Frida Berrigan, columnist for “Waging Nonviolence,” a board member of the War Resisters League, and the author of “It Runs in the Family: On Being Raised by Radicals and Growing into Rebellious Motherhood” was the featured speaker in the third installment of Niagara University’s Spring 2019 Social Justice Speaker and Discussion Series, April 11, 2019.
Berrigan’s parents, Phil Berrigan and Elizabeth McAlister, were a former priest and nun who became nationwide icons for their prophetic witness against war and nuclear weapons, which resulted in long jail sentences.
“I’ve read quite a bit about Frida Berrigan’s parents’ efforts … But it is not just about these campaigns and their efforts, it is about their choices,” said Dr. David Reilly, director of international studies and chair of the Department of Political Science, who coordinated the series. “These choices that have consequences, choices that often involve breaking the law and going to prison, and in the process, forcing many people to think about their own groundings and questions of ethical and moral responsibilities. This is the world Frida Berrigan grew up in.”
Berrigan spoke about her personal experience with rebellion and activism within the peace movement. She recalled the imprisonment of both of her parents for their protests against nuclear weapons, and the founding of the Jonah House in Baltimore, a community to support the resistance of war.
Berrigan looks to ways that people as individuals can make an impact and help change the world by making it better, brighter, and full of hope.
“To conspire means to breathe together,” she said. “The implication of that word is closeness, and trust, and a path to action. You put your heads together, you think through something, you take the sorrows in the sadness and you move them into hopes.
“As the parent of three kids, and as the offspring of this legacy I have described, I wake up every morning with a choice: a choice to approach the world and my role in it with heartbreak, or with hope; with fatalism or faith; with sadness or solace; with ‘can’t do’ or compassion. There is so much to feed my sadness, and heartbreak coming at me from every screen and front page. There seems to be so little to feed my faith, compassion, and solace. Yet, it depends on where you look,” Berrigan continued.
“I look to community, my friends, actions, and the small ways I am interconnected with others and I look for ways to strengthen these interconnections. I look for opportunities for conspiracy. You have to find ways to feed the hope and the goodness that is present, but you have to look for it,” Berrigan concluded.
The final installment of the Spring 2019 Social Justice Speaker Series will take place on April 26, with speaker Daniel McGowan, who will discuss “Building Intersectional Alliances and Networks of Support.”