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Pink Alert

On Nov. 17, 2002, approximately 100 women marched the streets of Washington, D.C., to protest the pre-emptive strike on Iraq. While protests were nothing new at the time, this group of women gathered to form CODEPINK, an international grassroots peace movement.

What's unique about CODEPINK is it's "an attitude, not an organization," says CODEPINK Tucson's Nancy Hill. "CODEPINK is a phenomenon. (At the local level), there's no joining or membership." The local core group of less than 50 women coordinates local peace actions.

The movement was founded by Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans. Benjamin also co-founded the San Francisco-based human rights organization Global Exchange. Both she and Evans have been activists for 30 years. CODEPINK is a play on the Bush administration's five-tiered Homeland Security advisory system, which runs from green (low risk of terrorist attacks) to red (severe risk). According to codepinkalert.com, "while Bush's color coded alerts are based on fear, the CODEPINK alert is based on compassion and is a feisty call for women and men to 'wage peace.'"

Nancy Hill answered that call in 2002. Living in Virginia for the year, she went to marches and really liked the ideology of the group. "I liked the structure, or lack of structure," she says. "It's all done in a flat, egalitarian (way) that's cooperative. It's information-based, not thing- or material-based. ... We take what women do well, which is build community, and take it to a higher level ... ."

Taking it to a higher level has gotten CODEPINK much public exposure. They have hung large, pink banners from hotel windows, awarded "you're fired" pink slips to public figures including Bill O'Reilly and Michael Powell, attended rallies and congressional sessions and have staged a four-month vigil at the White House opposing the war in Iraq.

In Tucson, Nancy Hill says the group has been active in a variety of ways. "On Sept. 11, 2004, we had an activist training camp, a day-long how-to session on how to be an empowered, passionate, outrageous, self-assured woman who brings creativity and joy to creating a positively focused peace movement. We provide training and education on working with other peace groups. ... We held an action in response to Bush's visit to Tucson and encouraged everyone to wear pink and go to a major intersection with signs. ... We've gone to Washington, D.C., to help actions to counter the inaugural. ... We've very adaptable. We also look at what is going on locally and are interested in border issues," she says.

On the local front, Hill hints they have not "pink-slipped" anyone yet, but they're considering it. Here's how that would work: "We dress in pink slips and arrive at a place where the public figure will be present," she explains. "And we present that person with a pink slip saying 'You're fired!' You have to be outrageous to get the corporate media's attention."

At 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 21, CODEPINK Tucson hosts co-founder Medea Benjamin at a book-release party at Reader's Oasis, 3400 E. Speedway Blvd. Benjamin is on a 50-city book tour to promote How to Stop the Next War Now: Effective Responses to Violence and Terrorism. The book was released on May 1, the second anniversary of President Bush's declaration of "mission accomplished." Edited by Benjamin and Evans, the book is a collection of essays "about how the global peace movement can successfully stop the next war." Notable contributors include radio host Amy Goodman, columnist Arianna Huffington, Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai. More than 70 experts and activists contributed to the collection.

Hill is enthusiastic about the book and says Benjamin is a very inspiring speaker. "Every person interested in peace will find sections that speak to them on how to build a peaceful world and how to stop this military expansion," she says. "There's something in there for you."

Hill says the Reader's Oasis event will be more than just a book signing. "Medea will talk to people; we hope to read sections of the book. We'll have pink thrift shop items for sale, educational flyers on how to stop the war and the cost of war and pink munchies. We just want to have it be an educational function and hopefully motivate others."

CODEPINK strives to motivate others to create peace and not only protest current situations. "Rather than feed energy into anti-actions that feed into the negative pro-war mindset, we want to build peace, not just react against any one administration," says Hill. "Women have always been the peacemakers. We need to bring that back into the forefront at a geo-political level. We need to spend as much energy to build peace rather than fear."

For more information about CODEPINK, visit codepinkalert.com. For CODEPINK Tucson, visit www.orgsites.com/az/codepink or call 370-2567.

More by Irene Messina

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