Mira Dabit is a Palestinian youth activist and folkloric storyteller, who lived and worked in north and south Ireland after receiving her BA in psychology and sociology from Birzeit University.
Impossible you say? This isn’t foreclosure in the classic sense, and the vigil in front of the White House, maintained 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, is not yet the issue. But, the house where the woman who has maintained a presence against nuclear war and weaponry for 31 years takes a few hours rest each day is at risk of being sold to developers. And, with no place to prepare food and bathe and rest for a few hours a day, this 74 year old woman will not physically be able to maintain her vigil.
For this writer , a 26 year old Palestinian, the story of Washington D.C.’s Peace House has become personal. There are some places that you travel to in your lifetime and it immediately feels like home. This feeling comes to one only a few times in a lifetime if at all. For me, personally, this feeling came in December 2011 when I entered the Peace House on 12th and M NW Washington DC , where a group of Occupy activists sat in different rooms in this beautiful Victorian home with red brick walls and discussed concepts of social justice, peace and revolution .
As I stood by the stove in the kitchen chatting with one of my fellow occupy activists, a little old lady came down the stairs with a cup of tea in her hand and introduced herself to me as “Connie”. What I learned that day from Connie, or Concepcion, is that she has actually been one of the original occupiers, occupying in front of the White House protesting Nuclear wars, weapons of mass destruction and encouraging peace and justice since the year 1981. The first thought that came into my mind as I spoke to Connie was, wow, she has been protesting longer than I have been alive. I learned that Connie was way into her 70’s and still rides her bicycle to the White House every day in the freezing cold, in the sweltering heat, in the rain and in the dark to continue her lifelong dedication to world peace and justice. I know that “world peace” might sound to the average cynic as something as trivial as platitudes offered by a ”Miss World” contestant, but for Connie, fighting for world peace is a way of life.
Let me tell you something about Concepcion. She and her partner in the peace vigil, William Thomas started their journey of protest as they saw the devastating effects of the nuclear bombs on the people of Japan, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They committed themselves and their lives to making sure that in the little time they have on this earth, such man-made devastation and destruction should never happen again: not to anyone, anywhere. William Thomas passed away in 2009 with a full knowledge that Connie among others of his family and friends will continue his vision and mission of the hope of peace and the end to wars.
With the emerging of the occupy movement, and especially in Washington DC, many of the Occupy activists found themselves sitting in the same spot on which William Thomas had sat, as they supported Connie and the peace vigil, doing shifts during the day and night to give her some rest and a break to regain her strength. During those brief break periods, Connie returns to her “other” home away from her vigil spot in front of the white house. That home is in a house, purchased by William Thomas for the express purpose of providing a place of refuge for the White House vigilist and others fighting for World Peace.
Occupiers involved with Connie’s peace vigil also found themselves taking rest at Peace House, and transforming the already familiar Peace House into Occupy Peace House. The revitalized Occupy Peace House began with a surge of new energy and a vision of creating a hub and an activist resource center in the house, as well as continuing to support Connie and the peace vigil.
Since “Occupy Peace House“ was born in November, 2011 , it has turned into what the Occupy activists initially envisioned: a supportive, safe space for peace activists to congregate, organize actions and rallies , learn from non-violence trainings, street art teach ins, social events, as well as providing a home to return to after a long day at the occupy encampments, protests or after attending the peace vigil.
At the moment, activists have until the 31st of July to Save the Peace House and sustain the vision of William Thomas and Concepcion Piciotto of a safe space and a home for peace activists and the peace vigil keepers.
After many months of trying to raise 500.000$ to buy the house the activists are running out of time. With less than thirty days to save Occupy Peace House, which has become my own home as well, Connie’s home and William Thomas’s vision for the house is in jeopardy of being sold to the highest bidder. If this happens, the likelihood that Connie will be able to maintain her vigil where she talks to hundreds, sometimes thousands, of visitors each day, is negligible. Loss of Peace House which would signal the loss of Concepcion’s vigil would be a tragedy for peace activists and movements worldwide.
For more information, please go to www.occupypeacehouse.org and help us make history and maintain Thomas’s and Connie’s vision and commitment, and if you’re in DC or the area please stop by and see for yourself the work that’s being done .
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