DIANE THOMAS’S WORK FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE
“I join you in the most beautiful of struggles”
“You Led the Way” a poem by Carolyn Scarr
STATEMENT BY DAVID RAYMOND AT DIANE THOMAS’S MEMORIAL
CALL TO ACTION AND OFFERING – read by David Raymond and Odette Lockwood- Stuart, Good Friday Service and Action at Livermore Nuclear Weapons Lab, Friday, April 10, 2009
“To Know in Our Deepest Heart” - Diane Thomas’s Work for Peace and Justice in Her Own Words
A Tribute to Diane Thomas
In the Belly of the Beast: Five Years of the U.C. Nuclear Weapons Labs
Conversion Project, 1976-1980”
by Diane Thomas
Diane Thomas, activist for peace and justice
March 20,1950- December 1, 2008
DIANE THOMAS’S WORK FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE
In 1976, Diane Thomas co-founded the UC Nuclear Weapons Lab Conversion Project to oppose the nuclear weapons design work of the Livermore and Los Alamos labs, both managed by the University of California. These weapons labs have designed every single nuclear warhead in the U.S. arsenal. In the late 1970s Diane toured the state giving speeches with anti-war activist Daniel Ellsberg. She organized and took part in many
acts of nonviolent resistance to militarism and racial injustice, including fasting and serving time in jail for civil disobedience. Because of her prominence in the anti-nuclear weapons movement, Diane Thomas, along with Coretta Scott King and others, was one of the speakers at a massive rally held to bring pressure on the Second United Nations Special Session on Disarmament in New York City in June 1982. She addressed the crowd of more than one million people after having fasted for disarmament for 30 days.
From 1975 to 1993, Thomas served as executive director of the Ecumenical Peace Institute (EPI), the northern California chapter of Clergy and Laity Concerned (founded in 1968 by Martin Luther King, Jr. and other ministers.) EPI (www.epicalc.org) is an interfaith justice and peace action group focusing on militarism, racism, and empire and working with Native Americans, political prisoners, and youth. She then served as a director of development at several
organizations in Berkeley before she joined the staff of Pacific School of Religion in 2000, where she directed the annual fund and alumni relations, organized the annual Earl Lectures church conference, and co-chaired the seminary’s Dismantling Racism Committee.
“I join you in the most beautiful of struggles,” reads the headline of an article in which Diane tied together the ongoing threat of nuclear weapons, 40,000 people around the world dying of starvation each day, poverty in Alameda County (home of the University of California-managed Livermore nuclear weapons lab) and the function of nuclear weapons to defend privilege and
domination. She wrote, “The foundation of this country’s
power rests on the will of the people to cooperate. We must not cooperate. We need to become lean in spirit. Each of us must break up our own ground and the ground of our nation.”
You Led the Way
Always you led the way,
from the struggle against nuclear weapons
to the face of human need
both of them right here in Alameda County
bringing us to confront
“racism, militarism and materialism” where we live.
Always you led the way,
brought the witnessing church
to stand with Native Americans
defending their sacred land
where precious water carries slurries of coal
over miles of stark beauty.
Big Mountain, Big Mountain,
you led us there
to stand in a prayer circle
joining our voices from the four directions
in the cold and gathering sleet.
In the face of civil religion
and American exceptionalism,
you showed us the way
to a new Barmen Confession.
Still we strive to find Bonhoeffer’s path of resistance.
Always you led the way
to stand beside those most hated and despised–
to a week of fasting for political prisoners
in the United States
to teach us to “grieve our own complicity
in the suffering and death of millions in our time”*
to bring to our educational institutions
Native American, African American, Palestinian,
and Muslim thinkers and leaders.
In your living, you showed us how to keep the love for our children
central in our lives.
As you leave us, we will remember
that we joined you “in the most beautiful of struggles.”
Carolyn S. Scarr
October 22, 2008
* Diane Thomas in Planted by the Waters March 1984
other quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr.
STATEMENT BY DAVID RAYMOND AT DIANE
THOMAS’S MEMORIAL, JANUARY 17, 2009
I’m David Raymond. I am Diane Thomas’s life-partner. Diane and I knew each other
for 30 years, and we were together as partners for the last six years. I was with her
daily as she struggled with stomach cancer. Over the last year, we went through
moments of terrible news, and long periods of hope followed by renewed
disappointment. On the evening of Monday, December 1, Diane died in my arms at
our home in Berkeley. When it was clear that she was dying, I told her over and over
again, “I love you Diane. Your children love you. I will always love you.” And her
sister Linna, who also cared for her in the last month of her life, kept repeating one
of Diane’s favorite prayers, which ends, “Wherever you are, God is.” Wherever you
are now, wherever you are going, God is there.
