Our dear friend Susan Blake passed away at 8pm on Tuesday, October 2, 2007. She was staying upstate at a friend’s house. When I called Monday, I spoke to Susan’s sister, Nancy Blake, who was there having dinner with her.
We will keep everyone updated on information about a memorial service. We have made a page for PeaceSmiths updates and events, and about events for Susan: here.
Susan Blake was the force behind PeaceSmiths, Inc. Susan was careful with words, and uncomfortable with titles. So, she always corrected me when I called her the director or leader of PeaceSmiths. I hope that her commitment will open the door to the whole PeaceSmiths community feeling empowered to keeping that work alive. Members of the PeaceSmiths board actually met with Susan on Monday, and they are planning on moving forward full steam ahead with their work for peace and justice.
The work of PeaceSmiths includes a hotline for activist events, a monthly forum, and the “PeaceSmiths monthly Topical A-Typical Folk Music, Poetry, and Whatever Coffeehouse”, held in Amityville, at what songwriter Sonny Meadows dubbed “the last church on the left” in a song. (Susan loved that!) And, of course, the work of PeaceSmiths included Susan attending an impossible amount of demonstrations, cultural events, networking events, and workshops to support every good cause in the world.
Many of the causes Susan supported are listed on the fairly recent, bright, multi-colored PeaceSmiths banner that she hung at each coffeehouse. But, a smattering of causes Susan worked for would include: peace, anti-militarism, human rights, labor rights, the environment, anti-nukes (especially anti-nukes in space), anti-death penalty, anti-SOA, ballot access (she included local politicians at candidate events, but also write-in candidates and third party candidates), immigration rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, holistic medicine, vegetarianism, independent media, intellectual freedom, and dignity and justice for all. The PeaceSmiths banner proclaims: “We’re Pro Humanity”
Attending the Clearwater Hudson River Revival was an annual event for Susan and PeaceSmiths. Every year, Susan took a crew of Long Island activists upstate to table and to man the Cow Game, which taught about Mad Cow Disease and antibiotics in milk. The PeaceSmiths’ International Folk Dance/Music Fundraiser Garden Party was another important annual event. This year the event took place on September 15th, and for many of Susan’s friends was a last chance to spend time with her, a wonderful last dance.
One of Susan’s recent projects was working on the production of “The Booby Trap or Off Our Chests”, the musical on the connection between breast cancer and bras.
Ian has been corresponding with another of Susan’s friends who suggests that a list be created of every musician, poet, and performer who ever appeared at the coffeehouse, in addition to every presenter, author, candidate, elected official, and panelist who appeared at the monthly community forum. The list itself would be overflowing and informative.
Susan was a fun person. You always remembered she was an artist. Susan even worked as a stage-manager, occasionally for “Theater for the New City.” Susan made exciting events happen. And, I remember my delight whenever I gave her a ride, and realized I had her attention all to myself for a few moments. Susan would listen and discuss about all the subtleties of organizing and structure. She cared about the causes, the people, the friendships, and the impact.
I love looking at the video of Susan at the Long Island Peace Summit, because it reminds me of so many of her wonderful mannerisms connected to speaking (or preaching) about a cause–about vibrant, reaching-out energy; smiling some of the time, even when the topic is so serious; and every posture a face could take during deep thought.
Ian posted the following words as we were first hearing the news and creating a tribute on our web-site:
“I learned a great deal from Susan. She taught me more than anyone, by her example, what nonviolence meant. She taught me about having the courage to live by your values. She taught me about how culture and politics inform and support each other. She taught me that being a pacifist did not mean being passive. She taught me that to work for the future meant to learn from the past. She taught me how to find friends who support what you do. And I am glad I could call her my friend.
Susan was the heart and soul of PeaceSmiths. Susan was the definition of a peace and justice activist. She was a peacemaker.”
Susan Blake supported the unsuccessful struggle to save the old elm tree in Amityville. She loved the tree, not just because it was old and alive, but because of its uniqueness and what it symbolized. Susan loved to tell the story of how beautiful it was that someone had built a wood-slatted boardwalk–instead of a concrete sidewalk–over the roots of the tree, so that it could continue to grow, right there along busy Rt. 27A. And, Susan would say, she loved riding her bicycle over that boardwalk, how the sound and the bumps were a break in the monoculture.
I will truly miss the break in the monoculture that Susan’s beautiful, unique, sometimes interrupting presence brought to the Long Island community. I am so glad to have known her, to have witnessed some of how she did what she did. May Susan June Blake’s work, energy and lessons pedal on.
Friends and colleagues can look for unfolding memorial service info at the following places: our web-site www.onthewilderside.net, the Suffolk Progressive Vision web-site http://www1.freewebs.com/suffolkprogressivevision/scpg.htm#53562544 , or through the PeaceSmiths community.
- candlelight (for Susan) a poem by Ian Wilder
- Tribute and comments at Third Estate Sunday Review (a progressive, anti-war green-friendly blog)
- At Newsday: Article about Susan
- A moment for Susan: photo and poem by Kimberly Wilder
- Last Church on the Left song about PeaceSmiths, by Sonny Meadows
- Billy Thompson’s Photos of Peacesmith’s 2007 Intl Folk Dance/Music Fundraising Garden Party
- Peacesmith’s Intl Folk Dance/Music Fundraising Garden Party 9/15/07
- George Wallace poetry reading at PeaceSmiths coffeehouse video
- LI Peace Summit 5/24/07 full video
- The Booby Trap: Sat 5/19/07 8p
- Untamperable Voting Fri 5/18/07
- Long Island Peace Week 2007: 4th Anniversary Events
- Emma Goldman’s coming back 3/9 -5/1/07
- PeaceSmiths Coffeehouse 3/2/07
- Future of Food 2/16/07
- PeaceSmiths Coffeehouse 2/2/07
- Fri. 1/19/07 Community Forum on Iran
Filed under: activism, Art, counter-recruiting, Death Penalty, Favorite Muses, Long Island Politics, New York State Politics, original music, Peace, personal, Political Websites, Recommended Music, Recommended Poetry, To Study Up On Nonviolence, US Politics, vegetarian Tagged: | amityville, clearwater, coffee house, nassau, peacesmiths, suffolk, Susan Blake, susan june blake