Placeholder Image photo credit: Noah Abrams/KRCB
Author and activist Norman Solomon addresses the
crowd at the 2023 Living Peace Wall dedication
ceremony. (Seated from right: Susan Chunco,
Charles Prickett, and Dmitri Rusov-Morningstar.)

On the 22nd anniversary of 9/11, there's news of conflict around the globe: in the western Sahel, the Ukrainian steppe, and in the South China Sea and Sea of Japan.

Locally, those who have been lending their voices to peace -- at home and abroad, for decades -- were honored over the weekend in Sebastopol.

Sebastopol is called "Peacetown" for a reason; while over 50 years have passed since many set draft cards alight and protested the war in Vietnam, some of Sebastopol’s dedicated peaceniks still endure, resolute against war.

Close to 75 mostly older attendees gathered at a Saturday ceremony in the Sebastopol Plaza, honoring the three latest inductees to Sebastopol's 8-year-old Living Peace Wall. First was Susan Chunco.

"Of course, the sixties, particularly after I attended Woodstock, had on a strong influence on me," Chunco said.

Alice Waco, a fellow activist and friend of Chunco, said Chunco’s quiet lifelong dedication to peacemaking comes from a simple place.

"In a few words, I asked Susan, 'what motivates you?' and Susan's response, 'I care,'" Waco said.

Chunco herself detailed landmark moments in her life that set her on a path of peace.

She said one was being raised on a farm.

"Unfortunately, I started seeing some of my hog friends on my dinner plate, which ended up turning me into a lifelong vegetarian," Chunco said.

Another was volunteering with her mother at daycare for migrant children.

"I wasn't yet fully conscious of the justice issues around migrant workers, but it was a start," Chunco said.

Much of Chunco’s focus in Sonoma County has been on helping the un-housed.

Placeholder Imagephoto credit: Noah Abrams/KRCB
Sebastopol's Living Peace Wall

"Understand that homelessness is a human created condition, not created by the people who are un-housed, but by those who place profit over people," Chunco said.

Other inductees: David Harris, the noted anti-Vietnam War activist and ex-husband of folk singer Joan Baez. Harris passed away in January.

Also, Normon Solomon, a writer, filmmaker, and prominent anti-war activist.

"Whether it's in fashion or not, whether the New York Times or the [Press Democrat] will cover it or not," Solomon said. "We need to keep the peace train rolling because the war trains are running all the time."

Solomon, whose works include the books War Made Easy, and the recently released War Made Invisible, pulled no punches in his assessment on the state of American peacemaking.

"We have a bipartisan war machine," Solomon said. "Throughout this century we've had presidents in the Oval Office who are killers. The fact that they do not see the people who they kill, the fact that they do not know their names, the fact that they are never aware of exactly who those individuals are does not change the fact they are killers."

"They're running a killer government," Solomon said.

Chunco, Harris, and Solomon now join international luminaries like Nelson Mandela and Thich Nhat Hanh, and local activists including Mary Moore and Susan Lamont, in Sebastopol’s Living Peace Wall.

Michael Gillotti, the creator and driving force behind the solid white granite edifice, shared the message and meaning he hopes it imparts on all who pass by.

"We honor the peacemakers whose names are inscribed, who have during their lives, works for peace and against war, for justice and against injustice, for nonviolent resolutions of conflict and against violence, and for the common good and against selfishness and greed," Gillotti said.

The 2023 Living Peace Wall dedications also included a tribute to acclaimed whistleblower and peace advocate Daniel Ellsberg, a Peace Wall honoree in 2018. Ellsberg died in June.

You can visit the Living Peace Wall and read the full list of honorees at the corner of McKinley Street and Laguna Parkway in Sebastopol.

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