Category Archives: Young Advisers

D.M. Aderibigbe Joins Advisory Panel

Damilola 1Writing for Peace welcomes D.M. Aderibigbe to our panel of young advisers and Youth Summit keynote speakers. Aderibigbe was born in Lagos, Nigeria. He graduated with a BA in History and Strategic Studies from University of Lagos in 2014. His chapbook, In Praise of Our Absent Father was selected by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani for the APBF New Generation African Poets Chapbook Series (purchase information below). He is the recipient of 2015 and 2016 fellowships and honours from Oristaglio Family Foundation, Entrekin Foundation, Dickinson House, Callaloo and Boston University where he is currently an MFA candidate in creative writing. 

Says Aderibigbe:

“A few months ago, several children were burnt to death in my native country (of course this happens everyday now.) I posted this to my Facebook, with the caption ‘the real face of the world.’ One of my poet-friends commented and said, ‘Dami, this post won’t change the mind of the world, but your writing can. Keep writing those necessary poems you have been churning out.’ It dawned on me that day, that all along I have been writing for peace.”

Two Poems by D.M. Aderibigbe:

NEW HELL

Fire burnt on a cold morning:
he screamed “E mi o mo nkankan,
I’m innocent” until his voice was

swallowed by the ravenous fire.
The woman arrived at the scene
to see her love had become ashes.
She poured tears before a broken
statue of Oshun.
I and my two siblings stood, staring —

our skins, veiled by Akure’s harmattan.
Police sirens were a muezzin’s voice
that slashed through the morning for solat;

the vigilantes, who made the fire
that melted the life of their thief
without proof he was thief,

dispersed into our bewilderment.
Guns and truncheons lay
on the road, casualties in a war —
torn country.
Police led the new widow to a van.
I and my two siblings stood, staring.

The fire died.
 

 

ELEGY FOR MY MOTHERS

Let’s not pretend the sky
is always plaited with beauty,
even the gods are not too perfect.
On my grandmother’s skin,
the heaven doesn’t stop
crying for 13 years– God’s
eyes are patched with red.
A schoolboy’s body–
her only son– empty
like a soda can
found at the doorway
of his mother’s store.
All the women in his life gather
around what the police’s anger
has left of him: each calling
his name, as though death
is a disease noise could cure.
Each calls his name,
their breasts flapping like clothes
on a line driven by wind. Lord,
is this what it takes to be a woman?

 

D.M. Aderibigbe’s poems appear in numerous journals including Alaska Quarterly Review, Colorado Review, Ninth Letter, Prairie Schooner, RATTLE, Stand and elsewhere and featured on Verse Daily. Spillway recently nominated his poem for a 2017 Puschcart prize. His first manuscript is a 2015 and 2016 finalist for The Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. He’s also an essayist, with essays in Blueshift Journal, B O D Y and Rain Taxi. He knows God loves you.

To purchase his chapbook, In Praise of Our Absent Father, send $10 through PayPal to dammyg1989@gmail.com. Also, send your mailing address to the same email and you’ll receive your copy within a week.

Small Writing for Peace logo

Writing for Peace News

Call for Participants: Online Youth Summit

Join young artists and writers, ages 18-30, in conversation about the matters you care about in this online Youth Summit.

Summit Dates: April 29th, 30th and May 1st

Submission Deadline: April 25th

Topic:
“What I Would Say If I Knew They Were Listening, Conversations on Peace”

Fees: There is no fee for participation in this summit, with thanks to a generous grant from Longwood University in Virginia, United States of America.

Participation:  In order to provide a safe environment for participants to express themselves, this event is closed to the public. Participants are invited guests, ages 18-30, and will be given the password for admittance to the Summit following the acceptance of their submissions.

Description: In this online summit, 100 invited participants from schools and colleges in the US, Mexico (through Colectiva Poéticas), and Canada will have the opportunity to submit and present their creative work on the following theme: “What I Would Say If I Knew They Were Listening, Conversations on Peace”.

Submissions will be accepted in the following areas: Creative Writing, Visual Arts, Music, Theatre, and Dance. For more information and to submit your work, go to Youth Summit.

2016 DoveTales “Family and Cultural Identity” Edition

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceOur fourth edition of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts will be released on May 1st! Links will go up soon, and if you are in the Fort Collins area we hope you will join us for our Book Release Celebration Reading! Check out the details and RSVP at Book Launch Celebration.

Copyright © 2016 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

How Humanity Fell in Love with Itself Once Again, By Lyla June Johnston

Nordic_Sami_people_Lavvu_1900-1920

The Story of How Humanity Fell in Love with Itself Once Again

By Lyla June Johnston

I spend a lot of time honoring and calling upon my Native American ancestors. I am keenly aware that my father’s people hold a venerable medicine as well. He has ancestry from the Great Sacred Motherland of Europe.

I have been called a half breed. I have been called a mutt. Impure. I have been told my mixed blood is my bane. That I’m cursed to have an Indian for a mother and a cowboy for a father.

But one day, as I sat in the ceremonial house of my mother’s people, a wondrous revelation landed delicately inside of my soul. It sang within me a song I can still hear today. This song was woven from the voices of my European grandmothers and grandfathers. Their songs were made of love.

They sang to me of their life before the witch trials and before the crusades. They spoke to me of a time before serfdoms and before Roman tithes. They spoke to me of a time before the plague; before the Medici; before the guillotine; a time before their people were extinguished or enslaved by dark forces. They spoke to me of a time before the English language existed. A time most of us have forgotten.

These grandmothers and grandfathers set the ancient medicine of Welsh blue stone upon my aching heart. Their chants danced like the flickering light of Tuscan cave-fires. Their joyous laughter echoed on and on like Baltic waves against Scandinavian shores. They blew worlds through my mind like windswept snow over Alpine mountain crests. They showed to me the vast and beautiful world of Indigenous Europe. This precious world can scarcely be found in any literature, but lives quietly within us like a dream we can’t quite remember.

As all this was happening, I peered into the flames of our Diné hoghan fireplace. These Ancient Europe voices whispered to my heart to help me understand. “See, our songs are not so different from your Diné songs,” they seemed to say with a smile.

In this moment, the moment I first acknowledged and connected with my beautiful European ancestors, I could do nothing but cry. It was one of those messy, snotty, shuddering cries, where my face flowed over with tears of joy and sorrow. It was the cry of a woman who met her grandmother for the first time. I always wondered where she was. What she looked like. What her voice sounded like. Who she was. And now, for the first time, I could feel her delicate hands run through my hair as she told me she loved me. I sobbed and I sobbed and I sobbed.

Intermixed in there were also tears of regret. My whole life I was taught to hide my European “side.” All I knew was that my father came from Dallas and that was all I needed to know. These pale-skinned mothers and fathers were to be forgotten, I was taught. They carried violence in their blood and avarice in their smile, I was taught. They were rubbish, I was taught. There was no need to ask questions about them or think about them, I was taught. Whenever I wrote down my race on official forms, I would only write “Native American,” as I was taught.

But then, as thousands of European ancestors swirled around me and reassured my fearful heart, I wished I had honored them sooner. I wished I hadn’t disowned them. I wished I knew how beautiful they were. I wished I could have seen through the thin wall of time that dominates our understanding of Europe. I wish I could have realized the days when Indigenous Europeans were deeply connected to the earth and to kinship. In my mind I told them I was so, so sorry for forsaking them. But, of course, they did not care. They only held me tighter and assured me they would be with me to the end.

The sweetness of this precious experience changed me forever. I have come to believe that if we do not wholly love our ancestors, then we do not truly know who they are. For instance, I get very offended when people call Native Americans “good-for-nothing drunks.” Because by saying this, people don’t take into account the centuries of attempted genocide, rape and drugging of Native American people. They don’t see the beauty of who we were before the onslaught. And now, I am offended when people call European descendants “privileged good-for-nothing pilgrims.” Because by saying this, people do not take into account the thousands of years that European peoples were raped, tortured and enslaved. They do not understand the beauty of who we were before the onslaught. They do not understand that even though we have free will and the ability to choose how we live our life, it is very hard to overcome inter-generational trauma. What happens in our formative years and what our parents teach us at that time can be very hard to reverse.

