Category Archives: Activism

First Tentative Outline for Future Conversations

Ghandi gentle way quillFirst Tentative Outline for Future Conversations

By Lennart Lundh

I’ve been a pacifist for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t in keeping with family tradition. Growing up, there were heated arguments at the dinner table. There were threats and physical violence. For a while, I was outcast and homeless. I thought war was, at best, stupid. My father, who built weapons prototypes as part of his daily job, regretted not being able to serve in World War II and Korea. It wasn’t until I came back from Vietnam and talked about what I’d seen, and until I stood against the Navy and refused to return to Vietnam, that an uneasy truce was established.

Dad thought war was necessary because it was the solution to otherwise insoluble problems, while I was focused on war as eternally causing problems. We were both wrong. The Forever War in Afghanistan changed his perspective. The end of “my” war in Southeast Asia changed mine. For both of us, nothing was globally changed by war or its temporary absence.

Don’t get me wrong. My father will cheer the soldiers as they march to another war if he’s convinced there’s a cause worth killing for. I still want to see Chamberlain’s hope to avert war in our time be more than a foolish dream or a bargain with the Devil. Whichever side of the argument we stand on, the progression is what’s confused and stymied us. Whether we fight a war or refuse to take part in one, we can’t achieve some magic Peace on Earth that will automatically be followed by eternal Goodwill towards Men. Quite the opposite. We need to take care of each other first. We must learn to be kind without thinking about it. Only through a culture of Goodwill can we have Peace, or at least a chance of it.

I’m not talking about mastering personal or universal perfection before we can get there. That’s where I think the Christian New Testament goes astray, with its poorly hidden undercurrent of, “Be perfect, or abandon hope.” Even worse, it’s where Thoreau’s one-person social experiment at Walden Pond missed the mark, saying of his neighbor, “I’m perfect. You’re not.” Rather, I’d prefer to be Gandhi-an in approach and attitude: I’m flawed. We’re flawed. But I’m working on it, and a majority of us working together at it the best we can in each moment make it do-able.

Finally (for the moment), is that very human matter of patience. To drag Jim Morrison into this, we want the world, and we want it now. If we can’t have it now, we’ll throw up our arms in frustration and go do something else. On this, too, I recommend Gandhi’s view, as well as Merton’s: It’s anything but easy. It probably won’t happen today, and tomorrow is iffy. I’m seventy this year, so, for me, it might not happen at all. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying my best, contributing to the collective effort and future. It means remembering King, keeping his mountain in sight, and having the faith that we can help others reach the summit.

My current, mutable two cents’ worth. What say ye?

Lennart LundhLennart Lundh is a great-grandfather and writer. He served in Vietnam in support of Marine Corps operations in 1968 and 1969, and was discharged as a conscientious objector in 1970.

 

Copyright © 2019 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

Historical Change, by Carmel Mawle

41644111_304358337033968_3514319838484889600_n-1 (2)As founder and president of the board of directors, I want to clarify that Writing for Peace is a Not-for-Profit (501c3) entity and, as such, we do not endorse political candidates. Our goal is to encourage young writers to do their own research and empower them to make a difference in the causes that are important to them.

With that disclaimer, I want to emphasize that I write now as a citizen of these United States, exercising my First Amendment rights.

It cannot be denied that the United States I love, the nation in which I was born and raised, has an abhorrent history. Built upon a foundation of genocide and slavery, much of the folklore around “old glory” is thinly veiled propaganda. But, like mythologies over the eons, there are truths, and something to be learned of both the best and worst of human nature.

George Washington, who led the American resisters to victory, became known to the Native Americans as “Town Destroyer.” After decimating a village, his troops would skin the bodies of Iroquois from the hips down to make “leather stockings.”

Abraham Lincoln, one of my personal favorites (and I highly recommend George Saunder’s novel, Lincoln in the Bardo), ended the Civil War and emancipated the slaves. But he also ordered the largest mass execution, 38 Sioux men who had been accused of war crimes.

The United States has (and continues to) supported dictators, interfered with sovereign nations, and committed war crimes and, despite rhetoric to the contrary, capitalism is more often than not the driving force behind both foreign and domestic policies.

There have, of course, been historical high marks. The signing, on December 10th, 1948, of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, showed aspirations of our highest selves. In retrospect, I have to wonder if witnessing the worst of humanity at the close of WWII and the knowledge that U.S. corporations were collaborating and profiting by German atrocities while our soldiers gave their lives fighting fascism, had reached something deep within each of us, our responsibility to our brothers and sisters. Whatever it was, our government has studiously avoided being held accountable for violations of that signed declaration (or the Geneva Conventions) ever since.

Still, we have made some progress. We’ve made advancements in Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, and Environmental Rights (among others). I’m sitting here trying to remember whether that has ever happened without a fight. Would I sound too cynical if I said that, unless the oligarchy also profits by those advancements, they won’t be given to us on a silver platter? No, when it comes to human rights, we have historically had to demand change.

We march, we protest, we write letters and create art and raise awareness so our numbers will continue to swell. And brave journalists are at the forefront of these battles, showing us body bags and civilian casualties, the dogs and billy clubs and lynchings. They show us Black Lives destroyed by police brutality, white supremacism once again empowered to raise its ugly entitled head, refugees at our borders and detained children, school shootings and N.R.A. funded representatives with their bulging pockets, floods and fires and an unprotected environment in decline, and perhaps worst of all, voter suppression.

Current events, and our checkered past, have shown us that we can’t count on our government to do the right thing. Change depends on you and me.

If there was ever a time to march or write for peace it is now. Join me in marching to your polling station, filling out your ballot, and signing your name. Vote. Alone we may be a single wavering candle, but together we are the sun, shining light on this administration’s lies and oppression.

