Kalamazoo Nonviolent Opponents of War (KNOW): A Historical Overview
Kalamazoo Nonviolent Opponents of War (KNOW), an organization created to oppose war and militarism and to advocate for peace and social justice, celebrates the 20th Anniversary of its founding in 2022. In the late summer and early fall of 2002, it was apparent to close observers that the George W. Bush administration was preparing to invade the sovereign nation of Iraq. Aware of this threat of pre-emptive military action by the United States (which was based on a series of false claims), a diverse collection of people in the Kalamazoo area came together to try to counter the lies, expose the administration’s real motives, and stop the planned invasion and war. The group included veteran antiwar activists, people who had never been involved in the peace movement before, young and old, representatives from diverse faith backgrounds and philosophic approaches, and individuals from a wide variety of occupations. Although KNOW, as one part of a larger national and global peace movement at the time, was unable to prevent the unnecessary, immoral, and illegal war against Iraq in 2003, the group has stayed together and continues to work to advance the following mission:
We non-violently resist war and militarism, and work to create a world in which human beings care for one another and for the earth, and in which the human imagination turns away from hatred, violence, and domination, toward peace and justice.
Our Predecessors and Foundations
A strong peace community existed in Kalamazoo dating back to at least the Vietnam War era. After the U.S. withdrawal from the conflict in Southeast Asia in the mid 1970s there was a brief lull in peace movement activity. But the movement sprang back into action in the late 1970s and early 1980s to oppose the apartheid regime in South Africa, the deadly American interventions in Central America, the war on the environment, and an escalation in the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Active peace and justice groups in Kalamazoo during that era included the South African Solidarity Organization (SASO), Citizens in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), the Valley Alliance, and the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign. Hundreds of Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College students were involved in these organizations. Among the many prominent activists at this time who would later be involved with KNOW were WMU professor (and future Kalamazoo City Commissioner) Don Cooney, Amy and Rob Anderson, along with their son Dale, David Macleod (who was part of a University of Michigan student group that pitched the idea of the Peace Corps to candidate John F. Kennedy in 1960), and Steve Senesi, who courageously withheld his federal taxes for a time to protest the military budget. Peace churches such as Friends Meeting and Church of the Brethren were important predecessors as well.
The nuclear weapons issue became a primary focus of peace movement activity in the 1980s. Many peace activists in Kalamazoo worked hard on the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign. Following the passage of a state-wide nuclear weapons freeze resolution in November of 1982 (one of many that passed that fall across the country), a large group came together to organize “Celebrate Life: A Week of Education and Action to Prevent Nuclear War” in March of 1983. The organizers raised over $7,000 to sponsor a variety of speakers, films, and events during the week, including a keynote address by Senator George McGovern (the 1972 Democratic presidential candidate). A march from the WMU campus to Bronson Park was also held, and hundreds of concerned citizens marched that day. With some of the money left over from the very successful week, a student group (advised by WMU professor Ron Kramer) joined the national United Campuses to Prevent Nuclear War (UCAM) organization. The WMU chapter of UCAM, and a variety of later student peace groups, would continue to organize an annual “Peace Week” on Western’s campus for many years to come. Prominent Peace Week keynote speakers included Abbie Hoffman, Dr. Benjamin Spock, Betty Bumpers, the Reverend William Sloane Coffin, Barbara Ehrenreich, Colman McCarthy, Howard Zinn, and Daniel Berrigan.
In the late 1980s, UCAM (now renamed United Campuses Against Militarism) and other local peace and justice organizations joined together to create the Kalamazoo Area Coalition for Peace and Justice. The Coalition, ably chaired for many years by Dale Anderson, met at the Swords into Plowshares Peace Center in the old Wesley Foundation building on the WMU campus. David Macleod (by then the author of a short but powerful book titled World Peace: A Positive Approach) worked tirelessly to organize the Center and provide it with a variety of resources for student and community activists. In early 1991, many of those activists organized large demonstrations and teach-ins to protest the first U.S. Persian Gulf War against Iraq. These activities included a bus trip to Washington D.C. to protest the war that the George H.W. Bush administration called “Operation Desert Storm.” During the late 1980s and early 1990s, a group of Western Michigan University faculty and community peace activists also created and team-taught a course titled “Peace and Global Futures” which drew hundreds of students.