They estimate that 8-9 million European women were burned alive, drowned alive, dismembered alive, beaten, raped and otherwise tortured as so-called, “witches.” It is obvious to me now that these women were not witches, but were the Medicine People of Old Europe. They were the women who understood the herbal medicines, the ones who prayed with stones, the ones who passed on sacred chants, the ones who whispered to me that night in the hoghan. This all-out warfare on Indigenous European women, not only harmed them, but had a profound effect on the men who loved them. Their husbands, sons and brothers. Nothing makes a man go mad like watching the women of his family get burned alive. If the men respond to this hatred with hatred, the hatred is passed on. And who can blame them? While peace and love is the correct response to hatred, it is not the easy response by any means.

The Indigenous Cultures of Europe also sustained forced assimilation by the Roman Empire and other hegemonic forces. In fact, it was only a few decades ago that any Welsh child caught speaking Welsh in school would have a block of wood tied to their neck. The words “WN” were there-inscribed, standing for “welsh not.” This kind of public humiliation will sound very familiar to any Native Americans reading this who attended U.S. Government boarding schools.

Moreover, our indigenous European ancestors faced horrific epidemics of biblical proportions. In the 1300s, two-thirds of Indigenous Europeans were wiped from the face of the earth. The Black Death, or Bubonic Plague, ravaged entire villages with massive lymph sores that filled with puss until they burst open. Sound familiar?

The parallels between the genocide of Indigenous Europeans and Native Americans are astounding. It boggles my mind that more people don’t see how we are the same people, who have undergone the same spiritual assault. The only difference between the Red Story and the White Story is we are in different stages of the process of spiritual warfare. Native Americans are only recently becoming something they are not. They are only recently starting to succumb to the temptations of drugs, alcohol, gambling, self-destruction and the destruction of others. Just as some Native American people have been contorted and twisted by so many centuries of abuse, so too were those survivors of the European genocide. Both are completely forgivable in my eyes.

Now I see I have a double-duty. I must not only honor and revitalize my Diné culture, but also that of my European ancestors. This ancient Indigenous European culture is just as beautiful as Native American culture and was just as tragically murdered and hidden from history books.

And so, some years later, armed with this new understanding, I traveled to Europe. I scaled a beautiful mountain in Switzerland to see if I might hear hints of ceremonial songs in the wind. I stepped upon the earth guided by those grandmother and grandfather whispers. I plucked a strand of hair from my scalp and placed the offering upon the earth, still wet from morning dew. I ambled through the forests enchanted by the new sights and smells. And I did see glimmers of visions of the villages of yesteryear. And they were full of Earth People living out harmonious community. And, they had beautiful music.

As the sun went down, I fell back on the grass and looked up to the sky. At the time, I was going through a very painful separation from a person I loved. To my surprise, it felt as if the earth was pulling all the sorrow I was carrying down into her core where she could transform it into beauty. The sky was speaking to me about how I didn’t need to worry, that I would be happy again one day. The earth and the sky healed me that day from the great weight I had carried for months. It was a special reunion with the mountains of my foremothers.

My mountain experiment yielded astounding results: the Great Sacred Motherland of Europe is still alive and breathing and waiting for her children to come home! She is waiting for us to ask her for songs so that we may sing to her once again. She is waiting for us to scratch passed the surface of time, into the B.C. period when our languages were thriving and our dancing feet kissed the face of the earth. She is waiting. She is waiting for us to remember who we are. If you hold this descent, or any forgotten descent for that matter, I am asking you to join me in this prayer to remember who we are. I have a feeling this prayer will heal the whole world.

In 2009, archaeologists came across a female effigy believed to be the Goddess of the Earth buried inside of German soil. The radiocarbon dating tests came back. They indicate that this clay deity was molded by European hands 40,000 years ago. 40,000 years ago. This is the time she beckons us to. This is the world she hopes we will remember: where man and woman alike, held the soil in their hands and saw the value and sanctity of women and of the Mother Earth. This is the world that still flows through our veins, however deafened we have become to it. With prayer we can learn to hear it once again.

I compare this earth-based, Indigenous European culture to the witch-burning psychosis of the first and second millennia. I cannot help but ask myself, when and how did this egalitarian, earth-loving, woman-honoring culture, become the colonial, genocidal conquerors that washed upon American shores? Could it be that our beloved Indigenous European ancestors were raped and tortured for so many thousands of years that they forgot who they were? Could it be they lived in a pressure cooker of oppression for so long that conquer-or-be-conquered is all they knew? Yes, I believe so.

Our task is to shake the amnesia. To not be ashamed of our European-ness, but to reclaim our beautiful grandmothers, to reclaim our venerable grandfathers, to reclaim our lost languages, our lost ceremonies, our lost homelands and become one with the Great Sacred Motherland of Europe once again. The European diaspora is spread all throughout the world, searching the planet for something that lives inside. I promise you will hear it when you climb the mountains of Switzerland! Of Scotland! Of Tuscany! Of Hungary! Of Portugal! Of the Great Sacred Motherland of Europe! Just because bad things happened upon her bosom does not mean she is bad.

Our task is to honor our ancestors, even those who caved beneath the weight of systematic destruction and became conquerors themselves. Our task is to remember that we are those beautiful Earth People. The ones whose love and prayers were so strong that they could carry 25-ton blue stone monoliths for miles and miles and build the sacred place of prayer known as Stonehenge. That is who we are. When we remember this, the healing of our lineages comes full circle. When we remember this, we will no longer need to borrow spiritual practices from other cultures (although that can be very helpful when there is nothing else to hold onto.) When we remember this, we will remember that the fates of all beings are intertwined with our own. When I remembered this, I found whole-ness in my self—no longer a half-breed, but a daughter of Two Great Lineages, Two Great Rivers that ran together to make one precious child.

This is the story of how I became whole. Some days, it feels like both fire and water live within me. They dance and swirl around one another. In the morning when I wake up, each bows to the other, honoring themselves as equals, as beautiful. When I go to sleep at night they wish each other good dreams. They teach me how it could have been when Columbus first stepped upon Taino shores: a meeting of two long lost brothers, embracing each other and celebrating their unique cultures. They teach me how things can be for our children in the future.

Because that’s what matters most, doesn’t it?

Not how the story goes… but how it ends.

We each hold a pen. Now, let us co-author a story of how humanity fell in love with itself and its Mother Earth once again. Shall we?

 

About Writing for Peace Adviser Lyla June Johnston

Lyla June Johnston, Writing fr Peace Young AdviserLyla June Johnston is a poet, musician, anthropologist and human being, from Taos, New Mexico. Her passion for peace unfolds both outside of herself through community organizing and within herself through continual prayers to forgive and love a wounded world. Learn more about Lyla and her work here.

(c) Copyright 2016. Lyla Johnston. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted here with permission by the author.

Photo courtesy of Wikicommons: Sami Indigenous Peoples of Norway, circa 1900. They are standing beside their “lavvu” which look strikingly similar to the tipis of Plains Indigenous Peoples of North America.

 

Small Writing for Peace logo

Writing for Peace News

2016 Young Writers Contest Begins!

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. We’ve extended the submission deadline to April 15, 2016 at midnight (Mountain Time). There is no fee for participation. Check out our guidelines here.

Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace Adviser“How do we fight for what we want and need; to protect the planet; and to ensure justice for all, when we are confronting an oligarchy?”

Newsletter: Defeating The Oligarchs

 

 

Copyright © 2016 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Staunching Wounds, By Richard Krawiec

 

antonio-rotta-helping-hands-approximate-original-size-24x30Staunching Wounds

By Richard Krawiec

 

Recently I met with a group of women who had suffered terrible transgressions and losses in their lives from an early age. Deaths of loved ones, violent rape and abuse, humiliations by friends and abandonment to strangers.

We all know the clichéd responses to this, right? When life gives you lemons…put it behind you and move on…etc.etc.

