Category Archives: Teachings

NY TIMES GOT IT WRONG

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Sisters and Supporters,

We of the Granny Peace Brigade epitomize the revolt of seniors.  Our “silver revolution” is certainly not muted and if our persistent, consistent actions for peace which we demonstrate with our physical bodies and our vocal cries, exhortations for peace, against the violence of war, poverty, racism, militarism, and materialism is viewed as passive then we must intensify our activities and our solidarity with the oppressed, dispossessed not only in these United States but around the world.

A boy stands at the site of suspected U.S. drone attacks in the Janikhel tribal area in Bannu district of North West Frontier Province in Pakistan, November 19, 2008 Photo: REUTERS (Click on photos for larger images.)
A boy stands at the site of suspected U.S. drone attacks in the Janikhel tribal area in Bannu district of North West Frontier Province in Pakistan, November 19, 2008 Photo: REUTERS (Click on photos for larger images.)

 

A relative of the 10 members of the Deeb family weeps at their funeral in Jabaliya refugee camp. The victims died in an Israeli strike on a a UN run school the previous day - Photograph: Mohammed Saber/EPA
A relative of the 10 members of the Deeb family weeps at their funeral in Jabaliya refugee camp. The victims died in an Israeli strike on a a UN run school the previous day – Photograph: Mohammed Saber/EPA

We STAND UP for a transformation of the values of this world society.  We are no summertime soldiers. Like the evergreens surrounded by the bleakness of winter snows, we STAND OUT with the passion and wisdom of our years and with the love we  have for all living things.

Sisters, it was so good to see you in my Lower East Side yesterday marching for peace and against nuclear war. Nothing muted about us!

Peace, Power, Love

– Vinie Burrows
for the Granny Peace Brigade

Needed: An Honest Broker

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Reuters / Nayef Haslamoun
Reuters / Nayef Haslamoun

(Click on photos for larger images.)

In connection with the ongoing Kerry-Israel/Palestine Peace Talks the GPB decided we should seek advice on practical action we might take to encourage the U.S. Government to act as a truly honest broker in this so vital process.  Accordingly, I addressed a letter, below, to each of the following five whose concern with U.S. Middle East involvement has been evident, individual openings as indicated:

  • President Bill Clinton, William J. Clinton Foundation – referred to his statement “America Cannot Let Israel-Palestine Conflict Fester.”
  • Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) – referred to his concern with cause and effect in the Israel/Palestine conflict and to his discussions on high level on Middle East peace process.
  • Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) – referred to his discussion on the U.S. as broker in the Israel/Palestine peace process.
  • Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) – referred to his support of the petition “Tell Congress:  Don’t Attack Syria.”
  • Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA) – referred to his visit to Israel, West Bank, and Gaza, and to is views on efforts to move forward the peace process.

I write here expressing my own views and as a member of a peace-focused group, the Granny Peace Brigade.  I am seeking your suggestions/recommendations for any practical action you think we might pursue in urging our government to work as a true third party broker in the Kerry Israel-Palestine peace talks (not as a broker favoring the basic aims of one party).

UNRWA  -  A boy hangs on to what is left of his house after the 2008-09 Israeli military incursion into Gaza.
UNRWA – A boy hangs on to what is left of his house after the 2008-09 Israeli military incursion into Gaza.

How best to further the U.S. playing an impartial role (notwithstanding the 1975 letter from President Gerald Ford to Prime Minister Ytzhak Rabin which in effect made American diplomatic initiatives in future Middle East peace negotiations conditional on prior approval by Israel — reference, Rashid Khalidi, “Brokers of Deceit,” page 8) in the cause of fair negotiation and establishment of peace?

I should mention that the Granny Peace Brigade works independently and with other groups undertaking activities such as visiting members of Congress to lobby for the lessening of our military action and for increase in our use of diplomacy for conflict resolution, focusing public awareness on the need to channel government funds for development of our human resources and national infrastructure, organizing teach-ins on current matters.

