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is saddened to learn of the death of Bill Sutherland, African American
pacifist, Pan African activist elder, and a founder of Africa Action's
first predecessor organization, the American Committee on Africa. He
died peacefully on the evening of January 2, 2010. He was 91.
"Bill was a remarkable person and a true pioneer committed to the
liberation struggle in Africa and achieving an end to colonialism and
Global Apartheid," said Gerald LeMelle, Executive Director of
Africa Action. He adds, "Africa Action is grounded in the history
and purpose of his vision and through his legacy, we are committed to
promoting human rights and working towards social, political and
economic justice in Africa."
During a ceremony of Africa Action's 50th anniversary, George Houser, a
founding Director of the American Committee on Africa (ACOA) and The
Africa Fund said, "This is how we got started. It was the Defiance
Campaign in South Africa sponsored by the African National Congress to
which we responded, resulting in more then 8500 arrests for nonviolent
civil disobedience against the apartheid laws. It was Bill Sutherland
who urged us to get involved."
The Americans for South African Resistance became the ad hoc support
group and a vehicle for information about the Campaign and to raise
money for political prisoners for the Africa. In 1953, once the
Defiance Campaign ended, the Americans for South African Resistance
disbanded, and Sutherland and his colleagues established a more formal
organization, the American Committee on Africa (ACOA), presently known
as Africa Action.
Sutherland's relationship with a broad spectrum of Africans who played
key roles in both revolution and reform, including Frantz Fanon,
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah, Rev. Martin
Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Dennis Brutus and others, helped shape his
vision of a more just world. During his experience living in Africa
for over three decades, Sutherland demonstrated an unyielding
commitment to the liberation struggle.
Michael Stulman, Associate Director for Policy and Communications said,
"His work is a history of solidarity that is essential for finding
new paths to a future of human rights for all."
Africa Action extends our deepest condolences to his family and friends.
To find more information on funeral arrangements, please email info
Bill Sutherland, Pan African Pacifist, 1918-2010
Bill Sutherland, unofficial ambassador between the peoples of Africa
and the Americas for over fifty years, died peacefully on the evening
of January 2, 2010. He was 91.
A life-long pacifist and liberation advocate, Sutherland became
involved in civil rights and anti-war activities as a youthful member
of the Student Christian Movement in the 1930s. Sutherland was raised
in New Jersey, the son of a prominent dentist and youngest brother to
Reiter Sutherland and to Muriel Sutherland Snowden of Boston, who
founded Freedom House in 1949 and was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship
"genius" grant. He spent four years at Lewisburg Federal Correctional
Facility in the 1940s as a conscientious objector to World War Two,
striking up what became life-long friendships with fellow C.O.s Ralph
DiGia, Bayard Rustin, George Houser, Dave Dellinger, and others. In
1951, in the early days of the Cold War, Sutherland, DiGia, Dellinger,
and Quaker pacifist Art Emory constituted the Peacemaker bicycle
project, which took the message of nuclear disarmament to both sides of
the Iron Curtain.
In 1953, in coordination with the War Resisters International and with
several activist groups and independence movement parties on the
continent, he moved to what was then known as the Gold Coast. An active
supporter of Kwame Nkrumah, he married playwright and Pan African
cultural activist Efua Theodora, and became the headmaster of a rural
secondary school. The call of Pan Africanist politics was very strong,
and Sutherland was instrumental--along with a small group of African
Americans living in Ghana at the time, including dentists Robert and
Sara Lee-in hosting the visit of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and
Coretta Scott King to the 1957 independence celebrations. In the early
days of the first Ghanaian government, Sutherland also served on the
organizing team of the All African Peoples Congress. He was appointed
private secretary to Finance Minister Komla Gbedema. He was also
central to the development of the Sahara Protest Team, which brought
together African, European, and U.S. peace leaders to put their bodies
in the way of nuclear testing in the Sahara Desert.
