Posted by CODEPINK Staff
Gayle Brandeis, the phenomenal author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write (HarperSanFrancisco), The Book of Dead Birds: A Novel (HarperCollins), Self Storage, and numerous pieces in Salon.com, The Nation and other publications, represented CODEPINK at the Motherhood Movement conference in Toronto and delivered an incredible speech about her and our work, with some history and behind-the-scenes details.
Gayle sent along the text. Here's a piece of it....
[...] CODEPINK has rescued the color pink from the Barbie aisle, from its stereotypical connotations of girlishness, and turned it into something fierce and alive. When we don our pink, we are reclaiming the color as a source of female power.
The language we use during our meetings and conference calls is also deeply informed by our experiences as women and mothers. When we begin a new project, we ask who wants to “mother” it along. We support and encourage one another the way all good mothers should, in a spirit of cooperation and creativity and mutual inspiration and respect. And we hope that our pink presence reminds lawmakers of the strength and influence of women, of mothers. “In the hindbrain of anyone who listens to us, we’re momma,” said Eileen Coles, 45 of New York, who came to DC to protest the fifth anniversary of the war. “Somewhere in their head they’re hearing their mother say, ‘You’re doing wrong. You’re being bad. Cut it out.’ We are creators of life, and we have that power.”
CODEPINK has reclaimed the original intention of Mother’s Day, envisioned by Julia Ward Howe in 1870 as a time for all the mothers who lost their sons in the Civil War to protest the senseless violence. Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation begins:
Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
And later goes on to say
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 an earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
CODEPINK resurrects this proclamation every May, bringing mothers and children together for peace picnics and parades around the country, but we also believe every day is Mother’s Day; every day is an opportunity for women to rise up and gather and take counsel as we work together toward peace—and not always solemnly. CODEPINK believes that joy and humor and play are an important part of the process. If we want to create a more hopeful future, we need to model that hope and peace within ourselves and between one another. Just as mothers learn that it’s good to offer a Yes to our children after we tell them No, when we create Women Say NO to War actions, we also are sure to say Yes to peace, Yes to justice, Yes to a more sustainable future.
While we’re best known for our colorful disruptions, whether we’re confronting war mongers in the halls of Congress (sometimes even camping out in front of their houses), attempting to make citizens arrests (as one CODEPINKer did at a recent Karl Rove event) or staging “Make Out Not War” kiss-ins in front of military recruiting stations, much of CODEPINK’s most powerful work is of a more quiet nature.
We have brought women’s peace delegations to Iraq and Iran and Afghanistan to gather the stories of women from those countries, voices that are not often enough heard in dialogues about war. In 2006, we brought seven Iraqi women, mostly mothers, to the US and organized a speaking tour so they could share, first hand, their own stories of how the occupation in Iraq has affected their lives and devastated their families.
Our national campaign, Walk in Their Shoes, was inspired by the actions of CODEPINK New York, who set over one hundred pairs of children's shoes, each standing for a particular Iraqi child killed during the current war, in front of Hillary Clinton's Manhattan office. The powerful visual display—which of course represents only a tiny percentage of actual civilian deaths in Iraq—forced passers-by to confront the true human cost of war.
Since then, we have staged Walk in Their Shoes actions throughout the country. Passers-by are often moved to donate hundreds of pairs of shoes, to label each pair with the name and age of a woman or child killed in Iraq, to bear witness to the unspeakable pain this war has unleashed on the Iraqi people.
It is easy for politicians and media outlets to portray Iraqi casualties as numbers on a page, as faceless, nameless "collateral damage," far removed from any real pain. But when you see a worn pair of shoes, you can't help but think of the feet that once pulsed inside. The body connected to those feet. The heart and mind and voice connected to that body. The person's whole rich and complicated life, now silenced. You wonder about the fear they must have felt when the bombs started to fall. You wonder if they tried to outrun the destruction. You wonder about the pain that ripped through them when their flesh was pierced by shrapnel, when the walls began to fall. You wonder about the unbearable grief the surviving family members grapple with still. You wonder how we ever could have started such a tragic and unnecessary war.
In our effort to stop the next war now, we have also asked CODEPINK members to download photos of Iranian children and wear them as pendants with the message “Don't Bomb Iran.” We want these images to remind our friends and neighbors and lawmakers of the humanity of the Iranian people. When we see the beautiful faces of these children, how could we ever come to terms with them as potential collateral damage? How could we ever risk harming such precious young lives?
CODEPINK works hard to keep the human cost of war visible; we can't give our elected officials the luxury of looking away, of pretending that we are waging a humane and compassionate war.
We are especially proud of the work we’ve done with Iraqi refugees, raising tens of thousands of dollars to help women and children who had been displaced by violence in their country. Medea Benjamin traveled to Jordan and Syria this year so she could witness firsthand the important and inspiring work being done by our partnering organization, the Collateral Repair Project [....]
CODEPINK is committed to continuing to work for peace and justice for women both in our own communities and around the world, from New Orleans to Pakistan, often partnering with other peace and justice groups to amplify all of our voices [...]
It is so inspiring to be part of this conference, to see how mothers around the world are working to combat war and wage peace. We are all pink under our skin. May we continue to reclaim that color, and use our voices and our visions together to create a more peaceful, joyful future for all of our children.