For the first few minutes Diane cried, so we know that she heard us. Ten minutes
later she was dead. Diane did not fear death, but she felt enormous grief at leaving
this world behind, especially her children Hannah, Daniel, and Gabe, and her
grandchildren Sonia and Jacob, and her family and friends.
I am holding in my hands a photo taken October 18, of Diane holding her grandson
Jacob a few days after he was born, and one day after Diane had been told by her
oncologist that she had only weeks left to live. On that day she told her children the
terrible news. I know how hard that was for each of you. And Diane lived to see her
granddaughter Sonia as well. Her grandchildren and her children were wonderful
blessings in the last days of her life.
The last thing Diane told me directly, about an hour before she died, after I put a
blanket on her when she was cold, was, “Thank you Dave. I love you. You’re my
But you know, she was my hero. If you strip that word of its comic book and
masculine connotations, Diane was a hero to many people. She was probably the
kindest and most courageous person I have ever met.
Each one of the cards you have sent to me since Diane’s death has made me cry, and
I just want to quote one of the simpler ones, from her friend Daniel Berrigan.
Rest in peace Diane Thomas. Spirit undaunted. Heartfelt friend.
Diane was a hero to people like Daniel Berrigan and Daniel Ellsberg, who many
people in this country admire for their courageous actions for peace and justice. (By
the way, she seemed to have a lot of Daniel’s in her life; Dan Buford and her son
Daniel as well.)
Diane is with her mother and father now, and with others who died before her. She
firmly believed that on the other side, as she called it, there was healing work to do,
as she did in this world, and she is now busy doing that work. Some how her healing
love will continue to reach us on this side.
When she spoke to me about this, she was very moved when I quoted to her from the
2005 Hiroshima Peace Declaration,
“This August 6, the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing, is a moment of shared
lamentation in which more than 300 thousand souls of atomic bomb victims and those
who remain behind transcend the boundary between life and death to remember that
day. It is a time of awakening, in which we inherit the commitment of the survivors
to the abolition of nuclear weapons and the realization of genuine world peace. We
must act on the warning of the atomic bomb survivors, “No one else should ever
suffer as we did.”
Diane went to Hiroshima and Nagasaki; she listened to the anguish of the survivors.
And she acted.
In 1976, she co-founded the UC Nuclear Weapons Lab Conversion Project to oppose
the nuclear weapons design work of the Livermore and Los Alamos labs, both
managed by the University of California. These weapons labs have designed every
single nuclear warhead in the U.S. arsenal; they designed the bombs dropped on the
people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is through the Labs Project that she first met
Daniel Ellsberg, and this is also how I first met Diane 30 years ago. I later worked
for the Labs Project. On June 12, 1982, Diane spoke in New York City to a rally of
one million people demonstrating for peace, and against nuclear weapons. At the time
this was the largest demonstration in the history of the world. When she spoke, she
was in the thirtieth day of a fast for disarmament.
The idea that the souls of those who have died can reach across to those of us who
remain behind and transcend the boundary between life and death is something I am
writing about; it is the subject of my dissertation. I am writing about the Ghost
Dance, an American Indian religious movement of the late nineteenth century. 150
years ago, in this state, in Northern California, white settlers carried out the most
terrible massacres that have ever been committed in this country; they carried out
genocide. A number of indigenous peoples were exterminated, leaving only a
handful of survivors. The Ghost Dance prophecies promised these survivors that
their loved ones would return to them from the dead, and they would live together in
the old ways forever.
In 1864, the Yana people of Northern California were massacred. Of 2000 people
alive at the beginning of that year, only 50 were left alive after the massacres. (By the
way, the Pacific School of Religion was founded here in Berkeley in 1866.) In 1870
the Yana survivors took part in a Ghost Dance. In their vision, the people saw their
dead loved ones returning to them with the sunrise from the east, but the dead were
walking slowly because the children were leading them.
