When I was your enemy by Joel Preston Smith

When I was your enemy by Joel Preston Smith

A friend asked me a while back if I thought it was true that some Morton County Sheriff’s Deputies had resigned over the treatment of protestors at Standing Rock, during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in North Dakota last year.

I said I thought it was possible, because I used to stand on their side of the line. The reason I stepped across to the other side 27 years ago has a lot to do with why I now work with Frontline Wellness United, which provides healthcare for activists and nonviolent civil resistance movements. I wasn’t a sheriff’s deputy. I was a soldier at the Presidio of San Francisco Army base — a journalist, but also a riot-control troop.

Partnering with Ohio State University's College of Social Work

Left image: Duck Bardus (on left), Frontline's Secretary, Board of Directors; LaVada Washington, Field Placement Coordinator for OSU's College of Social Work; Anna Stewart, CSW Interim Director of Field Education.

Left image: Duck Bardus (on left), Frontline's Secretary, Board of Directors; LaVada Washington, Field Placement Coordinator for OSU's College of Social Work; Anna Stewart, CSW Interim Director of Field Education.

We’re excited to announce a new partnership with the Ohio State University College of Social Work. Frontline and the college will work together to create a comprehensive support system for whistleblowers, social-justice advocates and nonviolent civil resistance movements in the U.S. and abroad.

Our goal is to fill in existing gaps in those services. Two excellent organizations, the Courage Foundation and ExposeFacts, do tremendous work providing legal support and publicity regarding whistleblowers, hacktivists and truth-tellers in general. By partnering with the CSW, our goal is to create a system that also addresses the health risks, the fear, anxiety, financial burden and social costs of such acts of conscience.

Let’s face it, truth-tellers are persecuted by governments, agencies, institutions and persons whose crimes and corruption are dragged into the spotlight. Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower who released sections of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, immediately comes to mind.

As Foreign Policy noted in 2013, “Nixon’s private investigation squad, the ‘Plumbers,’ broke into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office in search of juicy details of his private life," in an effort to slander and defame him. Some members of Congress reputedly branded him a traitor. Others advocated that he be prosecuted under the Espionage Act of 1917 and imprisoned.

For exposing crimes.

Ellsberg laid bare the Nixon Administration’s private wars in Cambodia and Laos, the falsification of death tolls, falsification of projections about enemy troop strength (in order to mislead the American public about whether the war was 'winnable') and other damaging information. The ensuing Watergate scandal exonerated Ellsberg, and history has recast him (we believe) as the person he in fact was, and is—an honorable man, driven by conscience, whose actions likely accelerated the end of the war, saving both American and Vietnamese lives.

Truth-telling on such a grand scale does not come without a cost. Public and institutional persecution of whistleblowers, investigative journalists and other critics of corrupt institutions is, in part, intended to serve as a warning to those who would do likewise. The message is clear: Expose us, and you will pay dearly.

Our message, in creating an extensive, professional, compassionate support system, is precisely the opposite. That message is: We respect and value you. Your courage should be honored. You deserve our support and protection.

That support system isn’t limited solely to truth-tellers, although they’re an early, heavy emphasis for us, partly because of the severity of their needs. It extends to all social-justice advocates whose work demonstrates a strong commitment to public service. The OSU College of Social Work’s public mission is to “build stronger communities, celebrate difference, and promote social and economic justice,” which strongly mirrors Frontline’s outreach with social-justice workers as a whole.

We’re each committed to partnerships and work that creates happier, healthier, more just communities.

One of the things we like best about the CSW is that it’s very hands on. We know that theory and rhetoric are important, but we gravitate toward the nuts and bolts of how to get things done. A quick review of the CSW’s website illustrates a long list of faculty, staff and students who are, shoulders to the grindstone, fighting human trafficking, expanding services for returning veterans, combating racial injustice and a host of other problems. As well as doing such things as filling vans with bottled water and driving it to the city of Flint, Michigan, to help overcome the city’s ongoing need for clean, drinkable water.

