CODEPINK Hosts Mother’s Day Peace Festival
Above Photo:Over 200 participated in the peace festival at the White House
Washington, DC – Peace activists, bands, music, art and community unity made a perfect recipe for a peace festival on Mothers Day weekend at the White House on Saturday. The theme was creating a society free of violence so families could thrive. Several hundred took part in the event hosted by CODEPINK: Women for Peace. Other sponsors included Institute for Policy Studies, Washington Peace Center, and over 20 other groups.
A half dozen bands performed various peace songs, while others painted or danced as activists spoke about peace initiatives, read poetry, or sang songs. Mothers who were affected by violence in their communities spoke about efforts to mobilize against it. Food Not Bombs served a free vegan lunch.
Towards the concert end, participants gave roses to mothers who had lost children to violence. Then they linked arms in an emotional group embrace as someone sang a song of peace.
Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, said that Mother’s Day was a good day to reflect on the importance of looking at the affect of violence in our communities. “Mother’s Day is a time of joy and beauty and showing our love. We’re talking about serious things as well,” she said.
Mother’s Day was the brainchild of Julia Ward Howe in 1872, after bearing witness to the Civil War, a conflict in which 100s of thousands of young men died. She called for the first “Mother’s Day for Peace” in the U.S. and an end to war. “She saw all of this needless suffering and dying and said women have to get together globally and say we have to disarm,” said Benjamin.
The Coalition for Concerned Mothers (COCM), a coalition of families affected by violence, brought five mothers to speak who had lost children to violence. “We need to empower each other to say to our elected officials that we’re not standing for this, that enough is enough,” said Marion Gray-Hopkins, President and co-founder of COCM.
Hopkins lost her son, Gary Hopkins, Jr., an unarmed 19-year-old student, when Maryland State police shot him in 1999. It was her experiences with law enforcement and the courts that prompted her to become active in forming COCM to fight senseless violence.
After telling her story, she was joined by Darlene Cain, a Baltimore resident who lost her son, Dale Graham, 29, when Baltimore police shot him in 2012. Three more mothers also spoke about police and community violence, and its effect on their families, including Sharlene Stewart, who lost her son, Nicholas Walton, to community violence; Cynthia Dawkins, who lost her son Timothy Dawkins-El, 24; and Beverly Smith, whose son Alonzo “Zo” Smith was beaten by special security police.
Other themes highlighted at the peace festival included ending violence against women, demilitarization of police forces, a stop to mass incarceration, honoring transwomen, honoring the Movement for Black Lives, a stop to drone warfare, and a stop to selling arms across the world which contribute to wars.