by our immediate success, others are staging events in April, May, June, on and on. What started as an idea a few friends bounced around in an email chain has blossomed into a grassroots, decentralized, international solidarity movement.  We may have put out the initial call but our communities answered  and they answered in ways we never could have imagined.

 

We hope others will apply this model of grassroots response to other needs all around the world. The emergence of the network as a global tool for change means all of our voices are amplified.  Let’s use that new platform to exercise our collective ability to make great change.  Visit www.100showsforhaiti.com

 

- Moe Mitchell is a lobbyist and community organizer with the New York Civic Engagement Table.  When Moe is not at his day job, he expresses his political action through song as the front man for the New York Hardcore band Cipher.  Moe is a tireless social justice activist, a vegan, a poet, and a unbridled voice for the voiceless.

Know Your Rights! Training at NYU

6:30-8:30pm, Monday, March 21st, 2011
New York University, Kimmel Center
60 Washington Square South (Room 907)

 

In this climate of ever-increasing surveillance and suppression of progressive movements, it’s important for all activists to protect themselves and and know their rights. Don’t miss this Farm Sanctuary and Cruelty Free NYU sponsored Know Your Rights Training led by Sparrow contributor and attorney Bina Ahmad.  Bina will discuss what’s protected under your rights to free speech, how to respond to law enforcement and FBI encounters, the basics of grand juries, your rights as an immigrant, and why understanding “material support” is vitally important. In addition to the critical information you’ll receive, we will be a screening the video trailer to Will Potter’s forthcoming book Green Is The New Red, giving away 2 free copies of the book, as well as dozens of free copies of the Center for Constitutional Rights booklet If An Agent Knocks.

Women v. The World: The Conservative Attack on Reproductive Rights

by Bina Ahmad, Calla Wright and Nicholas Laccetti

 

We thought this battle was over. And that we had won.  In 1972, the Supreme Court ruled that even unmarried women could use contraceptives.  In 1973,Roe v. Wade continued this momentum by granting further reproductive rights.  These were supposed to be the stepping-stones on the path to equal human rights for all U.S. residents, regardless of our sex or gender. The early 1970s were perceived by many as the turning point after centuries of struggle. Suddenly the government lost its ability to police women’s bodies, or tell us we were unfit to make our own decisions.  We seemed well on our way to a society where our health, opinions, and autonomy mattered.  Roe v. Wade was supposed to signal the end of man’s dominance over woman, not the start of a protracted battle.

 

And yet, if the current political climate reveals anything regarding the rights of women, it’s that the well-coordinated, multi-pronged assaults once thought of as a thing of the past, are alive as they ever were.  Since 1973, conservative forces have continuously chipped away at the progress we’ve made.  Plan B could have been made widely available in 2003, but was not offered over the counter until 2006 . We’re still waiting on an over the counter emergency contraceptive for individuals under the age of 18.  Many states require waitingperiods for individuals seeking abortions, and parental notification/permission if the patient is under 18 years. In 42 of the 50 U.S. States, you are more likely to live in a county without an abortion provider than ina county with one.  Abstinence-only sex education prevents young people from beingprepared to protect themselves when the time for intimacy comes. Combine these facts with the recent string of murders of abortion providers and the subsequent closing of even more clinics, and you have a climate that can only be described as antagonistic, aggressive and hostile.

 

This is not a climate created by those who respect life.  If it were, Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania would never have proposed a bill allowing hospitals receiving federal funds to refuse to provide abortions when the procedure is necessary to save women’s lives.  And when the anti-choice movement reached a seemingly all-time low by supporting and provoking the murder of abortion providers (Dr. Tiller’s for instance) we thought we had seen the “pro-lifers” at their worst.  That is, until legislation was introduced in three separate states to include“defense of an unborn fetus” under the definition of “justifiable homicide.”  Translation: not only are anti-choice individuals committing murder, they may very well get away with it.

 

This is also not a climate promoting equality. Federal funds no longer finance abortions provided at Planned Parenthood, yet conservatives still wished to defund the nonprofit organization entirely.  For many low-income individuals, largely people of color, Planned Parenthood is their only option for pap smears, cancer screenings, HIV tests, contraceptives and prenatal care.  Though there is a conservative push to ensure equal protection of fetuses—some government officials have proposed spending resources to investigateeverysinglemiscarriage—government programs that promote equality of U.S. citizens are losing support.  The public school lunch program, healthcare for low-income children, community health centers, the public education system, the Center for Disease Control, and the WIC (Women, Infants, Children) Program are all facing potential cuts.  And to make injustice a truly global phenomenon, a recent House resolution seeks to defund family planning groups working abroad to prevent infant and maternal deaths.

