Category Archives: art activism

the regular girl’s guide to activism

-Gandhi. Artwork by thinkpeace intern Remy

Have you ever felt all stirred up about something but not able to get the words out? Have you watched classmates stand up and speak out and think, “dang, I can’t do that”? Have you wanted to be an activist but in your own quiet way? Truth is, we aren’t all comfortable grabbing a megaphone, getting up on a soapbox, or simply speaking up at all. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t necessary to a cause and can’t invoke the change we hope to see! Let’s talk strategy for the regular girl…

SHOW UP.  “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”—Desmond Tutu

Recently a super shy thinkpeace girl who feels anxious in crowds was determined to step out of her comfort zone and take part in one of the Women’s Marches. She was passionate about the need for women to collectively raise their voices in mass numbers, sending a clear message that our voices, minds and bodies matter. She knew she needed to be there. But the anxiety was almost too much. The solution? She needed a plan. She needed a small group around her to keep her feeling safe. She needed an exit strategy, just in case it became too much. And she needed a poster that spoke for her.  SHOWING UP matters.

During the  UN climate negotiations in Paris, youth delegates were not able to carry signs advocating their beliefs. They came up with an alternative idea to symbolize their interest in the need for zero carbon emissions: they painted a black zero near their eye. No words were spoken and no signs were held, but the message was heard loud and clear.

GET CREATIVE.  Are you a songwriter or a poet? Are you a photographer or a dancer? You have a unique way of expressing yourself that can powerfully reflect upon a social justice issue! Using your creative expression of your values and beliefs can light a spark in someone else. Post your work. Put it out there for others to see.  This form of indirect activism has an impact.

WRITE IT OUT. A lot of thinkpeace girls are more comfortable writing about causes they believe in than speaking out loud. Recently one wrote a fiery op-ed piece on campus sexual assault and racial hate crimes. Others write for their school newspapers on issues ranging from why feminism matters to the importance of community service to the need for responsible gun control legislation.  If there is a local, statewide, national, or international issue that sets your heart on fire, write about it! Speaking out, in written form, can prompt important dialogues which lead to action and change.

WEAR YOUR CAUSE. thinkpeace girls recently held a community event for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. Many conversations were started that day due to a variety of tshirts worn by facilitators and participants. One said “We are Selma” which started a conversation about Black Lives Matter. Another said “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” which prompted a discussion about human rights violations. Many thinkpeace girls wore pink pussy hats in January to Women’s Marches and some are busy making brain hats to wear for the Science March on Washington in April. This is an extremely meaningful and easy tool for igniting conversation about your cause. Posters, phone cases, shirts, buttons, and hats are small ways to show your position, often prompting good dialogue.

Rep. Jackie Speier and thinkpeace girl Diana

HOW ABOUT A LATTE?  Sometimes the most powerful thing we can do is simply talk it out with one other person.  You don’t have to talk to the entire community to be an effective activist. Every single person matters. Every vote, signature, and commitment matters. Often people need an opportunity to hear another point of view. All too often we get stuck in pockets of agreement, whether on social media or our friend base, where we are all of like mind. It really helps to talk respectfully with someone with other views and listen, really listen, to one another. Ask someone who might have a different perspective than you to grab a coffee or hot chocolate with you and dive into the deep end. What ever you do, don’t run away from the hard conversations. Turn toward them. Soften your heart. Hold your ground. Listen. Speak your truth. Listen some more. This is a great way to practice peaceful activism!

 READ ALL ABOUT IT. We encourage you to read as much as you can from reliable sources. Do your homework. Fact checking does matter. There’s this idea out there that media can’t be trusted but we believe that there are in depth reports, unbiased research, and scholarly writings that are not only worth your time but imperative to your activism. Fake news is dangerous and you need to be educated on how to discern fact from lies. We suggest this article to help guide you: “If you see your friends sharing blatantly fake news, be a friend and kindly tell them it’s not real. Don’t shy away from these conversations even if they might be uncomfortable.” Know that what you think and what you say is based on fact.