Sutherland left Ghana in 1961, working in both Lebanon and Israel for
the founding of Peace Brigades International, and for the Israeli labor
organization Histadrut. It was also in this period that he began a
friendship with Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan of the Ismaili community,
working in support of displaced persons as Sadruddin became United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He settled in Dar es Salaam,
Tanzania in 1963, as a civil servant. Sutherland's chief work in Dar
involved support for the burgeoning independent governments and
liberation movements. A close friend and associate of Tanzania's Julius
Nyerere and Zambia's Kenneth Kaunda, Sutherland helped develop the Pan
African Freedom Movement of East and Central Africa (PAFMECA). He
served as hospitality officer for the Sixth Pan African Congress--held
in Dar in 1974--working with C.L.R. James and other long-time colleagues
to bridge the gap between Africans on the continent and in the
Diaspora. He hosted countless individuals and delegations from the U.S.
in these years, including assisting Malcolm X in what would be his last
trip to Tanzania. His home in Dar became a camping ground for
liberation leaders in exile from Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South
Africa and throughout the region. His love of music, especially jazz,
his passion for tennis (which he played well into his 80s), and the
pleasure he got from dancing, were hallmarks of his interactions,
shared with political associates and personal friends the world over.
Despite Sutherland's close association with those engaged in armed
struggle, he maintained his connections with and commitment to
revolutionary nonviolence, and joined the international staff of the
Quaker-based American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in 1974. As the
AFSC pushed for the Nobel Peace Prize to be awarded to South African
anti-apartheid clergyman Bishop Desmond Tutu, Sutherland was working as
the AFSC international representative. In 2003, the AFSC initiated an
annual Bill Sutherland Institute, training Africa lobbyists and
advocates in various policy issues and educational techniques.
Sutherland was also the recipient of an honorary doctorate degree from
Bates College, and served as a Fellow at Harvard University's Institute
of Politics. He was awarded a special citation from the Gandhi Peace
Foundation in India, and, in 2009, received the War Resisters League's
Grace Paley Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 2000, Africa World Press published Sutherland's Guns and Gandhi in
Africa: Pan African Insights on Nonviolence, Armed Struggle, and
Liberation, co-authored by Matt Meyer. Archbishop Tutu, who wrote the
foreword for the book, commented that "Sutherland and Meyer have looked
beyond the short-term strategies and tactics which too often divide
progressive people . . . They have begun to develop a language which
looks at the roots of our humanness." On the occasion of Sutherland's
90th birthday last year, Tutu called in a special message, noting that
"the people of Africa owe Bill Sutherland a big thank you for his
Bill Sutherland is survived by three children--Esi Sutherland-Addy,
Ralph Sutherland, and Amowi Sutherland Phillips--as well as
grandchildren in Accra, Ghana; Spokane, Washington; Lewiston, Maine;
New Haven, Connecticut; and Brooklyn, New York. In addition to scores
of family members, friends, and loved ones, he will be missed by his
niece, Gail Snowden, his loving partner Marilyn Meyer, and his
"adopted" sons Matt Meyer and john powell. There will be a private
funeral for family members this week, and memorial services will be
organized for later this year.
Africa Action is a national organization that works for political, economic and social justice in Africa. Through the provision of accessible information and analysis combined with the mobilization of public pressure we work to change the policies and policy-making processes of U.S. and multinational institutions toward Africa. The work of Africa Action is grounded in the history and purpose of its predecessor organizations, the American Committee on Africa (ACOA), The Africa Fund, and the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC), which have fought for freedom and justice in Africa since 1953. Continuing this tradition, Africa Action seeks to re-shape U.S. policy toward African countries.
"Over 100,000 of our loved ones being lost to avoidable overdoses a year is not because of a lack of enforcement, it's a direct result of it," the director of the Drug Policy Alliance argued.
U.S. drug policy reform advocates condemned President Joe Biden's commitment to "accelerating the crackdown on fentanyl trafficking" as part of his administration's strategy for tackling the opioid crisis, a policy the White House announced in a preview of Tuesday night's State of the Union address.
Although the SOTU preview says the administration will be "expanding access to evidence-based prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery," the document says Biden will "work with Congress to make permanent tough penalties on suppliers of fentanyl," fentanyl analogs, and fentanyl-related substances (FRS).
