Category Archives: President’s Corner

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.

Small Writing for Peace logo

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.

What I know for sure, by Andrea W. Doray

President’s Corner:

What I know for sure

by Andrea W. Doray

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere’s a line in “Brilliant Disguise,” a song by U.S. rock music artist Bruce Springsteen, that goes: “God have mercy on the man who doubts what he’s sure of.” This poignant verse has always rung true for me, and in the current world of gaslighting and alternative facts by the American president and his administration, and by despots around the world, I have found myself pondering more and more often what it is that I am truly sure of.

And here is what I know for sure:

The brightest lights in any city are in the hospital emergency room. Whether you are there seeking help (as I have been numerous times after mountain biking accidents), or are there with others who need help, the light is unrelenting. The glare from metal doors and instruments bounces off fluorescent bulbs, white walls and white floors. Night and day are one and they both have hard, well-lit edges, softened only by the voices and faces and hands of those who ultimately provide that help.

Contrast this with dust and gas filled rooms of the makeshift hospitals in Syria, where people – having been poisoned by their own government – are seeking help, only to find themselves again victims of bombs and terror. We, as writers and peaceful activists, need to shine a light – a very bright light – on these war crimes and demand action from the international community.

My parents left me with too many questions. I was so lucky to have my parents for as long as I did, into my late 40s and early 50s. The world was a better place for their having been here. But … I wish I had asked more. About their military experiences – both served in the Army in World War II, my dad in Europe and North Africa, and my mom in the Philippines and New Guinea. About the details of their young lives, his in Louisville, Kentucky, and hers in Chicago. I wish I had learned more about their parents, and their parents. I wish I had asked more, and then listened more.

By listening more, all of us, and learning from history, we can help prevent the travesties of the past, prevent the descent into fascism, xenophobia, and authoritarian rule, and the exploitation of women and children around the globe. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past, but continue to point out the danger of demonizing and isolating ethnicities, religions, gender identities, and class.

Everybody needs a GoPro camera. I’m convinced that each of us rides a different path and that it would be extraordinarily instructive if we could actually experience one another’s. I’d like a GoPro on my mountain biking helmet and on my rock-climbing helmet so I could take others with me, so people would understand the hows and the whys of each decision I make on a challenging trail or a slippery slope.

And perhaps more importantly, people with different perspectives could share their journeys with me, and I could begin to understand their hows and their whys. Understanding puts us all on the path to empathy and conflict resolution.

Human rights are the rights of all humans. All humans, equally, without regard to class or social status, no matter our gender or race, or who we worship or who we love. And I know this to be true: There is grave danger in abridging these rights. Too many people have fought – and continue to fight – too hard for too long, around the globe, for the rest of us to simply stand by and watch.

Now is the time for vision, voice, and vigilance. For asking and listening. For appreciating what we have and fighting against its loss. For looking through others’ lenses and for sharing our own. Now is the time.

This is what I know for sure.

Andrea W. Doray is an award-winning journalist, author, poet, and essayist in Denver, CO, and is 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.

Small Writing for Peace logoWriting for Peace News

A Deep Loss for Our Community

Hazel Krantz, Writing for Peace Advisor

Hazel Krantz
(1920 – 2017)

Longtime board member and young writer advocate Hazel Krantz passed away the evening of April 5th. We extend our deepest condolences to Hazel’s family and friends. She will be deeply missed.

Hazel Newman grew up in New Rochelle, N.Y. She married Michael Krantz and they moved to Long Island. In 1982 they came to Fort Collins, Colorado.

Hazel Krantz was the author of ten books, primarily young adult fiction.  She was a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Hazel’s career combined writing and teaching.  After receiving a degree in journalism from NYU, she obtained a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from Hofstra University. For a time, she worked for New York buying offices, planning the advertising for member stores.  When her children started school, she taught elementary school in Nassau County for twelve years.

Returning to editorial work, she was full charge editor of New Frontier magazine, and then joined the editorial staff for The Sound Engineering Magazine. Until recently, Hazel still actively wrote, enjoyed weaving, participating in interfaith and peace organizations, and loved spending time with her dog Willie, adopted from the local humane society. She especially loved working with young writers through Writing for Peace.

Editor-in-Chief Elissa Tivona interviewed Hazel in the latest Peace Correspondent. You can read that wonderful interview here.

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Self-Compassion, A Bridge To Understanding, by Andrea W. Doray

 

President’s Corner:

Self-Compassion, A Bridge To Understanding

by Andrea W. Doray

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn December 2016, the Dalai Lama spoke during the Emory-Tibet Symposium of Scholars and Scientists at the Drepung Monastic University in India. According to Atlanta-based Emory University, “the ultimate goal of the symposium is to build a bridge between two complementary systems of knowledge.”

In an interview with CNN, the Dalai Lama was asked about what was happening in the United States at that time. His Holiness said that although he considers America the “leading nation of the free world,” he also acknowledged that the U.S. is a democracy where the “power is divided.”

Indeed, America is a country that mirrors societies around the world: divided – rather than shared – in which many people are angry, many other people are angry at the people getting angry, and civility seems to be a veneer stretched too thin on both sides to conceal the contempt and derision below.

His Holiness offered some advice for finding equilibrium in these times: self-compassion. As opposed to self-esteem or self-respect, self-compassion is defined by some scholars as open to and touched by our own troubles, worries, or fears, and yet not avoiding them or disconnecting from them. An important piece of self-compassion is to be nonjudgmental about what is causing us pain.

In our divided world, people are beyond judgmental with each other … vitriolic in name-calling, shaming, senses of entitlement. Some people are so certain of their own beliefs that anyone who stands for an opposing viewpoint becomes a target of scorn and hate. The divisions are sharp, wide, deep. No wonder so many of us feel a bit battered, bruised.

Each of us does face our own battles, every day. And this means that everyone else we meet or interact with is also fighting some sort of battle, that may or may not have anything to do with political divisions. Personally, I’m not sure which needs to come first, though – compassion for self or compassion for others, in which we are touched by someone else’s suffering, we are aware of their pain, and we are not judging them. Clearly, neither is easy.

Is it possible for us to “build a bridge between two complementary systems of knowledge?” Can we practice compassion, including self-compassion, for better understanding of the other sides of the divide?

For my part, starting this weekend – oh, mercy, starting right now! – I’m going to practice self-compassion. If it’s good for the Dalai Lama, it is definitely good for me.

Andrea W. Doray is an award-winning journalist, author, poet, and essayist in Denver, CO, and is 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.

 

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.