You can choose to be an ally for others facing injustice. Your presence can offer a safe place, simply by  standing next to someone or walking down the hall with someone. Recently riders on a NYC subway took out hand sanitizer from their bags to erase swastikas on the subway walls.  Take initiative! Look around and see what you can do. Your quiet activism will inspire others like you to spark fires of their own, and this ripple effect will help transform the world. So regular girls– the ones with quiet voices and pounding hearts– let’s do this! Take what stirs you up and ACTIVATE! And, as always, know that your global girl community stands with you. You are not alone in this business of difference-making. We are here cheering you on!

step up, girl!


one million bones-one year later

Today marks the one year anniversary of an experience many of our thinkpeace girls will never forget: the laying of one million bones on the National Mall in Washington, DC.  The One Million Bones project was a large-scale social arts practice to raise awareness of ongoing genocides and mass atrocities in places like Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and Burma. The installation was a collaborative work to honor victims and survivors, and serve as a visual petition against ongoing conflicts and a resounding call for much needed and long overdue action.

For nearly two years thinkpeace girls handcrafted bones at our camp, at club meetings, at community events, and at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. We held state installations in Sacramento, California and Albany, New York.  All together we contributed over 5000 bones for the installation. The One Million Bones project is truly one of the most moving and significant experiences thinkpeace girls have participated in. One year later, they are still talking about it– not only the experience but also about ongoing genocides and the work that remains for us all to do.

One of the most important aspects of this project was about raising awareness– talking about genocide to as many people as we possibly could reach.  We were surprised by how many people we met who only had a vague idea of what genocide is, and how many more had no idea that it’s happening today.  After World War II we took a global oath: “NEVER AGAIN.”  It was amazing to us that so many people believed that was the last genocide.  And so we talked and talked, and created bones together, and talked some more.  The One Million Bones project taught us that “while we must remember and honor those lost to unimaginable horrors throughout history, we must focus on the current crimes against humanity that require immediate attention and action.”

This week, as we remember our experience with this incredible project, we will be reflecting on what we learned and felt and will share those thoughts with you on our Facebook page and on twitter. These will be thoughts from the thinkpeace girls who took part in this effort and who remain committed to raising awareness and being a part of the solution.  After nearly a year of making bones, thinkpeace girl Jenna, from New York, was with us in DC (along with her mom). She was deeply effected by the sheer volume of the bones. “Participating in the One Million Bones project was a huge eye opener for me and my mom.  I knew that genocide was still around, but crafting the bones and laying them on the National Mall gave me goose bumps… seeing what people go through every day…”  Like her thinkpeace sisters, Jenna continues to talk with others in her community about ongoing genocides and urges her peers to take action.  We encourage you to watch this short film from One Million Bones and to learn more about what continues to be a global human rights issue. Together we really can make a difference– and must.

what do we mean: ‘never again’?

It has been 20 years since the 1994 Rwanda genocide that killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in a 100-day rampage.   Following our work with One Million Bones, Students Rebuild, and CARE over the past two years, on raising awareness about ongoing genocides, the thinkpeace community is deep in thought and conversation about what happened in Rwanda, is still happening in Sudan, Somalia, Burma, Syria and the DRC, and what lessons have really been learned that can help prevent future atrocities. Since World War II, the international community has said “never again,” a yet our failure to act has continued to cost lives.

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Memorials across Rwanda are constant reminders of the brutality that destroyed the nation. In the United States there seems to be little coverage regarding this anniversary– and even less discussion. Last night, on Facebook, I saw that a friend had changed his profile picture to the Rwandan flag, in honor of the victims and  survivors of the genocide. He has spent time there for his work, and loves the people and the land. No one knew what his picture was for– what it meant to him, personally, to celebrate a rebuilding Rwanda. And yet, to the children born during or after this time in Rwandan history, awareness about genocide is vital. “Never again” must stand for something. We must know what happened and why… and see that it’s not over and we must not stand by again.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has urged the international community to learn from its failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda, and to take stronger action to confront current crises, like the conflicts in Syria and the Central African Republic. “The international community,” he said, “cannot claim to care about atrocity crimes and then shrink from the commitment of resources and will required to actually prevent them.” The UN was not effective in preventing the Rwanda genocide, much less in stopping it.  The international community’s silence was wrong. Much more could and should have been done–  instead, peacekeeping troops were withdrawn when they were most needed.  “The world has yet to fully overcome its divisions, its indifference, its moral blind spots,” he said, citing the atrocities that occurred in Srebrenica in 1995, and the current conflicts in Syria and the Central African Republic. “There is a truth to the human condition that is as alarming today as it was 20 years ago; the fragility of our civility. The bonds that hold us together can swiftly disappear.”

