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Teacher, Friend, And Companero — Howard Zinn


Hermanos y Hermanas,

 

Thursday our beloved teacher, friend, and companero in struggle, Howard Zinn died; he was 87 years old. 

 

After serving in World War II as a bombardier, Howard became a radical anti-war advocate, historian, movement worker, supporter of SNCC and the civil rights movement, and author of many books. His masterpiece, "A People’s History of the United States" has been read by millions of people around the world and has inspired generations of young people to join social movements.

 

As an activist and public intellectual, Howard stood up to the abuses of power, from the unjustifiable wars waged by presidents of the United States right down to the brutality of racist cops and courts. 

 

In almost everything he did, Howard celebrated the power of civil disobedience to send a message. 

 

He advocated that we never look away from injustice, but instead confront it however we can through acts of dissent, organizing, and building networks of resistance. 

 

Howard believed in the power of social movements, and was a passionate supporter of anti-war struggles from the U.S. war against Vietnam War to today’s wars in Iraq Afghanistan/Pakistan.

 

Howard spoke out to free political prisoners like Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Pelitier, and gave sanctuary to rebels like Daniel Ellsberg when they broke the law and went underground. 

 

He loved telling the stories of common people who faced jail time, tear gas, riot police, water cannons but continued to rebel.

 

Howard’s generosity was like an ocean, he supported the efforts of unknown poets and artists, young writers, aspiring actors, community-level activists, and small leftist organizations around the world.

 

With humor and clarity and soulfulness, Howard encouraged us all to make being agents of social change part of our daily lives, with our family, friends and communities. 

 

When I was in my early 20s, reading a "A People’s History of The United States" opened my eyes to how the version of history we are taught in public schools is often a white-washed version, filled with distortions and critical omissions. 

 

Reading Howard inspired me to get involved with political activism. I loved the printed word and through my friendship with David Barsamian, I began publishing pamphlets. That’s how I met Howard. During Gulf War I, I published a pamphlet of an anti-war speech Howard had recently given. The pamphlet was called "Power, History and Warfare" and was the first of what was to become more than half a dozen pamphlets and books I produced with Howard over the past twenty years. 

 

It is a profound personal privilege to have known Howard and his wife Roz, to have worked with him, to have published  with him, to have sat at the table with him, and to have learned from him.

 

In word and action, Howard  taught us all that non-compliance with injustice is to participate in the making of the people’s history, that to stand up, speak out, to write our stories, to publish dissident views, to take to the streets and disobey is our non-negotiable right, and the more people we connect with while we rebel, the greater the joy. 

 

May Howard’s spirit live on in our rebellion, creativity, and ability to live out the better world we envision.

 

May the legacy of his work give us all the sense of humor, patience and heart we need to continue in our struggles until the solider refuses to fight, the jailer refuses to jail, the whole story gets told, the classroom teaches liberation and real justice prevails.

 

To quote from the last book we worked on together, "A Power Governments Cannot Suppress:" 

 

"We live in a beautiful country. But people who have no respect for human life, freedom, or justice have taken it over. It is now up to all of us to take it back."

 

Maestro, companero, amigo, we will miss you fiercely!

 

va un abrazo fuerte,

 

Greg Ruggiero

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