Speak Out for the Right Reasons, by Kira Marshall-McKelvey

“When we’re constantly feeling good about ourselves, putting our altruism on our CVs, how selfless an act is it really?”

Speak Out for the Right Reasons

By Kira Marshall-McKelvey

I am a member of Colorado State University Speakout! program, a community that facilitates weekly writing workshops with incarcerated and at-risk youth populations. I have been participating in these workshops at the Larimer County Jail with fellow students since January, and have been amazed, inspired, and in awe of the work that comes out of these workshops. I am delightedly envious of the poetry that seems to slide off the tongues of these writers, and inspired by their bravery in telling difficult, heart-wrenching stories with such grace and poise. While it may sound cliché, the lessons I have learned about rhyme schemes, writing from the heart, and tempo have come from Wednesday nights at the jail.

As we charge towards the end of the semester, however, I must take a step back and consider why I’m doing this work, and who is truly benefitting from these workshops. At a Speakout! training a few months ago, the guest speaker reminded us that the bar is set tremendously low for volunteers—we are blindly accepted as do-gooders, as inspirational, as selfless.

When we’re constantly feeling good about ourselves, putting our altruism on our CVs, how selfless an act is it really?

This is not a Speakout!-specific problem—there is a certain danger to embodying, or even accepting, the holier-than-thou identity that can come with volunteer work. There are troubling power dynamics associated with the idea that we, the volunteers, are bestowing our knowledge and wisdom on “the Other.” When we say we want to empower others by giving them a voice—but leave the jail with a “helping people high”—who benefits?

This isn’t to say that empowerment isn’t a noble goal. We cannot scorn the hope of giving the marginalized a space to speak, to exist freely, but spending an hour a week in a jail doesn’t give us claim to say we “get it.” Writing and publishing about our work with these writers is a tremendous privilege—it is a demonstration of power. And it all too often leaves out the voices of those we tried to include in the first place.

Frequently revisiting the “why am I here?” question is necessary in volunteer contexts, and the answer can change. I entered Speakout! with the intention to help others, to give them a space to write and create. Now I recognize the complexities in using language that implies I am “giving” something. My work at CSU challenges me to question stereotypes about incarcerated individuals, and to reject the low-bar that the public has set for volunteers.

We may accept the nuances and ambiguities with volunteer work while still finding merit in engaging in these workshops. We can want to help while recognizing the privilege in doing so. We can realize that there are multiple benefitters from this work, and that we, in fact, have been receiving wisdom from those we wanted to help all along.

Kira WFP (3)Kira Marshall-McKelvey is a second year Masters student in Rhetoric and Composition at Colorado State University. She teaches college composition and writes in the areas of digital feminism, Native American rhetoric, and prison literacy. She works with incarcerated writers as a member of CSU’s Speakout! program, and serves as social media intern for Writing for Peace. When she is not working or studying, she enjoys going on hikes, doing yoga, and hanging out with her two delightful cats.

Copyright © 2018 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

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Swoop, Bash, and Submit!

Kurt Vonnegut

“Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they’re done they’re done.”
~ Kurt Vonnegut

The truth is, there are as many different writing processes as there are writers. Where do you find your inspiration? Is it in individual acts of courage, like we’re seeing in the young people standing up to the status quo, determined to change a power structure dominated by corporations and their lobbyists? Is your pen fired up by  injustices, like children torn from their parents by an immigration policy that is applied without compassion, especially toward people of color? We’d love to hear about your inspirations and writing processes!

In the meantime, whether you’re a swooper or a basher, the ultimate goal is to get your writing out there where it can make a difference. Today, March 15th, is the final day to submit work for our annual literary journal. If you haven’t already sent us your work, you’ll find the DoveTales guidelines and submit button here.

If you’re planning on entering our contest, you have a couple more weeks. The deadline is April 1st. For ages 13-19, it’s a fun and free challenge that could lead to publication, awards, and other opportunities. You can learn more about the 2018 Young Writers Contest here.

Wishing you all much success in your writing for peace,

Carmel Mawle
President and Founder

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

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Partial Blueprint for Becoming Citizen Journalists, by Djelloul Marbrook

 

keyboard

A Partial Blueprint for Becoming Citizen Journalists

By Djelloul Marbrook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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From Writing for Peace Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

 

New Defense Strategy: War With Great Nations & Arms Race

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

2018 Young Writers Contest

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

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

Check out the complete guidelines here.

