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Community and World Health: Protecting Native Seeds

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Protection of native seeds – Interview with Melissa Gómez Gil

(Image by Mauricio Alvarez)

After graduating from high school, Melissa started an undergraduate programme in Biology at the University of Antioquia, but after five semesters she decided to take a break in order to commit herself to community work in rural areas. This decision led her to join rural agroecology school programmes and organisations such as Manada Libre, the Corporación para la Investigación y el Eco-desarrollo Regional (CIER) and the Corporación Penca de Sábila.


For the past three years, Melissa has been providing technical support to peasant families producing agroecological food through the Colombian Network of Organic Agriculture (RECAB) and is the coordinator of the Community House of native and creole seeds of Antioquia of the Network of Free Seeds of Antioquia. She is also a member of international advocacy movements and organisations, such as the Agroecological Movement of Latin America and the Caribbean (MAELA), the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (Comité Internacional de Planificación para la Soberanía Alimentaria).

What is the seed problem in Colombia today?

The issue of seeds is closely linked to land problems. Peasants have been uprooted from their land, their knowledge, their know-how and their practices.

Agribusiness has been taking over large tracts of land, because the power brokers have been deciding for several decades that the big agribusiness corporations should be in charge of the production and marketing of our food.

It is a real chess game. For example, by not taking care of territorial development (roads, education, water, sewage, etc.), governments impede the normal functioning of the peasants’ work, forcing them to sell their land to large corporations. This undoubtedly accelerates the process of privatisation of the country’s natural resources. The truth is that in Colombia, as in many parts of the world, an accelerated violation of our rights to food and adequate nutrition is taking place.

Let us remember that in the 1970s, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) launched the so-called “Green Revolution” (1), with the aim of reducing hunger in the world. This programme is accompanied by a series of recommendations that are harmful to traditional small-scale agriculture, such as the adoption of complex technologies, the privileging of monocultures, the use of fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides and new techniques for storage and conservation.

This naturally opens the door to agribusiness, which rubs its hands together and begins a process of accelerated expansion, which ends up invading the distribution networks with its ultra-processed food products. As always, people in rural areas are the most affected by this change of model, as the quality of their food deteriorates.

The benefits sought by this process are not only economic, but also of power. The installation of structures of domination is privileged in various aspects: seeds, land work, food, health, access to capital, mining and material exploitation, etc.

How did the Seed Network come about?

The Seed Network was born out of a need to see how agribusiness is destroying the biodiversity of Colombia and the planet. From seeing how agribusiness is homogenising our behaviour, our relationship with other people and with the land; how corporations are taking over our entire food system.

With the loss of a seed, not only are some essential products of the basic food basket being lost, but also our traditional systems and the entire natural chain are affected: insects, diversity of native species, some even inedible, that help us with the balance of ecosystems.

When agribusiness arrives arguing that if you want to produce on a larger scale, you have to use certain techniques or inputs, they are breaking and violating environmental and social fabrics that communities have been building for decades, even centuries.

Who are the custodians of seeds?

They are guardians of the land, of the water, of their territory. With seeds come knowledge, a whole tradition, not only at the gastronomic level, but also at the cultural, soil management and conservation levels. They are leaders within their communities, who are responsible not only for producing seeds, but also for protecting a wide range of genetics of a species. For example, 20 or 50 varieties of the same species. These custodians also play an important role in their communities, informing and spreading the word, generating reflection, participating in peasant spaces (fairs, community actions, etc.).

The custodians are peasants, indigenous people, Afro-Colombian population, fishermen, shepherds, people who, within these spaces, want to defend their territories and nurture deep reflections.

Who is part of the Seed Network and how can they access it?

As it is such a broad space, the Seed Network is not only open to individuals or families who are custodians of seeds. It is also open to organisations that are carrying out territorial work in different areas of water protection or territorial advocacy, as well as university research groups. In general terms, they enter under a mission, from their work: seed production, communication, education, production, political advocacy, from the market or the circulation of seeds.