And if you need help getting to the polls, contact me at my personal website. I’ll help you in whatever way I can. We’re in this together.

Now, back to our regular programming: Thank you for supporting Writing for Peace.

~~~

Carmel Mawle writes from the northern Colorado Rocky Mountains where she lives with her husband and Max, a ten-pound border terrier mix who firmly believes he’s a mountain dog. You can find her blog at www.carmelmawle.com.

 

Copyright © 2018 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Partial Blueprint for Becoming Citizen Journalists, by Djelloul Marbrook

 

keyboard

A Partial Blueprint for Becoming Citizen Journalists

By Djelloul Marbrook

The Atlantic’s recent story that libraries are moving to fill the vacuum left by the corporatization and consolidation of local news media is one of those rare American occasions when good news bores a hole of light through the maelstrom of bad news.

The idea is as promising as it is challenging. Local libraries depend on local political support, and politicians are unlikely to greet any improvement in local news coverage with enthusiasm. The lack of transparency caused by media consolidation into the hands of six right-wing oligarchs suits politicians just fine, even the so-called progressives among them.

But all news is essentially local, even when it comes from Washington. And the destruction of local news coverage by the greed-driven movement to consolidate the press is nothing less than a national tragedy. Here’s a modest example. When I was a news editor at The Washington Star our newsroom quickly noticed that almost to a man the Watergate villains came from places where the press was less than diligent, less than aggressive.  The Watergate perps were accustomed to getting away with corruption and they brought that corruption to Washington, just as some of them (notably Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, former Baltimore County executive and governor of Maryland) had brought it to county seats and state capitals. That’s how important a vigilant, independent press is.

Libraries with their space and high-speed Internet connections may not be the only resort for citizen journalists who aspire to fill the dangerous vacuum left by corporate greed. Bookstores, art galleries, indeed all commercial and public spaces devoted to community are potential headquarters for informal committees or individuals producing blogs, email reports and websites to share news and opinion.

Citizen journalists can be recruited from all walks of life—retirees, students, veterans. They can be nurses, lawyers, accountants, cops, farmers, anyone interested in finding out what is really going on in a community, not what the politicians tell you is going on. Those politicians leave paper trails of their good deeds and their wrongdoing, and those paper trails are public records accessible in town and city halls, county administrative buildings and other places where public records are kept. Those records, not what politicians tell constituents and reporters, tell the story of a community’s real life, its hidden life, the life all too many politicians seek to keep hidden. They may consist of town council or school board or zoning board minutes, or departmental reports to mayors and managers and supervisors, or accountants’ analyses, or the recommendations of consultants, or the budgets of the police, fire and other agencies. They’re all public, and they all tell much more than any politician is apt to tell you.

Television, and to some extent print media too, depends on talking heads, on imagery to convey the news, and all are often more concerned with dramatization than enlightenment. But the Founding Fathers left us a failsafe, the public nature of the proceedings of government. What is really happening is in the fine print. When government approves a contract, for example, that contract is on record somewhere, and an under-the-table deal between some local official and the contractor will suggest itself in a study of that contract and who signed it. This is exactly the kind of reporting the media are no longer doing, and their negligence is a danger to the republic. You can change that, not at the polls every two years but right now.

You don’t have to be a journalist to ferret out this information, to read and understand it, to share it, to comment about it. You just have to be curious and dogged. It doesn’t matter how well a story is written, it only matters that the story is written. Over time such citizen groups will become skilled if self-taught journalists persist, journalism schools and their high-priced classes notwithstanding. I promise you this, because I’m self-taught and a veteran news editor and reporter. Your experience will teach you.

The Internet, just as envisioned by its founder, Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, is the shining hope of journalism, with constraints of its own, but not the financially daunting constraints of newspapers and TV stations, which require massive financial backing. Today the real estate of most newspapers is worth more than the newspapers.

Retirees and all our aging population are an incredible resource for this citizen project. Who better to study the decisions of a town council, for example, than a retired lawyer? Who better to study the police budget and annual report than a retired police officer? Who better to consider the local health care situation than a retired nurse? But they must not be daunted by their lack of reporting experience. If they can speak intelligibly they can do this job, they can rise to this challenge.

Many independent stores, such as booksellers, are trying to find ways to attract people to them, and this is one way they can do it. For example, the local book dealer can mount a 26-inch screen in the shop window to display local news and opinion and photographs. That’s journalism, that’s news reporting, and it counts. It can transform your community from a fiefdom of politicians to an implement of change for the better. It can keep local government honest. For example, what about that broken traffic light at Sixth and Newton? When will the town fix it? How much will it cost? What about that pothole at the corner of 8th and Columbia that has already blown out dozens of tires? Why did Tom Smith see the town’s snowplow clearing the private driveway of the mayor before all the main streets were cleared? Just asking the questions helps clear the air. Ask them. People will provide the answers as on the TV show “The Wisdom of the Crowd”.  It’s called crowd-sourcing.

The news can be delivered in all sorts of ways: on digital screens, by email, in blogs, websites, almost any way you can imagine. The screens can be placed anywhere the public can see them. And the information can be revised at any time—corrected, improved, deleted.