But I think there is something ultimately dismissive in failing to recognize that sometimes we suffer damage we can’t get beyond. Sometimes we suffer damage that creates a wound so deep it will not heal. We can learn to live through it, we can try to accommodate it, to go forward despite the wound – but the wound remains. It’s what is meant by the term ‘survivor’ I think. The person who knows what happened can’t be ignored, or changed, but has found a way to live past without denying the damage.

Many of us have things happen to us that are difficult to move on from. I had a girlfriend who was haunted by the memory of watching her father die on their kitchen floor, begging God not to take him from his family. I can’t seem to get past my best friend as a child growing into an estranged teenager who blew his brains out with a shotgun; I’m still haunted by memories of the time I walked out of a Juvenile Court in Pittsburgh without the 5-year-old girl who was returned, by the courts, to her sexually abusive father.

I know these incidents pale in comparison to what others have to deal with. I didn’t survive the concentration camps. I wasn’t a child growing up in war-torn Gaza. No gang of soldiers raped me in a tent. I wasn’t that girl, that friend.

So it always feels childish, whiny to admit these things still create a profound sorrow in me when I think about them. But we don’t choose our damage, and to a large extent we don’t choose, at least initially, our ability, or inability, to deal with the traumas of our lives. Aren’t our ways of response to at least some extent conditioned by those around us, especially those around us when we were growing up?

On another thread a woman speaks about visiting her father in the hospital and holding his hand, like she used to when she was a child. I can’t remember ever holding my father’s hand. He wasn’t a cruel or abusive man, but he wasn’t attentive in that way.

When friends died in high school – from hanging, drug overdose, leukemia – I don’t remember any of our parents offering support, advice, condolences or ways to deal with the loss to those of us who remained.

When you don’t have a way to deal with a wound, it remains unstaunched. People find different ways, not so much to move forward as to cover it up, to bandage pain with sex, drugs, violence. Because they don’t know how, or aren’t allowed, to look at it. Just put it aside, we’re counseled, forget about it, so you can become a productive member of society again. It’s a type of cultural denial, isn’t it? But what do people do when they can’t. Well there is the previously mentioned trinity –drugs, sex, violence. But there are other ways for people who can’t articulate but somehow know their concerns aren’t being addressed.

Some people turn to writing, others to song, painting, dance. Because nothing offers a better path into the interior, a more honest and unflinching way to look at what has happened, as well as a better vision of new paths out of that darkness, than art. I think it was Springsteen who once said the best part of him existed in his songs. In real life he could be a mess. I know that feeling. God, do I know it.

But the point is, art offers us the potential to examine the past and an array of paths – spiritual, moral, ethical, philosophical, psychological – that can lead to a future full of what, in another context, David Brooks calls “the eulogy virtues”.

I never thought I’d say Conservative columnist David Brooks wrote a probing piece -but there it is. In today’s NYT, Brooks talks about something that resonates with what I’m thinking about here. He discusses how we live in an age of self-absorption; we are told to be individualists, “be true to yourself…follow your own path.” It’s easy, Brooks says, “to slip into self-satisfied moral mediocrity.”

And he contrasts this with those whose lives had followed a pattern of “defeat, recognition, redemption. They have moments of pain and suffering. But they turn those moments into occasions of radical self-understanding…The people on this road see the moments of suffering as pieces of a larger narrative.”

What’s the connection with this and damage? I guess that what I’m trying to say is this – the culture that says take an anti-depressant when your loved one dies so you can obscure your pain is not a culture that accepts damage. Damage is distasteful, unpleasant, not something we want to discuss. Let’s all get beyond it as quickly as possible so we can go out and have fun.

And if you don’t? Why isn’t there something wrong with you?

Because if we really, truly looked closely at the damage people endured, and it’s long-lasting effect on them, wouldn’t we have to do something to help?

 

About Writing for Peace Adviser Richard Krawiec

Richard KrawiecRichard Krawiec is the founder of Jacar Press, A Community active Press dedicated to paying writers and working in under-served communities and has worked extensively with people in homeless shelters, women’s shelters, prisons, literacy classes, and community sites, teaching writing. Richard’s second book of poems, She Hands me the Razor, (title poem nominated for a Pushcart Prize) was published by Press 53. It was one of 17 finalists for a SIBA Award. His latest collection is Women Who Loved Me Despite (Press 53).  To learn more about Richard Krawiec, check out his page here.

Small Writing for Peace logo

Writing for Peace News

Meet Malaka Mohammed, Writing for Peace Young Adviser

Malaka Mohammed, Writing for Peace AdviserAs a Palestinian, peace for me is the the end of Israeli policies of the occupation of our historical lands, ethnic cleansing, colonization, and racial discrimination that have been continuously condemned by human rights and international law organizations, yet Israel chooses to ignore all these calls with full impunity. Peace is by putting so much pressure on this settler colonial state to abide by human rights and international law. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions is one of the tactics that has proved its success to tell Israel that you’re no more impune; the world is watching and looking for a peaceful Globe. I use writing as a way to raise awareness and to express myself. It is good to have approachable platforms that one can use to reach a large number of audience around the world.

~Malaka Mohammed, Writing for Peace Young Adviser

Malaka Mohammed is a Palestinian activist, freelance writer living in Sheffield, and our newest member of the Writing for Peace Young Adviser’s Panel. A powerful voice for peace and justice, Malaka graduated with a BA in English literature from the Islamic University of Gaza and a MA in global politics and law from the University of Sheffield in Britain. Read Malaka’s articles on Huffington post here.

Activism Update From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserBeyond Extreme Energy: Uniting to Retire Fossil Fuels

Clearing the FOG speaks with activists from Washington State to Washington, DC who are taking on Big Energy to say “no” to more fossil fuel infrastructure. We begin with four organizers who walked across the United States last year to raise awareness about the climate crisis. They visited front line communities along the way. When they arrived in Washington, DC, they spent a week protesting the little known Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as part of the Beyond Extreme Energy coalition. Now they are planning more resistance. In Washington State, the “SHell No” campaign is organizing a Flotilla to keep Shell Oil out of the Port of Seattle. We’ll discuss why direct action is the necessary tactic to end fossil fuels and move to renewable energy sources.

Writing for Peace May Day Events

  • 2015 DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts “Nature” Edition Book Release! Watch for news of the latest DoveTales, a truly extraordinary and beautiful edition of our annual journal.
  • 2015 Young Writer Winners Announcements! Find out what our prestigious judges (Antonya Nelson, Fiction; Steve Almond, Nonfiction; and Stephen Kuusisto, Poetry) have to say about our talented young writers!

 

Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Loving Through The Truth, By Lyla June Johnston

Winslow Homer - The Rapids, Hudson River, AdirondacksLoving Through The Truth

By Lyla June Johnston

It took a lot of strength and courage to admit that what was happening to me was abuse. It was hard for me for two reasons 1) I thought that only weak and dumb girls get abused. I didn’t want to admit I was abused because I thought it made me less of a person. And 2) I didn’t want to hate them. And it was easier to love them if I found a way to rationalize/normalize what they were doing to me.

Well it turns out that the dark actually targets strong and smart girls. It doesn’t want them to succeed in bringing the light they were born to bring. Rape can fool the woman into thinking she is not sacred. And if she thinks she is not sacred she can begin to think that she is not worthy of carrying the medicine of the Creator to the people. And if she thinks that she is not worthy of carrying the medicine of the Creator to the people, then she stops bringing that light to the world. This is what happened to me.

I did bring good things to the people but when I did it felt more like I was “making up” for the bad person I was. It didn’t feel like I was simply being the beloved and beautiful medicine woman that I was. That we all are.

Instead, I felt like an imposter when I would try and help the world. How could a “tainted” woman advocate for purity? When I did advocate for love and healing, soon after I would intentionally do crass things just to show to everyone that I wasn’t trying to “be something I’m not”. I felt more like shameful, outside ally of the pure. Not a true part of the pure. I didn’t think I deserved to be a part of that marching band. The dark won this way for many years. I shut the valve and the medicine could only trickle, if that. Luckily this was only temporary. One day someone came along to remind me who I was.