Despite being a voluntary membership, the seed custodians, thanks to their knowledge of their territories, identify and analyse potential agents within their communities, who can be integrated. For example, if a person is growing beans in a village in Guarne (Antioquia) and already has 3 varieties, we can involve them; perhaps they can develop other varieties, thanks to the Network’s knowledge. Finally, over time, people either stay or leave on a voluntary basis, because this is a job, a task that requires commitment.

The Community Seed House is also part of the peasant and family economies because when it is proposed to a producer that, by cultivating beans, he can keep a certain number of varieties, they will also circulate through a Seed House, in order to obtain a harvest of beans that will be bought, which represents a great opportunity for them.

The majority of seed custodians are women as a direct consequence of what has been happening in Colombia in recent decades, as the men have been recruited to make war, to do the hard work, and the women are the ones who have been in charge of feeding their families and conserving the greatest variety of seeds. It is worth noting that the care, curation and selection of seeds is much more rigorous on the part of women.

How is the quality of a seed validated?

In the Seed Network, we have an instrument to control the quality of native and creole seeds, called the Participatory Guarantee System (SPG). Its construction was the result of participatory and rigorous work, which allows us to guarantee that our country’s native and creole seeds meet high quality standards.

The PGS also responds to the fact that the certification model promoted by the state does not consider the production of seeds by peasants, much less the production of agroecological seeds. The system is governed by a complete protocol, with which we evaluate the following five criteria in each of the seed custodian farms:

1. That the seed be native and native;

2. The seed must be open pollinated, that is to say, it must be able to reproduce many times;

3. That it is a NON transgenic seed. We verify this with a test called Inmunstrip;

4. That it is a seed that is accompanied by a Community Seed House and by a promoter of the Network;

5. That the seed responds favourably to physical, physiological and sanitary quality tests (humidity, germination, pathogens, etc.). This guarantees that the seeds coming from the field do not go to other places with any virus or bacteria that could affect production and affect the quality of the seed.

For the commercialisation of seeds in Colombia, it is already a requirement on our part that they go through this quality system.

These parameters are analysed once a year during a field visit by an auditor, who takes advantage of his visit to the farm to analyse other factors on the farms, such as composting, the absence of risk of crossbreeding by transgenics or contamination by pesticides, or fertilisers.

How does the state intervene in the work of the Seed Network?

State intervention is mainly exercised through the creation of rules and regulations on the production and distribution of seeds. For example, Resolution 970 (2), which sought to regulate the production, use and commercialisation of seeds in Colombia, was repealed thanks to the advocacy and pressure exerted by the social movement. This was replaced by Resolution 3168 of 2015, and although it was transformed, it continues to affect a large number of farmers.
The state considers that criollo and native seeds do not have the necessary quality standards to be marketed, as we do not have certification from the Colombian Agricultural Institute (ICA). Therefore, we cannot sell in agricultural shops, which prevents us from having a major impact on the territory. Despite this, we are able to circulate seeds, not because they allow us to do so, but because the communities continue to fight for this right.

Fortunately, on 29 December 2017, Resolution 464 on family, peasant and community agriculture was born in Colombia. This recognises in one of its guidelines (3) the farmer’s seeds, the recognition of the Community Seed Houses, the recognition of participatory systems of guarantees, that is to say, of the quality of native and creole seeds in Colombia. Thanks to this resolution, we can continue to circulate our seeds.

What do you think of the work of national education in rural areas?

I think that national education should adapt its pedagogy and programmes to the needs of rural life. It is essential to promote community development, territorial development or family farming. Rural life has its own dynamic, which has largely been created in the face of state neglect. The people in the villages have learned to structure themselves. They have a common sense, an ownership of what happens in their communities. Therefore, they organise themselves in “convites” (parties with food and drink) to till the land, harvest the crops, build roads, houses or guarantee water supplies.

Seeds of resistance

For the government, the peasantry is seen only in terms of production and with a technified vision of it. Machinery, pesticides, herbicides. And if they do not meet these standards, the communities are forced to evict and dispossess them. On the other hand, through education, peasants must prepare themselves for life in the city, because they say that this is where the future lies.

