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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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!!