Punks Freed

Pussy RiotIn a bold move, the Putin administration granted an amnesty releasing 30+ political prisoners from Russian penitentiaries last week.  Included in this band of rogues were members of the Greenpeace activist contingent arrested for disrupting Gazprom’s arctic drilling operations, the former richest man in Russia oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and the two remaining  jailed members of the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot who denounced the church and Putin while taking the stage of a large Orthodox Church in Moscow by force.  Pussy Riot members had been moved to Siberian prisons as a punitive measure.  Many media sources, as well as the prisoners themselves, believe that the amnesty was passed to contradict Russia’s glaringly bad human rights record.  This measure precedes the 2014 Olympics which will be hosted this year in Sochi.  Already large mobilization campaigns have begun to boycott the games because of the discrimination and brutality which LGBTQ communities face in even the most cosmopolitan centers of the country.

In relation to this, punk rock still carries a torch for challenging power through art and subversive culture.  A new collecting area has been initiated for the Alternative Press Collection at the Archives & Special Collections for 1980s and 90s punk rock ephemera.  Still being cataloged, the Joe Snow Punk Rock Collection features show flyers, demos, distro catalogs, photographs, zines and lots and lots of Maximum RocknRoll.  The finding aid will be published in the coming month and is currently available for research.

Contact the curator for more details on the APC Punk Rock Collection.

Tutela Legal Archives


A report came out on October 4th, that the offices of a well respected Human Rights monitoring organization in San Salvador, Tutela Legal, were closed by its governing body, the Archdiocese of El Salvador.  Contained in these offices are the archives of the organization dating back to the late 1970s when El Salvador’s US backed dictatorship was terrorizing the civilian population as a response to the cold war. Tutela Legal’s archives document disappearances and abuses which were recorded in hundreds of case files compiled from testimonies of witnesses and survivors.

Currently, the records remain in the hands of the Archdiocese, which has safely housed the organization since the state terror period as a continuation of Archbishop Oscar Romero’s vision of human rights and liberation.  In the mid-1990s, University of Colorado at Boulder Archivist Bruce Montgomery funded a mass reproduction of Tutela Legal’s archives in order to store facsimiles outside of the country at his institution.  During that period, an amnesty law was passed making any future legal convictions regarding war crimes or crimes against humanity during the conflict period illegal in El Salvador.  Effectively, ‘it’s been dealt with, now go away.’  The eventuality of records destruction or alteration in human rights organization records outside the archival sphere makes collaborative projects like this between CU Boulder and Tutela Legal a reminder of the tenuousness of grassroots organization archives as well as the necessity for outreach from archivists to solidify networks of information solidarity.

Homelessness and Unemployment


Two weekends ago in the early hours of Saturday July 20th, two men were severally beaten on the garden bridge at the Mill in Willimantic, CT.  A group of youth armed with baseball bats took to the men, badly injuring one who will remain in long term care at Windham Regional Hospital, the other had his arm broken and severe bruising.  The youth attempted to throw the men from the bridge into the river below.  These men are part of the homeless community of Willimantic which camp along the banks of the river throughout the year.  This attack on the homeless by violent youth in a small depressed mill town reflects a hatred that is inbred through a societal violence of displacement and disparity.  Senseless acts of violence are rarely worth critiquing as this kind of debate relies largely on speculation and assumption.  However, the overwhelming rate of violent crime committed against homeless populations is more than crime of opportunity.  It lies within the perception of human disposability, the unwanted and unnoticed.  The No Freeze shelter of Willimantic is reopening (generally a winter only shelter) this summer in order to provide a safe space for those under threat of attack.  The best way to fight back against these types of crimes is to occupy space frequently.  Public space is for public use, the more foot traffic the more eyes to witness.  Large portions of the town of Willimantic are resurfacing from dereliction, we need spaces like the No Freeze shelter to continue operation to temporarily house people.  Thirdly, working towards community building, as demonstrated in our archival collections, includes prioritizing basic human necessities which a state like Connecticut – having the largest income disparity in the country – needs most of all.