There are people who think that rural people are ignorant, that they lack knowledge and do not know how to express their ideas. In terms of form it may seem that way, because many of them have been victims of the structural shortcomings of the system that has not given them access to formal education, but deep down, they have very deep knowledge about their territories and their communities.

Could you propose a conclusion to our conversation?

I can conclude by saying that a group of passionate and committed organisations and human beings have been carrying out a serious and structured mission to preserve not only biodiversity, but also the quality, variety and autonomy of our food.

We are achieving this thanks to the protection of our native and creole seeds, and the preservation of the knowledge of the peasants, indigenous people, Afro-Colombians, fishermen and shepherds of our country.

References :

(1) About the Green Revolution.

Source Wikipedia: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revoluci%C3%B3n_verde

“The adoption of a series of practices and technologies, including the planting of cereal varieties (mainly wheat, maize and rice) more resistant to extreme climates and pests, new cultivation methods (including mechanisation), as well as the use of fertilisers, pesticides and irrigation, which made it possible to achieve high productive yields”.

“The green revolution was highly successful in increasing yields, but not enough emphasis was placed on nutritional quality, resulting in the spread of low-quality protein and high-carbohydrate cereal varieties. These high-yielding cereal crops, now widespread and predominant worldwide, are deficient in essential amino acids and unbalanced in essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and other nutritional quality factors”.

(2) ICA Resolution 970 of 2010.

Source: ICA – Instituto Colombiano Agropecuario (Colombian Agricultural Institute)

Law 970 allows farmers to save part of their own harvest for use as seed for future planting, as long as (i) the farmer is a farmer with a maximum extension of 5 hectares (i.e. a small farmer); (ii) the seed comes from a harvest in which legal seed has been used; and (iii) it is used only for own consumption, not for commercialisation. This again means that everyone is obliged to use certified seed and that the reserve is a privilege of small farmers only and under strict conditions.

(3) Resolution 46 of 29 December 2017.

Source: https://www.minagricultura.gov.co/

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Truths or Consequences: Failing State or Shining Light?: The USA Role in the Twenty-first Century

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Note from the Publisher: In order to create the changes we want to see in the world, it is essential to have a clear understanding of the deep rooted systematic failures that corrode our abilities to truly thrive. Mobilized is proud to present our new slate of programming that takes a deep dive into the underworld of society so that we can shine a light on what’s not working so we can shine the light into systems, services and policies that we need for the optimal health and well-being of all life.  A special thanks to “The Other” Chuck Woolery for bringing this show to Mobilized and our special guest, “Monty G. Marshall.”

About Special Guest, Monty G. Marshall, Center for Systematic Peace
Dr. Monty G.  Marshall left the university system in 2010 after holding a position as both a Research Professor and Director of Research for the Center for Global Policy at George Mason University. He is now president of a private research enterprise: Societal-Systems Research, Inc. This private initiative will continue to produce the high quality information resources that form the foundation of the Center for Systemic Peace. Since 1998, he has been the director of the Polity IV project, which provides annual assessments of autocracy, democracy and regime transitions, and the Armed Conflict and Intervention (ACI) project, which monitors all forms of armed conflict and international influence structures. Also since 1998, Dr. Marshall has served as a senior consultant with the US Government’s Political Instability Task Force (PITF; formerly known as the State Failure Task Force). He has consulted frequently with the United Nations, US Agency for International Development, UK Department for International Development, the National Geographic Society, and many other national agencies and international organizations. Before taking his most recent academic posting at GMU, he was a Senior Research Associate at the Center for International Development and Conflict Management (CIDCM), University of Maryland, where he directed the Integrated Network for Societal Conflict Research (INSCR) program from 1998-2005. He is a co-founder and was principle author, editor and researcher for CIDCM’s Peace and Conflict series. He also co-authored the original Minorities at Risk data series (with Ted Gurr) and was a Co-Director of that project.