It doesn’t get much more hands on than that. We respect people who talk about the need to do something, and then also do it.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t thank the college for establishing a Frontline office on the Ohio State campus, dedicating interns to work with us on service programs, and offering tuition wavers to Frontline staff and board members who want to pursue a degree, earn continuing education credits or other credit in social work. It’s an opportunity for Frontline’s staff to build skills and expand the number and kinds of services we can offer.

It’s a great opportunity to grow together.

Our affiliation with the College of Social Work is the first of what will be a multitude of health-related internship programs in service to social justice. We’re currently pursuing similar academic partnerships in public health, and will likely develop internships in medicine, nursing, mental health and allied health fields as we expand.

If you’re interested in volunteering, interning or partnering with us, as always we’re excited to talk about the possibilities. Just write to us here, and let’s get the conversation started.

— Duck Bardus and Joel Preston Smith

Oil, water & a protest history of Standing Rock

by Lisha Sterling

"When we were exiled from the camps by the colonialist government authorities, the Native elders told us to go back to our communities and continue the work. They told us to remember to keep praying. They told us to tell the stories of what happened. They told us to keep fighting for our Mother Earth and for the Water and for All Our Relations."

Lisha is the executive director of Geeks Without Bounds, and an interim Board member for Frontline Wellness United. This is the first essay in a God & Radicals series that discusses the history (from her personal experience) of the anti-DAPL protests, and camp life.

On the rise of drone warfare, and the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination


by Lisa Ling

"On April 4, 1968, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated as he stood unsuspectingly on his motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. The cowardly murderer targeted King from a distance, hiding in a bathtub while he aimed his rifle out the bathroom window. Just like that—a man whose life revolved around speaking truth to power—was targeted and killed. Fifty years later, we must honor Dr. King’s legacy by grappling with our own hypocrisy around targeted killing."

In this Instick essay, Lisa Ling, drone-warfare whistleblower and Frontline interim Board member, considers how Martin Luther King Jr. might have reacted to indiscriminate killings of civilians around the globe under the the U.S. drone program, were he alive today.

Kenya Bound

Emma Hall is a photojournalist from Enterprise, Oregon, and a volunteer with Frontline Wellness United. She arrived in Kenya Jan. 29 to cover humanitarian concerns (primarily focused on the Kenyan government’s mistreatment of activists and protesters). 

This is a short introduction to her work (and some of her motivations for doing it). 

Emma got her first real taste for photojournalist in September of 2016, when she spent three weeks photographing in the three resistance camps at the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in North Dakota. She's done some travel-related photography in the United Kingdom, Norway and Iceland, but Kenya will be her first experience in a society that's vastly different than Western cultures (and one that's in upheaval from political unrest, widespread dissent against government corruption and police violence—including frequent extrajudicial killings—against the populace). 

Because of the blood on the tracks

Because of the blood on the tracks

Brian Willson was 46 years old Sept. 1, 1987, the day he sat down across railroad tracks leading out of Concord Naval Weapons Station in Concord, Calif., ahead of an oncoming train. But the things he’d seen and done by that age seem to speak of a man who’d lived many shades of many different lives.

Overcoming Mental Health Challenges as Movement Leaders and Activists

Overcoming Mental Health Challenges as Movement Leaders and Activists

by Joel Preston Smith, from Minds of the Movement (International Center on Nonviolent Conflict)

Human rights activist Beatrice Karore was five months pregnant when she was shot twice in the hips with rubber bullets and beaten by police Oct. 14, 2012, after a protest against lawlessness in Mathare, a shantytown in Nairobi, Kenya.

Two hours earlier, Karore stood on a dirt road that transects the slum, staring at the bodies of two young men who’d been knocked off their motorcycle and clubbed to death. A crowd was gathering—angry, vocal, demanding that police take action. Karore, who was known as a social justice organizer and had made something of a name for herself by running for (but losing) a seat on the Nairobi County Assembly the preceding December, led the procession to the Humura Police Station in Nairobi.

Traditional Healers Need Apply

Traditional Healers Need Apply

We respect traditional health practitioners not just because we want to be ‘inclusive,’ but because they’re effective.

Research published this September in the journal "Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry," for example, notes that traditional practitioners are “crucial in reducing global mental health challenges."