Berkeley’s Wall For Peace, Revisited 30 Years Later

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How long can a symbol of hopeful activism last? A long time, in the case of Berkeley’s Wall For Peace, built in 1988. I recently discovered this wall and its inspiring history – a strong contrast to the fleeting nature of political expression today.

Masterminded by Berkeley’s Carolyna Marks, who passed away in 2011, and willed into being by a large group of volunteers and other supporters, the wall is a lasting testimony to Berkeley’s peaceful, hopeful culture.

Below are pictures I took after the recent renovation of Civic Center Park, plus some newspaper articles about the project, which I found at the Berkeley Public Library. I’ve also transcribed the wall’s 1989 dedication plaque below.

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From the wall’s plaque (above):

“Carolyn Marks was inspired to create this wall by a sign on a fence in North Berkeley which read: ‘Do something today for peace.’ In 1984 she began collecting handpainted tiles for the Peace Wall. Construction began in 1988. That same year, 100 Soviets from Troitsk saw a television show about the wall and journeyed to Berkeley to paint the Soviet-American quilt.

The Hiroshima quilt was painted on August 6, 1988, out of respect for the Hibacha, the survivors of Hiroshima, 1942. The Hiraga family painted the central panel in this quilt in memory of Sadako, the child who folded 1000 origami cranes and died of Leukemia, the ‘atomic bomb disease.’ Other quilts in the wall address themes of spiritual peace, peace with nature and ecology, peace and social justice, peace in central America, peace through organizations and community, and peace through the family of nations.

The Wall for Peace was dedicated on April 7, 1989 to The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. by The Reverend Jesse Jackson. The Hiroshima quilt was dedicated on the last day of Berkeley Peace Week, September 23, 1989.

This is the mother wall in a series of Walls For Peace around the world. It is meant to honor the ways in which every person struggles for peace, justice, and the health of the environment and its inhabitants. The people who have come together to create this monument see the Peace Wall as a prescription to heal the planet from war and strife. It is a petroglyph of our time, showing the progress of the human race on their earth journey.

May it inspire in all who see it prayers of peace and visions of a better world.”

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