Happy Mothers Day for Peace

Happy Mothers’ Day for Peace : A Field Report from Benjamin Ayer

A Blooming flower of a Saguaro

A Blooming flower of a Saguaro

Happy Mothers’ day. As you may know, Mother’s Day for Peace originates from the abolitionist Julia Ward Howe 1819 –, reacting to the blood shed of the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War. It was later championed by Anne Jarvis. Mothers’ Day soon became commercialized, and Anne herself was arrested for protesting the hijacking of her intent. Which was to honor mother’s selflessness worldwide. Americans now spend an estimated $20 billion on Mother’s’ Day. Around $2 billion of that is spent on flowers alone.

Today, while volunteering with a humanitarian aid group called No More Deaths, I am thinking about the mothers worldwide that are struggling to create a better world for their children.

Out here in the Sonoran desert, thousands of refugees are fleeing Latin American violence to seek a better life in the U.S.

I am thinking about a woman I met in Tucson. This spring she climbed a border wall and on descent shattered her ankle. I’m thinking about her newborn son, who thankfully is healthy and will have U.S. citizen status. I’m thinking about the children in Kalamazoo who came home to a parentless household four years ago. Their parents were taken by Immigration Control and Enforcement. I still have a lot to learn about U.S. immigration policy. At its premise is violence, racism, colonialism and profit. Our economic model of infinite growth–combined with neoliberal policies such as NAFTA and the new Trans-Pacific Partnership–is forcing people to leave their homes, their communities and travel great distances, encountering violence in their journies and at their destinations.

This Mothers’ Day I am thinking about my own mother  and her longstanding commitment to advancing the Democratic Party. I’m thinking about  Marius Mason, a trans incarcerated mother who is unable to be with his children today because of direct action hetook against genetically modified organisms.

I am thankful to the Peace Center for bringing No More Deaths to speak at Western in Febuary 2013 (hear the radio segment

Carrying water to a predetermined drop spot.

Carrying water to a predetermined drop spot.

at  http://wmuk.org/post/saving-undocumented-migrants-arizona-desert ).  It was through this presentation that I decided to come to the borderlands. I have been volunteering with No More Deaths since March. I have contributed far less than I imagined due to scheduling and family issues. Three times I have gone out into the desert, leaving food, water, socks, and a loving message. We drive on rough roads, and hike 1/10th-1/2 a mile and leave supplies for whomever  may need it. Through the Peace Center I attended the School of Americas Watch Vigil in Georgia we attended workshops and met compañeros (our comrades in struggle) from latin america. We attended a protest at Stewart Detention Center [take out the parenthetical statement anc make the name of the center a link]  (read report here http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/sites/detentionwatchnetwork.org/files/ExposeClose/Expose-Stewart11-15.pdf ) ,  a for-profit detention center for undocumented imigrants  who often receive no medical or legal support. Stewart Detention Center and the Corrections Corporation of America (the company that runs it) has no place in our country.

At the School of the Americas protest I spoke with new friends and saw the anger in their eyes. The anger and fear that their parents or they themselves could be held in such a wretched place. Today I am thankful to my mother and so many strong women around the world struggling and winning a better world for their families and communities.

One of the few deciduous trees I came across. A calm shady spot in a canyon in the Tucson Sector. The bucket contains socks and snacks

Julia Ward Howe declared, “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country, to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: Disarm, disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence vindicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of council.”

September 1870, “Appeal to womanhood throughout the world.”

Today I think of all the strong mothers who helped build the world i live in. I reflect on all the mothers currently in struggle to build healthy, sustainable, and a just world for our future.  Thank you for all you do.

Today I think of all the strong mothers who helped build the world i live in. I reflect on all the mothers currently in struggle to build healthy, sustainable, and a just world for our future.  Thank you for all you do.

Updates & our Indiegogo Campaign

Now that Peace Week and Ballyhoo are over and the collective has taken a small breather, we are enthusiastically raising money for our capital campaign! Please consider checking out our capital campaign website here.

Peace Week was a successful series of events once again. Some highlights:

Our 4th annual Hullabazoo happened! It was bigger than ever and local vendors were able to share their handmade items. There were informative workshops and great music.
Kate Elko lead a yoga workshop on Monday of Peace Week.
Emilio Howell gave an informative lecture on transgender History.
Emilio Howell & Janet Aladetohun facilitated a keynote conversation with Mia McKenzie of Black Girl Dangerous .
Leah facilitated a Feminist Tea Party about being an ally.
We had another Prison Letter Writing workshop and made over 30 birthday cards for prisoners!

