Short film about the 2017 Afri Famine Walk in Mayo

For 30 years Afri has walked the famine road through the Doolough Valley in County Mayo. It is a walk like no other, abounding in memory, music, history, solidarity and spectacular beauty; retracing the steps of the dispossessed of the past and forging solidarity with the banished and oppressed of today.

The 2017 walk linked the experience of Irish people fleeing on coffin ships or being condemned to workhouses during An Gorta Mór in the nineteenth century with those crossing the Mediterranean in flimsy, rickety boats today, some of whom, if they survive, may end up in Direct Provision Centres for asylum seekers in Ireland.

A short film of the walk was made by RoJ (see above)

Creating Alternative Food Futures

A short film made by RoJ about the Food Sovereignty event held in NUI Maynooth in April.

“Seeking asylum is by no means criminal”

Donnah Vuma speaks at the beginning of the 2017 Afri Famine Walk. Photo Derek Speirs

“I feel humbled and yet honoured to be here today.  I have found it a challenge to say a few words, I actually wanted to say no without giving this a thought, but remembered those that have walked this path before, the people that sacrificed their lives to seek relief for the masses of their village, they did not second guess themselves they took the challenge with swiftness, in the worst of weather and on empty stomachs with nothing but the will to survive.

Thank you to Action from Ireland (Afri) for finding a way of awakening the world at large, to spare time and resources to commemorate this event. In whatever part of the world we may be, we need to remember those that are treated with injustice and inequality for the sake of their political opinions, religion, race and gender. We also need to remember the thousands of families — including infants and the elderly fleeing war and violence in Syria who have to walk more than 1,400 miles to get to Serbia’s border with Hungary in hope of finding peace and a future. Above all, we need to remember those that sacrificed their lives fleeing on coffin ships or those who were condemned to workhouses during the great Irish Famine (An Gorta Mór). (more…)

Reflections from the 30th annual Famine Walk

Reflections on the 30th Famine Walk from Rob Fairmichael

‘Music from A Dark Lake’ – CD of music from the Doolough Famine Walk available to buy from Afri now! Buy online at www.afri.ie/donate or contact us directly

On 20th May 2017 a couple of hundred people set out  on the 11 mile walk from Doolough/Delphi Lodge for Louisburgh in bright, early summer weather, and it remained dry and bright. They had earlier heard Joe Murray, Danny Cusack and Donnah Vuma speak, and Joe Black sing. The theme, of this the 30th annual walk, was not just the commemoration involved in the Famine Walk but the inhumanity of the Direct Provision system for asylum seekers in Ireland today which treats people not as human beings but as numbers. A tree was planted in Delphi Lodge which again welcomed walkers, a stunning contrast to 1849. These are The Facts.

But what about The Feelings? Every walker has their own feelings, their own reason for undertaking this 11 mile walk.  Remembrance and commemoration are the principal reasons and some people would fast during the walk as an act of solidarity. There is also the challenge of a long walk, and if people are not able then a shuttle car takes them onward. There is beautiful scenery, interesting conversation – on the theme or everything else under the sun – and interaction with others. Those who stay in Louisburgh for the evening enjoy ceol, ól agus craic. But for most being there is also a physical statement of their commitment to justice and peace in the world today. (more…)

Famine Walk 2017: From Hunger and War…to a Home and a Welcome?

‘Bog Cotton’ by Choctaw artist Waylon (Gary) White Deer. The painting, among other things, features the Workhouse and the Direct Provision Centre.

From Hunger and War…to a Home and a Welcome?

Saturday 20th May, Doolough Co. Mayo

Registration from 12.45pm in Louisburgh Town hall

Beginning at 1.30pm

Walk Leaders: Donnah Vuma, Abjata Khalif, Danny Cusack

Music: Joe Black

***Register online here***

See also 2017 Famine Walk brochure

For 30 years Afri has walked the famine road through the Doolough Valley in County Mayo. It is a walk like no other, abounding in memory, music, history, solidarity and spectacular beauty; retracing the steps of the dispossessed of the past and forging solidarity with the banished and oppressed of today. 