UNWRA - An estimated 350 children were killed and thousands were injured during the 2008-09 Israeli military operation in Gaza.
UNWRA – An estimated 350 children were killed and thousands were injured during the 2008-09 Israeli military operation in Gaza.

A retired United Nations staff member, I worked in Africa and the Middle East for 18 years.  If I express here concern about matters that affect Palestinians negatively, it is because many know of the situation and events in Israel/Palestine principally from an Israeli point of view and many do not realize that it is ancestral home also to Palestinians.  Therefore, as I see it, settlements, including, of course, Hebron; East Jerusalem; the West Bank portion of the Jordan River Valley (and in this connection the recent reports of President Mahmoud Abbas’s indication that it is reasonable to allow Israelis to withdraw gradually from the Jordan Valley is noted); the wall built into portions of West Bank land all should be dealt with, real consideration being given to Palestinian needs and rights.  AN ETHNOCENTRIC APPROACH ON OUR PART MUST BE AVOIDED.  We (our government) must make a continuing conscientious effort in this regard.

UNWRA - Two children fill up bottles of water to take home.
UNWRA – Two children fill up bottles of water to take home.

A just resolution of the conflict for the people of Israel/Palestine is so long overdue.  I do thank you for any advice you may have.  It will be very much appreciated.

Very truly yours,
 – Barbara Walker

ATL and GPB – Hint: it’s not a Tweet

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As the United Nations Conference on Climate Change meets in Warsaw, the Granny Peace Brigade (GPB) has joined an Amicus Brief (Friend of the Court) in support of five Youth Plaintiffs and their federal lawsuit of Atmospheric Trust Litigation (ATL).

Together with other organizations – Global Kids, Earth Guardians, 350.org, Boston Latin School Youth Climate Action NetworkLabor Network for Sustainability, HelpAge International and HelpAge USA – the Grannies are supporting these Youths and their appeal filed on May 23, 2013.

Atmospheric Trust Litigation is grounded in Public Trust Doctrine in which governments have a legal responsibility to protect those resources essential for collective survival and prosperity.   Public Trust Doctrine dates to Roman Emperor Justinian 1500 years ago.

alec_2(Click on photo for a larger image.)

Alec Loorz, founder of Kids vs Global Warming and an activist since the age of 12, first filed a suit on May 4, 2011 against six U. S. agency defendants demanding “Climate Recovery Plans” to protect our climate system. Alec, the lead plaintiff, was 16 years old and joining him were 4 Youths in a legal action in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California.

In April 2012 the National Association of Manufacturers was granted defendant status in the case as “fossil fuel intervenors.”  On May 12, 2012 District Court Judge Robert Wilkins dismissed the Youth’s suit on the grounds that it was a legislative matter and not one for courts to decide.

In the fall of  2012 several Grannies met with Julia Olson, attorney and Executive Director of  Our Children’s Trust, a nonprofit organization working with youth around the country, and filmmaker Kelly Matheson, coordinator of a Trust campaign.  At that meeting the GPB was invited to join the case as a Friend of the Court, should an appeal be filed.  And it was filed on October 22, 2013.

The Youth Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  It charges that irreparable harm to resources and loss of a habitable climate system is a breach of the Trust relationship between Youth and Government.  As such it is a breach of the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.  Youth’s claims are based on fundamental obligations of the government which are incapable of being displaced by legislation.

The GPB has now joined the appeal as Amicus Curiae, a Friend of the Court, with the following statement:

We Grannies stand for Peace.  The Granny Peace Brigade (“GPB”) formed in 2006 after 18 older women were found not guilty in a court of law of charges related to their actions opposing the Iraq War.  We stand for human rights and justice.  We oppose war and the violence of poverty and racism.  We are committed to the struggle to make a safe and peaceful world for all children and grandchildren everywhere.  From the perspective of our ages ranging between 67 and 98 years, we are witnesses to the drastic and dramatic climate changes taking place and feel it our responsibility to act on behalf of future generations.   We join with the plaintiffs.

