2015 has been a year of transformation and growth for us and we remain grateful for your support of our work. We’re excited to share some of the “good news” of our efforts as we continue in the spirit of our founders, Rosemarie and Vincent Harding, who dedicated their lives to developing and sharing resources for social justice activism from the histories, wisdoms and spiritual traditions of grassroots communities in our country and elsewhere in the world.
As you can imagine, we are still very much in a moment of reflection and transition, having lost our father and uncle (and co-founder and colleague) a little more than a year ago. Although we have had a busy and productive year, we’re also reflecting about the best ways to honor Vincent and Rose’s legacy as we continue forward; and we welcome your thoughts and encouragement in that process. But we are immensely proud of what we’ve achieved since our founding in 1997 and we’re enthusiastic about the direction of our current work as well.
Over the past two years, we have transferred over 800 hours of interviews with our elder activists to the Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Book Library at Emory University in Atlanta. We donated the materials so that they can be digitized, catalogued, preserved and made widely available for research, study and documentary film production. By 2017, through the university’s website and links to our own web presence, students, scholars, activists, teachers, artists, filmmakers and others will be able to freely access materials we’ve gathered and use them in a variety of creative ways to spread knowledge of the rich history of spiritually-grounded social justice movement building.
In March of this year, we collaborated with the Chico Peace and Justice Center in California, in publishing “Building a Movement to End The New Jim Crow: An Organizing Guide” Written by Daniel Hunter, the organizing guide is a supplement to Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow, and features a forward by our veteran interviewee, Rev. James Lawson.
In May, several of our staff were invited to participate in the Okuu Indigenous delegation to the “It’s Time” National Women’s Leadership summit in Baltimore. This was the same period as the uprising in response to the brutal murder of Freddie Gray, and the larger summit was ultimately cancelled due to the protests.
But the Indigenous women’s group visited the city anyway, participated in marches and met at the Living Well community center with a number of activists in the local Black Lives Matter movement.
Closer to home, the VOHP remains an important community resource for Denver activists – sharing news, resources and encouragement among local, national and international networks of organizers working around issues of racial, gender and economic justice and peacemaking.
Also in May, Duke University Press published Remnants: A Memoir of Spirit, Activism and Mothering, a collaboration between Rachel E. Harding, and our co-founder, Rosemarie Freeney Harding, Rachel’s mother.
Remnants is an exploration of the role of spirituality and compassion in African American social justice activism via Rosemarie’s personal reflections and the history of the Freeney-Harding family.
The initial launch of the book happened in Baltimore among the circle of Indigenous women. Since then, we have co-hosted reading groups and book-signings with Ruby Sales and Cheryl Blankenship of the SpiritHouse Project in Atlanta, Georgia; at the Iliff School of Theology and the Blair Caldwell Library in Denver; and at the First United Methodist Church in Fort Collins, Colorado. We look forward to sharing the book more broadly in 2016. (Save 30% on the purchase of the book with code P15REMNA at www.dukeupress.edu/Remnants, 888-651-0122.)
Since our beginnings in 1997, the VOHP has held a particular commitment to healing and hospitality in the context of social justice work. This emphasis was especially encouraged by Rosemarie and we have been nurturing that aspect of our work over the past year. We co-sponsored the Satya Yoga program, a yoga teacher training program developed by Denver-based yogini, Lakshmi Nair, for people who are committed to teaching yoga, as a resource for social justice activism, in communities of color. The first cohort of Satya Yoga trainees included seven participants and the second group, which began its work in September 2015, includes eighteen people.
Our work of connecting healing and activism also benefitted from the October visit of Iyalorixá Valnizia Pereira (Mãe Val) and Claudio Santana de Freitas – two elder activists from the Afro-Brazilian religious tradition Candomblé. At sites in Denver and New York, Mãe Val conducted lectures, informal conversation circles and workshops on Afro-Brazilian religion, ritual art and indigenous healing as resources for personal wellbeing and community justice work.
We wish to acknowledge the passing of several of our “Veterans of Hope” in 2015. Specifically we want to remember our dear friend and teacher, Grace Lee Boggs and Vincent’s friend and colleague, Julian Bond. Their interviews are among the materials recently sent to Emory. We also honor and remember activist, Ron Scott, who worked closely with Grace at the Boggs Center in Detroit. Additionally we remember Fran and Leon Hendricks (Freeney-Harding family members and long-time supporters of the Project).
As we celebrate our 20th year in 2017, we are collaborating with Tom Wolfe, president of Iliff, for a 50th anniversary commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1967 “Beyond Vietnam” speech at Riverside Church in New York. (As you may know, Vincent was the key architect of the speech.)
Finally, we are updating our website and the new version should be online early next year. As 2015 comes to a close and the next year opens, we ask you to please consider a gift as an investment in our shared future. As a small organization, with an even smaller budget, every gift – of any amount – has a significant impact. We are a 501(c) (3) nonprofit and your contributions are tax deductible to the full extent permitted by law. Donations can be made through our website at www.veteransofhope.org (click the “Donate” button at the bottom of the page and use a credit card or your PayPal account) or mailed to us at Veterans of Hope Project, 2201 S. University Blvd., Denver, CO 80210.
On behalf of the Veterans of Hope Project and the Freeney-Harding family, we thank you for collaborating with us through your prayers, institutional cooperation, program participation, volunteer hours and generous financial contributions.