Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Baring Witness: Donna Sheehan and "For the Fifty"

On "The Genesis of Our Peace Action" by Donna Oehm Sheehan, founder of Baring Witness, a group demonstrating against the (then-impending) Iraq War:

"It was a Sunday morning when I recalled the dream upon waking. I dreamt of people creating artistic shapes with their bodies. My thoughts went to Helen Odeworitse and 600 Nigerian women, who used the threat of their nakedness (a shaming gesture for men in Nigeria and perhaps elsewhere?) to force ChevronTexaco to listen to their families’ needs. The women’s action of occupying the oil terminal and threatening to shame the male employees made Chevron concede to their demands to share a little of the wealth by providing basic services to the local people.

That was such a powerful image for me at the time that it became a natural extension of my thoughts about my dream. Now I saw women’s bodies forming letters - and the word they formed had to be PEACE.

From that inspired moment, I turned to the resource that all organizers need - their like-minded friends. "Do you think we could do it?" Yes, yes, and yes! We came up with the perfect photographer who decided the perfect, accessible location with grass, a horizon and parking, We called the owners for permission to use the field on Tuesday afternoon. Now we had a deadline!

The excitement and nervousness grew as the vision became a possibility. The huge question was whether women would be able to withstand the vulnerability of exposing themselves nude. Each of us called five women and told them to call five more apiece. Many women responded with the same excitement and willingness, some could not attend. The few who could make it and were excited by the idea but were unwilling to disrobe were invited to help with the clothes. By Tuesday, over 50 women turned up at the field. "

Here's my poem, "For the Fifty, Who Formed PEACE With Their Bodies", hosted on the Fishouse poetry site. Thanks to River Styx for publishing the poem in their most recent journal; shout-outs to Matt O'Donnell and Richard Newman.

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