Labor Day brings the annual tradition of the Peace Show interrupted frequently by the War Show at Burke Lake Front Airport. This year was a remembrance of Ione Biggs who passed away in December of 2005. Also, 5 Catholic Worker protesters were arrested for praying under the wing of a War Plane at the Air Show. This is not homeless news except that our good friend, Jim Schlecht who does outreach to homeless people, was also arrested and will sit in jail until Tuesday. They stood singing under a war plane to let people know that the entire "Air Show" glorified war and killing people. Imagine, arrested for putting a sobering tone on "entertainment," while we occupy another country and our sons and daughters in Iraq hope and pray every night that the road below them does not blow up.
So, I was asked to say a few words about Ms. Biggs. I know that if Ione were still alive she would be protesting the arrest at the War Show or down talking to those waiting in jail by using her connections in the corrections system. Anyway, I wish Daniel were here because he would know what to say a lot better than most of the rest of us. When Ione got the award from her church, Daniel revised one of his poems to fit the occasion. Poets are the life blood of social justice movements.
"The homeless community lost one of our strongest champions with the passing of Ione Biggs. She was not loud or "in your face" about her passions, but was powerful in a quiet dignified manner. She gave great advice, and knew what would work and what would not. She had that rare quality that has nearly disappeared in our society she actually listened to people including those she did not agree with. We at the Coalition keep her in our thoughts every day, and we try to react to injustice as Ione would react. What would Ione Do? She would be at the Peace Show supporting her friends and fellow activists. She would be at the vigil for peace on the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attack. She would respectfully question the use of excessive force by the police in Cleveland Heights.Brian
She would be organizing petitions, writing letters, and speaking out against this horrible war and the dreadful policies of the current administration which devastate the poor. She would have an answer for the state of fear gripping America, because I certainly do not. Ione would know how to fight the destruction of the current first amendment, and the expanding domestic spying by our own government. She certainly had a unique talent of cornering elected officials to get them to do the right thing, and she would have found a way to force the State of Ohio to get back in the business or reducing poverty. How could anyone turn down the All American Grandmother? She would be volunteering for the Coalition or other peace organizations. Ione had the unique talent of staying in contact with all the peace and justice organizations in the city, but we all felt that she was working exclusively on our issue.
Ione Biggs would find a way to break the racial or gender barriers that continue to exist in our community. She would be leading the charge to implement a real rehabilitation component to our criminal justice system. In a more enlightened time, Ione Biggs would have followed Howard Metzenbaum as Senator Biggs from Ohio. She was one of the strongest women in Cleveland, and we miss her.
I have no better way to express my sorrow than with Daniel's Words:
Those in power always want
Those in poverty to live on poetry
The best things in life are free
They're fond of saying. Of course
If you help yourself to what's
Second best, they lock you up
And if you tell them all you wanted
Was just a little bit more on your plate
They'll hit you with, Man shall not live
By bread alone. They certainly don't
They've got the bread and the gravy
The meat and potatoes, the Army
The Air Force, the Marines and the Navy
And what have we got? Our loneliness
And our need to break bread
For that sound breaks the silence between us
And out of that broken silence tumbles everything
A cornucopia of words to feed the heart
Night words that rise and fall with each breath
Each shadow, words as light as light
Whose wings brush against us
And we are never the same
Words that are famous
With only four letters
Like food, love, home, sing..."
Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.