Copyright © 2018 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

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Young Writers Contest Announcement

writer1 (2)

Young Writers Contest Announcement

Now in its sixth year, our annual Writing for Peace Young Writers Contest has had entries from 26 countries and every continent except Antarctica! We’ve extended the deadline to receive essays, poems, and stories from young writers ages 13-19 to April 1st, 2018. Find the full guidelines online here.

We’re excited to announce that this year our prestigious panel of judges are all members of our panel of advisers. Each of them has created a body of work that promotes peace and empathy, demonstrating outstanding creative writing, wisdom, and an innate understanding of the world of human interactions and connectivity. We’re grateful for their service, their time, and their willingness to judge our contest.

Meet Our 2018 Judges:

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, Writing for Peace AdviserPatricia Jabbeh Wesley, Poetry

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley is an Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at Penn State University, Altoona. Wesley’s most recent book of poems, “When the Wanderers Come Home,” was written during a four-month stay in her homeland of Liberia in 2013. In his review of the book in World Literature Today, Matthew Shenoda wrote, “Wesley is a poet working to find language that can help show the fractures and fissures of a postwar nation and the personal realities of displacement and return.”

Wesley is the author of four previous collections of poetry and a children’s book. Her poetry has been featured in American Life in Poetry, and her awards include the 2016 WISE Women Award in Arts and Letters, the 2011 President Award from the Blair County NAACP, the 2010 Liberian Award, and a World Bank Fellowship.

 

Adriana Paramo, Writing for Peace AdviserAdriana Paramo, Nonfiction

Adriana is a Colombian writer, born in cold Bogotá but raised in Medellín, The City of Eternal Spring. She received her bachelors of science in Petroleum Engineering and worked as a geophysicist for a multinational oil company for ten years before she left Colombia to make radical changes in her life.  She moved to Alaska where a few years later, she graduated as a Cultural Anthropologist with an emphasis in dance ethnography. In 1996, she moved to Kuwait where she engaged in social activism, advocacy of immigrant women’s rights and designed a tool to assess the quality of life of Indian servants living in Kuwaiti work camps. The findings of this research eventually evolved into “You’re not my Sister,” a CNF work. In 2000, Adriana returned to the USA to teach Humanities and Anthropology to undergraduate students at the local college. She continued her women rights advocacy and did extensive work with the immigrant farming community working in the Florida fields. This research resulted in the production of the manuscript, Looking for Esperanza,” winner of the 2011 Social Justice and Equality Award in Creative Nonfiction, released in 2012 by Benu Press. Her memoir, “My Mother’s Funeral,” set in Colombia, published by CavanKerry Press, was nominated for the Latino Books into Movies Award in 2014. 

Adriana is also on the advisory panel of Writing for Peace, an active member of the travel writing workshop of VONA–Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation–a community of writers of color, and provides one-on-one mentoring to inmates for a Prison Writing Program.

djelloul-marbrook leaningDjelloul Marbrook, Fiction

Djelloul Marbrook is the acclaimed author of five books of fiction, five books of poetry, and five more books are currently forthcoming from Leaky Boot Press, United Kingdom.

Marbrook won the 2008 Literal Latté fiction prize for “Artists Hill,” an excerpt from Crowds of One, Book 2 in the Guest Boy trilogy. New Millennium Writings has selected four of his stories and one poem in the last 10 years. His work has been published by American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, Coal Hill Review, Omniverse, Galatea Resurrects, Taos Poetry Journal, Onager Editions, Orbis (UK), From the Fishouse, Oberon, The Same, Reed, Fledgling Rag, Pine Hills Review, Le Zaporogue (Denmark), Poets Against the War, Poemeleon, Van Gogh’s Ear Anthology (France), Atticus Review, Onager Editions, Knot Magazine, Deep Water Literary Journal, Red Sky (the Sable Books anthology on violence against women) and Daylight Burglary, among others.

Marbrook maintains a lively presence on Twitter and Facebook. A U.S. Navy veteran and retired newspaper editor, he lives in the mid-Hudson Valley with his wife Marilyn. His newspaper career included the Providence (RI) Journal, the Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, the Baltimore Sun, the Winston-Salem Journal, the Washington Star, and Media News dailies in northeast Ohio and northern New Jersey. He is the editor-in-chief of Arabesques, a trilingual online and print literary quarterly.

Copyright © 2018 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

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President’s Corner: January Hello and Update, By Carmel Mawle

President’s Corner:

Carmel Mawle is the founder of Writing for Peace and serves as President of the Board of Directors.

