Every year, top names on the peace activism circuit come to Memphis to deliver workshops and lectures on achieving peace at home and abroad during the Gandhi-King Conference on Nonviolence. This year's conference — held October 23rd-25th at Christian Brothers University — features civil rights leader C.T. Vivian, Nonviolence International founder Mubarak E. Awad, gangster-turned-peacemaker Rudy Balles, and peace activist Kathy Kelly.
From 1996 and 2003, Kelly was part of the Voices in the Wilderness campaign to deliver medicine and food to the Iraqi people against U.S. and U.N. sanctions. She's participated in several nonviolent direct actions in war zones outside Iraq, Bosnia, and Haiti.
Flyer: Voices in the Wilderness sent over 70 delegations to Iraq to deliver medicine. What was the purpose of that mission?
Kelly: It was intended to break the sanctions. It was by no means a humanitarian relief operation. If we saved lives, we're glad. But it was intended as a campaign to break the U.S. law that imposed horrific sanctions on civilians who could never control Saddam Hussein.
What work are you involved in now?
Voices for Creative Nonviolence is trying to get people to go to their congresspeople's offices to educate the staffers that 58 percent of people who express disapproval of the war in Afghanistan are actually live human beings.
What's your advice to young activists who may want to follow in your path?
I don't think anyone can go wrong by sitting down with Dr. Martin Luther King's "Beyond Vietnam" speech. It contains the fundamental nugget of nonviolence — that you should look for the goodness in your opponent and try to see yourself as your opponent sees you.