An excellent example of such a blog, delivered by listserv to our email address every day, is the lively Gossips of Rivertown in Hudson, New York, which as of now is getting more than 12,000 page views a week. It covers the city council and many issues of interest not only to Hudson residents but also to residents of a wider area.

Think how exhilarating such a project can be, how it can inspire students to become journalists and inspire ordinary citizens to become active in their communities, how it can give hope to the voiceless, to the ignored. All you need is a computer, perhaps a tablet, a camera, and your own common sense.

Above all, don’t buy into the idea that journalism is for professionals. It’s not. It’s about refreshing the republic. It’s about keeping American government at all levels honest. It can do much more to change things than electing a demagogue who promises you everything while lining his own pockets. Take the responsibility for cleaning up American governance into your own hands, not on election day but right now. Every day. And, by the way, have fun.

djelloulDjelloul Marbrook is a member of the Writing for Peace Panel of Advisers and is serving as our Young Writers Fiction Judge. Marbrook is the acclaimed author of five books of fiction, five books of poetry, and five more books are currently forthcoming from Leaky Boot Press, United Kingdom. Marbrook maintains a lively presence on Twitter and Facebook. A U.S. Navy veteran and retired newspaper editor, he lives in the mid-Hudson Valley with his wife Marilyn. His newspaper career included the Providence (RI) Journal, the Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, the Baltimore Sun, the Winston-Salem Journal, the Washington Star, and Media News dailies in northeast Ohio and northern New Jersey. He is the editor-in-chief of Arabesques, a trilingual online and print literary quarterly.

Nothing True Has a NameMarbrook’s latest book of poetry is Nothing True Has A Name, published by Leaky Boot Press. These alchemical poems challenge our compulsion to categorize and pigeonhole. They inquire deeply into the passion for containment symbolized by classical Greek vessels. The poems seek to define the idea of ennobling elixirs. The image of galleys sailing on the winds and laden with Greek amphorae tied to each other by their necks haunts this collection. The poet concludes that names inevitably mislead us. He urges us to transcend them, not revel in them.

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From Writing for Peace Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

 

New Defense Strategy: War With Great Nations & Arms Race

Dr. Margaret FlowersThis week, following the recent announcement of a new National Defense Strategy that focuses on conflicts with great powers and a new arms race, the Pentagon announced an escalation of nuclear weapons development. The United States’ military is spread across the world, including several dangerous conflict areas that could develop into an all-out war, possibly in conflict with China or Russia. This comes at a time when US empire is fading, something the Pentagon also recognizes and the US is falling behind China economically.

2018 Young Writers Contest

Writing for Peace challenges young writers (ages 13-19) to expand their empathy skills by researching an unfamiliar culture and writing from the point-of-view of a character within that new world, while exploring social, political, and environmental pressures, and universal themes.

  • The deadline for entrance is April 1st, 2018.
  • There is no fee for participation.
  • Writers, ages 13-19, may submit in one of three categories – poetry, fiction, or nonfiction.

Check out the complete guidelines here.

Copyright © 2018 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Small Bites: Regional Chapters of Writing for Peace, by Mary Carroll-Hackett

Gandhi gentle way quill

Small (Local) Bites: Creating Regional Chapters of Writing for Peace

By Mary Carroll-Hackett

I’ve had the privilege of working with the national organization Writing for Peace for the last four years, an organization dedicated to employing the skills, talents, and energy of writers toward the goals of promoting empathy and peaceful activism. The dream of one woman, Writing for Peace was started in Colorado by our founder Carmel Mawle, with its initial goal of particularly reaching out to young writers, through an annual Young Writers’ Contest. The dedication of this organization, to writing, to working to create real social change, to the belief that art can be and is a powerful tool for changing hearts and minds, and especially the organization’s dedication to young people, mirror in nearly every way the beliefs that drive my own writing, my own teaching, so I was thrilled when asked by Carmel to join the team of Writing for Peace advisers.

Writing for Peace continues to grow under the direction of our new President, Andrea Slack Doray, and an excellent board, all committed to the mission Carmel first set out years ago.

I introduced the organization and its mission to my own students, young poets, essayists, and fiction writers, in the classes I teach at Longwood University, and they loved it. They loved how the goals aligned with their own desire and passion for activism and social justice, loved that it embodied what they saw as the vital role of artists in creating real change in the world. From this initial introduction, we created the Online Youth Summit, an educational venture featuring keynotes from young activists from all over the world, creating a safe space for young people to engage, and fostering discussions of social justice and change, as well as celebrating their own creative work.

But Colorado’s a long way from the rolling rural farmland of central Virginia, and while we share so much in common, no matter where we live, every community and region faces its own unique needs and challenges. One question that kept arising among my students was How do we bring what matters about Writing For Peace home?

So, as is my habit, to promote and make space for autonomy and ownership, (and because I learn as much from them as I’ll ever teach them), I answered my students’ question with a question. I sent a message through an online thread to a list of twenty or so of my current students and alums, asking, “How do you see us bringing Writing for Peace here to Virginia? What would a regional chapter of WFP look like to you?”

The thread exploded, with the energy and enthusiasm and wisdom young people can bring, and the idea of WFP Regional Chapters began to grow, including community activists in our area, and supporters of the arts, as we developed the proposal, sought board approval, and began the steps to making a first chapter of Writing for Peace a reality here in Central Virginia.

This past Sunday, using the magic of online video conferencing, we gathered, a small group of like-minded collaborators, for the first meeting of the Central Virginia Chapter of Writing for Peace.