Extraordinary people have walked this road over three decades and extraordinary stories have been told: stories of food and famine; of oppression and denial of human rights; of wars, violence and the impact of climate change; but also stories of courage and determination; of inspiration, illumination and motivation. And music, song and theatre from some of our greatest artists have been integral parts of every walk. (more…)

Creating Alternative Food Futures: Food Sovereignty in Ireland and Beyond

Venue: Maynooth University

Date: April 13th 2017

Time: 10am to 3.30pm

Please confirm attendance by emailing foodsovmaynooth@gmail.com

April 17 is the International Day of Peasant Struggle – a day to recognize and acknowledge the difficulties faced by diverse food producers amidst a world in which one-tenth of humanity experiences hunger. There is no better time of the year to discuss and debate how we can create alternative food futures in Ireland and beyond. Whether by adopting food sovereignty or some other framework, at issue is finding ways for urban and rural dwellers, peasants, landless people, small-scale farmers, and coastal communities to work on mechanisms that can nourish and empower food producers and consumers like never before. The task to is identify and raise the profile of projects and practices that might build a sustainable, democratic, and just food system. During this one-day event held at Maynooth University, we invite attendees to contribute and share their experiences about creating alternative food futures. (more…)

Reflections from Féile Bríde 2017: Darkness to Light

Speakers U.S. peace activist Kathy Kelly (second from right) and Scottish author and campaigner Alastair McIntosh (right) together with Afri Co-ordinator Joe Murray and Brigidine sister Rita Minehan at the 2017 Féile Bríde conference in Kildare on Saturday 4th February 2017. Photo: Dave Donnellan

When we look at the many problems confronting our world, we can sometimes think that things are worse than ever and that little progress has been made towards creating a more just and compassionate world.  But it is important that we keep in mind the progress made, as well as the challenges that continue to face us.

When we held our first Féile Bríde in 1988, apartheid was still in place in South Africa, the conflict in the North of Ireland was still raging with nightly reports of deaths and injuries and East Timor was under the jack boot of Indonesian occupation.   (more…)

The Hungry Grass

Students from Beneavin De La Salle College, Finglas Dublin are given a tour of the Dunshaughlin Famine Graveyard and Workhouse and are told harrowing stories of the poorest people from days gone by. Afterwards they are honoured by Kathy Kelly who shares her amazing experiences fighting for justice and peace. Pete Mullineaux then holds a conscious workshop where the students are asked to demonstrate all the good things the world has to offer.

Funded by WorldWise Global Schools

Date for your diary: 30th Afri Famine Walk

Donncha O Dulaing (centre) leads the first Famine Walk in 1988

Thirty years on the ‘Famine Road’ have generated many memorable moments and iconic images.  On the first walk in 1988, walk leader Donncha O Dulaing arrived by helicopter to join Niall O’Brien, recently released from prison in the Philippines, and Mayo woman Caitriona Ruane, recently  returned from  Central America, before leading us off  on the first ‘chapter’ of this extraordinary journey.

The following year, Brian Willson, having lost both legs while attempting to stop a train delivering arms from the US to Central America, was applauded as he bravely crossed the finishing line.

Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah were almost blown away with the force of the gale that blew up when they led the walk in 1991.  It helped us all to understand a little better how it would’ve been for the hungry poor of 1849.

The voices of Juana Vasquez and Dario Caal, representing the Maya from Guatemala, echoed off the mountains as they spoke at the edge of Doolough about the importance of solidarity and how they believed they were walking with the spirits of our ancestors through the sacred Doolough valley in 1995.

