It's been awhile since I wrote to you.
My message today is about challenges and indomitable spirits, particularly about the situations WILPF has faced since its beginning, and which persist today.
Right now I'm looking out over a stream running down the gravel pathway in my garden; too much rain and a lot of poison ivy. Our hearts go out to the flood victims throughout the southern states and up through the plain states and east coast. Meanwhile, fires are spreading over Colorado and California - climate change taking its toll. It's so hard to remain hopeful.
The pouring rain also reminds me of our 30th Triennial, Congress 2008 held in Indianola, Iowa. Our WILPF Des Moines members' basements were
still flooded from what was supposed to be a unique 100 year flood. We forged ahead anyway, excited to host the Congress and welcome members to our soggy state.
When I visit branches around the US, I see the same desires and strengths; all the hard work, the dedication, and the perseverance through the daunting days of war and environmental degradation. This issue President's Corner is especially dedicated to all those branch, at large, and group members who keep the dream alive.
Your indomitable spirit holds up your communities and inspire us at WILPF US.
The Larger World
The past few months and weeks America continues to face struggles with racism, militarization of our police force and gun control, with deep-seated fears of the "other," escalation of intimidation and violence. But we are also witnessing a new generation of repression, disenfranchisement, brutality, and incomprehensible inhumanity toward each other that keeps the cycle of hatred and revenge spinning. The last few days of rioting and unrest in Milwaukee are indicative of the polarization.
On the other hand, there are hopeful calls for unity and calm among the hardest hit communities. In Milwaukee one of the most inspiring video clip was of the community members cleaning up the debris and reaching out from calm. Yesterday, LaShawndra Vernon, WILPF US Interim Treasurer, posted a forceful and clear-eyed commentary on her hometown problems and solutions, "My Burning City", on Huffington Post.
Amid the carnage we are relentlessly called back to community, to caring for one another and to a greater capacity for humaneness and faith in our own goodness and power to heal.
In The New Abolition: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Black Social Gospel, Gary Dorrien writes of the influence of the black social gospel activism from ministers,
and strong black women leaders, to Du Bois and onto Martin Luther King, Jr. According to Dorrien, "On Sundays they preached in congregations for which the morning worship service routinely stretched long into the afternoon... This is where the Spirit blew freely. This is where the world was differently construed. This was where a better world was prayed and preached and sung and shouted into being."
While communities of faith can capture for people the necessary vision of a better world. But it's up to each of us to preach, sing and shout that image of a 'better world' into the consciousness of the public.
That is our imperative, just as we struggle to better comprehend and create space for diversity here at WILPF US.
Inside WILPF US
- Our thanks: to Peace & Freedom Editor Candace Perry and to Editorial colleages Joan Bazar and Glenn Ruga (design) for a particularly great edition! All of us send congratulations for work well done with exceptional grace and patience.
- Recent hires: Welcome to P&F Kathryn Dodgson our new eNews and Peace & Freedom editor; Patty Freeman-Lynde our new bookkeeper; Krystal Kilhart as Communications Intern
- Received: Ellen Blosser's bequest of $11,446.44, which JAPA graciously divided among JAPA, WILPF US, and WILPF International
- ONE WILPF Membership Calls continue on August 18th, run with the aid of InterOCCUPY folks for free. These calls are member-driven, designed to share strategies and solutions.There have been two sessions; the next one is on AUGUST 18 at 4pm pacific/7pm eastern. Use just your phone or your phone and computer together (recommended). Easy instructions are provided.
- Here is the Pre-Registration Link: (required)
- This month's call will feature WILPF Environmental Justice work with Nancy Price, chair of our Earth Democracy Issue Committees.
- Branch Visits: I had the honor of meeting with members from California branches in early June: San Jose, Palo Alto, East Bay/San Francisco, Monterey, Fresno visit was via phone, Santa Cruz, Sacramento, and San Diego. More personal thanks and what I learned below.
- Kozue Akibayashi, WILPF International President's visit to WILPF US for the "World Beyond War" Conference - September 23-25in Washington DC. Please let us know if you plan to attend. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org . Read more about it here.