 

This is not even a climate conducive to reducing the number of abortions provided each year.  Therecent push to defund Planned Parenthood was particularly egregious given that its affordable and accessible birth control has prevented hundreds of thousands of unwanted pregnancies and abortions annually.  According to a March 3rd article, “Planned Parenthood helped prevent 973,000 unintended pregnancies, which would have resulted in 433,000 unplanned births and 406,000 abortions in 2008.”

 

This is a climate openly opposed to the progress women have made.  Thisis an assault on our bodies: a doctor may conscientiously object to providing an abortion, but not conscientiously object in any other medical procedure.  This is an assault on our sexuality: the original draft of one federal bill sought to deny federal funds for abortions of rape victims who were not “forcibly” raped, but raped nonetheless.  This is an assault to our integrity: one Georgia bill seeks to redefine victims in rape, stalking and domestic violence cases as “accusers”.  This is an assault on our intelligence: women find themselves forced to go through “abortion education,” waiting 24 hours, and “thinking” deeply on their personal decision to abort because women just aren’t seen as intellectually capable of deciding what is best for their bodies, their families, and themselves without government intervention.

 

As humorous as it seems, the news about an unborn fetus summoned to testify in Ohio in support of banning abortion after the first detection of a fetal heartbeat is not an Onion article.  It is an unfortunate reality of the 2010s.  As Alice Walker once put it, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”  Nearly 40 years after the Supreme Court ruled we could take control of our own lives, we are dangerously close to finding ourselves back at square one.  We live in a society where the anti-choice movement, conservative political figures, and popular culture proclaim that the power women have recently gained is just an illusion.  But we cannot give in to these lies and we cannot back down from this fight—as redundant a fight it may seem.  It’s easy enough to concede your rights, but once they’re gone, no one is going to offer them freely back to you.

Green Is the New Red

“Here comes the future and you can’t run from it. If you’ve got a blacklist I want to be on it” – Billy Bragg

 

What is it like to be on the FBI’s domestic terrorism watch list? How did you end up on that list? …perhaps it was your art, your advocacy, an email you wrote, or something as simple as sitting with the wrong group of folks at a coffee house in college. What some environmental advocates have labeled “The Green Scare” is a throw back to the domestic repression of the McCarthy era. It’s an analogy that just like the during the Red Scare special interests with influence on government are once again slinging muddy household buzzwords to slander, blacklist, and chill contemporary social movements. Scratch the label “communist” and replace it with “terrorist,” scratch the name Joe McCarthy and replace it with James Inhoff, and you get a new era of old tricks enhanced by fresh technology. Green Is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of A Social Movement Under Siege shows these old fashioned tactical models of repression are less about stopping the criminal activity of individuals as they are more about chilling mainstream justice movements that challenge the baseline of American comfort and the big businesses that sell comforting products.

 

Instead of presenting a detailed case study into the federal repression of animal and earth liberation activists, designer statutes, and draconian investigative grand jury probes, Will Potter decides to take us on an intimate journey along with the individuals most effected within these movements under siege. From the book’s opening in the Willamette National Forest 24 hours before environmental activist Daniel McGowan is set to be sentenced, to the sentencing, incarceration, and eventual release of the SHAC7, to the later arrest and persecution of environmental activist Tim DeChristopher, Potter brings us into the personal lives of the movement’s figures, shows us how they fight, shows us how some find a way to laugh even when everything is going wrong, and shows us how some decompress and move on with their lives after years of incarceration, some spent in solitary confinement.

 

“Part history, part action thriller and courtroom drama, part memoir, Green Is the New Red plunges us into the wild, unruly, and entirely inspirational world of extreme environmental activism. Will Potter, participant-observer and partisan-reporter, is the perfect guide… Green Is the New Red is an indispensable book that will change the way we think about commitment, the limits of protest, and the possibility of radical change.” - Bill Ayers

 

In the troubled wake of the recent conviction of climate change activist Tim DeChristopher, Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the SHAC7 appeal, and the recent relocation of Daniel McGowan to the federal Communications Management Unit in Terre Haute, Indiana, (a secretive prison recently investigated in a 2-part NPR expose entitled ‘Guantanamo North’) Will Potter’s Green Is the New Red helps us make sense of systems of oppression by letting us see through the eyes of the individuals most effected.