And then the gates of Delphi Lodge were opened to the walk in 2013.  We walked through the gates solemnly carrying the names of those who had died in the tragedy of 1849 and the names of those who died of hunger in our own day, in our world of plenty.  We planted an oak tree, we planted potatoes supplied by Willie Corduff of Rossport and we listened to the deeply emotional rendition of ‘Connacht Orphan’ sung by its author, Declan O’Rourke.

Join us for the 30th Walk on May 20th 2017 where more extraordinary moments are sure to be generated.

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Afri’s annual Doolough Famine Walk was featured on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Ramblings’ show and was selected as BBC Radio 4’s ‘Pick of the Week’ on Sunday 19th February.  Listen to the show here.

To register online go here or check out our facebook event page.  If you  are planning on doing the Famine Walk please contact the Afri office for a sponsorship card – admin@afri.ie or 01 8827563.

 

General Information

  • Please assemble in Louisburgh for registration at 12.45pm. 
  • There will be an approximately 15 min opening ceremony, including speakers and music – this is a very important part of the Famine Walk and we would encourage all participants to be present for this part of the event.
  • Buses will bring walkers to start point from 1.30pm. 
  • A tree will be planted at the start of the walk at the Famine Memorial in Delphi Lodge before walkers return to Louisburgh. 
  • There is no parking available at Delphi Lodge. 
  • The walk is approximately 11 miles (18 km) and a shuttle car will be available along the route if needed.
  • Comfortable shoes, raingear and water are strongly recommended.
  • Tea/coffee (but not food) will be provided at a halfway point along the way.  There will also be toilet facilities at the halfway point as well as along the lake.
  • IN THE INTEREST OF HEALTH AND SAFETY, PLEASE WALK ON THE LEFT HAND SIDE OF THE ROAD FOR THE DURATION OF THE WALK.

Sponsorship

We are asking participants to consider raising sponsorship for Afri, so that we can continue our important work.  If you would like to do so, please get in touch with the Afri office and we will post you out a sponsorship card.  If you would prefer not to raise sponsorship you can register online here or pay €24 on the day – which includes the registration fee and cost of the bus to the start of the walk.

White Silence Equals Violence

Peace Activist Kathy Kelly (left) with Nuria Mustafa (Centre) and Jack Hynes (right) at Afri’s 2003 Famine Walk in Mayo.

 

White Silence Equals Violence: Awaiting a Verdict
by Kathy Kelly

January 25, 2017

This morning, here in Minneapolis, I’ll learn whether six jurors believe beyond a reasonable doubt that Dan Wilson and I are criminals.  The court case stems from an action protesting the execution of Jamar Clark, age 24, who died in the early morning of November 15, 2015 outside a north Minneapolis apartment complex. Two Minneapolis police officers, Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze, were involved in the shooting. Jamar Clark died after a bullet was fired directly into his head. Several witnesses say that he was handcuffed and motionless when he was shot dead. The police officers have been cleared of all charges and are back on the job.

Dan and I are among 25 defendants charged with obstructing a Minneapolis Metro transit vehicle on April 11, the opening day of the Minnesota Twins baseball season.  The Legal Rights Center lawyers working with us arranged a calendar so that small groups would be tried weekly.  Earlier this month, two people were acquitted of all charges and one person has been convicted. Two days ago, Andrew Gordon and Priyanka Premo, lawyers from the Minneapolis Legal Rights Center who are representing Dan and me, began the jury selection process. Yesterday, evidence was presented and the six-person jury was asked to determine a verdict. The jury didn’t arrive at a verdict last night. We felt grateful they are not rushing to judgement on what many would see as a cut and dry case. The prosecution presented, as evidence, a photo of me standing, arms linked with others, in front of a bus. (more…)

Date for your diary – Féile Bríde 2017

Drawing by Audrey Walsh

Among the issues to be explored at this year’s conference will be forced migration – the inevitable consequence of war and climate change.

Speakers will include distinguished peace activist and author Kathy Kelly and Scottish writer and campaigner Alastair McIntosh.  Find out more in our brochure.

