Frances Crowe, a peace activist from the Pioneer Valley, celebrated her 95th birthday on the University of Massachusetts campus on Tuesday night in an event hosted by WMUA and the UMass Journalism Department.
The evening began with Kyle Sullivan, the programming director of the radio station WMUA 91.1 FM, talking about the different speakers and what they have done to impact society. He said that these people, who are Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now,” Mike Burke, a UMass journalism alumnus and Frances Crowe, a peace activist, are “grassroots activists.”
An original song about Crowe was played called “Peaceful Woman Fighting Hard.” Sullivan said that “an activist’s work is never done,” and that the success of protesting is “due in part to people like Frances.”
“Protesting is an act of love,” Sullivan said.
Goodman interviewed Crowe about her life and her work. Crowe was born in Missouri where she said that, “life was very simple, very easy.” She attended Syracuse University and graduated in 1941 after spending her first two years at Stephens College. She made the switch because Syracuse had a good psychology program that she wanted to attend. She later received a degree from Columbia University.
Crowe said that she “became a war activist overnight,” which stemmed mostly from the events of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.
Crowe’s first arrested occurred in 1973 on International Women’s Day. When asked if she was afraid to get arrested, Crowe said: “I don’t think I’ve ever been nervous about getting arrested.” She believes that “nuclear power is used to sell the idea of nuclear weapons” and she is not in support of that at all. She has also had many run-ins with Vermont Yankee.
Crowe listened to “Democracy Now” before she was a part of it, and she was determined to get on the radio so she set up her own pirated radio station. She eventually succeeded in getting her own branch of “Democracy Now” on the radio in Northampton and on WMUA. She also formed the Northampton Chapter of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and she also headed the chapter of the American Friends Service Committee.
“Change is the mass movement,” said Crowe.
Burke, who is a 1997 UMass graduate who was once an Arts and Editorial Editor at the Massachusetts Daily Collegian and had his own show “Sound is Now” on WMUA during his time as a student, now works for “Democracy Now” as a producer and an editor. He has also worked for the “Greenfield Recorder” and the “Springfield Union News.”
He was interviewed by the two current news producers of WMUA, UMass senior John O’Neil and junior Despina Durand. Burke said that the “Collegian was an incredible experience.” He was first interested in journalism because of his interest in music, and it all started with an essay about how much he did not enjoy the band Pearl Jam. He says that he is a “generalist” in the sense that he does not have one thing that he is interested in, he covers a broad spectrum of topics. He was asked about grassroots journalism, and says that the main focuses of it are the “distribution method and the focus of the show.”
Amy Goodman, a journalist who has hosted Democracy Now since 1996, has written five books, including her latest one, titled “The Silenced Majority,” which is about uprisings, occupations and hope. Goodman is the recipient of many awards, including the Gandhi Peace Award in 2012.
She discussed the importance of bringing the media forward and making it more independent. She consistently stressed the idea of independent media and talked about how it would change media for the better. She wanted the audience to visualize how different everything would be if just for a week, there was a picture of a dead baby on the front page of a newspaper, and if the article below the picture discussed how that baby had died, who their family had been and how much that would change everything.
Marleigh Felsenstein can be reached at [email protected]