May 28, 2005
Erica Kay: Activist!
Lives in Seattle,Washington, USA.
A STREETBUZZ INTERVIEW
STREETBUZZ: Erica, when and where were you born?
ERICA KAY: University Hospital Seattle, Aug 1956.
STREETBUZZ: How was your childhood?
ERICA KAY: I'm still in it (laughs.) I had one (childhood), I had two brothers and we grew up. I moved to California sometime before I remember and spent most of my childhood in San Jose, California. Pretty boring, normal (middle class) upbringing. We lived on a cul-de-sac with other kids until I was in 6th grade and I was pretty oblivious.
STREETBUZZ: And how about school?
ERICA KAY: I went to a fun school in Campbell, California, until sixth grade, (where I) knew all the kids. Hung out with the same kids, played in backyard, I liked school. Seventh grade to Berkeley for a year, 1969 during Peoples Park, that was life changing. Returned to San Jose, started getting involved in things.
ERICA KAY: I started becoming aware of environmental things, read Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. I just did more things and read more about the antiwar movement and those kinds of things. But I was still kind of a nerd. Mostly that I was very focused on school and liked it, let's just say I was very academic.
STREETBUZZ: And after high school?
ERICA KAY: I continued on my mostly academic track, I went to Berkeley and then University
of Washington where I spent 8 years getting my PHD in biochemistry. And then I left
biochemistry and became an activist.
Mostly antiwar / 1986. simple stuff, biggest thing was working full time on an event called Give Peace A Dance, raising money for primarily for SANE/FREEZE, antinuke stuff. It was such a wonderful event, it had everything that appealed to me. It was 24 hours of dancing, with people. Which I love. It brought people from lots of different interests and groups together to have fun, to think about peace, to feel activated, and to raise money. For the ongoing work. It was a good entry into activism for myself and the thousands that participated the six to seven years that I worked on it.
STREETBUZZ: And then?
ERICA KAY: I started getting involved in more direct activism. My early interests in
environmental concerns re-entered. I also started working in a different arena. Health promotion,
health research. I started working with small groups on nonviolence, NACC, and became
a nonviolence trainer, which I still love to do. And I started supporting small direct actions.
Probably the highlight of that era, was working with all the incredible people in 1999 who created
the WTO protests and associated actions. The activist resource center CAN
that I had been a part of, was pivotal in that organizing, it was so great
having so many people coming from outside to use the space as resources,
that was always the idea behind our organization.
So now, having left environmental issues and the woods, AIDS, civil rights issues, all of which I worked on at times, now I'm working on a project or two, trying to educate people in the US about Israel and Palestine. In particular, about the wall, that Israel is building in Palestine.
STREETBUZZ: Please talk about this wall project.
ERICA KAY: Palestinians and Jews have lived in the area called Israel and the West Bank for many thousands of years. In 1948-49, things changed there, and a state of Israel was created and moved many of the people who were living there who were Palestinian from their homes. The newer arrivals the now Israelis, are Jewish and they too felt a connection to the history and the land there. The history of the Jewish people is a long history of oppression throughout the world, and the idea of a place for Jewish people held strong g appeal. The main problem was that the state was created on a land just where there were already people. Most of the people who moved to this new state were Europeans, not surprisingly since this was not long after the WWII and the holocaust, but the similarities, to when Europeans came to the US several hundred years ago to colonize a new land, where people already lived, is strong.
In 1967 during the Six-Day War Israel occupied the West Bank which is a part of the region that in 1948-9 had been slated to become the state of Palestine. Israel remains an occupier of that region to this day. As an occupier, Israel is violating many international laws, and oppressing the Palestinian people. It is also colonizing this area with areas it calls settlements, that are Jewish only, and besides being in violation of international law, the settlements are making resolution of a conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, very difficult to resolve. It is dividing the Palestinian people from their land, from their families, from their culture, and from all that is necessary to live even a simple life. Settlements are only one piece, of this division, Army checkpoints, roadblocks, curfews, and Jewish only roads, are among some of the other ways that the west bank is being divided into dozens of small Palestinian islands isolated from one another.
The wall or security separation fence by any name, any name you choose, is exacerbating the facts on the ground, that Ive just alluded to. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is not hundreds of years old, as some believe, but only since just the last century. Israel is a superpower, like the united states (fifth largest army in the world) and the Palestinian people are an agrarian culture, rich in culture like the Israelis, but not rich in means.
For the past year a friend who was in Palestine for seven months in 2002 and I have traveled the untied states talking about the wall and showing people what it looks like with a large display and what it is doing. We often talk about how farmers are being separated from their land, lands that have been in their families for hundreds of years, sustaining their families, and we talk about how this is destroying the livelihood of a vital people, and sabotaging the good efforts of so many people in Israel, so many Palestinians, and so many internationals to bring peace.
One last message we try to impart to people here in the US, is how many people involved are truly interested in peace. And that it is extremists on both sides who perpetuate the problems. We tell of the daily peaceful demonstrations held by Palestinians supported by Israelis and internationals, to stop the construction of this wall. And the destruction of Palestinian life and thus the end of chances for peace.
A STREETBUZZ INTERVIEW
Erica can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org