Category Archives: UTLA Human Rights Committee

Diary Post: Death Threats and a Woman’s Voice

To view the entire thread on the crisis in the Human Rights Committee, from the beginning, go to:


Diary Post: Death Threats and a Woman’s Voice

So much has happened since the last post.  I’ve been blogging, but mostly on the Café Intifada blog.  My health, though weak, has not been totally debilitating. I’ve needed to limit activity a bit, but I’ve not been on total bed rest.  On Saturday, Andy and I attended the MPAC conference and banquet, As this was Andy’s first day of vacation and my health has been so tenuous, we arrived for the afternoon sessions.  I made it though the day, though I was having trouble walking.  This has been a consistent problem for about a week now, though today was better.
We came home  from the conference to a death threat to me in the body of an email, so in addition to all of the work and preparation we are going through in our lives winding our way through the long list of tasks that must be done, should be done, or that we simply want to do; now we must address the issues of safety and security that this type of threat demands, including reporting the matter to law enforcement.
While it is true that the actions of my adversaries have been effective in increasing my marginalization within the teacher’s union and has limited much of my activity, what they fail to understand, and what I am getting really clear on, as I retrace the maze of events, starting with the Human Rights Committee retreat, the explosion of controversy around the BDS campaign, (again, see the CI webpage*)  the greater understanding of the limits of my health,  and now deal with death threats, is that, in fighting this massive machine, there is so much work to do, of such diversity and scope, that one is never without purpose, allies or activity.
I have been very content and focused, for the most part, over the last few weeks, especially since resigning myself to applying myself more directly to my writing, for the time being.  Andy and I, as I have eluded, are working on ways to bring our work, especially mine into a larger vision of our relationship, including where we live, how we invest our time and money and use the resources we have to build community and advocate for empowerment and justice.  Writing suits me more than other physical forms of activism, though one must guard against isolation.  By focusing on my writing and limiting my social interactions to a few close friends, I get much less overwhelmed and lost in the bitterness of internal conflict and battle.
It is a shame that the activists in the HRC couldn’t put petty differences aside, and, truth be told, either in silence or complicity, backed “Clarence,” after I protested what had been repeatedly harassing comments and ostracism.  But this is an old pattern: back the perpetrator.  It is almost a lock step response.  As long as women, children and other subservient populations are expected to maintain “the peace” at the expense of their own needs, feelings and safety, then any woman who defends her rights in the face of harassment (in this case, at an event at the home of the harasser) will be seen as rude, disruptive and problematic.  There is no appropriate protocol to address harassment within the range of acceptable discourse, especially in the heat of the moment.  They are expert; coaching their taunts and jabs in the camouflage of humor or in private threats and whispers, so that the pressure is on the victim, to either maintain decorum** at her own expense, or risk ostracism and blame.  It takes a real understanding of the politics of male dominance and a commitment to combating it, to elicit an appropriate response to a situation such as the one that presented itself at the retreat.
I have gone over and over the course of events.  Yes, “Camile” had been  petty and uncooperative over the last two years, making it difficult to even incorporate her suggestions into the conference planning, as she refused, with gracious passivity, to provide the information (bios and descriptions) for her proposals for the conferences, and at the time I did recognize it as the that strange rivalry between women, the resentments we hold, as if we were bees and there can be only one queen.  Michael Novick was right in his characterization that what transpired at “Clarence’s” home was an example of lack of sisterhood and feminist consciousness among the women, because, while  this clique has attacked my participation in the committee in what has been a rather unethical opportunist alliance between them and the  union president, the latter, wanting to distance me from the union because of pressure from Zionist organizations and their teacher contacts, and the former, because of the animosity towards me that has developed since the retreat; prior to the retreat (again, with the exception of “Camile”) there was no sign of any animosity or difference of methodology.  “Camile,” “Mildred” and “Gilroy” all presented workshops at the both conferences.  In addition to his workshop, “Gilroy” also volunteered to facilitate other workshops.  “Mildred” gave me a gift after the last conference, thanking me for all my hard work.  At one point, the Conference sub-committee was empowered by the larger Committee to make any decisions necessary to make the conference possible.  At no point did anyone, oppose the work I was doing, make a motion to amend my work or curtail my efforts. I frequently brought the work of the sub-committee including the web page, the conference participants and program,  before the Committee for approval and feedback, and usually, if not always, incorporated that feedback into the final product and I worked with everyone and encouraged even greater participation in the decision making
So that now, when “Gilroy” accuses Andy and me of conducting our efforts undemocratically because other chose not to participate more, and “Mildred” asserts that I dominated the group because I am retired and other members can’t do as much, it seems a bit opportunistic and disingenuous.
“Gilroy” has expressed outrage at my posting his emails to me; a strange accusation, as if his emails, sent to me off list, were a confidential communication, and not simply a private harassment between a CAMS officer and myself, written with the clear intention of limiting my participation, and to date, he has not provided a response, not a single example to support the attacks in his letter that I have, in the “past for conferences… grumbled and complained a lot, made many cavalier decisions, and then taken credit for other peoples work.”***
And while President Duffy was capable of communicating to his chapter chairs and leadership, the rationale for his decision to curtail and essentially shut down a standing committee of the union, the question remains, when brought to his attention and the attention of the other officers, the repeated harassment I was sustaining as a disabled woman who asserted her rights at an inaccessible and official UTLA meeting, why didn’t they use that same apparatus to insist on a protocol that would assure that such types of discrimination not occur at UTLA events?
It is 3:30 am. Andy is asleep next to me.  I work by the light of the computer screen. These are writers’ hours. It is not anxiety or depression, but drive and purpose.
There is so  much I have yet to say.  __*’s%20the%20terrorist%3F
**decorum: dignity or correctness that is socially expected.