They taught me that just because I was sexually, emotionally and physically abused it did not mean I was “less than.” I realized I was not a weak and feeble “victim,” but a wounded veteran who had come home from a great battle. The battle of being woman in the 21st century. Indeed, it is hard to be woman within a system that routinely works to destroy their self image. It did not mean I was weak, it meant I was taken advantage of before I was old enough to understand the battle.

Once I realized that being abused doesn’t mean you are a bad person, I could admit that what was happening to me was abuse. It was still hard and took a lot of courage but now I am able to say, “that was really wrong and it happened to me.” This process of realization took several years and is still ongoing. The good news is I no longer feel compelled to be around people who make me feel bad. The reason I felt compelled to be around these kinds of people is a whole ‘nother story…

So number 1 was taken care of. I now understood that I was still respectable and even beautiful despite the fact I had been abused. But number 2 had yet to be resolved: I didn’t want to hate the other person. For this reason I would shy away from admitting that what they did was wrong because it was hard to love them in the face of that truth. Once I could fully see that what happened was wrong, I could feel the urge to hate start to make its way in. Hatred and bitterness are such uncomfortable feelings and I knew I was not designed to house them within me. I also knew I could not help the world when I was in that state.

Number 2 was resolved through an exquisite process some people call “forgiveness.” Forgiveness does not mean that what they did to me was okay. And it does not even mean that I would ever have to go within a 50 mile radius of these people ever again! It was something that happened within me. It was something that happened for ME. Not for them. It returned me to my natural state. And it went like this:

I stood in the middle of a river. The beautiful water was flowing all around me. This is literally what I did, not a metaphor. As I stood there, I thought of all the ways I was manipulated and coerced. I thought of all the ways I was exploited and taken advantage of. I saw in my mind’s eye the face of the very people who picked me up while I was too drunk to see and took me for their own. And I said, “Even though you have tried to mine my body for your own personal gratification, I still hope that you are healed and that you live a happy life and that you are reconnected with Creator in a good way. Creator may you please bless and help and heal this person, your child.”

And with that, I kid you not, an IMMENSE amount of palpable weight was released from my being. It flew out of me and into the river and into the trees and into the soil and out into the sky. Far, far away. I was free. I had released. I was my self again, not my hatred.

There’s much more to the story than that. But it was these two things, realizing it was not my fault/I was not a bad person and choosing to love these people with all my heart (from a safe distance). With those two things I was able to admit that abuse is abuse, not love. It was not easy but it wasn’t impossible at all. It was and is incredibly liberating and helped me get to a safe place.

About Lyla June Johnston, Writing for Peace Young Adviser

Lyla June Johnston, Writing fr Peace Young AdviserLyla Johnston is a 24 year-old poet, musician, anthropologist and human being, from Taos, New Mexico. Her passion for peace unfolds both outside of herself through community organizing and within herself through continual prayers to forgive and love a wounded world.

After studying Human Ecology at Stanford University, Lyla founded Regeneration Festival, an annual celebration and honoring of children and young adults worldwide. She plans on attending Harvard Business School to obtain the platform she needs to disarm the private sector and repurpose the capitalist infrastructure for healing and social change. Her ancestors are Diné and Cheyenne and it is from this ancestral worldview that she derives her visions for helping to create a culture of peace and generosity. Learn more about her work here.

Small Writing for Peace logoWriting for Peace News

Recommended Reading From Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserNow Is The Time To Take Action To Save The Internet

Stay abreast of Climate Change and human rights activism, and learn where you can make a difference.

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition. Read our guidelines and submit here.

 

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest 

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestHelp spread the word! Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our prestigious panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

 

Your Library Isn’t Complete Without DoveTales!

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" EditionThe 2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” Edition is now available for purchase. The “Contrast” edition includes the beautiful black and white photography from Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following contributors:

Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

 

Writing for Peace Granted 501 (c) 3 Federal Nonprofit Status

What does 501(c)3 status mean for Writing for Peace? Well, some things will not change; our administration will continue to be board operated and volunteer based. That means 100% of contributions go directly towards the considerable costs of publishing, maintaining our website, shipping DoveTales journals and participation certificates to contributors and young writers in 24 countries, and providing modest prizes to our contest winners. We are grateful for the support of generous donors and the Colgate University Research Council.

Here’s what will change: Your donations can now be deducted from your Federal income tax! For those who chose to support us before that was the case, we are deeply moved by your belief in us, and we are so happy to finally be able to say your contribution is a deduction. For your records, our Federal Tax ID Number is 45-2968027.

If you’re a believer in Writing for Peace, we hope you’ll consider donating to support a simple mission with a profound affect on the lives of our young writers. You can make your contributions here.

As Jordan Dalton (16), put it:

Jordan Dalton, 2013 Fiction, First Place“Since writing my entry for Writing for Peace, I’ve come to realize that my work really can make a difference in the world. Words have the power to spread awareness, hope, and inspiration to people who would have otherwise despaired. We all have the ability to create, and create in the name of beauty and change. I can only hope one day to spend my life doing just that.”

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

It Is Time, By Lyla June Johnston

Lyla June Johnston Climate change march(2)It Is Time

By Lyla June Johnston

 There is this latent, pervasive notion that it is completely acceptable to abandon our otherwise treasured allegiance to brotherhood and kindness as we step into corporate and business realms because “that’s just the way business is” thereby replacing that allegiance with an exhalation of cutthroat competition and institutionalized greed.

We have reached a point, however, where “the business” permeates every aspect of our lives and therefore humanity is calling into question the sanity of appointing greed and competition as architects of the built environment. What we wear, what we eat, how we communicate, how we move, how we make art, how we are entertained, even down to the insurance that our heart will beat tomorrow–all of this has become absorbed in and regulated by the mechanics of the American business. And it shows. The outward symptoms of depression and dissatisfaction in both the very wealthy and the very poor cohorts of the human race is a reflection of our imbalanced innards. We are beginning to yearn for a world that is not motivated and shaped by the insatiable fear and hunger of profit maximization.

Is this to say that the whole of American and global business is wrong and useless? I think not. How could I when it has driven into existence so many exquisite innovations, fed the families of so many communities and solved so many seemingly insurmountable social problems. While a globalized economy has brought the world together in undeniably problematic ways, it has also brought us together in incredibly beautiful ways! Business has given the incredible potential of the human spirit wings to fully express our unending creativity and ability, lending purpose and fulfillment to many a lifetime.

Indeed it has done great things for great amounts of people. What I am saying is that it is time to address the fly in the ointment: that our wondrous invention of free trade and enterprise does indeed hold within a darker component that has nudged humanity closer and closer to the precipice of complete spiritual, ecological and economic dysfunction. While it is important to acknowledge the beauty of business it is also important to recognize the ways in which it can and must be improved for the sake of all beings. It is also important to acknowledge the ways in which it has caused many a man and woman to compromise their deepest and most fundamental desire to care for others in exchange for a chance at the fortune they describe in mainstream lore.

We simply cannot continue to promote good will toward men by night to our children in our homes while simultaneously promoting dog-eat-dog mentalities and behavior in our business schools and behind our store fronts by day. For the business world no longer comprises a small fraction of our time and life like a weekend getaway in Las Vegas where we can temporarily suspend our morality. No, in fact the corporate endeavor has successfully woven itself into every molecule of our being, literally, and become the stuff with which we clothe our children and house our lives. Therefore, it deserves a deeper dedication to morality than ever before, lest the house we live in become a creation built by bolts of avarice and planks of ruthless ambition. For how can the very veins of a society be driven by a model based on the fear of a mythological scarcity and the worship of selfishness and dominance?

We have been in the midst of a 240 year experiment with Adam Smith’s well-intended, widely-accepted and gravely misguided proposition that selfishness is a necessary component of a thriving economy. This experimentation, which feels more like denial than anything else, has brought our global life support system to the brink of complete collapse and the human race to a state of abject spiritual, emotional and material impoverishment. We can no longer justify, try as we might, the current economic model we operate by, nor can we justify the business norms engendered by short-sighted boom and bust economies of our forefathers. This much is clear.

What is less clear, however, is with what models and principles we shall replace this Jurassic economic modus operandi and how. If this denatured understanding of the earth and of ourselves no longer works, then what does work? And how will we dare to proceed in the name of not only human generations to come, but the progeny of all life forms on this great, wide face of the Earth?