Writers of all backgrounds and ages, supporters of the arts, community activists, we, as a chapter, along with anyone who wants to join our efforts, have come together to do what we can and use the skills we have to make our own communities and region better, stronger, more peaceful places for all who live here. We believe, too, that one of the most effective roles we can play is in acknowledging, assisting, and providing support to other activists and organizations already doing good work on the ground where we are.

We envision the work we will do together arising from three primary goals:

Awareness. Education. Action.

In every day real-world terms, we envision chapters affecting change through projects we develop as a group, through the support we extend to efforts already in place in our communities, and through our own writing, using our voices right where we are.

I tell my students when they’re overwhelmed, as so many of us are these days:

Take small bites. We can’t run to the UN and create world peace all by ourselves. But we can, each day, in our daily conversations, promote peace and be willing to listen, even to those with whom we don’t agree. We can’t run to the White House and single-handedly stop the onslaught against the civil rights of American citizens. But we can show up for our own neighbors, our colleagues and peers, doing whatever we can to defend and protect their rights, and to let those in endangered populations, through real presence and action, know that we stand ready as allies, that we are truly there for and with them. We can’t cure world hunger, or solve homelessness, or rescue every child caught in domestic violence or fostercare. But we can work at food banks, distribute coats and blankets to the homeless, or come together to raise funds in support of domestic violence shelters.

I recently opened a small food bank in my office, so that any student who struggles with hunger on our campus can come in and be helped. When they show up in my office for food, I don’t ask their politics, don’t ask how they voted. In that moment, in my community, on the local level, politics don’t matter. In that moment, in my community, on the local level, I can make a real-world difference. And in that small act, both of us, the student helped, and I, can move a little more peacefully through the rest of our day.

Doing what we can, where we are, with what we have, to help—that’s what matters.

This is the heart of Writing for Peace, at the national and international level, and now, at the community level as well. So Writing for Peace chapters were born.

For anyone who is interested, or wants guidance, in starting a chapter, the Central Virginia Chapter stands ready to help in any way we can. For more information, check out our page on how to start a chapter here.

We hope that this inaugural chapter will inspire others to do the same, to come together to create Writing for Peace chapters across the country, across our beautiful planet.

This, we believe, is how real change happens. This is how we work together, boots on the ground, to make the world safer, kinder, more peaceful for all of us.

Mary Carroll-Hackett
Member, Central Virginia Chapter
Regional Chapter Liaison
Board Member, Writing for Peace

Mary Carroll-Hackett, Writing for Peace Adviser2Mary Carroll-Hackett is the author of The Real Politics of LipstickAnimal Soul, If We Could Know Our Bones, The Night I Heard Everything, Trailer Park Oracle, and A Little Blood, A Little Rain. Her newest collection of prose poems, Death for Beginners, will be out from Kelsey Books in September 2017. Learn more about Writing for Peace Adviser Mary Carroll-Hackett and her work here.

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Take Advantage of Our Donation Match Offer:

An anonymous donor has generously offered to match all donations up to $2500 during the month of December. This, coupled with our holiday Fundraising Special (below), means your contribution will go further and supplement more libraries than ever before!

5 books 2

Holiday Fundraising Special!
During the month of December, we will donate a complete five-volume set of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts to the public school library of your choice for every tax-deductible donation of $75 or more!

Our administration is board operated, and all members, board and advisers, work on a volunteer basis. 100% of contributions go to support our mission. Writing for Peace is a 501c3 nonprofit corporation, Federal Tax ID Number, 45-2968027.

Ours is a simple mission with profound affect on the lives of our young writers:

Through education and creative writing, Writing for Peace seeks to cultivate the empathy that allows minds to open to new cultural views, to value the differences as well as the hopes and dreams that unite all of humanity, to develop a spirit of leadership and peaceful activism.

Donate now to take advantage of our special library offer and see your contribution doubled!

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

On Empathy, by Andrea W. Doray

 

Empathy unites the hopes and dreams of humanity

by Andrea W. Doray

From left to right: Picture Me Here mentor Meredith Turk, program fellow Gulsum Katmir, and Writing for Peace president Andrea Doray. Gulsum is also director of the Mosaic Foundation, an interfaith alliance in Denver, CO.

From left to right: Picture Me Here mentor Meredith Turk, program fellow Gulsum Katmir, and Writing for Peace president Andrea Doray. Gulsum is also director of the Mosaic Foundation, an interfaith alliance in Denver, CO.

One Friday night recently, I was in Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Ukraine. I smelled the jasmine and heard the mourning doves of Syria. I savored lunch in Afghanistan. I felt buildings collapse in Mexico, and witnessed the capture of a terrorist in Iraq. I visited a hospital, an airport, and a high school hallway. I met siblings and parents and grandparents, and felt the loss of those who are gone.

Why was I so fortunate? Because I am mentoring writers in a fellowship from Picture Me Here, a storytelling program in Denver, Colorado, USA, for refugees, immigrants and others who have been displaced. The Picture Me Here program uses writing, audio, and video to help people explore their cultural and artistic identities through their stories of migration, memory, and place. That Friday evening, these fellows debuted the audio versions of their first stories.

I was partnered with two young women to mentor them through writing these stories: Sunday, of Burmese descent, and Gulsum, from Turkey. Gulsum, 30, and her husband came to the United States 10 years ago to get their master’s degrees (hers in economics from Penn State), never intending to stay here. In her recorded story on Friday, she recalled receiving a phone call from her husband with news of the 2016 attempted coup in Turkey. In that moment, she knew she could never go home.

