Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Support REAL Human Rights Work and Investigative Journalism in Congo and Darfur

Editor's Note: This is an end/beginning-of-year message and call for help from Keith Harmon Snow, award-winning photojournalist and human rights activist who's work is featured at his site AllThingsPass.com - Please read this important message and consider supporting Keith and his work. - D.C.



Its New Year's eve, and I'm at home alone working. I like that. It feels right. There's nothing to celebrate, and everything to celebrate, at the same time. Tomorrow is just another day, for me, and not "just" -- it's another amazing day in life, and no more or less a reason to celebrate than today or yesterday or some day two weeks from now. So, Happy New Year!

Life is full of miracles.

Now I'm going to talk about me, and my work, so please forgive me. And my email is long, so forgive me for that. Maybe print it out, or get a cup of tea and a crumpet, and digest it properly, even savor it.

I could begin by telling some horror stories about genocide in Sudan and slavery in Congo, because these are two stories I am working on. But I am also working on stories about caring and sharing, and about love. And that is why I do this work, the rewards of people sharing their humanity with me, and the humility it teaches and the rewards of sharing it with you.

I'm writing tonight to tell you what's going on, and to announce the Reporting with HEART Journalism Apprenticeship Program I hope to run this summer, and to ask for your help. Please read on, you will be surprised, one way or another, I assure you.


The details of the Reporting with HEART Journalism Apprenticeship Program have now been decided. Please have a look, and pass the word to other folks.

Since July I have been achieving high visibility with my work. I have given seven major lectures, at University of Arizona, Berkeley Grad School of Journalism, Loyola University and the Project Censored Conference at Sonoma State, where I accepted my fourth Project Censored award.

National Public Radio has carried two reports with me. The popular West Coast radio program Guns & Butter with Bonnie Faulkner has carried some (four) hour long shows featuring me and my work on Africa. WBAI (NY) and other programs have also been interviewing me. These programs can all be listened to here.


My work in Congo has proceeded amazingly, mysteriously, and before I can release some of the most important information and stories I have worked on, over the past four years, I need to return to Congo one more time. I have a team of Congolese who I now support, and through the now growing organization Friends of the Congo which has named me as a director, I have funneled funds to my team to support medical assessments for oppressed workers on Western-owned enterprises in the heart of the Congo. This is my slavery story, and it's awful, and I am thankful that people like you in the past have helped to get me there and open my eyes, and see. Because we are going to change these people's lives for the better, I am certain, and I am talking about six huge enterprises with around 2500 people at each. My trip will finalize other ongoing investigations as well. But I need help.

I am working now to raise funds to return to Congo to verify and document the atrocities and suffering and injustices these deeply humble folks, my partners in Congo, have described. They had not been downriver to the see things for themselves, so my meagre funds made that possible. They have asked for a digital camera (and it will be the second digital camera I will have delivered to trusted and dedicated doctors in Congo) to help them bring to global awareness the reasons – all fixable -- for epidemics in their land. But I promised to spare you the tragic details.

Can you help me with this trip? How about a $100 donation. If you can't do that, $50, or even $20. Twenty dollars is nothing to an American. I'm not interested in guilt or shame, so when I say that most people can afford $100 I say it because its true, and because I am interested in doing what I can, and for that I need you to help me out.

Please listen to the following story before you make any decisions.

One of my partners, Ilunga Bwana, I have to tell you about him, because he's the gentlest and kindest man, and few human beings have touched me so deeply. He will do anything for me, and he is my translator, fixer, guide, and motorcycle driver. He is my good friend. Ilunga was driving his little 250cc cycle, me a passenger behind him, and he yelled back to me as we bumped over this washed out excuse for a road:

"You know, I will not be able to do what I wanted to do in my life." I yelled back, the wind in my face, "Why not?" "Because today is my birthday," he said, "and I am 43." "Happy Birthday" I replied. "What's the problem with that?" And Ilunga said: "The average age of death for men in Congo is 43."

I promised Ilunga I would help him and his family. Can you make a donation of $100 to help with setting up our local operations in Kisangani, DRC? Ilunga is a linguistics professor at the University of Kisangani, and his dream is to come to America and meet Noam Chomsky (whose linguistics work revolutionized the theory of grammar).

Can you help us get to these enterprises? How about a $200 donation to help me get medical supplies where they are needed? When you hear the story, later, you will be able to say: I made that happen. When you hear the horrors of it, you will be deeply moved to remember that you helped.

I need support for this Congo mission, and I am still in debt from the mission to cover the elections last August. On this last trip I traveled around on the campaign trail with the current presidents' sister, so that tells you how deeply I am in it.

But my work in Africa is not limited to Congo. On 13 December 2006 I released the report that I co-authored with a human rights lawyer, both of us under contract with UNICEF last year, about genocide in Ethiopia. I released this without authorization from the UN, the reasons of which are spelled out in the press release I issued with the report.