Carmel Mawle
Founder and President

Hello, friends! I’m hoping that this first post of 2018 finds you all well and on your way to a fruitful new year. We look forward to supporting you in your writing and activism.

First, some news:

President Andrea W. Doray has stepped down for personal reasons, but will continue to serve on our Board of Directors as Past President. We’re grateful for her leadership and vision and look forward to future blog posts from her. The good news is we have an amazing Board of Directors. Our longtime adviser Mary Carroll-Hackett has agreed to serve as Vice President, and I’m honored to once again serve as president of the board and Editor-in-Chief of DoveTales.

Since our Refugees and the Displaced edition of DoveTales was released last year, we have seen rising and unprecedented cruelty in United States immigration policies. Families are torn apart. Patients are dragged from their beds. Immigrants fear calling the police when they are the victims of violent crimes because the call could trigger their own deportation. And asylum seekers, with little chance of a fair review, are being sent back to the countries they fled even though their lives are in danger.

One thing we can and must do is help them get their stories out. You will likely see them in our blog, our journal, our Peace Correspondent, and on our Facebook page. We will also be working to make our annual Youth Summit accessible to those who might benefit from translation. If you’re interested in helping with this project, please send your contact information, resume, and a short introductory paragraph to editor@writingforpeace.org.

While you’ll see lots of new initiatives this year, you can count on our annual publication, DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, our Young Writers Contest, and our periodical, The Peace Correspondent.

The theme for our next journal is “Empathy in Art: Embracing the Other.” It promises to be a powerful look at how we connect with each other and move toward compassion. The deadline has been extended to March 15th, and the book will be released on July 1st. We plan to celebrate with launches and readings all over the globe and hope you can join us for one! Check our guidelines for details.

Our Young Writers Contest is up and entries are trickling in from all over the world. The deadline has been extended to April 1st, 2018. As always, there is no fee for participation. For the complete guidelines check our website.

And continue to look forward to our beautifully evolving periodical, The Peace Correspondent. I’ve heard from so many friends who, like myself, experience moments of despair when reading the news these days. The constant negative torrents of media can be overwhelming, but remember that you are not alone. Keep in touch, and spread the word. We’re in this together. Thanks for all you do.

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Copyright © 2018 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

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

Gandhi gentle way quill

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

By Mary Carroll-Hackett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Awareness. Education. Action.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Take Advantage of Our Donation Match Offer:

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

5 books 2

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Posted in Activism, Advisory Panel Contributors, Board Contributors, Peace, Take Action, Writing, Writing for Peace News | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Poetry by Phil Johnson, Guest Contributor

Vietnam_War_Memorial_at_night

Vietnam War Memorial at night, Public Domain

A BRISK WALK

A brisk walk
Takes me to a wall
My hand searches the names
For a ribbon of my sanity
The cold marble
Folds into itself with sorrow
The wall aches of innocence
It is the texture of God
Evening shadows pool
Black blood at my feet
These are the victims of deceit

A sense
Not so much of guilt
As unworthiness
Ripples down my spine
What is the purpose here
Absolution, humility
For I have tasted war
Only through the tormented words
Of countless poets

And I wonder
How many more poems
Will be ripped
From the brutal guts and horror
Of the depravity of war

COLD MOMENTS

There are times
Cold moments
In the heat of the day
When I can see
Through the myth
Deep into the naked eyes
Of war

Is it memory
Steeped in violence
Stilled by death
That carries me
On the cold wings
Of a wicked wind
Or is it in the hands
Of a callous god
That delivers me
To the wretched trench

What difference
If I am English
Or German, or French
All occupy
By unholy chance
The fetid trench
And wait
In the moldy mist
With empty eyes
The cruel call
To advance
Another chance
To die

THE INNOCENCE OF HIS YOUTHFUL DEATH

While everyone accepted the innocence
Of his youthful death
No one understood the instant death
Of my innocence
And, no one was aware
Of his winter’s moving in and about
The crevices and shadows
Within the shiplap walls
Of the decrepit barn
Perhaps he spent those winter evenings
Wondering why
I was milking cows
And why
He was dead

Phil JohnsonAbout Guest Contributor Phil Johnson
Say “Phil” in Port Townsend, Jefferson County, Washington and everyone knows who you mean. Port Townsend raised, soldier, peace activist, Berkeley grad, fisher, builder, businessperson, patron of the arts, cultural and environmental preservationist, county commissioner, husband and father, Phil Johnson epitomizes “citizenship.”