 

Brilliantly written, meticulously accurate, and deeply emotional, Green Is the New Red is a collection of intimately personal stories of activists that every-day Americans need to hear, without these accounts the draconian chapters in U.S. history filled with senate hearings and blacklists are doomed to repeat themselves …repetitions like these, we as a nation cannot afford.

 

Green Is the New Red will be available in April, 2011 from City Lights Publishers and is currently available for pre-order through the City Lights Website or Amazon.com.

Wisconsin, The Working Class Awakening

- by Arthur Smilios, Sparrow Media contributor.

 

 

Hubris is the gift to the righteous; it ensures that the wicked will meet the sword of justice. The machinations of Scott Walker and his vampiric sponsors, the Koch brothers, in recent weeks, in Wisconsin, are a seminal event. This is momentous: posterity could remember this as the moment the working class shed the yoke of serfdom and accommodation and finally rejected plutocratic dicta that ensure our degradation, enslavement and ultimate extinction. The ignoble Governor Walker’s lies about “balancing budgets” were laid bare by a Yippie-style prank call in which he revealed that his goal is essentially to establish a precedent that would begin a domino effect leading to the dissolution of the organized labor movement.

For too long, the working class has acquiesced to the capitalist class, in supine servitude, so it was a great surprise that the masses arose and demanded that the proposed bill not be passed.

 

 

While the events that continue to transpire in Wisconsin are encouraging, it remains to be seen what will eventually come of them. The people of Wisconsin are undaunted and their courage and resolve seems to be spreading. Similar events are occurring in Indiana and are expected in every state where hateful, anti-worker legislation is being proposed. The capitalists and their marionettes in government may have gone too far, this time. Will this be our Cairo? Our truly grass-roots movement from below, rather than the “astroturf networking,” funded by corporations, which has passed for peoples’ movements, in recent years. Will Americans finally awaken and realize that the red herrings of race, religion and every other falsely divisive distraction are just that? Distractions. Will we finally understand that it is about class? Because, it is always about class. If this does turn out to be the case, as I hope it does, then the capitalist class had better take care: we are 95%; they are the degraded product of profligacy and entitlement.

 

 

It awaits to be seen whether this is our Cairo, or if our class solidarity is splintered by agents provocateur, simple apathy or the stupefying and seemingly self-loathing practices of workers who vote for politicians who enact programs designed to harm working and poor people. I hope it is the former.

 

 

- Arthur Smilios is an unapologetic anti-capitalist, musician rabble rouser.   Arthur was the co-founder of the seminal New York punk band the Gorilla Biscuits. Since his days of performing “Cats & Dogs” (a song that encouraged thousands to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle)  Arthur has strived to braid his art with his passion for social justice.  The Sparrow Project has invited Arthur to continue to sound off on the issues he holds most dear through their blog on http://sparrowmedia.net .  Arthur’s articles are written exclusively in his own voice, and may not reflect the views of The Sparrow Project.

Pakistan: in the Wake Of Cairo, Tunisia, Bombings & Flooding

Their Suffering Left The Most Lasting Impression – by Bina Ahmad

My family left Pakistan 33 years ago before I was born.  For so many reasons.  The most important and dangerous being that we are a heavily persecuted minority sect in Islam, we are Ahmadi Muslims (no relation to my last name).  Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (Benazir’s father) declared Ahmadis non-Muslim in 1974 by constitutional amendment, and his successor through military coup Zia al Haq banned us from identifying as Muslim in 1984 and sparked waves of violence against Ahmadis that has never ceased to this day.  Pakistan’s penal code contains the most strict Blasphemy Law of any Islamic Republic, making “insulting” a Muslim or defiling the name of the Holy Prophet, including just by being an Ahmadi Muslim, punishable by death, and yes many Ahmadis have been executed under this law.  Not that the fanatics need the law since waves of vigilante violence against Ahmadis go unpunished or even condemned by the government.  Ahmadis have lived with this government sponsored persecution (discrimination, murder) ever since, rendering us second class citizens often discriminated against with government support.  Yes members of my family have been persecuted.  An Ahmadi’s Pakistani passport will state “non-Muslim”, something my brave grandmother in her recent passport renewal application refused to say or sign.  The most recent wave of violence occurred last May, 2010, where the Punjabi Taliban massacred Ahmadis in their mosques while praying, killing 90 people and finishing more off by attacking the hospitals survivors were taken to.  It is this very law that has led to the recent death sentence of a Christian woman Asia Bibi after she got into an argument with Muslim women she was working with in the field after they refused water she offered them because she was Christian.  This fanaticism also led to the assassination of the Governor of Lahore this January (while we were in Pakistan) by his own security guard when he announced his support in repealing the law, followed by 1,000s of people rallying insupport of the murderer.  Please see this informative Human Rights Watch report on the May 2010 massacres and on the plight of Ahmadis in general.