Today Somalia as been overrun by Ethiopian soldiers, and my WBAI interviews this past week explored the reasons behind the war: oil. The US backs Ethiopia, and there's big oil in both countries, and the indigenous people in Ethiopia are under attack by their own government, and the US military is behind it all; Israel is also involved, in Ethiopia, as in Congo (mining), and that is yet another story that will move you when you hear it. I cannot go to Ethiopia now, I would be arrested and tortured.

My biggest concern today is Darfur, Sudan. This concern is driven by a healthy sense of outrage. You have seen the advertisements, and heard it on the news. But the claims of 4 million at risk of death, of over 425,000 dead -- these simply do not add up. If you have not read the illuminating book by Michael Maren, THE ROAD TO HELL: The Ravaging Effects of Foreign Aid and International Charity -- you absolutely must.

If you are donating to Save the Children, or CARE, or UNICEF, take comfort in knowing that you are paying some American salaries in New York or Connecticut, or even some big salaries for white people in Ethiopia, or you are funding subsidies for big farming companies (Agribusiness) in Kansas. But if you want to help people desperately in need, switch your allegiance to a grass roots effort like this one or the stop excision project run by Susan McLucas.

The position I have taken is that "intervention" in Sudan is wrong, because it is not about saving lives, but a massive military campaign in which we are already deeply involved and for which the US is culpable and responsible. It is a war. It is about oil.

For this position I have come under fire from many sides. Indeed, on 26 December 2006, Dr. Eric Reeves of Smith College -- the leading Western "writer" and "expert" on Sudan -- in a letter to the editor published in the local Daily Hampshire Gazette definitively called me a liar, in effect, over and over, as he denied the oil connection I and others have established. First, there simply was no question: "it's not about oil (stupid)". Then, when we established the oil connection definatively, it became, "well, that's not relevant, its only incidental, oil doesn't play a factor here." Now its back to: "there is absolutely no oil connection to Darfur!" You can find the letter on my web site, and there you will find the oil maps from the industry itself, and I will soon post a writing which shows where the truth really lies. (Please check back.) http://www.allthingspass.com/journalism.php?catid=24

If you want to know the truth about Darfur, help me get there. I am convinced that the true facts (the numbers of dead, the parties accused of killing, the reasons for the conflict, oil, copper, gum arabic), have all been manipulated, or hidden, by the US media, which seeks to overthrow -- with popular American public support -- the Islamic government of Sudan.

Famine and horror are commodities. The worse the suffering looks, the better it sells, and AID -- or the perversity we call AID -- is a big, hungry business, and like any business it needs to develop and exploit its markets. This is the real horror story. Save the Children is a money pot. This, indeed, is THE ROAD TO HELL. (please read that book.)

My work is to bring voice to the voiceless. Please make a donation today. For those who have never contributed to my work, I ask you: what are waiting for?


You would never demand such stringent accountability, for example, from the oil companies you subsidize every day. Please consider a $100 donation, or a $50 donation, or a $20 twenty dollar donation, at least.

After seeing the plethora of $75,000 SAVE DARFUR ads running in the New York Times, and the TV commercials exploiting starving children to manipulate our hearts, and the SAVE DARFUR video war games for kids, I am no longer afraid of the taboo that surrounds asking for money from those who can afford to give it. And I know that most everyone can afford to give something.

For those who have contributed, and you now who you are, I am grateful. For those who just don't have it, of course, I don't want it from you. If you are facing hospital bills or illness, take care of your self, take care of your family.

Money is an issue that surrounds comfort and privilege in America and the very foundations of our societal wealth are built on the past 500 years of exploitation of Africa -- the past 50 years being amongst the most devastating. Sadly, my book will make that clear. Thats not an accusation, its just straight talk. We have to give something back, here's your chance. I want to be able to look my friend Ilunga straight in the eye and tell him that people like you care, that it will be all right, that he will live to see his dream. Because I know you care, just as much as I do, and what I am asking is that you let go of the uncertainty and indecision and doubt and skepticsm and fear... and help us out.

I don't (yet) have any big foundation grants. And, you know, my best supporter is a 25 year-old nursing student who lives in Boston, who was once a biketripper on the two-week bicycle tour I led when he was seventeen! He's not rich, and he works really hard for his money: he just believes it's the right thing to do.

And that's my end-of-year, beginning-of-year email plea. No bullshit, no power politics, and-- no matter what you might think – no pressure. Its time now to push the send button, and let it all go. All things pass.

Bless you in your sleep, happy awakening.



P.S. People can donate via paypal on my web site or by mail to keith harmon snow -- 84 Goshen Road, Williamsburg, MA 01096. Any large donations seeking tax exemption status can be made through the Friends of the Congo. Just send an email to me and to them in advance explaining that you'd like the funds to support my projects, and which of these you'd like it to be used for.


All things pass, so too will i

keith harmon snow




1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Keith, did you say in the aforementioned article that you were writing a book?