Buttons Across Four Decades
Happy Winter Solstice, all! This button dates back to the 80s, but my collection includes those that I'd worn during the previous decade. What follows is a small part of my collection....
I wore this one in grade school during the Vietnam War. Its message and its art -- and its focus on Brooklyn, where I was born and raised -- makes it my sentimental favorite of the lot.
I was 20 years old and living on Staten Island, NY, when the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant outside Harrisburg, PA, suffered a partial core meltdown on March 28, 1979. Had any radioactive releases occurred, they would have reached me in three days given the prevailing winds. I'd been to a couple of demonstrations before then, but my activism began in earnest after TMI (long before that acronym started standing for, "Too Much Information").
From Miriam Goodman's 2004 article in the Long Island Press, "Three Mile Island: 25 Years Later":
"On June 3, 1979, 15,000 protestors demonstrated on a Shoreham beach in a day-long steady downpour, in which activists struggled to keep their pamphlets and persons dry. It was the beginning of the demise of the Shoreham Nuclear Power Station."
I was at the demonstration on Long Island against the Shoreham plant. It was also my first direct exposure to the way the media can manipulate facts. The demonstration was peaceful except for an unruly handful that tried to climb the chainlink fence around the property. On that evening's broadcast news almost all the attention was given to those disruptive few.
In 1981-1982 I was Administrative Assistant to the Director at Women Strike for Peace, which began in the early 1960s in response to nuclear testing. One of our regular activities was holding vigils across the street from St. Patrick's Cathedral. I've written more about that in this entry.
In the 90s my attention turned elsewhere.
The Boston Living Center serves people in New England living with HIV/AIDS. Mary and I volunteered several times at the BLC's annual event, "A Celebration of Life." Literally thousands of diners and volunteers filled Boston's Hynes Convention Center for this Thanksgiving feast provided to people living with the disease. It really was a celebration, and we had a fabulous time.
The AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts organizes the AIDS Pledge Walk, which is now called the AIDS Walk and Run. The event began as "From All Walks of Life." I've done the walk, the run, and -- early on -- the AIDS Dance-A-Thon. Mary and I both did the 5K in 2002.
In the 90s I also turned toward working for equal rights, which included lobbying my employer for domestic partner benefits. Mary had no health insurance during the first two years of our relationship. But even securing DP benefits did not mean equality. Her coverage was considered part of my income, which meant I paid taxes on it. This would not have happened had we been a heterosexual couple.
Heterosexual married couples enjoy 1,138 rights that Mary and I do not. This U.S. General Accounting Office report gives the full breakdown.
Mary and I first met at the Cambridge Women's Center in its "Women Writing" group. Before we became a couple we'd spent about a year sitting across from each other in a room of women, all of us pouring our hearts out in the act of free-writing. (In July 2004 I began and facilitate a co-ed free-writing group patterned after "Women Writing" -- I've described that group here.)
The Women's Center was born when a large group of women seized an abandoned, Harvard University-owned building In 1971. Their organizing efforts and generous local support led to the purchase of a lovely house at 46 Pleasant Street, near Cambridge's Central Square.
Coming full-circle from my peace buttons during the Vietnam War, in 2004 I volunteered to read names aloud for Voices For the Wall, an audio version of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I read more than a thousand names in all. Volunteers were generally asked to read a page of 30 names, but the organizers -- from a group called the Vietnam Veteran's Gathering, Inc. -- welcomed whatever I could do. They created a set of CDs with, ultimately, 58,245 names that included recent additions to the wall. The recordings were played at the 7th Annual Vietnam Veterans Gathering in November 2004. Also present was the Moving Wall, a traveling 4/5-scale replica of the Memorial in D.C.