Staying Abreast in a World on Fire

by Elder Rev. Qiyamah Rahman

Media Entities

More than eighty-four percent of the world’s 595 state-administered media entities in 157 countries were surveyed in a recent report from the Media and Journalism Research Center. The report indicated a lack of editorial independence, meaning most media entities are government operated.

While none of the media entities examined were American based, the American public may need to cast a discerning eye on its own media outlets. The institutional biases of American media tend to produce biased coverage, contributing to the severe information distortion which hinders Americans’ ability to objectively discern the realities of national and world politics.

During times of instability such as we are currently witnessing – increased attacks on democracy, repressive state and federal policies – vigilance is required. How free media is from government influence can determine the state of that government’s democracy. In the face of such controversial issues, short video clips and sound bites are not always a helpful or effective way to become informed about these important and controversial issues.

Cognitive Distortions

Challenging and changing cognitive distortions, i.e., thoughts that cause individuals to perceive reality inaccurately, are not totally the fault of individual Americans. Media biases and so many other factors contribute to cognitive distortions. Consequently, negative thinking patterns reinforce negative emotions and thoughts.

To facilitate my own awareness, I developed a curated list of resources on three topics of interest: Haiti, student protests, and Israel/Palestine. This represents my small effort to identify some of the available progressive sources whose values position human lives above profit, peace above war, and critical thinking above a herd mentality of conformity.


Little is known about Ayiti (aka Haiti) except that it is poor and violent. Yet, this nation mired in ongoing crises is just a ninety-minute plane ride from Miami, Florida. In 1492 Christopher Columbus landed on the island and named it Hispaniola (little Spain). In honor of the indigenous population, Jean Jacques Dessalines renamed the island Ayiti, or Haiti. Haiti was once the wealthiest Caribbean country during its existence as a French colony, when it flourished from its sugar forest industries, made possible with the free labor of enslaved Africans. In 1607, Spain yielded ownership of the western part of the island to France, and that became known as Haiti.

With its then population of 500,000 enslaved Africans, which vastly outnumbered the slave-owning French, the Africans rebelled in 1801 under the leadership of General Toussaint Louverture. In 1804, Haiti became the first independent Black country in the western hemisphere, yet it is now the most impoverished. How is that possible, you might ask? Years of civil unrest, political corruption, social economic crises, food insecurity, AIDS, tuberculosis, cholera, and natural disasters have contributed to Haiti’s poverty and instability. Fast forward to January 12, 2010, when a devastating earthquake killed an estimated 300,000 people and injured over 200,000.

The recent assassination of Haiti’s president in 2021 has escalated violence. Additionally, gangs are collaborating to overthrow the remainder of the government, including a prison break of over 4,000 prisoners. In Haiti’s capital, many families have been forced to flee their homes, seeking safety with very few safe places to go.

Haiti’s history is one of resistance, revolt and instability, reflected in its numerous coups and militarization, including US occupation from 1915-1934. A little-known connection between Haiti and African Americans exists. A group of more than 500 Haitians known as Les Chasseurs Volontaires de Savannah fought in the 1779 Battle of Savannah. In October 2009, a memorial was erected to these heroic Haitian soldiers.

Many Haitians settled in Louisiana when the 1791 revolt started in Haiti. In the nineteenth century, Haiti’s legacy as the first Black independent country to achieve independence was a huge inspiration to African Americans in the US. Emigration movements led by Martin Delany and James Theodore Holly encouraged African Americans to move to Haiti. Nearly twenty percent of free Blacks from the north went to Haiti before the Civil War. Unfortunately, many returned due to linguistic and climate differences. The later occupation of Haiti by the US – and their altering of Haiti’s constitution – led the NAACP to denounce these US policies.

Student Protests

Student protests are not new. Student protesters often mirror a society’s social ills and issues writ large. This was evident during the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights era. Journalist Kayla Jimenez assembled an overview of past student protests that mirror present-day student demonstrations.

University of California, Berkeley: Free Speech – In the sixties, students began protesting the University’s limits on political activities and free speech, both during the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War era. According to Jimenez, nearly 800 students were arrested. The University eventually overturned policies that restricted the content of speech or advocacy.

Kent State University, Ohio: Vietnam War – Students gathered on May 2, 1970, to protest the Vietnam War and the US invasion of Cambodia. Two days later, the National Guard fired on the protesters and fatally injured four, wounding several others. Nationwide protests at hundreds of colleges and universities required a closure of these institutions.

Jackson State College, Mississippi: Racial Injustice – On May 15, 1970, just days after the Kent State killings, Jackson police opened fire into the women’s dormitory at Jackson State College, killing two and wounding twelve students.

Nationwide: Apartheid South Africa In 1985, anti-apartheid protests swept campuses across the country. Many students felt strongly about the oppressive system of apartheid in South Africa and demanded that their educational institutions sever ties with groups that supported this ideology. Columbia University was at the center of the protests and was one of the first to divest from business ties with South Africa. They were followed by 155 more universities. The US Congress also passed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act in 1986 to prevent new trade and investment between the US and South Africa.


The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) hosted a ninety-minute webinar on November 6, 2023, for religious professionals and congregational leaders titled, “Why We Cannot Turn Away: Resources for UU Leaders Engaging on Israel & Palestine.” While SisterSouurce was not present, we have attempted to provide a curated list of resources for those whose shared desire is to eradicate violence.

In a world driven by profit and greed, it is important that we speak out to end violence and replace it with the message that human lives matter. And while there is no one perspective or analysis within the UU community, what we share are our seven principles that recognize the inherent worth and dignity of all human beings and acknowledge the interdependent web of all existence. We cannot advocate for animal rights, pristine water or air, and not endorse the elimination of genocide and violence.

This webinar includes the voices of many speakers representing a wide range of experiences and identities. Individual presenters represent their own perspectives and opinions, which may differ from those of the UUA. For more about the UUA’s historic and current public statements about Israel/Palestine, please see our page UUA Statements, Public Writings, and Community Conversations on Palestine/Israel.



Bogues, Anthony. “Haiti: A Saga of Democracy, Sovereignty and State Rule.” Watson Institute for International & Public Affairs. Brown University. July 12, 2021.

Godin, Jake, “How State Media Became a Weapon of Information Warfare.” Scripps News. July 18, 2017.

Lauren Kelly, “Blinken calls for Hamas to accept “extraordinarily generous” cease-fire deal.” The Hill. April 29, 2024.

Mines, Keith. “There is a Path Forward in Haiti – But It’s Not the One We Are On.” United States Institute of Peace. June 29, 2023.

Godin, Jake. “How State Media Became a Weapon of Information Warfare.” Scripps News. July 18, 2017.


A Brief Background to Conflict in Haiti. Collaborative Learning Projects. www.collaborative.org

Hands Off Haiti. Progressive International.

Haiti: Conflict Analysis 2023. Carleton University.

The State of State Media: A Global Analysis of the Editorial Independence of State Media Based on the State Media Matrix (2022).


“Police Storm Columbia’s Hamilton Hall, arrest protesters: Shocking footage.”’s-hamilton-hall-arrest-protesters-shocking-footage/9655327/

“Unbelievably Dangerous: Journalist describes chaotic scenes at site of UCLA Protest.”

“Whoopi Goldberg warns media to tread lightly on campus protests.”


Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Institute of Haitian Studies, The University of Kansas College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

Children of the Nations.