So here’s the question: when we say “never again” what do we really mean? What can we do to end genocide? How can we strengthen the “bonds that hold us together” in a world that seems full of anger, righteousness and extremism? What role can you play? When you see or hear about any human being (actually, any living creature) in need or distress, SPEAK UP!  Celebrate diversity in your every day life. Failure to act is not acceptable. When we say “never again” it means that each and every one of us takes a stand. As we laid bones on the National Mall last summer as a visual petition against genocide, we felt it– the connection to others who had been brutally killed because they were different. We asked ourselves: underneath it all, aren’t we the same? Looking out at the Mall covered in one million symbolic bones, we cried for the blood spilled, the lives lost, and the damage done to future generations. There is another way. And together we must find it. Never again, means that we must be accountable to each other and to promoting peace, love and understanding.

“We really do belong to each other.” -Naomi Natale


on feeling it deep in our bones


by Kelly Himsl Arthur and Remy Arthur

The One Million Bones challenge mobilized students worldwide to make bones as a symbol of solidarity with victims and survivors of ongoing conflict in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Somalia. Every handmade bone generated $1 from the Bezos Family Foundation for CARE’s work in these regions, up to $500,000! On June, 8,  2013, one million handmade bones – made by students, educators and artists – covered the National Mall in Washington, D.C. as part of a massive art installation and visual petition against humanitarian crises.

For nearly 2 years thinkpeace girls from California to New York and DC to Germany learned and talked about past and present genocides and other mass crimes against humanity. We made bones at club meetings, camps, weekend workshops, and at home, contributing nearly 5000 clay, plaster, and recycled paper bones to the One Million Bones Project. We embraced every chance we had to share this project and cause with others and encourage them to join us. We talked with people in parks, at churches, at the Museum of Tolerance, at schools and online… educating, creating dialogue, and providing space for reflection. We thought we had our heads kind of wrapped around the enormity of the deaths and atrocities as we laid our bones with others in a state installation last April. In reality… that was nothing compared to what lay ahead.

In June a few of us thinkpeace girls packed up our books to study for final exams on the road to Washington, DC, worried about getting swept away in Tropical Storm Andrea, yet determined to be a part of the installation the next day on the National Mall. Eager to represent the thinkpeace community, we donned our white clothes and headed over to the Mall. On the way we listened to the message Desmond Tutu sent to the participants. We were so moved by his words: “It is my hope that these bones will transform us to a place of greater understanding and compassion and inspire us to act.” They had certainly done that for us.

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One of our German thinkpeace sisters, Serah, was so deeply affected when she created a baby’s rib cage from clay. With each rib she sculpted she felt the heaviness deeper and deeper in her heart. She knew that she needed to do something, to take action. She returned from camp eager to get involved in her school’s Amnesty International Club. Genocide awareness became her passion to share. Another thinkpeace girl, Chantel, was inspired to take action at her school, too, bringing the issue of genocide to the Model United Nations program. Wherever we talk about genocide, we are met with such shock and disbelief. We find that most people we talk to have no idea that it is still going on! We are often met with comments like, “yes, we learned a lot from World War II– that’ll never happen again.” or “No, that kind of thing ended a long, long time ago.” or “That’s how those countries are… there’s nothing we can do about it.”

We can bear witness! We can demand action from our governments and theirs. We can use our voices and our hands, our words and our actions to create real change. We must. For if not we, then who? We believe in ‘Ubuntu’- That each individual’s humanity is inextricably linked to one another’s. As Desmond Tutu said, “Your joy is my joy; your sorrow is my sorrow. We must raise each other up lest we all sink down.”