– Nydia Leaf
for the Granny Peace Brigade

(Return to GPB website)

Iran Teach-In

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On  June 28, 2012, the Granny Peace Brigade presented an Iran Teach-In, featuring Phyllis Bennis and Nima Shirazi.

Links to videos of
Nima Shirazi
Phyllis Bennis

Phyllis Bennis is Director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC. A writer, analyst and activist, she is a co-founder of the US Campaign to End Israeli Occupation and co-chair of the UN-based International Coordinating Network on Palestine, as well as the author and co-editor of eight books on US foreign policy.

Nima Shirazi  is a political analyst whose commentary appears on his blog Wide Asleep in America, on Muftah.org as a co-editor of the Iran pages  and in numerous online publications including Foreign Policy Journal, Monthly Review, Mondoweiss and CASMII.

Sponsored by the Peace and Justice Task Force of All Souls Church in New York City, the speakers had the benefit of a full house and lively discussion following this  successful event.

-Ann Shirazi
for the Granny Peace Brigade

Guns In The U.S.A. – They Must Not Speak For Us

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A significant aspect of who we are as U.S. Americans seems often to be expressed as — “Don’t let the government take our guns from us; I need a gun to protect what is mine; this gun speaks for me.” Is this seemingly ingrained attitude and its expression part of an ethos which harkens back to “the way the West was won” and earlier — to vigilantism? The memory of the awfulness of that day in December will never leave us; I see it every day in the young child. Fortunately, there seems now to be readiness of government officials, media managers and columnists, gun and ammunition manufacturers/dealers and related organizations, and the public to discuss and to make recommendations on  control of guns. Useful in these considerations, I think, would be a focus on the deep-seated feelings about and long-term association of U.S. Americans with guns — beyond their use for hunting for food. We need to hold up the mirror — to see ourselves. Our basic reliance on the obvious force of the ‘gun’ has, as we know, continued, unfortunately, to affect the design and execution of our foreign policy and military policy (e.g., the Gulf of Tonkin, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen). We lost our little children and their school guardians here in December. Because of our recent and current military operations abroad, little children there, as dear to their loved ones as children here are to theirs, are being killed by us. The ‘battlefields’ are homes and streets in towns and villages. It is hoped that the consideration of ‘guns in America’ and our tragedies related to use of guns will engender in those concerned the immediacy of the need for us to focus our foreign policy, with regard to conflict resolution, on obtaining results through diplomacy/negotiation, rather than through use of the ‘gun.’

– Barbara Walker
for the Granny Peace Brigade

Palestinian Homeland, 65 Years, 1947-2012

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Some Significant Events:

  1. For millennia Palestine has been home to Palestinians and their forebears.
  2. On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly voted to divide Palestine into two states, one for the Jews and one for the Arabs; Jerusalem was to remain under international control.  [‘One Palestine Complete — Jews and Arabs under the British Mandate,’ Tom Segev (New York:  Henry Holt and Company — Metropolitan Books, 1999) p. 496.]
  3. On May 14, 1948, Israel declared its independence.
  4. From 1948 until the June War of 1967, the Gaza Strip was controlled by Egypt;  the West Bank and East Jerusalem were governed by Jordan. [‘Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict – A Primer,’ Phyllis Bennis (Massachusetts:  Olive Branch Press — Interlink Publishing Group, Inc., 2009) p. 14.]
  5. The West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza were captured by Israel in the Six Day War (June 5 – 10, 1967).
  6. United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 (SI/RES/242) was adopted unanimously by the UN Security Council on November 22, 1967, in the aftermath of the Six Day War.  It called for “the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:  (i) WITHDRAWAL OF ISRAELI ARMED FORCES FROM TERRITORIES  OCCUPIED IN THE RECENT CONFLICT; (ii) TERMINATION OF ALL CLAIMS OR STATES OF BELLIGERENCY ….” [‘United Nations Security Council Resolution 242’ (Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia)].
  7. The Government of Israel has built and moved Israelis into settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories captured in the 1967 war.  This is in contravention of the 1949 Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention on Rules of War which states that “THE OCCUPYING POWER SHALL NOT DEPORT OR TRANSFER PART OF ITS OWN CIVILIAN POPULATION INTO A TERRITORY IT OCCUPIES.”
  8. “More than 130 countries voted on Thursday” (November 29, 2012) “to upgrade Palestine to a nonmember observer state of the United Nations…”[New York Times, November 30, 2012.]

