Victoria Ross, Columnist

A Long-Time Community healer and Activist

WNY Peace Center – Interfaith Peace Network —- Victoria Ross VICTORIA ROSS is a Justice and Peace Activist and a Social Worker. Formerly the Executive Director of the WNY Peace Center, she’s now the WNYPC’s Community Coordinator, and consults for the Interfaith Peace Network of WNY as well. Longstanding involvement in the Latino Community, and with WNYPC’s Latin American Solidarity Committee. Vicki has been a lifelong helper and healer. Her upbringing confirms the theory that social workers and activists are born growing into the role. Her dad was a German Jew who, in Munich in 1933, was such a radical justice activist (e.g., publicly refusing to say “Heil Hitler” when receiving a prize at his school, and trouncing the leader of the Hitler Youth, etc.) that he was told he’d better leave, or they would “take care of” him. Her mother was a natural peacemaker, making early application at the age of 14 to Swarthmore College, a Quaker school known for its firm support for peace. And as Vicki was a middle child with a paraplegic older sister, and a younger brother and sister, attending to people’s needs was second nature.

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EMBRACING BUFFALO

August 2022

Embracing Buffalo is a collaborative effort between two trios of women healers – three who live in Buffalo, and three who simply love the place that you call, “Home.” It is not only a response to the May 14th shooting– it is an attempt to address the horrors that preceded it, and to serve in addressing the myriad of symptoms that will continue to emerge in the massacre’s painful aftermath.

The three in Buffalo are Deidra EmEl, Executive Director of the WNY Peace Center, Buffalonian, doulah, COI; Kathleen Heim, Director of Continuing Education at UB School of Social Work; and Victoria (Vicki, or Victory) Ross, WNY Peace Center Board Chair.

The three who love Buffalo and are coming to help in this time of special need are Dena Adler, a Family and Art Therapist who works in Rochester as well as Buffalo; Dr. Sabrina N’Diaye, a healer, storyteller, and peacemaker; and Dr. Carol Penn, medical doctor and movement, meditation, and mindset coach who has also danced and choreographed with Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. The trio has specialized in facilitating healing work after mass shootings, including Las Vegas, Houston, the Pine Ridge Reservation, New York City, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, and the Capitol insurrection.

The Embracing Buffalo team understands the emotional, physical, and spiritual toll of service on the servants, survivors, and community. We intend to replenish the community, especially those most heavily impacted; and the leaders and healers serving them, contributing to expanding their capacity for continued service to humanity.

Please join the WNYPC and our guest healers at a session or sessions that fit for you Wednesday, August 3rd – Saturday, August 6th!


Wednesday, August 3:  First responders plus (police, fire, and healthcare professionals, community) 12-3 pm, Frank E Merriweather Library, 1324 Jefferson Ave, Buffalo 14208

Survivors of the shooting (victims’ families, Tops employees and shoppers, and neighbors) 5-8 pm

Thursday, August 4: Individuals and members of the multiple communities and faith-based groups who have responded to the massacre 10 am-3 pm, Unity of Buffalo, 1243 Delaware Ave, Buffalo 14209

Friday and Saturday, August 5th, and 6th: A 2-day retreat for Black healers/leaders 10 am-4 pm, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, 955 Main St, Buffalo 14203 

The Embracing Buffalo experience lies at the intersection of spirituality, science, and service. Our curriculum is largely based on the research and application of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine’s model for community healing and growth.  Meditation, mindfulness, and living in the present moment lie at the root of our teaching. 

Please go to bit.ly/EmbracingBuffalo for more info and/or the link to register for a session. We hope to see you there, where we can be #BuffaloHonest with ourselves and each other and find real comfort and relief and we continue to grow and nurture the #BelovedCommunity, in Truth and Love.

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CAMP PEACPRINTS:  JUSTICE FOR ALL!!

“Si queremos tener paz, debemos empezar por los niños” — Mahatma Gandhi

July 2022
“Darles a los niños ropa y comida es una cosa, pero es mucho más importante enseñarles que otras personas además de ellos son importantes y que lo mejor que pueden hacer con sus vidas es usarlas al servicio de otras personas.”  — Dolores Huerta

We are excited to offer our 15th annual Camp Peaceprints to the community – a tremendous opportunity for our children and youth to learn and explore social justice in a diverse group – to work and play to Be The Change we want (and need) to see in the world, and to have fun!! Camp Peaceprints, a collaboration between the SSJ Sr. Karen Klimczak Center for Nonviolence (SKC) and the WNY Peace Center (WNYPC), offers campers aged 8-13 an alternative day camp focused on Justice, Peaceful Conflict Resolution, and the Arts. It will run July 18-29, Monday through Friday, 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM (except for two or three of the field trip days!). It’ll take place at SS. Columba-Brigid Church, at 75 Hickory Street, Buffalo 14204 (opposite the JFK Recreation Center).