Diary Post: Carry lots of water, and watch out for rattlesnakes.

There really are no defeats, only realignments, assessments, reappraisals; as long as there is breath, as long as the heart still beats.  Of course I wish that the situation had played out differently in the Human Rights Committee, and the union as a whole, and for the forces of repression, division and empire, this was a cunning victory; how to get a “progressive” union leadership to destroy the future of the Human Rights Committee, for years to come!  (But I haven’t written about that yet, and will probably post it to the Café Intifada blog when I do, probably some time this week, or perhaps in installments.)
For those of us who have ever taken serious inventory of our lives and begun to make amends for trespasses, what becomes apparent rather quickly, is that rarely was the trespass so severe that the one most hurt was the other person, for in most cases she dusted herself off, and got on with her life.  It was more often the trespasser who lost out on a deeper relationship, better opportunity, greater community, usually acting out of fear or greed, not love, hope, transformation, the outcome was always to the detriment of real growth and abundance.
And in this case,  the period of devastation has passed.  My adversaries will have to live for a long time with the mess they have made, perhaps, even now unable to see what it is they have wrought, but I am sure it will become apparent soon enough.  Having reassessed my life, I feel like I am back on my path; my memory of who I am and what I value, restored.  I am writing again, planning a future with Andy, working on a few surprises that will provide ample opportunity for community, transformation, connection and healing.  The cloud has lifted and my mind is clear enough to enjoy tea with Sonali, lunch with Linda or a visit to a sick friend; without feeling so overwhelmed with my own difficulties that I cannot participate, create a communion of our diverse paths, problems, struggles, visions.
I am not so afraid of public or people anymore.  It helps that I am feeling stronger, and as my son reaches adulthood, my responsibilities are not so heavy and overwhelming.  I have not needed a scooter for some time, able to negotiate large supermarkets on my own two feet, and only using the walker for longer social engagements where I have to stand and “mingle.”  Strange, how standing is harder and more exhausting than walking.
Today I  am tired, weak and sore.  I think it is from working in the garden yesterday.  I pruned the roses and got rid of the weeds.  Not a lot of work, but enough to tax my sick body.  I don’t mind these relapses when they last only a few hours, or allow me to get some work done from bed.  It is when the pain is so great that I cannot sit up and I am laid out flat or when these limitations stretch, so surreptitiously, into days or weeks, so that what may have at first seemed like a necessary nap, lays me out, minute plus minute, for what seems like eternity, each moment a drop of a leaf; each hour, no different than the one preceding, the one following, often too weak to rise, too awake to sleep.
I had planned to go to Pasadena, see my therapist, my acupuncturist and my chiropractor, but  I am feeling light headed, weak and sore. Tonight there is a reiki gathering I want to go to that only meets once a month.  It is too much for me to do in one day.  So, I will have the therapy session over the phone (with the little men from the government adding to their profile of me, if it so interests them!)  and visit the other two practitioners on Wednesday so I can go to the event this evening.  Today I will spend some time in my home, gazing at my garden; writing.  I have been so neglectful of the inner dialogue, as well as the entire writing process; rewriting, sending material out for publication.
If I died tomorrow, I would not regret missing one more meeting, but rather, not having written  down the ideas I have that dance in my mind.  It is tedious. Solitary work.  I am finally feeling a calm contentedness and am ready to court my muse.  So, that’s my calling.  That’s what most immediately needs to be done.