In her story, Gulsum said: “Unfortunately, the [government’s] scapegoat was the social movement called Hizmet – [whose members] believe in peace all around the world and promote interfaith dialogue – declared as the enemy of the Turkish state … My worries were because we were planning to go back to Turkey and I am [part] of the Hizmet movement [and President] Erdogan now could do anything to [us].” Gulsum knows she will be jailed upon her return, even if just to visit her parents.

Sunday – who was born to Burmese parents in a refugee camp in Thailand and who came to the U.S. at 13 – wrote: “I lived my whole life in the camp, only leaving when my family came to the United States. Because my mother could not afford to go to a hospital, I was born at home in the refugee camp and not granted Thai citizenship. But I did not have citizenship in Burma, because I was born in Thailand. I didn’t know which country I belonged to.”

Sunday, now 18, says she looks forward to finally gaining citizenship – in the U.S. – and: “I hope to make a living serving others. I am so happy to achieve for what I want.”

Like the rest of us at Writing for Peace, I am deeply committed to our mission to cultivate – through education and creative writing – the empathy that allows us to value our diversities and differences as well as the hopes and dreams that unite all of humanity.

Through Sunday’s and Gulsum’s intensely personal stories – and the stories of the young Ethiopian man who had to wait 10 years to bring his mother here, the Iraqi man who had worked with the U.S. military there, the siblings from Afghanistan who cried when they remembered their grandfather, and the young woman from Syria who contrasted her life from before and during the war – I felt the empathy swell in me and the others in the room, uniting us in common hopes and dreams. In moments like these, I truly believe peace is achievable.

And that’s how I see it … from my little corner of the world.

# # #

Andrea W. Doray is an award-winning journalist, author, poet, and essayist in Denver, CO, and is occasionally a columnist for The Denver Post through their Colorado Voices panel. Her weekly opinion column, Alchemy, which appears in Colorado Community Media newspapers, has received a first-place award from the Colorado Press Association. Learn more about Andrea and her work here.

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Writing for Peace News

The Writing for Peace Board of Directors extends our deepest condolences to those affected by the recent shootings, and asks…

What Can I Do?

by Jody Rein, Writing for Peace Board Member

More senseless tragedies in America; more assault weapons used to kill and maim the most innocent among us. We feel increasingly impotent, searching for something we can do that will make an impact.

Of course, we can never eradicate violent behavior; humans are imperfect. But we are NOT helpless to change the multiplier—the gun.

Gun safety laws fail to pass at the Federal level because a relatively few people, primarily through the NRA, give a lot of money to fund political campaigns. But your vote can weigh more than their money. When thousands of constituents vow to withhold votes, NRA-funded legislators’ loyalty waivers. We have the numbers: the vast majority of Americans, including many NRA members, support reasonable gun safety laws.

When it comes to influencing lawmakers in the United States, know this:

  1. Your call matters. Your email matters. Most people keep silent.
  2. Most gun legislation today is done at the state and local level. This is where you can have the most influence.

Actions that Make a Difference

  1. Use the Gun Law Navigatorto learn generally about your state’s gun laws.
  2. Find out what laws are on the books in your state, and call or write your local representative to express your opinion. How do you find out? Google local chapters of MomsDemandAction OR the Brady Campaign OR simply “gun safety advocate [your state].”  In Colorado, for example, we have www.coloradoceasefire.org, as well as branches of the national advocacy groups listed above. Colorado Ceasefire is a one-stop-shop for information. It lists upcoming legislation, legislator voting records and NRA ratings, and actions you can take.

Most of these groups also have email alerts; sign up. Act when asked.

  1. Volunteer, either for a gun safety advocacy group, or for the political campaign of someone who supports gun safety. We need you in 2018, desperately. We can’t change the Federal laws until we change the people who refuse to enact reasonable gun-safety legislation.

We can do this.

 

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Poetry fuels the fire; powerful play… by Andrea W. Doray

President’s Corner:

Poetry fuels the fire; and the powerful play goes on…

by Andrea W. Doray

Andrea Doray

Not surprisingly, I am in love with the written word. I love the power of the pen on the page to move, amuse, anger, or delight. The power to take us places we’ve never been before. The power to take us back to times and places we have come from.

Fiction, nonfiction such as biographies and creative nonfiction, memoirs, and essays have always had their devoted followers. Poetry is now also finding its way further into the mainstream … and even into the commercial realm as well. In an ad last year for the Apple iPad Air, we heard Robin William’s voice in his portrayal of John Keating, the beloved English teacher in the U.S. film Dead Poets Society.

From the sound track, replicated in the iPad ad, Williams/Keating quotes the poet Walt Whitman … but it’s far more than a quote, more than just a reading of words on the page. When Williams recites from “O, Me! O, Life!”, it is a performance that is as much a celebration of Whitman’s poetry as of the life about which Whitman writes. And for those of us who need a reminder of the profound power of Walt Whitman’s words, Williams gives it to us with a tantalizing invitation: “…the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

Our just-released fifth edition of DoveTales: An International Journal of the Arts, published by Writing for Peace, features both new and established poets (as well as talented artists, photographers, essayists, and fiction writers), writing on the theme of “Refugees and the Displaced.” As Carmel Mawle, founder of Writing for Peace and editor-in-chief for the issue, says: “Their suffering is in the front of our collective consciousness.” Carmel reminds us that their situation has descended to new levels of hostility and danger:

What can we do to change this trend? We march. We show up at airports. We boycott. We call and write and demand accountability from our legislators. We write to shine a light … and we are making a difference. Don’t let the drumbeat of dystopia dampen your passion for justice.

As Carmel tells us, this book is fuel for the fire in our bellies.

* * *

Sam Hamill, revolutionary poet and scholar, co-founder of Poets again the War to protest the conflict in Iraq, is our featured advisor in “Refugees and the Displaced,” and we are fortunate to include three poems from his book, Habitation.