The outline states that Biden "looks forward to working with Congress on its comprehensive proposal to permanently schedule all illicitly produced FRS into Schedule I," the most severe Drug Enforcement Administration classification.
"The push to place all fentanyl-related substances in Schedule I is unfortunate and misguided. Schedule I is supposed to be for substances that we know to be harmful and not helpful."
"Traffickers of these deadly substances must face the penalties they deserve, no matter how they adjust their drugs," the preview asserts.
In response to the SOTU preview, Maritza Perez Medina, director of the office of federal affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement that "we are glad to see President Biden continue to call for increased access to evidence-based treatment, harm reduction, and recovery services."
"But, his support for harsher penalties for fentanyl-related substances—which will result in broader application of mandatory minimum sentencing and disproportionately harm Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities—in the same breath is incredibly counterproductive and fails to recognize how we got to this place to begin with," she asserted. "Over 100,000 of our loved ones being lost to avoidable overdoses a year is not because of a lack of enforcement, it's a direct result of it."
\u201c\ud83d\udea8BREAKING\ud83d\udea8 @POTUS' State of the Union Comments on Fentanyl-Related Substances Run Counter to Commitments on Public Health and Criminal Justice Reform \ud83d\udce2 FULL QUOTE from @DrugPolicyOrg @DPA_OFA Director @MariPerMed IN THREAD \ud83d\udc47 https://t.co/kGYX8kQ1tx\u201d— Matt Sutton (@Matt Sutton) 1675810566
Gregory Dudley, who chairs the chemistry department at West Virginia University, argued that "the push to place all fentanyl-related substances in Schedule I is unfortunate and misguided. Schedule I is supposed to be for substances that we know to be harmful and not helpful."
"We don't know which of these substances would be harmful or helpful, and how could we without testing them?" Dudley asked. "Some of these substances could be lifesaving opioid antagonists like naloxone, or better. This proposal prioritizes criminalization over healthcare."
Susan Ousterman, who lost her son Tyler to an accidental overdose in 2020 and subsequently founded the Vilomah Memorial Foundation, said that "it's incredibly disheartening to see the president co-opting the grief of mothers like me in an attempt to increase penalties, rather than prioritizing the health measures that are desperately needed to save lives."
"Increased penalties for people who use or sell drugs, including fentanyl-related substances, would not have kept my son alive or the countless children of other mothers I have met," Ousterman stressed. "In fact, it's policies such as these that created the increased stigma and fear that kept our children from accessing help, and it's what has led to the increasingly dangerous drug supply that resulted in their deaths."
"It's time for the president and other policymakers to prioritize the lives of all humans by embracing a health approach rather than engaging in politics that only perpetuate this disastrous war on drugs," she added. "As a person who understands the profound impact both substance use and child loss have on families, I expected more."
Biden was one of the architects of the 1980s escalation of the War on Drugs. He coined the term "drug czar" while advocating the establishment of the cabinet-level position and was a key supporter of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, legislation that accelerated U.S. mass incarceration.
"This is just crazy," said the president of the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. "A kid can still lose an arm in a work-based learning program."
Labor advocates on Tuesday decried a business-backed bill introduced by Republican state lawmakers in Iowa that would roll back child labor laws so that teens as young as 14 could work in previously prohibited jobs including mining, logging, and animal slaughtering—a proposal one union president called dangerous and "just crazy."
Senate File 167, introduced by state Sen. Jason Schultz (R-6) would expand job options available to teens—including letting children as young as 14 work in freezers and meat coolers and loading and unloading light tools, under certain conditions.
Teens under 18 would still be generally barred from employment in fields including mining, logging, demolition, and meatpacking, and from operating potentially dangerous machinery and equipment including circular saws, guillotine shears, and punching machines.
However, the Des Moines Registerreports the proposed law contains "an entirely new section" that "would allow the Iowa Workforce Development and state Department of Education heads to make exceptions to any of the prohibited jobs for teens 14-17 'participating in work-based learning or a school or employer-administered, work-related program.'"
