BELFAST, Maine — Liberal activists take note: the co-founder of CodePink is coming to town, and some Belfast denizens are planning to hold a major party — complete with a peace singalong and political theater.
Social justice activist Medea Benjamin will wend her way up the Maine coast during a tour for her new book, “Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control,” starting with a July 11 event in Portland and ending with a July 17 event in Ellsworth.
“I see her as an iconic figure in our culture right now,” Jennifer Hill, organizer of the July 14 stop in Belfast, said Monday. “Medea doesn’t back off. She just looks for another approach.”
Benjamin is a former economist and nutritionist with the United Nations and World Health Organization, according to the website for CodePink, and has been an advocate for social justice for more than 30 years.
CodePink began in November 2002, when Benjamin and other women activists started a four-month-long vigil in front of the White House to support peace. During the vigil’s final week, more than 10,000 people participated in activities including rallies and a march to encircle the White House in pink. On the last day, a group of 25 women, including Benjamin and writer Alice Walker, were arrested after taking the protest to the gate of the White House.
In 2010, Benjamin received the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Prize from the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
Hill said that in her youth during the 1960s, activism seemed more serious. She likes that Benjamin uses street theater, art and often humor to make her own serious points. She cited one Congressional hearing during which officials had been told not to let women wearing hot pink inside. So the women left and covered the pink with black sweatshirts.
“They got in, then pulled their sweatshirts off,” Hill said.
When she learned that Benjamin’s book tour would bring her to Belfast, Hill said she was thrilled, and wanted to put on a great show.
“This woman is out there on the front lines in such a major way,” she said. “I know she’s getting a hard time from people. One of the things I love about Belfast is that people here are feisty. You run into people who speak truth to power all the time. I wanted us to open our collective arms and embrace this woman.”
So far, Hill said that she has been “astounded” by the depth of interest from Mainers in Benjamin’s visit. People have stepped forward to say they will pay for the Shrine Club, where the event will take place, and provide refreshments. They’ve also joined in the rehearsals for the political theater portion of the event, which will be directed by Larraine Brown.
“This community is so fabulous, and there’s a deep desire here, I think, for speaking truth to power. For stopping these crazy wars,” Hill said. “We want to show her we understand who she is and what she’s doing. We support her.”
Benjamin’s tour will make stops at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 11, at the University of Southern Maine Bookstore in Portland; at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 12, at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick; at 2:30 p.m. Friday, July 13, at Camden Public Library; at 4 p.m. Saturday, July 14, at the Shrine Club in Belfast; at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 17, at Ellsworth City Hall. For more information, please visit benjamininbelfast.weebly.com.