When celebrated poet Martín Espada was asked to comment on the release of Habitation, he said: “When future generations want to know the truth of these times, they will turn to the words of Sam Hamill.”

As is evident in his poetry and his activism, Sam Hamill is a man who intensely feels the suffering of others, much like the character of John Keating from Dead Poets Society, who said, “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.”

John Keating wanted his students to experience poetry with a different perspective of authentic knowledge and feelings. In our “Refugees and the Displaced” issue of DoveTales, the winners of our Young Writers Contest share this authenticity and power in their poetry.

Poetry judge E. Ethelbert Miller says of Lisa Zou’s first-place entry, “She Serves in Ben Hai”: “This is a beautiful poem – haunting in its tenderness … about family, aging, and the shadows of displacement created by [the Vietnam] war.”

Zou writes:

“… Each summer, my grandmother knits guilt / into my waitress dress and hot privilege lacquers my tongue. / I swallow each gated community, each “made in Vietnam” sticker, / one bleached spoonful after the other.”

Second-place winner Lydia Chew’s speaker issues an apology to a young woman harassed in school because she is Muslim. Says Miller: “Chew’s work attempts to understand what is at the root of our fears.”

In “Dear M,” Chew writes:

I don’t know if you remember me, / but this is my apology. / … I remember that I never saw you, / I only saw your hijab.

As Miller commented, “There is hope (in this poem) that perhaps we all have the capacity to change – no matter how long it may take.”

* * *

To quote from Walt Whitman:

“That you are here – that life exists and identity, / That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

In poets such as Sam Hamill, Lisa Zou, and Lydia Chew – and, indeed, in writers of all stripes – we find the compassionate, empathetic members of the human race John Keating describes in Dead Poets Society. We find knowledge, and authenticity, and power. We find fuel for the fire in our bellies.

And the powerful play goes on.

###

Andrea W. Doray is an award-winning journalist, author, poet, and essayist in Denver, CO, and is occasionally a columnist for The Denver Post through their Colorado Voices panel. Her weekly opinion column, Alchemy, which appears in Colorado Community Media newspapers, has received a first-place award from the Colorado Press Association.Learn more about Andrea and her work here.

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2017 DoveTales, “Refugees and the Displaced” Now Available

2017 Front CoverThe fifth edition of our annual literary journal, DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is now available. Our “Refugees and the Displaced” themed DoveTales is a timely affront to a status quo comfortable with the suffering of others. With contributors from every continent on the planet except Antarctica (we’re working on that), this is a book that is meant to challenge assumptions and explore issues of peace, social justice, and our responsibility to our fellow man. Cover art is by Canadian artist, Allen Forrest. Purchase your copy here, or find all our books at the Denver Lighthouse Writers Litfest!

 

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

A World of Voices, by Vicki Lindner

Photo: New York City Dawn, By Hans Lienhart

A World of Voices

By Vicki Lindner

 

In May I flew to New York, my former hometown, for PEN America’s 2017 World Voices Festival, “Gender+Power.” Unlike most literary conferences, this one, founded after 9/11 by Salman Rushdie and others, focuses on international writers and combatting isolationism. This year, 200 writers from 40 countries were featured in the festival.

PEN defends unjustly imprisoned writers in countries that fear the power of the word—China, Africa, and Mexico. I’ve been a PEN member since 1982, when I worked with the Prison Committee, teaching writing to Sing Sing prisoners and judging an annual prison writing contest. PEN also sponsors prestigious book awards. Since the 2016 election, it sends members a daily update on political issues affecting freedom of expression.

The international festival was appropriate in a city teeming with immigrants (almost everyone has an accent) and foreign tourists. Every event was held in a bar, bookstore, or theater, like the Nuyorican Poet’s Café, in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn. Every panel was political, vociferously anti-Trump, and focused on identity politics, multicultural literature, sexual orientation and gender, with titles like “Unapologetically Afro Latina,”  “Identity in the Age of Globalization: An African Diasporic Perspective,” “Militancy and Sisterhood,” and “Queer Representation in the Media.” Most events featured international women writers, although some white Americans, like Marge Piercy, Jennifer Egan, and Vivian Gornick, were included. Straight white men could be glimpsed mostly in the packed audiences.

I never heard the word craft, though “how to” did come up in discussions about process, including self-editing. The panelists on “Badass Writers; Power and Truth” advocated letting the “real editor” take over, but one, who commented on white editors’ cultural blindness said, “Hey, if you don’t know what a quinceanera is, do your job! Google it!” Both Gabby Rivera, a feisty gay Latina who writes for Marvel comics, and Natalie Diaz, a Native poet at the University of Arizona (“I’m the go-to person when you need a Native to dance for all-white institutions.”) spoke about anxiety. Some eschewed Twitter for fear of encountering nasty Tweets. Gabby recommend Lexapro: “It made me a better person.”

I attended three events in the Housing Works Bookstore in Soho, my old neighborhood, where every product and service is donated to help homeless AIDS victims. (Free condoms at the counter.) On one panel, “Forbidden: Too Desirous,” on writing about women’s sexuality, glamorous Mona Eltahawy, the Egyptian author of Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, began by taking PEN to task for making her the panel’s only Muslim woman of color, saying that sex for African women is a vastly different issue. (I asked, “Where are the older women?”)

My favorite panel was a two-hour discussion of Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the New York mayor’s “read” for the city. The five Nigerians and one African American revealed fascinating material about their lives and views as they related personally to Adichie’s themes, creating a new, inspiring drama.

PEN World Voices is usually held in May. Most events were free, though advance tickets are recommended. You don’t have to join PEN to attend, but PEN offers memberships for writers, readers, and students from $125 to $25.  A good cause!