We have exciting field trips – to Niagara Falls where we’ll go on Maid of the Mist, and explore the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Museum; and to Ganondagan, Seneca center with Longhouse and Haudenosaunee teachings. We’re also planning a trip to the beach, and three trips to the pool! We have opportunities for adult volunteers. Parents and community members are especially welcome to help with transportation needs – both in getting children to Camp, as well as to field trips and/or swimming trips. (Unfortunately, the City won’t be opening the JFK pool, apparently due to a lifeguard shortage.) We provide gas money for servicing camp transportation needs. Many parents have found this a wonderful way to share more fully in their children’s camp experiences.

The children and youth who attend will get to explore justice issues with community leaders, including Citizenship; the Law and Law Enforcement; the Justice System (as it is called) – “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” and especially How to Work for Change.

Cariol Horne – local shero and nationally known former police officer who was fired for stopping a fellow officer from choking a community member; proponent of the City-adopted #CariolsLaw – will facilitate a session on Law and Law Enforcement.

WNYPC’s Executive Director, Deidra EmEl, will facilitate numerous portions of the programs, which include Mindfulness, Movement, and Music. SKC’s Director, Vivian Waltz, will lead experiential learning exercises from the Alternatives to Violence Project. Art Educator Jan Burns, Director of the Focus on Consequences for Adolescents (a program of the Prevention Council of Erie County). will facilitate art sessions related to the themes, including an art session at the beach.  —- For more information, including online registration, please go to the Camp Peaceprints page on sisterkarencenter.org. For questions, contact Vivian by email at vivian@sisterkarencenter.org or phone at 716.982.6501.

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KEEPING OUR BALANCE IN THE WHIRLWIND! 

EN ESTE TIEMPO DIFICIL,  NECESITAMOS UN MOMENTO JUSTO POR LA PAZ…

June 2022

After the #BuffaloMassacre – we are flattened, angry, overwhelmed, fearful, grieving, and enraged! After so many have suffered centuries of trauma from White Supremacy, the Patriarchy, economic oppression, war, violence, and more, comes another shooter, comes another tragedy, comes another assault on our children, our beloveds, and our safety. How can we continue functioning, parenting, nurturing, and caring for each other?

Of course, how can we not? We know our beloved children, families, friends, neighbors, and all our relations – need our support. So we must continue to Stay Strong!

We must act for real change regarding gun violence, White Supremacy, hatemongering, and more…  — topics we’ll pursue!! However, to make any progress, we must also practice self-care.

Remember, in an airplane, the flight attendant says, “If you are traveling with children or other dependents, please take care of your needs first, so you are better able to assist.” If we struggle to get another’s a mask on while losing oxygen ourselves, disaster looms.

The Wonderful and the Terrible are so very present in our world and indelibly intertwined. We have seen – and continue to see – the Terrible. However, the responses include the wonderfully loving generous, and even heroic actions of so many. The s/heroes on the scene, the s/heros in the back rooms, organizing community support – in crises as well as in attending to every day often desperate needs. The natural community leaders; the natural nurturers, comforters, and defenders…. They persist. Often in shifts, spelling each other off – sharing inspiration, energy, and strategies for coping and acting for the community.

We must pace ourselves, take breaks when feasible, and above all put some joy and beauty in every day. We each know what renews our strength – music, laughter, children, community, nature, the Creation, the Creator – and we owe ourselves – and each other – those activities and sources of renewal!! That’s how we can continue, stronger together, Juntos – Si, Se Puede!

Don’t forget too: Deep Slow Breathing. It brings more oxygen into our bodies, a known and proven stress reducer. Even mere conscious breathing relaxes us – just the mention of our breath puts us on a different wavelength. (Didn’t it?)

And if we develop a certain comfort with focusing on our breathing, we can pick our saying, akin to a mantra – a short prayer, affirmation, or saying that makes us feel the way we want to feel – and use it to time our breathing. We repeat it to ourselves as we breathe in; again, as we hold our breath; and then twice as we breathe out (sometimes called square breathing).

The repetition allows us to feed our spirit, as we are feeding extra oxygen to our bodies. And the more we practice it, the more it helps. It can be practiced virtually anytime, anywhere.

Above all, we must turn to the sources of our strength, our faith: Truth and Love, as Rev. Dr. King said. And the Beloved Community. Siempre: Juntos – Si, se puede!