To book tickets online go here or download the booking form and send to Afri by post.

To see who’s going on facebook go here.  

Reflections from the Hedge School

ITB students speaking at the Hedge School

ITB students speaking at the Hedge School

The 2016 Hedge School took place in Blanchardstown on November 8th, the same day as the US presidential election.  To our surprise, the latter event seemed to overshadow the former! However, we are confident that the outcome of the Hedge School will be much more positive and beneficial to people and planet than that of the election! The election was a contest between two corrupt multi millionaires supported by arms companies and oil companies while the Hedge School was organized on a shoe string and with the good will of many people.

Sorcha Pollak opened proceedings with a powerful talk on Roger Casement. Casement was a great humanitarian and internationalist, who, having carried out an investigation into atrocities on Belgium rubber plantations in the Congo, was sent by the British government to the Amazon jungle to investigate atrocities committed by the Peruvian Amazon Company, which collected rubber in the region of the river Putumayo. Casement was executed four years later for his participation in the 1916 Rising.

John Maguire further explored Casement’s work in the context of his deepening awareness of the evils of Empire and of its implications for his beloved country and characterised him as an ideal symbol for today. 

Other speakers included Kay Mulhall and, the highlight of the day, Miriam, a former asylum-seeker from Uganda.  Miriam spoke about the gruelling circumstances of her life in Uganda before being forced to leave her country and seek refuge in Ireland. In Ireland she experienced the Direct Provision system which poured salt in the wounds of her previous suffering.

The students made a tremendous contribution to the day in terms of both organisation, and input. They interwove  workshops, music and the writing of a Proclamation into the fabric of the day. Special thanks to Liam McGlynn whose support, collaboration and enthusiasm adds to the very positive experience of working in ITB.

Hedge School 2016

hedge-school-poster-2016In our history, Hedge Schools were places of learning, continuity and resistance, emerging out of the draconian Penal Laws that forbade formal education to most Irish people. Learning about and resisting the causes of poverty is at the heart of Afri’s work and the Hedge School symbolizes the kind of resilience and creativity needed to address the crisis facing our world as a result of climate change and the obscenity of the war industry.

One of the major consequences of war and climate change is forced migration and what has become known as the ‘refugee crisis’. The 2016 Hedge School will explore this theme and will include input on Roger Casement, the great internationalist, humanitarian and executed 1916 leader as well as provide an opportunity to hear from refugees & asylum seekers in Ireland.

This year’s Hedge School is organised in partnership with the students from I.T. Blanchardstown.

To register for the conference, please email admin@afri.ie.  

Samhain Harvest and ‘Growing Within’ Event scheduled for Falcarragh

Choctaw heirloom squash grown at Glenveagh National Park this summer to be shared at the Samhain Harvest: Food, Famine and Growing Within Seminar in Falcarragh, Co. Donegal.

Choctaw heirloom squash grown at Glenveagh National Park this summer to be shared at the Samhain Harvest: Food, Famine and Growing Within Seminar in Falcarragh, Co. Donegal.

There is an emotional condition that most of Ireland doesn’t know it’s being affected by, experts are saying. Malignant shame, or post colonial stress disorder is ever present in Irish society today. “It’s important to keep in mind that we are only beginning to understand inter-generational trauma. This type of trauma is often unknown or unrecognised by those who endure it” says Maeve Peoples, a Dublin psychotherapist. Increasing evidence is showing that the untreated effects of holocaust are passed on to future generations.

“By looking at inter-generational trauma in societies as diverse as third generation Jewish holocaust survivors and aboriginal tribes people in Australia, we now know that recovery is possible. From these studies we learn to find the source of issues as diverse as food addiction, eating disorders, increased levels of suicide, alcoholism and drug addiction to name but a few. Identifying the source of the problem allows us to begin to address it” Peoples added.

