FOUNDATION FOR A COMPASSIONATE SOCIETY
Published in 1994. This description was last updated in 1997. The Foundation closed in 1998 with the exception of FIRE, and the Temple of Sekhmet. Wings continues independently.
Stonehaven Ranch began in 1984, and until 2008 it provided a beautiful free or low cost women-led conference space to hundreds of groups working on peace and justice, feminism, alternative spirituality, environmental and health issues. This 170 acre ranch was also the site of many free Foundation-sponsored conferences and events over the years. Margie First provided material and spiritual nurturing.
CASA DE COLORES
This project consisted of a farm and historic Victorian house on the border at the southmost point of Texas, near Brownsville. The house offered a multicultural museum and a resource center for issues of environmental racism and economic justice from indigenous women’s perspective. Located next door to the Audubon Society’s Wildlife Sanctuary, Casa cooperated in the protection of endangered species even as the dangerous pollution of the Rio Grande river and the so-called free trade zone caused grievous problems.
Tourists, school children, indigenous people and environmental groups visited Casa regularly. Helga García-Garza managed this project with a lot of spiritual energy. Meetings of traditional healers, youth, elders and indigenous spiritual leaders took place in this space which was formerly a plantation headquarters.
Media beyond the mainstream is necessary to break down the barriers of disinformation and the monolithic commercial viewpoint which takes power away from people and leadership away from women, causing isolation and hopelessness. For 10 years the Foundation sponsored hour-long weekly programs of interviews with activists from many areas, involved with a variety of issues, using Austin, Texas public access television. The programs were broadcasted not only in Austin, but in other communities. Video coverage of conferences and special events put on by the Foundation and by other organizations were also provided. Live series of one-hour programs were produced on ACAC by various staff members weekly and bi-weekly. These include “Feminist Values,” “The Women’s News Hour” and “Arts and Activism.”
The Feminist International Radio Endeavor is a two-hour daily shortwave radio program on Radio for Peace International in Costa Rica. This program provides a forum for women’s voices to be heard on all issues, one hour in English and one in Spanish. Begun in 1991, FIRE has made waves in Central America and has developed a broad international following. The team of Latin American women who produce Fire also travel to conferences giving women’s voices a wider audience and demonstrating the usefulness of shortwave technology. Women everywhere are urged not only to tune in and listen, but also to contribute programs they tape themselves.
Puerto Rican María Suarez and Chilean Katarina Anfossi created the programs. Debra Latham of RFPI provided much support. Listen daily at: 1600 (Spanish) , 1700 (English) 0000, 0100, 0800 and 0900 UTC (Universal Coordinated Time). Frequencies •15.030 (AM) in
the 19 meter band •9.400 Mhz(USB) 24 hours in the
31 meter band •7.375 (AM) in the 41 meter band 2100-0800 •21.465 MHz (USB) in the 13 meter band 1200-0400.
Visit the website: www.fire.or.cr
WATER: WOMEN’S ACCESS TO ELECTRONIC RESOURCES
WATER was a residential property in Austin which served as a media training center for and by women, where communication skills such as video and audio production and editing as well as computer on-line services could be learned in a comfortable, relaxed environment. In this project, technology was no longer overwhelming to novices and skills were not taught in an authoritarian manner so the technology term “user-friendly” took on a new meaning.
This was a program worthy of wide replication and attention because it offered women skills for the 21st century.
These projects were the brainchild of video professor Fern Hill. Radio technology and interviewing were taught by Frieda Werden. Lisa Hayes taught video and radio. Computer training and networking were also provided.
WEBB: Women’s Electronic Bed and Breakfast. This house near WATER provided space for guests, archives for Foundation videos, and community meetings.
THE ASSOCIATION OF WOMEN OF THE MEDITERRANEAN
REGION: This organization was initiated by Yana Bland and holds annual meetings on the island of Malta. These meetings address common problems of women in the area and opposed militarization and environmental pollution. They were largely supported by the Foundation for a Compassionate Society with the help of the
Dougherty Foundation. Yana Bland worked for the Foundation as an environmental activist specializing in military toxics and health problems.
OPPOSING THE NUCLEAR INDUSTRY
In 1993 the Foundation sponsored a visit to Austin by Dr. Ernest Sternglass in which he presented research demonstrating how exposure to “low-level” radiation affects the development of breast cancer and pointed out that 80% of all kind of cancer is environmentally-induced and therefore preventable. Moved by this information, the Foundation organized a conference in February of 1994 entitled “The Breast Cancer Epidemic and Nuclear Radiation”. There were some 50 presenters and 300 participants at the event. The conference was followed by a hearing with Texas state officials as a collaborative effort with WEDO organized by the Foundation. The profit motive and the exchange economy attack and discredit the nurturing way; it should therefore not surprise us that since the beginning of the nuclear age, the incidence of breast cancer in the U.S. has increased more than 60%. The “low level” radiation from transport and “disposal” of nuclear waste poses serious threats not only to the health of people at the proposed dump site in the West Texas town of Sierra Blanca, a poor Chicano community, but around the world as well, to communities near uranium mines, nuclear power and weapons plants and test sites.
