A belated report from Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend
I am the clerk of the children's program committee for the Quarter. As some avid readers may remember, I didn't think that the fall session went very well. I learned that I can not clerk the committee, run the program and be a parent, all at the same time.
Well, I can't stop being a parent and I did say that I'd clerk the committee this year. But I can choose not to run the program. Which I did this time. Which leaves me better able to support the people who are actually working in the program. Which leaves me more time to be a better clerk. I think it all went pretty well this time around. (Thank you to everyone who volunteered, in case you're reading this!)
The theme for the Winter Quarter was "Taking Risks in a Time of Peacemaking." In the morning panel, three Friends talked about how they have taken risks for peacemaking. David Hartsough, a member of my Meeting and a founder of the International Non-violent Peace Force, spoke of a vigil that takes place in SF every Friday night at the entrance to the Sunnydale housing project. I used to work for the Red Cross in Sunnydale, running a homelessness prevention program. Anyway, the vigil is organized by the San Francisco Peacemakers - not a Quaker group, but families of young people who've been killed, largely through gang violence. They hold this vigil for peace and safety at one of the most notorious intersections in our city. I had heard about this vigil when it started three years ago. But I had a new baby then and I just said, "I ought to go. Ugh. I can't do it." But that's not such a problem anymore. I could do it. Mental wheels start turning.
For some time now, I've said that marches up and down Market Street in San Francisco are nearly useless. If we want to make a difference, we should march for peace through Sunnydale, or Bogota or Baghdad, where the presence of 100,000 Americans for peace might have an impact. And then another possibility occured to me.
Last year, 100 people or so from San Francisco Monthly Meeting and San Francisco Friends School joined the MLK Day Parade. (I know they called it a march, but really it had the atmosphere of a parade. A Peace Parade.) Anyway, this year there won't be a MLK Parade in SF. There's going to be some kind of a bus ride, to commemorate Rosa Parks. I doubt there will be nearly as many people, but I don't really know.
Anyway. It occurred to me, "What if 100 people from SFFM and SFFS showed up on a Friday night in Sunnydale?" Now, SFFS, like many Friends schools elsewhere, largely reflects the demographics of families who can afford $17,000 a year tuition. The Meeting's demographics aren't much different. What would it be like if 100 of us showed up for the vigil in Sunnydale? How would that change things? What if we did it regularly? But even as I'm spinning this fantasy, I already know that most folks wouldn't come. "It wouldn't be safe." "What about my children?" "The school couldn't accept that kind of liability risk," I hear in my mind. Their fear would not be ungrounded. But then I hear David's other story of Brian Wilson, an activist who lost his legs from sitting on the railroad tracks in front of the Concord Naval Weapons Station to protest the shipments of arms to Central America in the 1980's. Brian Wilson said, "Our lives are not more important than theirs; their lives are not less important than ours." Are our children worth more than those who live in Sunnydale every day? Is our safety more important than our fellow citizens who face the danger in Sunnydale every week? Would their safety be increased or decreased if 100 relatively rich, mostly white folks showed up on a Friday night? It's worth thinking about.
So then in worship-sharing in the afternoon, one of the queries was, "At what point will I drop my own concerns and dedicate myself to peacemaking?" Most of the folks in my group were talking about changing their lives to dedicate themselves fully to peacemaking and whether or not and when that might be possible. But to me, I realized that this could be a small change. I could drop my own fears and work to have the school folks come to vigil in Sunnydale. Could I do that? Would it work? Could I really drop my own concerns and dedicate myself to this act of peacemaking? I'm still wrestling with this question. I know I'll have to go myself before I can do any more. But I am inspired by the idea. I could take a risk for peacemaking right here, with people I know. It won't be safe. It will involve some risk. But Martin Luther King wasn't marching in safe places either. Will I have the small piece of courage to take this step? I hope so.
It's worth thinking about. But the first step is for me to go this Friday night. Please hold me and all the folks who live in Sunnydale in the Light.
Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]