“I first became familiar with the idea of inter-generational trauma when I was living in America” says Waylon White Deer, a seminar organiser. “There are many similarities between First Nations peoples in America and Irish society as a result of historic emotional damage. This Saturday, we will explore some of these issues”

Maeve Peoples will be leading a discussion about Famine trauma at “Samhain Harvest: Food, Famine and Growing Within” organised by the Afri Choctaw-Irish Famine Landscape Project. The seminar is sponsored by Action from Ireland (Afri) and Concern Worldwide and begins Saturday at 11:00 AM in The Yard, Falcarragh. The afternoon session will highlight food sovereignty, security and solidarity. Admission is free and the seminar will end with a Samhain celebration.

Walking With Spirit

Famine walk leader, Linda Ervine, right, holding the Afri banner crossing over the Peace Bridge in Derry with the Guildhall in the background. Nuala Crilly of St Columb's Park House is holding the banner on the left.  Photo: Rob Fairmichael

Famine walk leader, Linda Ervine, right, holding the Afri banner crossing over the Peace Bridge in Derry with the Guildhall in the background. Nuala Crilly of St Columb’s Park House is holding the banner on the left. Photo: Rob Fairmichael

A small but enthusiastic crowd gathered on the Guildhall steps in Derry on a wet weekday afternoon, 21st September 2016 (International Day of Peace), for a famine walk. They were welcomed by Mayor Hilary McClintock.  From the Guildhall the walk went to the former Poor House at Glendermott Road and then on to St Columb’s Park House for refreshments and chat. As a regional and transport hub, Derry would have received many starving incomers during the Great Famine, presenting themselves at the Poor House door where the famine walk stopped and remembered those who suffered and died.

Organised by Waylon Gary White Deer for Afri, with Concern backing, the walk leader was Linda Ervine of the Turas Irish language project at East Belfast Mission, some of whose members came on the walk. Linda Ervine drew attention to the fact that the Protestant community, and she is from a Presbyterian background, also suffered in An Gorta Mór, but that history had been hidden. Other speakers included Waylon Gary White Deer, Rob Fairmichael for Afri, and Helen Henderson of St Columb’s Park House, and sean nós singer Noeleen Ní Cholla performed a couple of songs including Éirigh suas a stóirín.

This Walk was part of Afri’s Famine Landscape Project and was organised in partnership with St. Columb’s Park House.

Famine Commemoration: Without Food, Without Voice, Without Name

Damien Dempsey leads the walk from the Garden of Remembrance to Glasnevin cemetery organised as part of the Afri-Choctaw Famine Project. Photo by Derek Speirs

Damien Dempsey leads the walk from the Garden of Remembrance to Glasnevin cemetery organised as part of the Afri-Choctaw Famine Landscape Project. Photo by Derek Speirs

“The Famine is an awful wound on the Irish psyche and we don’t talk about it enough. I think we should have a national day of grieving when we all go a river bank or the sea or a lake and just grieve for all who died of hunger and as a result of Colonialism.”

These were the words of Damien Dempsey as he spoke at the Famine Walk which began at the Garden of Remembrance and ended at Glasnevin Cemetery on Saturday, August 27th 2016.  The theme of the walk was ‘Gan Bia, Gan Béal, Gan Ainm” (Without Food, Without Voice, Without Name) and it was organised as part of the Afri-Choctaw Famine Landscape Project.

The event was introduced by Choctaw Gary White Deer and the context and relevance of the walk was outlined by Joe Murray. There was music from RoJ and Paul as well as David Fury before we headed for Glasnevin in glorious sunshine. (more…)

Famine Walk in Drumshanbo, Leitrim

resizeTo mark the national famine commemoration day a famine walk was held in Drumshanbo on Sunday, September 11th 2016. The walk took place from St Patrick’s Church to the famine graveyard a short distance away, where a wreath was laid and a tree planted to the memory of the famine dead.  The walk was organised by Bryan Ryan a student of Drumshanbo traditional music school run by Mossie Martin.

