Twenty-five years ago, I was one of 1,200 participants in the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament. We gathered in Los Angeles to walk across the United States to New York City and down to Washington, DC – 3,700 miles – in an effort to raise awareness about nuclear arms. Our goal was to end the development and testing of nuclear weapons in our country and in the world. So we walked to draw attention to our cause.
The demographics of those in The March were as broad as those of our nation. We had been promised showers, laundry facilities, dining pavilions, chairs; high-profile, glitzy entertainment, national front-page coverage.
On the eleventh day, in the Mojave Desert, ten miles west of Barstow, California, the leader of Pro-PEACE, the organization sponsoring The March, flew out from Los Angeles in a big red helicopter, stood on the back of a flat-bed truck and said, “Go home. We are bankrupt. The March is over.” We stood in the bleak sunshine, stunned and quiet. I had closed my tutoring center, rented my house, sold my car, had committed my next nine months to the Great Peace March. Others had sacrificed deeply to join this demonstration. Eight hundred went home. Four hundred of us stayed. We joined hands and snaked across the desert singing a Peace March song one of us had written. One Marcher quipped, “We’ve just been handed a death sentence and what is our solution: to join hands and sing a song. It looks like things will be alright.”
It became a grass-roots movement, dependent on the generosity of people across the nation. By sheer willpower, heroic efforts, miracles and grace, we survived. And changed ourselves, thereby changing a part of the world.
I am chronicling the experiences of those nine months, and those of further Peace Walks in 1987 and 1988, in a book, hopefully to be released this year in time for the 25th reunion of the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament.
Writing now about those adventures reminds me of a statement I think Natalie Goldberg made, “Writers are fortunate people. They go through life like everyone else, and then, they get to live again those parts of their life they choose.” I am reliving those days we camped across our nation, and although sometimes I wonder how we made it, I am proud to relive those days and excited to share them with you.