Dr. Marshall’s current research focuses on systems analyses of societal conflict processes and the impact of global influence networks on local conflict dynamics. His theory and evidence detailing the problem of political violence within the context of societal and systemic development processes and the diffusion of insecurity in protracted conflict regions are reported in Third World War: System, Process and Conflict Dynamics. Other recent publications include the Global Report annual series (2007-present) and Peace and Conflict biennial series (2001-2005); other recent publications are available here. Dr. Marshall holds degrees in political science from the University of Colorado, University of Maryland and the University of Iowa; he held a prestigious University of Iowa fellowship from 1990 to 1993. He began his professional career teaching courses full-time at the University of South Florida, 1994-1997.

About the Series
In this era of truth decay this program will focus on the “Truths” that “WE hold” “to be self-evident.” The fundamental truths derived from “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God”*  Drawing distinctions between such fundamental principles as:  inalienable human rights to life, liberty and health, no child should die before their parents,  preserving one’s freedoms and security requires virtue and responsibility and alternative principles humans invented like; ‘peace through strength’  ‘market forces or technology will solve the problem’. ‘national sovereignty’‘democracy’

*(Introduced in the Declaration of Independence.  A title that should have been the “Declaration of separation” given that independence exists nowhere in the known universe, but only as an illusion within our mind.  An illusion that is responsible for most of the death, suffering, and environmental destruction up till now.)

Produced by “The Other ” Chuck Woolery and Jeff Van Treese
Executive Producer is Steven Jay

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The Undertow: The Corrosion of Corruption: Cleaning up the Chaos with Heidi Cuda

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Note from the Publisher: In order to create the changes we want to see in the world, it is essential to have a clear understanding of the deep rooted systematic failures that corrode our abilities to truly thrive. Mobilized is proud to present our new slate of programming that takes a deep dive into the underworld of society so that we can shine a light on what’s not working so we can shine the light into systems, services and policies that we need for the optimal health and well-being of all life.  A special thanks to Mark Metz for hosting “The Undertow” and our first special guest, investigative journalist, Heidi Cuda.

 

Progressive change in every field is hampered by the confluence of comprised government officials, malign corporate interests, and transnational organized crime. In a word: Corruption. Referred to as The Iron Triangle by Robert Mueller in his 2011 speech to the FBI, this shadowy undertow on the common good is an invisible economy fueled by human suffering diametrically opposed to progress on climate change, human rights, or social justice.

Heidi Cuda is an expert journalist who has been tracking this dark phenomenon for over 20 years. In this essential conversation, you will grasp the scale of the problem and the latest exciting developments to clean up the playing field around the world. Learn how you can help make progress against corruption in your own community for the common good of humanity.

Heidi Siegmund Cuda is an Emmy award-winning investigative producer, broadcast journalist, author, columnist, music critic, screenwriter and free press activist. After 15 years as an investigative producer for Fox 11 News Los Angeles, she resigned to pursue TV development, screenwriting and social justice activism.

Known for her long-form work in the music world such as Crazy Fool, about Bradley Nowell of Sublime; The Ice Opinion, with Ice T; and Definition of Down, with Darlene Ortiz, she is rapidly becoming one of foremost voices on corruption, dis-information, and the battle against autocracy.

Current co-host of the RADICALIZED podcast and US politics reporter for The Byline Times. “It’s Komprocated” a 240-page compilation of her political writings from 2016 to early 2019 is available at Ko-Fi.

Links:

 

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How Our Grassroots Energy Projects Are Taking Back Power From Utility Companies

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From solar power that cuts NYC energy bills and powers streetlights in Detroit to affordable high-speed internet throughout the United States, grassroots utilities projects are delivering on their promises to underserved communities of color.

By Aric Sleeper, – US, United States –

As power outages caused by extreme weather events become more intense and frequent, the efforts by federal, state and local legislators to abate human-caused climate change may seem futile to those on the front lines, who are left sweating or freezing in their homes after the power goes out unexpectedly and at the worst time possible.

Without intervention, these events will only become more recurrent. According to data provided by the National Centers for Environmental Information—which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and maintains and provides national geophysical data and information—there was an average of around three “weather and climate disasters” per year in the 1980s, compared to a staggering 22 extreme weather events in 2020.

