Sleet and cold did not stop 300 stalwart activists from showing up Sunday afternoon to listen to words from community leaders and walk together encircling the Murrah National Memorial.
Live music by Mary Reynolds, Louise Goldberg and James Collins warmed hearts before a welcoming by MC Nathaniel Batchelder. Episcopal Bishop Shannon Mallory spoke to humanity’s calling as people of faith to serve “the least of these” whether they be needy in Africa, as he did personally for more than a decade, or the innocents in Iraq now suffering the violence of war. South African John M’Khize, now living in Edmond, was instrumental in South Africa’s miraculous nonviolent shift from the white Apartheid government to universal suffrage resulting in the election of Nelson Mandela to the Presidency. M’Khize himself was a mediator between opposing factions, and embodies personally the possibility that huge political changes are possible using nonviolent means. “War is not necessary,” he said.
Marching down Robinson Street five blocks, the group stopped behind the Peace Truck towing a PA system on wheels. Darcy Harris, friend of poet Ilene Younghein, read one of Ilene’s peace poems. Then UCO student Tre Ronne gave personal testimony why he has applied for Conscientious Objector status from inside active duty service in the National Guard. “I cannot allow someone else to tell me whom I should kill,” Tre said.
The brave 300 — now sporting some 85 umbrellas — marched on to “Stop #2,” where Islamic Society representative Saad Muhammad took the microphone. He spoke forcefully for the peace message in the Koran, saying that Muslims are as committed to peace and nonviolence as Christians …. that we are all misled by leaders who claim religiosity, but advocate violent means to achieve what they believe is the will of God.
Marching north along the Murrah Memorial’s west side, the throng paused at “Stop #3” to hear Native American artist and poet Richard Whitman read one of his poems about the Vietnam era … an era which left some 5 million dead in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, as well as 58,000 Americans, and some twice that many who have died since — a huge death toll for men aged 20 to 60. “War does terrible violence on the ground, and to the hearts of the veterans who come home emotionally wounded,” he said. Whitman is a Uchi Indian whose ancestors were marched to Oklahoma in the Trail of Tears from their traditional homeland, now the site of Fort Benning, GA, and the US Army “School of the Americas.”
Quaker Rex Friend introduced peace activist Cynthia Wolf, who accompanied herself on guitar, singing her original song, “On the Other Side,” reflections from one who has died, and tries to communicate with those still living.
Back at the Episcopal Center, Peace Walkers quickly dispersed to cars and heaters. Mary and Louise sang a final song to send us forth, but in the cold conditions, many sent themselves forth without assistance.
The walk was covered on the news that evening on local TV stations, 4, 5, 9, and 25. KTOK radio interviewed several people. This week’s Oklahoma Gazette (page 13: “War and Peace”) carried a good story and photograph about the walk quoting several participants. The article ends: “We’re pretty dedicated,” said Oklahoma City resident Randy Smith. “We can’t really stop the war, but we don’t have to sit at home and do nothing.’