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Noe Valley Reacts to Sept. 11 with Acts of Peace
By Olivia Boler
An irony of adversity is that it often breeds strength, and the attacks of Sept. 11 this year on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have given rise to acts of courage around our nation. The tide of these atrocities has, of course, touched Noe Valley, and the community has responded with generous acts of peace, thus turning the tide back on itself.
Local churches, schools, and civic groups have led the way, but individuals such as Vicksburg Street resident Andrea Gosline have also played a part.
Gosline woke up the day after the attacks depressed and worried. The mother of two and author of four inspirational books for parents is not the kind of person to sit by when the going gets tough, particularly when her friends, relatives, and country are gripped by the greatest tragedy of our generation. She decided to transform her sadness into positive action by writing an e-mail to people she knew were like-minded, inviting them to create what she calls the Circle of Peace.
"Our mission is to dedicate our resources to create a warmhearted world," Gosline said.
About 14 people, including two 13-year-old girls, responded to Gosline's e-mail, so she held the first meeting at her home as a potluck. As they shared food, the group discussed the attacks and what they could do to help the victims. They also talked about how to cope with the ensuing war.
Gosline says the Circle of Peace is not a group of pacifists, but they do feel uncomfortable with the war. So far, the monthly circle has been attended by adults and children alike, and while all have differing points of view, they have one common goal, to help others and to find peace within themselves.
"One thing I love about the circle is that there are different folks coming in and out, and it has taken on a life of its own," Gosline said. "There is no leader, just a group of people trying to find peace of mind and bringing in great ideas to share."
One of those ideas is to take action by helping the Sept. 11 victims' families. As a group, the Circle of Peace will take part in Half Moon Bay's Operation Teddy Care, which involves assembling teddy bears and sending them to therapists who are working with children who lost a parent in the attacks. The Circle of Peace members will include photos of themselves and write notes to the recipients to let them know they are not alone in their grief.
"Instead of simply donating money, we are going to do this activity together," Gosline said. "This is a big part of the circle. We want a ripple effect of our strengthened community to reach out to the world."
The Circle of Peace's third meeting focused on a discussion of the political ramifications of the terrorist attacks. Part of healing is to look at the negatives as well as the positives, and one that concerns many of the circle's members is their own dependency on oil. They are hoping to invite a solar power expert to talk about getting off the grid and bringing solar energy into the community. Having group support while getting educated about the political nature of what is going on in the world is another purpose of the circle.
In addition to hosting a solar energy expert, the Circle of Peace plans to volunteer for the city's Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT), which is trained by the San Francisco Fire Department to respond during disasters.
"We look for ways to do good work and be helpful in the community," said Gosline, who describes herself as an eternal optimist. "We're a democracy. The potlucks are not super formal, and everyone gets a chance to speak."
The next meeting of the Circle of Peace will be Dec. 1. If you want to learn more, call Gosline at 978-0816 or e-mail her at email@example.com.
Schools Find 'Peace in the House'
Of course, other previously established organizations have taken action and will continue to do so as the winter holidays approach.
As reported in the Voice last month, in the first few weeks after Sept. 11, garbage and anti-Arab graffiti were splattered on the facade of Noe Market, the corner grocery at Douglass and 21st streets owned by Angelica and Saif Ataya. The Atayas, who are Muslims, were also subjected to racist taunts. To try to erase the stain of these despicable acts and to show support for the Atayas, the activist group Global Exchange asked artist Mary Nash to paint a colorful peace mural on the side of the store. About 60 people, including many of the Atayas' Noe Valley neighbors, attended the mural dedication on Sunday, Oct. 21, and celebrated with food, music, and proclamations of peace.
Schools such as Edison Charter Academy continue to emphasize a curriculum that concentrates on "hope, wisdom, respect, integrity, justice, compassion, and responsibility." First-grade teacher Michelle Cox reports that students held a "Jump-athon" in early October, raising money for the families of New York police officers by jumping rope at 10 cents a jump. More recently, the social studies curriculum has focused on "healthy living," which explores spending quality time with family, including activities such as cooking and sharing a meal together.
At James Lick Middle School, teachers use a program called "Peace in the House" to encourage students to resolve conflicts without violence, and the attacks of Sept. 11 have been a prominent focal point. Right after the attacks, a group of seventh-graders, led by math and science teacher Brian Sauer, created a collage mural of peace signs that was displayed at Video Wave on Castro Street.
"It's important for children to have a place to express themselves in public. They often get pushed aside," said Video Wave owner Alexander Gardener.
Gardener's wife, Gardenia, had the idea of turning some of the children's artwork into greeting cards. Gardener is planning to contribute funds to the project and hopes to have the cards ready for sale at Video Wave in time for the holidays. All proceeds will go to after-school programs at James Lick. If you are interested, contact Alexander Gardener at 550-7577.
The Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association, in conjunction with the Small Business Network of San Francisco, helped raise over $96,000, to be donated to the United Way for victims' families in New York.
Here at home, the Merchants Association will decorate the 24th Street corridor with holiday decorations and sponsor a visit from Santa Claus on Dec. 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Bank of America at 24th and Castro streets.
Bethany United Methodist Church on Sanchez Street will offer a workshop in spiritual practices in a time of terror. It will focus on a variety of spiritual disciplines to help people ease their anxiety and stress. Diane Deutsch, the church's spiritual director and therapist, will run the workshop on Dec. 2 at 12:30 p.m.
"We hope that if this meets a need [in the community], it will be an ongoing offering," said Pastor Karen Oliveto.
The congregation will also begin preparing for a trip to Nicaragua, where participants will work in a small rural village doing whatever is needed. Pastor Oliveto anticipates the participants will work with children, assist in hospitals, and build various structures in the village.
If you are interested in the workshop or Nicaragua trip, contact Bethany at 647-8393 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Noe Valley Library on Jersey Street will host a poetry reading on Dec. 11 at 7:30 featuring Jewelle Gomez and Zack Rogow. Gomez is the author of The Gilda Stories and is published in Best American Poetry 2001. Rogow is a poet and translator of French literature, including George Sand's Horace.
"I hope [the poets] will have some poems for peace," said head librarian Roberta Greifer.
Greifer is also purchasing books that relate to recent world events. She is planning to create a special section of these books. "Libraries have a role in educating the public on the Taliban, Islam, and different points of view," said Greifer.
She is also in the process of coordinating a performance in March or April by a group called Diatribe. The group includes performers from around the world and does programs in poetry and dance. The performance at the library will focus on peace.
If you are interested in using the Noe Valley Library's meeting room or having the library host a sponsored event, contact Greifer at 695-6934. Library-sponsored events take eight weeks to process, but the wait for the meeting room is not as long.