The walk consisted of over sixty people which included Sinn Fein councillor Brenden Barry and Nancy Woods of Drumshanbo Comhaltas as well as poets and musicians from around Leitrim, A bass drum played by Ronan McManus of the four Green fields flute band lead the walk as it made its way to the famine graveyard where over 500 victim’s of an Gorta Mor are buried.  The graveyard was attached to the old pre emancipation Church of Murhaun which stood there in 1744 before St Patrick’s Church was built in 1851 closer to the village. (more…)

Damien Dempsey to lead Dublin Famine Walk

Choctaw Gary White Deer in Glasnevin Cemetery

Choctaw Gary White Deer in Glasnevin Cemetery

A Great Hunger commemoration walk led by Damien Dempsey will proceed from the Garden of Remembrance to Glasnevin Cemetery on Saturday, 27 August, at 2:00 PM. The theme of the walk is “Gan Bia, Gan Beal, Gan Ainm” (Without Food, Without Voice, Without Name) and is being sponsored by Afri.

Glasnevin Cemetery has the largest mass grave in Ireland, with tens of thousands of victims of Ireland’s Great Hunger interred. Names of all Famine victims have been kept in the Glasnevin registry, highly unusual for Famine mass burials. “Through remembering, healing happens” said walk organiser Choctaw Gary White Deer. In 1847, the Choctaw donated monies for Irish Famine relief.

“It’s our duty to pass on the true history, brutal and beautiful, to the children, and they might see they have more in common than they thought with less fortunate people around the world now” Damien Dempsey said. “Everyone is very welcome to come along” he added.

Other walk leaders include: Choctaw Gary White Deer, musician RoJ, and Justine Nantale (Uganda).

Spirit Felt During Famine Walk

Nóilín Ní Cholla sings sean nós song An Mhaighdean Mhara to walkers at Famine Graveyard in Dunfanaghy

Nóilín Ní Cholla sings sean nós song An Mhaighdean Mhara to walkers at Famine Graveyard in Dunfanaghy

“We were very pleased with this year’s Afri Famine Walk in Northwest Donegal” said Máire Nic Fhearraigh, a walk organiser. “Participants came from as far away as Dublin.”

Called “Seeds of Hope and Remembrance”, the nine-mile journey originated on Saturday 4th June in Dunfanaghy and ended in Falcarragh. Walkers stopped along the way to lay flowers at a Famine mass grave. “When Noleen Ní Cholla sang a beautiful sean nós song at graveside, it stirred something there. Everyone felt the spirit of what we were doing. We carried that spirit with us on our walk” Nic Fhearraigh added. (more…)

“Seeds of Hope and Remembrance” connects with Glenveagh National Park

Chocktaw squash

“Seeds of Hope and Remembrance” is the theme of this year’s Afri Famine walk in Northwest Donegal. “Choctaw heirloom squash seeds will be planted at the community garden in Falcarragh to honour the Choctaw, who helped to feed Famine Ireland” explains Maire Nic Fhearraigh, a walk organiser.  The squash is called issito in the Choctaw language and matures into a large, oblong shape that is bright orange, both inside and out. Sean O Gaoithin, head gardener at Glenveagh National Park recently reflected on the planting of Choctaw squash seeds at Glenveagh and on food security, community gardens and how planting seeds helps us to remember our heritages:

“Heirloom seeds connect us with our histories. In the past twenty years at Glenveagh we’ve collected many plant seeds unique to Donegal and the country, like the Gortahork Cabbage and Irish apples. By growing them we become the keepers of these plants and we connect to our heritage directly, to the biodiversity of this particular place and to our ancestors. By bringing these kinds of plants in and highlighting them in a high profile growing venue, Glenveagh in a sense has become the Botanic Gardens of Donegal.

(more…)