Together with UPS workers (who volunteered their time for this!), teachers, artists, religious scholars, children, mothers and more, we laid thousands and thousands of bones that Saturday in June, feeling the weight deeper in our own bones. We had talked often about how underneath our differences (skin color, religious or political beliefs, gender, sexuality, etc.) we are all made up of the same stuff and what is left behind are bones. And they all look pretty much the same.  Seeing them in giant piles lining the National Mall was painful. The piles looked like mass graves. There were so many bones. So many.  One by one we placed a bone on the grass in front of the United States Capitol. The most beautiful, yet haunting music was being played by Amy Ziff, that sounded like soft cries. It rained, then it was hot and very humid. We weren’t making a dent in the piles. It just seemed endless. And it hit us… the realization that it isn’t ending. That more real bones are being thrown onto piles, encountered along dusty hot roads in far away places, with no real thought as to whose bones they are– is it a child’s? A mother’s? A son’s? A grandfather’s? A teacher’s? Who is being killed today and left behind to become nothing but bones? Every bone is not only “the evidence of a unique individual journey” but also “the evidence of a collective journey– a story shared of the human experience.” (Tutu) Our human experience should be full of possibility and hope, peace and understanding. Once we are bones it is too late. We must come together now.

One million bones is just a number. It’s not anywhere close to the number of actual deaths by genocide in the last 70 years. Estimates range anywhere from 30 to 70 million people who have died in genocides around the world, from World War II to present day. Yes, present day. When we packed up the thinkpeace contribution for the One Million Bones installation (thank you UPS for picking them up and calling when they arrived!) we thought we had a lot of bones. When we started laying them on the National Mall, we thought, Wow! So many bones! A million! And then… when we took a step back to take it all in we were overwhelmed. Remy couldn’t breathe for a moment… the emotions hit hard. Imagining 30-70 times as many bones just wasn’t something she could wrap her head around. The tears fell softly and the hurt was felt deeply. To have created this symbolic mass grave, understanding that it represents a mere fraction of the victims of hatred and intolerance in this world has left us aching. And wanting to keep doing the work.  Using our voices and our hands, our own courage, compassion and wisdom. We stood for a long moment arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder, absorbing the bones on the Mall. We are a global family. Together we stand. We feel it, deeply.

bearing witness

we care

On this last day of Genocide Awareness month, we are reflecting.  It’s been a busy month for thinkpeace girls as they worked hard to raise awareness and funds with StudentsRebuild and One Million Bones for CARE.  We made bones at our club meetings, at school, at a mother/daughter event, in our neighborhoods and at a community event.  With every bone a dollar was raised to go towards the efforts of CARE to help victims and survivors of displacement in the Sudan, Burma, Somalia and the DRC.  Through the efforts of thinkpeace girls we’ve contributed about $1000.  More importantly, we’ve learned about the ongoing atrocities in these countries and have raised awareness among our families, friends, and in our communities.  Most importantly, we have felt the responsibility to bear witness and take a stand for peace.  One girl, one voice, one bone… matters.

Last week we listened as Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace prize winner Elie Wiesel introduced President Obama (at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum) with this hard question:  “Given the possibilities of power and the suffering of children… what is it about the human psyche that can allow humans to become inhuman?”  To which the President responded with “We all love, hope and dream.  How can this have happened? We must teach our children that awareness without action changes nothing.”  He went on to discuss the need to mobilize peoples’ consciences.  This past month, thinkpeace workshops have focused our efforts on trying to do just that.  We’ve talked a lot about how humans become inhuman, enough to murder people they once thought of as friends or worse, who were their brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers.  We know that when the flames of fear are fanned, people react.  We know that when babies are hungry and there is no hope of a cup of grain in sight, people react.  We know that when dynamic leaders make promises of a better future, people react.  We are wired to protect ourselves and our children, but at what cost?  What is the solution?

