Jes

I have been a peace activist for most of my adult life.  When I graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 1970, I had to choose between being drafted and serving in Vietnam, going to prison, or a one way trip to either Europe or Canada.   I chose Europe, not knowing that my high lottery number would allow me to return a few years later.  

I began my journey in Amsterdam, of course, and hitch hiked south through France and Spain, across the northern coast of Africa, up through Italy, and back to Amsterdam.  I ran out of money and headed south to the warm beaches of Spain. “At least I won’t freeze to death”, I reasoned.  

I worked as a bartender in Barcelona until I discovered the bar was a front for selling drugs.  I took the first boat to Ibiza and found a job teaching mathematics to the children of wealthy foreigners.  At the end of the summer, I returned to the mainland with nothing more than a loaf of bread and a sleeping bag.  A beautiful woman sunbathing on the ship’s deck caught my eye.  She would later become my wife.

Irma and I spent the next few months getting to know each other in Morocco.  We flew to the United States and hitch hiked cross country to San Francisco.  When we arrived, we took off our shoes and declared ourselves Hippies.  We worked with Cesar Chavez and the Farm Workers.  A Safeway in Delano had us arrested, along with thirty farm workers, and we spent the next few days in jail.  I taught the men meditation and Irma taught the women yoga.  

In 1974 Irma and I moved to Monte Rio and leased The Village Inn restaurant.  Orion, our son, was born after a speedy trip to the hospital in our Volkswagen van.  We purchased The Mayor’s Inn downriver and transformed this sleepy little bar into The Blue Heron Inn, a vegetarian restaurant with a staff of thirty and a reputation that stretched far and wide.  Beko, my second son, was born at home with the help of a mid-wife.

We sold the restaurant after an intense and wonderful seven years and moved to Harbin Hot Springs to spend time with our children.  When we moved to the Breitenbush Hot Springs Community in Oregon, Irma and I separated.  I championed the cause of saving the Old Growth and was arrested twice for blocking logging trucks.  At my hearing, I cradled my youngest in one arm and held the hand of my other son as I explained my acts of civil disobedience.  “I did it for my sons and for future generations,” I told the judge.  He was lenient.

Irma, now called Gaia, and I helped a friend manage a buffalo ranch in Redmond, Oregon.  A year later I moved to Bend and raised my two sons as a single dad.  My oldest son graduated from M.I.T.; my youngest went off to Kenyon, but would later graduate from Berkeley Law.  He was recently part of a team that challenged Prop 8 in front of the U.S. Supreme Court … and won!  Both of my sons are successful and living in the Bay Area.  I have three grandsons.

In 2003, I built a ten foot tall Gandhi Puppet, with the help of some high school students.  We did this to support the Mill Valley Seniors for Peace and their demonstrations against the occupation of Iraq.  In 2004, the Seniors for Peace financed a six week road tour of the Gandhi Puppet to encourage people to vote.  I graduated from Dominican University in 2005 with a teaching credential.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, a visit to Iran was about to change my life forever.

I went to Iran in 2007 because it appeared that the U.S. government was about to start another war and I wasn’t willing to sit on the sidelines and watch.  I knew the American media was giving us false information, so I went there and filmed the Iranian people.  I discovered that they LOVE Americans.  Also, they haven’t attacked another country in over 200 years and 70% of the population is under 30 years old.  When I returned to the U.S., I spent 5 months in Washington DC trying to persuade Congress to pursue a path of diplomacy with Iran, rather than sanctions.

CodePink activist and daughter of one of the original Freedom Riders, Leslie Angeline, was my partner for two years.  We raised a ruckus together!  When Hillary Clinton made her infamous statement about “obliterating Iran”, Medea Benjamin, Leslie, and I decided to pay her a visit during one of her fundraisers.  I got within 15 feet of her, hopped up on a table, and unfurled a banner that read:”Obliterate Iran? Apologize!”  She didn’t apologize, but she did say, “I hope he didn’t step on the cookies”.  

There was also the time Senator Feinstein voted to confirm the nomination of Michael Mukasey as our next Attorney General, despite his declaration that “waterboarding is not torture”.  When her vote was read, I shouted out, “Shame on you Senator!  I’m from California …” and was dragged out of the room before I could finish my statement.  I was charged with disrupting Congress, given a trial, and found to be not guilty by a VERY sympathetic jury.

My second trip to Iran was in 2010 with Fellowship of Reconciliation (America’s largest, oldest, Interfaith Peace organization).  When I returned home I established Bridge of Hearts (www.BridgeofHearts.org), dedicated to creating friendships between young people around the world.  Gandhi was convinced that world peace is achievable and said, “If we are to have real peace, we must begin with the children.”

On January, 22, 2015, I was presented with the MLK Award for “Community Service” by the Marin Human Rights Commission at a dinner at The Embassy Suites in San Rafael.

Peace & Love,

Jes Richardson