– Barbara Walker
for the Granny Peace Brigade

War Should Not Be Treated As A Game

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To:
Mr. Bob Wright, Vice Chairman and Executive Officer
GE Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
NBC Universal Headquarters
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112

I have lived and worked in areas of military conflict.  Why, why is NBC producing “Stars Earn Stripes”?  War is not a game.  Does corporate America think it is?  Here are media — Comcast, NBC, GE; there are military contractors who profit from war, developing  nastier and nastier weapons, providing sub-contractors and civilians for ‘chores’ formerly assigned to military personnel,  thus freeing young military personnel to serve as ‘cannon fodder’ in these wars (the wealthy young need not apply for this function) — General Wesley Clark knows this.  I repeat, war is not — should not be treated as — a game.  People are slaughtered in their villages and homes.  Villages and homes are the ‘battle fields.’  With what do the villagers — some sleeping or sleepy inside homes or on roofs — fight?  Countries are destroyed, societies  and societal ways radically changed, cultural creations ruined/pillaged — General Clark knows this.  We destroyed Iraq — oops, no weapons of mass destruction.  A mistake can be erased, corrected.  It was not a mistake and it was/is not a game, certainly not to the Iraqis. The attack and war were neither defensive, nor pre-emptive, nor preventive and not a game!  (Background note:  Iraq had been aided by us during the Iran Iraq war but Iraq also declined to lay an oil pipeline down to Aqaba!)

In view of our recent military actions, why would NBC design a program glorifying our application of military skills; do civilians now require on-line boot-camp training?  Must we, should we glorify our militarism?  Is this what we desire for our country, for this and future generations?  Our country has loftier endeavors needing attention.

Implicit in military action is slaughter and destruction. WAR IS NOT A GAME!  How about a TV game program where contestants examine specific current (or past) international conflicts and  really look into REAL cause(s), underlying and immediate,  of the conflict and then make recommendations for remedial action?  Contestants could be rewarded on the basis of their analyses and recommendations — the rewards to be used for a decided upon purpose.  Such might provide some thoughts for the moving away from gratuitous war and from the unfortunate making of ‘a peace to end all peace’ — (“A Peace to End All Peace –The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East,” by David Fromkin, 1989.)

– Barbara Walker
for the Granny Peace Brigade

Letter to the OWS Peace Committee

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Hi Geoff,
Although we haven’t been to an Anti-War meeting since the first one, we feel the need to weigh in on the Iran issue. We have been somewhat involved with  OWS since the beginning, and support every aspect of its mission. So it is distressing to read the emails regarding the stance that OWS is considering in relation to the threats against Iran.

I am an American-born Iranian citizen  (member of the Granny Peace Brigade) married to a native Iranian for over 40 years. We go to Iran frequently. In fact we just returned last month and are making a return trip this month due to family illness. We have a huge family in Iran and so are involved with daily life and attitudes there. Iran, like all countries , has societal problems, and Iran is no exception. But as an American, for every human rights violation I read about in Iran, I think about the number of crimes in my own country, from Guantanamo  to our prison industrial system, to the increasing abuse of power by our government on human rights – invasions and murders, secret prisons around the world for “extraordinary rendition[sic]; domestically, the death penalty, HR 347, the Military Commissions Act, NDAA, Patriot Act,  torture, rapes and assassinations; and locally, as you know, the unending harassment and arrests of so many of us out on the street.