9-11 and the Threat of War
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 ended the Cold War and created another lull in peace movement activity in the mid-1990s. However, a small band of activists, including future KNOW founders Jean and Joe Gump and Rob and Amy Anderson, continued to protest the deadly threat of nuclear weapons through “Plowshares” actions and various educational activities. Many of these committed activists also stood opposed to the imposition of harsh economic sanctions on the Iraqi people and the execution of a relentless bombing campaign on the country’s infrastructure following the Persian Gulf War. The horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 would then unfortunately set the stage for even more deadly U.S. military activities in the greater Middle East (dubbed the Global War on Terrorism by President George W. Bush), and create the need for a revitalized peace movement to oppose the new wars of the American Empire in a so-called “unipolar” world. Kalamazoo Nonviolent Opponents of War would become a part of that revitalized movement.
KNOW arose out of a confluence of historical events, public issues, and personal concerns in 2002. Following the 9-11 attacks of 2001, the Bush administration carried out an illegal invasion of Afghanistan, but it was clear that the neoconservatives and hard-core nationalists within the U.S. national security apparatus at that time had, what Kalamazoo College Professor Gary Dorrien termed, “imperial designs” and intended to invade what had been their primary target all along—Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. In the late summer of 2002, the war hawks in the administration began to roll out their campaign to invade Iraq again, and this time remove Saddam from power. This “marketing campaign” was based on a number of false claims. The Bush administration asserted that Hussein had close ties to the Al Qaeda terrorist group and thus Iraq was complicit in the 9-11 attacks, that Iraq had failed to abide by UN demands for disarmament (Resolution 687 in 1991) and still possessed “weapons of mass destruction” (biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons), and that the United States had a unique obligation to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq and change its political culture. None of these claims were true, but these falsehoods were advanced at a time when many Americans were still in a wounded, vengeful, and hyperpatriotic mood as a result of 9-11 and they had a powerful effect.
By 2002, Jean and Joe Gump, the Plowshares activists who had earlier served prison time for their heroic protests against nuclear weapons, had moved to Southwest Michigan from Chicago. As part of a Chicago-based organization called Voices in the Wilderness, they organized a small group to stand in vigil on Tuesday afternoons at the Federal Building in downtown Kalamazoo to protest the U.S. imposed sanctions and bombing raids that were still killing many Iraqis long after the first Gulf War had supposedly ended. And now the Gumps were also protesting the plans for a new war.
When retired WMU professor Tom Small asked his late wife Nancy what she wanted to do on her birthday that summer of 2002, she replied that she wanted to stand in front of the Federal Building holding a sign saying “No War in Iraq” to protest the Bush administration’s invasion plans. They invited several friends to join them. On Sunday, September 1, starting at noon, Nancy, Tom, and their friend Patrick Jones stood for an hour in front of the Federal Building with their antiwar signs. The Smalls spend the next week phoning and emailing others to join them. They also announced their plans at Friends Meeting. The next Sunday they were joined by several others as they stood in vigil again in front of the Federal building to protest war. The vigils continued, and with them the Smalls initiated a tradition that would soon become a major part of KNOW’s antiwar actions (a tradition that still carries on to this day).
Unaware at the time of the Gumps’ Tuesday vigils and the Smalls’ Sunday vigils, Don Cooney and Ron Kramer had a phone conversation early in September about the need to organize some form of protest activity to demonstrate against the Bush administration’s impending invasion of Iraq. They decided to call a meeting of local activists at the beginning of WMU’s fall semester to organize such a resistance effort. On September 11, 2002, the one-year anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, Cooney and Kramer participated in a Teach-In at WMU on the dangerous U.S. responses to the terrorist attacks. That evening the two attended a worship service at the Kalamazoo Friends Meeting House to observe the 9-11 anniversary. Toward the end of the mostly silent service (in the manner of Friends) a few people in the large crowd offered their reflections on the events of the past year. Cooney and Kramer decided that this was a good time to announce that a meeting would be held the following week for those who were interested in opposing the Bush war plan for Iraq.