Are there mothers and fathers in Gaza and Israel today who want their dead children
to return to them? How many millions are mourning today in Iraq the million Iraqis
who have been killed in that war? And what of the mothers and fathers grieving in
Diane had two central commitments in her life: her family and friends, and her work
for peace and justice. That is why we ask you today to make a donation to the two
groups Diane co-founded and through which she wished her work to continue, the
Dismantling Racism Committee of PSR and the Iraq Initiatives Project.
Diane felt enormous love and gratitude for all of you; all of you who wrote to her, and
kept her in your thoughts and prayers over the last year; all who she loved as friends
over the years, and worked with as she sought peace and justice in this world.
The last thing Diane wrote was a message to all of you (it is in the program). She
“All of you are so amazing! Thank you for this warm and healing flow of your love.
I send you great love and deep thanks for all the joy and hard work we have shared.
God is very near and very good. Stay tuned!”
I want to close with a poem I wrote.
My dearest Diane.
I will love you always.
Six years ago we took the first step
Without foreseeing the last
But now we know
That the longest road,
And the hardest road,
Are the only routes
Into the heart of God.
CALL TO ACTION AND OFFERING – read by David Raymond and Odette
Lockwood- Stuart, Good Friday Service and Action at Livermore Nuclear Weapons Lab,
Friday, April 10, 2009
May the words of Reverend Nobu Hanaoka [survivor of the Nagasaki atomic
bombing who spoke just before us] remind us that real people have been, and
continue to be, killed by the nuclear weapons developed at the UC weapons labs.
Their loved ones grieve for them to this very day. In the offering today we invoke
the name and memory of Diane Thomas. I am her life-partner.
33 years ago, Diane Thomas co-founded the UC Nuclear Weapons Labs
Conversion Project to oppose the nuclear weapons design work of the Livermore
and Los Alamos labs. It is the Labs Project that began the continuous stream of
protest that continues to the action we take today. Diane organized and took part in
many acts of nonviolent resistance to militarism and racial injustice, including
fasting and serving time in jail for civil disobedience.
From 1976 to 1993 Diane served as a director of the Ecumenical Peace
Institute (EPI), the northern California chapter of Clergy and Laity Concerned. In
June 1982 she spoke in New York City to a rally of one million people
demonstrating for peace. She was then in the thirtieth day of a fast for
disarmament. Diane died in December of last year.
Almost thirty years ago, Diane wrote of traveling to Japan to meet with atomic bombsurvivors and to participate in an international conference for peace. She wrote,
“My time in Japan impressed many new realities on me spiritually, politically, and
culturally. I certainly came home with many new questions. I share them with you –
*How do we as Christians most deeply and most effectively respond to the challenge of
the Buddhists in this time, to adopt without qualification...“the precept of non-killing?”
*What is our most useful role in speaking to and challenging our government and the
governments of the world to find security without escalating weapons of destruction?
*How can we work to build a world which affirms the sacred nature and sovereignty of
each individual, each community, each culture?
*“Who shall play God in the launching of world ending missiles,
the continuing contamination of the creation God first looked on
and called good, very good?”
“When someone like Diane Thomas dies, it is like a wake-up call from heaven
saying, “What are you doing with your life?” Diane has gone on. Let her absence
and her presence, like the absence and the presence of so many sisters and brothers
who have gone on before be for us a CALL TO ACTION.
We believe the consistent witness of her 30 years of struggle for justice has an
infinite effect and value. In joining the struggle we join with her spirit and continue
to give hope and sustenance to all who act for justice.”
BELOVED FRIENDS, AS WE OFFER OUR MATERIAL RESOURCES, OUR
MONEY, LET’S DIG DEEPER, FOR A WILLINGNESS TO OFFER OUR LIVES AS
WELL. THIS MORNING’S OFFERING WILL SUPPORT THE MINISTRIES OF
ECUMENICAL PEACE INSTITUTE.
“To Know in Our Deepest Heart”—
Diane Thomas’s Work for Peace and Justice
in Her Own Words
“Diane Thomas was a shining person. She was loving and loveable, fully committed and
conscientious in her activism, and dedicated to helping make a better life for all people.
Those who knew her thought of her as one of the best human beings any of us had ever
encountered. She was one of my heroes.” – Daniel Ellsberg
Diane Thomas was an extraordinarily dedicated, and strategically gifted, activist
for peace and justice. She was a leader in the Bay Area for racial justice and against
nuclear weapons for over thirty years. For the last six years, Diane was my life-partner. She was one of the kindest and most courageous people I have ever met, a woman with a
gentle spirit and a beautiful smile. On December 1, 2008 Diane died at our home in
Berkeley after a year-long struggle with cancer. She was 58 years old.
