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Mothers Day Festival Of Peace

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Mother's Day Festival of Peace

by Susan Else Wyman,
WANDS Publicity Chairperson

The Washtenaw County chapter of Women's Action for Nuclear Disarmament (WAND) will be sponsoring a major peace event on Sunday, May 11, 1986, the second annual Mother's Day Festival of Peace. The festival will be held at West Park in Ann Arbor. Participants will gather at the bandshell which is near S. Seventh and Miller. The day's events will begin at 1:00 and last until 4:00, rain or shine. Mothers, fathers, children and all other people who care about peace are welcome. Last year's event attracted more than 500 people during the course of the afternoon and more are expected this year.

Mother's Day, originally called Mother's Peace Day, was founded by Julia Ward Howe, composer of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, in 1872. She intended that it be a day to honor women who had lost sons in the Civil War while "speaking, singing and praying for those things that make for peace." She felt strongly that all people had to work for a peaceful world but that women, especially mothers, were in a unique position to make their feelings known as they felt most directly the pain caused by the loss of a son in war. As she stated in her book Reminiscences "Why do not the mothers of mankind interfere in these matters, to prevent the waste of human life which they alone bear and know the cost?"

As the cost has now grown beyond anything she could have imagined, all peace groups but especially those composed primarily of women, feel an increased urgency to educate the public about the realities of nuclear war. A significant number of Ann Arbor WAND members are mothers of young children and they hope to change the way people think. Jenni Zimmer, the mother of two young sons and a new baby, was the coordinator of the event last year and is doing the work again this year. Julia Ward Howe's words speak for her and for many as she realized almost one hundred years ago that ending war would require fundamental changes: "Let the fact of human brotherhood be taught to the babe in his cradle, let it be taught to the despot on his throne. Let it be the basis and foundation of education and legislation, the bond of high and low, of rich and poor..." Her words about despots seem particularly important in 1986 as the world becomes caught up in a situation which was created by despots and which could conceivably lead to nuclear war.

The festival will be a family-oriented afternoon with activities for all ages. Featured events are speakers, music, games and arts and crafts for the children, face painters, jugglers, and refreshments. In addition, participants will enjoy viewing some of the Michigan panels of the Peace Ribbon which encircled the Pentagon and other Washington buildings last Hiroshima Day and a children's art exhibit with the theme "Peace Is...". There will also be the presentation of the first annual WAND Mother's Day Peace Award, sales of peace-oriented items, a raffle featuring an Amish quilt wallhanging and other prizes, a singalong, and a launch of peace balloons.

Headlining the entertainment will be Peter "Madcat" Ruth, harmonica player extraordinaire. Also appearing will be Jesse Richards, earth dancer, Anne Doyle, folk singer, O.J. Anderson, mime, and a jazz band. Featured speakers include State Senator Lana Pollack, Ann Arbor Mayor Ed Pierce, Elise Bryant of Common Ground Theatre reading poetry, Lillian Genser of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at Wayne State University, Kelly Stupple, Community High student and peace activist. Sharron Singleton who was one of the founders of the local chapter of WAND and who has been its president since the beginning will also speak; this will be her last public appearance on behalf of WAND before moving with her husband Richard to Providence, Rhode Island.

Other local peace and disarmament group such as SANE, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Michigan Alliance for Disarmament, Physician's for Social Responsibility, and Beyond War have been invited to participate and will join WAND in setting up tables with literature and peace-oriented items for sale. WAND will be selling T-shirts with its mother and child logo, tote bags, note cards, posters, books by Helen Caldicott, and earth balloons. This year there will be pizza and apple cider for sale and carnations, the traditional Mother's Day flower, for all mothers and other celebrants to wear.

The group sponsoring the festival, Women's Action for Nuclear Disarmament (WAND), was founded in 1980 by Dr. Helen Caldicott. She is an Australian pediatrician who became a forceful anti-nuclear activist when confronted with French atmosphere testing in the Pacific and whose concerns are now global. WAND has over 100 chapters nationwide and the Ann Arbor chapter is year and a half old with several hundred members. WAND's goals are to inform and educate the public about the threat of nuclear war and to encourage grassroots lobbying and political action to halt the arms race.

Of particular concern to activists are facts such as these: military spending under the Reagan administration has increased by $77 billion from 1982-1985 while domestic spending has decreased by $167 billion--but the budget deficit is still the largest any country has ever had and women and children in particular are being affected; together the US and the Soviet Union have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world 67 times over--and the race continues; just one Trident submarine carries 19 megatons, the firepower of six World War IIs and even though 300 megatons is enough to destroy every large and medium size city in the world we now have 20,000 megatons--and still counting.

The Ann Arbor WAND meets on the second Sunday night of each month except May when everyone goes to the festival all afternoon instead. The meetings are held at St. Aidan's Episcopal/Northside Presbyterian church at 1679 Broadway; doors open at 7 for sale of WAND items and conversation, the meeting begins at 7:30 and the program, usually an informed speaker, begins at 8:30. All interested men and women are invited to attend.

The word "Peace" was omitted when Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Mother's Day a national holiday in 1914, but WAND and others intend to remember that original intention. Most of WAND's chapters around the country plan Mother's Peace Day celebrations. John Kerry, Senator from Massachusetts, submitted a resolution last year which was approved by the Congress that May 12, 1985 should be called Mother's Peace Day. The precedent lives again, and we all have the opportunity to enjoy a day of music and fun while remembering the sober purpose behind this day's events. For more information about the festival or WAND's activities, call the WAND information line at 761-1718, or Jenni Zimmer, the festival's coordinator at 662-3523.