If we believe in the fundamental right to live in peace then we must not turn our backs to the suffering that continues today around the world.  Together we can raise our voices and say, “Never again!”  And then, the hard work begins.  We have to know what’s happening in the world and connect our voices with those of the people in Sudan, Burma, Somalia, the DRC, Afghanistan, Cambodia and elsewhere who are saying, “Hear us!”  Together we can calm fears through education and safety measures within communities.  Together we can create sustainable living so that no one is hungry.  Together we can learn to listen and share, creating dialogue between all people.  What connects us all is our humanity.  No matter where we live or how well we live, we are all connected.  President Obama said, “Preventing genocide and atrocities are at the core of our National security and are in the moral interest of the United States.”  We have to do everything we can to prevent genocide and to help those who have suffered.

We must bear witness.  Which means that we will take a stand.  thinkpeace girls have been making bones as a part of a national art statement illustrating the deaths and destruction of genocide.  At our state installation in New York, we laced the pathway of bones with sprigs of baby’s breath, signifying a breath of hope– that a new generation will not know this kind of suffering firsthand.  Elie Wiesel said, “Memory is our sacred duty.”  Let’s hope that generations to come will only know the memories.  Let’s work together to ensure that.  Let’s bear witness.  Let’s use our voices, our hands, our brains, and our hearts to heal the world.

We want to share with you a poem that a friend and peacebuilder wrote specifically for thinkpeace girls to recite on the National Day of Action.  From New York to California, these words were spoken and felt, deep in our bones and in our hearts:

Prayers for Peace                                                                                                                  by Ann Keeler Evans, M.Div. ©2012

I.  When I said that I would work for Peace                                                                             It seemed as if it were                                                                                                          The natural place                                                                                                                   To go to work.                                                                                                                           I believe in Peace… it’s the right thing to do.

There was so much I learned                                                                                                As I started this journey —                                                                                                  That although the precepts behind Peace                                                                           Are so very simple                                                                                                               The work of Peace can be quite complicated.

And was I naïve to believe                                                                                                  That everyone wanted Peace?                                                                                       Maybe I was…                                                                                                                   There certainly seem to be many                                                                                   Grown-ups                                                                                                                   Working against it…

Okay…                                                                                                                                      I may not know                                                                                                                   How Peace will work everywhere                                                                                        But I can be part of how it starts.                                                                                          It’s not a lot, but it’s a step                                                                                                        I can take for Peace.

I will accept Peace as my goal                                                                                            And I will bear witness                                                                                                           Both when it works                                                                                                             And when it doesn’t.

I will bear witness…

II.  When I said that I would work for Peace                                                                      What I didn’t understand                                                                                                   Was that all the world didn’t value                                                                                    Each and every girl.                                                                                                                  I believe in Peace… it’s the right thing to do.

It makes me mad when I think                                                                                            That some people don’t think                                                                                            Girls should go to school                                                                                                       Or grow up and get a job                                                                                                      Or become an astronaut                                                                                                       Or a President                                                                                                                       Or a Peacemaker.

It frightens me when I hear                                                                                                       That girls                                                                                                                                   Just like me                                                                                                                           Are being hurt                                                                                                                      And bought and sold.                                                                                                         Why don’t people know                                                                                                     How precious they are?                                                                                                     Why don’t they care?

I will not stand in silence.                                                                                                          I will help to make them visible                                                                                                 I will learn at least one girl’s name                                                                                      And what is important to her.                                                                                                It’s not a lot, but it’s a step                                                                                                        I can take for Peace.

I will accept Peace as my goal                                                                                            And I will bear witness                                                                                                       Both when it works                                                                                                             And when it doesn’t.

I will bear witness…                                                                                                                1. I will bear witness…

III.  When I said I would work for Peace                                                                                    I believed that the world                                                                                               Wanted to live without war.                                                                                                      I believe in Peace… It’s the right thing to do.

And then I read about lives                                                                                              Being destroyed                                                                                                                  And houses and villages and countries                                                                           Being leveled                                                                                                               Because someone                                                                                                             Must win!

People are killing one another.                                                                                          They are torturing one another.                                                                                         They are hardening their hearts                                                                                     Against their neighbors.