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Breaking! Donation Match Offer!

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

5 books 2

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Posted in Guest Contributors, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

On Empathy, by Andrea W. Doray

 

Empathy unites the hopes and dreams of humanity

by Andrea W. Doray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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

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Writing for Peace News

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

What Can I Do?

by Jody Rein, Writing for Peace Board Member

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

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

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

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

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

Actions that Make a Difference

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

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

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

We can do this.

 

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

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One thing we know for sure: This should not have happened by Andrea W. Doray

President’s Corner:

One thing we know for sure: This should not have happened

by Andrea W. Doray

 

Andrea_final--2 (2)Sunday, in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, a lone gunman killed more than 50 people and wounded more than 500 more. The details – all the sad, heart wrenching, uplifting, horrifying, miraculous, grisly, and even inspiring details – are yet to be known, but one thing we know for certain: This should not have happened.

Something else we know for sure is that this tragedy will reignite the controversy over gun control in the United States. Despite the success of gun control in some countries, and the complete ban of firearms in others, there is a mulish resistance by some sectors of American government – and in our society – who refuse to acknowledge that there is even a problem, much less a solution.

I spent some time in 2010 volunteering with the U.S. Peace Corps in Turkmenistan, a regime second in repression only to North Korea. I personally was followed by the KNB, the Turkmen version of the KGB, and one of the young women I trained with was rousted out of bed in her host family’s home in the middle of the night, for no reason that we ever ascertained. No one else in the village would take her in because they feared the displeasure of these secret police. Fortunately, she connected with another Peace Corps volunteer in the area who was able to help her.

I mention this because the good and kind people of Turkmenistan were completely at the mercy of the whims of their dictatorial government. And although I had previously believed that this could never happen in the U.S., after the 2016 presidential election, I now conclude that anything is possible. The darkest parts of world history are finding a way to replay in America, from Hitleresque demonization of an entire faith to the benighted beliefs of KKK white supremacism.

I believe in the Founding Fathers’ vision of the rights of American citizens to bear arms, if for no other reason than to ultimately prevent the types of oppression I witnessed in Turkmenistan. But, like all rights, this one must be balanced with the good of the citizenry at large. For example, hate speech is not protected as free speech. Freedom of religion does not extend to so-called cults that break the law. And the right to bear arms needs the balance of sensible minds on all sides coming together to craft policies that honor the intent of the 2nd Amendment as well as protect the people of America from the horrors of a Las Vegas-style massacre.

There are no easy answers for such a complex problem. All that I ask is a recognition by those in government that there is a problem, and a willingness to do the hard work of finding a solution.

In this space, I echo the sentiments of Chris Murphy reacting to the Las Vegas shootings, now a Connecticut senator, who represented the House district that includes Newtown, Connecticut, when 20 children and six adults were shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School: “… the thoughts and prayers of politicians are cruelly hollow if they are paired with continued legislative indifference.”

I urge us all to engage in civil dialogue about this most critical issue. And that’s how I see it from my little corner of the world.

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Statement from Writing for Peace:

On behalf of the board of directors, advisors, and supporters of Writing for Peace, I offer our most heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies to those who lost loved ones in the senseless violence last night in Las Vegas. May you find peace and some measure of comfort in the days ahead.

To those who were wounded in this chaos, we send love and best wishes for your quick recoveries, physically, mentally, spiritually.

To the police, fire departments, and first responders, the medical and emergency providers, the venue personnel, and the Las Vegas community, we thank you.

To the regular ordinary people who reached out to their fellow human beings — staying with the wounded on the concert lawn, helping others over the venue fences, holding the dying in their arms — you are our heroes.

In the aftermath of this tragedy, it is normal for us all to turn to one another for comfort, to try to speak the unspeakable, to try to understand what we often cannot even comprehend.

Writing for Peace, clearly, stands against violence of this — or any — type. We do not waiver in our passion for peaceful resolution of conflict, and for de-escalating the ways and means of perpetrating such violence.

We continue to speak up, to stand up, to reach out with our ideals of a peaceful world built on empathy and compassion, tomorrow and in the future.

Today, we mourn.