This essay was previously published in the Lighthouse Writers Workshop Blog and reprinted by permission of the author.

vicki Lindner (3)Writing for Peace Adviser and Lighthouse instructor Vicki Lindner is a writer whose work has appeared in the Paris Review, Kenyon Review, and Ploughshares. Learn more about her work here.

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Writing for Peace Welcomes John Holley to Board of Directors

John Holley crop3John Holley’s fiction has appeared in Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, Fast Forward, The Barcelona Review, Expressions, and received honorable mention in Glimmer Train’s very short fiction contest. His non-fiction was a regular feature in the Casper Star Tribune and the Sol Day News. John lives in Denver, and is a graduate of Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop inaugural Book Project.

 

2017 DoveTales, “Refugees and the Displaced” Now Available

2017 Front CoverThe fifth edition of our annual literary journal, DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, will be shipped on May 1st. Our “Refugees and the Displaced” themed DoveTales is a timely affront to a status quo comfortable with the suffering of others. With contributors from every continent on the planet except Antarctica (we’re working on that), this is a book that is meant to challenge assumptions and explore issues of peace, social justice, and our responsibility to our fellow man. Cover art is by Canadian artist, Allen Forrest. You can purchase your copy here.

 

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

First Amendment Essential to Peaceful Activism, by Andrea Doray, Plus Young Writer Contest Results

President’s Corner:

A free press, and freedom of speech, are essential to peaceful activism

by Andrea W. Doray

Andrea DorayI am a writer. And – as far as I know – no one is offering a bounty for one of my ears.

Not so for Akram Aylisli, a highly regarded writer, poet, and scriptwriter from Azerbaijan who once received that country’s most prestigious literary prize. However, in 2013, the leader of the Modern Musavat party announced that he would pay a bounty equivalent to $12,700 USD to anyone who cuts off Aylisli’s ear.

The impetus for this threat was Aylisli’s novel, Stone Dreams, which provides a sympathetic view of Armenians in Azerbaijan’s ongoing ethnic disputes. Aylisli is accused of describing only Azeri abuses against Armenians, and not addressing attacks by Armenians on Azeris.

Azerbaijan’s president also stripped Aylisli of the title of “People’s Writer.” And although the Minister of the Interior has announced that calls for violence are unacceptable, the threat to Aylisli remains.

Although he was already 75, Aylisli began contemplating seeking asylum abroad with his family. A writer, he says, has the right to express his thoughts without being considered a traitor. However, government officials in Azerbaijan have labeled Aylisli’s book as treasonous.

A year ago in 2016, Aylisli said that he had been stopped from travelling to a literary festival in Italy by border police when he arrived at Baku airport. His bags, which had already been checked in, were taken off the plane and searched. He was taken into the custody of the airport police and falsely, he says, accused of creating a public disturbance. He was interrogated and held by the police for more than 10 hours.

Aylisli, self-described as a 78-year-old writer in poor health and suffering from a heart condition, allegedly punched a border guard, a claim that was later used by the border service as an explanation for denying the border crossing.

Index on Censorship later released part of the speech he had been due to make at the Venice festival. In it, Aylisli writes: “I was a hero for some and a traitor for others. I never for a moment felt I was a hero or traitor, just a regular writer and humanitarian who is able to feel the pain of others.”

The editor of Index on Censorship Rachael Jolley told The Guardian that the Index on Censorship translated and published extracts from the speech because they felt it was important for the public to read what he was planning to say about the role of the writer and the right to criticism.

The situation, as I see it, is suppression of a perspective that does not support the nationalist stance on the Azerbaijani/Armenian conflict. And that is called censorship, even though, in Azerbaijan as in other countries – including the United States where I live – authors have a constitutional right to write what they want without pressure or government interference. Book bans and book burnings notwithstanding, American constitutional rights fare better than those in Azerbaijan.

Yet, even in a country where freedom of the press is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, writers are under siege. Just yesterday, April 30, 2017, Reince Priebus, Chief of Staff for the current administration under Donald Trump, said and repeated on the record that abridging or abolishing the First Amendment is something the Trump White House is currently considering.

It’s taken much of the USA’s 200+-year history to give voice to differing perspectives about events surrounding Native Americans, slavery, immigration, child labor, internment camps, McCarthyism, Kent State, Iran Contras, waterboarding, WikiLeaks, extraordinary rendition, and others, and one man is threatening to sue news outlets – not just in the United States – and jail individual writers and journalists on vague charges of treason. All because the sitting president doesn’t like his press coverage.

I personally have written, with critical opinions, about many of these subjects. And, to date in my country, no matter what I write, how I write it, or who I please or offend with my writing, I’m reasonably assured of keeping both my ears. And if that should ever change, we all have a much larger problem.

I do, however, have some words of advice for the White House, and for regimes around the world, that want to try. As Edward Bulwer-Lytton famously wrote in 1839 – and as systematic oppression against writers has proved since antiquity – the pen is mightier than the sword.

Let’s all pick up our pens and wield them as swords against any who would suppress and oppress free speech. Let’s accept our roles as writers and humanitarians who are able to feel the pain of others. And let’s teach our coming generations that peaceful activism begins on the page.

To this end, we at Writing for Peace are pleased to announce the winners of our 2017 Young Writers Contest. These young people from around the globe submitted their unique perspectives in poetry, essays, and fiction, and we are enriched through their wisdom. You will find last year’s winning entries in the latest edition of DoveTales, our international journal of the arts, which is now available for purchase.

If I may paraphrase Russian-based bestselling author Boris Akunin’s comments from one of his blog posts about Akram Aylisli, “Don’t you know that the state cannot win in a war with a writer?”