Diane lived long enough to see Barack Obama elected, and to marvel at his
acceptance speech in Grant Park in Chicago. Forty years earlier, when she was eighteen
years old, Diane - along with thousands of others protesting the Vietnam War - was
beaten and tear-gassed by the Chicago police in Grant Park during the Democratic
National Convention. Diane became a full-time activist against the war, and continued
her activism for the rest of her life. In 1976, Diane Thomas co-founded the UC Nuclear
Weapons Lab Conversion Project to oppose the nuclear weapons design work of the
Livermore and Los Alamos labs. She organized and took part in many acts of nonviolent
resistance to militarism and racial injustice, including fasting and serving time in jail for
Because of her prominence in the anti-nuclear weapons movement, Diane (along
with Coretta Scott King and others) was one of the speakers at a massive rally held to
support the Second United Nations Special Session on Disarmament in New York City in
June 1982. She addressed the crowd of more than one million people after having fasted
for disarmament for 30 days. At that time this was the largest demonstration in the
history of the world.
From 1976 to 1993 Diane served as a director of the Ecumenical Peace Institute
(EPI), the northern California chapter of Clergy and Laity Concerned (founded in 1968
by Martin Luther King, Jr. and other ministers.) After working for several Berkeley
nonprofits, she joined the staff of Pacific School of Religion in 2000, where she
organized the annual Earl Lectures church conference, and co-chaired the seminary’s
Dismantling Racism Committee.
While Diane’s activism brought her both joy and heartache (at the state of the
world), her three children – Hannah, Daniel, and Gabe – were the real joy of her life. Diane’s grandchildren Sonia and Jacob were born in the weeks before she died, and
being able to see and hold them brought her great comfort.
Diane was a gifted writer. There is too little space here to give more than a small
window onto her life. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from articles that Diane
wrote for Planted by the Waters. If you would like to read additional excerpts from her
writing, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. For photos of Diane and more
information about her work for peace and justice, go to: www.peacehost.net/EPI-Calc/Diane/.
Diane felt enormous love and gratitude for all of you: all who she loved as friends
over the years, and worked with as she sought peace and justice in this world; and each of
you who wrote to her, and kept her in your thoughts and prayers over the last year. Thank you!
– David Raymond
“Watch Your Anguish”
“ I remember wondering as a young girl why Good Friday was called Good
Friday. It all seemed so gloomy and awful for the powers that be to have so thoroughly
put out the light of hope, for God to have seemingly forsaken Jesus. I wanted to go
immediately to the sunshine, warmth, and joy of Easter morning. Certainly as I got older
and saw the global crucifixion in places like Livermore Lab, it all seemed even gloomier
and more overwhelming. Yet now I am coming to understand Good Friday anew. What
is good about Good Friday is that Jesus was choosing to love and to give up power and to
take responsibility for the suffering and pain in his world. What Good Friday says to me
is I must take full responsibility to be and do my utmost for the love of creation. I must
work for justice and peace with my whole being, in every corner of my life.
During the births of each of my three children there has reached a point where I
couldn’t imagine going on and have said, “I can’t do this.” I cannot bear this. Jesus said,
“My God, my God, why indeed have you forsaken me?” Each of us must bear our
appropriate burden if the reign of love is to prevail, if justice is to be born. Older, wiser
women said to me of birth, “your body knows what to do, so just let it.” I would say to
each of us that our deepest selves know what to do if we will just listen, if we will take
the risk of letting go of distractions and drugs of all kinds and allow ourselves the grace
of being disturbed by the state of our world.
My three year old (Gabe) has in typical toddler fashion confused different things
he has heard so that he regularly tells a family member to “watch your anguish” (his
contraction of “language” and “English.”) It strikes me as a wonderful Good Friday
exhortation to “watch your anguish.” To know in our deepest heart that the hungry
sobbing of most of the world’s children is our very own child, and that the responsibility
to radically transform the world is our own.” – (“Watch Your Anguish” – 1993)
“When I think back to 1976 and the letter I wrote applying for a job at EPI, I’m
struck by how everything changes and nothing changes. In 1976 disarmament was a
laughable idea. Few people knew where Livermore was or what the Lab’s role was in
U.S. military policy. What I did know was that EPI was an organization founded in an
action blocking the army induction center in Oakland – an action where many religious
people got arrested. I was full of gratitude for being given a job working with all of you.
