"It's hard to believe this is the third year we are doing this," says Gale Austin, co-founder of the Pittsburgh chapter of Black Voices for Peace, about the upcoming Martin Luther King Day protest against the Iraq War. "This war has gone on longer and taken more lives than even we expected."
Since May 2004, Black Voices has been holding weekly protests in East Liberty. The turnout is gradually increasing, she says, along with the mounting death toll in Iraq. She remains resolute, believing that protest against U.S. actions in Iraq carries on the spirit of King, who opposed the Vietnam War. "I knew," King said, "that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor as long as adventures like Vietnam continue to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube."
"Vietnam" could easily be replaced with "Iraq," Austin says, to describe the current war's effects on poorer U.S. communities, which tend to be disproportionately African American. She also notes that, due to a lack of career prospects, poor blacks make up a large portion of the armed services, and their absence also harms the black community.
Austin recruits prospective students for the University of Pittsburgh. When she attends career fairs at high schools in poor, predominantly black neighborhoods, she is sometimes the only non-military recruiter, she reports. "You would be hard-pressed to find a military recruiter in the nation's most affluent high schools," she adds. "The nation's poor fight our wars, although they don't benefit from them."
Black Voices for Peace protest, 1-2 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 15, Highland and Penn avenues, East Liberty.