I know that buried deep in our hearts, or perhaps lying just beneath the surface of our stifled voices, we know the exact answer to this question. Indeed, the answer is woven into our DNA strands. If we can just follow this double helix pathway back in time, back to the days when our communities lived by the principle of “I am you” and the children born each day were ushered into a culture of compassion, synergy and generosity, we will arrive at a greater world to be passed down to our own children.

Find the day! Find the day when our cultural proverbs, such as InLak’ech, Mitakue Oyas’in, Namaste, Love Thy Neighbor, Ashe, and Inshallah were replaced with phrases such as Nice Guys Finish Last, Survival of the Fittest, Life Isn’t Fair and Time is Money. This is the turning point! Where the spirit of darkness pulled a hood over the eyes of humanity and led us down the poisonous slope of otherhood, fear and an illusion of scarcity.

My friends, we need only look to the earthy worlds of our ancestors to find the key to thriving economic thought and true fulfillment of the human heart. Encrypted in the cultural rituals of not only North American indigenous peoples, but European and Asian indigenous peoples as well are the answers we seek to give rise to true wealth and existential meaning. Look to find the truth embedded in the roots of your family tree, however far back it may be. And once you have found it, hold it tight and hold it high for all to see until the weight of truth bends and breaks the walls we have built with our own two hands between us and our Mother. Bring these ceremonies, these ancestral principles, these truths, these bottomless philosophies of interconnectedness, compassion and joy into the hallways of your school, into the cubicles of your office building, into the language of our novels and legislation, into our theaters and headphones. Bring them like a blazing torch into the blackened nights of hopelessness and despair. Bring these offerings like a contagious flame that ignites the lives and eyes of others who in turn bring it to others.

It only took three generations of absolute terror to transform our communities from harmonious collectives to warring and disparaged nations. It will only take three generations of absolute love and a kindness to transform them back again.

And what better place to bring this attitude than into the private sector, where so much creativity and potential remains untapped? What would happen if the game changed from who can make the most profit to who can make the most positive change? And how much more alive and fulfilled would we feel each day as we clock out and make our way home amid the roseate hue of dusk? And what would happen?!?! If all the momentum and energy now placed towards the accumulation of digital and material capital (which we will all ultimately leave behind as our soul journeys home) was redirected towards the rehabilitation and regeneration of our war torn emotional and physical worlds?

It is already happening. For every Lifestraw sold, an African scholar receives free drinking water for a year. For every tray of Project 7 gum sold, ten fruit trees are planted. For every Benevolent Bone sold in a convenience store, an Iraq War veteran is linked with a new pet dog to assist with his PTSD and TBI. And, most famously in the American consciousness, for every pair of Tom’s shoes bought, another human being in need receives a pair of Tom’s shoes.

This is what I call “Honey Bee Business.” The Honey Bee takes pollen and gives life all in the same moment. For as it receives what it needs for survival, it also gives the fields of flowers the cross-pollination they need for their survival. In turn, honey bees give rise to many of the foods to which we owe our existence.

Similarly, within the next decade, I forecast, consumers are not only going to want their product to provide their survival, they will also want and expect their purchase to generate positive change in an area of need somewhere in the world. We are entering a new age of economics whereby the very system that has ravaged and exploited the willing abundance of Nature will be the same infrastructure that works to heal and feed the whole of humanity, both physically and spiritually.

If we can learn to harness this dragon with a deep commitment to generosity and altruism, we can create as much healing as it has historically created destruction. For a ship propelled by fear and selfishness will guide that vessel to the land of pain and dissatisfaction, but that very same ship, propelled by the winds of loving kindness will bring its passengers to the golden shores of true and fulfilling humanhood and the community that the Creator intended for us all.

Are there pitfalls and things to watch out for with this plan? Certainly there are… For we have all seen the deleterious effects of green-washing and half-hearted corporate responsibility… It comes in the form of cheapened marketing ploys such as “Up to 30% Plant Bottle!” or “100% recyclable!”

What I am saying is that we must engage in a new kind of business. A kind of business that sincerely and painstakingly measures and works to increase the PLANETARY return on investment, instead of the individualistic return on investment. Imagine a group of businessmen and women meticulously calculating and devising ways to increase the number of veterans that get a pet dog, per unit of Benevolent Bones sold. Imagine a group of economists working to develop a business strategy whereby the inception, production, distribution and sale of a product nourishes everything it touches (100% Regenerative Business Strategy). What kind of creatures would we become? Perhaps we would begin to resemble more and more the visage of our ancestors who largely spent their time attempting to catch a glimpse into the endless Heart of God by practicing and enjoying a life of kindness, generosity and celebration.

 

About Lyla June Johnston, Writing for Peace Young Adviser

Lyla June Johnston, Writing fr Peace Young AdviserLyla Johnston is a 24 year-old poet, musician, anthropologist and human being, from Taos, New Mexico. Her passion for peace unfolds both outside of herself through community organizing and within herself through continual prayers to forgive and love a wounded world.

After studying Human Ecology at Stanford University, Lyla founded Regeneration Festival, an annual celebration and honoring of children and young adults worldwide. She plans on attending Harvard Business School to obtain the platform she needs to disarm the private sector and repurpose the capitalist infrastructure for healing and social change. Her ancestors are Diné and Cheyenne and it is from this ancestral worldview that she derives her visions for helping to create a culture of peace and generosity.

Small Writing for Peace logoWriting for Peace News

 Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers Recommends:

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserPopular Resistance Newsletter – Congress Flees But We’re Still Fighting

Stay abreast of Climate Change and human rights activism, and learn where we can make a difference.

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace is now accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition of DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts. Read our guidelines and submit here.

Young Writers Contest Now Open!

2015 Young Writers Contest Judges

Check out our 2015 Young Writers Cntest! To date, Writing for Peace has received entries from young writers with a passion for peace from 24 countries. Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our wonderful panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

Support Writing for Peace By Purchasing Our Latest Edition Of DoveTale

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" EditionThe 2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” Edition is now available for purchase. The issue is themed “contrast” and includes the beautiful black and white photography of Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following contributors:

Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

And God Is The Water, By Lyla June Johnston

And God Is The Water

When I close my eyes at night
I can feel the rock being cut open
by water.

I hear a grandfather song
and it sounds like sand
walking down the river bottom.

In this song they talk about how even
the mighty canyon rivers began as
a meandering stream.

Beneath the gentle waters there are people.
Not people like you and me.
Stone people.

When I close my eyes at night
I am one of them
and God is the water.

Over lifetimes She eats at me
until I am polished and smooth.

She teaches me
about being gentle and persistent,
about patience and commitment.

When I close my eyes she says to me
in trickles and bubbles:

“Journeys.
Take them.
Try to remember who you are along the way.
I have nothing for you but these words.
Take them with you
and I will see you again when you arrive
at the ocean’s throne
as one million kernels of sand”

Her voice
hums in my blood
quiet as a stream in the night
and it is a song about how
we are all
just
so loved.

The eagles dip their talons into Her soft body
and pull a fleshmeal
from the water.

They sing this grandfather song with her
and it sounds like feathers
cutting into the sky.

It is a song about how even
hatred surrenders
to wonder.

She is breaking my heart apart like
a stubborn puzzle of problems.

Even the hardest doubts and sorrows
give way to
Her infinite grace.

And who knew that
sometimes grace comes from
standing in the wind until
everything we think we own
is torn away from us
and replaced with a weightlessness
so profound that we can’t not cry
tears of absolute praise
and run all around the river banks shouting to the
the minnows and the cattails and the crawdads
about the truth of beauty?

The truth of a God that
breathes through the trees
weaves winter from water and night
weaves bodies from dust and light
and carries us down the river of life over
and over until we finally understand
the meaning of forever.

In the language of the stones there is
no word for mistake.

Only the complete understanding of what it
means to be a beloved son or daughter.

I am the rock
and God is the water.

