Day 40: Byron Sandford

On this last day of this year’s 40 Days with Peacemakers, we celebrate the person who has made this series and much of what continues at William Penn House possible.

Byron Sandford was born in Cleburne, Texas, October 16, 1946 to Thaddeus Sandford and Mildred “Sammie” Howes Sandford, a couple who began their married life together in Alaska, trapping and gold mining.  Byron attended the University of Texas at El Paso (Texas Western at the time) and was a student there when its all-black basketball team beat all-white Kentucky for the national championship, a milestone in college athletics. He went on to earn a Master’s degrees in psychology and political science. Though Byron grew up a Methodist and his first wife Franci was brought up Catholic, they were seekers who wanted a spiritual life that spoke to their heart and spirit and reflected their values.  In 1974 their exploration let them to El Paso Worship Group and their spiritual home with Quakers.

ByronByron became fully committed to Quaker testimonies and service–Friends Meeting of Austin: treasurer; South Central Yearly Meeting: nominating, yearly meeting program, and ministry committees;  Friends General Conference: clerk of finance and development committees, treasurer, and various ad hoc committees; Quakerland, an intentional community in west Texas: trustee and builder; Pendle Hill’s nominating committee and acting presiding clerk; Friends Meeting of Washington:  clerk of property and finance and stewardship committees; and Baltimore Yearly Meeting:  nominating committee and clerk of trustees.

When Byron met his wife Susan, he spoke eloquently about the role of his Quaker faith in his life. It has been a strong thread in their lives together from that meeting on.  During his tenure at the William Penn House as executive director, Byron has been a leader and a follower.  He recognized the significant gifts of his colleagues and celebrated and facilitated their leadings, making the significance of Quaker faith and service visible to the community. His gentle nurturing has left a lasting imprint on William Penn House and the broader community. Even the way he handled Parkinsons – never shying away the challenges, but looking forward with optimism and a spirit that all is well, not necessarily good, but well – have been an inspiration. And, in recognition of how it all got started, here it is as only Byron can put it: My kids grew up and left home, my wife grew up and left home, the dog died, and I got the hell out of Texas. 

This brings the series to a close for another year. If you have enjoyed this 40 Days with Peacemakers, we invite you to take a moment to make a contribution to William Penn House so that the spirit of Byron’s work and all that we do can continue. Donations can be made here. We will also be raising a glass to Byron on Sunday, April 17 from 3-7PM at Biegarten Haus, 1335 H St NE. Click here to see more and RSVP.

 

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Day 37: Neil Snarr

Neil Snarr grew up in New York and Indiana in a conservative household. After a stint in the Army and obtaining advanced degrees in Theology and Sociology, Neil took a teNeil Snarraching job at Wilmington College. WC is a small Quaker liberal arts college in Southwest Ohio. Not long after arriving at WC, Neil began attending Quaker meeting and has been deeply involved with Friends ever since.

At WC he taught a variety of courses in Sociology and Global Issues. He also taught frequently in Wilmington’s prison program, which was a central aspect of WC’s social justice-oriented mission. In the 1960s, Neil began taking students to Central America and Mexico to learn Spanish and about the realities of the region. This was the beginning of his decades-long interest in taking students abroad and concern for native people throughout the world.

In the 1990s Neil began taking a handful of students to Spring Lobby Weekend, organized by FCNL in Washington, DC. At Spring Lobby Weekend, students learn about an issue of concern to Quakers, learn how to lobby, and then apply this knowledge on Capitol Hill. What began as a few students in a van has evolved into a charter bus loaded with 50-plus students, faculty, staff, and community members from Wilmington, Ohio.

In the academic realm, Neil has done research on post-disaster housing in Central America, edited a book on Nicaragua, and co-edited a book on global issues (now in its 6th edition). Additionally, he has served on various Quaker committees including Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) and Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO).