The Creation of KNOW
On Tuesday, September 17, 2002, a group of around 20 concerned citizens gathered in the basement of the old Wesley Foundation to create some form of organized resistance to the Bush administration’s war plans. Many good ideas were suggested. Cooney and Kramer were pleased that so many people had turned out. They decided to continue the discussion the following week. At the group’s second meeting the following Tuesday, a rough plan of antiwar actions emerged. Joe Gump proposed that the newly formed organization should call itself Kalamazoo Nonviolent Opponents of War. There was consensus on the name, which nicely captured the twin spirits of the activists. Tom Small, with his calm demeanor and commanding voice, was asked to serve as the Chair of the newly formed peace group. As the Sunday vigils in front of the Federal Building attracted hundreds of participants and evolved into a KNOW tradition (eventually absorbing the Tuesday vigils), Tom would also serve as the chief spokesperson, making announcements, calling on those who wanted to offer reflections, and thanking the assembled group for “Standing for Peace.” Members of the local Iraqi community often joined the vigil. Dr. Aijaz Turk commented to Tom Small about how important and meaningful KNOW’s efforts were for that community during a time of crisis. The overall importance of the Sunday vigils was nicely summarized later by former Kalamazoo College professor Olga Bonfiglio in her splendid book about the early days of KNOW, Heroes of a Different Stripe: How One Town Responded to the War in Iraq (Global Visions, 2005):
Indeed, the peace vigils in front of the Federal building became the place for Kalamazooans to express their opposition to the war and their anger at the Bush administration. The vigils also became a place of refuge, mutual support and friendship, especially when a majority of Americans backed Bush on the war (p. xxvi).
Throughout the fall of 2002, KNOW held weekly planning meetings at the Wesley Foundation and gathered on Sundays at the vigil to “stand for peace.” Special evening vigils were occasionally held at the Federal Building followed by marches to Kalamazoo’s downtown Bronson Park to hear speeches and do Dances of Universal Peace, led by Tom Holmes. Special anti-war rallies were also held in Bronson Park (October 8), on the WMU campus (October 25), and in front of the large Crossroads Mall in nearby Portage (December 12). KNOW members participated in a Teach-In on Iraq (October 2 at WMU) and on a panel discussing the threat of war (October 17 at Kalamazoo College). Nancy Small and Debbie Luyster collected email addresses at the Sunday vigils and other events and Tom Small started sending out a weekly newsletter NEWS FROM KNOW.
One of the early major projects of KNOW was an effort to convince the Kalamazoo City Commission to pass a resolution opposing war with Iraq. Influenced by the “Cities For Peace” campaign organized by the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank in Washington, D.C., KNOW members appeared before the city commissioners on October 7 and 14 to advocate for the passage of an antiwar resolution. At the meeting on the 14th, the Commission did pass a resolution that urged President Bush “to work with and through the United Nations to obtain compliance by Iraq and to support UN inspections to enforce UN disarmament resolutions.” It was not the strong condemnation of the push to war that KNOW wanted, but the resolution did address one of the key deceptive arguments that the Bush administration was using in its campaign to justify an invasion, the idea that Iraq still possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). This falsehood was being asserted despite the operation of UN inspectors in Iraq following the 1991 Persian Gulf war (Scott Ritter and other former UN inspectors were loudly proclaiming at the time that Iraq had disarmed in the late 1990s). Several weeks later, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1441, which required the Iraqi government to complete a series of disarmament requirements. Iraq subsequently agreed to allow the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) teams back into the country to search for the alleged WMDs.
KNOW’s Antiwar Resistance Builds
Throughout the Fall of 2002 members of KNOW continued to express their opposition to the impending invasion with letters to the editor and viewpoint columns published in the Kalamazoo Gazette newspaper. They also flooded Congress and the White House with letters and phone calls expressing their opposition to war. KNOW members showed up in large numbers at a Town Hall meeting to challenge their local Congressman, Fred Upton, on his support for the war. Upton was so shaken by their fierce opposition that he refused to hold any more live Town Hall meetings. The Kalamazoo Cable Access Center (now the Public Media Network) television program, Critical Issues, Alternative Views, devoted numerous hour-long episodes to analyzing the Bush administration’s war plans for Iraq that fall. KNOW members Lyn Bartley, Don Cooney, Rick Stahlhut, and Ron Kramer presented the historical background and larger political context of the impending invasion and offered a trenchant critique of the Bush administration’s deceptive campaign for war.
