February 12, 2003

Week Against the War Seeks Peaceful Solution

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A Week Against the War, the statewide anti-war event happening this week at colleges and universities, launched its series of teach-ins, workshops and anti-war debates at Cornell this past Monday evening with a lecture by Terry Rockefller from Peaceful Tomorrows. The events continued last night in Sage Chapel with performances by Artists United for Peace in Concert: Words and Music against a U.S. War on Iraq.

Two members of the Cornell Community, Anke Wessels, executive director of the Center for Religion, Ethics, and Social Policy at Cornell (CRESP), and Dana Brown, director of Cornell’s Committee on U.S.-Latin American Relations (CUSLAR), worked together to bring various speakers and artists from local and national organizations together for this week’s events.

Co-coordinators for Monday’s event were Jeni Wightman, grad, and Prof. William Trochim, policy analysis and management (PAM). Trochim began the evening by encouraging the intimate crowd to sign the anti-war petition outside the auditorium doors. ”This is the beginning of what I hope will be a growing week of interest,” Trochim said. Trochim’s introduction was followed by poetry readings and Stephen Smith, a folk singer and political activist, who sang his current hits “The Bell” and “Bring it On.” Currently, “The Bell” can be heard on over seventy radio stations nationwide. Embedded in both songs are non-violent political messages.

Smith emphasized his support of A Week Against the War and his enthusiasm for being a part of this national event. “It’s really great to be here, especially as this is getting ready for the march on Saturday,” he said. Demonstrations in NYC on Saturday wil conclude the state-wide events for A Week Against the War.

Following Smith was the main speaker for the event, Terry Rockefeller of Peaceful Tomorrows. Peaceful Tomorrows is a national advocacy organization founded by family members of September 11 victims whose mission is to seek non-violent responses to terrorism. According to the organization’s website, “By conscientiously exploring peaceful options in our

search for justice, we choose to spare additional innocent families the suffering that we have already experienced, as well as to break the endless cycle of violence and retaliation engendered by war.”

After losing her sister in the September 11 attacks, Rockefeller joined the organization. “Although I have always worked for human rights and peace in my own way, it has become a personal struggle for me after losing my sister,” Rockefeller said.

Rockefeller proceeded to give an emotionally jarring talk as she presented slides of her recent trip to Iraq from Jan. 5-14. Rockefeller and a small group of members from Peaceful Tomorrows traveled to Iraq with Voices in the Wilderness, an advocacy group that works to see an end to political sanctions that punish civilians, not the regime.

The United States Government prohibits the travel of U.S. citizens to Iraq; however, the peace seeking-group managed to spend a full five days in Iraq after traveling for 11 days to attain entry into Iraq’s borders.

“We hoped that our delegation would be a sort of symbol to show in the simplest way that although our government doesn’t allow it, we can go to Iraq and talk to Iraqi civilians,” Rockefeller said.

Rockefeller met with members of Iraqi families who have already lost loved ones from the missles dropped on the country earlier this year. This, she says, is the reason for her strong commitment to the anti-war protest.

“I’m opposed to this war because I just don’t believe it will end terrorism and I don’t think it is being fought to end terrorism. I’m really not sure why it’s being fought,” Rockefeller said.

Following Rockefeller’s talk was a question and answer session, spurring a dialogue between members of the audience.

The talk gave students such as Anabel Mota ’03 an opportunity to rally behind the anti-war cause. “I am anti-war and I really support the people putting this together. Coming here tonight is my way of showing support,” Mota said.

The week of events continued last night as local artists gathered in front of over 200 members of the Ithaca and Cornell Communities in Sage Chapel to perform in Artists United for Peace in Concert: Words and Music against a U.S. War on Iraq. The event was organized by two members of the Ithaca community, Leslie Schultz and Jayne Demakos, and Anke Wessels,

executive director for CRESP.

Both organizers Schultz and Demakos are members of Wimmin in Black, and participated in the event. Wimmin in Black is inspired by and was formed in solidarity with Women in Black, an international peace network started in Israeli in 1988 by women protesting against Israel’s Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Since then, the organization has developed world-wide. While performing, the women wear black as a symbol of sorrow for all victims of war, the destruction of people, nature and the fabric of life.

Schultz and Demakos expressed the importance of using artistic expression as a strong source of non-violent protest.

“We need to come together and use our voices whenever we can. What better way to do that than by sharing our arts to serve the students and the community,” Schultz said.

Jane Shortall, associate director, Cornell United Religious Work also participated in the event. Shortall welcomed everyone who came and thanked all of the musicians who volunteered their time for the cause by referring to them as “cultural heroes.”

Lily Harmon-Gross ’04, an active member of the Anti-War Coalition who serves on the steering committee, was among the students present at the Peace concert. Gross attended the event to support the artists and the non-violent cause, and said she feels that “artistic expression is very important, especially as a sign of protest.”

Other performers during the evening included Hank Roberts, Stephan Smith, Michelle Courtney Berry, Vitamin L, members of Donna the Buffalo, Colleen Kattau, and Sim Redmond.

Archived article by Sarah Workman