Upon retiring, Neil has remained active. At WC he raises money for student travel to Quaker-related issues and has researched the history of local desegregation efforts. Most recently, Neil received recognition for selling $10,000 worth of Palestinian fair trade olive oil. His support of Palestinian olive farmers fits well with Neil’s long-held mantra that “if you want to help disadvantaged people, you should buy their products.” Neil has also been instrumental in enabling WC students to join William Penn Quaker Workcamps as participants and leaders in DC, West Virginia and Pine Ridge.

In alignment with his dedication to education as peacemaking, there are these words from Maria Montessori: “Establishing lasting peace is the work of education. All politics can do is keep us out of war.”

Day 34: Benjamin Lundy

Benjamin Lundy (1789-1839) was a Quaker abolitionist born in Hardwick Township, New Jersey. From 1808-1812 he lived at Wheeling, Virginia (now in West Virginia), where he was an apprentice to a saddler. Wheeling was an important headquarters of the interstate slave trade, and Lundy, troubled by the iniquity of slavery, determined to devote his life to the cause of abolition.

His apprenticeship completed, he married, and, settling in Saint Clairsville, Ohio, soonLundy built up a profitable business. There, in 1815, he organized an anti-slavery association, known as the Union Humane Society, which quickly grew to more than 500, and he assisted Charles Osborne in editing the Philanthropist. In 1819-1820, he went to St. Louis, Missouri and took an active part in the slavery controversy. In 1821 he founded an anti-slavery paper, the Genius of Universal Emancipation, at Mount Pleasant, Ohio. This periodical was published successively in Ohio, Tennessee, Maryland, the District of Columbia and Pennsylvania, although as times sporadically when he traveled and spoke out against slavery. He is said to be the first to deliver anti-slavery lectures in the US.

When the paper was located in Baltimore (1829-1830), Lundy was assisted in editing by William Lloyd Garrison. The two were alike in their hostility to slavery, but Garrison was an advocate of immediate emancipation on the soil, while Lundy was committed to schemes of colonization abroad. Within a few months, while Lundy was absent in Mexico, Garrison published extremely radical articles demanding immediate emancipation and asserting that the domestic slave trade was as piratical as the foreign. Garrison was brought to trial for criminal libel, fined, and imprisoned. This occurrence so reduced the circulation of the Genius that a friendly dissolution of partnership between Lundy and Garrison took place. It also raised up such a hostile spirit in Baltimore that Lundy shortly afterwards moved the paper to Washington, D.C., where, after some years, it failed.

Besides traveling through many states of the United States to deliver anti-slavery lectures, Lundy visited Haiti twice, in 1825 and 1829; the Wilberforce Colony of freedmen and refugee slaves in Canada in 1830-1831; and Texas, in 1832 and again in 1833; all these visits being made, in part, to find a suitable place outside the United States to which emancipated slaves might be sent. Between 1820 and 1830, according to a statement made by Lundy himself, he traveled “more than 5000 miles on foot and 20,000 in other ways, visited 19 states of the Union, and held more than 200 public meetings.” He was bitterly denounced by slaveholders and also by such non-slaveholders as disapproved of all anti-slavery agitation, and in January 1827 he was assaulted and seriously injured by a slave-trader, Austin Woolfolk, whom he had severely criticized in his paper.

In 1836-1838 Lundy edited in Philadelphia a new anti-slavery weekly, The National Enquirer, which he had founded, and which under the editorship of John G. Whittier, Lundy’s successor, became The Pennsylvania Freeman. In 1838 Lundy moved to Lowell, Illinois, where he printed several copies of the re-established Genius of Universal Emancipation. There he died.

In honor of his spirit for change that was reflected through his patience and perseverance, here are his sentiments about the purpose of his work: “The end and aim of this publication is the gradual, though total, abolition of slavery in the United States of America.”

Day 23: Siegfried Sassoon

Siegfried Loraine Sassoon, who lived between 1886 and 1967, was an Englsih poet, writer, and soldier. Because of his poetry, which described the horrors of the trenches, he became on of the leading poets of the First World War. Many of his poems also called into question the role of politicians in extending wars at the expense of and exploitation of soldiers.  

