American Friends Service Committee
Patrica Watson, Editor
Sara Burke, Assistant Editor
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
2161 Massachusetts Ave.
Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
Views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of the AFSC.
Mumia Prison Walk
Louise Dunlap walked 1000 miles on the Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage in 1998/99 and is completing a book called Breaking the Silence: A Guide to Writing for Social Change.
It is a month and a half before Easter, the dark and stormy season of state-condoned martyrdoms--Salvadoran Archbishop Romero, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesus of Nazareth. At 9:00 a.m., a cold rain is beginning, and 20 of us are gathered under the shelter of a drive-through bank to begin the Prison Dharma Walk: Free Mumia Abu Jamal. Dharma means the way of understanding and compassion, also the way of awakening and transformation.
A bright yellow rain poncho covering her Buddhist "begging robes," walk organizer Sister Jun Yasuda welcomes us. Jun-san, as we call her in the Japanese way, has walked and vigiled outside many of America's prisons (and on many peace and justice issues) during her 22 years in this country. In December, she fasted for seven days (also in the rain) outside Mumia's prison in western Pennsylvania. An hour's walk from here, we will vigil at three Massachusetts prisons clustered in the woods and wetlands of Walpole and Norfolk. In one of them, back when prison libraries were a reality, Malcolm X experienced his spiritual conversion. Now all three are grim warehouses guarded by the fearful eyes and video cameras of burly state police. "Fervent" is the word that comes to mind as we drum and chant for ten minutes on a small bridge facing the grimmest of these prisons. I am not surprised to learn that this one has the capability of delivering the death penalty.
Beautifully planned with the guidance of Mumia's spiritual advisor and support groups along the route, daily walking routes touch the many layers of the larger story. Entering New York City on March 24, walkers will vigil at the site where police fired 41 bullets at Amadou Diallo. On April 4, Dr. King's assassination day, they will visit the site where Mumia was shot and arrested in downtown Philadelphia, familiar to many of us who have seen the story on film. What will it feel like to stand there? to vigil later at the Liberty Bell? and again at the suburban prison where Mumia stays when in court? On April 16, near State College, PA, they will visit S.C.I. Rockview, where the state will execute Mumia if appeals are not successful.
While it brings us into death's shadow, the walk is also timed to tap the power and life of this season, time of the vernal equinox, Passover, and Easter. Walking raises our own consciousness and touches mainstream communities in ways conventional political mobilization cannot.
You can locate the Prison Walk and join it for any length of time--an
hour, a day, a week--by calling an especially well-organized
hotline in Albany, NY at 518/272-0501. And if, like me, you've
put off your letter urging Mumia's retrial in the Federal
courts, please direct it to Justice William Yohn, Jr., c/o Leonard
Weinglass, 6 W. 20th St., New York, NY 10010. (Weinglass is Mumia's
attorney.) I am sending mine as I submit this story.
Louise Dunlap has supplied Peacework with a "Walking Agenda." Call us for towns and dates, 617/661-6130.
"Everything I do goes from my heart to other people's hearts. It is a prayer, not a protest....You shouldn't care about numbers. Numbers don't matter. What matters is your commitment to peace....Gandhi was just one person, and he did very simple things. He walked to the ocean [in protest of a British monopoly on salt]. He fasted. He was one person. But he was very conscientious. We should be too. Think of one person fasting outside the White House. That act has spiritual power. More, maybe, than big numbers....Nothing to eat for a few days? That is not such a big thing. But if you worry about yourself, you cannot do anything."
--Jun Yasuda, from an interview in
The Plough Reader/Spring 2000