 

Lyla June Johnston, Writing fr Peace Young AdviserAbout Lyla June Johnston, WfP Young Adviser

Lyla June Johnston is a 24 year-old poet, musician, anthropologist and human being, from Taos, New Mexico. Her passion for peace unfolds both outside of herself through community organizing and within herself through continual prayers to forgive and love a wounded world.

Learn more about Lyla and her work here.

 

Small Writing for Peace logoWriting for Peace News

2014 DoveTales “Contrast” Edition Released

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" Edition2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” edition, is now available for purchase. The 2014 issue is themed “contrast” and includes the beautiful black and white photography of Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following contributors:

Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

Climate Crisis Connects Us, Climate Justice Requires Unity

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserBy Writing for Peace Adviser, Margaret Flowers, and Kevin Zeese: What do rigged corporate trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris Treaty, an international climate agreement to be signed in 2015, have in common? They are both tools being pushed by the power elite to rip away our hopes for democracy and to commodify all things to monetize them for profit. Read article here.

2015 Young Writers Contest Guidelines

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestWriting for Peace Young Writers’ Contest Guidelines for our 2015 Young Writers Contest will be posted on September 1st. We’ll announce our fantastic new panel of judges at that time. The deadline for entry is March 1st, 2015 – not as much time as you might think, so start gearing up by scrolling through the many craft related links and tips on our Facebook page!

Writing for Peace on Facebook

Our Facebook page is your go-to source for inspiration about writing news and craft, peace, and the intersection of the two. Your likes and shares increase our reach and help spread the word, so come by for a visit, share your ideas and questions. We’d love to hear your thoughts about writing and the many ways you are making a difference. Click here to check it out!

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

Conscientious Objector’s View From The Ground In Israel, by Natan Blanc

A Conscientious Objector’s View From The Ground In Israel

by Natan Blanc

Natan Blanc, Writing for Peace Young AdviserWhen I started writing this post, the Israeli government and the “Hamas” organization were on the verge of agreeing on a cease-fire, and ending the current cycle of violence. By now, the cease fire talks are ancient history. Hamas has rejected the cease-fire, and continued shooting missiles towards Israel,  Israel has retaliated, and we have very little hope for some peace and quiet in the near future.

This cycle of violence has been going on since I was a kid. Luckily for me, I live in the northern part of Israel, far away from the Gaza missiles. But ever since I was a kid, I keep hearing about Hamas’s attacks, Israel’s counter attacks, Hamas’s counter-counter attacks etc. I think I have heard more pompous prime-ministerial speeches about “stamping out the terror” in Gaza then I have heard speeches about the Israeli economy.

The most amazing thing about the endless war in Gaza is that almost nobody, on either side, seems to have any actual goals to achieve through it, except making the other side stop. A few people on the Israeli side talk about conquering Gaza, and a few people on the Palestinian side talk about conquering Israel, but nobody really takes them seriously.

The other amazing thing about this fight is that there is actually nothing to fight about. Unlike other conflicts that Israel has in other places (e.g. the west bank, the Syrian front), this specific conflict doesn’t include any territorial dispute, or any complicated issues. The hypothetical peace treaty in this issue could be written on a napkin. It will contain two sentences- “Israel agrees not to attack in Gaza, and remove the blockade on it. Hamas agrees not to engage in terror attacks towards the citizens of Israel.

Why, then, if everyone is so interested in peace and quiet, and if it is so easy to achieve, does this war continue? The answer to this question is complicated, but it comes down to two issues:

  1. The power of inertia- once the boulder of violence has started rolling, even after nothing is pushing it forward anymore, it will continue rolling, taking innocent lives with it. It will not stop until it has ruined enough lives, enough homes, enough families.
  2. The power of the extreme- the most frustrating thing about this conflict is to see how a handful of extremists can drag millions of people into a never-ending cycle of war, death and violence. One terrorist who fires a missile during a cease-fire, one Israeli soldier who beats up a Palestinian kid, a few 9-year old racists who write “death to the Arabs” on Facebook. These extremists can light a fire that is extremely hard to extinguish, despite the fact that 99% of the citizens on both sides oppose them.

So despite the stupidity and absurdity of this war, the continuation of this cycle, and the next war in a year or two, seems inevitable. If we don’t want to lose hope, we must try and remind ourselves all the time that this stupidity can’t last forever. That eventually, sooner or later, this conflict will end.

About Natan Blanc, Writing for Peace Young Adviser

Natan Blanc was born in Jerusalem, and moved to Haifa (a major city in Israel) when he was a kid. Haifa is a “mixed” city, with both Arabs and Jews, so he learned about co-existence and peace between people of different religions at an early age. During his teenage years, Natan took part in quite a few different peace activities and organizations. He was also part of a social-democrat youth movement called “hamahanot haolim.”

When Natan was 19, he was drafted (like any Israeli after high-school) to join the IDF (the Israeli army) as a combat soldier. He refused, saying he wouldn’t be part of such an army. Natan told the IDF representatives that serving in this army was against his conscience, because of its actions against the Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank.

Natan Blanc, Writing for Peace Young AdviserNatan was jailed repeatedly for his refusal. In total, he was sentenced 10 times, to a total of 178 days in jail. “Eventually,” said Natan, “the army tired of me.” He began an alternative civil service the September after his incarceration.

Natan’s struggle was first of all a struggle for the freedom of conscience, but it was also a struggle for peace between the Jews and the Arabs in Israel. “I hope that my actions, then and in the future, might help end this conflict that has been going on for more than 70 years.”

Natan currently serves in the MDA (the national rescue organization) as a medic (E.M.T.I) in an ambulance. He is also  involved in assisting and guiding potential conscientious military service objectors, as well as the forming and running of “Shelanoo” – a non-profit cooperative for socio-economical change.

To learn more about the pursuit of peace in the Middle East and what you can do, see Natan’s recommendations here.

Small Writing for Peace logoWriting for Peace News

  • 2014 DoveTales “Contrast” Edition On Track for Release

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for Peace McNaughton & Gunn has completed the printing and we’ve received notice that the books have shipped. Contributors will be notified directly by email regarding their personal copies. Contributor pages will appear on the site later today. Official release date is July 30th, one week from today!

  • Website Changes

You may have noticed the blog posts scrolling in the right sidebar. We’ve updated the blog titles to include the author’s name so you can easily find posts from all our amazing advisers and guest writers.  This is the first of many exciting changes that will make Writing for Peace content more accessible. Watch for our 2014 DoveTales “Contrast” pages and a new header reflecting the beautiful black and white photography by our Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz.

  • Facebook

Our Facebook page has taken on a new life! You’ll find inspiration there, about the craft of writing, peace, and the intersection of the two. Check it out, like and share. Help spread the word about Writing for Peace!

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

 

My Mother’s Funeral, A Review by Robert Kostuck

Adriana Paramo, Writing for Peace AdviserMY MOTHER’S FUNERAL

by Adriana Páramo

CavanKerry Press, 2013, 258 pp., $21.00, ISBN 1-933880-39-2

A Review, by Robert Kostuck

In My Mother’s Funeral, Adriana Páramo slips between her mother Carmen’s life before children, her own childhood memories, and the present—wake, funeral, cremation. Woven into these personal experiences is an omnipresent Columbia: the open spaces of Mariquita, the squalid poverty of Medellín and Bogotá, rival drug gangs, politics, Catholicism, the Communist Party revisited.

Objectivity is difficult to achieve in a book-length essay; Ms. Páramo, however, succeeds admirably—she gently and firmly pieces together the tapestry of the mother and daughter relationship; readers will find common themes presented in even-handed and sometimes startling prose. Her writing is educational without being didactic; emotional without being sentimental.

Politics in Colombia were harsh in the 1950s. Her rarely-seen father, ‘Mr. B’, a cachiporro (liberal), seduces the innocent Carmen, and after the wedding rushes her away from her home—a few hours ahead of the godos (conservatives). First night together is spent in a whorehouse; for the remainder of the marriage Mr. B comes and goes as he pleases, impregnating Carmen and then vanishing for months or years at a time. At one point her sister Dalila acquires a partially-decomposed adult male human skeleton—courtesy of a ‘snatcher’, recommended by the nuns—and together sister and mother boil and clean the bones. Assembled, Dalila receives her coveted A+ in anatomy and the unnamed skeleton literally hangs around the house, a possible replacement for the missing Mr. B.