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WOMEN’S MONTH: 

WOMEN’S MARCH, & MORE!

May 2022

The WNY Peace Center (WNYPC) is working – together with others – on our mission of Peace Through Justice at home and abroad.

The organization started in 1967 as a part of Rev. Dr. King’s Clergy & Laity Concerned (about Vietnam), under the umbrella of progressive church Riverside Salem UCC/DC. Riverside Salem (3449 West River Rd, Grand Island; gatherings Sundays 4 PM) continues to partner with the WNYPC and strives for the Creation of Justice and a Just Peace.

The WNYPC is busy working for the common good. In May, for example, we have:

—The Women’s March 2022: Solidarity, Victory, and Healing! On Sunday, May 151 PM—3 PM. With Executive Director Deidra Emil and Gender Justice Taskforce Chair Talia Rodriguez, the March will come down Niagara Street from Lafayette and gather at Broderick Park (foot of Ferry) for the main event; with speakers, music, a family area, and a comfortable environment for all to stand in solidarity, celebrate Victorious Women’s Month, and experience some community healing – so desperately needed! [Your group can still become a Cosponsor (signing on to associate and promote) or a Friend (partnering to offer attendees a WM-promoted discount). Contact assistant@wnypeace.org or visit bit.ly/WMwny2022.]

35-year-anniversary fundraising party for the Chiapas Dental Project, Monday, May 23, 7-9 PM; at Hallwalls (341 Delaware Ave, Buffalo). Please help us continue this long-term project sponsored by WNYPC’s Latin American Solidarity Committee and celebrate Dr. Tom Potts’s 35 years of making it happen!! With music provided by La Marimba. Free Will Offering ($20 suggested). The monthly LASC Peace Coffeehouses special session is held at the Canisius College Science Hall lobby on the 4th Monday of the month. 

—PeaceJam Buffalo – for children eight and up; Thursdays 3 PM-5 PM thru May 19, at the Merriweather Library (Jefferson & E Utica, Buffalo). Youth-led adult-assisted Inspiration, Education, & Action! Nobel Peace Laureates studied include Guatemala’s Rigoberta Menchu, Argentina’s Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Costa Rica’s Oscar Arias, and others worldwide. The youth have selected Ending Racism & Hate as their Global Call to Action (service learning) project and will present it at the Women’s March.

—Talking Peace with the WNYPC is live-streamed on Facebook every Weds (2 shows: 7:15 PM; and 8:30 PM) while being taped at Think Twice Radio; then audio-broadcast on Buff State’s WBNY 91.3FM every Monday 1-3 PM. Episodes are kept on the WNYPC’s YouTube Channel.

The WNY Peace Center also holds vigils, workshops, Camp Peaceprints (with the Sr. Karen Center), and special events and campaigns, independently collaborating with local, regional, and national groups.

Every month is a busy month. We try to Be the Change, working for the “Unarmed Truth and Unconditional Love” that will have “the final word,” per Rev. Dr. King. We pursue the #MoralIntegrity and #UniversalSolidarity that our beloved brother Dr. Cornel West emulated at our 2020 Annual Event. Join us!! Wnypeace.org For #PeopleAndPlanet, Juntos – Si, se puede!!  

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WHY WE SHOULD CARE ABOUT UKRAINE

April 2022

Hola, Nuestro Amigos! – Every time you check out today’s news, you likely hear about Ukraine: the devastation, people being killed/injured/displaced, and the villainy of Putin.

Why should you care?

Not because the people being killed/injured/displaced are white. Though many are. People in conflicts in Central and South America, Africa, and Asia have suffered just as much (or more)!!

Not just because Russia violently invaded. The US has done similarly in so many places (in Central and South America, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and more), and has turned a blind eye toward –even enabled – other military aggression e.g., Saudis in Yemen.

The reason the war in Ukraine is so deeply concerning is that two of the mightiest military powers’ interests are involved: the US/NATO and Russia; and both sides have nuclear weapons!

The US and Russia together account for 90% of the existing nuclear weapons in the world. NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, an intergovernmental military alliance) and Russia’s military spending together accounted for $1.3 Trillion of the $2 Trillion (about 2/3) of military spending worldwide in 2021. (The other two major military spenders are China and India, together 16% of world military spending.) The US military spending at $778 Billion in 2021, is 39% of total worldwide military spending, as much as the next 10 countries put together.