One of the most visible KNOW projects that fall was a yard-sign campaign created by Kalamazoo College student Kevin Fuchs. Thanks to the efforts of Kevin and a team of KNOW volunteers, over three thousand blue and white signs announcing “Another Family For Peace” began appearing in yards all around the Kalamazoo area in November. By the end of 2002, KNOW was already a very visible presence and a prominent dissenting voice in Kalamazoo opposing the push for war against Iraq. As the holiday season began, war seemed imminent. But KNOW and other voices for peace around the world were growing stronger
As 2003 began, the Bush administration’s dishonest “marketing” campaign to justify an invasion of Iraq intensified, and the peace movement worldwide continued to mobilize to resist war. On the weekend of January 10-11, several KNOW members attended an antiwar conference in Ann Arbor to hear speakers like journalist Robert Jensen and political scientist Stephen Zunes analyze the rush to war in Iraq and dismantle the administration’s false claims about Iraqi WMDs and ties to terrorism. A week later, on Friday evening, January 17th, over two hundred people gathered at St Thomas More Student Parish near the WMU campus and piled on to four buses (arranged for by KNOW) for an overnight trip to Washington, D.C. for a large peace rally the next day (over 100,000 people participated in the January 18th demonstration). While many KNOW members rode the buses to D.C., others traveled by car to the Washington protest, bringing the total number of Kalamazooans at the antiwar rally to over 300. In her book, Heroes of a Different Stripe: How One Town Responded to the War in Iraq, Olga Bonfiglio provides a detailed account of the 36- hour bus trip to attend the rally and return, with insightful quotes from many of the KNOW members on board the bus she rode.
On Tuesday, January 28, 2003, President George W. Bush used the occasion of the State of the Union (SOTU) address to continue to press the case for war against Iraq. As with every pronouncement made by the administration concerning Iraq in the lead up to the invasion, the 2003 SOTU contained a large number of the many lies told during the campaign to sell the war to the American people. Charles Lewis later documented these deceptions in his book, 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity (PublicAffairs, 2014). The Critical Issues, Alternative Views TV team (all members of KNOW) watched the SOTU, wrote a critical response, and taped their critique in the Cable Access Center studios the next morning so it could be broadcast on the network later that day (the Producer and Director of Critical Issues at the time, the late Bill O’Brien, deserves much of the credit for getting the response on the air).
On Saturday, February 8th, a group of KNOW members traveled to Ann Arbor to participate in a downtown march against the impending war. Then came a protest that could be characterized as the granddaddy of them all. On Saturday, February 15th, as U.S. Forces were poised for the invasion, a global antiwar protest occurred with over ten million people around the world participating. According to Robert Jensen, these rallies “were the single largest public political demonstrations in history.” KNOW organized another bus trip, this time to New York City to join the United for Peace and Justice organized rally there. Since many were unable to ride the overnight bus to New York however, a large number of KNOW members drove to Lansing that Saturday where over two thousand people gathered in frigid temperatures to protest the impending invasion in solidarity with the millions of other protestors across the globe. The next day, The New York Times editorialized that there were now two superpowers in the world: The United States and world public opinion. To many political observers it was amazing that such a large antiwar movement had organized before the war had even started. During the Vietnam war it took many years for the peace movement to become organized on such a large scale.
Back in Kalamazoo, students and faculty organized two more Teach-Ins on the coming war on February 17th and 25th. Many KNOW members participated in both. A newly organized Student KNOW group began to hold weekly antiwar protests at the flagpoles outside the Wesley Foundation on Wednesday afternoons. On Sunday, February 23rd, two contingents of KNOW members and supporters gathered, one at the Federal Building and one at the Kalamazoo Islamic Center. The two groups then marched to Stetson Chapel on the Kalamazoo College campus for an event that included powerful speeches by Ali Abuimah of the Electronic Intifada, and the Reverend Gary Dorrien (who is now the Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York City and Professor of Religion at Columbia University). Professor Dorrien, who had studied neoconservatism in the past, presented an incisive analysis and critique of the current group of neoconservatives, many of whom occupied positions within the Bush administration, and who for geopolitical reasons were leading the drive to war in Iraq (this important research would later be published in book form as, Imperial Designs: Neoconservatism and the New Pax Americana by Routledge Press in 2014). Later that week, Ron Kramer gave an antiwar speech to the Portage Rotary Club where he argued that an invasion of Iraq would violate international law (specifically Article 2 Section 4 of the UN Charter) and thus be a form of state crime (a much-revised version of his research was later published as “War, Aggression, and State Crime: A Criminological Analysis of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq,” The British Journal of Criminology, Volume 45, 2005: 446–469).
