Sunday, April 17, 2011

Peace Panel Project Valley Tour 2011

The Peace Panel Project Valley Tour 2011      4/5/11 – 4/14/11

We arrived in Modesto on a pleasant and sunny Tuesday morning.  Met by our welcoming committee of one,  the friendly and helpful student assigned as our contact person.  We set up our 12 easels right in front of the Student Union in the East Campus Quad, a grassy park-like area in between the Union and the Administration building.  We were well received by students and faculty that walked by, many of them thanking us for what we were doing, which, at that moment was to just sit there and answer questions.
Nan Austin with photographer Bart, of the Modesto Bee, came by and interviewed us taking copious notes and photos for an article that showed up in the Bee a few days later.  She sent us the link

All was going well, until about mid day when a grey haired faculty woman marched by our exhibit in a huff, headed straight for the Administration Office.  Kevin ran out of the Union.  “Did she accost you?”  “No.” We replied.  Apparently, she was really upset that some group on Campus might have paid for such an exhibit, or heaven forbid, that the Campus had paid for such an exhibit.  Kevin said that he explained to her that a social justice group had signed on with the Peace Panel Project, but that the exhibit was free and no money had changed hands.  Not completely satisfied the teacher stormed out of the Union and off to the Administration to voice her concerns.  Mercifully, no more was heard of her.

That afternoon, we joined the Modesto Peace and Life Center’s peace vigil at McHenry and J streets.  An event you can join if you are ever in Modesto on the first Wed. of every month from 4:30-5:30pm.  The group was heartened by our participation and the panels we carried.  I was standing next to a gentleman, on the curb, holding our signs, and he turned to me, “When we started this, at the beginning of the Iraq war, people spit at us.  They would glare, shout negative comments and I even had an egg thrown at me!  Now, more people are honking, smiling, and giving us the thumbs up.  There’s been a definite sea change in people’s reaction to our vigil.”  He smiled.  I smiled back.

We arrived at the campus of Sacramento City College the next Tues morning; both of our contacts were not answering their phones.  Oh well.  We called the Campus Police, explained the situation and discovered that, by accident we were in the correct spot.  We bought a parking pass and parked under the instruction of a Campus Policeman, unloaded and set up the exhibit.  We were well received.  Many stopped, studied, and photographed the exhibit.  We received some small donations and an offer to develop a website with a donate button!  I had never imagined, a donate button for the PPP.  Wow, a “donate button” in our future.  Hurray!

As our time there was winding down, I saw a woman studying the “How Many More Massacres” panel.  I walked up to her to see if she had a question.  She turned to me with such an intense gaze, I was startled.  I had never seen such a look before.  So intense.  This middle aged, tanned, solid, clear, resolved, and yet sad woman commanded my attention, “I was there,” she said pointing to my list, of the number of Iraqis massacred by US forces in 1990, “On behalf of the Iraqi People, I thank you for this exhibit.  I don’t think enough people know this is happening.”  She turned and walked away.  I was speechless.  I wanted to hug her or say I was sorry for the intense pain she has felt, but she was gone. An Iraqi woman at SCC, we are such a global village.  Surely, in our hearts, peace is on the upswing.

We packed up the exhibit and returned to our pick-up to find, a parking ticket.  Undaunted, that afternoon, we joined the Sacramento Area Peace Action group’s peace vigil on 16th & J Streets from 4:30 – 6pm.  We met some great people and enjoyed some wonderful camaraderie, had a dinner that couldn’t be beat and headed for Stockton.
We arrived on the campus of UOP about 9:45am that Wednesday morning to gloomy skies and a cold wind.  We met our contact and he helped us with a parking pass and unloading the exhibit.  The weather’s cool reception was in contrast to the warm smile of John Morearty who met us as we rounded the corner of the University center.  The 72 year old philosopher, professor, carpenter, author, and peace activist was fun to talk to and was a great help setting up.  In a deep resonate voice he brought us up to speed on the local situation.  We were at a rich, private and conservative college campus.  It was funny how at SCC people looked at the exhibit as they walked by.  We got the good old, slack-jaw stunned, response more that once.  It’s humorous to view that posture from the side.  By contrast, many at UOP were able to walk the entire 75 feet of our exhibit without looking up from the sidewalk once.  There was a Philippine Cultural table across from ours, so we got to enjoy some of their great live guitar as the day progressed.  I walked over to their table and thanked them for the music, and on behalf of white American guys I apologized for what our armed forces had done to the Philippines.   They came over and checked out the Peace Panel Project and thanked us.  The weather deteriorated.  A gust of wind caught the easels and they began to fall, to my amazement 12 people suddenly appeared and the exhibit was up again in no time.  A man came up, Baldwin, asked if we could be persuaded to show the PPP at Grass Valley next year for a peace event of theirs.  The day was late, I was tired, and suggested that a fee might be required.  Baldwin didn’t seem daunted.  Wow.

That afternoon we attended a meeting of the Peace & Justice Network of San Joaquin County at a modest cafĂ©, where we made a presentation and had a round table discussion of the 28 panels of the Mini (9”x18”) Peace Panel Project.  A lively discussion ensued, enjoyed by all in attendance, (8).  We were roundly complemented and encouraged.

Then it was off to the Network’s Peace Vigil on Yokuts and Pacific from 5-6pm where we met more peace activists and received many more smiles and honks of the traffic.  As we packed up the PPP for the final time, on the Tour, we were up beat with the encouragement of new friends and contacts that promised future progress.  We headed home to Chico, more grateful than ever for our home town.

Respectfully Submitted,
Camille and Charles Withuhn