Although I had visited 22 years ago, and my mother returned several times (although never openly declaring she was Ahmadi for fear of persecution), my father never went back.  Having survived the bloody partition of India in 1948 into what is now India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, a war that resulted in the largest mass forced transfer of people in recorded human history, and barely escaping with his life at just 9 years old (surviving several blood thirsty mobs and a refugee camp), and then the persecution of Ahmadis later in Pakistan, I can’t blame my father for not wanting to go back.

But in the end it is still our homeland.  And I wanted my father to return to our homeland just once, and as I had no real memory of Pakistan either, I wanted to make this pilgrimage with him.  Though it was obviously dangerous and I knew it was going to be emotionally difficult, I still felt that human instinct to return to one’s home.  And I refused to be afraid.  I am, afterall, my father’s daughter.

What hit me first and lingers with me even now is the suffering.  Pakistan is such a brutal land, not only politically but physically in how difficult it is to survive and hack out a means of survival.  And it wasn’t like the U.S. where you can shut out the suffering by stuffing it in impoverished communities and neighborhoods–the suffering was everywhere.  And it clung to you.  Beggars and poverty on every street corner, outside affluent malls and stores, banging on your car window with the child beggars carrying even younger children who are usually drugged to keep them from crying, children deliberately maimed to make them better earning beggars for their pimps, people languishing in the UN Flood Victims camps.  The skeletal horses and donkeys forced to carry loads far too heavy for them, the starving and abundant stray cats and dogs, live animal markets with chickens and turkeys crammed into cages with no water.

And yet so much of this suffering is preventable, if you had a government who cared or an education system that empowered people to fight back against government corruption.  It is this kind of suffering, corruption and governmental neglect that leaves the population vulnerable to any number of forces, particularly those that are seen as the alternative saviors to the poor who have been so neglected by their government.  There are no social services, no welfare, food stamps, education outreach.  In this vacuum enters the much more conservative Taliban influences, particularly in the north near the Afghanistan border in Peshawar, and it slowly spreads like a cancer.  The Taliban runs nearly completely unchecked by the Pakistani government, resulting in one of the stated reasons for U.S. drone attacks in the north.  And the people need something to hold onto when their government completely abandons them and they are being attacked by the U.S.  Like ultra conservative Islamic movements, the Taliban for instance, the mullahs supporting the brutal Blasphemy Law.  Yet without government funding of education, food banks, and the general welfare of its people, it is hardly surprising that desperate people are sitting ducks for any group claiming to lead them in some sort of direction or give them some answer as to why things are the way they are.

 

Like how Musharaf was a dictator taking over Pakistan in a military coup …and yet to the average Pakistani, Musharaf was much ”better” than Zardari (the current President) because at least Musharaf provided the people with the basic necessities of life- electricity, heat, and gas.  And what else can you worry about when you are worried about your basic survival?  Under Zardari, it’s the first time in the recent memory of many Pakistanis where there are daily power outages for several hours, as well as daily gas outages which means no gas for cooking, heating water or heating your home.  And in northern Pakistan like Peshawar, the temperature drops to the 30′s.  Of course this is the same Zardari who was known as “Mr. 10%” (while married to the late Prime Minister and equally corrupt Benazir Bhutto, taking after her father) since every government contract had to provide Zardari with 10% of the proceeds, so what can we really expect?