Respectfully,
Andrea Doray
President, Writing for Peace

Writing for Peace

Writing for Peace News

I’m pleased to announce publication of our second all-student edition of The Peace Correspondent. (You can read the first student edition here.) As editor-in-chief Elissa Tivona says, “September has been synonymous with back-to-school, but this year, the month feels more closely associated with disruption … American kids are facing unprecedented challenges as they navigate their young lives in very uncertain times. But resilience and creativity have never been more apparent.”
 
I invite you to dig into student writing such as “Conversations of Gender,” and “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail,” as well as “Comedy in the Politically Correct World.” Our Spotlight on Solutions section features a piece on bringing back the arts and another on climate change.
 
As guest editor, and Writing for Peace Advisor, Djelloul Marbrook, says in his outlook, “We have witnessed the near total collapse of diligent local journalism in America, and this is a costly tragedy that encourages gerrymandering, voter suppression, and confiscatory property taxation, not to mention pure damned corruption … We need people willing to challenge our assumptions about news.”
The young people who share their perspectives here will help us to meet this challenge.
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Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.
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We are citizens of the world: All may join and be, by Andrea W. Doray

President’s Corner:

We are citizens of the world: All may join and be

by Andrea W. Doray

 

Andrea_final--2 (2)When I sat down to write about the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA, last month, I found that I had no words, which doesn’t happen very often for me.

When American neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and domestic terrorists turned a peaceful counter-protest into a deadly confrontation, the worst of this nation was on display. When a deranged, hate-filled ideologue willfully sped a car through demonstrators, killing one and injuring dozens more, the worst of this nation had a face. I was left speechless with rage and helplessness and horror.

andrea Sentence 2 (2)Perhaps it’s more accurate to say, though, that I had too many words, too many jumbled phrases, too many tumbled emotions. I couldn’t focus well enough to put them together.

That changed recently in Denver, Colorado, on the 16th Street Mall, a section of downtown open only to pedestrians, bicycles, baby strollers, and, on occasion, horse-drawn buggies. At the time, it didn’t occur to me that I was safe from terrorism by car, but maybe that was a factor.

andrea Passerby (2)I have the pleasure of mentoring a young writer and the two of us got together one Saturday in August to Write Denver: Meet in the Street, a collaborative write-the-city project hosted by Lighthouse Writers Workshop, where I sometimes teach in the Young Writers Program.

That day’s “Word on the Street” event was a prelude to the Big Read, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in the U.S. The NEA Big Read supports dynamic community reading programs that broaden our understanding of our world, our communities and ourselves through the effect of sharing a good book, which this year features Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine. In this work – which was a finalist for our National Book Award – Rankine explores what it means to be a person of color in America today, laying bare moments of racism that often surface in everyday encounters.

Version 3Dan Manzanares, Lighthouse Community Programs Coordinator, chalked out two huge blank pages on the center sidewalk and piled up words pasted on wooden blocks. Among “and,” “the,” “I” and “my,” were random words such as “tanks,” “stadiums,” heroes” and “punks.”

My student Grayson and I dove in.

It was an interesting process. Grayson seemed to put sentences together first, picking up a collection of blocks to position on the sidewalk page. I, on the other hand, found words that intrigued me, such as “seriousness,” “innocent,” “nostalgia” or “illuminated,” then added blocks, moved them around, or sometimes tossed them.

After about an hour, the two pages in the middle of Denver’s 16th Street Mall were nearly full, attracting the attention of passersby. Being who I am, I briefly outlined the project and asked them if they wanted to play. Some did.

andrea Sentence 1 (2)A tall black man took his time before he laid down blocks that read: “I roared I wish / my kids never know.” A young white couple wrote simply: “All may join / and be.” The man returned a second time, with this: “Instead of ambition / wish life & joy / be on all.”

Wow.

From my student, this: “We looked different / so life was floodlights / and / they did what they had to.” And, “This just in / the people are / only partially awful.”

All this from random blocks we were given.

For my part, by zeroing in on a word or two and then building around them, I wrote: “Neighborhood young families / punks and professional heroes wish / days crowd into night.” And this: “Oh, I myself had my cruel / seriousness too illuminated, thinking / innocent touch is enough.”

Did I write about the travesty of Charlottesville? Did I find my voice against hatred and violence and vile racism? Maybe … the experience of sharing words and thoughts with my student and with strangers – none of whom knew Rankine’s work, by the way – was oddly liberating. And uplifting. And illuminating.

In the end, I put together this about racism and Nazi flags and Tiki-torch violence: “Some nostalgia makes eager fraternities,” and, “My life wish is me / shutting doors / myself.”

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.

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

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