Since then, the second annual Ballyhoo Moon Poetry festival happened! It was 3 nights of poetry and literary creativity, focusing on amplifying queer and trans voices of color!

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Also Kestrel was able to participate in a peace trip to South Korea.

Now, as a collective we are focusing with fervor on our capital campaign. We are trying to secure a new office to be a safer space for organizing for generations to come. Are you able to donate? Anything from $5 on up is so helpful! Are you able to share this link? We have some interesting and exciting perks.
Make it rain on the peace center

Thanks for your continued support.

Save Old Colony Farm Orchard

Momentum to save Colony Farm Orchard is building! A committed group of individuals calling themselves “Save Old Colony Farm Orchard” has been working to build power on campus and in the community to hold Western Michigan University (WMU) accountable to it’s values.

When WMU was initially given the land, they were entrusted to maintain green space there. As a result of some shifty, back door deals in 2010, the University no longer has the legal obligation to honor the original covenant of the land- to keep it wild and maintain research space there. More information on that history can be found here and here.

The group begun circulating a petition last week. Signatures are already over the 500 mark! They are also holding a public protest tomorrow at 5 pm, demanding that the University abandon plans of development and annex CFO into Asylum Lake and maintain the green space there.

Western owns land downtown Kalamazoo. There are plenty of vacant buildings that could use improvement downtown. We live in a culture built on stolen land, in a country whose economy is uneasily stilted on the stolen labor of millions of African Americans. Systemic racism is eerily alive today. And while systemic racism may not be visible to the mostly white middle class administration of WMU, their attempts to proliferate suburban sprawl instead of building in the heart of this city causes this author to wonder… Is the university resistant to their business people seeing brown and black folks? Does WMU want to build in Oshtemo so they can pretend that homelessness is not a problem that impacts all Kalamazoo residents?No Deal WMU!

With Western Michigan University recently receiving Tree Campus USA acknowledgment for the 7th year in a row, I challenge this institution to exemplify it’s commitments to sustainability.  I challenge WMU to edify the natural world by  annexing Colony Farm Orchard into Asylum Lake Preserve and honoring the people who donated this land. I challenge WMU to consider the archaeological artifacts that exist within the site and the spring that feeds into Asylum Lake. I challenge the administration of WMU to think critically and outside of the box.

Peace Week 2015

38th Annual Peace Week

38th Annual Peace Week

Kalamazoo Peace Center Celebrates 38th Annual Peace Week with Week Long Peace & Social Justice Programming KALAMAZOO— Peace Center of Kalamazoo is celebrating  their 38th Peace Week April 4th through April 11th. Over the past year, the KPC has focused on issues of feminism, racism, militarism, self care, incarceration, drone warfare, and environmentalism.  This year’s Peace Week will involve yearly traditions intermixed with new interests.

Chalk & Kes & Hippo

Saturday, April 4th Peace Center Collective members will call for the grounding of hellfire missile bearing drones in the middle east by flying kites at the Air National Guard base in Battle Creek from noon-1 pm. Also, on Saturday, there will be the 4th annual Hullabazoo : A Celebration of Do it Yourself Culture. This festival includes a local artisan bazaar, a series of free workshops ranging from creative writing to plant identification, and live, regional music. Jeffery Lewis, acoustic tale-teller and story-man extraordinaire, will headline the evening show. This festival is held at the Wesley Foundation of Kalamazoo at 2101 Wilbur Ave on Western Michigan University’s campus. It runs from 2pm-11pm.

Jeffrey Lewis @ Hullabazoo 2015! Photo by Kasey Chaos

Jeffrey Lewis @ Hullabazoo 2015! Photo by Kasey Chaos

On Sunday, April 5th, at 12pm, the Kalamazoo Peace Center will join Kalamazoo Non-Violent Opponents of War for their weekly peace vigil outside the Federal Building Downtown. We will voice our concerns of non-violence in Kalamazoo and the world, and have a brief conversation about local happenings.

Drone Vigil KNOW

Monday, April 6th we will host two events at the Wesley Foundation of Kalamazoo. At 11am, the KPC will round off their Self-Care series with a community shared Yoga Workshop on the main level of the Wesley Foundation of Kalamazoo.Yoga

At 2pm, one of the Kalamazoo Peace Center Collective Members will give a lecture on Trans History in the upper room of the Wesley Foundation of Kalamazoo. There will be an opportunity for discussion and questions after the lecture.trans feminism!