Iranians are more than capable of making changes in their own country. We cannot forget that Iran is one of the few countries that had a successful revolution to overthrow an American puppet regime. Because of this, it has been under attack and sanctions for over thirty years. In addition, some of the people who have written to you seem to think that everyone in Iran and abroad are against the current regime. This is not true. A majority of Iranian citizens , despite their suffering from high prices and hardship caused by the sanctions, are still supportive of the government. Whether we or anyone else in the US is in favor of a theocracy-and obviously most of us are not- this is strictly for Iranians living in Iran to decide. The opposition to sanctions and constant threats of war which are illegal under international law must be unconditional.

Human rights violations is an international issue–whether they occur in Iran, the US, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, or anywhere else. Yes, we must all oppose and work for change, beginning with our own government. But to isolate this issue regarding Iran gives the US an excuse to attempt to bully Iran into submission, to give up their rights in order to install another puppet regime and again steal their resources.

The last thing Iran needs is another CIA-orchestrated regime change like the one in 1953. The majority of Iranian people are very aware of the efforts of the US and its allies to destabilize and overthrow their government.  This is a time for us in the anti-war movement to stand with ALL the Iranian people against attack and sanctions, not just those with a particular agenda.

We really would like to be part of this most crucial conversation.

In solidarity,

– Ann and Ahmad Shirazi
for the Granny Peace Brigade

Reopen Shuhada Street in Hebron

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For 17 years by order of Israeli authorities, Shuhada Street in Hebron, West Bank, has been closed to Palestinians.  Below is my letter in this regard mailed to the Embassy of Israel to the United States.
February 22, 2012

The Honorable Michael Oren
Ambassador of Israel
Embassy of Israel
3514 International Drive N.W.
Washington, D.C.20008-3021

Excellency:

Respectfully I write to you concerning the Government of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, making particular reference to the closure of  Shuhada Street in Hebron and recommending its reopening.

The Government of Israel continues occupation of the West Bank and as the administering power has, along the sides of Shuhada Street, formerly a busy marketplace in this Palestinian City,  allowed settlements to develop and settlers to become privileged dwellers.  Palestinians are denied basic rights as residents.  In 1994 Shuhada Street was closed to Palestinians by the Israeli army after the killing of Palestinian worshipers by a settler. Thus the victims were punished!  The overall injustice to which Palestinian families, for many Hebron has been home for generations/centuries, have been subjected appears to be for the benefit of non-Palestinians simply because the non-Palestinians are Israelis.

It is appalling!  Palestinian-operated businesses have been closed; Palestinians may not leave their homes through a door that opens onto Shuhada Street — for a period passes were issued to allow use of doors opening onto Shuhada Street; there is military surveillance; Palestinians are forbidden to work or to drive on Shuhada Street. The settlers reign supreme in the home of Palestinians.  The humanity and the understandable and justifiable anger of Palestinian Arabs should be acknowledged.

Palestinian Mizrahi and Palestinian Arabs have lived together in these lands for centuries. As is known there have been documented conflicts in Hebron between Arabs and Jews.  Reference is made here to the 1929 massacre of Jews by Arabs.  Many Jews were saved by Arabs who took them into their homes.  In 1994 an Israeli settler attacked Moslem worshipers inside the Cave/Tomb of the Patriarchs — a place of worship both for Jews (Me’arat ha Machpela – Cave of the Double Tombs) and for Moslems (Al-Haram Al-Ibrahim – Sanctuary of Abraham [also] Ibrahim’s Mosque) — both people the “seed of Abraham” — both people  Semites.

Should not the plight of Palestinian Arabs be kept in mind by the Israeli occupiers?  Over the decades so many Palestinians have had to leave their homes, some of them ancestral homes.  Yes, there was a Holocaust but the Palestinians had no involvement in it — it was European.  The Palestinians did not turn away the St. Louis — It was the United States.  It is necessary for us to consider history forthrightly, to weigh culpability carefully, to assess ‘action and reaction’ accurately and with sensitivity/fairly.

The powerful combination of the Government of Israel and the Government of the United States makes it possible for the occupying power to act — while the world watches — often in disregard of rights and well-being of the people whose homeland it occupies.