- The Detroit Branch is hosting Kozue Akibayashi September 20-22; California branches (in San Jose), September 27-29.
Indomitable Spirits & Possible Solutions:
"This is where the Spirit blew freely."
Over the last two-and-a-half years I have visited WILPF Branches from
Houston, Philadelphia, Milwaukee/Madison, St. Louis, Boston, Cape Cod, and Detroit to the California branches mentioned above.
I've listened to their concerns and to the invaluable lessons they've learned, and talked about the expectation of solidarity and a global grassroots movement, spring boarding off the 100 year celebration of our own history at The Hague.
There are too many members to thank here, and I don't want to leave people out, but I do want to thank the hosts. They are listed at the end of my letter.
We spent so much time talking we forgot to take pictures at every venue and some just didn't turn out! If anyone has more, I'd love to get them and share them.
Each meeting exemplified the best of WILPF
Great hospitality with food and wonderful venues; positive input with expressions of concerns freely given; good attendance, Q & A times that were consistent with concerns expressed in recent All-Branch Survey and the Online Survey.
- Concern for diminishing and aging branch members;
- Looking for ways to recruit younger members;
- Need better communication between branches and National and branch to branch;
- More coordination with events; more collaboration among branches;
- Sharing successes with each other;
- Outreach tools from branches and National needed;
- Regional meetings wanted;
- More consistent interaction with International
I usually take a moment to remind everyone that we have only 1.5 employees and that our expectations must not exceed our capabilities. But here are some solutions we're suggesting.
- Include a report from national as part of your regular meeting structure, using a few tech savvy members to report and share ENews, eAlerts, WILPF Facebook Posts and WILPF US Website news from their laptops each meeting, to keep non-technie members informed and engaged with National.
- Use Skype to connect periodically with other branches/members either in groups or individually. Perhaps invite another branch to 'sit in' (through Skype) on one of your planning meetings.
- Plan regional meetings held at least once a year; especially important this year and next, as we lead up to Congress 2017.
- Collaborate without getting lost. Collaborate often with other organizations, but work to keep WILPF visible during collaborative events and on printed programs. (Use banners, pins, t-shirts)
- Join ONE WILPF Calls monthly to share strategies,solutions and to learn from/empower one another.
- Acknowledge & honor differences. We all come at activism from different perspectives. We cannot assume we are all on the same page or working from the same realities of privilege. Acknowledging differences upfront forces us to better articulate the areas where we meet on common ground. This is especially important as we hope to welcome younger and more diverse members. As seen in this imperative from bell hooks, "Women need to come together in situations where there will be ideological disagreement and work to change that interaction so communication occurs. This means that when women come together, rather than pretend union, we would acknowledge that we are divided and must develop strategies to overcome fears, prejudices, resentments, and competitiveness" (bell hooks Feminist Theory: from margin to center).
To help the world heal we need to "use our moral energy to create a new sort of force in the world" (Jane Addams). Let the spirit free!
Thanks for all you do, for all of your indomitable spirits! Mary Hanson Harrison
Special Thanks to these WILPF women who hosted me on my Branch visits in California
Randa Solick and Marcia Heath in Santa Cruz spearheaded the gatherings; Joan Bazar was point person for the San Jose Branch lunch in her home; Sandy Silver provided a pit stop for the Palo Alto Branch gathering that included East Bay and San Francisco with Judy Adams as point person there; Peggy Olsen and Katharina Harlow helped to bring together the Monterey Branch; Sandra Iyall and Patty Bennett held a meeting in Sandra's home -- we used a phone conference call as a fallback during the 104 degree heat in Fresno; and back to the Santa Cruz Branch meeting and where Randa was kind enough to provide me hospitality and chauffer me around; and the San Diego group quickly arranged a meeting with me at the Women's Museum thanks to Jan Wilbur and Anne Hoiberg.
I don't want to forget Ellen Schwartz who made the trip representing Sacramento.