If you’ve walked in Lafayette Park in front of the White House you couldn’t have missed the anti-nuclear activist and her display in the sweltering sun, downpours or heavy snowstorms. Wearing a helmet and a scarf she maintained a 24/7 presence handing out pamphlets promoting nonviolence and carrying protest signs with photos of the hibakusha-survivors of Hiroshima-Nagasaki. A permanent fixture on Pennsylvania Avenue, she educated tourists and police alike, witnessing to the immorality and insanity of nuclear weapons. She wanted a safe and gentle world for everyone’s children.
On Saturday morning, February 27, 2016, at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington, D.C., peace activists held a Memorial Service for this outspoken activist, Concepcion Picciotto (January 15, 1936 to January 25, 2016). Called “Conchita” or “Connie” by her friends, she was the co-founder and keeper of the White House Anti-nuclear Vigil for 35 years, the longest protest in U.S. history. Often referred to as the closest neighbor to the President (she lived through five) none came to visit her. At times she was taken into custody by the police and prosecuted. (The intent was to rid the Park of this “anti-nuclear eyesore.”)
Longtime friend Kathy Boylan of Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in D.C. invited me to write and give the Invocation and Opening Prayer. Supporters and friends gave testimony and Senior Pastor Karen Blau, a moving homily. After Concepcion’s ashes were poured into the memorial garden, we sang the worker’s anthem, “The Internacionale,” and began marching to the White House, close to a mile away. Max and I carried our ARCWP banner. Enroute we came upon a Bernie Sanders rally and they cheered us on. At the White House more people offered their remembrances and praise for Concepcion while Sr. Megan Rice helped hold up the banner with us.
Loving God, Holy Mystery,
Who sparked the dawn of Creation
The Light that shines through us…
YOU, from whom we come…and go
We celebrate the life
of your holy one,
The Word was made flesh
And pitched her tent
John 1: 14
Like Sophia Wisdom,
a people loving Spirit,
Concepcion Pitched a Tent.
For 35 years,
with her tent and her presence,
Upset The Order of Things.
In front of the White House,
The Seat of The Empire,
she challenged The Powers.
In front of the White House,
she engaged the world’s visitors
giving An Alternative Way
(to look at things)
Pay attention to my warning
Now I will pour out my heart to you
And tell you what I have to say.
Proverbs 1: 23
She and her tent rose up from the landscape…
She Did Not– She Would Not go away.
She Would Not Be Silenced…
In her threatening and transformative way…
She insisted we remember our incinerated
Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Sisters and brothers…(pause)
Our passion for violence
expressed in our warmongering. (pause)
She RE-taught us
how to grieve,
to stop pretending and denying
what our world is facing:
Y-12 Oak Ridge, Livermore, Los Alamos, Yucca Mountain, Kansas City, Savannah River, Pantex
She RAGED against nuclear weapons
And celebrated Megan, Greg and Mike…
Concepcion Kept Death Alive
No Numbness of Death with her around
For the sake of the neighborhood.
Concepcion gave herself away
Bold and energizing…
Disruptive Prophetic Force…
You Broke Open Hope…
Concepcion calls aloud in the streets
She raises her voice in the public squares
She calls out at the street corners
She delivers her message at the city gate
Proverbs 1: 20-21
We your peace community are gathered here this morning. May our sister, Concepcion, remain with us, inspire us along our journey as we work, pray and live for peace. Amen.=