KNOW’s resistance to the now imminent invasion continued in early March of 2003. On Saturday March 8th, another protest was held outside the Crossroads Mall. The next day, several KNOW members spoke at a “Music For Peace” event held in a downtown church. On March 10th, the Critical Issues, Alternative Views team taped an antiwar video Op-Ed that was broadcast on the Kalamazoo Cable Access Center network. Two days later the team taped a special edition of the Critical Issues program devoted to an analysis of the Bush administration’s lies and imperial motives for war. The Sunday vigils continued to draw large crowds, large enough apparently to warrant surveillance by two FBI agents from Battle Creek, who parked across the street and watched. Tom Small recalls going over to chat with them, characterizing them as “friendly and deferential” (unlike the FBI agents he encountered in Berkeley in the 1960s). On the WMU campus, the student KNOW group continued to hold its antiwar protests every Wednesday.
The War Comes and KNOW Reacts
But despite the protests, the war came! On March 20th (March 19th in Kalamazoo) the United States and its allies carried out the illegal invasion of Iraq. Many KNOW members first heard about the invasion from the famous folksinger and activist Joan Baez, who was in concert that night at the State Theatre in Kalamazoo and announced from the stage after intermission that the war had started. The next day, KNOW held a large candlelight vigil in downtown Kalamazoo that drew over 500 people. It was a sad and somber affair, an expression of grief and anger. There were no speeches, just a collective reflection of what the group had done over the past seven months to try to prevent the bloody tragedy that would now unfold in Iraq. On March 21st, “An Interfaith Service of Prayer And Meditation In Time Of War” was held at the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Kalamazoo. It was organized by the newly formed Kalamazoo Interfaith Coalition for Peace and Justice, a group which included many KNOW members (Shadia Kanaan, Raelyn Joyce, and Harold Beau played very important roles) and would partner with KNOW on numerous peace related projects in the future. Prominent members of the religious community in Kalamazoo that supported both KNOW and the Interfaith Coalition were the Sisters of St. Joseph, the Kalamazoo Islamic Center, Kalamazoo Friends Meeting, the late Father John Grathwohl, the late Reverend Don DeYoung, the Reverend John Fisher, and Deacon Joe Schmitt (among many others).
As many members of KNOW feared, the criminal war of aggression and the subsequent brutal military occupation subjected the Iraqi people to a tidal wave of death, destruction, and misery. By the time George W. Bush left office in early 2009, research conducted at Johns Hopkins University (published in the medical journal Lancet) estimated that over one million Iraqi deaths had resulted from the invasion and occupation. According to sociologist Michael Schwartz (War Without End: The Iraq War in Context, Haymarket Books, 2008), over four million people had been displaced from their homes and the social and economic infrastructure of Iraq was devastated. By 2009, over four thousand American military personnel had been killed, and economists Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes estimated that the total cost of the invasion and occupation would eventually exceed three trillion dollars (The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict, W.W. Norton, 2008). And as historian Andrew Bacevich details in America’s War for the Greater Middle East (Random House, 2016), even President Barack Obama, an opponent of the invasion, would struggle with and fail to resolve the subsequent political problems resulting from the war.
