Arkansas Peace Week 2016

We are making plans for our participation in Arkansas Peace Week!

Please note: September Pot-Luck is early.
When: Tuesday, September 6, 2016 at 6:30 p.m.
Where: 2510 Hidden valley Drive in Little Rock

Get a sneak preview of the exciting events during the week of Septemter 18th to 25th – sponsored by Arkansas Coalition of Peace and Justice, Arkansas WAND and many faith and social service groups. Your help is needed to make these events successful and truly “peace promoting.” Volunteer to distribute flyers beforehand and greet guests, usher, or serve refreshments at an event. Whether you can be there or not, please share this post!
We will have fun making peace our “Natural State!”

“You can’t do all the good the world needs, but the world
needs all the good that you can do.”
– Benje de la Piedre

Peace Vigil: Hiroshima Remembered

banner for Hiroshima/Nagasaki Peace Vigil

This Saturday, August 6th, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. near Riverfront Park in downtown Little Rock, we will hold our annual event, “Never Again! Hiroshima Remembered” – open to the public. You will find us between the River Market Pavilion and the Junction Bridge. Each year, WAND joins the Arkansas Coalition for Peace & Justice (ACPJ), in organizing an observance as a means of remembering the horror of the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan on August 6th, 1945.

More than 100,000 men, women and children died that day as a result of this single bomb. Three days later, on August 9, 1945, the United States dropped a second atom bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, which resulted in another 60,000 deaths. This should never be allowed to happen again. The event will feature a reflective silent vigil, music, and speakers, including Michael Vaughn, founder of the Arkansas Chapter of Veterans for Peace.

Mother’s Day Luncheon 2016

Mother's Day Luncheon poster

On Thursday, May 5th, we will honor Jean Gordon, the founding member of Arkansas WAND, at our annual Mother’s Day Luncheon, which will be held this year at Temple B’Nai Israel, 3700 Rodney Parham Road in Little Rock from 11:30am-1:00pm. Jean has been an advocate for peace and social justice issues for over a half century, and we are so grateful to have her as an active member of our Board to this day.

We will recognize Arkansas women legislators.

Dr. Sherece West-Scantlebury, President and CEO, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation will be our keynote speaker. The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation is a private, independent foundation whose mission is to improve the lives of all Arkansans in three interrelated areas: economic development; education; and economic, racial, and social justice. Involved in philanthropy for over 20 years, Dr. West-Scantlebury served as CEO at the Foundation for Louisiana and as a program associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Her professional career includes nearly 30 years of experience in community development, public policy and advocacy, and public service.

Tickets are $45.00 and can be purchased here through Eventbrite, or you may write a check and mail it to Debbie Goolsby at 21 Hickory Hills Circle, Little Rock, AR 72212. For more information, please contact Garbo Hearne: hearnefineart@gmail.com, (501) 372-6822 or Toni Roosth: teroosth@gmail.com or (501) 772-3495 for more information.

Now is a good time to pay your 2016 membership if you have not done so.

1997 | Jean Gordon, Founder

Jean Gordon

When Little Rock in 1957-58 found itself paralyzed by deep seated segregationist attitudes and shuttered public high schools, the Women’s Emergency Committee (WEC) organized and enlisted hundreds of women to campaign for the reopening of the high schools in the Fall of 1959. Jean Gordon was an energetic member of the WEC as well as the Council on Human Relations (CHR), a bi-racial community group working to break the divisive color line between whites and blacks. During these years, the CHR combined forces with local black leaders to end the Jim Crow era of segregated downtown Little Rock lunch counters, retail stores and public theaters.

Jean’s tireless work for equal public education propelled her to the presidency of the Little Rock Council of the PTA, and for the first time white and black PTAs were integrated. Jean’s reputation for leadership pushed her further into the crucible of change with her election to the LR School Board in 1965. Negotiating amid the clash of local politics over the pace of desegregation proved invaluable to Jean’s later encounters with Congressmen and national leaders in the cause of nuclear disarmament and a reformed military budget.

1982 witnessed the founding of Peace Links by Betty Bumpers and other congressional wives. Their idea was that American women could form lasting relationships with women in the Soviet Union to promote peace instead of war. Peace Links needed women leaders from everywhere, and Jean Gordon was among the first to enroll. Jean ultimately served as Chairperson of Arkansas Peace Links and organized and led a delegation of Arkansas women to the Soviet Union. Locally Jean Gordon was chairperson of the Arkansas Peace Center.

