I am dedicating this Mother’s Day tribute to all the courageous mothers, sisters, daughters, grandmothers and children who lost their mothers in the tragic building collapse in Bangladesh. Had my mother been living, these women would have been foremost in her prayers.
My mother, Marion (March 27, 1917 – February 13, 2009) is my inspiration, role model, and was my best friend. She was born in a small town in the Pennsylvania coal region of Irish-Catholic heritage. Her father, John J. Mates, came to America at the age of one. Like so many at that time, he helped to support his family — as a slate picker in the mines at age six. He was self-schooled but never without a book that I can remember. He went on to become John L. Lewis’ assistant, United Mine Workers of America, President of Mine Committee Local Union 1550, and represented the UNMW at the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions held in Paris in 1948.
Both my mother and her surviving older sister inherited musical talent and inspiration from my grandmother and grandfather. Marion and her older sister attended Philadelphia Musical Academy. Mom was a concert violinist and studied under the famed Zeffrey Hahn in Philadelphia. After World War II, she relocated to Washington, DC where she met my father and worked for the United Mine Workers. She received a book from John L inscribed “To a Daughter of the Union, with my compliments and appreciation.” John L. Lewis.
When I think of my mother now, I can feel her warmth and see her smile. It’s been two years since she died, just shy of her 92nd birthday. I was truly blessed with a happy childhood and to have had my mother all those years. Our home was one of warmth, laughter, security, and the neighborhood kids who gravitated each day after school for snacks, encouragement, and dinner. Mom only saw the good in people and gave everyone the benefit of doubt. Her passions were her children, my father, her friends, her cats, (Mitzie is with me now) and chocolate. She was politically correct before it was cool. Growing up in the Nation’s Capitol, we had opportunities of inter-acting with many nationalities. Mom was devout in her religious belief but had friends that spanned races, ethnicities, religions. Everyone was welcomed to our home.
She celebrated the holidays, any holiday – not just the major ones and she loved to decorate. She made life fun and special. She was humble, self-sacrificing, and exuded warmth and wit. Mom, I miss you more than you can know. You are cherished. This day is YOUR’S.
God Bless You, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, Susie
–By Susan Sacirbey
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Déjà vu (literally “already seen” in French) is described by Wikipedia as “the phenomenon of having the strong sensation that an event or experience currently being experienced has been experienced in the past, when in fact it hasn’t.” Sadly, this is not the case in Bangladesh.
Today the world mourns at least 377 workers who lost their lives at the Rana Plaza in a building collapse in Bangladesh outside the suburban capital of Dhaka. Despite heroic relief efforts which rescued 650, hundreds are still missing. Of the fortunate rescued, countless lost their limbs and hope for a future. Dubbed the deadliest accident in garment history, this comes as no surprise for lessons that were not learned in November, 2012 at a deadly factory fire at Tazreen Fashions, also outside Dhaka, (See my December 2012 blog: “Global Citizens Share Responsibility for Human Rights Stewardship.) http://diplomaticallyincorrect.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/global-citizens-share-responsibility-for-human-rights-stewardship-from-susan-sacirbey/
One of the worst industrial tragedies at the time, the Tazreen factory fire claimed the lives of 112 workers. Factories in Bangladesh are notorious for lax safety standards; and although lip service was made for better working conditions, health and safety guidelines, and accountability, we are now faced with an even greater tragedy in numbers of lives lost and injured.