The Biden administration’s participation in COP26, which took place in Glasgow from October 31 to November 13, 2021, was a step in the right direction to address climate change, compared to the previous administration, which derailed any progress made by the U.S. to address the current climate crisis. President Joe Biden, however, still did not go far enough at the international climate conference in terms of addressing environmental justice, systemic environmental racism and the disproportionate support for repairing the damage caused by extreme weather events in impoverished countries and underserved communities in the United States. The actions and projects needed to address these issues and bring about real change on the ground are, meanwhile, being championed by grassroots organizations led by women and people of color who are taking steps within their communities to move away from fossil fuels, power their neighborhoods with clean energy, and stay connected with community-created broadband infrastructure.

In New York City, Making Solar Power Affordable and Accessible Is About ‘More Than Just Putting Panels on Rooftops’

Working at the intersection of climate change and environmental justice in the heart of New York City is the Latino community-based nonprofit UPROSE. Founded in 1966, and based in the city’s largest maritime industrial district, the nonprofit organizes sustainable development projects and advocates for policies in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Sunset Park and throughout all five boroughs. Their Sunset Park Solar project, which “will be New York City’s first community solar project owned and operated by a cooperative for the benefit of local residents and businesses,” will save its participants about 15 percent on their monthly electric bill, once the solar system has been installed and is operational.

The road to the project’s completion has been long and challenging due to the slow-moving gears of the existing governmental processes, according to Summer Sandoval, energy democracy coordinator at UPROSE.

“Sunset Park Solar is about more than just putting panels on rooftops; it’s about creating a scalable and replicable community-led model for the development of solar projects that build long-term community wealth and exhibit a Just Transition,” Sandoval says. “This project builds on the traditional community solar model but is vastly different from anything that’s been done before, and it’s challenging to navigate our way through processes, financial models and incentive programs that weren’t built for projects like this.”

Sunset Park Solar would allow for about 200 subscribers to utilize renewable energy and would not require any of them to install solar panels on their homes or pay any upfront costs, as UPROSE and its partners in the project have already done the heavy lifting. The panels for this project will be installed on the Brooklyn Army Terminal rooftop and will provide 685 kilowatts of clean electricity. In addition to the tangible cost-saving benefits to residents, the project has shown that community-led clean energy projects are possible.

“Even before construction, this project has demonstrated that the climate solutions are coming from the people on the front lines, and hopefully decision-makers see that as well and invest their resources directly into those front-line communities,” says Sandoval.

A Bright Spot in Detroit With Solar Streetlights

In Highland Park, Michigan, a city that sits within the City of Detroit, the nonprofit Soulardarity has been fighting for energy democracy since 2012.

“The idea of energy democracy is essentially focused on ensuring that the people who are affected the most by the decisions in energy should be the ones with the greatest amount of say in the process,” says Soulardarity Program Director Rafael Mojica.

Energy costs for city residents have been skyrocketing for decades (and continue to do so). The rate hikes were largely at the hands of the investor-owned, state-regulated utility company, DTE Energy, which made an interesting demand when Highland Park residents could no longer afford to pay the maintenance bill for their streetlights.

“In 2011, DTE gave [an] ultimatum to the City of Highland Park that they [either] pay the debt associated with the streetlights’ maintenance costs or lose them, and unfortunately, the city was in no position to pay their debt, so DTE followed through and removed more than 1,000 streetlights from the city,” says Mojica. “They didn’t remove everything. They left the stumps as a reminder to the community of their presence.”

When like-minded community members, led by Highland Park resident Shimekia Nichols (who is now Soulardarity’s executive director), organized as a result of the streetlight removal, they formed Soulardarity to bring light back to the community. After gathering funds from local residents, the first solar-powered streetlight was erected in 2012 in the neighborhood known as Avalon Village in Highland Park.

Soulardarity’s mission isn’t only to illuminate their streets with solar energy but also to shine a spotlight on the failed model of electricity production that for-profit, investor-owned utility providers like DTE Energy represent.

“DTE increases the rates they charge customers on a regular basis, exacerbating financial distress [for] communities of color, and despite the profits they’re raking in, they’re not using it to reinvest in their infrastructure. As a result… [the communities in Highland Park] have a poor level of service,” says Mojica. He adds that in the summer of 2021, “for example, Southeast and mid-Michigan experienced a huge number of blackouts, which are in DTE’s service area.”

