JHU's Center for Social Concern, AFSC Sponsor "Voices of Dissent"

The public is invited to a free evening of music and testimony from soldiers and others who have recently returned from Iraq.
BALTIMORE, Oct. 11, 2004--Johns Hopkins University will be the site of what organizers are calling "the first major anti-war event this fall in Baltimore." "Voices of Dissent," featuring music and speakers, will take place in Hodson Hall on the Homewood campus on October 14 at 8:00 PM. Five speakers will speak about the devastating results of the war in Iraq: David Chasteen, an Iraq war veteran and spokesperson for Operation Truth, Mary Trotochaud and Rick McDowell, who served as peace delegation representatives of the American Friends Service Committee in Baghdad, Peggy Gish, who coordinates the work of the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq, and Celeste Zappala, who lost her son in combat in Iraq.

Charlie King and Karen Brandow, renowned musical storytellers and political satirists from Massachusetts, will perform two sets.

The event will be hosted by Payal Patel, senior class president at Hopkins, and Eric Gustafson, a veteran of the first Gulf War and director of the Education for Peace in Iraq Center. Admission is free, but people are encouraged to bring school supplies that will be forwarded by the Johns Hopkins Interfaith Center to children in Iraq.

Background of the performers and speakers
David Chasteen is project coordinator with Operation Truth, an organization established to educate the US public about what is really happening in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from the perspective of the soldiers who have experienced them first-hand (optruth.org). Chasteen was a Captain in the US Army Chemical Corps and was deployed in Iraq from March to August 2003, where he was responsible for protective measures for the 3rd Infantry Division in case of chemical or biological attack. He is a graduate of the Honors College at Ball State University.

Celeste Zappala is a member of Military Families Speak Out (mfso.org). Her son Sherwood died in an explosion in Baghdad on April 26, 2004. He was a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard, a social worker, a husband, and father of a 9-year-old child.

Mary Trotochaud and Rick McDowell are long-time activists on Middle East policy and have worked over the last several years as representatives of the American Friends Service Committee in Iraq (afsc.org/iraq). They have a wide range of working relationships with people and groups in the Middle East, as well as with US government officials and most NGO staff in Baghdad (they are friends of the two Italian women who were recently kidnapped) and will speak about the current situation in Iraq and American foreign policy in the Middle East.

Eric Gustafson is director of the Education for Peace in Iraq Center (epic-usa.org). A veteran of the Gulf War (1990-91), he spent eight months in Saudi Arabia with the 864th Engineer Battalion, building hospitals, roads and POW camps. After traveling to Iraq in 1997, he became an opponent of sanctions and founded EPIC to promote policies that improve the lives of ordinary Iraqis. He has testified at congressional hearings about Iraq and been interviewed for national television and radio news programs.

Peggy Gish returned in mid-September from her fourth trip to Iraq, where she has been has been coordinating the work of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (cpt.org). She first went to Iraq in October 2002, and she was in Iraq before, during and after the US invasion. Gish and the CPT have been helping Iraqi communities cope with the trauma of sanctions and war. She has been investigating prison conditions in Iraq since May 2003. Her book, Iraq: A Journey of Hope and Peace, has just been released.

Charlie King and Karen Brandow are musical storytellers and political satirists based in Shelburne Falls, Mass. King has been at the heart of the American folk music scene for over 40 years and he and Brandow have been performing together since 1998. Their songs tell stories of the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. Pete Seeger, who sings King's songs, calls him, "one of the finest singers and songwriters of our time." King and Brandow have released three CDs, including their latest, "Sparks and Tears" (charlieking.org).

Principal sponsors of this event are the Center for Social Concern at Johns Hopkins University and the American Friends Service Committee. Co-sponsors at Hopkins include: The Coming Community, Turkish Students Association, Iranian Cultural Society, Pakistani Students Association, Season for Non-Violence, College Democrats, Hopkins Feminist Association, SLAC, Middle Eastern Students Association, Students for a Free Palestine, JHU Justice, Japanese Student Association. Co-sponsors outside of Hopkins: Green Party, Women in Black, Social Justice Committee of Homewood Friends Meeting.

The Iraq School Supply Drive is being held at Hopkins through October. The drive was started in response to a request by a recent Hopkins graduate who is currently serving in the military as an Arabic interpreter in Iraq and has witnessed the dire need for school supplies. The Interfaith Center at the university, in conjunction with many religious groups on campus, will forward school supplies that are in new or good condition to Iraq.

For more information, call the Center for Social Concern at Johns Hopkins at 410-516-4777 or the American Friends Service Committee, Middle Atlantic Region, at 410-323-7200 x 16.

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This story was published on October 12, 2004.