The Archives and Special Collections houses Alternative Press Collection material as well as manuscript collections dealing with homelessness, unemployment and housing. The following are examples of relevant materials:

Barbara B. Kennelly Papers

Connecticut Citizens Action Group Records

Jeremiah J. Driscoll Collection

Capitalism and Unemployment, 1983. APC Pam 892.

Gingrich, Paul. Unemployment: A Radical Analysis of Myth and Fact, (1978).

Hartman, Chester W. Displacement, How to fight it. APC Bk f47

Helstein, Ralph. A Conversation – Jobs, Machines and People, (1964) APC Pam 765.

National Unemployed News, “Housing for People, not Profit,” (1983).

Unemployment and Overproduction, 1932. APC Pam 492

Unemployment and the Machine, International Workers of the World, (1934). APC Pam 170.

Unemployment Must be Abolished!, Interfaith Conference, Washington DC (1940). APC Pam 151.

Unemployed Workers Organizing Committee, Hartford CT. APC File




Rios Montt does the Pinochet


10 May 2013:

Over thirty years after the Scorched Earth campaign by the military and death squads in Guatemala, General Efrain Rios Montt is convicted of genocide committed against the Mayan’s of the Ixil region.  Like the notorious Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, Montt (86 years old) was brought to trial late in life – however, the distinction of having been forced into the courtroom, despite legal defense attempting to waylay the inevitable, is what stands between the two notorious figureheads.  Montt’s sentence of 80 years in prison stands as a penalty for the crime versus a punishment he can withstand.  This precedent setting national conviction will serve as a warning to both heads of state and top ranking military officials that impunity, even in the most stratified of countries, can be challenged.        

Filmmakers Pamela Yates and Paco de Onis (When the Mountains Tremble and Granito) were on hand for both the filming of the trial as well as witnessing their own footage used as evidence in the closing remarks against Montt.  A great collection of daily summaries from the trial can be seen in their ongoing film series Dictator in the Docket.  Though the conviction has happened, the greivances still exist for the crimes committed in Guatemala.  With this piece of history, a social dialogue can begin to unpack the roots of an extermination campaign against indigenous peoples and their corresponding position in society today.

Solidarity Forever

May Day 2013, the recent collapse of a garment factory on top of hundreds of workers in Bangladesh just five days ago is yet another grievance charged against the global game of capitalism.  The inequalities exacerbated by globalization in Bangladesh have roots in the same issues facing workers the world over since the formation of wage labor:  the right to a living wage, the right to collective bargaining, an equal wage and the right to a safe working environment.  These grievances have been outsourced to the third world for commodity production which we see as goods in the US marketplace; however, the agriculture industry, for which 51% of US land is dedicated, relies on cheap labor power to harvest.


A recent acquisition to the Human Rights Collection are the records of UConn’s Migrant Worker Health Clinic.  At the University of Connecticut Health Center, the office of the Migrant Worker’s Health Clinic runs a mobile clinic at agricultural farms throughout the state, providing health, dental and eye care through volunteer physicians and students to seasonal migrant laborers.  Workers from Latin America and the Caribbean come to Connecticut to work on Tobacco and fruit farms without health coverage and other labor rights afforded to US citizens.  With immigration being a continually vibrant topic of discussion (as well as the shaper of the country we know today) this collection provides a very real context of local immigration issues surrounding the precarious labor relationship with foreign workers.  This collection is an ongoing acquisition which portrays the quantitative data on the labor pool itself as well as the outreach and resources provided on behalf of the clinic.

In addition, Robin Romano’s photograph collection and personal papers from his work on child labor in the third world provide an important visual representation of what unrestricted market demand looks like.

For more information, please contact the curator to schedule an appointment to view these materials.

