People in the Movement: SPC Activist Profiles

Top:Jerry Berrigan was arrested at a local antiwar action in
March 2008. Photo: Mike Greenlar. Bottom: Ursula Rozum
staffs the SPC info table at Plowshares. Photo: Kanat Bolazar

A Force in the Community: Jerry Berrigan

Jerry Berrigan was born and raised in the Syracuse area and taught writing at Onondaga Community College. He became interested seriously in the peace movement after his brother Phillip and others poured napalm on draft files in 1967. He subscribed to SPC’s newsletter and has continued to be active with SPC and a force in the larger community ever since.

How did you get involved with the SPC?
My family was always oriented to activism and causes during my formative years. I was influenced by the examples, the community and the larger area of scope that the SPC presented and I was naturally drawn to it.

What continues to motivate you today?
Taken into account the times and state of the culture which is militarized I find much of the times and culture repellent, needful and worthy of correction and being turned in a different scope of emphasis.

What or who has inspired you?
I am deeply fortunate and might even say blessed, to being related to two immortal brothers, Dan and Phil Berrigan.

What do you feel are some of the challenges during your years as a peace activist?
Well, I have been arrested a number of times. In years past we would commit once a month to travel to the Rome Air Base which was the site at that time of the B-52’s laden with atomic bombs ready at a moment’s notice to fly to Moscow and proceed to end the world. So our group would, whether small or large, walk over the line and submit to arrest as a way of dramatizing and speaking our cause and beliefs.

What do you feel have been some of the successes of your work as a peace activist?
The very existence of the SPC is a mark of success in our times and in our culture. And to have a vibrant active group of people such as the members of the SPC year after year be in the forefront of reviving and reminding the community as well as the larger culture that the emphasis of this nation on war after war after war is negative and inhuman and self defeating.

What do you feel is the call to action for you today?
I find myself nearly at the advanced age of 91 years and I find a certain limitation on any activism that I might formerly have chosen to involve myself in. Two people in leadership roles played by Ed Kinane and Ann Tiffany have encouraged me through the past weeks to join in at the NYS Airbase-Air National Guard to vigil against the reality of the drones—those fearful aircraft currently being applied by the militarists in this nation to subjugate and murder many, many civilian people as innocent as you and I.

– Donna Mühs-McCarten

Saving the World: Ursula Rozum

This past December, Ursula Rozum, became the fourth staff member of the Syracuse Peace Council. This energetic, young activist was hired as the new People Power Organizer. I sat down with Ursula during her first week as an SPC staff member to discuss her motivations and goals for the new position.

Ursula grew up on Syracuse’s northside and was politically influenced from a young age by her Polish parents who moved to Syracuse in 1982. She recalls hearing stories about her Polish grandparents who resisted the German occupation during World War II and about her parents who were active in the “Solidarity” trade union movement.

Her education at Bishop Ludden, a Syracuse Catholic High School, helped her to recognize the injustices that exist in the world while also cementing in her the moral belief that the suffering of others is wrong.

Ursula earned an undergraduate degree in International Relations and Latin American Literature from McGill University in Montreal. Her time in college led her to a life-long goal, “to help poor people and save the world,” although she wasn’t exactly sure how she might do it. During her time at McGill, she spent a semester in Cuba where she witnessed the very real ways in which US foreign policy affects the everyday lives of people. Since graduating, Ursula has also spent time in Mexico and Colombia.

After college, Ursula lived briefly in Ithaca where she was active in Recycle Ithaca’s Bicycles. When she moved back to Syracuse in 2008, a Google search led her to SPC’s Bikes 4 Peace program and she became active in this and several other SPC projects. In the fall of 2009, she joined the SPC steering committee. In July, she completed a year as an Americorps VISTA with the Cooperative Federal Credit Union and she recently acted as the Upstate Coordinator for the Green Party Hawkins for Governor Campaign.

Now as the People Power Organizer, Ursula is thinking up new ways to actively engage people in the work of SPC. One task at hand is to implement a new membership program that she believes will lead to a way for SPC to have a clearer, stronger voice in the community. She would also like to see SPC engage in more spontaneous actions and reactions to international, national and local issues. Ursula’s outgoing, supportive and enthusiastic attitude will help her find new ways for people to connect to SPC’s projects and programs. “We already know there is a majority of people who agree that war is wrong,” she says. She will help SPC create new spaces and visions for people to help make the changes we need.

– Kimberley McCoy