The years of working for EPI have created a strong sense of family for me. My own
children have been deeply affected by the values of the EPI family. When I was in jail in
1983, Hannah (then 5) told her friends her mommy was in jail because “jail is where you
go if you’re for peace.” More recently Daniel (now 8) spent a delightful time as “the
white boy” among a several Indian boys at the International Indian Treaty Council
“I wish you all could have been at our Hiroshima commemoration at Ohana
Center August 6th. In the face of the memory of the atomic blast, a fully multiracial and
interfaith gathering affirmed creation and beauty and love. I stood there full of gratitude
for Rev. Daniel Buford’s outstanding leadership and inspiration, for the board’s diversity
and commitment, for the serious and profound way we join together for change. Like a
mighty river, EPI goes on and on. I am thankful to each one of you who has given us
your prayers, your work, and your financial support over all these years.” – (“Program
Director’s Report” – 1980)
“A New Spirit Rising”
Diane was deeply committed to the struggle for racial justice in this country, and
she considered racism to be “the original sin” of the United States. Along with Diane,
Reverend Daniel Buford, former executive director of EPI and Diane’s friend and
colleague for many years, was enormously important in EPI/CALC’s work for racial
justice, both locally and nationally. In 1992, Diane initiated EPI’s support for American
Indians protesting the 500-year anniversary of the European invasion of the Americas,
and celebrating five centuries of indigenous resistance. For many years, Diane organized
and led delegations to support the Diné (Navajo) people at Big Mountain in Arizona, who
were resisting being thrown off their sacred lands by the U.S. government.
“EPI/CALC staff and board continue to be humbled by our need to see more clearly the
face of God in the lives of the poor and oppressed in our own communities. At the same
time we are encouraged by the vision of a new multiracial, multicultural community and
movement being born in pain and struggle.” (“National CALC Assembly: New Steps in
Countering Racism” – 1983)
“This morning as I listened to the many messages on the phone machine it occurred to
me that the urgent needs that come to us through the telephone are a measure of how
many connections are being made for justice and peace in our communities. Memorial
services come up a lot these days. Requests for a sermon at a memorial service for the
two homeless people who burned to death in Oakland last week, “Could you come and
say something so we know they didn’t die in vain?” Our memorial service for Timothy
Lee, whose death authorities still refuse to see as the racist message read so clearly in the
black community in Contra Costa County. [Timothy Lee was a young African American
man who was found hanging from a tree, with no suicide note and clear indications of a
racist murder.] I remember Bill Wahpepah saying just weeks before he died, as he spoke
at a conference in San Francisco where he was asked to share his experience of being an
Indian, “The funerals, I think of all the funerals our people have had to endure.” (1988)
“Because April 4th is the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
because Governor Meacham has refused to honor him with the rest of the nation, and
because the sovereign Hopi and Diné peoples are defending their religious freedom
within the borders called Arizona – we invite all people of prayer to join us at Black
Mesa [Arizona] to pray. Black Mesa, just north of Big Mountain, is sacred to Hopi, Diné
and others, and Peabody Coal, a prime example of the greed that is killing us, is attacking
Black Mesa through strip mining. Our presence there on April 4th will invoke the spirit of
Dr. King and all the cloud of witnesses to justice and love. – (“A New Spirit Rising” –
“In a season long understood to birth hope and light, it made sense to travel to the
homelands of some of the world’s most inspired traditional people. The people we met in
our week’s time around the Hopi and Navajo reservations carry in their lives and hearts
the crushing weight of our society’s imbalance. Yet, just to be in their presence brings
clarity. Our delegation, the first of several planned for this spring, consisted of nine
people. On Christmas Eve, we gathered in the Roundhouse for music, conversation, and
prayer. The prayers around the beating of the drum broke through religious and cultural
barriers. As delegation member Reverend Marti Reed said later, “I was able to see Christ
as an indigenous person, facing the powers that be, unafraid of death.” I will never get
over the wonder that the Diné people are willing to pray with us in spite of our country’s
violations of their religious life and our military robbery of their Holy land. We were
moved more than we expected to be and felt clear about a calling to support these people
in their struggle. We had glimpsed briefly how truly all of our prayers together do hold
this land in balance.” – (“Christmas at Big Mountain” - Clergy and Laity Concerned
Report, March-April 1986)
“We also worked to create a circle on October 12th  at the Columbus statue [in San
Francisco.] About 150 people gathered on top of Telegraph Hill. Although some of us
came prepared to pour our blood on the bronze Columbus in witness to 500 years of
genocide, we were asked not to by Native American pipe carrier Fred Short. He told us
there were no healing ceremonies in their tradition which involved blood and asked us to
begin the next 500 years in a healing way. After some discussion with him, we agreed.
