Flying Focus Video Collective

August 2003 Newsletter

PMB 248     •     3439 NE Sandy Bv     •     Portland, OR 97232

(503) 239-7456     •     (503) 321-5051    •

Noted Author, Prisoners' Rights Activist
Carl Upchurch on Video Before Untimely Death

Flying Focus was lucky to have the opportunity to videotape "Convicted In The Womb: One Man's Journey from Prisoner to Peacemaker" author Carl Upchurch when he spoke in Portland in February 2003. Upchurch, a nationally acclaimed author and educator, passed away on May 2 at the age of 53.

Ten years of incarceration defined Upchurch's faith, his family, and ultimately his life's work.

Since 1982, Upchurch tended to the needs of thousands through his work with prisoners, his public speaking, his writing and his leadership. Using colorful language and detailing in emotional terms how he rose from a gang member and a thug to a caring human being, his speech is an amazing revelation of the power of self-discovery. While imprisoned in solitary confinement, his chance discovery of a Shakespeare sonnet started his self analysis and was the beginning of his evolving into an important national figure.

Edited by new Flying Focus volunteer Harry Shaich, "Convicted in the Womb" (VB #47.12&13) is a compelling and rewarding experience. For more information see

Forum Urges End to Hate Crimes

On January 19, 2003 four drunk white men drove through a NE Portland neighborhood, firing at homes and cars with a sawed-off shotgun. They chose the area because they believed blacks lived there, although, ironically, about half of the property that was hit was owned by whites.

Outraged residents, church leaders and community organizers brought the community together for a "No On Hate Forum," covered in VB #46.9&10. A panel consisting of a police detective from the Bias Crime Unit, an FBI agent, a PSU sociology professor and a city council member talked about hate crimes from their varoius perspectives. An open mic session followed in which residents and activists talked about their experiences of hate crimes and the organizations that are working to end them, such as the NAACP. Participants called on the media and local government yet again to treat these incidents more seriously and the community as a whole to work together to that end and not just have a public showing designed to pacify discontent.

Three Programs Focus on Activism
and the Current War on Iraq

Three recent Flying Focus programs feature activists who worked to oppose the onset of the current war on Iraq (although many think the war ended when the statue came down, it continues today).

The first, "Conscience Calls to Action" (VB #47.4) chronicles a March 19 civil disobedience action which took place in Portland less than 7 hours before the U.S. launched its massive attack on Iraq. A small group of individuals from Portland's faith community joined hands in front of the entrance to the downtown Federal Building. Joined by a crowd of nearly 100 supporters who sang and chanted even as the rains fell, the group risked arrest not only for being on Federal Property but in that the "terrorism alert" had just been raised to "orange."
Frank Fromherz of the Archdiocese of Portland's Office of Justice and Peace, one of the key organizers of the action, explains through an interview taped two weeks later the reasons for the action, its historical context, and the spiritual (and political) motivations for taking such a step. Days after the interview was conducted, Fromherz was fired from his job by the Archdiocese. He was let go at least in part for his outspoken activism against the war, despite the fact that the Pope himself was against the war.

In "Eyewitness Iraq: Pax Christi, USA" (VB #48.2&3), Pax Christi national coordinator David Robinson describes his Dec. 2002 peace visit. His talk, given in Portland in May, 2003, was preceded by an award ceremony honoring Fromherz. Robinson then shares stories about the effects of U.S. sanctions, the feelings of Iraqi citizens he met during his visit, and insights on the U.S. war in the context of faith and conscience.
Robinson's talk was the inaugural event for Pax Christi Portland, the newly formed chapter of the national and international Catholic Peace movement.

Finally, the "March 15 Peace March" (SE #100) marks the 100th "Speakers and Events" program produced by Flying Focus since 1991. In an experimental effort to tie together two perspectives of Portland's 30,000-person march and the speakers and music presented at the rally on the same day, new volunteer Adam Bernstein worked with veteran Flying Focus producers to create an unusual tribute to what is likely the largest anti-war rally in the city's history.

Oregon Peace Institute Workshops Promote Non-Violent Change

Two programs produced recently are from Oregon Peace Institute (OPI) workshops designed to assist people in their efforts to live and work together for social change more peacefully and productively.

In "Creating Enemies" (VB #47.1), Amanda Byron discusses factors that contribute to a climate of ready hatred to help viewers understand the subtle indoctrination into making "others" our opponents that we receive through images, language and cultural encouragements starting in childhood. Ms. Byron is a mediator, an educator and community organizer in the fields of conflict resolution, violence prevention and multicultural community development.

In "Conflict Within Groups" (VB #47.9), Frances Kaplan talks about common factors that lead to intra-organizational conflict and gives suggestions for dealing with them in a constructive way. One exercise for participants was to draw a group mascot, one section at a time, yielding some interesting and humorous results. Ms. Kaplan is a therapist, mediator and educator with many years' experience working with organizations and their internal dynamics.

Jess Trussme Declares His Candidacy

Sometimes when your government is invading other countries without provocation, rolling back your civil rights, and encouraging you to buy bigger SUV's to help the economy, you need a good laugh before you can pick yourself up and go back to working to change all that.
Ira Shorr's talk in November, 2002 provides the necessary humor in "Jess Trussme" (VB #47.7). Shorr, Director of the National Physicians for Social Reponsibility, gives a short talk about the dangers and costs of the current administration's policies. Then he gets into character and launches into a satirical parody of a conservative politician , Jess Trussme, running for office. Trussme, it seems, is a big fan of bombs, business and Bush-speak.

Human Rights Activist Encourages a Multi-Ethnic Peace Movement

Human rights activist Rozell W. "Prexy" Nesbitt, an organizer with the American Friends Service Committee in Chicago who was active in the anti-apartheid movement in the 70's and 80's, came to Portland in February to speak on "Building a Multi-Ethnic Peace Movement" (VB #46.12). Nesbitt's insights come from his background in labor and international solidarity. He talks about the nature of wars and economic deprivation on people of color globally and within the U.S. Nesbitt notes that working in communities means working on ongoing issues for those communities, not as an afterthought or a "sidebar." His talk was captured by all-around activist Will Seaman and edited for the Video Bus by Dan Handelman.

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