It breaks my heart.                                                                                                                   It scares me.                                                                                                                             I don’t know what to do.                                                                                                      But I won’t sit around and do nothing.

I will speak out.                                                                                                                         I will put out petitions.                                                                                                               I will send supplies as I am able.                                                                                          It’s not a lot, but it’s a step                                                                                                        I can take for Peace.

I will accept Peace as my goal                                                                                            And I will bear witness                                                                                                       Both when it works                                                                                                             And when it doesn’t.

I will bear witness…                                                                                                                1.  I will bear witness.                                                                                                             2.  I will bear witness.

IV.  When I said that I would work for Peace                                                                            I didn’t realize that                                                                                                              Entire countries were invested                                                                                               In the failure of other countries                                                                                              To live in peace.                                                                                                                        I believe in Peace… It’s the right thing to do.

That war was as much or more                                                                                       About money                                                                                                                     Than it was about                                                                                                           Tribes.

That people depended upon                                                                                              Our not knowing that                                                                                                             So that they could                                                                                                       Continue to pursue their own needs.

Well, I’m going to learn about money.                                                                                  I’m going to learn about politics.                                                                                           I’m not going to be                                                                                                      Someone you catch in your swirl                                                                                           Of Lies.                                                                                                                                  It’s not a lot, but it’s a step                                                                                                        I can take for Peace.

I will accept Peace as my goal                                                                                            And I will bear witness                                                                                                       Both when it works                                                                                                             And when it doesn’t.

I will bear witness…                                                                                                                1.  I will bear witness                                                                                                              2.  I will bear witness                                                                                                              3.  I will bear witness

V.  When I said that I would work for Peace                                                                             I had no idea how unprepared I was.                                                                                   But now I’m learning what it is                                                                                                  I need to know.                                                                                                                   This much I do know:                                                                                                                I believe in Peace… it’s the right thing to do.

So I’m setting myself some goals.                                                                                    There is some part of peace about which                                                                                I will care passionately.                                                                                                         I’m going to learn all I can about it.                                                                                       I’m going to learn how I can impact it.                                                                                  I’m going to apply what I learn.                                                                                             I’m going to share what I learn.                                                                                             I’m going to find as many girls as I can                                                                      Wherever they are in the world                                                                                          Who also care about Peace.

There are skills that I have that not everyone has.                                                              The world needs my skills, so I’m going to develop them.                                                   I’m going to practice them.                                                                                                   I’m going to teach them to other people who need them.                                                  And then I’m going to put them to work in the service of Peace.

And in the meantime, I’ll keep growing up                                                                      Strong and Lovely                                                                                                                Full of art and play and laughter and friendships.                                                                 I’ll reach out to whoever wants to work for peace.                                                          These are the steps, I can take for Peace.                                                                         And they’re worth a lot to someone!

I will accept Peace as my goal                                                                                            And I will bear witness                                                                                                       Both when it works                                                                                                             And when it doesn’t.

I will bear witness…                                                                                                                1.  I will bear witness                                                                                                              2.  I will bear witness                                                                                                              3.  I will bear witness                                                                                                              4.  I will bear witness

VI:  When we said we wanted to work for Peace                                                                We didn’t realize how complicated it was.                                                                        Now that we know, we believe even more strongly                                                        Peace is the right thing to do.

We’re going to learn.                                                                                                       We’re going to make friends.                                                                                          We’re going to help.                                                                                                        We’re going to make a difference.                                                                                  We’re going to make a global village                                                                                     Of people who care again.

When things don’t work, we’ll try again.                                                                          When things are hard, we’ll encourage each other.                                                        When things are ugly, we won’t look away.                                                                     When things are wounding, we’ll care for one another.                                                  When things are needed, we’ll find a way to help.                                                             And when things are beautiful,                                                                                            We will dance and celebrate and share food                                                                    And Dreams                                                                                                                        And Wonder                                                                                                                        And Laughter.

And then we’ll get back to work.                                                                                     There will always be more work to do.                                                                            There will always be more connections to make.                                                            There will always be more truths to tell.                                                                           There will always be those who need us                                                                               To stand with them

                                                                                                                                             But you know what?

