In a time where the media purportedly calls college students “apathetic,” Knox’s Alliance for Peaceful Action serves as an example to the contrary.
Last weekend, APA hosted a symposium to present provocative activist speakers to campus and engage students in skill sharing. The list of speakers included Keith McHenry, founder of Food Not Bombs, Bill Ayers, founding member of the Weather Underground and alternative journalist, and Priya Warcry, an anarchist filmmaker. Knox students also gave talks and held workshops in an attempt to emphasize sustainable, grassroots level organization.
“I think it was well attended and enjoyable”, said senior Samir Bakhshi, one of the organizers of the event.
Keith McHenry spoke on Friday at the HRC on how Food Not Bombs was started. Food Not Bombs is an international organization that is committed to pacifism, and providing free vegetarian food with a political message. FNB has managed to spread around the world as a cause that does not support the system and manages to sustain its own actions without making a monetary profit. McHenry mentioned several times that FNB is considered a terrorist organization by the FBI, and that he is one of the 100 most dangerous people in the country.
Bill Ayers spoke Saturday in Kresge to a packed recital hall. He emphasized the fact that groups of people can get things done through grassroots organizing rather than just relying on their leaders to make the change. He quoted Barack Obama, saying, “If you want universal health care, build a movement for universal health care,” and challenged the crowd to ask, “What have I done to stop the war in Iraq?” when they are intent on criticizing the president’s lack of action.
He said that people should think and act, because thinkers who don’t act are doomed to be cynics. “The opposite of being a moral person is not being an immoral person,” said Ayers, “it’s being an indifferent person.”
Ayers suggested that students should band together for causes because masses of people who want something can actually achieve it. He put forth the idea that we need to find links between different social movements to make great achievements.
Priya Warcry spoke and screened a few of her films on Sunday. Warcry showed a film from the Oaxaca teacher’s strikes which mounted to building occupations in May of 2006. The films were meant to illuminate the situation, as well as a tribute to New York Indymedia filmmaker, Brad Will, who was shot and killed during the protests. Part of the films were made with video Will had shot, and in this way Warcry emphasized the power of film to move people to social change, by noting that even in his death Will’s work was going to create social change and awareness of the situation in Mexico.
On Saturday afternoon, clubs came together in GDH to hold workshops on alternative menstrual products, zine making, and plant potting.
The alternative menstrual products workshop was conducted by junior Ariel Krietzman. Krietzman emphasized the non-sustainable and even dangerous nature of most menstrual products, noting that the companies that make them are owned by men. Tampons sold in mainstream retail are bleached, contaminating the tampon with dioxins, which can cause breast and other cancers when absorbed by the vagina. Dioxins can also cause birth defects and have a half-life of eleven years, which means that eleven years after an instance where dioxins are absorbed, there will still be half of the amount of dioxins left.
Krietzman taught those who attended was how to sew their own pads, and discussed other alternatives to tampons. One popular option is the Diva Cup, a durable menstrual cup that can be cleaned and reused. Commercial pads contribute monumentally to waste mass, and are also in no way biodegradable (the same is true with tampons).
The overall message sent by the speakers seemed to be “Don’t be complacent; there are things you can do to make society better.” The symposium itself emphasized personal responsibility as an alternative to consumerism, and that education is about more than just getting a degree; it’s about learning how you want to live.