Gaza: Aboard the Audacity of Hope

Medea Benjamin – Washington, DC

Medea Benjamin is a cofounder of both CODEPINK and the international human rights organization Global Exchange. She has been an advocate for social justice for more than 30 years. Described as “one of America's most committed — and most effective — fighters for human rights” by New York Newsday, and called “one of the high profile leaders of the peace movement” by the Los Angeles Times, Medea was one of 1,000 exemplary women from 140 countries nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the millions of women who do the essential work of peace worldwide. In 2010 she received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Prize from the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Since the September 11, 2001 tragedy, Medea has been working to promote a U.S. foreign policy that would respect human rights and gain us allies instead of contributing to violence and undermining our international reputation. She has traveled and written extensively about Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Israel and Palestine. She has led five delegations to Gaza, bringing humanitarian aid. A former economist and nutritionist with the United Nations and World Health Organization, Benjamin is the author/editor of eight books. Her articles appear regularly in outlets such as The Huffington Post, CommonDreams, Alternet, TruthOut, the Daily Kos and OpEd News.

Ridgely Fuller – Waltham, MA

During my first significant trip to Gaza, John Ging, former head of the UN refugee aid effort in Gaza reflected that citizens of the world need to step in when their governments fail to resolve critical international issues. The Second Freedom Flotilla with thousands of world citizens representing some 22 countries represent that effort: coming together to insist that Israel ends its illegal blockade of Gaza and to demand that international law and human rights be applied equally to all people.

I am a social worker with an additional master's degree in international relations whose passion for Palestine developed during my first trip to the area in 2002. This study trip was inspired by my questioning the Jewish narrative deeply ingrained into my persona as the result of living in Germany and Holland as a child. I simply couldn't believe that a people who had suffered so much could condone the massive violations of Palestinian human rights that had begun to appear in the media: the theft of land, the bulldozing of homes and the breaking of Palestinian children's' arms . My first witness trip was then followed by others: an International Women's Human Rights marched organized by Israeli and Palestinian women in 2003 and 2.5 months in the West Bank of Palestine in

2008. As a social worker interested in children I also traveled with Code Pink to witness the effect of the Israeli invasion on Gaza youth in 2009 and returned in 2010 to work with mental health workers and young adults building resiliency in the Gaza youth.

On a personal note, I am proud to be a member of the Freedom Flotilla and sail on the US The Audacity of Hope in the name of equality for all people; for the young adults of Gaza who, living in a virtual prison, have given up their own dreams to cheerfully rebuild their people with incredible inner resources and for the many, many Americans whose demands of justice for Palestine are ignored by our own government.

Kit Kittredge – Quilcene, WA

I am a 53 year old mother, grandmother, peace activist working with CodePink, Seattle MidEast Awareness Campaign, VFP, Ground Zero Center for Nonviolence. I have helped lead six delegations to Gaza in the last two years. We made it five times! I work as a massage therapist and volunteer as an EMT/Firefighter and have an organic garden where I play with my grandkids. I am passionate about Peace and work in the schools and communities to help educate and promote social justice. I look forward to continuing this process aboard The Audacity of Hope and believe all our efforts contribute to justice for Palestine and the world!

Ann Wright – Honolulu, HI

Ann is a retired US Army Colonel and a former US diplomat who served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. She resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war. She was in Gaza three times in 2009 after the 22 day Israeli attack and helped organize the Gaza Freedom March that brought 1300 persons from 55 countries to Cairo. She is an organizer of the US Boat to Gaza.

Paki Wieland – Northampton, MA

I am 67 years old, retired social worker/graduate school faculty living an Northampton, Massachusetts, who in contemplating life in response to the question posed by Mary Oliver, what to do with, “this one precious life…” sought to join the people on the flotilla to Gaza. The purpose of my going is to bring before the international community the injustice and thereby realize the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (to lend my weight to bend) “the arc of humanity toward justice.”