Mojica points to the rippling effects of frequent power outages, especially in the summer and winter months, which can lead to refrigerated groceries that cost hundreds of dollars going bad as a result of these outages or can lead to rising hotel costs that may cripple the budgets of poor families living from paycheck to paycheck.

Currently, Soulardarity has been sifting through the language of the latest budget bills to ensure they provide funding for renewable energy projects in communities like Highland Park. Specifically, Soulardarity is seeking funds from the Department of Energy’s Communities LEAP program, which provides “supportive services valued at up to $16 million for community-driven clean energy transitions.”

Soulardarity has also completed an analysis in partnership with the Union of Concerned Scientists to outline what a clean energy, net-zero future would look like in Highland Park in the future called Let Communities Choose.

“Ultimately, we want to break free from DTE, and in this analysis we found that it is doable,” says Mojica. “Not only that, but there are a number of community benefits that would come with the transition to renewable energy in the form of job creation and economic development, and our communities would be healthier and safer—basically, dramatically improving the quality of life for all community members.”

Internet Access for All American Communities as a Gateway to Democracy and Equity

While the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy sources like solar is essential to preventing further global warming and boosting local economies, power also comes in the form of information. When access to high-speed internet is controlled by corporations that operate in a similarly monopolistic manner as utility companies like DTE Energy, underserved communities suffer, especially during situations like the ongoing pandemic.

“If you aren’t fortunate enough to live in a place with affordable and reliable high-speed internet, you are essentially locked out of participating in modern society in so many ways, whether it’s distance learning, telemedicine, entertainment or even civic participation,” says Sean Gonsalves, senior reporter for the Institute for Local Self Reliance’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative. “These problems really came to the fore during the pandemic.”

Currently, the high-speed internet market and broadband infrastructure, especially in rural communities, are inadequate, according to Gonsalves. When internet service providers are for-profit monopolies, large segments of the country either can’t afford reliable internet service, or don’t have access to high-speed broadband.

“When a community is reliant on outdated technology like DSL, they can’t even have a Zoom meeting, and good luck sending an email,” says Gonsalves. “In a healthy functioning market, people have choices, but when it comes to broadband, there aren’t options, which leads to high prices, poor customer service and bad coverage.”

To gain more reliable and affordable internet service, cities across the United States have formed their own municipal broadband networks to compete with the existing monopolies. Cities like Longmont, Colorado; Wilson, North Carolina; and Chattanooga, Tennessee, have transformed their economies and communities after organizing to create their own municipal broadband networks.

“The golden child is EPB in Chattanooga, which is a city-owned utility,” says Gonsalves. “Not every community can do what Chattanooga has, but in terms of benefits, the return on investment was $2.7 billion in the first 10 years of operation.” With federal legislation like the American Rescue Plan and Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act setting aside resources to increase and strengthen community broadband networks, Gonsalves and others at the Community Broadband Networks Initiative are hopeful that more communities will organize and take advantage of these opportunities and create their own broadband networks with the use of federal funding.

“The infrastructure bill represents a watershed moment in terms of the largest investment by the federal government in broadband ever,” says Gonsalves. “Even private investors are showing interest in community broadband, and now is the time for communities to start planning and pushing forward in an organized and strategic way.”

This article was produced by Local Peace Economy, a project of the Independent Media Institute.


Aric Sleeper is an independent journalist whose work, which covers topics including labor, drug reform, food and more, has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle and other publications local to California’s Central Coast. In addition to his role as a community reporter, he has served as a government analyst and bookseller.

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Mobilized TV on Free Speech TV  takes a deep look at our world, the consequences of human activity on our planet, and how we can reverse and prevent existing and future crises from occurring. Mobilized reveals life on our planet as a system of systems which all work together for the optimal health of the whole. The show delves into deep conversations with change-makers so people can clearly take concerted actions.

Produced by Steven Jay and hosted by Jeff Van Treese.

Mobilized’s TV series Mobilized TV  premieres on Free Speech TV on Friday, October 15, 2021. All episodes appear:

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