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Helen PopenoeMy International Convocation of Unitarian*Universalist Women experience was similar to my participation in fifteen UUA General Assemblies (GA). I even got my photo in the “UU World”, voting at a Ft. Lauderdale GA plenary session. Gini Courter, as our UUA Moderator, was handling that plenary process. The women’s Convocation had a small group decision making process that Gini, also, handled. Like GA, the Convocation honored the enabling, feminist work of a Right Relations Committee, there to help us all correct insensitive mistakes in our behavior at the podium and, personally, toward one another.

My same GA exhaustion happened because I couldn’t miss the valuable speakers and activities that were so well planned for us. I was in Patricia Montley’s play reading of her “Persephone’s Journey: A Rite of Spring.” The only free time we could rehearse was from 10 PM to midnight! I’m an up-with-dawn early bird! The whole Convocation was well worth my extra effort. How could I help not doing so? The activities and presentations tied together, so well, in supporting the Convocation theme for building a strong network of partnerships around the world. The presenters consciously built on the thinking in presentations that went before. The remarkable clarity and intelligence (including the emotional and intuitive intelligences) of the speakers, questioners and small group participants continually brought me new insights to which I could connect new ideas.

Seventeen women from around the district met on May 17 at the home of Rev. Shirley Ranck in Sunnyvale. Plans were made for the annual Women & Religion Retreat to be held in March of 2010, and school supplies were packed to send to schools in need.
 
A dramatic reading by Meg Bowman was presented and all enjoyed a pot luck lunch on the patio. The next meeting of the Women & Religion Committee will be on Saturday, October 17 at the UU Fellowship in Modesto, CA.
 
Rev. Shirley Ranck
Interim Minister, Sunnyvale, CA
All these murders really occurred in 2009.  I decided not to include those from previous years because the incredible number that occurred this year alone has such emotional impact.  I learned of them because I check CNN.com daily and watch some local TV news.  They can all be verified by googling.  Sadly I didn’t list most of the names of the women and children in order to be brief.

1.    Ervin Lupoe shot and killed his wife, Ana, and his 5 children, Brittney, 8, twin girls Jaszmin and Jassely, 5, and twin boys Benjamin and Christian, 2 years and 4 months then committed suicide because of job loss in Wilmington (LA) California, Tuesday, January 27, 2009.  It was the third mass murder and suicide of a Southern California family committed by a man in 6 months.

2.    Theodore Bayly strangled his wife, Janice, 40, and his 11-year-old son, Colton, then committed suicide by gun shot because of financial problems, in Belle Valley, Ohio, February 18, 2009.

3.    Pablo Josue Amador shot and killed his wife, Maria, 45, and 2 daughters, Priscilla and Rosa, 13 and 14, then committed suicide in Miami, Florida, Wednesday, February 25, 2009.  A 16-year-old son, Javier, escaped.

4.    Guillermo Lopez shot and killed his estranged wife, Lazara Mendez, 50, and her daughter, Nayla Canfux,19, the daughter’s boyfriend, Francisco Casas, 27, and his grandmother, Maria Lefran Christ, 77, at a birthday party then committed suicide in Miami, Florida, March 15, 2009.  The detective at the scene, Ervens Ford, is listed as an alternative to google for the shooting.  The man’s name is too common to find easily.

5.    Charles Nettlebeck killed his wife, Barbara Jo, 52, and his stepdaughter, Bretta Joan Hawkins, 33, with an ax in Orting, Washington over impending divorce March 15, 2009.

6.     Devan Kalathat shot and killed his daughter, Nehga Dev, 4, his son, Akhil Dev, 11, his brother-in-law, Ashok Appu Poothemkandi, 35, and his sister-in-law, Suchitra Sivaraman, 25, and the couple’s 11-month-old daughter, Ahana Ashok, and then committed suicide in Santa Clara, California, Tuesday, March 31, 2009.  He also shot his own wife, Abha, critically wounding her; she apparently survives.

7.     James Harrison killed his 5 children, ages 16 to 7, then committed suicide in Graham, Washington, Saturday, April 4, 2009, after learning his wife, Angela, was leaving him,  The children were Maxine, 16, Jamie, Samantha, Heather and James, 7; accurate information is not available for the other’s ages.  (See AP archives; also google under “5 children dead”.  His name is too common.)

8.    Kevin Lee Garner shot and killed his estranged wife, Tammy, 40, his daughter, Chelsea, 16, his sister, Karen Beaty, and her son, Robert, 11, then committed suicide in Green Hill, Alabama, Tuesday, April 7, 2009.  Divorce hearings were in process.

