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international | rights and freedoms | news report Friday January 17, 2014 21:26 by WISE Up Wales wiseupforbm at yahoo dot com
The Manning Truthfest
Why should the Irish in particular care about Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning and want to offer their ongoing support and solidarity as she begins a 35 year jail term in a US military prison?
The Manning Truthfest
I was moved and inspired by the incredible testimony of Private Manning’s Welsh family. They are an ordinary family that has suffered incredibly and I wanted to do something to show my support and allow others to show theirs.
Having hosted the Manning Family during their momentous visit to Ireland, Afri was delighted to continue that support for the Manning Truthfest – ‘the return fixture’ - in Wales last weekend. Donal O’Kelly had met the family, heard their story and, never one to miss an opportunity for offering support and solidarity, came up with the wonderful idea of the Manning Truthfest. This was a voyage of discovery in many ways as musicians and artists were contacted and assembled, car pools sorted and the ferry crossing arranged. From the moment we gathered this group of artists seemed imbued with a special spirit. On arrival, we were warmly welcomed by Genny and the family, provided with excellent accommodation and from then on it was non-stop music. Despite the harrowing nature and the brutal treatment of Chelsea Manning there is much to celebrate in a life marked by courage and truth and it was appropriate that this Truthfest was awash with the sounds of music, song, poetry, drama, dance and drumbeat. Thank you to all who made it possible.
Irish actor and poet Sorcha Fox performed extracts from her poetic work Who Am Ireland? She spoke of the inspiration - and anger - that came after she visited those resisting the Shell Corrib gas project at Rossport on the west coast of Ireland. The project, a disaster for the local environment, has been delayed for years by the determined locals and the many outside supporters who have joined in the resistance effort. Like Rossport, the solidarity network building between Ireland and Wales in support of Chelsea Manning is also bringing diverse and far-flung people together; both Rossport and the local Pembrokeshire port of Milford Haven are adversely affected by oil and gas corporate interests, and both Rossport and Pembrokeshire have Broadhaven bays - our accommodation for the weekend was at Broadhaven.
It was the courage of the people in Rossport to be true to who they were, recognise wrong and stand for what they believed to be right against a tidal wave of state intimidation and pressure that inspired my poems. Chelsea Manning has the courage to be who she is and to act according to her conscience despite that tidal wave of opposition. As a woman and an activist that is truly inspiring...
At the end of the Friday night Truthfest event in Fishguard's Shamrock bar, even the security guard joined in with his mate with a rendition of Calon Lan (A Pure Heart) and another Welsh song.
Irish percussionist and performer Brian Fleming writes:
The security guy singing somehow seemed to exemplify how little shoots of transformation might grow out of this. He's coming to Dublin with 10 of his mates for the Wales-Ireland rugby match so there'll be a Wales-Ireland sing off in a pub in Dublin somewhere that weekend and I hope we can all meet up again. In terms of the bigger picture, I think the strategy of the truth festival is an extremely enjoyable, sustainable and public form of resistance that will serve the movement very well in the years to come. Saul Alinsky would be proud of the idea.
Later, Brian reappeared as the caller for the Truthfest ceilidh.
The Truthfest Band, formed specially for the occasion, consisted of Robbie Sinnott (accordion and vocals), Imogen Gunner (fiddle and vocals), Joe Black (guitar and vocals), RoJ Whelan (guitar and vocals), Ellen Cranitch (flute) and Brian Fleming (bodhran).
Robbie spoke about the significance for him of bringing his music over from Ireland for the family:
I feel privileged to be able to support Chelsea Manning and her family in any way at all. Chelsea's grandfather was from Dublin, and gave to his children a love for many songs in the Anglo-Irish folk tradition. I am delighted to be able to perform these songs with the Fox/Manning family joining in, or even just for their enjoyment and the entertainment of anyone else who shows their solidarity for these wonderful people.
Listen to RoJ Whelan's song 'Free Bradley Manning' here:
Speakers at Truthfest included Harry Browne, Nuala Kelly and Ciaron O'Reilly.
Journalist and author Harry Browne spoke about the power of making the family connection as well as the responsibility of journalists who write stories based on the WikiLeaks revelations to fight for their source's freedom. He also spoke about the politics of Manning's Wikileaks revelations, tying them to the Arab Spring and suggesting that they have already been hugely consequential in contemporary history.
Nuala Kelly, previously director of the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas who has worked with Irish prisoners and their families for many years, shared her wide experience of supporting prisoners overseas and their families and pointed out that Chelsea Manning would be entitled if she wished to register as an Irish citizen and claim an Irish passport as her grandfather was Irish. She spoke about the significance of supporting families who have loved ones imprisoned far from home.
Long-time anti-war activist (including Pitstop Ploughshares) and Catholic Worker Ciaron O'Reilly spoke about his experience of solidarity while a prisoner of the US and why it's of crucial importance both to the person inside and to their family outside. Solidarity breaks through the sense of isolation cultivated by the system and protects the prisoner: those in charge are far less likely to abuse a prisoner who has a wide support base beyond the jail. Solidarity with families is reassuring for anxious relatives and prisoner alike. Once Ciaron knew that his family was being supported, a burden of worry was lifted from his shoulders. He went on to speak about the humanising effect of gatherings like the Manning Truthfest, where we can learn about Chelsea directly from the family rather than what we're fed by a sensationalist media. In a world obsessed with the super-human (e.g. celebrity) and the sub-human (e.g. porn), the value of this should not be underestimated.
A recorded address from Gareth Peirce was also played:
Photos on flickr:
It was a very special weekend and a privilege to be able to celebrate truth and the courage of Chelsea Manning with her family and friends. Chelsea’s family have had little cause to celebrate over the past few years with the outrageous severity of Chelsea’s sentence and the torture she has undergone. To be able to celebrate her courage and not forget what motivated her actions in her home town was fantastic. May it be the first of many solidarity events between Ireland and Wales.
Funds raised to support the family with prison visit costs
A total of over €900 was raised for the Private Manning Family Fund, helping the family with the travel costs of prison visits.
Donations can be made here:
Caption: The Truthfest Ceilidh