I visited Atlanta last year and some parts of the route will be re-traced to make this 20,000 mile Peace sign. I almost went around it this year though until I noticed that the WAND chapter here was hosting a Mother’s Day for Peace event with keynote speaker Alice Walker. Atlanta WAND is the local chapter of a national organization that” seeks to channel women’s voices into a powerful movement for change.” I was finally able to contact someone over the phone and they offered me a $10 activist ticket. It felt great to be acknowledged as an activist, even when I realized that means I am broke…..
It was a powerful setting- from the second I rode onto campus. Spelman in a historically black, four year womens liberal arts college. (that’s a mouthful). Howard Zinn, one of my favorite authors and activists, was a teacher there, actually teaching Alice Walker, one of my other favorite authors.
There were about 1,000 people at this fund raising event. It was so inspirational to be in a room of people working and believing in Peace. The event also honored local activists Jackie Adams and Alice Lovelace, older women whose actions and determination have helped to improve our world. I realized we are often unaware of all the people dedicating their lives to Peace work. There were a lot of little speeches and hurrahs before Alice came out, as there often are in these events. People in these organizations work very hard, do good work, all for little money-so I was happy to applaud them.
Alice was far more soft spoken than I imagined-for all the impact her work has had. Her presence is commanding, delivered with a Jedi’s strength and magnetism. She opened by offering several definitions of Peace, most of them personal, saying it is more than just the opposite of War, but something we can all have in our immediate lives. I’m falling off my church pew at this point, within just five minutes.
Her story is inspirational. Her first protest was at age 15 and she has worked since then for social change. Her skill as a speaker is in her truth as a human. She has not just the life experiences, but the intelligence to synthesize meaning from them and teach it to others.
When she addresses greed, war, Peace, and the collective consciousness, it is with such authenticity that even naysayers would be in agreement. She navigates difficult terrain that often divide us politically, by focusing on simple truths. She quickly isolates the truths and reminds us what to work towards and how to do so.
For instance, saying that, “while war may be old, it is not wise,” and reminding us of the percentage of children and innocents who die in each war. She asked that world leaders be the ones to take the losses of children, innocents and animals into consideration. It is a good point, and why the Peace Alliance is working towards legislation for the Department of Peace, to have a dep’t that presents this information to the Dept of Defense. Like I said earlier, this something even Thomas Jefferson thought fit for the Constitution.
Alice also compared the same greed her parents had to the greed that motivates leaders to start wars. It was an interesting conclusion and an appeal for accountability, which can only start by recognizing there are no shades of grey to something like greed.
Her personal story is an amazing one, as are her many books. Since no one had even charged me the $10 to get in, not sure how that happened, I purchased a book and joined my place in line for her signature. Once I was face to face with her, I asked for a picture. The person behind me then jumped up and began confessing her adoration. I stood there, with a piece of paper in my hand, with this website on it. Her bodyguard noticed this and nudged Alice. “She has something for you.”
Alice turns to me to accept the paper. I tell her what an honor it would be for her to leave her definition here on the Wall of Beliefs. Her eyes are staring into me and everyone around us has disappeared, she is a powerful woman with incredible presence. She asks what this is all about and I say that I am driving 20,000 miles to make a Peace sign on the U.S. map and to hopefully inspire Americans to articulate what Peace means to them, as this is the only way they/we can acquire it.
I say I believe Peace is like health, something we must work at daily, not just wait until we are sick. She nods, as does her bodyguard. The three of us are having a counsel it feels. I tell her how exciting it was that she opened by defining Peace. She looks deeply into me again and bows, saying something like, I hope you complete this ride with mindfulness and be good to yourself too. Her bodyguard bows, we all bow, and say Namaste.
Namaste means the light in me bows to the light in you. It is a way of thanking another for an exchange. I first heard it in yoga class.
She had concluded her speech by reading from her latest children’s book, Why War is never a good idea. Sometimes the strongest messages are heard when conveyed simply.
I will conclude this entry with an excerpt of her interview about the book. And by saying that I am so glad I am visiting Atlanta. More on that and the incredible hosts I have here. This passage is profound because it addresses the questions we should ask before agreeing to go to war. I don’t feel like I have been taught to think about war in the way that is reflected below. I’m posting it because whether or not we go to war, we should think about these things.
“However, seen from the perspective of my children’s book, there is no such thing as a “good” war, because war of any kind is immoral in its behavior. War lands heavily on the good and the not good with equal impact. It kills humans and other animals and destroys crops. It ignites and decimates forests and it pollutes rivers. It obliterates beauty, whether in landscape, species, or field. It leaves poison in its wake. Grief. Suffering. When war enters the scene, no clean water anywhere is safe. No fresh air can survive. War attacks not just people, “the other,” or “enemy,” it attacks Life itself: everything that humans and other species hold sacred and dear. A war on a people anywhere is a war on the Life of the planet everywhere. It doesn’t matter what the politics are, because though politics might divide us, the air and the water do not. We are all equally connected to the life-support system of planet Earth, and war is notorious for destroying this fragile system.”