If you remember our January column on nuclear weapons – or even if you don’t! – you know nuclear war is an existential threat to life on this planet. Nuclear winter would pre-empt climate catastrophe: it would kill us off much faster.  Also, Ukraine depends on nuclear power. There are 15 – yes, 15 – nuclear power plants in Ukraine. Each one is a potential nuclear bomb. The biggest nuclear plant there already caught fire during the fighting, but thank God, people somehow managed to extinguish it quickly. An explosion there would be 10 times as bad as the Chernobyl (Ukraine) nuclear explosion, which was the worst nuclear explosion ever. (It is now a large “exclusion zone,” where people cannot live.)

Besides the nuclear dangers, as Rev. Dr. King said, the bombs over there are exploding over here. The resources we need for #PeopleAndPlanet are being squandered on war once again. (War profiteers Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, BAE Systems, and Northrup Grumman are sure to be cashing in though!!)

The US and NATO set the stage for Russia’s aggression by ignoring a 1992 promise not to expand NATO. Instead, NATO took in more members – 30 mostly small countries, formerly allied with Russia – causing severe Russian concern re its border security.

This war threatens to become World War III, something we cannot afford. We must go the opposite direction, using diplomacy and international law, IN TRUTH AND LOVE, or we are truly playing “Russian Roulette.” #AnotherWayIsPossible!!! We must communicate, negotiate, and offer all parties ways to save face!

Please call our President and representatives (info at wnypeace.org/wp/organizing-in-WNY) and urge them to USE DIPLOMACY!!

#NegotiationNotEscalation!! For #PeopleAndPlanet, Juntos – Si, se puede!! 

MOMENTO JUSTO: El Pueblo de CUBA

March 2022

Many of you will already know the strength, hard work, and communal spirit of the Cuban People. You’ll know of U.S. brutal economic sanctions against Cuba. You may also know that Cuba is the only country the US government requires its citizens to get a license to travel to.  You are likely know that despite the vengeful tack the US has maintained against Cuba after the revolution since 1958, the Cuban people have been at the forefront of medical advances and have generously helped countries around the globe deal with health emergencies, which led to nominations for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Los 30th Friendshipment Caravanistas con President Miguel Diaz-Canel al Palacio de la Revolucion.

You may know about IFCO/Pastors for Peace, and the opportunity to visit Cuba this summer July 16-30, which includes orientation. IFCO is a multi-issue national ecumenical agency, founded in 1967 — the same year as the WNY Peace Center, and (like the WNYPC) by progressive church leaders and activists.  One of IFCO’s most vibrant efforts is its support of the People of Cuba. Indeed, the group has organized 31 Friend shipment Caravans to Cuba – with Caravanistas bringing medical, technical, and other tools and resources. Each trip is a lesson in solidarity, including the fact that all traveling in the “Caravan” are committing civil disobedience by not getting a license to travel there, despite the US government’s requiring the same. I was one of those Caravanistas in the 30th Friend shipment Caravan in 2019. It was a wonderful eye-opening, inspiring experience.  Our group was diverse in every way – age, race/ethnicity, gender(s), and more. What we had in common was a sincere interest in learning and sharing: about Cuba; the compassion and collective action of the Cuban people; and the deep suffering the US extreme sanctions/effective blockade has caused.

When we arrived in Cuba, President Miguel Diez-Canel invited us to meet with him! His humility and generous spirit were impressive. We went on (as front-page news) to meet with countless individuals and groups eager to thank us (for our solidarity and civil disobedience); and to convey to us the harsh toll the US sanctions take on them and their efforts to care for all. At a school for children with autism, the parallel bars there resembled those used by my sister (a paraplegic) in the late 1950s/60s – and probably dated back to that time.  The frank, expansive adventure included a wide array of experiences – interfaith, the arts, housing, museums, government, street fairs – a broad expanse that, for me, included a peak experience at the sacred Ceiba tree! The trip was tremendously uplifting and illuminating! Don’t miss the opportunity! Apply by April 1. The trip starts in Miami with orientation 7/16-18, leaving 7/19, return 7/30, all for $1800. Fundraising help may be available as well. 

Info: IFCOnews.org or victoryross9@gmail.com.

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February 2022

WNY Peace Center – Interfaith Peace Network
UN MOMENTO JUSTO POR LA PAZ

Feliz Cumpleaños, TPNW! – Happy Birthday, Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons! Que importante este tratado!! It’s now one year since the 1/22/21 activation date for this important treaty! So – yes, nuclear weapons are now illegal worldwide, due to the TPNW, signed by 122 countries and activated 1/22/21 upon 50 countries having ratified it (now 59). However, we must still work to put TPNW into effect!!

Among the signers are Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela – Latin American countries represent 26% of the signatories!