I couldn’t agree more.

###

Andrea W. Doray is an award-winning journalist, author, poet, and essayist in Denver, CO, and is occasionally a columnist for The Denver Post through their Colorado Voices panel. Her weekly opinion column, Alchemy, which appears in Colorado Community Media newspapers, has received a first-place award from the Colorado Press Association.Learn more about Andrea and her work here.

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2017 Young Writers Contest Results

Judges: Chip Livingston, poetry; Bradley Wetzler, nonfiction; and Nick Arvin, fiction

Poetry~

First Place: Lisa Zou from Chandler, Arizona, for “Bowls.”

Second Place: Jacqueline He from  San Jose, California, for “狐狸精 // Fox Spirit.”

Third Place: Cindy Song from Rockville, Maryland for “Scaffold.”

Fiction~

First Place: Wajudah Muheeb from Lagos, Nigeria, for “Rainbow Nation.”

Second Place: Jessica Hansen from Burwell, United Kingdom, for “The Exodus.”

Third Place: McKinsey Crozier from Cadillac, Michigan, for “Breath Free.”

Nonfiction~

First Place: Euijin Oh from Seoul, Gangnam-go, South Korea, for “The (Un)Fair Trade Culture: Piracy in the Caribbean.”

Second Place: Riley Mayes from Portland, Maine, for “Smiling at Strangers .”

Third Place: Brandon Sklarin from Smithtown, New York, for “Cuba, My Grandmother’s Journey.”

Finalists~

Poetry: Laura Hinkle & Soo Young Yun

Fiction: Andrew Kim & Ye Joon Han

Nonfiction: Celine Lee & Danielle Zarcone

Congratulations to the winners and finalists. First, second, and third place winners’ work will appear in our 2018 edition of DoveTales, edited by Andrea W. Doray. Many thanks to our judges for the time and thought they put into these decisions.

Writing for Peace would like to thank all of the writers who submitted poetry, fiction and essays for our 2017 Young Writers Contest. We understand it is no small thing to commit to a themed work and then send it out. All participants will shortly receive printed certificates. We hope you will continue to write, research, explore, and ask the questions that need to be asked. The 2018 contest will open on September 1st, 2017 and run until March 1st, 2018.

2017 DoveTales, “Refugees and the Displaced” Now Available

2017 Front CoverThe fifth edition of our annual literary journal, DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, will be shipped on May 1st. Our “Refugees and the Displaced” themed DoveTales is a timely affront to a status quo comfortable with the suffering of others. With contributors from every continent on the planet except Antarctica (we’re working on that), this is a book that is meant to challenge assumptions and explore issues of peace, social justice, and our responsibility to our fellow man. Cover art is by Canadian artist, Allen Forrest. You can purchase your copy here.

 

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

The Peace Correspondent, Vol.1, No. 2

The Peace Correspondent, Vol.1, No. 2

Identity and Extremism

We’re excited to announce the second edition of The Peace Correspondent, a solution-based periodical published three times per year by Writing for Peace. The theme of this edition is “Identity and Extremism.” In order to maintain our periodical format, it will arrive via email as a pdf attachment. You are welcome to forward the pdf  to interested friends and family. The periodical will also go up on the website here and be shared through our Facebook page.

Our next edition of the Peace Correspondent will come out on June 31st, 2017 with the theme “Climate Justice”. If you are interested in joining our Peace Journalists and writing for The Peace Correspondent, check out our guidelines here.

Congratulations to Editor-in-Chief Elissa Tivonna, Associate Editors Andrea W. Doray and Melody Rautenstraus, and our team of brilliant Peace Journalists!

 

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Famine, by Djelloul Marbrook

 riding-thermals

Famine

I’ve kicked my ass all over the world
for sipping poisons like an oenologist,
but it’s not without its rewards:
the cracks in buildings speak
and I’m the plenipotentiary
of a foreign power whose name I forget.
I enjoy name recognition
among the ghosts of certain places
because they recognize a fellow taster,
one who let the invaders settle in
before levying a dhimmi tax on them.
This is my Islam, that I died
so often standing up, stepping out
to get a breath of air and going in
for all that crap about genetics;
my Islam is noticing what’s going on,
burning the authorized version in oil drums
under bridges, growing abutments
to support my Queensboros
over rivers of shifting wrecks
& vortices of forgiveness not so much
as a famine of the eye.

djelloul-marbrook leaningDjelloul Marbrook is the author of five published poetry books: Far from Algiers (2008, Kent State University Press, winner of the 2007 Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize and the 2010 International Book Award in poetry), Brushstrokes and Glances (2010, Deerbrook Editions), Brash Ice (2014, Leaky Boot Press, UK) , Shadow of the Heron (2016, Coda Crab Books), and Riding Thermals to Winter Grounds (2017, Leaky Boot). Forthcoming in 2017 from Leaky Boot are four more: Nothing True Has a Name, Even Now the Embers, Other Risks Include, and Air Tea with Dolores. His fiction includes Saraceno (Bliss Plot, 2012), Mean Bastards Making Nice (2014, Leaky Boot), and two books of short fiction forthcoming in 2017 from Leaky Boot: A Warding Circle: New York Stories and Making Room: Baltimore Stories. He won the 2008 Literal Latté fiction prize for “Artists Hill,” an excerpt from Crowds of One, Book 2 in the Light Piercing Water trilogy, forthcoming in 2018 from Leaky Boot. A U.S. Navy veteran and retired newspaper editor, he lives in the mid-Hudson Valley with his wife Marilyn and maintains a lively presence on Twitter and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/djelloul.marbrook.5

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2017 Young Writers Contest

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers Contest

Our March 1st deadline is quickly approaching! Writing for Peace challenges young writers (ages 13-19) to expand their empathy skills by researching an unfamiliar culture and writing from the point-of-view of a character within that new world, while exploring social, political, and environmental pressures, and universal themes. There is no fee for participation. Spread the word!

Check Out The Latest From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserNewsletter: Being Prepared To Turn Crisis To Our Advantage

“What lessons should the protest movement of today take from the 9/11 experience and similar events that have occurred, e.g. the 1933 burning down of Reichstag under Hitler, which turned him into a dictator even though his party did not have a majority in the legislature?”

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.