I am moved by the Native American proverb, “When the Grandmothers speak, the land will heal.” Knowing that speaking refers to both our words and our actions, I attempt to make present justice- making through creativity. I view my work today as mystical activism/active mysticism. One might call it engaged Buddhism, living Matthew 25: 35- 40, or simply responding to the spirit, to choose life.

Notable CODEPINK Supporter:
Alice Walker – Northern CA

Alice Walker is an internationally celebrated author, poet and activist whose books include seven novels, four collections of short stories, four children's books, and volumes of essays and poetry. She's best known for The Color Purple, the 1983 novel for which she won the Pulitzer Prize—the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction—and the National Book Award. The award-winning novel served as the inspiration for Steven Spielberg's 1985 film and was adapted for the stage, opening at New York City's Broadway Theatre in 2005, and capturing a Tony Award for best leading actress in a musical in 2006.

Walker has written many additional best sellers; among them, Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992), which detailed the devastating effects of female genital mutilation and led to the 1993 documentary “Warrior Marks,” a collaboration with the British-Indian filmmaker Pratibha Parmar, and We are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: Inner Light in a Time of Darkness. (2009). Her work has been translated into more than two dozen languages, and her books have sold more than fifteen million copies. Along with the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, Walker's awards and fellowships include a Guggenheim Fellowship and a residency at Yaddo. In 2006, she was honored as one of the inaugural inductees into the California Hall of Fame. In 2007, her archives were opened to the public at Emory University. In 2010 she presented the key note address at The 11th Annual Steve Biko Lecture at the University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa, and was awarded the Lennon/Ono Peace Grant in Reykjavik, Iceland. (Walker donated this latter award to an orphanage for the children of AIDS victims in East Africa.)

Walker's most recent works are: Overcoming Speechlessness: A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Palestine/Israel; Hard Times Require Furious Dancing; The World Has Changed: Conversations with Alice Walker; and The Chicken Chronicles: Sitting With the Angels Who Have Returned With My Memories, a Memoir. She also writes regularly on her blog site at

Walker has been an activist all of her adult life, and believes that learning to extend the range of our compassion is activity and work available to all. She is a staunch defender not only of human rights, but of the rights of all living beings. She is one of the world's most prolific writers, yet tirelessly continues to travel the world to literally stand on the side of the poor, and the economically, spiritually and politically oppressed. She also stands, however, on the side of the revolutionaries, teachers and leaders who seek change and transformation of the world. Upon returning from Gaza in 2008, Walker said, “Going to Gaza was our opportunity to remind the people of Gaza and ourselves that we belong to the same world: the world where grief is not only acknowledged, but shared; where we see injustice and call it by its name; where we see suffering and know the one who stands and sees is also harmed, but not nearly so much as the one who stands and sees and says and does nothing.”

Linda Durham – Santa Fe, NM

For most of her sixty-eight years, Linda Durham has been (by her own description) “a freelance cultural explorer”. She is the founder and director of Linda Durham Contemporary Art—a top gallery in the West for more than thirty years. Durham is a writer and frequent lecturer on topics including art, travel, business and women's issues. She is an adjunct professor at Santa Fe Community College; a founding board member of the Santa Fe World Affairs Forum; a member of Another Jewish Voice and the Executive Director of The Wonder Institute—a new and private “think tank” for the exploration and development of ideas that promote peace and understanding among all peoples. An independent traveler, Durham has visited some of the most off-the-beaten-path countries and regions in the World. At age sixty, she successfully climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. As a member of two Code Pink Delegations, Durham traveled to Baghdad in 2004 and to Gaza in 2009. In April of this year, she returned from her ninth trip to Myanmar where she has operated as a cultural advocate and liaison between the artists of that country and the United States. Durham is a collector of Art and fine books. She is the mother of two children: a daughter who is a history professor and a son who is a “celebrity chef”. She has one granddaughter (a budding ballerina).