Nuclear weapons couldn’t be less undemocratic. You may have no desire for nuclear weapons, but you will live with their threat anyway. That goes for every country that doesn’t have nuclear weapons (every country but US, Russia, China, France, UK, Pakistan, India, Israel, North Korea).

None of the Latin American countries have nuclear weapons (neither do any African countries). Yet they all have the threat of nuclear war hanging over their heads – imposed by the above list.

Likewise, most citizens in countries with nuclear weapons – such as here in the US – have not be asked, nor have we been given a vote on whether we want our country to have nuclear weapons (or nuclear power for that matter). Nuclear materials are also with us for the longest time – the most potent nuclear material needs “safe storage” (whatever that means – difficult to impossible) for one million years.

Nuclear waste is stored at the West Valley Nuclear Site, on unstable ground. It has been leaking into Cattaraugus Creek, which leads to Lake Erie, Buffalo, our water filtration facilities, and 20% of the world’s fresh water supply. The West Valley clean-up is inching forward but neither covered nor adequately monitored. We also have nuclear waste in Niagara Falls and on the Tuscarora Reservation; transported on our highways; and liquid nuclear waste coming over the Peace Bridge (WNYPC vigil Fridays 2-3pm at Vermont & Busti). Please go to Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS.org) for more info, especially on this local issue.

Nuclear weapons take resources away from humanity and the planet’s other needs (from health, education, infrastructure, and basic human needs; to the costs of changing to renewable energy to mitigate climate catastrophe). The planned cost of new generation of US nuclear weapons is $100,000 per minute for the next ten years. That would cover a college education for all qualified students over 16 years!

For more info, see the Talking Peace session on this issue at WNY Peace Center’s Youtube channel; and/or go to PeaceAction.org; BackFromtheBrink (preventnuclearwar.org), or ICAN.org.

Time’s up!! To help abolish nuclear weapons, including working together locally, please contact me at victoryross9@gmail.com. Think globally, act locally – this issue, again, is too big not to tackle. For #PeopleAndPlanet, Juntos – Si, se puede!! 

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 January 2022:

WNY Peace Center – Interfaith Peace Network
UN MOMENTO JUSTO POR LA PAZ

Feliz Cumpleaños, TPNW! – Happy Birthday, Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons! Que importante este tratado!! It’s now one year since the 1/22/21 activation date for this important treaty! So – yes, nuclear weapons are now illegal worldwide, due to the TPNW, signed by 122 countries and activated 1/22/21 upon 50 countries having ratified it (now 59). However, we must still work to put TPNW into effect!!

Among the signers are Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela – Latin American countries represent 26% of the signatories!

Nuclear weapons couldn’t be less undemocratic. You may have no desire for nuclear weapons, but you will live with their threat anyway. That goes for every country that doesn’t have nuclear weapons (every country but US, Russia, China, France, UK, Pakistan, India, Israel, North Korea).

None of the Latin American countries have nuclear weapons (neither do any African countries). Yet they all have the threat of nuclear war hanging over their heads – imposed by the above list.

Likewise, most citizens in countries with nuclear weapons – such as here in the US – have not be asked, nor have we been given a vote on whether we want our country to have nuclear weapons (or nuclear power for that matter). Nuclear materials are also with us for the longest time – the most potent nuclear material needs “safe storage” (whatever that means – difficult to impossible) for one million years.

Nuclear waste is stored at the West Valley Nuclear Site, on unstable ground. It has been leaking into Cattaraugus Creek, which leads to Lake Erie, Buffalo, our water filtration facilities, and 20% of the world’s fresh water supply. The West Valley clean-up is inching forward but neither covered nor adequately monitored. We also have nuclear waste in Niagara Falls and on the Tuscarora Reservation; transported on our highways; and liquid nuclear waste coming over the Peace Bridge (WNYPC vigil Fridays 2-3pm at Vermont & Busti). Please go to Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS.org) for more info, especially on this local issue.

Nuclear weapons take resources away from humanity and the planet’s other needs (from health, education, infrastructure, and basic human needs; to the costs of changing to renewable energy to mitigate climate catastrophe). The planned cost of new generation of US nuclear weapons is $100,000 per minute for the next ten years. That would cover a college education for all qualified students over 16 years!

For more info, see the Talking Peace session on this issue at WNY Peace Center’s Youtube channel; and/or go to PeaceAction.org; BackFromtheBrink (preventnuclearwar.org), or ICAN.org.

Time’s up!! To help abolish nuclear weapons, including working together locally, please contact me at victoryross9@gmail.com. Think globally, act locally – this issue, again, is too big not to tackle. For #PeopleAndPlanet, Juntos – Si, se puede!!