We followed the back roads from the great Appalachian Mountains to the Mighty Mississippi, this Fall with presentations in Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee, finding hospitality along the way with friends and family.
In August, New South Network activists Clare Hanrahan and Redmoonsong visited with Bro. Utsumi & Sr. Denise of the Nipponzon Myohoji Buddhist Order at the Great Smoky Mountains Peace Pagoda near Newport, Tennessee. Work is underway with dedicated volunteers and, when completed, the Peace Pagoda will be visible from miles around, including to those traveling through East Tennessee on Interstate 40. Bro. Utsumi & Sr. Denise will be leading their 11th annual peace walk to Fort Benning and the SOA Watch vigil November 16th through 24th.
|Sign-painting table in Johnson City|
In October at the Appalachian Public Interest and Environmental Law Conference in Knoxville we joined with several hundred eco-minded and socially conscious activists, attorneys, students and scientists working to achieve environmental and social justice throughout Appalachia and surrounding areas.
|Brethern Pastor Ken Edwards of Jonesboro, Tenn.|
Keynote speaker Tom Butler of the Foundation for Deep Ecology, editor of Energy: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth made a compelling presentation as a voice for the inherent rights of wild nature, challenging the view of the natural world as "commodity."
While there we connected and reconnected with folks working on many fronts for environmental and social justice, including Ken Edwards, Brethren Pastor and member of the Appalachian Peace Education Center and Aerojet Action Project. We met with Ken in Jonesboro, Tenn. in August when he hosted the Christian Peacemaker Teams in town to raise awareness of the environmental and human rights impacts of Aerojet/Rockedyne, a Jonesboro based plant manufacturing "depleted" uranium weapons and polluting the soil and water with uranium.
|OREPA Sunday vigil outside gates of Oak Ridge bomb plant|
|Educating & Activating along the road|
In Nashville we were hosted by the Nashville Peace Coalition to present our PowerPoint: Environmental Impact: Atomic Appalachia & the Militarized SouthEast.We appreciated the warm welcome at the Nashville Friends Meeting and the overnight hospitality at Nashville Greenlands, a Catholic Worker Urban Agriculture community, home to legendary war tax resister Karl Meyer.
Traveling West we detoured to Milan, Tennessee, and the WWII era Army Ammunition Plant. The 22,540-acre site is on the EPA Superfund list of most contaminated sites. It has a ground water contamination plume that continues to spread. The once thriving ammunition plant is now a desolate-looking wasteland. Primary include 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) and RDX, also known as cyclonite.
|Janice Vandarhaar with Atty. Jeribu Hill|
|Setting the Record straight|
We took time out to spend an evening on Beale Street with VFP's Elliott Adams and enjoyed warm Memphis hospitality with Clare's brother Robert and family.
|Visiting family & discussing the persistence of racism in Memphis|
|Coleman Smith & Rev. Charles Utley of S.C. at NRC hearing|
Tennessee is the only state that incinerates nuclear waste, and the state accepted into municipal landfills 38,343,961 lbs of radioactive waste. In 2000, Tennessee accepted 75% of the nations' so-called low-level radioactive waste.
We're back on the road in November where Clare will be presenting our Powerpoint on Atomic Appalachia and Militarism's environmental impact in the South at the Drone Summit and Coleman will be in Columbus, Ga. at work with the Puppetista Collective for the SOA Watch vigil at the gates of Fort Benning. In December we've been asked to present at the U.S. Human Rights Forum in Atlanta. Stay tuned for reports.
Thanks to the ongoing support of our local friends for helping to keep us on the road. Your support is welcome and much needed to keep us on the ground weaving connections in the Southeast. We especially need help to get to Fort Benning for the annual SOA Watch vigil at the gates.
Photos & Story by Clare Hanrahan
Folks I've just been down, down to Memphis town,
That's where the people smile, smile on you all the while.
Hospitality, they were good to me.
I couldn't spend a dime, and had the grandest time.
|The Memphis Blues (1912)