Sponsored by:

Diversity Matters

A look into the ethnic, religious and cultural diversity in Rockland County.

Canada apologizes to Indians


Canada’s prime minister has issued an apology for a longstanding policy of forcibly schooling Indian children in Christian residential schools where they were sexually and physically abused.

Stephen Harper made the apology in a speech today at the Parliament in Ottawa. Several survivors of the schools traveled across the nation to attend.

According to a report in Bloomberg News, Harper said: “The treatment of children in Indian residential schools is a sad chapter in our history.

“Far too often, these institutions gave rise to abuse or neglect and there were inadequate controls, and we apologize for failing to protect you.”

The government and churches that ran the schools settled a large class-action lawsuit on the matter two years ago.

The schools operated primarily from the late 1800s to the late in 1970s.

Students have recounted being beaten for speaking their language, and enduring painful separation from their parents.

The Australian government recently apologized for a similar policy.

Bloomberg says Canada has about 1 million people who consider themselves part of the First Nations, a term used to describe aboriginals in the country, according to a 2006 census.

For details on today’s apology and the history behind it, read an article in the BBC here.

Posted by Suzan Clarke on Wednesday, June 11th, 2008 at 4:21 pm
Category: Uncategorized

| | Comments Off on Canada apologizes to Indians

Edging closer to gay marriage in NY?


Opposition already is forming to Gov. David Paterson’s directive that all New York state agencies immediately recognize gay marriages performed in other states and countries.

Gays in this state say that as tax-paying, law-abiding New Yorkers, they should not be denied the more than 1,300 rights automatically accorded to heterosexual married couples.

They and their advocates say they will keep pressing for New York state to make gay marriage legal, adding that they believe the outcry will lessen every time a state gives its approval to gay marriage.

Nyack’s Mayor John Shields — who with his partner and four other gay couples sued the town of Orangetown in 2004 over the denial of marriage licenses — hailed the Paterson decision.

“If you look at the progression of things, as more and more states like California go about this, there’s less and less reaction,” Shields said on Thursday. “In Massachusetts, the state has not fallen apart. Everything is going on as it has been. Families are still intact … .”

Opposition from religious leaders has focused on Biblical teachings. The Rev. Allen Kemp of Suffern Presbyterian Church did not support the Paterson directive.

“I think many in the gay community would welcome this, but as a clergy person who believes in the scripture, I don’t think it’s a good decision,” Kemp said.

Massachusetts is the only U.S. state that recognizes same-sex marriage.

Other jurisdictions that permit same-sex marriages include Canada, South Africa, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands, the Associated Press said.

California is set to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples beginning June 17.

Posted by Suzan Clarke on Friday, May 30th, 2008 at 5:32 pm
Category: Uncategorized



Brown v. the Board of Ed., Hillburn and Zelma Henderson


Nine years before he successfully argued the Brown v. the Board of Education case that led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s desegregation of public schools, Thurgood Marshall argued a similar matter in Hillburn.

As chief counsel for the NAACP, Marshall visited Rockland to press for the integration of the Main School, the facility for white students, and the Brook School, a four-room wooden structure for children of color. That school had no library, gymnasium or indoor bathroom.

The Hillburn case didn’t have to go to the Supreme Court. In 1943, New York’s commissioner of education ordered the Brook School closed and that all children attend the Main School. His action was based on Marshall’s petition. Marshall would go on to become the first black U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

The two cases come to mind because the last surviving member of the original landmark Brown case — which centered on the segregation of schools in Topeka, Kan. — has died.

Zelma Henderson was 88. She died May 20, six weeks after a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, according to various news reports.

The Associated Press said that as a child in the 1920s and ’30s, Henderson had attended desegregated schools in the rural western Kansas town of Oakley, where her parents farmed. She was disgusted when she learned that her own children would be required to attend segregated schools in Topeka, and signed on to the Brown litigation on behalf of her children in 1950.

“I wanted my children to know all races like I did,” Henderson told the AP in 2004. “It means a lot to a person’s outlook on life. No inferiority complex at all – that’s what I wanted for my children as far as race was concerned.”

Posted by Suzan Clarke on Tuesday, May 27th, 2008 at 4:59 pm
Category: Uncategorized


Currency confrontation?


America’s currency may have to be modified following a federal appeals court ruling today that said the blind and visually impaired are discriminated against by the format of paper currency.
“This is an important victory for people who are blind and visually impaired,” said Mark Richert, director of public policy for the American Council of the Blind, told the Associated Press. “We … look forward to the day when people with vision loss have as reliable access to paper money as everyone else.”

The council had sued the government for changes to paper money to allow different denominations to be more easily distinguished by the blind and visually impaired. Changes have been made in Canada and Europe that allows bills to be distinguished by touch.

But the ruling hasn’t met with favor by everyone.