Take Back the Night, the Day, the Street, the Home…

Wednesday, April 17th is Take Back the Night on the University of Connecticut campus.  An event recognized across North America in response to violence against wimmin.  Since its inception Take Back the Night has been about reclaiming space beyond the physically passive act of recognition and observation.  Wimmin, the disproportionate victims of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault and harassment, have found solidarity through the action of speaking out and mobilization en masse against this violence.  It’s sister mobilization, Slutwalk, has also achieved support across the broad spectrum of wimmin who experience patriarchy in the streets, an intended social space for interaction in work, transit and play.

The Alternative Press Collection (APC) in the Archives contains numerous publications on wimmin-positive theory and praxis in response to gender violence since the 1960s.  Of note is the feminist publication Aegis: Magazine on Ending Violence Against Women published in 1978 by the Feminist Alliance Against Rape.  Defined by the magazine’s statement of purpose, the movement to build solidarity through information was seminal in establishing wimmin’s resources in regions where silence was (is) the normative response to gender violence:

The purpose of Aegis is to aid the efforts of feminists working to end violence against women.  To this end, Aegis provides practical information and resources for grassroots organizers, along with promoting a continuing discussion among feminists of the root causes of rape, battering, sexual harrassment and other forms of violence against women.

Depicted in the image below is the cover of the September/October 1979 issue, portraying the advocacy debate around wimmin’s rights to self defense.

AegisIn addition to our extensive APC collection of periodicals is a recently acquired special collection art installation about building solidarity and non-violence amongst wimmin through art therapy.  In this case, pulping panties into paper!  From the Peace Paper Project comes another alliterative piece, Panty Pulping!  The installment consists of loose pieces of paper made from mulched wimmin’s underwear that has been forged anew through storytelling and constructing the foundations of a new page for which a narrative can be written about wimmins voices together.

To view these pieces or any materials about wimmin’s rights and radical feminism, please contact the curator.


Human Rights and Archives Lecture, TODAY!

Human Rights and Archives: The Role of Archives to Help Bring Transitional Justice

Join Dr. Joel A. Blanco-Rivera, Assistant Professor of Archival Studies at Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science as he explores the emerging role of archives in the field of human rights. Are archives neutral keepers of records or social actors whose work shapes the historical record? His focus will include the role of archives as mechanisms of transitional justice in Latin America.

Following the program, join us for a reception to meet and share ideas with Graham Stinnett, Human Rights Archivist for the UConn Libraries.

Monday, April 1
3:00pm Lecture – Homer Babbidge Library, Class of 1947 Room
4:00pm Reception – Dodd Research Center, Public Lounge

Sponsored by the UConn Libraries, Human Rights Institute, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center and El Instituto

For more information, contact: Marisol Ramos at marisol.ramos@lib.uconn.edu

Guatemalan Criminal Tribunal Begins


From the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission:

In Guatemala today, Efraín Ríos Montt and José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez are going to trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for massacres committed against indigenous civilians in Guatemala’s Ixil triangle. This historic case is the first time that a former head of state is being tried for genocide in a domestic court. It is crucial for the nation’s healing process, and will be a key step in ending impunity for the atrocities committed during the war.”

The trial of these major military leaders is an important attempt by human rights defenders and victims to bring those still able to stand trial to justice.  The crimes commited against those who lost life and loved ones to the Guatemalan state’s coordinated terror campaign form a seminal era in Cold War history.  The targeted killing of indigenous peoples across Central America in the name of fighting communism on the US’s dime lays bare the implications of imperialism, indigeneity and land use in a stratified third world country of the 1980s.

Follow the trial monitoring blog organized by the Open Society Justice Initiative!  To access video resources relating to Guatemala’s indigenous struggle, two important films are available in Babbidge library: When the Mountains Tremble, and Granito: How to Nail a Dictator. For a comprehensive archival collection, the Guatemalan Documentation Project coordinated by the National Security Archive contains key documents that will be utilized in the trial.