Archive for June, 2009|Monthly archive page

Asheville Calls for Health Care Revolution

Leslie Boyd (L) and WRL Asheville member Cicada Brokaw (C) at Health Care Rally

Leslie Boyd (L) and WRL Asheville member Cicada Brokaw (C) at Health Care Rally

Asheville residents packed Pritchard Park Saturday to call for a revolution in health care. The public rally was organized by WNC for Change, a group whose director, Paul Choi, and other members call themselves “Obama Alumni.” It was a spirited late morning gathering with folks from diverse groups united in a strong call for health care for all. UNCA SDS students and Asheville WRL members were present, as well as Progressive Democrats, Buncombe Greens, Veterans for Peace, and local candidates for city council. The Mayor spoke and the chair of the Buncombe County Commission, as well as Dr. Errington Thompson, a trauma surgeon and local progressive radio talk show host. Also speaking was Dick Walton, M.D. he and his wife Sue are long-time WRL members who have been working for justice in these parts for decades. Dick and Sue Walton, longtime WRL members   

By far the most powerful speaker was local reporter and health care advocate Leslie Boyd who spoke with “righteous indignation” about her son’s death due to denial of critical health care. She founded the group Life o’ Mike to commemorate her son and to advocate for health care for all.
Dick & Sue Walton at Health Care Rally

Hope as Smooth as Silk

Steve Woolford & Coleman Smith at Silk Hope

Steve Woolford & Coleman Smith at Silk Hope

Practicing the spirituality of the

“Lilies of the field”

Silk Hope Catholic Worker House, is a permaculture oasis in Chatham County, North Carolina, and a point of light for soldiers seeking counseling about GI Rights and conscientious objection to participating in war. 

Catholic Workers Steve Woolford and Lenore Yager are deeply involved in the everyday work of parenting, maintaining a rural homestead, and practicing the skills of simple and sustainable living, all the while keeping open the door of hospitality for folks in need of safe harbor, and being the knowledgably reassuring voices at the other end of the GI Rights Hotline. They offer the service in collaboration with Quaker House , about 60 miles away in Fayetteville, site of Fort Bragg, the home base of U.S. Army Paratroopers and Special Operations Forces.

We set out for Silk Hope with good directions and a picnic lunch provided by activists John Heuer  and Peggy Misch in Carrboro on a fine Spring morning. We passed through rolling and forested piedmont, along two-lane country roads, and down straight stretches of highway marking old farmland boundaries. Along the way, we noticed that an increasing number of housing developments have encroached upon the rural beauty, interrupting the deep and restful greens of forest and farm.

 Within the rural acre of Silk Hope Catholic Worker farm, on Woody Store Road near Siler City, the vegetable and herb gardens filled the grounds in front of the early 1900s wooden farmhouse where Steve and Lenore live with their beautiful and spirited children, big sister Genevieve and little brother Quinn. The children greeted us from the front porch while Susan, a GI Rights Hotline worker visiting from San Francisco, showed us into the house. Susan was visiting Silk Hope prior to participating in a gathering of GI Rights Hotline volunteers and organizations meeting in Atlanta the following weekend.Clare, Lenore, Steve and Susan at Silk Hope 

As we talked about our interest in facilitating a gathering of trainers, activists and organizers in the S.E., Steve and Lenore, told us of their involvement with the Southern Life Community, a gathering of regional, faith-based activists. The SLC, Clare told them, seems to be a revival of similar gatherings of the same name she attended in Florida and Georgia over a decade ago. Good to know that such vital community building is ongoing.

After a generous two and a half hour visit out of their very busy day, we toured the gardens.  Steve talked of the difficulties in running a farm when many of the volunteers who come are more interested in the peace and justice work than in getting the onions in or the weeds out. Despite the lack of dedicated farmhands, the corn was knee high, the comfrey in bloom and the tendrils of sweet peas winding up the fence. 

On our return to Asheville, we were able to refer a query we received about conscientious objection from a young N.C. National Guard recruit to Steve and Lenore. The soldier had just returned from basic and advanced training and was now questioning the wisdom of his decision to enlist. He had been searching the Internet for links to conscientious objection and CO counseling and ended up at the WRL Asheville site. In addition to referring him to Steve and Lenore, we also steered him to the AFSC offices in Greensboro, to Chuck Fager at the Quaker House in Fayetteville, and our old friend from his Asheville days,  Jason Hurd  now in Savannah organizing S.E. Iraq Veterans Against the War. We met with Jason, later in our travels.

Along the road to our next stop in Fayetteville, the landscape transitioned from piedmont to sand hills to the tidewater, with the heat and humidity rising. We stopped for a break at the J&L Leather Shop, a motorcycle apparel and supply store just outside Fayetteville. In conversations with Laura, the shop owner, she revealed how the locals were complaining about agricultural pesticide runoff and how those chemicals were the likely culprits that killed one of her dogs and made the other deathly ill. When the conversation turned to smoking, vegetarianism, and ecological health Coleman soon found common ground with Laura by talking about how the design and care of the human body is not so unlike the care required for a finely tuned road bike; that striving to eliminate poisons from our food, land, and water is a worthwhile endeavor.