Siegfried_Sassoon_by_George_Charles_Beresford_(1915)Sassoon became a focal point for dissent within armed forces when he made a protest against the continuation of the war in his “Soldier’s Declaration” of 1917. After that, he got sent to a military psychiatric hospital where he met Wilfried Owen, who greatly influenced him.

Sassoon later won acclaim for his work, notably his autobiography, known as the “Sherston Trilogy”. Having matured greatly as a result of his military service, continued to seek emotional fulfilment, initially in a succession of love affairs with men. To many peoples surprise, he then married Hester Gatty – this led to the birth of a child.

However, the marriage was broken down after the Second World War, Sassoon apparently unable to find a compromise between the solitude he enjoyed and the companionship he craved. He then was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1951 and towards the end of his life, he converted to Roman Catholicism.

Siegfried Sassoon died one week before his 81st birthday.

In 1985, Sassoon was among sixteen Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner.

Examples of the writings of Sassoon – words that have a timelessness to them and certainly speak to the times we live in:

“I believe that the purpose for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.” 

“I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority, because I believe that the War is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.”

So for today, take a moment to reflect on one of Sassoon’s poems:

Does it matter? -losing your legs?
For people will always be kind,
And you need not show that you mind
When others come in after hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs.
Does it matter? -losing you sight?
There’s such splendid work for the blind;
And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light.
Do they matter-those dreams in the pit?
You can drink and forget and be glad,
And people won’t say that you’re mad;
For they know that you’ve fought for your country,
And no one will worry a bit.

Day 17: Lao Tzu – Setting the Path

Lao Tzu (Laozi) was an ancient Chinese philosopher and poet living sometime between 6th and 4th century BCE.  He is the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching and the philosophical founder of Taoism, as well as a deity in religious Taoism and traditional Chinese religions. The Tao Te Ching describes the Tao as the source and ideal of all existence: it is unseen but not transcendent, powerful yet humble, and is at the root of all things. People have desires and free will. Many act “unnaturally”, upsetting the natural balance of the Tao. The practice of Taoism is to lead students to a return to their natural state, in harmony with the Tao. Language and conventional wisdom are critically assessed, as they are viewed as biased and artificial.  Lao Tzu also wrote a lot about the importance of simplicity, not so much rejecting intellect, but maintaining a calm mental state in a world of adaptation and change.

LaoTze

Taoism has greatly influenced modern thought – belief in inherent goodness, harmony and getting into/recognizing flow being a few examples. Mindfulness practices are embedded in the sentiment “To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” There are other teachings about grace, kindness, and speaking truth. But it also creates paradox. For example, compare “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Do not resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally towards whatever way they like” with “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are headed.” Combined, these reflect the sentiment of the Serenity Prayer – being able to change what we can, accept what we cannot, and have the wisdom to know the difference. Both sides of the political landscape embrace this for varying causes (such as climate change). Libertarian groups, both left- and right-leaning, share the sentiment often found in Taoism about the corrupting nature of people as they seek power and resist change, although the politics of left- and right-leaning libertarians vary greatly as to the proper role of government.

For today, take a moment to reflect the role of humility in living in the tension.

“To know yet to think that one does not know is best; Not to know yet to think that one know will lead to difficulty.”

Day 10: Prince Ea

Prince Ea is a poet, activist, speaker, director, and content creator who has touched the hearts, minds and souls of millions of people worldwide. He was born as Richard Williams in 1988 in St. Louis and took the stage name Prince EA when he graduated from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with a degree in Anthropology and Latin honors. “Prince Ea” comes from Sumerian mythology meaning “Prince of the Earth”. In 2008, he released the mixtape “the Adolescence” as a free download. A few days later, he recorded an Prince Eaamateur rap video that won a VIBE Verses award giving him $5000 in music equipment and a full-page article in VIBE Magazine. He proceeded to win other competitions and awards. In 2009, upset by the state of the music industry, Prince Ea, started a movement named “Make ‘SMART’ Cool” (SMART is an acronym for “Sophisticating Minds And Revolutionizing Thought”). This movement attempts to “promote intelligence to everyone, everywhere and integrate it with hip-hop. To create and nurture, without discrimination or preference, a community of free-thinking individuals under the singular purpose of promoting the ideals of education, intelligence, unity and creativity throughout the world at large.”  A successful underground clothing line with increasing support from artists has been developed as well.  By creating positive, inspirational and thought provoking content, Prince has accumulated over 300 million views on the Facebook and YouTube platforms alone.