And community;  I had wanted for so long to find Andy.  My friends insisting that it was some patriarchal internalization of a need for a man to make me whole.  But it isn’t that.  It is the beginning of community. My extended family is not close, neither in proximity nor intimacy, and in Los Angeles, we are all so far apart and so afraid. So many people are so self-serving that there is a whole ethic to support the isolation of greed, so that no relationship is really what it might appear to be.  People cling to their pair bond relationship, seeing friends less often.  Andy is my daily contact with another human being.  I don’t have co-workers.  My friends are all very busy with their own careers, families and social justice work.  I have found a handful of people who have a profound integrity and deep wisdom.  We get together when we can.  But we are so far apart.  In Southern California we bravely attempt to maintain community over such a large geography.  The region spreads out mile after mile.  There are few discernable communities, there is no container for human interaction.  My nearest friend lives two miles away, Ariella lives 5 miles away.  Sonali and Jim live 20 miles away.  Linda lives 30 miles away and Andy’s apartment is 32 miles from here.   It is an impossible geography, one that takes real planning to attempt to breach.  Andy and I are waging such a strategy.  But it will take time, real creativity, and we’re not showing our hand yet!  Not yet!
But it is more than that. .  It is also a patriarchal construct that we can do it alone, that we don’t need each other.  This rugged American individualism keeps us divided, selfish and apart. There is much growth one can do, on one’s own. There is the work of self-acceptance, independence, autonomy; questions most women need to address.  But there are those possibilities that can only occur  in communion, in connection, commitment, community.  It is the deep work of love, growth and interdependence. I am so blessed to find in Andy a partner with whom I am so aptly matched, even our strange sense of humor, our playfulness, in addition to our process, the honesty we both bring to dialogue, problem solving, growth and discovery, the willingness to support each other’s visions, commitments, work and ambition.  His is not an easy schedule.  He is at meetings most nights and away many weekends.  I joke; it’s like dating Gandhi, except that he doesn’t beat me!  (Gandhi beat his wife.)  Imagine Gandhi coming home and his partner, for she was an amazing partner to him, saying; “but you never spend any time with me!”
I am not easy either.  My health limits the plans we can make and often forces us to cancel at the last minute.  I am a single mother and my son has his own set of special needs and demands. As  I gain the independence of the empty nest I want to go back to school, go to writers conferences, hone my craft.  Andy is the partner, busy with his own path, who will never take me away from mine, never call me home when I need to wander, never try to limit my vision or whittle away at my strengths.   Both Andy and I have need for solitude, which will perhaps be the greatest obstacle to overcome when we bring our homes together, and something we must keep in mind while looking for a suitable place to build this life.
But today, this last few weeks, actually, I am filled with hope.  I am not naïve, though often accused of it (a rather sexist accusation, never applied to men with lofty ideas or hopes—no one ever said to King, or Jesus or Gandhi that they were naïve—and look how things ended for them!)  I know the obstacles we are up against.  I am aware of our own brokenness, our wounds, traumas,  the internal divisions, egos, fears, ambition, privilege and barriers that threaten to destroy us from within.  I am acutely aware of the immensity of the machine we have yet to dismantle.
And I know how small I am, a weak woman, in a bed, watching the daily changes to the pomegranate tree that fills the view from the French doors that lead from my bedroom to my garden.  It has been good company this tree.  When I leave this home,  I shall miss her and the changes of the seasons that she narrates so intelligently.
It was Audre Lorde who said, “When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid”.   Perhaps that’s it.  It is my vision that is restored, the direction, the path.  I was quite a hiker before I became ill.  When the trail got too long, or I got too tired, I remembered to just take the next step.  The hike, no matter how long was simply a strand of solitary steps beaded together.
And acceptance brings change.  It is my life, not the life of those who would try to control me, condemn me or bring me down.  Once claimed, and clearly on the right road, all I need to do is take the next step.
If you are a kindred spirit, I hope to meet you on the trail.
Remember; carry lots of water, and watch out for rattlesnakes.