The military build-up and threat of nuclear confrontation in the 1980s spurred progressive women again to organize. Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament (WAND) lobbied congress to curtail the nuclear arms race. With the close of the Cold War in the early 1990s, WAND (now Women’s Action for New Directions) adopted a broader mission of promoting world peace and security and a federal budget that redirects excessive military spending toward human and environmental needs.

Our own Arkansas WAND chapter was formed in 1997. After both the Arkansas Peace Center and Peace Links of Arkansas had folded, Jean Gordon invited women working with non-profits who needed federal funds to a luncheon to interest them in starting a WAND chapter here in Central Arkansas. Over 50 women showed up. She showed them how the federal budget pie is sliced – with the military getting over 52% of the discretionary budget.

They decided to organize around a local issue – the planned incineration of chemical weapons in Pine Bluff.   They had heard about problems with incineration in Utah and that there were newer and safer methods of disposing of the weapons.   After they held a demonstration there, the Army personnel were not too happy with these ladies from Little Rock, but did invite them to a presentation to convince them it was safe. The Pine Bluff Arsenal proceeded with the incineration, but WAND became part of a lawsuit questioning their methods.

Arkansas WAND’s de facto home is Jean Gordon’s house. She hosts monthly potlucks for WAND members. She lived at this same address when she was elected to the school board in the 1960s. Her living room was the place where ACORN was founded and where Presidential candidates and Nobel Peace Prize winners have visited – all in the cause of peace and justice.
2009 walk for unity 41

2013 | Leymah Gbowee

In the fall of 2011, Abigail Disney was the featured speaker for the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas luncheon. Arkansas WAND members and some students from the Clinton School of Public Service attended a screening of her film Pray the Devil Back to Hell. This film told the story of Liberian women from the Christian and Muslims congregations in Monrovia, who formed a coalition with the purpose of ending the years of civil wars that had devastated the country. We were incredibly moved and inspired by the main force behind this women led peace movement Leymah Gbowee. We also learned that Ms. Disney was producing a PBS series Women, War, and Peace. One of the episodes was Pray the Devil Back to Hell. This screened in the fall, but was quite limited in Arkansas.

Clinton School student Trish Flanagan met with members of Arkansas WAND to discuss the possibilities of setting up a screening of the film with facilitated discussion led by students. The Amnesty International chapter at Pulaski Academy High School was developing a film series for the spring and joined the effort to bring this film to a larger audience. The film was shown to over 50 people of all ages. The entire event was planned, publicized and carried out by the students.

Again inspired, we talked of the possibility of inviting Leymah Gbowee to Little Rock to speak at the Clinton School for Public Service. In December 2011 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Tawakkul.

Arkansas WAND extended an invitation to speak at the Clinton School Public speakers series to Ms. Gbowee, she accepted and it was an inspiring visit that facilitated our own mighty powers in Arkansas. A young Liberian woman graduated from the Clinton School for Public Service in May, 2016.

Pray_the_Devil_Back_to_Hell_PosterWatch the trailer for Pray the Devil Back to Hell here.

Read about Leymah Gbowee’s biography “Mighty Be Our Powers” on her website.

2009 | Gila Svirsky

In 2009, the Arkansas WAND women decided to bring an Israeli peace activist to Little Rock. This goal came after many discussions about our lack of knowledge about the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Our vision was to initiate an effort to bring to our community national and international leaders who represent points of view which lead to peaceful solutions. We were interested in grass roots activists like us, not academics or media pundits. So our first project was to bring Gila Svirsky, an Israeli activist, writer and leader in the women’s peace movement, to Arkansas to facilitate discussions about the Women’s International Peace Movement and strategies for promoting peace and reconciliation. This became “Gila Svirsky and the Power of Peace from the Ground Up” September 17 – 23, 2009.

“As the world slides into a scarier place, we need to turn our focus to peace– -how to achieve it, how to maintain it and how to promote the power of peace. Getting to know and understand each other is a good first step.”

Here is a documentary film about Gila Svirsky’s visit in Little Rock: Meet you In Jerusalem

Plot Summary: Six women reminisce about the visit of Gila Svirsky, an Israeli peace activist, to Arkansas. Ms. Svirsky, winner of the Bremer Peace Prize in Germany, was invited by Arkansas Women's Action for New Directions (WAND) after they discovered that the white phosphorus used by the Israelis in Gaza in December 2008 was manufactured at the Pine Bluff Arsenal in Arkansas. Wanting to draw attention to the complex political and social issues confronting both sides in the search of peace in the Middle East, WAND provided a number of venues by which students and the public were able to listen and question this extraordinary social activist.

To watch an interview with Gila Svirsky by Steve Barnes, click here. An Arkansas Times column about Gila Svirsky by Ernie Dumas can be found here.

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