Activist initiatives multiply; wise advice from elders with experience
Award-winning children’s author and illustrator Vera B. Williams spoke next. “When you’re dealing with power, there are very different layers. There’s a great danger in situations with police. You can’t regard it lightly. You are asked to find in yourself what will respond to a given situation. You’re steering a way between not inflaming another’s ego or vulnerability. They have been led to believe that we are dangerous and they don’t want to show weakness. If you can keep your head and not get furious, you will find a way to reach into their humanity and find common ground.”
Now 83, Williams said she is deeply grateful to be part of the special community she is enmeshed with in the Upper Delaware region. “The ‘beloved community’ really sets forth how you feel about the people you work with, protest with, go to jail with and sing with,” she said. “There becomes a deep connection. I went down and hung out for a few hours at Occupy Wall Street and you really feel it there.”
Williams’s oldest grandchild, Hudson, who is featured in one of her early books, is now 25 and active in the Occupy movement in Seattle, WA. Talking to his mother, Williams asked, “Are you worried that he’ll get hurt, stepped on, run over, or even die in the service of this?” Williams continued, “His mother said, ‘I’m worried that his heart will be broken,’ that he’ll throw his heart into this, striving for the beloved community.’”
Williams concluded, “In the end, it’s your bravery, your courage that gets you through. You work at it your whole life. This is a project like anything you want to accomplish in the world, but it’s not a given, and like love, you will get your heart broken.”
Following Williams, Virginia Kennedy and her daughter Marygrace recounted their recent experience protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline, during which Virginia was arrested. The experience connected the pair to activists from across the country and woke them to a sense that many issues are coalescing into increasingly unified and timely movements that strike at deeper issues.
“What’s so important is that the potential and momentum exists not just to stop fracking, or mountaintop removal, or a pipeline or to get regulation on Wall Street, but to ask people what they value in this life,” said Virginia. “Do we value relationships, tradition, ceremony and experience, or do we just want to accumulate crap? The reason this momentum is happening is because it’s time. There are better ways of being in the world and people have been fighting for this for a long time.”