\u201cThe new Iowa bill would also completely lift a ban on 14 and 15-year-olds working in freezers and meat coolers, and allow kids as young as 14 1/2 to drive themselves to work. Other dangerous jobs would be allowed with exemptions.\n\nhttps://t.co/t1nEAl4mEo\u201d— More Perfect Union (@More Perfect Union) 1675781655
The proposed bill—which comes amid an ongoing labor shortage in Iowa—also expands the hours teens may work, and shields businesses from liability if a minor employee is sickened, injured, or killed as a result of a company's negligence.
"This is just crazy," Charlie Wishman, president of the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, told the Des Moines Register. "A kid can still lose an arm in a work-based learning program."
Wishman said the bill will gut more than a century of child labor protections, many of which were enacted in an era when "children were hurt and killed" on the job.
\u201cInstead of raising the minimum wage and paying adults more or funding a social safety net, Iowa would rather bring back child labor.\u201d— Lyz Lenz (@Lyz Lenz) 1675789111
"The idea of putting children into work activities that could be dangerous is something that is not only irresponsible but reprehensible," Wishman added.
Iowa state Sen. Claire Celsi (D-16) called the proposed legislation "another sign that the labor market in Iowa is in big trouble."
"Businesses are so desperate to hire warm bodies that they want politicians to bend child labor laws (and eliminate corporate liability)," she wrote on Twitter.
\u201cIf you squint, you can see the future that the GOP envisions and it looks a lot like the past. Education will be a privilege for those who can afford it. For the rest, there is labor. Just don't get hurt! https://t.co/Ynke4bEKeG\u201d— Jennifer Berkshire (@Jennifer Berkshire) 1675349664
State Sen. Nate Boulton (D-20), an attorney specializing in labor law, described the bill as "offensive."
"Putting children at risk, and creating immunity for that risk, is not acceptable," he told Iowa Starting Line.
"These efforts to roll back child labor laws overlap with the conservative changes to school curriculum," tweeted education podcaster and author Jennifer Berkshire. "The through line is an effort to teach kids that free enterprise rules and that the boss is king."
The proposal treats the PFAS family of chemicals "as the public health menace it is," said one advocate.
The toxic materials that have come to be known as "forever chemicals" because of their ability to build up in the environment, wildlife, and humans could soon be on their way out in the European Union, after officials began consideration of ban on more than 10,000 chemical substances in the PFAS family.
Representatives from Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway have been collaborating on the proposal, and said in a statement that the ban will "make products and processes safer for humans."
"A ban on PFAS would reduce quantities of PFAS in the environment over the long term," they added.
"You can find PFAS in penguins in the Antarctic, in polar bears in the Arctic, even in rain water in Tibet."
The ban on per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances—used in tens of thousands of everyday products including non-stick pans, raincoats, textiles, and cars—would take effect 18 months after its passage for products for which manufacturers have identified alternatives.
Companies that cannot readily switch to using alternative materials will have up to 12 years to comply with the ban.
The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) praised the E.U. for its "comprehensive" proposal "to cut PFAS emissions at the source, which is long overdue."
"Now member states have to work together towards a highly protective restriction that is as broad as possible in terms of PFAS coverage and uses," said Natacha Cingotti, health and chemicals program lead at HEAL.
PFAS have been linked to a variety of illnesses including kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid issues, and immune problems.
Since the chemicals do not decompose due to strong bonds between carbon and fluorine atoms, they have been detected in human breast milk samples. A study released last month by Duke University and the Environmental Working Group found that eating just one freshwater fish in the U.S. exposes a person to the same amount of PFAS as drinking contaminated water for a month.
"You can find PFAS in penguins in the Antarctic, in polar bears in the Arctic, even in rain water in Tibet," said Audun Heggelund of the Norwegian Environment Agency at a media briefing in Brussels on Tuesday.
Actor and environmental activist Mark Ruffalo called the proposal "amazing news" and called on U.S. officials to act urgently to eliminate the use of PFAS.
\u201cAmazing news out of Europe. Treating the \u201cforever chemical\u201d family of PFAS as the public health menace it is. We need the US @EPA to stop playing with our people\u2019s health and do the same. \nhttps://t.co/t9hhXT8WjU\u201d— Mark Ruffalo (@Mark Ruffalo) 1675804513