We see this also as beginning the next 500 years of taking some direction from native
peoples. We know each of us comes from an ancestry tied to some part of land on the
planet. Each of us knows that the massive destruction of indigenous peoples in our
history can no longer be denied. And each of us knows the profound difference between
balance and imbalance in our own lives. [Let us act] with a spirit of justice and balance
creating space for the diversity we celebrate.” – (“May the Circle Be Unbroken”- 1992)
“God is very near and very good. Stay tuned!”
Diane looked to the future with hope, with certainty that no matter how many
years, or lifetimes, it takes, we will eventually bring into being a world of peace and
justice. Thus she helped start the UC Nuclear Weapons Labs Conversion Project, and at
the Pacific School of Religion she co-founded the Dismantling Racism Committee.
Despite the fact that the weapons labs have not yet been converted to peaceful purpose,
and racism continues today with deadly force, she knew that someday these goals would
be achieved. And during her final illness, Diane was sustained by the love of her family
“For thousands of years humanity has sought liberation. Like
ourselves, [all people] desire peace and an experience of
community which satisfies. Across centuries, we and they weave
the thread of a vision of clarity and love shaping all that is truest
in us into a land where life is lived overflowingly. The smallest,
strongest voice whispers down eternity: it has been put in our
hands to change our lives.” (“Seeking”-Non-Nuclear
Interreligious Coalition, 1977)
“Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr., I too have a dream. I see those of us who were
active in the civil rights and anti-war movements returning in our middle age to the depth
and clarity we briefly glimpsed as we grew up. The power we felt then as we opposed
and ended the Vietnam War will be something we foster. Maybe we can still change the
world. Maybe we can dig deep enough into ourselves to tap a need for justice, a need to
live it fully ourselves and a need to insist on it from our government. Maybe our legacy
can be an America that seeks a stable and just world rather than dominance. Maybe.” –
(“Reclaiming the Dream” – 2000
Diane found inspiration in the lives of activists like Cesar Chavez. When he died in 1993,
she wrote a heartfelt memorial to him. We can rewrite her tribute to also speak of Diane’s
“When someone like Diane Thomas dies, it is like a wake-up call from heaven saying,
“What are you doing with your life?” Diane has gone on. If we were to judge her life by
success as the world measures success, it would force us to admit that she failed. But we
believe the consistent witness of her 30 years of struggle for justice has an infinite effect
and value. Her life is a victory of enormous proportion. In joining the struggle we join
with her spirit and continue to give hope and sustenance to all who act for justice.” (“Don’t Mourn – Organize” 1993)
Just a few weeks before she died, Diane wrote a last message to everyone who supported
her through her illness. “All of you are so amazing! Thank you for this warm and healing
flow of your love. I send you great love and deep thanks for all the joy and hard work we
have shared. God is very near and very good. Stay tuned!”
A Tribute to Diane Thomas
By Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan, Associate Professor of Old
Testament, December 12, 2008, Pacific School of
“White liberal racism, to me, is the trap
between awareness and action. Liberals know there’s
a problem — they may even know a lot,
intellectually, about racism, but they don’t necessarily
risk anything or take effective action. White people
are used to being liked and being comfortable, and
it’s hard for us to acknowledge acts of racism in other
white people, or sometimes in ourselves. The
question is: How much discomfort and unhappiness
can we take on?” (http://www.psr.edu/dismantling-racism)
These are profound words from my dear
friend and colleague, Diane Thomas. Diane came to
PSR in 2000 with a long history of taking risks in
addressing injustices. She was never afraid of the
“discomfort” and “unhappiness” and took on the
work of addressing racism head-on almost
immediately. She was the one who invited me to
serve as co-chair with her on what was to become the
Dismantling Racism Committee. She knew that the
work of addressing and dismantling racism is not the
sole responsibility of racial-ethnic minorities, but
perhaps even more so, the responsibility of Euro-Americans. She helped put in place significant
programs for the community to confront the evils of
racism. No one at PSR deserves more credit in
moving us to where we are in the work of dismantling
racism and building cross-cultural competency.