After such good conversation with this southern, Christian (Laura’s card is embossed with the sign of the Fish) motorcycle mama, we marveled at yet another unexpected challenge to preconceived notions of regional inhabitants. By taking time for conversation, we can often discover just how much we may have in common. As we left the shop, though, we were taken aback by the concrete yard sculpture of a brown and barefoot Hispanic man, with moustache and sombrero, all-too reminiscent of the Black lawn jockey ornaments and other stereotyped images once so prevalent in our region. Is this new lawn ornament a tellling indication of the anti immigrant racist focus building in the South? Fayetteville & Columbia 077  

Next post: Plunge with us into the belly of the beast at Fort Bragg. First stop the Airborne & Special  Operations Museum 

 Dedicated to the glory and memory of all Airborne and Special Operations soldiers from 1940 to the present, and into  the future.

 Hello Fayette-stan!





Direct Action Advocate Speaking in Asheville

Fr. Louie Vitalis

Fr. Louie Vitale

UPCOMING EVENTS: SUNDAY, JUNE 21, 2009, 6 to 8 p.m.
Let’s welcome Fransiscan Friar Louis Vitale to Asheville.
Loving Your Enemies: Transforming Us vs Them Thinking

Location: Asheville Buncombe Tech Community College

340 Administrative Road
Simpson Administrative Building
Asheville, NC, 28801

Brought to you by:
Veterans for Peace #99
Asheville Friends Meeting
WRL Asheville

For Info: Susan Oehler – 828-337-1137

Carrboro: Long Perspectives and Broad Foundations

WTR Day 2-3 & Greensboro2 066“She’s the crossroads where all activists meet,” Pittsboro resident John Heuer said of his friend and colleague Peggy Misch.

This time, we met with Peggy in Carrboro, N.C., in the shade of the large Oaks outside the historic Carr Mill Mall. It was a privilege to listen to these two long-time activists talk about their work and to garner some advice for our proposed S.E. Regional gathering, and share ideas about how regional activists can strengthen our networks for collaborative action.

We were first introduced to Peggy in Charlotte a month earlier, at the Duke Energy Stop Cliffside Coal Plant action.  Our mutual friend, Triangle WILPF member, and peace walker Jean Chapman introduced us then, and has helped to connect us with many other key organizers in the Raleigh-Durham Triangle area.

Clare, Jean & Peggy in Charlotte

Peggy is rounding out her seventh decade as an activist in the most dynamic sense of the word.  In 2008 she was given the International Human Rights Award from The Human Rights Coalition of North Carolina for her work across many issues throughout the decades. Peggy brings passion and determination to these and other just causes she has embraced. And sitting across from her to listen,  it was apparant that her influence is wide reaching and vital with groups such as North Carolina Stop Torture Now, and the Coalition for Peace With Justice, a group working to establish a just peace in Israel and Palestine.  Peggy also spoke ofher concerns for immigrant rights, particularly with the injustices perpetrated by 287G legislation, and her work as a founder of the Orange County Bill of Rights Defense Committee.  

After 26 years, John has retired from Architectural and Engineering Services at UNC Chapel Hill.   He is a Viet Nam war resister and community organizer involved in numerous and varied groups, including the North Carolina Greens, and Veterans for Peace , Chapter 157 in North Carolina’s Triangle area.  John has recently taken a lead role with NC Peace Action.   Coleman and John first met on a conference call with the Backbone Campaign’s Bill Moyer helping to coordinate the late March North Carolina loop of The Procession for the Future”. This touring parade uses high production value art, puppetry and spectacle to animate our aspirations and portray a set of progressive policy priorities. 

Both Peggy and John had been in Johnston County the night before to appeal to the County Commissioners to sign a pledge prohibiting the torture taxi extraordinary rendition flights flown through Aero Contractors in Smithfield, North Carolina. 

Clearly, these elders have not let “retirement” keep them from the work at hand. They have much to teach, much to share, and a spirited perspective on ways forward based on decades of dedicated work for justice.

Old places and old persons in their turn, when spirit dwells in them, have an intrinsic vitality of which youth is incapable, precisely, the balance and wisdom that come from long perspectives and broad foundations— George Santayana (Spanish born American Philosopher, Poet and Humanist )WTR Day 2-3 & Greensboro2 067

NEXT: We’re greeted at Silk Hope Catholic Worker by a new generation. 

Coming Events: WRL Asheville

 Cliffside Debriefing: What Happened? What Now?

June 10, 2009    North Asheville Library   1030  N. Merrimon Avenue
6:15pm to 7:00pm Gather and Socialize      
7:00pm to 9:00pm Debriefing 

An opportunity for us to share, review and discuss experiences from the May 20th Cliffside-Duke Energy Action in Charlotte, N.C.

Arrestees, Legal Observers, & Jail Supporters, as well the general public, are invited to share their stories and observations of this collective climate action.
General discussion on what might be done next; How Cliffside ties into a bigger picture; and future training opportunities… Hope to see you there!

Gathering arranged by WRL Asheville and Cliffside coalition folks.