Peace…                                                                                                                                It’s our goal.                                                                                                                           It’s what we believe in.                                                                                                          It’s what we do.                                                                                                                     It’s how we live.

creating change


From Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Peace Prize speech (1986)–

[A boy] asked his father: “Can this be true? This is the twentieth century, not the Middle Ages. Who would allow such crimes to be committed? How could the world remain silent?”

And now the boy is turning to me. “Tell me,” he asks, “what have you done with my future, what have you done with your life?” And I tell him that I have tried. That I have tried to keep memory alive, that I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices.”


Lately I’ve found myself explaining to people the latest thinkpeace focus:  the One Million Bones project.  The first reaction is one of total confusion.  “Bones?  Why are you making bones?”  When I talk about genocide, the expressions become ones of concern but also of only of distant recognition.  The fact is, most people I talk to have no idea that genocide has occurred in their lifetime.  Most believe that such atrocities have not happened since World War II.  If you ask most teenagers, they truly have no idea.   Yes, we know that wars have happened and still are… and we know that there is suffering in the world.  But genocide and displacement?  These concepts seem to go undiscussed at school and at the family dinner table.  The fact is, as a whole, we seem to have tuned out this news:  genocide and displacement are CURRENT events.

At our thinkGIRLUP monthly meetings, we’ve been discussing why these atrocities are still occurring, why world governments are not taking a stronger stand, why these issues are not talked about in social studies classes and more.  We talk about intolerance and acceptance.  From the school bus to the mall to our neighborhoods and communities and on into the world, intolerance is what creates conflict.  We talk about raising awareness and using the power of our voices and the creativity of our hands to enact change.  And we make bones.  Why bones?  The bones  are symbols of a couple of things.  First, we know this:  when you take away the things that make people different, the color of their skin, hair, eyes, their religious and cultural differences, etc., you see that we are all the same.  We are bones.  We all have the same ones, with the same shape, tone and texture.  We are one and the same.  Second, the bones signify the bodies of all those who have fallen victim to genocides around the world.  We have joined the One Million Bones campaign, in partnership with StudentsRebuild and CARE, to raise awareness and funds (for survivors and victims of ongoing displacement in Sudan, Burma, and the Democratic Republic of Congo) through art activism.  This is our way to spread our voices, combined with others, to create change, to insist on tolerance and to take a stand against genocide.

“It’s often too easy to feel that the problems of others who live far away in circumstances we cannot imagine are not ‘ours,’” said Leslie Thomas, curator and co-director of “Congo/Women” and the founding executive director of Art Works Projects. “But if we do our job right, the arts can help us come together and take that next step to support those with whom we share this earth.”  We are all connected on this planet, but so often we seem to forget our global brothers and sisters, making us accomplices to the crimes against humanity.  As a photographer, Marcus Bleasdale believes art is an empowering medium for activism. His photos  highlight the most extreme human rights abuses around the world.  He believes that “artists partnering with NGOs, advocacy groups, and individuals that lobby organizations and governments can learn about abuses, including sexualized violence used in conflict.”  The visual image goes a long way in illustrating the issues facing humanity.

Naomi Natale, founder of the One Million Bones project said, “is important to recognize that these atrocities are occurring today, and that intolerance is at the root of these conflicts. Equally important, however, is the message that there is hope for a better future, and through working together to learn about the mistake of intolerance and actively contributing to a collective movement, students can deal with genocide in a manner which allows them to be empowered.”  Students CAN learn.  Youth CAN be heard.  And collective action can make a real difference.

“At the end of the day, the job of all of us working in human rights is to let the story of individuals shine through our chosen mediums as storytellers,” said Leslie Thomas.  At thinkpeace workshop for girls, we believe the impact of one million bones being displayed on the National Mall in Washington, DC will open minds and hearts and get people talking… and ACTING.  thinkpeace girls are taking action.  They are talking to friends, neighbors, and family members, raising awareness and asking for action.  They are telling the stories of the victims and survivors with every bone they make, so that no one is forgotten.