The baby of the family, Adriana curls up with her mother in the kitchen or in bed, listening to the stories of the world filtered through a tabletop radio: sports, agony aunties, soap operas, tangos, boleros; Carmen singing along with the radio, Adriana, watching her mother “morph into a woman”.

“Tal vez mañana puedas comprender / Que siempre fui sincera / Tal vez por alguien llegues a saber / Que todavia te quiero. Maybe later you might understand / That I was always sincere / Perhaps someone will help you see / That I still love you.”

Childhood for Adriana, is a combination of head-long curiosity and goofy naiveté. Carmen, and to a lesser extent, her sisters, guide and guard the young Adriana. Memory is selective; what Adriana shows us is how this mother shapes her daughters: strict, efficient, economical—she maintains a poor but tidy home and life for her children. Lessons by word or example are rarely repeated; they become the very fibers of her daughter’s body and personality. Toward the end of the memoir, Adriana writes,

“Our financial situation started to improve when we moved to Medellín, and Dalila, Amanda, and Ligia got secretarial jobs that required them to wear nylons, high heels, and modest suits. Eventually they began going back to school at night, but they never stopped working, never stopped rescuing Mom and their two younger sisters from the constant panic of uncertainty. I owe everything I am to the women in my family—to my sisters and Mom. Nobody else.”

This is the heart of the memoir: what a daughter learns from her mother: how to be a girl, how to become a woman; and when that mother begins to fade from autumn into winter, how to become her mother. When Carmen, beset by Alzheimer’s, visits Adriana the wife and mother at her new home in Alaska, she relates a story about her pregnancy with Adriana so at odds with the life lessons she’d imparted over the years that her daughter feels an urge to “. . . jump into the lake and sink slowly into its frigid waters.” The fantastic and heartbreaking revelation adds another thin, sharp layer to this complex mother and daughter relationship.

Returning to Colombia in torn jeans and a gypsy blouse, Adriana arrives at the wake, faces somber and seemingly more mature sisters and a brother. Funerals are holidays for the dead, a time when far-flung family reunite and wonder aloud what went right and what went wrong. Her sisters and brother are emotional but methodical—Adriana feels like the only one with an incomparable loss—the woman who as a child promised her mother that she would always remain her little girl. A few days stretches into a painful eternity, and when the siblings return home to divide Carmen’s possessions, Adriana is nostalgic, then practical:

“I imagine landing in Miami, trying to make it through customs with a fern, a plastic chair, a flyswatter, a river stone, and a broom, and I have to laugh at my childishness. I discard my mental list. Instead I take a pair of earrings that belonged to my grandmother, (. . .) a photo of the six women—my four sisters, Mom, and me—that my brother took the day I left Colombia; the locket with a photo of my daughter that Mom wore around her neck like an amulet. I also seize the printout of Mom’s last EKG, taken two days ago.

“(. . .) I don’t know this yet but in six years I will look at this EKG and realize that the ink is fading away and with it the only existing traces of Mom’s heartbeat. I’ll have it tattooed around my left bicep, much to my family’s dismay, so that her heartbeat and mine will always be together.”

My Mother’s Funeral is the literal translation of that EKG tattoo, spanning decades, continents, and lives; a heartbeat that remains long after we scan the final page and move on into the days to come.

Robert Kostuck, Writing For Peace Guest WriterRobert Kostuck graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Masters in Education. His published work appears in the Kenyon Review, Concho River Review, Zone 3, Tiferet: Literature, Art, and the Creative Spirit, Silk Road, and others.

Writing for Peace News

Onward Into 2014!

Last year brought growth and many exciting firsts for Writing For Peace. Here’s a brief overview of 2013:

In 2013 our Advisers continued to demonstrate a commitment to peace and the power of writing through their work, their inspirational blog posts, brilliant ideas such as Mary Carroll-Hackett’s educational Facebook page for young writers, MCH-What’s Going On? and Pilar Rodriguez Aranda’s efforts to reach Spanish speaking young writers by translating our 2014 contest guidelines. Here are just a few of the highlights:

  • Sam Hamill‘s new and revised translated collection of Chinese poetry, Crossing the Yellow River is being published by Tiger’s Bark Press. His Selected Poems (not yet titled) will be published by Lost Horse Press in September 2014.
  • Lorraine Currelley was selected as an Artist-in-Residence for the 2014 Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide (SPARC) and as a new member of the Pearls of Wisdom Storytellers. Her Poets Network & Exchange will publish their first poetry anthology in 2014.
  • Veronica Golos is working on a new book, Root Work: The Lost Writings of John Brown and Mary Day Brown. “Of course John Brown was a great abolitionist and so was his wife, Mary and she also had 13 children. I have Ghost Code poems and Runaway poems also in the book. This is a way to make history live again, to get inside it so to speak.”
  • Richard Krawiec supports a community of writers and activists through education and his ever expanding Jacar Press.
  •  Maija Rhee Devine spoke with young people in South Korea and the United States about her award-winning books, The Voices of Heaven and Long Walks on Short Days, her experiences as a young girl during the Korean War, and her work with Korean Comfort Women.
  • Dr. Margaret Flowers continues her peace and healthcare activism. She currently serves as Secretary of Health on the Green Shadow Cabinet. Her recent article, Major Social Transformation Is a Lot Closer Than You May Realize — How Do We Finish the Job?, is also co-written with Kevin Zeese, and published on AlterNet.
  • Adriana Paramo‘s new memoir, My Mother’s Funeral, explores the volatile relationship with her mother, and their love that defies cultural forces, Bogotá street violence, and Medellin drug lords.

This is just a sampling of the wonderful work all our advisers do. Please watch our blog for their posts, follow their work, and support the poets and authors whose writings and activism encourage a more thoughtful and peaceful world.

In 2014, we look forward to hearing from Board Member Andrea W. Doray, who recently returned from Nepal, and to continued growth – including the occasional review on our blog! On this first day of the New Year, we welcome guest writer, Robert Kostuck, who reviews Adriana Paramo’s memoir, My Mother’s Funeral.

Happy New Year, Writers for Peace! And thank you for your ongoing support!

 

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diminishing The Hatred Between The Two Peoples, by Natan Blanc

Natan Blanc, Writing for Peace Young AdviserMy name is Natan Blanc and I am 20 years old. I live in Haifa, Israel.

When I was 13 my city was hit by missiles during the second Lebanon war. We had only a few minutes to run to the bottom floor every time the alarm was heard. My friend’s house was hit by a missile and was completely destroyed. Fortunately, she was not at home at the time.

When I was 15, another war broke-  the  Gaza War of 2008. My city, Haifa, is in northern Israel. It is close to Lebanon and far away from Gaza. Northern Israel was hardly affected during the Gaza War. Even though my city wasn’t hit, no friends’ houses were ruined, and my life went on as usual,  of the two wars, the Gaza War was far harder for me. The reason was the hatred I suddenly saw all around me.

People were happy when the enemy was hit. People rejoiced every time news came of another bombing, another attack on enemy territory. People were indifferent to innocent lives lost on the other side, indifferent to children dying.

The war was four years before my destined date for joining the Israeli army. I heard my friends saying, “Boy, I wish I were in the army now so I could go and kill those Arabs!”

That was when I learned the real evil of war- it causes death and ruin, but even worse than that is the blinding hatred and demonization it causes between the two sides. The houses ruined by the missiles could be rebuilt, but the hatred between the people will be almost impossible to reverse.

It was during the Gaza War that I decided that I would not  serve in the Israeli army. I decided I will not take part in building up the hatred between the Israelis and Arabs in Israel. I changed my mind a few times in between, but four years later, in November 2012, I reported to the induction base and refused to join the Israeli army. I was imprisoned a total of ten times, spending six months in and out of prison. Eventually, the army tired of me, and I will begin alternative civil service in September.

I don’t know if this conflict in the Middle East will ever end, but I hope my refusal was a small step towards diminishing the hatred between the two peoples.