Following the thread: Anatomy of a Blacklisting

For those following the thread, Ableism in the Human Rights Committee, which is part of the thread:  Anatomy of a Blacklisting, a thread in two blogs,  go to:   and read the posts in reverse chronological order, starting with the link at the bottom of each page.  You will be returning to this blog to finish the tread.  Follow the prompt which will be provided in my sister blog at the end of that thread.  If you follow these instructions, you won’t be reading the two blogs in perfect chronological order, but I think it’s the easiest way to navigate the coverage of these series of events, at least up until June of 2009.

For the introduction to this thread, go to:


June 2009

Ableism in the Human Rights Committee: What is bullying?

  • constant nit-picking, fault-finding and criticism of a trivial nature – the triviality, regularity and frequency betray bullying; often there is a grain of truth (but only a grain) in the criticism to fool you into believing the criticism has validity, which it does not; often, the criticism is based on distortion, misrepresentation or fabrication
  • simultaneous with the criticism, a constant refusal to acknowledge you and your contributions and achievements or to recognise your existence and value
  • constant attempts to undermine you and your position, status, worth, value and potential
  • where you are in a group (eg at work), being singled out and treated differently; for instance, everyone else can get away with murder but the moment you put a foot wrong – however trivial – action is taken against you
  • being isolated and separated from colleagues, excluded from what’s going on, marginalized, overruled, ignored, sidelined, frozen out, sent to Coventry
  • being belittled, demeaned and patronised, especially in front of others
  • being humiliated, shouted at and threatened, often in front of others
  • being overloaded with work, or having all your work taken away and replaced with either menial tasks (filing, photocopying, minute taking) or with no work at all
  • finding that your work – and the credit for it – is stolen and plagiarised
  • having your responsibility increased but your authority taken away
  • having annual leave, sickness leave, and – especially – compassionate leave refused
  • being denied training necessary for you to fulfil your duties
  • having unrealistic goals set, which change as you approach them
  • ditto deadlines which are changed at short notice – or no notice – and without you being informed until it’s too late
  • finding that everything you say and do is twisted, distorted and misrepresented
  • being subjected to disciplinary procedures with verbal or written warnings imposed for trivial or fabricated reasons and without proper investigation
  • being coerced into leaving through no fault of your own, constructive dismissal, early or ill-health retirement, etc

Ableism in the Human Rights Committee: Sabotage 2

Earlier in the month I wrote the draft of an article covering the last Human Rights Committee Conference, to be submitted to the UTLA newspaper, The United Teacher,  and posted it to the Human Rights Committee listserve, asking for revisions, corrections, suggestions,  and photographs.  A few corrections were suggested and revisions were made, and with the approval of the Chair of the Committee, Steve Seal I sent the article on, to UTLA  staff member K.T. for publication.  As we got closer to the submission deadline I contacted K.T. to make sure she had all the information she needed. She informed me that the UT was not going to use the article afterall, that  “Ethel” and “Gilroy” had provided another article on the upcoming HRC/CAMS conference instead.  No one had told me that a change had been determined. I was totally broadsided!  I immediately called Steve Seal, the Committee Chair, and he said he had heard nothing about this either, that Ethel and Gilroy, instead of engaging in democratic dialogue and suggesting changes to the proposed article, or even proposing a substitute article, silently and behind the scenes, went about replacing the article that had been approved by the Committee, including the Committee Chair, with one of their own.


As it was, the first article was challenged by a key concept in journalism: timeliness.  The conference had taken place last May and the article would be coming out in late September, early October.  The emphasis on the HRC/CAMS conference was more appropriate, with a reference to other Committee activities and previous conferences placed later in the article.  KT and I worked together to modify the CAMS conference article, adding  descriptions and photos of  the previous conference. The outcome was an article that was stronger than either of the two rival articles.   

