I have been to too many funerals, memorial services, celebrations of people’s lives, but tonight’s memorial event for Berta Isabel Cáceres, the Honduran environmental activist who was murdered on March 4th, may have been one of the most moving and the most inspiring. Rev. Debbie Lee and Rev. Deb Avery, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, were part of an interfaith delegation that went to Honduras and attended the funeral, and led our beautiful service tonight, with the help of activists from many of the groups, both environmental and human rights, that I belong to and support, including SOA Watch San Francisco and SOA Watch East Bay, Ecumenical Peace Institute, Task Force on the Americas and a host of others who are doing the good work day after day.
There were members of her family with us and good friends, including a woman who had been a breastfeeding buddy to Berta when she was stuck getting home; both men and women spoke movingly, sometimes breaking down unabashedly to cry… The relatives talked to us about the specific role of the presidential candidate to the presidency, Hillary Clinton, in not only supporting the coup but in ensuring that President Zelaya would never be able to complete his term as the constitutionally elected candidate. The presentation by Task Force on the Americas included the statement that had Hillary Clinton and the US State Department not specifically intervened to block Zelaya’s return to Honduras, Berta might still be alive.
A young “artivist” by the name of Gerardo Omar Marín, Co-Director of the Rooted in Community Youth Movement, led us in inspired music, blowing the conch shell to lead us into the sacred space of remembrance, and then playing a series of indigenous flutes. At the end of the evening, before we gathered to share pupusas and arroz con frijoles, I asked her relative, who lives in El Sobrante, whether he would lend us one of the beautiful pictures that were hand-painted in her memory; as he looked at me he asked me if I hadn’t been the Cuban woman who sang at FMLN’s victory celebration for the inauguration of Salvadorean President Zelaya (no relationship), and of course, I had attended the celebration put on by CISPES, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, interpreting, singing and doing the odd poem… I couldn’t believe that he remembered me, but that made him believe he could trust me to return the painting. So it came home with me and will have pride of place in our Good Friday vigil before the Gates of the Lawrence Livermore Lab. We are reading from her speech at the awarding of the Goldman Environmental Award in San Francisco in 2015: Both the program director, who spoke to us about Berta’s influence on him, and members of the Goldman family came to share in her remembrance.
Wake Up! Wake Up, Humankind!
We are out of time!
We must shake our conscience free of the rapacious capitalism, racism and patriarchy that will only assure our own self destruction. The Gualcarque River has called upon us as have other gravely threatened rivers. We must hear their call. Our Mother Earth, militarized, fenced in, poisoned, a place where basic rights are systematically violated demands that we take action. Let us build societies that are able to coexist in a dignified way that protects life. Let us come together and remain hopeful as we defend and care for the blood of this Earth and its spirits.
¡Despertemos! ¡Despertemos, Humanidad! ¡Ya no hay tiempo!
Nuestras conciencias serán sacudidas por el hecho de estar solo contemplando la autodestrucción basada en la depredación capitalista, racista y patriarcal. El Río Gualcarque nos ha llamado, así como los demás que están seriamente amenazados en todo el mundo. Debemos acudir.
La Madre Tierra militarizada, cercada, envenenada, donde se violan sistemáticamente los derechos elementales, nos exige actuar.
Construyamos entonces sociedades capaces de coexistir de manera justa, digna y por la vida.
Juntémonos y sigamos con esperanza defendiendo y cuidando la sangre de la tierra y de sus espíritus.
For me, perhaps one of the most moving parts involved the lighting of the candles and their placement around the indigenous altar… “Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness,” said the child martyr, Anne Frank, in her beautiful diary…
The last one is the idea that “no la enterramos, la sembramos.” The Lenca people whose leader she was have said, “we didn’t bury her, we planted her.” And I think of all the beautiful flowers that will be blooming, the world over because of the seed of hope that Berta Isabel Cáceres was and is for our entire planet.
Berta Isabel Cáceres, ¡Presente!
Notes: The photos here were taken by fellow luchadora Brooke Anderson. Her wonderful webpage on Facebook is here: https://www.facebook.com/movementphotographer/
Donations may be made to COPINH, Berta’s environmental group, by donating here: http://bertacaceres.org/donate.