I, Excellency, strongly believe it is within reason that all in life should have the right, among other rights, to —
sanctity of one’s of home and its property
one’s orchard/grove/farm
adequate access to homeland water supply
adequate access to energy sources and resources
leave and return home unimpeded
a childhood
learning
work
travel
freedom

Why should Palestinians be denied basic rights in their own homeland? Even the Balfour Declaration stated ‘… it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.’

Empathy for those perceived as ‘the other’ is needed.  Do we have sympathy for the people in both the town and the village dealt with here?  In her ‘New York Times’ op-ed article, December 28, 2011, ‘Honoring All Who Saved Jews,’ Eva Weisel described what happened in December 1942 when German troops occupied her hometown.  She was 13 years old.  I point out that a Palestinian of Eva Weisel’s generation also could describe an event no child — or adult — should have to experience.  In April 1948, the Arab village of Deir Yassin, in a part of Palestine which was to become part of Israel, was seized and occupied.  As I see it, if continuing physical and social carnage are ever to be understood as non-solutions in conflict resolution,  all of us will have to take to heart the plaintive utterance of Shylock  “…If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die?….”

Excellency, it is my request to your Office that your Government be urged to act to restore the rights of Palestinians, and in this connection that you recommend the permanent reopening of Shuhada Street in Hebron.

Respectfully submitted,

– Barbara Walker 
(retired United Nations staff member)

 

for the Granny Peace Brigade
Photo: Eva-Lee Baird

On Accepting The Bertolt Brecht Award At Union Theological Seminary

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Friday evening, February 24, 2012

Dear friends, I accept this award with pride but also with humility. It is a special honor to share it with Esther Cooper Jackson, a stalwart freedom fighter who has labored long in the vineyards for justice, dignity, equality  for the human rights of African and diasporan Africans.

Actors equity association gave me their Paul Robeson award almost 20 years ago. Paul Robeson and Bertolt Brecht have played influential roles in my development as an artist and in my journey as a human being working in theatre.  I take great pride in calling myself a cultural worker.

Shiba Russell, the NBC news anchor interviewed me a week ago on camera because she called me an unsung iconic heroine of theatre and black history. I like being called an icon but calling myself a cultural worker does not bring Hollywood contracts or running parts on daytime television or agents and managers, who send me in to read for Broadway roles, featured or starring or understudy or standby. If it’s a union contract, I will gladly work. I hope the NBC black history profile will air before the end of the month. Look for it on either the noon hour or 5 pm news slot.

Let us go back to the child I was going to Public School 10 and Junior High school 81 and Wadleigh, the girls only, high school in central Harlem. That black child had no understanding of the path that she was traveling. The present day octogenarian woman that I am can see the path clearly from the vantage point of time and distance, age and experience.

There is a difference between the path and the journey – the journey is the day to day, year to year, decade to decade experience which for me grew to become a deep abiding sense of identity and solidarity with all suffering peoples of the world and most particularly with women of the world.

Bertolt Brecht said “art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.”

Paul Robeson said “the artist must elect to fight for freedom or slavery”.

Paul made his choice and his courage helped me make mine.
Dear friends, let us stay on the move as we rededicate ourselves to the long, bitter but beautiful struggle for a just world, a peaceful world. Peace is our human right. we must not allow the forces of evil to take our human right for peace away from us.

Fight for peace.
Fight for the unborn children.
Fight for the spirits of our ancestors
Our ancestors from the inquisition,
From the middle passage,
From Hiroshima and Nagasaki
From all the brutalities that human beings through greed and ignorance have inflicted on one another down through the ages.
Peace is our human right
Speak up for peace
Speak out for peace
Stand up for peace
Because if we don’t, the evil, money grubbing profit making forces of imperialism and capitalism will roll all over us.

With that charge I gratefully accept this Bertolt Brecht award and end my remarks with this poem of Walt Whitman “So Long” from “Leaves of Grass.”

– Vinie Burrows

2009_10_20vinie

for the Granny Peace Brigade
Photo: Eva-Lee Baird