“When we make something with our hands it changes the way we think; which changes the way we feel; which changes the way we act.” —Carl Wilkens

on water

World Water Day is Thursday, March 22.

3.575 million people die each year from a water related disease.                                            Women spend 200 million hours a day collecting water.

Water.  Humans are more than 60% water. Our blood is 92% water, the brain and muscles are 75% water, even our bones are about 22% water! Water cleanses our bodies, our belongings. Water keeps us alive. Today, nearly one billion people (that’s one in eight) lack access to clean water.  When we thinkpeace, we thinkwater.

The water we see and feel now is the same ancient water on the earth from the very beginning of time! Our atmosphere draws water into itself, and willingly, constantly gives it all back to the earth time after time after time. When we think of water, we might picture the churning of a beautiful green ocean, or a still quiet lake. Perhaps we see ourselves on the banks of a river that has carved the great canyons, or we feel the mist and see a rainbow appear by a tropical waterfall. We are water, water is us.  We are one and the same.

In her TED talk, Suddenly, My Body, Eve Ensler spoke on her relationship with water after her friend performed a healing ritual to help rid her body of cancer. She said, “It was energy, love and joy. It was all these things, it was all these things, it was all these things, in the water, in the world, in my body.” She felt the hurt, the pain, the healing. She felt the intense connectedness between her body and the earth.

On July 28th 2012, ThinkPeace Workshop’s 4th annual Summer Camp will commence. We couldn’t be more excited!  We have so many amazing things planned for you!  We have been busy this year making incredible connections and dreaming and scheming up rainbows of possibilities, from soulful art projects similar to our story boards last year to making bones for an installation on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to beginning writing our own stories, and finding our voices to performance art and multi media productions!  Again, this will all take place in Saratoga Springs, NY, a place known for it’s healing springs.  All around the city continual flowing springs are offered as places of healing.  Each one has a separate name and mineral content.  Each one claims to help heal specific ailments. Tasting them, or ‘taking the waters’ as Saratogians call it, is said to promote health, longevity and well being.  These endless springs well up from deep inside the earth and are a large part of what makes Saratoga Springs a special place. At ThinkPeace Workshop summer camp, you will have an opportunity to ‘take the waters’ as a part of connecting with the earth as begin to cultivate your voice, your life. We’ll talk bones and water and girl issues as we embark on our journey to be the change!

Mary Oliver wrote~                                                                                                               At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled

after a night of rain.

I dip my cupped hands. I drink

a long time. It tastes

like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold

into my body, waking the bones. I hear them

deep inside me, whispering

oh what is that beautiful thing

that just happened?

Come see what can happen at ThinkPeace Workshop for Girls this summer!

making a difference


Wednesday, January 18, 2012 – 13:58
“When news of the devastating tsunami and earthquake hit, many of our campers contacted us saying they wanted to DO SOMETHING. We learned of the Students Rebuild: Japan challenge and knew that we had to be a part of it; that we would bring our girls together to make as many as we could. One of our girls attends a school in the Bay Area which has a sister school, Tokiwagi, located in Sendai. The students at her school looked for ways to help their sisters across the universe. In addition to fundraisers they held, thinkpeace contacted them and asked them to join us in the crane making campaign. Having that direct connection made everything so real for them. Our kids created and sent over 2000 cranes. We were all so thrilled to be a part of something that had affected us so deeply and see it spread globally, creating more awareness and compassion.
Thinkpeace girls felt like they really could make a difference. We can’t thank you enough for that. When this new challenge came up, they were eager to jump all over it! We’re meeting this weekend to start creating bones. It’s a fascinating endeavor. We’re looking into ways to incorporate this message and the need for awareness of issues facing youth in Somalia and the Congo into this years’ workshops.” — Kelly Himsl Aruthr, Co-Director – Thinkpeace Workshops
Ready to take action? While registration for Paper Cranes for Japan has ended, you can carry forward the spirit of hope and healing embodied in every Students Rebuild challenge by taking a stand against humanitarian crises. Tap your creativity by making a handmade bone – out of any material you choose – which will raise awareness and critical funds for CARE International’s relief work in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Join A Path Forward today!