As the actual hostilities wound down and the troubling occupation unfolded, KNOW held a retreat on May 2, 2003 and decided to continue as an antiwar organization working for peace and justice. The Sunday vigils continued. Regular planning meetings were held. A wide variety of peace related projects were organized and carried out. The email newsletter News From Know continued to be sent out on a regular basis. A film and discussion series started by KNOW members Noah Dillard and Stephanie Higdon in the summer of 2003 evolved into the “Be-in-the-KNOW Film Series” in 2004 thanks to the hard work of Wade and Sandy Adams, Shadia Kanaan, Tony and Joan Badalamenti, Elke Schoffers, and Jacob Libby. KNOW also created several large traveling billboards that were moved around the area. One billboard showing black silhouettes of women, men, and children against a white background (built by Mike Murphy, aided by a small group of other KNOW members) contained the message, “Iraq—How Many Deaths?” Another billboard read, “Iraq—How Much Money?” KNOW also partnered with Kalamazoo Friends Meeting and the Peace Center at the Wesley Foundation to bring the “Eyes Wide Open” art exhibit organized by The American Friends Service Committee to Kalamazoo.
In March of 2004, KNOW commemorated the first anniversary of the invasion of Iraq with an event at the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Kalamazoo billed as, “The World Says No to War.” Ron Kramer delivered the keynote address, titled: “Reflections on the War in Iraq: Past Lessons, Future Prospects, and Present Commitments.” Even though KNOW strives to be non-partisan, many members of the organization as individuals worked very hard to defeat George W. Bush that fall and elect John Kerry as president with the hope that he would chart a new, more peaceful path in Iraq. In November, KNOW was awarded the 2004 Peace Prize of the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Portage. Tom Small and Ron Kramer accepted the award on behalf of KNOW. Speaking to the congregation, Kramer recounted the group’s many antiwar activities over the prior two years and asserted that, “As for the future, we plan to continue to work for peace and justice and advocate for the power of nonviolence.” And that is what KNOW has continued to do.
KNOW In The Years Following the Invasion: 2005 to the Present
As the occupation of Iraq became an ongoing disaster, and KNOW continued to protest the American presence there, the group settled in as the major peace and justice organization in the Kalamazoo area. During these years the Sunday vigils and Monthly Planning Meetings continued as established institutions. Numerous educational events were presented. Attempts to communicate about important peace and justice matters were carried out through the revival of the Critical Issues, Alternative Views TV program and the continuation of the News From KNOW newsletters. Annual Retreats took place so that KNOW could take stock of what the group had accomplished and make longer range plans for future events. Fundraisers were held to generate money to fund the group’s activities. Concerts and films were presented. Efforts were made to coordinate peace movement actions with other peace and justice groups. Commemorations of special historical moments were organized.
What follows is not a detailed description of all the activities that KNOW engaged in during the years following the invasion of Iraq (they are countless), but selected highlights of the activities that the group has been engaged in between 2005 and 2022.
- On March 19th 2005, KNOW held a commemoration of the 2nd Anniversary of the invasion of Iraq at Stetson Chapel with a keynote address by Gary Dorrien, based on his recently published book, Imperial Designs: Neoconservatism and the New Pax Americana. This was followed by a march to Bronson Park for music, dance, and short statements.
- Olga Bonfiglio’s book, Heroes of a Different Stripe: How One Town Responded to the War in Iraq was published in 2005. The book contains profiles of KNOW members Bob and Elly Nagler, Rob and Amy Anderson, David Macleod, Ron Kramer, Noah Dillard, Jean and Joe Gump, and Shadia Kanaan.
- KNOW worked with and helped to support the World Tree Center for Peace, Justice, and Mother Earth, organized primarily by Kevin Kamps. The Center shared store-front space on the downtown Kalamazoo Mall with the Whole Art Theatre, a pacifist, anarchist theatre group, whose board was chaired at times by Tom Small and Steve Senesi. Kevin Kamps would go on to become a prominent anti-nuclear activist with the Washington D.C. area-based organization Beyond Nuclear.
- On October 19th, 2007, KNOW held a “Die-In” (Co-sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee) in Bronson Park as part of its continuing protest of the war and occupation in Iraq. The AFSC supplied banners that featured the billions of dollars spent on war, which should be spent on human needs.
- KNOW members Marty Faketti, Dru Carter, Chris Orsilini, and Shelly Stull created Peace Mama, a towering marionette with moving arms and hands that waved at children during KNOW marches and parades. Peace Mama was the official mascot of Peace Pizazz (chaired by KNOW member Lowey Dickason), a summer peace festival held at Bronson Park for many years with KNOW as a partner organization.
- KNOW supported Iraqi Health Now, a humanitarian project that sent supplies to Iraqi citizens, that was created by KNOW members Kathy Murphy and Haider Alsaedy.