Given the long term goal of creating a pollution-free environment, this project’s short term goal was to broaden its working base by involving ethnic communities and all people who, remain unaware of the dimensions of this problem. A multi-media slide show focused on stories of communities fighting the Sierra Blanca nuclear waste dump site, interspersed
with the stories of women breast cancer survivors, in order to educate a new, broad group of women and men from all walks of life about Sierra Blanca.
A video: Peligro! was produced by Options 2000, with the Feminists for a Compassionate Society support.The Foundation and Feminists for a Compassionate Society had a long term collaboration with the Sierra Blanca Legal Defense Fund. This project was coordinated by Erin Rogers, Susan Lee, Suze Kemper and María Limón.
AUSTIN TO BOSNIA
Medicines and medical supplies were collected over the years and distributed to several groups in the former Yugoslavia. Our efforts were focused on medical supplies, baby formula, vitamins and thermal underclothing. The public helped us by donating any of these items. Sally Jacques’ devotion and commitment made this project a reality.
Women’s International News Gathering Service established in 1986, syndicates 52 news and current affairs programs a year, by and about women around the world, on radio via various networks including, on occasion, National Public Radio as well as approximately 160 radio stations worldwide. WINGS has correspondents in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas, and the Pacific, covering politics, labor, economics, law, and other issues as they affect women and their communities.
Since 1992 its producer Frieda Werden was employed by the Foundation, lending her expertise to WATER and covering many Foundation events and issues.
WOMEN’S PEACE CARAVAN
“Earth and Sky Women’s Peace Caravan” for a Compassionate Soci
ety was centered around a traveling solar equipped, multi-media “Museum to End the Nuclear Age” with exhibits on the history and legacy of the nuclear age. Visitors could learn about uranium mining and processing, nuclear power reactors, bomb making/testing, transport and waste management.
The museum included environmental and health studies associated with each phase of successful grassroots resistance activities. The van traveled from community to community around the country, coordinating its trips and exhibits to coincide with timely issues and events. It provided information and face-to-face contact between peace and justice activists, women’s groups, breast cancer survivors, midwives, and other health care providers, researchers, young people, community organizers and radiation-injury survivors. The caravan was a project of Feminists for a Compassionate Society.
ART and SPIRITUALITY
Throughout the Foundation’s projects, art and spirituality were indivisibly intertwined with activism in the belief that our lives are integrally connected with all creatures and with Mother Earth . The linking together of the mental, spiritual, artistic and political elements heightens our life experience, our ability to change and grow and transcend the cruelty of our social systems. In 1987 the Foundation commissioned sculptor Marsha Gómez to create an archetypal replicable statue, “Madre del Mundo,” which is now located at several significant places: the Temple of Sekhmet in Nevada, Alma de Mujer Center for Social Change, Austin TX, and the Peace Farm directly across from Pantex, the nuclear assembly plant near Amarillo, Texas.
THE TEMPLE OF SEKHMET IN CACTUS SPRINGS, NEVADA
In 1992, Genevieve and her daughters gave a gift of 20 acres of land near the Nevada test site, back to the Western Shoshone to whom that whole area originally belonged. The Foundation has built a small, environmentally appropriate temple there in honor of the lion-headed Egyptian goddess of birth, fertility and rage, Sekhmet, her statue also created by Marsha Gómez, is located in the temple, across from the Madre statue. This beautiful meditation space in the Nevada desert serves the peace and spirituality community as a place for centering and meditation. The U.S. government begun nuclear testing again in July 1997– the so-called “sub-criticals.” The temple provides a calm space of refuge for opponents of nuclear weapons tests of any sort . CLICK HERE for a bibliography.
STONEHAVEN GODDESS PROGRAM
Since 1984, meetings, workshops and conferences of women spiritual leaders were held at Stonehaven Ranch. A woman based eco-spiritual approachwass expressed in the Stonehaven Goddess Program. Many other spiritually-centered groups use Stonehaven’s welcoming space. Pat Cuney coordinated this program.
Performance Art is a specialty of Foundation staff member Sally Jacques with partial Foundation support. These performances are made up of large dance, music, visual and human statements , one of the best known being 64 Beds, highlighting the plight of the homeless. Other issues addressed were environmental destruction, AIDS and opposition to the Gulf War.
Chilean artist Liliana Wilson created the striking graphics for the Foundation literature.
San Juanita Alcalá was the administrative Comptroller. She was assisted by Rose Corrales who also provided assistance for Genevieve Vaughan.
The Foundation produced a newsletter at least twice a year called “Voices for a Compassionate Society” which was distributed internationally to a mailing list of 5200. Poet María Limón was newsletter producer and worked on insurance and Foundation coordination.
This 20-acres green space was being developed as an environmental demonstration project. Nancy Wilson was the receptionist, Doll Mathis promoted Foundation literature.