Outside of China, the Bangladesh garment industry is the second largest exporter of clothing, an $18 billion industry. It employs three million workers and is funneled primarily by women. “Employees are among the world’s lowest paid with entry-level workers making the government mandated minimum wage of about $37 a month or slightly above.” (See: “Fatal Fire in Bangladesh Highlights the Dangers Facing Garment Workers”) http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/26/world/asia/bangladesh-fire-kills-more-than-100-and-injures-many.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1367247682-YpYFINA64Uqs+pnk2OtMKQ
This is a woman’s issue and affront to human rights for all. European and American customers are the beneficiaries of this slave labour. As such, accountability must be made on the part of Western labels. The global spotlight must be on retailers who buy from Bangladesh: JC Penny, Walmart, Cato Fashion, Benetton, Primark (low-cost British store chain) and El Corte Ingles (Spanish retailer.) “In recent days, different Western brands have expressed sorrow over the accident but none, as yet, has endorsed proposals for tougher independent safety inspection programs. “ (See: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/29/world/asia/after-building-collapse-tears-and-rage-as-hope-fades-in-bangladesh.html?pagewanted=2&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130429 )
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called for the arrest of the owner of Rana Plaza. Sohel Rana was arrested today by Bangladeshi paramilitary officers hiding at the Indian border who in turn blamed the garment factory bosses for operating despite warnings of building cracks the day prior to the accident. “I did not force the owners,” he said, according to bdnews24.com, an online news source in Bangladesh. “It was them who forced me, saying they would face huge losses, and shipments would be canceled if the factories were closed for even one day.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his utmost sadness and pledged support that may be needed and sent condolences to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. “He extends his sincere condolences to the Government and people of Bangladesh,” his spokesperson said. “He expresses his deepest sympathies to those who have lost loved ones or have been otherwise affected by this tragedy.”
It is indisputable that criminal negligence has been committed. All must be held accountable: the Government of Bangladesh, building owner, factory bosses, Western stores selling and profiting from Bangladeshi labour, and us as Global Citizens who purchase products with a blind eye to the efforts and means to produce the fashions on our backs. Sadly, this is not déjà vu for the Global Citizen. Bangladeshi slave labour is not a figment of our imagination. It happened before. As consumers, we must assume our collective omission grievance. We have the purchasing power to hold all accountable and lift the oppressed to the dignity that they earned and deserve.
By, Susan Sacirbey
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PHOTO: Courtesy of ibtimes.com
No, this Lucy is not icon Lucille Ball nostalgically remembered for her 1950’s TV show with husband Desi Arnaz in the “I Love Lucy” comedy series which was a central part of American households. Although Lucy and cohort Ethel practiced environmental sustainability getting their feet dirty in the famous exploits stomping on grapes to produce wine or in the factory packaging and consuming chocolates off the conveyor belt as the age’s working girls, this April 22 Earth Day for me is someone/something else.
The Lucy that I love is physically larger than life. She is a six-story wooden pachyderm standing majestically in Margate, New Jersey gazing at the ocean amidst scrub pine, dune grass, and sand. My first encounter with this amazing elephant was on one of Ambassador Mo’s and my 10-mile beach walks at the Jersey Shore. Lucy is the only elephant I know with her own Facebook page “Lucy the Elephant” and over 11,000 fans. Lucy is also art, in that she is Zoomorphic Architecture’s oldest example.
Built in 1881 by Philadelphia developer James Vincent de Paul Lafferty, Jr. and architect William Free at the reported cost of $25,000, Lucy was a marketing tool, err bait, to lure visitors and buyers to Lafferty’s property holdings in the area located just south of the booming seaside resort of Atlantic City. The United States Government patented Lafferty’s project and ideas for innovative animal-shaped buildings.
Although Lafferty’s investment went into financial disrepair, Lucy survived through the years as a tavern, hotel, and roadside curio of Americana. Like her real-life counterpart she was threatened with extinction in 1969. Today, poaching is on the rise with 50 – 100 elephants killed every day for their ivory and trade in tusks. Despite the UN Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), enforcement is challenged by illegal traders and the ready markets in Asia and the Americas for elephant and rhino horns and tusks. For more information on CITES and “Is Poaching a ‘Threat to International Peace & Security?” see Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey’s recent “Huffington Post” blog: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ambassador-muhamed-sacirbey/is-poaching-threat-peace_b_2803872.html
Lucy now operates as a museum and is listed on the National Park Registry of Historical Landmarks. She stands tall for the citizens of Margate and preservationists. She also proved her pachyderm’s thick skin against Mother Nature. Despite the devastation to the Jersey Shore during the recent Hurricane Sandy, Lucy survived.
This Earth Day, I plan a visit to Lucy. As much as she triumphs Spring’s arrival and beach walks for me, I can only hope that the “living elephant” won’t become just a picture postcard to share with future generations with Margate Lucy standing as the sole reminder of a magnificent animal species.
By, Susan Sacirbey
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