- In 2008, after a year-long hiatus following the death of Bill O’Brien, Critical Issues, Alternative Views resumed production under the KNOW laden production team of Daniel Smith, Bob Kildea, Larry Mahannah, and John Provancher. Lyn Bartley, Don Cooney, and Ron Kramer provided analysis and commentary.
- KNOW continues to partner with the WMU Center for the Study of Ethics in Society in the selection of the annual Winnie Veenstra Peace lecturer. To honor her memory and values, Winnie Veenstra’s family created an endowment (administered by the Ethics Center) to fund an annual peace lecture.
- KNOW has participated in the City of Kalamazoo Memorial Day Parade for many years.
- KNOW resumed the planning for a Kalamazoo tradition of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Commemorations and organized the events in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.
- In 2012, KNOW held a rally and march to support Occupy Wall Street when it held its 7th Inter-Occupational Summit Assembly in Kalamazoo.
- To lift spirits, generate activism, and raise money, KNOW organized a number of concerts. Charlie King and Karen Brandow have been the most frequent guest musicians.
- KNOW has sponsored speeches by prominent national peace activists such as Kathy Kelly, Medea Benjamin, Cindy Sheehan, Robert Koehler, and Frida Berrigan.
- For many years KNOW raised funds with Soups for Peace dinners that included short talks, poetry readings, story-telling, music, and a silent auction.
- In 2019, KNOW sponsored a Pots and Pans Protest in front of Congressman Fred Upton’s office in downtown Kalamazoo to protest the H.R. 1 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
- To honor the memory of two of KNOW founders, the organization created the Jean and Joe Gump Peace Education Fund. The fund assists young people in their participation in peace related educational activities. Raelyn Joyce, Amy Damashek, and Ineke Way played key roles in the creation and administration of the fund. For a number of years, the group (aided by Daniel Smith) baked Holiday cookies to sell to raise money for the Gump Fund.
- In 2019 KNOW joined the Kalamazoo Climate Crisis Coalition and also participated in the Earth Day celebrations of 2020 and 2021. These actions served to resurrect the early efforts of Tom and Nancy Small and Belinda Straight, who organized a KNOW group to study and publicize the effects of war and violence on the environment and all creatures. KNOW believes that to resolve the climate emergency and prevent other ecological harms, the environmental movement and the peace movement need to join forces to resist militarism and war, drastically cut the bloated U.S. military budget, and redirect those public funds to critical efforts to mitigate carbon emissions, transition to clean, renewable energy, and achieve climate justice.
- Starting in 2020, KNOW has annually contributed $300 to sponsor one of the MLK Social Justice Youth Awards made by the City of Kalamazoo as part of the celebration of the MLK Holiday. Steve Senesi and Ineke Way have led this effort.
- During the time of COVID-19, KNOW has continued to meet over Zoom. The monthly meeting was changed to incorporate a topical presentation that follows the short business part of the meeting. Daniel Smith has been the able Zoommaster during this time.
- In 2021, KNOW planted a tree in Kalamazoo’s Milham Park to honor the late Margaret Al-Oboudi, an early and prominent KNOW member.
- In addition to the Gump Fund honoring Jean and Joe Gump, and the tree planted to honor Margaret Al-Oboudi, KNOW strives in many ways to honor the work and keep alive the memory of all of its founding members who have passed away: Rob Anderson, David Macleod, Nancy Cutbirth Small. Sister Mary Bader, Gulnar Hussein, Robert Nagler, Ruth Pino, and Molly Clements.
- KNOW’s Palestine/Israel Working Group continues to operate and in summer 2021 partnered with many Palestinian-American and local Muslims to organize an event titled, “With Love, From Kalamazoo to Palestine, a Festival of Celebration and Solidarity.” Another festival is planned for summer 2022.
Kalamazoo Nonviolent Opponents of War is proud of our history and accomplishments and looks forward to a future of continuing to advance our core mission of non-violently resisting war and militarism, and working to create a world in which human beings care for one another and for the earth, and in which the human imagination turns away from hatred, violence, and domination, toward peace and justice.
***This history was prepared by Ron Kramer with great assistance from Tom Small and Raelyn Joyce.