About Natan Blanc, Young Adviser

Natan Blanc was born in Jerusalem, and moved to Haifa (a major city in Israel) when he was a kid. Haifa is a “mixed” city, with both Arabs and Jews, so he learned about co-existence and peace between people of different religions at an early age. Learn more about Natan here.

Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace News

Congratulations To Our New Young Advisers

Writing for Peace is pleased to introduce two remarkable young peace activists, the founding members of our new panel of Young Advisers. Both have shown an extraordinary commitment to peace. Check their pages and watch our blog for their inspirational posts.

Natan Blanc, Writing for Peace Young AdviserNatan Blanc is an Israeli who refused to serve in the IDF (Israeli army) “because of its actions against the Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank.” Natan held fast to his convictions, despite being jailed ten times.

Lyla June Johnston, Writing for Peace Young AdviserLyla June Johnston is a Navajo poet and peace activist from Taos, New Mexico, who has found her home in the service of humanity.

Writing for Peace is accepting nominations of young activists, writers, and artists, for our new panel of Young Advisers. Please send nominations by email, along with the reasons for your nomination and contact information to editor@writingforpeace.org, subject heading: Young Adviser Nominations.

2014 Young Writers Contest

Writing for Peace Young Writers' ContestThe Writing for Peace 2014 Young Writers Contest deadline is March 1st, 2014. Our prestigious Judges Panel includes Robin Black, fiction; Dinty W. Moore, nonfiction; and David Mason, poetry. Submission guidelines here.

 DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales Call for Submissions

Writing for Peace is accepting submissions for our 2014 Issue of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts. The theme of our second journal is contrast. Check out our submission guidelines here.

Support Writing for Peace

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013Help us reach out to schools and young writers by purchasing a copy of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts to gift to your local high school or junior high. Let us know you are gifting your copy, and we’ll include extra bookmarks (beautifully designed by artist-in-residence, PdLietz). Purchase our 2013 “Occupied” Issue here.

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Who Will Stand With The Innocents? by Sam Hamill

Who Will Stand With The Innocents?

By Sam Hamill

Sam Hamill, Writing for Peace AdvisorFifty years ago, I found myself in the war-ravaged former nation of Okinawa, where some of the fiercest battles of the Pacific War had taken place, and where I began to learn of the true atrocities of the atomic bombing of Japan. I also heard there from fellow Marines first-hand accounts of the race wars in my own country, about lynchings, about Bull Conner’s dogs set on nonviolent civil rights marchers, stories I had known only from brief news accounts. I learned about how the impoverished people of Vietnam had driven out the imperialist French and now faced a growing American presence as they struggled toward their own democratic self-rule. President Eisenhower had spoken of our need “to protect our investments in tin and tungsten.”

I read Gandhi. I read Zen. I read “War is a Racket” by the Marine Corps general, Smedley Butler, who led the overthrowing of several governments himself. I read Albert Camus’s remarkable essay, “Neither Victims nor Executioners,” and I became a devout anti-war campaigner, much to the chagrin of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Fifty years have passed, each with its wars, its body counts, its “collateral damage” that strips people of names and faces and bloody bodies, leaving only numbers, numbers deemed “necessary” by the political class that overthrew democratic governments from Iran to South and Central America, always for the benefit of corporate giants-Standard Oil, the United Fruit Company.

In the past twenty years, following Bush Senior’s bombing of Iraq, Clinton bombed Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan; George W. Bush, bombed Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, and Somalia; Barack Obama has bombed Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya. And now the drum-beating to wage war in Syria grows ever louder. The President says we have no definable objective and yet bombs are necessary once again. And once again, as I have every year for half a century, I call out the corporate rulers for their murders and lies because without justifying mass murder and justifying torture and lies, war would be impossible to wage. I ask today, as I did ten years ago, “Who will speak for the conscience of our country?” Who will stand with the innocents we have damned?

True Peace  

Half broken on that smoky night,
hunched over sake in a serviceman’s dive
somewhere in Naha, Okinawa,
nearly fifty years ago,

I read of the Saigon Buddhist monks
who stopped the traffic on a downtown
thoroughfare
so their master, Thich Quang Dúc, could take up
the lotus posture in the middle of the street.
And they baptized him there with gas
and kerosene, and he struck a match
and burst into flame.

That was June, nineteen-sixty-three,
and I was twenty, a U.S. Marine.

The master did not move, did not squirm,
he did not scream
in pain as his body was consumed.

Neither child nor yet a man,
I wondered to my Okinawan friend,
what can it possibly mean
to make such a sacrifice, to give one’s life
with such horror, but with dignity and conviction.
How can any man endure such pain
and never cry and never blink.

And my friend said simply, “Thich Quang Dúc
had achieved true peace.”

And I knew that night true peace
for me would never come.
Not for me, Nirvana. This suffering world
is mine, mine to suffer in its grief.

Half a century later, I think
of Bô Tát Thich Quang Dúc,
revered as a bodhisattva now–his lifetime
building temples, teaching peace,
and of his death and the statement that it made.

Like Shelley’s, his heart refused to burn,
even when they burned his ashes once again
in the crematorium–his generous heart
turned magically to stone.

What is true peace, I cannot know.
A hundred wars have come and gone
as I’ve grown old. I bear their burdens in my bones.
Mine’s the heart that burns
today, mine the thirst, the hunger in the soul.

Old master, old teacher,
what is it that I’ve learned?

From Border Songs (Word Palace Press, 2012)

Used by permission.

 About Sam Hamill

Sam Hamill, Writing for Peace AdvisorSam Hamill is the author of more than forty books, including fifteen volumes of original poetry (most recently Measured by Stone and Almost Paradise: New & Selected Poems & Translations); four collections of literary essays, including A Poet’s Work and Avocations: On Poetry & Poets; and some of the most distinguished translations of ancient Chinese and Japanese classics of the last half-century. He co-founded, and for thirty-two years was editor at, Copper Canyon Press. He taught in prisons for fourteen years and has worked extensively with battered women and children. An outspoken political pacifist, in 2003, declining an invitation to the White House, he founded Poets Against War, compiling the largest single-theme poetry anthology in history, 30,000 poems by 26,000 poets. Learn more about Sam Hamill here.

Take Action

Write your Representatives: Prevent an Attack on Syria Now

Hit the Streets: Americans Don’t Want A War in Syria—And They’re Working Hard to Prevent One, by Kevin Zeese and Writing for Peace Adviser Margaret Flowers

Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace News

Congratulations To Our New Young Advisers

Writing for Peace is pleased to introduce two remarkable young peace activists, the founding members of our new panel of Young Advisers. Both have shown an extraordinary commitment to peace. Check their pages and watch our blog for their inspirational posts.

Natan Blanc, Writing for Peace Young AdviserNatan Blanc is an Israeli who refused to serve in the IDF (Israeli army) “because of its actions against the Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank.” Natan held fast to his convictions, despite being jailed ten times.

Lyla June Johnston, Writing for Peace Young AdviserLyla June Johnston is a Navajo poet and peace activist from Taos, New Mexico, who has found her home in the service of humanity.

Writing for Peace is accepting nominations of young activists, writers, and artists, for our new panel of Young Advisers. Please send nominations by email, along with the reasons for your nomination, and contact information to editor@writingforpeace.org, subject heading: Young Adviser Nominations.

2014 Young Writers Contest

Writing for Peace Young Writers' ContestThe Writing for Peace 2014 Young Writers Contest deadline is March 1st, 2014. Our prestigious Judges Panel includes Robin Black, fiction; Dinty W. Moore, nonfiction; and David Mason, poetry. Submission guidelines here.

 DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales Call for Submissions

Writing for Peace is accepting submissions for our 2014 Issue of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts. The theme of our second journal is contrast. Check out our submission guidelines here.

Support Writing for Peace

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013Help us reach out to schools and young writers by purchasing a copy of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts to gift to your local high school or junior high. Let us know you are gifting your copy, and we’ll include extra bookmarks (beautifully designed by artist-in-residence, PdLietz). Purchase our 2013 “Occupied” Issue here.

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.