John Witeck

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John Witeck


John Witeck is a Hawaii activist. He is married to Lucy Witeck.

Radical background

In 2007, their 35th year, the Hawaii People’s Fund’s members honored one of their original founders: labor organizer, civil rights and anti-war activist, and lifelong advocate of social justice John Witeck.

Witeck didn’t come to Hawaii to effect social change. In 1967, the northern Virginia native crossed a continent and half an ocean to study for a master’s degree in Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii.

“In Washington and Virginia, all I ever saw were haoles and blacks,” Witeck remembers. “But my father worked in the Senate, and he was able to get me a part-time job with the State Department. I got interested in China, so I headed for Hawaii.”

Witeck never received his degree in Asian Studies; he was an activist before he was a student of Asia. “As an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, I became active in the civil rights movement,” says Witeck. “I was a member of the Newman Club, a Catholic student organization, and I went down to Selma, Ala., with the club to demonstrate.

“Selma was where my politicalization took place. Fear of being killed by an angry mob can do that to you.”

In Honolulu, Witeck considered founding a Newman Club at the University of Hawaii: “I decided to start a chapter of Students for a Democratic Society instead.”

In the spring of 1968, Witeck passed up his final exams at the university to take part in the Bachman Hall sit-in. It lasted for more than a week. The men in attendance burned their draft cards - a burned draft card plus failing to take his final exams spelled expulsion from the East-West Center and his graduate program.

“I went back to Virginia briefly, but my girlfriend lured me back,” says Witeck. John and Lucy Witeck were married at the Church of the Crossroads in the midst of a sanctuary for active duty military protesting the Vietnam war.

With a $10,000 grant from the United Church of Christ and the Methodists, Witeck launched Youth Action. Youth Action provided seed money for local youth projects.

“In 1971 some of us began to ask why not do this for all age groups,” says Witeck. “The Aloha United Way was good, but it took time and paperwork to get approved. We felt Hawaii People’s Fund could fill a need.”

The fund’s first board included activists Larry Jones, Randy Kalahiki, Pete Tagalog, Rev. John Heidl and Prof. Walter Johnson.

“Over the years we’ve supported peace projects, environmental action, some of the early Hawaiian sovereignty groups, tenants and public housing organizations. Our grants may run as little as $100 needed to prepare a slide show, or $50 to print up fliers to advertise a meeting. Our grants are capped at $2,500. And we don’t require a lot of paperwork.”

Over the past two years, the Hawaii People’s Fund has given grants to more than 60 local organizations, ranging from the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii to Micronesians United to the Waianae Coast Community Alternative Development Corporation.

“We raise approximately $200,000 a year,” says Witeck, “and we can now support - inadequately - two staff members.”

In its early years, it couldn’t support anyone - even inadequately. Witeck made his living instead working for the United Public Workers as the union’s newspaper editor and a business agent.

Despite reversals in recent years, Witeck maintains his optimism. “The environmental movement is much stronger than it was in the ‘60s. People are more tolerant on the gay issue. In the South there’s more mixing of races. And while the war in Iraq is a disaster, the anti-war movement still has strength. [1]

SDS

At the University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa-campus, the Students for a Democratic Society was formed in the fall of 1967 by John Witeck and other peace activists. In Hawaiʻi, SDS opposed US military and CIA recruiting on campus, US Department of Defense contracts with the University, racist admission policies, and the lack of democracy and student voices in decision making.

In community actions and campus fora against the war, SDS joined with Educators for Peace, the Hawaiʻi Committee to End the War, and the Hawaiʻi Peace Council.[2]

Hawaii Independent Cooperative Press

The initial Board of Directors of the Hawaii Independent Cooperative Press consisted of: Ikaika Hussey, Herb Hussey, Kimo Campbell, Niklaus Schweitzer, Daniel Nahoopii, John Witeck, Chris Conybeare, Tanna Hee, and Bernard Paloma.[3]

Philippines

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John Witeck and Meta Mendel-Reyes witnessed May Day in Manila, and wrote about it for the League of Revolutionary Struggle's Unity, May 16, 1986.

Unity

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John Witeck, a member of the Philippine Workers Support Committee, Honolulu, was a contributor to Unity, December 15, 1986, the newspaper of the League of Revolutionary Struggle.

"A call to build an organization for the 1990s and beyond"

Unity, January 28 1991, issued a statement "A call to build an organization for the 1990s and beyond" on pages 4 to 6.

This group was a split in the League of Revolutionary Struggle which soon became the Unity Organizing Committee.

Those listed as supporters of the call included John Witeck, peace and labor activist Hawaii. .

Autobiography of protest in Hawai'i

The 1996 book "Autobiography of protest in Hawai'i" by Robert H. Mast and Anne B. Mast, contained a chapter on organized labor, with contributions from Bill Puette, Ah Quon McElrath, Tommy Trask, Liana Petranek, John Witeck.

CCDS member

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On May 27 2010, Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism member Greg King, wrote an email to several "CCDS members", forwarded from "Carl D", (probably Carl Davidson) on the subject of a John Case article on the just finished Communist Party USA National Convention in New York. The email named the "CCDS members" as Al Sargis, Jim Nakamura, John Witeck, Joe Bageant, W. A. Halabi, Mort Ahmadifar, Oliver Lee, Gary Hicks and Sandy Rosen.[4]

From: Greg King <gking...@msn.com>
Subject: FW: [CCDS Members] FYI from CarlD: JCase's Reflections on the CPUSA 29th Convention''
To:
"Al Sargis" <albertsar...@comcast.net>, "Jim Nakamura" <j...@sonic.net>, "John Witeck" <witeckj...@hawaii.rr.com>, "Joe Bageant" <bagean...@aim.com>, "W.A. Halabi" <wah...@yahoo.com>, "Mort Ahmadifar" <ahmadi...@comcast.net>, "Oliver Lee" <o...@hawaii.edu>, "Gary Hicks" <longmarch2...@yahoo.com>, "Sandy Rosen" s...@verizon.net

References

  1. Power To The People And Their Fund For Good Works Dan BoylanBy Dan Boylan Wednesday - October 31, 2007
  2. [The Rise of Ethnic Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi Anti-War, Student and Early Community Struggles. John Witeck]
  3. Articles of Incorporation, Per Haw. Rev. Stat. 421C-11.5
  4. [1] Google groups, Socialist Economics FW: [CCDS Members] FYI from CarlD: JCase's Reflections on the CPUSA 29th Convention, May 27, 2010, accessed June 10, 2010