Diane got it! She understood that, “In the end,
this is a theological issue, and it’s going to take
theological leadership, which is what makes the issue
so important to this school. Remember, Jesus’
injunction was to speak the truth and to love.
“Dismantling racism” is speaking truth by naming the
[racist social] structures, calling people out on their
attitudes, and creating the structures where this can
happen. “Love” comes in building cross-cultural
competence — learning to listen, to understand, and
to take seriously the differences all around us.”
Diane, you are a rare gem from God and we
are grateful to your family for sharing you with us.
PSR is a better community because of you. The world
is a better place because of you. We will continue to
miss you dearly.
“In the Belly of the Beast:
Five Years of the U.C. Nuclear Weapons Labs
Conversion Project, 1976-1980”
by Diane Thomas
These are excerpts from Diane’s analysis of five years of work (1976-1980) by the UC
Nuclear Weapons Labs Conversion Project (which Diane, as a staff member of the
Ecumenical Peace Institute, co-founded). The Labs Project sought, unsuccessfully, to end
the nuclear weapons design work of the University of California-managed Livermore and
Los Alamos Laboratories, and to convert them to peaceful purposes. This is apparently
an unpublished manuscript.
Livermore Lab developed the hydrogen bomb. The thousands of hydrogen bombs still in
the U.S. arsenal are capable of killing every human being on earth (as are the similar
number of nuclear weapons still in the arsenal of Russia.) In every case, the UC-managed weapons labs first researched and developed these devastating weapons (the
atomic bomb, hydrogen bomb, neutron bomb) and then they were copied by other
“In the heat of the summer of 1977 we released information at a well-covered press
conference on the role of U.C. and the nuclear weapons labs in developing and lobbying
for the use of the neutron bomb. The community was outraged, and we focused our
outrage during the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where
hundreds of people marched from the U.C. Berkeley campus to the Energy Research and
Development Administration [the U.S. government agency which oversees nuclear
weapons production] headquarters in Oakland to protest any further development of these
weapons. Throughout the spring and summer of 1977 we repeatedly asked U.C. to simply
debate its position on development of nuclear weapons and had been ignored and refused.
Finally, in November, two Labs Project members [Diane Thomas and UCB Physics
professor Charlie Schwartz] went up to U.C. President Saxon’s office to “wait-in” until
he agreed to appoint someone to debate. After thirty six-hours of waiting, six people were
arrested. That month we held teach-ins throughout the state [Diane and Daniel Ellsberg
were the most prominent speakers], with thousands of students, faculty and community
people hearing about nuclear weapons, nuclear power, and the University’s involvement
in the labs. Local projects were inspired in several communities and hundreds more
people made a commitment to work on the issues. Early in 1978 the trial of six Labs
Project members was held [for sitting in at the U.C. President’s office] and after a week
of testimony and two hours of deliberation, the jury found all six of us not guilty. Had we
been found guilty, we could have gotten six months in jail, plus fines. Several of the
jurors congratulated the defendants and thanked us for what we did.”
“What, then, are the lessons of this five-year struggle? They are no doubt different for
each person, so I will tell you mine. I learned that our vision must keep pace with our
analysis. We must celebrate as clearly as we resist. I learned that the way in which we
define the problem affects the shape of our work, and blinds us, more than we could ever
guess. I learned that white, comfortable Americans cannot save the world and that we
must learn from others what the struggle encompasses. We must do our work in
multiracial settings. I learned that even the most powerful-appearing edifices, if they are
founded on oppression and violence, cannot stand the light of public scrutiny and truth.
Even the highly elite, well-funded and entrenched nuclear weapons complex can be taken
apart, bit by bit. I learned not to trust the experts to care about honesty and people more
than they care about the status quo. And I learned the status quo involves secrecy which
permeates, abuses of power which abound, and the distortion of priorities which affects
all aspects of what it means to have security.
Trying to describe the years of intense work around Lawrence Livermore National
Laboratory is like trying to describe the labor and birth of my children. There is far more
there than could ever be said or even consciously remembered. It is highly personal and
yet somehow universal. And the fruit of the work, the reason for it, is never lost.
