Since the 1960s, I’d been involved in all kinds of activism — showing up in downtown Boston whenever a new war started, picket lines at workplace strikes and suburban homes of recalcitrant landlords, arrests in my senator’s office when he wouldn’t meet to talk about El Salvador, and ten years on my city’s unique Peace Commission. I’d written press releases and informational handouts about apartheid and supported students who were being racially profiled by campus police. I’d organized teach-ins and forums and even a study trip to Cuba when it was very difficult to get there.
But starting in 1990 when I traveled to Wounded Knee for a ceremony to “wipe away the tears” of that terrible history, I began to look for ways to be active that included healing. That’s when I found engaged Buddhism with Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and the small Japanese Buddhist order Nipponzan Myohoji with its organic connection to Indigenous ways of activism. Walking together through the injured landscape, chanting simple words from the Lotus Sutra with people deeply affected by the harm, stopping for ceremony in places of devastation, meeting with local communities and raising awareness of our hidden history—these now centered my activism. I walked long miles to call attention to climate change, to heal the history of enslavement, prisons, and the colonial legacy of Columbus. After 9/11, I helped carry a burning ember kept alive from Hiroshima across the country to the Manhattan site that was now being called “ground zero.” I wrote about walks, including dozens of articles in peace media that are not on the ‘net. And when I moved to California, I helped organize a powerful walk following the disaster at Fukushima—The Sacred Sites Peacewalk for a Nuclear-Free World. To learn about current peacewalks, contact Nipponzan Myohoji centers in New York, New England, the Southeast, and the Northwest or their ally, Footprints for Peace.