Hear Our Voices

From Boulder to D.C., Denver to Los Angeles, Vashon Island to Chiang Mai and Beyond

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Sherry Elms, Lee Worley, Beth Patterson, and Candace Walworth in Denver, January 21st

Candace Walworth, PhD, Peace Studies Program Chair

Last month, a familiar voice called my name as I headed into the Rayback Collective to write postcards to Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet. The voice belonged to Kendall Perry (Interdisciplinary Studies 2014) who offered me a handful of blank postcards. I joined her at a high-top table where we wrote to our senators while catching up on each other’s lives.

I learned about Kendall’s most recent artistic collaborations and her experience at the January 21 Women’s March in D.C. with her mother and sisters, who all traveled from Colorado to participate.

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Not long after, I received Martine McDonald’s (Peace Studies 2009) photographs from the Los Angeles Women’s march along with this message: “I’ve never been more proud of my city than in the last two weeks.”

One of the signs Martine carries was gifted to her by the Los Angeles Feminist Library on Wheels , an extension of the Women’s Center for Creative Work.

When Martine isn’t busy facilitating outreach to educators and filmmakers for interdisciplinary curriculum guides with Journeys in Film, she can be found at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, an improv performance group engaging comedy as a tool for social action.

Hearing about Kendall and Martine’s experiences, I wondered, “Where were other Naropa Peace Studies alums on January 21?”

Eric Ross (Peace Studies 2012) was marching on Vashon Island with members of the Backbone Campaign, a progressive, movement-building organization that promotes “artful activism.”

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Eric serves as the Organizing Director of Backbone, training change agents in creative direct action, coordinating a fleet of volunteers, and designing actions that garner media attention and build power, including work with “kayaktivists” who protested and slowed oil drilling in the Puget Sound.

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Like me and 200,000 others, poet, writer, musician and community organizer Russell Mendell (Peace Studies 2010), marched in Denver. Russell serves as campaign director for Earth Guardians, an organization comprised of “thousands of engaged youth on six continents,” focused on merging art and activism to inspire youth participation in climate solutions.

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Russell will be returning to Denver on Feb. 20 in support of six Colorado youth plaintiffs who are suing the state government to protect their right to clean air, clean water and a healthy climate. Please contact Russell at russell@earthguardians.org to learn more.

Andrea Bogue (Peace Studies 2015) was also marching in Denver to welcome refugees and protect the rights of immigrants. While Andrea and I didn’t run into one another among the masses in Civic Center Park, we did get together the following week. Andrea told me about the English as a Second Language (ESL) class she teaches at Front Range Community College. Her class includes students from around the world, including Italy, Brazil, Mongolia, Nepal, Germany, Ukraine, Mali, Mexico, and South Sudan among other places.

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And speaking of “around the world,” on January 21 Kate Beilharz (Environmental Studies 2015) was visiting Julia Davis (Peace Studies 2015) who lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Since marching is not allowed in Thailand, Julia and Kate joined a group of 30 others for a solidarity gathering.

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Julia works with the Empower Foundation, a Thai women’s organization offering support to women working in the sex industry. When she visited Naropa in December, Julia left us a copy of Moving Toward Decent Sex Work—Sex Worker Community Research, a book to which she contributed as an English-Thai editor.

Julia, who follows developments in the United States closely, has been researching and brainstorming effective, holistic, and intersectional resistance strategies. While she could not be in the U.S. on January 21, her grandmother was on the streets of Los Angeles and her dad and little sister marched in Chicago, her hometown.

Building on the momentum of these and other marches worldwide, I snagged a table in the Naropa Pavilion to channel the energy of creative protest into civic action–writing to senators Gardner and Bennet.

Kelli Baklaich (Peace Studies/Contemplative Psychology 2017) stopped by.

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As we chatted and she penned a postcard, I thought of Pamela Krasney (1943-2015), activist, alumna (MA Contemplative Psychology 1983) and three-decades long Naropa trustee, whose generous gift made the Pavilion possible.

“We wouldn’t be standing here –gathering in this public space–if it weren’t for Pamela,” I thought.

I imagine she would be delighted by the fact that the Pavilion was one site—among hundreds of thousands of small incubators—creating a space for conversations and next steps, connecting Boulder to DC, Denver, Los Angeles, Vashon Island, Chiang Mai and beyond.

 Peace Studies alums: Please send updates and photos of your current work to cwalworth@naropa.edu, and I’ll write a sequel.

 

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