9.     Christopher Wood shot, stabbed and killed his wife, Francie Billotti-Wood, 33, and his 3 children, 2 sons, Chandler, 5, and, Gavin, 4, and his daughter, Fiona, 2, as they slept in Middleton, Maryland, Saturday, April 18, 2009.  He almost cut off his children's heads using a kitchen knife and pruning saw, the sheriff said. He then committed suicide. The family had severe financial problems, and he struggled with depression.

10.    William Parente of Garden City, New York, killed his wife, Betty, and his 2 daughters, Catherine, 11, and Stephanie, 19, by beating and suffocating them then committing suicide by stabbing himself, in a hotel room in Towson, (Baltimore) Maryland Monday, April 20, 2009.  He was under investigation for allegedly running a $20 million Ponzi scheme.

11.    Troy Ryan Bellar, shot and killed his wife, Wendy, 31 and 2 of his sons, Zack, 5 months and Ryan, 8, then committed suicide using a 7.62 mm rifle in Lakeland, Florida, Sunday evening, May 3, 2009.  He chased his 13 year-old son, Nathan, shooting at him but the son escaped unharmed.  His wife may have been attempting to leave the home with 2 of the children.

12.    Chris Coleman has been charged for the strangulation of his wife, Sheri, 31, and his 2 sons, Garrett, 11 and Gavin, 9, in Columbia, Illinois, Thursday, May 7, 2009.  (Maj. Jeff Connor of Major Case Squad for additional google resource).  He has pleaded not guilty.

As of the end of June, there have been no more of these mass family murders since May 7.  According to Allan G. Johnson, in The Gender Knot:  Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy, there are underlying social problems and oppressions that contribute to them which are ignored.  Instead, society focuses on each family having its own unique problems.

Jeane Orjas
First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco
Let's appropriate this lively 44-cent stamp! Buy as many as your Post Office has on hand and start using them on all of your mail. Write your favorite words to support Freedom for Everyone to Marry on your envelopes right under the stamp like this!
First Peoples Worldwide
Convocation Aftermath:  More than a conference the Convocation was a call to action mixing the highest sense of Oneness and love for all, with stories of real people inspiring change to the practical aspects of maintaining one's spiritual growth amidst surmounting breakdowns in our social fabric – economy, – unemployment and homelessness, - violence - local and international oppression - women and disenfranchisement, - environment – climate change and more poverty. A strong context of research, statistics, and studies provided the backdrop for strategies, networks and individuals to catalyze action. Women were energized spiritually, challenged intellectually, and moved to action. Each woman could find the resources at the Convocation, unique to her path, whether it be a deep, intimately inner search or an external mission to improve life on this planet.  I loved the way in which everyone’s talents were celebrated and how all of the parts went into making the whole --- making the whole world a better place.
 
Rebecca AdamsonEnergizing: The energy of the women was uplifting. There was a nurturing and joyous environment with serious strategic undertones of resourcing, networking, and building capacity. You had fun while making incredible connections with media experts, political analysts, academic thought leaders, and even potential donors. It was just wonderful to have so much feminine energy. Mothers’ love! When you work for social justice the emotional costs can be steep but for the time at the Convocation, the world’s wounds were wrapped in motherly love and healing on an individual level, which occurred throughout the gathering.
 
Convocation Opened Door: Without a doubt hearing the “Indigenous Peoples story” as told by an indigenous woman was a first for many Convocation participants. Most individuals had heard anecdotes about the poor conditions for one indigenous group or another. All taking place in far off exotic places… However the Convocation opened many doors once the voice and story of Indigenous Peoples was shared. We are, right now as I write this, attending the UUA international meeting in Romania. We have been asked to present a session on IPs based upon the response we received from the Houston Convocation. In addition we are now in partnership with the UU congregation in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, Africa, working jointly with the Batwa or Pygmies who have been evicted to make way for national parks. We have several more events where we are participating with UUA since the Houston Convocation.  Oh, and Rev. Dorothy Emerson and I are talking about writing a book to bring voice to this huge concern.
 
To Summarize: My mother was an actual member of UUA and my connection is deep but I fall short of a practicing member of a congregation.
I could see tremendous connections and progress was made at the Convocation.
We have individuals in the network who keep in touch with us and help with letters or campaigns.
We have started a full partnership with the Brazzaville UU congregation to do community development with the Batwa.
We are planning to partner with a UUA member, Dorothy, to write a book.
We are attending several UUA conferences to build more partners.
I would say this is pretty excellent indication of progress.
 
I want to thank the women of the Houston Convocation for giving First Peoples Worldwide the chance to come and be a part of their community. Together we can change the world.
 
With deep appreciation,
Rebecca  
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