National Federation of the Blind President, Dr. Marc Maurer, said: “Today’s ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is profoundly misguided and may unintentionally do real harm to blind Americans. Hundreds of thousands of blind people use paper money every day without difficulty. We hope that this ruling will not have the unintended consequence of reinforcing society’s misconception that blind people are unable to function in the world as it currently is. Identifying items by touch (including currency) is convenient, but not essential to blind people being able to participate fully in society.”

The AP says 3.7 million persons in the U.S. are visually impaired, according to a National Academy of Sciences study cited by the court, and of them, 200,000 persons have no vision at all.

Posted by Suzan Clarke on Tuesday, May 20th, 2008 at 10:24 pm
Category: Uncategorized

| | Comments Off on Currency confrontation?

Quran controversy


The Council on American-Islamic Relations today “repudiated” the use of Islam’s most holy book as target practice by a U.S. soldier who has been removed from his position in Baghdad.

According to the Associated Press, U.S. commanders moved swiftly to avert a crisis after the sniper was found to have riddled a copy of the Quran with bullets.

The AP said the incident had the potential to inflame Muslim opinion against the U.S. military and compromise the delicate alliance it has been forging with Sunni Arab communities against religious extremists.

Local leaders accepted an apology from senior U.S. commanders, and the military said Sunday that the soldier responsible had been disciplined and pulled from Iraq, the AP further reported.

CAIR’s statement reads: “We repudiate this individual’s hateful act, recognizing it is an isolated incident that does not represent our men and women in uniform, the overwhelming majority of whom serve our nation with honor and respect.

“We commend the U.S. military’s swift investigation and the apology by commanders in Iraq. In an effort to prevent such disturbing incidents from happening again, we call on the military to revisit its cultural training policies,” the statement continued.

CAIR is based in Washington, and operates an educational project called “Explore the Quran,” which was launched following allegations of Quran desecration by U.S. military personnel at prisons in Guantanamo Bay.

Posted by Suzan Clarke on Monday, May 19th, 2008 at 5:03 pm
Category: Uncategorized


The Loving decision


Mildred Jeter, known to all as “Bean” because she was tall and slim, and Richard Loving, were childhood sweethearts in Virginia. They got married in 1958, and she was already pregnant with the first of their three children.

There was only one problem. Jeter was black, and Loving was white.

The couple had married in the District of Colombia, but anti-miscegenation laws in their home state didn’t recognize their union, and they were prosecuted and forced to leave Virginia.

Their legal challenge eventually led to the U.S. Supreme Court overturning laws banning interracial marriage, but not before the couple faced tremendous hardship, including being arrested for traveling together.

Mildred Loving died on Friday. Her husband died in a car accident in 1975. She never re-married.

Every year, The Loving Day campaign encourages interracial couples to celebrate the June 12, 1967 anniversary of the Loving vs. Virginia decision.

There are more than 4 million interracial couples nationwide, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

For more about the Lovings’ story, see this article in the Los Angeles Times.

Posted by Suzan Clarke on Wednesday, May 7th, 2008 at 12:01 pm
Category: Uncategorized



Happy Cinco de Mayo!


Many people mistakenly think Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day. (It’s not. That day is Sept. 16.)Cinco de Mayo actually commemorates Mexicans’ victory over the French army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Mexico had accumulated heavy debts to several nations, and France, eager to add to its empire at that time, invaded to recover the debt and establish leadership in Mexico. A small Mexican army led by Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin defeated the French.  Although is it acknowledged nationwide, Cinco de Mayo is really celebrated with special events mainly in the Mexican state of Puebla.Of course, the holiday gaining more popularity in America, where it is increasingly associated with mariachis, margaritas and parties. About 2,700 Rockland residents are from Mexico, according to the 2000 census. An estimated 10 percent of Rockland’s roughly 286,000 residents are Hispanic.  Cinco de Mayo is Spanish for ‘Fifth of May.’

Posted by Suzan Clarke on Monday, May 5th, 2008 at 5:37 pm
Category: Uncategorized


The Iraqi refugee crisis


Representatives from the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill and Blauvelt, along with their Sisters from across the nation, will be in Washington, D.C., tomorrow (April 15) through Thursday to press Congress to “immediately improve U.S. efforts to resettle Iraqi refugees.”

This isn’t a new subject for the Dominican Sisters.

tjndc5-5b50k47wvap19vfuw7p4_original-2.jpg In this Journal News file photo from Nov. 13, 2004, The Dominican Sisters Justice Promoteres held a press conference at Rosary Hall at Dominican College in Blauvelt to discuss human rights in Iraq. At the time, there were about 200 Dominican sisters living in Bagdad, Basra and Mosul. The panel pictured were, from left to right, Sisters Arlene Flaherty of Blauvelt, Pat DeMarco of Amityville, Ceil Lavin of Blauvelt, Ursula McGovern of Blauvlet, Pat Jelly of Newburgh and Anne Lythgoe of Elkins Park, Pa.

