UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Carolyn Pogue

Women in Black

Staying warm with hope

By Carolyn Pogue

I’m not entirely sure what people think when they see living statues standing among the bronze ones, especially when it’s cold. But from inside that circle, it feels warm. This month marks the eighth anniversary of the Calgary Women in Black’s twice-monthly vigils for peace. That’s 192 noon-hour vigils, in rain, snow, sunshine and wind. In 2009, one of our vigil days fell on December 25. Claire McMordie said, “That’s just about the most Christmassy thing I’ve ever done on Christmas Day!”

Women in Black is an international movement and network of women of conscience that began in Jerusalem in 1988. Today, women throughout the world hold vigils to offer a symbol and voice for peace.

I learned about the movement watching a CBC documentary about peace groups in Israel, including Women in Black. At the time, it seemed the only news from Israel was violent. I determined that if ever I went to Israel, I would stand with them. I did in 1992 and again in 2003. Back home, I phoned my friend Ronnie Joy Leah and asked, “Is it time to start a Calgary Women in Black group?”

Since then, some of us have stood with other groups: New York City, Victoria, Edmonton and Jerusalem. And holidaying Women in Black from Israel, Belgium, the United States, Holland and France have stood with us.

In Calgary, we stand downtown in Olympic Plaza, in the circle created by the Famous Five statues. We’re surrounded by suffragettes Nellie McClung, Emily Murphy, Irene Parlby, Henrietta Edwards and Louise McKinney. I like to imagine their spirits happily enveloping us.

We are unnoticed, ignored, waved at, serenaded, cursed, thanked and conversed with. Occasionally we’re lectured by the sober or drunk. Once, a young man talked for some time about his military father, then wept. For several weeks, a construction worker bought us coffee whenever he spotted us. Donations help us support peace camps, photocopy leaflets and purchase doves that Marion Jorgensen paints for children. We have received notes: “I can’t join you, but know that I look for you, and thank you for making this quiet statement that there are other ways to view the world.”

We generally wear black, symbolizing solidarity with victims of violence. I sewed a black cape, lined it with rainbow colours and wrote on it the names of organizations and individuals who work for peace and justice. Peacemakers from Boston to Fort McMurray have added their signatures; their names keep me warm.

Over coffee after the vigil, we share news about our individual work with Friends of Medicare, Project Ploughshares, Kairos, the Peace Consortium, Child Well-being Initiative, Interfaith groups, Peace Dances, the justice system and more.

No matter the weather, stepping into that circle with friends and ancestors warms me with hope.



Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Announcement

New Observer editor and CEO, Jocelyn Bell. Photo by Lindsay Palmer

New editor named

by Observer Staff

Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

A perfect send-off

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: My Year of Living Spiritually

by Observer Staff

Anne Bokma left the Dutch Reformed Church as a young adult and eventually became a member of the United Church and then the Unitarian Universalists. Having long explored the "spiritual but not religious" demographic as a writer, she decided to immerse herself in practices — like hiring a soul coach, secular choir-singing and forest bathing — for 12 months to find both enlightenment and entertainment.

Promotional Image

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

October 2017

A tale of two cancers

by Catherine Gordon

One year after the writer discovered she had breast cancer, her sister in California received the same diagnosis. They both recovered, but their experiences were worlds apart.

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

November 2017

Grey matter

by Trisha Elliott

Is consciousness just a function of the brain — or something more?

Promotional Image