Tuesday, April 7th, Mia McKenzie novelist, activist, and renowned blogger of “Black Girl Dangerous” will be a part of a keynote conversation at 7pm at the Little Theater on Western Michigan University’s campus. This is a phenomenal opportunity to be a part of a dialogue to help amplify voices of trans and queer women of color as well as added discourse of racism, social justice, and equity. This is a conversation-style event where students and community members can contribute questions and ideas about feminism and progress. The event, sponsored by the Kalamazoo Peace Center,  the Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource Center, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion on WMU’s campus, and the Western Student Association Allocations Committee will take place at 7 p.m. You can read more about her at miamckenzie.net and her activist blog, blackgirldangerous.org.

Wednesday, April 8th, there will be a discussion on sustainability : Fifty Cent Flap Jacks (with locally made maple syrup!) in the lower level of the Wesley Foundation. The maple syrup is made by Wesley’s new Sustainability Coordinator. This talk will be at 5pm.

Thursday, April 9th, the final date of the Feminist Tea Party series will wrap up with a conversation style event at 7pm in the lower level of the Wesley Foundation. A speaker will introduce a topic of feminism, and have prompting discussion questions to involve the group in a worthwhile talk. Free tea and snacks will be provided.

Friday, April 10 there is a 2nd annual Prisoner Letter Writing workshop will be held in the lounge of the Wesley Foundation of Kalamazoo from 5pm-8pm. Paper and supplies provided, people will have the chance to write letters to prisoners who have been incarcerated for non-violent offenses to uplift their humanity, self-worth, and vitality. All events are free and open to the public. For more information, please visit http://www.kzoopeacecenter.org PressRealeasefor2015PeaceWeek

Racial Injustice at Kalamazoo College

In 1968, The Black Student Organization raised racial movements at Kalamazoo College, now in 2015 their are students of minority who still encounter racial injustice at Kalamazoo College. The hashtag #UnsafeatK has went viral and received attention, which also resulted in students starting a movement ” The Kalamazoo College Intercultural Movement.” The students within the movement has demanded at least ten things or more to make them feel safe at Kalamazoo College, such as hiring more faculty and staff of color, requiring all staff to participate in all anti-racist training, and to establish a intercultural center permanently.

Support the Intercultural Center Movement at Kalamazoo College

Support the Intercultural Center Movement at Kalamazoo College

Saturday March 7th is your chance to support minority students by collectively gather with the movement at the press conference which will be held at 8:30am on the steps on Mandelle Hall. Please show support by wearing all black.

For more details and thorough information:  http://www.thekzooindex.com/intercultural-center-movement-declares-state-of-emergency/

Kathy Kelly to spend 3 months in Prison


Missouri judge convicts and sentences two peace activists for protesting drone warfare at Whiteman Air Force Base.

Jefferson City, MO—On December 10, a federal magistrate found Georgia Walker, of  Kansas  City, MO and Chicagoan Kathy Kelly guilty of criminal trespass to a military installation  as a result of their June 1 effort to deliver a loaf of bread and a citizens’ indictment of drone warfare to authorities at Whiteman AFB.   Judge Matt Whitworth sentenced Kelly to three months in prison and Walker to one year of supervised probation.


In testimony, Kelly, who recently returned from Afghanistan, recounted her conversation with an Afghan mother whose son, a recent police academy graduate, was killed by a drone as he sat with colleagues in a garden.  “I’m educated and humbled by experiences talking with people who’ve been trapped and impoverished by U.S. warfare,” said Kelly. “The U.S. prison system also traps and impoverishes people.  In coming months, I’ll surely learn more about who goes to prison and why.”

During sentencing, prosecution attorneys asked that Walker be sentenced to five years of probation and banned from going within 500 feet of any military base.  Judge Whitworth imposed a sentence of one year probation with a condition that Walker refrain from approaching any military base for one year. Walker coordinates an organization that provides re-entry services to newly released prisoners throughout Missouri.  Noting that the condition to stay away from military bases will affect her ability to travel in the region, Walker expressed concern that this condition will limit her work among former prisoners.


Kelly’s work as a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence places her alongside people in a working class neighborhood of Kabul.  She said that the day’s proceedings offered a valuable opportunity to shed light on experiences of Afghan families whose grievances are seldom heard. At the conclusion of the sentencing, Kelly said that every branch of U.S. government, including the judicial branch, shares responsibility for suffering caused when drones target and kill civilians.