Although as the arms race grinds on and the poverty and oppression it requires destroys
more and more precious and unrepeatable human lives, it is hard indeed to feel that we
have made a difference. It is hard not to be bitter and cynical as the mean-spirited more
and more seem to have their day. But our original statement of purpose claimed, “We are
part of a growing worldwide network of people who oppose nuclear weapons and nuclear
power…” That network grows not only in numbers, but in definition of what we oppose.
We know that nuclear technology is the apex of the system of injustice and violence that
appears to rule the world. We know that we participate and benefit from that system and
that we must daily commit ourselves to nonparticipation in it. And daily, we pledge
ourselves to work with the growing network of alive and committed people throughout
the world who see beyond the violent limits of our current nation states and into a future
we are shaping as clearly as a laboring mother sees beyond the pain of the moment and
into the eyes of her child, struggling to be born.
Not one nuclear weapons has been stopped or dismantled as a result of our work. But 507
women [arrested at Livermore for blockading the gates of the Lab] understood why it
mattered to say no to Livermore – and they are part of more and more saying no. The
feminine spirit brooding on the earth – in men and in women – is bringing us all to peace.
It is ours to cooperate with that spirit in us and around us and see to it that we never stop
being born anew.
One of my painful new births came when I spent a week in Santa Rita [Alameda County
Jail] general population by myself after the major action [the blockade of Livermore Lab
in June 1982 in which over 1000 people were arrested.] I was sobered to realize as time
dragged on that my hope was deficient – the hope which sustained me day by day didn’t
go deep enough to prevail in the face of the despair, loneliness and hopelessness that is
run of the mill at Santa Rita. These women are the necessary products of the distorted
priorities I have learned to speak of so glibly. These women live out the underbelly of the
secret elite choices made by the professionals at Lawrence Livermore Lab. The web
which holds us all together binds us to one another’s lack of love. So, I could feel and
touch and understand my privilege – my ability to choose to think about oppression, and
not be ground to the floor by it. This was the final stage of the blockade for me – seeing
again where I live and how my days go in the harsh light of Santa Rita. Our births into
these new awarenesses require that we deepen our hope and our faith in the spirit of life.
Otherwise we are stillborn.”
Diane Thomas, activist for peace and justice
March 20,1950- December 1, 2008
Diane Thomas, director of advancement at Pacific School of Religion, died in her
Berkeley home on December 1, following a battle with cancer. A lifelong
advocate for peace and justice, Thomas was born in Seattle, Washington in 1950
and educated at Whitworth College (BA, 1972) and Fort Wright College of the
Holy Names (MA, 1974).
In 1976, Thomas co-founded the UC Nuclear Weapons Lab Conversion Project
and toured the state giving speeches with anti-war activist Daniel Ellsberg.
Because of her prominence in the anti-nuclear weapons movement, Thomas,
along with Coretta Scott King and others, was one of the speakers at a massive
rally held to bring pressure on the Second United Nations Special Session on
Disarmament in New York City in June 1982. She addressed the crowd of more
than one million people after having fasted for disarmament for 30 days
“Diane was a shining person,” recalled Ellsberg. “She was loving and loveable,
fully committed and conscientious in her activism, and dedicated to helping make
a better life for all people. Those who knew her thought of her as one of the best
human beings any of us had ever encountered. She was one of my heroes.”
From 1975 to 1993, Thomas served as executive director of the Ecumenical
Peace Institute (EPI), the northern California chapter of Clergy and Laity
Concerned (founded in 1968 by Martin Luther King, Jr. and other ministers.) EPI
is an interfaith justice and peace action group focusing on militarism, racism, and
empire and working with Native Americans, political prisoners, and youth. She
then served as a director of development at several organizations in Berkeley
before she joined the staff of Pacific School of Religion in 2000, where she
directed the annual fund and alumni relations.
“With her personal faith, her passion for peace and justice, and her capacity for
deep relationships, Diane helped us realize how important these things are for all
of us at Pacific School of Religion,” said the seminary’s president, William
McKinney. “Diane Thomas was very much a true reflection of this institution.”
Diane Thomas is survived by her partner, David Raymond; her children, Hannah,
Daniel, and Gabriel; two grandchildren; and her sister, Linna Thomas.
Diane Thomas, ¡Presente! You live on in our hearts, and in the struggle for peace and justice.