So, what’s the problem?

Ethel and Gilroy KNEW they were subverting my work, which is classic bullying.  They had an opportunity to make changes to the article and even propose a different article or direction, when the matter was brought up on the listserve. They could have approached Steve with their concerns, if they had legitimate reasons for not working with me and the rest of the Committee, via the listserve, to revise the article. 

This matter was addressed at the first HRC Meeting, on September 27, 2006 and the revised article was presented, hot off the presses much to the surprise of Ms. Ethel and Mr. Gilroy who sat silently as both  Andy and I explained to the Committee what had happened and confronted E. and G. about what they had done.  There was nothing to say in their defense.    

This,   along with the strange emails from Gilroy regarding the names I sent him from the sign in sheets, and the  underhanded behavior of Camile, holding onto sign in sheets,  that were my responsibility to add to the listserve, is typical bullying behavior.

Steve was confronted with the unanswered phone call and emails regarding this underhanded behavior, and finally provides the  following email:

——– Original Message ——– 


Subject: Re: second post: : Re: [utla-hrc-discussion] re: HRC issues
Date: Fri, 29 Sep 2006 20:19:05 -0700
From: steve seal <>
To: <>
References: <> <>

I have discussed the matters with Gilroy and Camille and have received assurances that we will all be able to work together on our committee priorities.  There should be no further personal attacks from anyone on the listserve or anywhere within this committee.  I feel that the situation with Clarence and his attire is one that I really have no say in.  It is not up to me to judge the attire of any person wherever they are.  This is an individual issue and I think that it has been blown out of proportion under the rubric of sexual harassment.  You are an important part of this committee and so are the others.  We need to be able to work together, period.  I think that much of the wording on the proposal that came out at the meeting will be useful to further our work, and I look forward to discussing it later at the next meeting.

Take care

Ableism in the Human Rights Committee

The Elephant in the Livingroom– if we don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist
“Ethel” posts a message to the list regarding an event at the Southern California Library.  “Mildred”  posts a response to the list that goes on to discuss the upcoming HRC meeting scheduled for September 27.
So, while a previous post of hers states:
“It is better to talk together face to face.respectfully and treat each other as comrades. No one has a monopoly on suffering or militancy. None of us disagrees with becoming more sensitive and ending of all descrimination, but we have yet to arrive at a process of respect and humanity and not pidgeonhole each other in ways that show we really do not know each other at all.”
below, she suggests an all together different approach.  It would appear that both admonitions, not to discuss on line and not to discuss in a meeting face to face, are two sides to the same coin:  a stonewalling of any real discussion and debate and a real accounting of the issues and demands facing this committee on the issues of disability rights, assertions and on sexual harassment and sexism.
But then, given the silence on “Clarence’s” choice to wear a sexist and sexually explicit t-shirt  to a HRC meeting, with the expressed purpose of provoking and upsetting me, it would appear that we are operating under the sexist double standard that there are good girls and bad girls: where good girls are seen as innocent, and bad girls, like those who interrupt a meeting to assert their rights (albeit gracelessly) get what they deserve.
Underlined and in bold text; emphasis, mine.
——– Original Message ——–
Subject: Re: [utla-hrc-discussion] Fwd: So. Cal. Library: New documentary on Victor Jara this SaturdayDate: Wed, 13 Sep 2006 11:58:41 -0700 (PDT) “Ethel”-  The So Ca library has an uncanny habit of scheduling events when I could not go!  This Sat evening at 6:00 at the 1st Unitarian Church on 8th St just east of Vermont is an event that I’m committed to (Do come), Rosemary is coming . A highly honored former Pres of Costa Rica is speaking after a  typical Cent Amer. dinner. I’ll forward a flier. That same evening at Immanuel Church 5 min away is Amy Goodman.I don’t know if I explained why  I couldn’t make it to the CAMS event -ill.
I’ve got the book and will read it during my vacation. Since Iw won’t be at the 27th HRC committee meeting, hope some sane people will go and insist on not discussing the retreat and its aftermath at that ocassion.  If they insist, then  “Camile” has said there should be a mass exit. Let them deal with the destruction of the committee.