A message put out today by the Sisters said:

In 2007 the United States fell far short of its promise to permanently resettle 7,000 Iraqis and already the promise to resettle 12,000 Iraqis in 2008 is showing a dismally slow start. Approximately 2,500 of the promised 7,000 were resettled in 2007.

Sisters Patricia Horan and Arlene Flaherty will represent Blauvelt. Sister Flaherty “coordinated the Delegation of Women Religious who went to Lebanon and Syria to experience the crisis of the Iraqi refugees who have been displaced as a result of the War with Iraq.”

Sister Eileen Gannon will represent Sparkill and all Dominican Sisters, as she represents the Dominican Leadership as a non-governmental (NGO) representative at the United Nations.

This is what the Sisters, along with Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC), are calling on Congress to do:

• Strengthen humanitarian assistance to the region by providing increased funding to international organizations and non-governmental organizations providing essential humanitarian aid to internally displaced Iraqis and Iraqi refugees in neighboring countries. Also provide additional bilateral assistance to refugee hosting countries to help their national systems expand to accommodate refugee needs and to ease the strains on local communities.
• Increase support for reconciliation, recovery and community-based development in Iraq.
• Improve U.S. admissions and resettlement of especially vulnerable refugees from Iraq by becoming the global leader in resettling displaced Iraqis in an expedient manner, giving priority to the most vulnerable cases in accordance with UNHCR guidelines.

For more information about their efforts, you can visit this website; to learn more about the Dominican Sisters in Blauvelt and Sparkill, go here.

(And for those of you wondering why someone named Amy Vernon is writing this post and not Suzan Clarke, that’s because Suzan’s out of the office for a couple of weeks. I’ll try to pop in occasionally with updates while she’s away.)

Posted by Amy Vernon on Monday, April 14th, 2008 at 12:50 pm
Category: Uncategorized

| | Comments Off on The Iraqi refugee crisis

40th anniversary of King’s death


Tomorrow will mark the 40th anniversary of the death of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

It was just one day prior — on April 3, 1968 — that King gave his seminal and celebrated “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, in which he foreshadowed his own death.

Speaking at the Mason Temple in Memphis, where he had gone to supporting striking sanitation workers, he talked of attempts and threats on his life, asking what that would mean for him.

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

The next day, April 4, King was shot as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. He was 39.

His death plunged the nation into turmoil, sparking riots in more than 100 cities.

His killer, James Earl Ray, died in prison in 1998 while serving a 99-year sentence for King’s murder.

During a celebration of King’s birth in January, the Rev. Ucall Harris delivered a sermon at Pilgrim Baptist Church that addressed the longevity of King’s dream.

Listen to a brief report of the service here: Download:

Posted by Suzan Clarke on Thursday, April 3rd, 2008 at 7:15 pm
Category: Uncategorized


Tibet movement has local representation


A shadow has been cast over the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing in the wake of strict Chinese crackdowns on Tibetans who are calling for greater autonomy.

In the last few days, news of violent clashes between protesters and Chinese authorities has been broadcast across the world.

It is feared that athletes and spectators may boycott the August games. That would not only embarrass China — which has faced strong international condemnation for its poor human rights record — but would undermine its huge investment into preparing for the enterprise.

According to the Associated Press, the uprising is the broadest and most sustained against Chinese rule in almost two decades, and it has sparked demonstrations in neighboring provinces in western China. Thousands of troops and police have been deployed to contain the unrest.

The Chinese government says at least 22 people have died in Lhasa since clashes erupted earlier this month; Tibetan rights groups say nearly 140 Tibetans were killed.

Here in New York, protests have been unfolding outside the Chinese consulate in Manhattan. Present during the recent demonstrations was Rockland resident Kalsang Gyal, a native Tibetan who lost his grandfather and others to a conflict with Chinese soldiers early on in the occupation.

In a March 22 article in The Journal News, staff writer Hema Easley reports that Gyal plans to march this week to the Chinese embassy in Washington.

“People inside Tibet, their lives are at risk,” Gyal, talking through a translator, told Easley. “The least we can do is walk.”

Read the entire story here.

Posted by Suzan Clarke on Tuesday, March 25th, 2008 at 5:36 pm
Category: Uncategorized

| | Comments Off on Tibet movement has local representation

About this blog
Immigration and diversity reporter Suzan Clarke writes about the issues that go to the heart of diverse Rockland County, particularly culture, religion and ethnicity, and the effect of national issues upon the local landscape.


Daily Blog Email Updates:

About the author
Suzan ClarkeSuzan Clarke has been a reporter for The Journal News in Rockland since 2002, where she has covered numerous beats, including town and village government, community affairs and crime. She now reports on immigration, religion and diversity. READ MORE