i first learned about school of americas watch in the early 90s, when i was finishing school at UCLA. at the time, i didn't want to believe that the US government would sponsor a school that would train their students how to torture, how to instill fear among a population, and how to overthrow democratic governments. over the years i continued to hear about the school of americas watch, mostly through their annual vigil in november at fort benning in columbus, georgia.
i first heard about USF's school of americas watch from amber mcchesney-young who is enrolled in my course digital democracy. amber, with the help of many other students including bethy whalen and ryan ericksen, has spent much of fall semester organizing last night's school of americas halloween dinner. the dinner is the main fundraiser for USF's school of americas watch and generates funds necessary for fourteen students and staff to travel from san francisco, california to columbus, georgia to be part of the vigil and protest to shut the school down.
the event was awesome. it was packed - i'm not good with numbers but i'd predict between 200 and 300 people, mostly students, showed up, many in halloween costumes. following a tasty burrito dinner, there was a brief talk about torture, several spoken word performances, and a halloween costume contest (judges included members of USF's jesuit community). there was also a SOA watch video by coreen salamanca and a musical performance by francisco herrera.
last night was educational, inspiring, and fun. it raised funds and consciousness. it filled our bellies and our hearts. but the best thing about last night was that it was organized by students.
later that night, sarah and i walked a few blocks from our pad to the castro to witness the gyrating spectacle called halloween. we joined a reported 400,000 other people, mostly peaceful, and got out of there before ten people were shot. one day, americans will learn to party in the streets without violence.