Today, Prince Ea consistently speaks at conferences and gives lectures to high school/university students nationwide, on the topics of self-development, education, living your passion and the importance of being motivated and engaged in the classroom. He has continued to produce music and perform in major venues. By creating positive, inspirational and thought provoking content, Prince has accumulated over 300 million views on the Facebook and YouTube platforms alone. His productions promote awareness and call for change on everything from race relations to protecting the environment (such as with this video).

Prince’s primary mission is to allow the grace of God/Universe to work through him creating content that spreads awareness, excites, entertains and ultimately galvanizes listeners/viewers to recognize the power, peace and equanimity within themselves. He believes that the only way to change the world is to change the individual.

For today, reflect on these words: “Where there is division, there is conflict and conflict starts wars; therefore, every war starts with labels…but deep down inside, we were meant to connect.”

And, if you have time, watch this Prince Ea production from which these words come: “I am NOT Black, You are NOT White.”

Day 9: John Lewis

John Lewis has spent all of his adult life as a champion for civil rights. Born in Troy, Alabama in 1940, he was the third son of a large family. His parents were sharecroppers.  While growing up, he witnessed segregation in full tilt. He remembers times when even checking out a book from the library was reserved for white people only. After high school, Lewis attended American Baptist Theological Seminary and Fish University, both in Nashville, TN. It was here that he became a leader of the Nashville sit-ins that ultimately led to the desegregation of lunch counters. He was also arrested many times in the struggle to desegregate the whole downtown Nashville area. While a student, he was introduced to non-violent workshops, and he became a dedicated adherent to the discipline and philosophy of nonviolence, something he still practices to this day.

lew0-005Lewis became one of the youngest leaders of the tumultuous 1960’s civil rights movement. He participated in the Freedom Rides, and followed Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks on the radio. He and his family supported the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1963-66, during which time they opened Freedom Schools, launched the Mississippi Freedom Summer and voter registration efforts that led to the Selma-to-Montgomery marches. He was named as one of the “Big Six” leaders (along with Whitney Young, A. Phillip Randolph, James Farmer and Roy Wilkins) to organize the 1963 March on Washington where MLK delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Lewis was the youngest speaker that day.  In his speech, he was going to ask “Which side is the federal government on?” when looking at the passivity of the government in the face of Southern violence. Other organizers eliminated that line, not wanting to offend the Kennedy Administration, but it was a question he would not let die. His subsequent leading of the Freedom Rides, which were bombed, and where Lewis was also beaten and left unconscious on the bus station floor, showed that federal government was not yet up to the task, simply calling for a “cooling-off period” and a moratorium on Freedom Rides. Lewis was imprisoned for 45 days for his participation.

After leaving SNCC, he spent the next decade working with community organizations and johnlewisfor the National Consumer Co-op Bank in Atlanta as community affairs director. He entered into politics in 1977. After an unsuccessful bid for Congress that year, he accepted a position in the Carter administration as associate director of Action, running the VISTA program, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program and the Foster Grandparent Program. He left that after 2.5 years to run for and win a seat on the Atlanta City Council in 1981. In 1986 he was elected to the US House of Representatives, a seat he now holds. He is considered one of the most liberal members of Congress, but also can be fiercely independent and is known as the “conscience of Congress.” He opposed the Clinton adminstration on NAFTA and welfare reform, asking “Where is the sense of decency? What does is profit a great nation to conquer the world, only to lose its soul?”

Despite having seen some of the ugliest that humanity can dish out, Lewis is routinely upbeat and optimistic. For today, we have his words about that: “When I was a student, I studied philosophy and religion. I talked about being patient. Some people say I was too hopeful, too optimistic, but you have to be optimistic just in keeping with the philosophy of non-violence.”