Ableism in the Human Rights Community- Continued: Sabotage

Making the Case
When this conflict began, It was hoped that through dialogue we could resolve these issues and at least find a way to work together.  It is clear to me now, that this is going to be an ongoing battle, that will need at the very least, the interference of other Committees, UTLA officers.  I still hope that this can be achieved without going outside of the internal mechanisms of the Union.
To view this series from the beginning, go to:
Yesterday I submitted the following message to Committee Chair, Steve Seal, off list, in response to his suggestion that a meeting be held to discuss the problems in the Committee.
Emma_——– Original Message ——–
Subject: : Re: [utla-hrc-discussion] re: HRC issuesDate: Mon, 11 Sep 2006 06:49:14 -0700From: Emma Rosenthal Reply-To: emmarosenthal@earthlink.netOrganization: earthlinkTo: Steve Seal
CC: Andy Griggs
I appreciate your support on the ongoing issues of discrimination and disability rights that seem to be the source of resentment focused on my and my assertion of those rights, and I really empathize with the difficult position you find yourself in as Committee Chair.   But I am inclined to agree with Linda that a meeting to discuss the situation would perpetuate the hostility and abuse that I have had to endure and that has devastated me emotionally and physically.
These are not merely issues of the past, but ongoing attempts to marginalize me and prevent my participate in the Committee on any level and a more unequivocal and assertive response to these attacks is needed from you and other leaders in the union.
It is my understanding that posting the email addresses collected at La Quinta, to the listserve and forwarding the contact info of those interested in working on the upcoming  “joint” HRC/CAMS  conference on to “Ethel” and “Gilroy”,  were well within my responsibilities as moderator of the list. Am I not correct?  If so,  how is that an imposition on the group or the upcoming conference, as stated by “Gilroy” in two emails to me that I have since forwarded to you?   It would appear that “Gilroy” seems to feel that any participation on my part, even carrying out my assigned tasks in maintaining a listserve, is an imposition.  Not having received any clarification from “Gilroy” or “Ethel” on any of my inquiries or Andy’s as well, on these accusations leads me to assume that this position is official CAMS policy and that CAMS feels it is within its rights as the leadership of the upcoming “joint” conference  (as WAS clarified by “Ethel”)  to impose these value on our committee as well.   “Gilroy’s” emails, with no supporting evidence of the accusations seem like a deliberate attempt to intimidate me and shut me out. Without clear, repeated and assertive contradictions to his assertions, I am afraid their bullying may  prevail.  Already, in order to de-escalate the conflict and to avoid further embarrassment, harassment and ridicule, I have found myself pulling back from full Committee participation.
A response from you to “Gilroy”, letting him know that he is out of order is necessary, and I hope that a similar message has been conveyed to “Camille” for her refusal to return to me the sign in sheets at La Quinta; another example of a refusal on the part of members of this Committee to work with me, to acknowledge the right of the committee itself to assign tasks to members, and to sabotage and undermine my efforts and membership.    It is not enough that she finally returned the sign-in sheets to you after four other committee members  told her to turn them over.  As I am the one responsible for the lists, these sheets should have been returned to me as I requested them at the meeting at La Quinta, in which “Camille” was in attendance.  There was no reason for her to hold on to the lists in the first place.  She had expressed no interest, provided no input in any discussion regarding recruitment and is not one of the list moderators.
Additionally, “Clarence’s” behavior at La Quinta, and his intentional attempt to disrupt our meeting by wearing a sexually offensive, sexist T-shirt with the expressed intention of provoking a reaction from me, (as documented by Linda)  is not only sexual harassment but an attempt to sabotage the Committee’s efforts to conduct business and hold a scheduled meeting. “Clarence’s” behavior , along with that of “Gilroy’s,” “Ethel’s” and “Camille’s” at La Quinta, along with the ongoing support of “Mildred”,  are consistent with a campaign of discrimination and the imposition of a hostile working environment towards me because of my disability and my assertion of my rights.
You said to me that you see me as an integral and important part of this Committee. If so, then you need to make  it  known that this Committee will not support this type of bigotry and discrimination and their actions and emails are out of order.  Enforcing established laws and policy regarding disability, civil rights and discrimination does not need a vote, a meeting or a discussion.  They require action.