But the hardest for me was to stand witness to the UN Flood Victims camps.  My cousin who works for the World Health Organization took me to visit the camps and the people languishing there after the flood displaced them almost a year ago, resulting in one of the worst humanitarian crises in modern history.  Absolutely no money comes from the Pakistani government to alleviate their suffering, all of the aide provided for the camps is from the UN and other international humanitarian relief organizations.  It’s not surprising since when the flood occurred last summer, Zardari left the country for “official” visits at the height of the flood catastrophe.  People are living in tents with no running water, no heat, no electricity.  Their “kitchens” are a few bricks surrounding a camp fire.  The hospitals are bamboo huts with a single patient bed for examination.  The children go to school in a larger “children friendly space” tent.  A few families were able to get their hands on precious gas heaters to heat their freezing tents at night, which seemed like a blessing to a family of 5 with a new young infant of 3 months.  But a few nights before we visited the camps, the family’s tent caught on fire from the gas heater, killing all 5.  No one was saved because there was no money to have a doctor on duty at night at the camps.  When we visited the camp, the remains of their tent were still there.  Upon seeing the photos, my father said it reminded him of his experience in the refugee camps during Partition, but he said those camps were even worse than these.  I can’t imagine the horror.

 

I became much more acutely aware of my U.S./western privilege visiting these camps.  It was cold, dirty, and desolate, and yet I knew I would be returning to a home, where we at least had gas heaters that worked, sometimes.  We had showers and food.  And I knew that soon I would be returning to the U.S. where we hardly ever face power outages on the grand and regular scale Pakistanis do.  But life in the states didn’t provided my family with refuge completely.  Ahmadis are persecuted and shunned by other Muslim communities in the U.S. to this day, even kicking my family out of a mosque in Wisconsin.  Or post 9/11 when Muslim leaders were invited to participate in talks about the violent backlash against Muslims, other Muslim leaders refused to attend the meeting if our religious leader was invited.  Persecuted within an already persecuted community.  In a time when we need to find unity in our global Muslim community as we are increasingly targeted by our own government and conservative forces worldwide, when our name is being dragged through the mud by the Taliban and others who exploit the name of Islam, the most heartbreaking part of all of this for me is that we are divided, and when you are divided as a people, you are easily conquered and subjugated.

 

As I watch the revolutions happening for the past few weeks in Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan and now Syria, and the people uniting to shake off oppressive governments, often puppets of our U.S. regime, not letting divide and conquer subdue them, I wonder if Pakistanis will one day have enough of military dictatorships and rigged elections, poverty, U.S. drone attacks, internal divisions and the persecution of their fellow Ahmadi people.  Will we find our place in the revolution?  Will we make a revolution of our very own?

 

 

- Bina Ahmad is an attorney, human rights and animal rights social justice activist.  She is the daughter of Pakistani immigrants and an Ahmadi Muslim, a heavily persecuted sect in Islam.  She has worked on social justice issues her entire life, and worked with organizations such as Human Rights Watch, the New York branch of the ACLU, Al-Haq (the oldest Palestinian Human Rights NGO based in Ramallah, West Bank), and PETA.  She strives to make the connection between human and animal oppression, and hopes you will join her in the struggle.

Vaute Couture, Making Headlines & Veganizing Fashion

 

We’ve all heard someone say lightheartedly that they “fell in love” with a new article of clothing or some similar object, but has a coat ever made you literally fall in love? what about it’s designer? what about her message?

Love is a central theme in Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart’s design sensibilities and that is reflected in her label, Vaute Couture. From fashion-forward, animal-free and ethically manufactured vegan pea coats that benefit the Farm Animal Sanctuary to her blog On Our Sleeve Leanne radiates something solar that makes the press gush floral review copy.

 

Sparrow has teamed up with Leanne to subvert fashion and lifestyle press with a simple message that compassion is in fashion, it’s fashion-forward, forward thinking and in the case of Vaute Couture compassion can also be effortlessly elegant high style. This week Ari Solomon owner of the vegan candle company A Scent of Scandal and part time muckraker over at The Huffington Post interviewed Leanne on Vaute Couture, her activism, and her design sensibilities for a feature in The Huffington Post’s style column.  Ari’s writing and interview is coupled with a beautiful slideshow of Leanne’s designs and a one-on-one video with Leanne. Please check out the piece here, then share it with your friends on facebook, twitter, tumblr, etc!

Also this week, The Coolture, a fashion magazine published out of Paris and Madrid, profiled Leanne and Vaute Couture in their magazine right along side some of the fashion industry’s most influential tastemakers. You can check out the piece here.

