A few good women

Janice Freeman

Photo by Larry Dalton

Move over Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, the Women in Black have come to Sacramento. It’s not aliens from outer space they’re targeting, but violence all over the world. Women in Black began in the Middle East in the late ’80s as a way for Israeli and Palestinian women to gather and protest the unending violence between races and religions. Today, the name Women in Black and the mission have spread all over the world. Not considered an organization as much as a movement, WIB is a loosely formed network of women who dress in black for one primary goal: Peace. Janice Freeman, a long-time protester, found her calling with the style of nonviolent protest practiced by WIB. In addition, Freeman is a musician who performs at peace retreats and has produced a CD of her music.

Why black?

Black is a symbol of mourning and it does make quite a statement, to have a line of women standing in funeral black in an attitude of mourning to protest the violence that is taking over our world. It makes a statement. Black stands out.

Do people notice or ask why you wear black?

Absolutely. I’ve had at least three clergy people in this area thank us profusely for vigiling at a gathering at which they spoke. The Women in Black just stand to the side of whatever’s going on and just hold a space, very meditatively.

But you are non-religious affiliated?

Right. There are women from different churches, and probably of non-faith. That’s just not an issue. Women are encouraged to meditate on peace, and that has no church boundaries. Everyone can do that.

How did you personally become involved?

A friend of mine, Charles Liteky, mentioned that he wanted to follow their methods of protest. So, I started checking them out. I have friends with Grandmother’s for Peace, Bernice Kring and Lorraine Krofchok. Bernice vigiled with the original group of Women in Black. One day at a peace at vigil, at 16th and J, I just showed up with Bernice in black and it was the most amazing experience I ever had. I’ve done a lot of protests but this was the first time I stood silently. I personally meditated on peace. I prayed for the leadership of our world. I prayed for every car that cheered the group, and every car that didn’t cheer the group. It made me see how interconnected we are. These are my brothers and sisters. I left feeling like I’d just had a profound spiritual experience. And then it happened again. It’s been a fabulous experience.

What do you hope to accomplish by silent vigilance?

WIB provides women a safe place to vigil for peace. Even though they may not know where they stand politically, or anywhere else, it gives them a safe place to come together. One of the women who vigils with us has two children in the military, and she’s very conflicted about that. She doesn’t take part in any protests anymore, but she comes to WIB because it’s OK for her. Those of us that have vigiled realize that we draw lines everywhere in our lives; Women in Black can cross those lines. And silence speaks louder than words. We may not get people to stop bombing and killing each other, but we may raise people’s consciousness. There’s a story of a person walking on a beach and sees a child throwing starfish that have washed up on the beach back into the water. And the person says, “You’re gonna be here all day throwing them back in one at a time.” The kid says as he throws one into the ocean, “Well, it made a difference to that one.”

It has also given me the opportunity to reassess my own life. As you stand there you think, “What about the anger in me?” You begin to see that we’re all part of the violence in the world; it’s not just out there. It’s not just us and them. It all starts within our own hearts.

Do you (and/or WIB) blame the current state of the violence in the world on men?

No. I’ve never come across that. In all my studies of the various groups, I’ve never heard that. Mahatma Gandhi said, “I put all my hopes in women. I strongly feel that the ultimate victory of nonviolence depends wholly on women. I believe the strength which women possess is given to them by God. Hence they are bound to succeed in all they undertake.” I’m a student of Gandhi. This has nothing to do with superiority or inferiority of women to men. We bear life, we nurture life, we house life, we feed life. What better way than for the women: the mothers, the wives, the sisters, the daughters, to come together and say, “STOP.” But it’s certainly not to put down men.

When will you stop wearing black?

Until all wars shall cease. That’s a line from a song I wrote. Help me to keep vigil upon this world until all war shall cease.

Freeman is currently organizing an informational meeting for the Sacramento chapter of Women in Black to take place 6:30 pm August 5. The meeting will be held at the Newman Center, 5900 Newman Court located at J St. and Carlson, near CSUS. Contact Janice at janice@compudigital.com.