 

 

recent press…

Feature Ed. in The Times of India
Mention on Choosing Raw Blog
Feature & Interview in The Coolture
Mention in Second City Vegan Blog
Feature & Interview in The Huffington Post
Feature in Veggie Love (Germany)
Feature on Discerning Brute Blog
Feature on Treehugger Website
Feature on Sneaky Vegan Blog
Green Shows Recap on Meta Cafe
Feature in Univerisity of Illinois – Green Observer (TK)
Feature in Upscale Magazine (TK, April, Green Issue)

 

 

 

Sparrow is excited to be partnering with Leanne and Vaute Couture to bring her message of compassionate, animal, eco, and labor-friendly design to the masses.

Announcing Vegan Corner, Vegan Outreach 2.0

The Sparrow Project is pleased to announce http://vegancorner.com.  Two weeks ago we broke the seal on the rumor jar confirming that there would in fact be an all-vegan alternative to the popular reviews website “yelp*”  After a year of coding, programming, and countless bottomless cups of fair-trade coffee, Adrianna and Nathan Pope did it! Vegan Corner is the fruit of their labors, an interactive social media platform that exists to make vegan food, vegan culture, and vegan fashion more accessible to the public. Vegan Corner helps you find the nearest vegan cafe, the cutest wool-free winter coat, and connects you with the events of an ever-growing ethical subculture!

Long Beach, CA; entrepreneurs and animal-rights advocates Nathan & Adriana Pope have announced their company, Vegan Corner (http://vegancorner.com) to launch on December 1st, 2010. Vegan Corner is the world’s largest vegan business directory, with a comprehensive listing of every vegan and vegan-friendly business worldwide, complete with reviews written by fellow plant eaters and health-conscious foodies alike. With user-friendly interactive reviews, listings and resources, Vegan Corner is destined to be the biggest thing to hit the vegetarian community since the invention of tofu.   To see how Vegan Corner works please visit – http://vegancorner.com

 

Co-founder, Adriana Pope stated, “Vegan Corner fills the void within the online review website sphere by creating a site that specifically caters to vegans, complete with ratings and reviews written exclusively by vegans. We stepped it up a notch in order to be the ultimate guide. Best of all, Vegan Corner benefits the animals by donating 10% of profits every month to an animal charity.”

 

Vegan Corner is a great way to connect aficionados with their favorite tastes and interests by locating all the best places and events to be at.

 

Tim Rusmisel, a vegan and owner of Tim Rusmisel’s Art Gallery in San Juan Capistrano, California stated, “I think a lot of people have been waiting for something like this to come around. As the owner of an art gallery, it’s great to be able to see my business listed online with pictures and reviews because it allows people to discover a local place that they might have not known exists.”

 

Vegan Corner also has an extensive listing of all cruelty-free products to boot. Need to find the perfect gluten-free chocolate cake mix? Searching for a soothing lip balm? Or how about a yummy treat for your spoiled pup? It’s all here in one spot. In fact, Vegan Corner exclusively lists only companies that do not test on animals, so you won’t have to worry about desperately searching for the cruelty-free symbol when you’re at the market.

Vegan Corner is an amazing new structure for connecting ethical businesses with those who care about living a lifestyle that makes the world a better place for animals… it’s a great way to directly get us in touch and grow the vegan market to show the world how wonderful and easy it is to be compassionate and cruelty free.” says Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart, owner of Vaute Couture, the first vegan fashion label for winter dress coats warm enough for below freezing weather.

 

As if it can’t get any better, Vegan Corner currently has a i-Phone application in the works! Being an “on-the-go” vegan just got easier. Two weeks and counting, and the vegan world will surely be impacted when convenience meets social networking at its finest. Find new places to go to, write reviews, and connect with other people in your city. Don’t delay, sign up at vegancorner.com right now and be the first to review your favorite and not-so-favorite place on December 1st.

 

For additional information, email Andy Stepanian at andy(at)sparrowmedia(dot)net or contact pr(at)vegancorner(dot)com. For bloggers who wish to cross-promote with Vegan Corner for free, please email admin(at)vegancorner(dot)com with “LINK SWAP” in the subject heading.

 

VeganCorner.com, an online business directory exclusively for vegans searching for a cruelty-free place to dine, shop or hang out at, is scheduled to launch on the first of December, and benefits the animals by donating 10% of profits every month to a charity.