Thursday, October 25, 2007

Liberation Ecology Project

The Liberation Ecology Project has a new website, Rafter T. Sass outlined liberation ecology in his inspiring presentation at Green Fest. The website describes the Radical Urban Sustainability Training Rafter attended in Albany in September. The event was produced by Scott Kellog and Stacey Pettigrew, co-founders of the Austin, TX Rhizome Collective. Topics included alternative energy - solar, wind, methane harvesting - compost and compost tea, natural plasters and paints, bioremediation of polluted soils, catching and using rainwater, small-scale mushroom production, and the NYC community gardens movement More Gardens! Photo by Rafter T. Sass.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Susan Blake's life a song for peace and justice and love!

Learning from Susan Blake in Interview
by Maxwell Corydon Wheat, Jr.
People's Poet Laureate of Nassau County,

Poem based on an interview with Susan Blake in June 2007. Poem completed the morning of her burial, Oct. 8, 2007, and read there by the poet.

Third Grade, Lutheran school's
only African American child is enrolled.
Betty Blake, Susan's mother, hears on the phone,
"We want your daughter to make her comfortable."
Susan shepherds Debbie for first days at school.

Truly, Betty Blake's daughter.
"Got a lot of my social conscience from my mother."
Betty fixed on Nixon hearings. "We shared these."

"What is Sunday school telling us?
Wicked to tell kids to be afraid of doing wrong thing
And telling us we will be found out.
At five I rejected concept of sin."

At eight leaves the church.
"I am interested in all cultures."

"Jesus, great revolutionary.
Luther had guts to nail those theses on door."

High school,
coordinator for activism,
"not just politics,
but to allow learning in the community,
get credit for music,
apply knowledge to real life.

"Almost leading the teachers.
They knew we were the smart kids. . .
We were breaking cultural barriers down.
Mother 'hanging with us.' "

University of Rochester (1971-75).
"Knew exactly what I wanted."
Designs her major:
Performing Arts in Education and Social Change.
"Lots of spontaneous theatre actions that had a message."

First year lived in dormitory.
Down the hall Black students.
"They played music loud."
Comes 'round petition "telling them to be quiet.
I wouldn't sign. Let them get it out. . . their rage.
Clear moment for me."

My proudest moment!
Psychology 101.
Professor shows film explaining electric shock treatment.
I stood up. . .
"How can you show this?"

Back on Long Island.
Drama and music for Rotary summer camp.
Recreation therapist, Brunswick Hospital, 1975-77.
"Got people not just playing banjo and games.
Challenged them, demanded more.
Fired for too good a job."

Shoreham -- Organizes first anti-nuclear demonstration
Beginning full-effort activism--everything else second.

"Made mistakes with relationships," she says at 54.
"I regret not having focused on finding a partner
To have a child with.

I was trying desperately to keep PeaceSmiths going."

PeaceSmiths, founded 1978.
Office, 90 Pennsylvania Avenue, Bellmore,
Home of near 100-year old activist Catherine Smith.
"Catherine loved what I was doing."

Coffee house idea
sprung from South Shore visit of Pete Seeger's "Clearwater."
Monthly in Catherine Smith's living room,
Hearth, old comfortable chairs . . .
1985 in Margie's basement, then George Ciproni's home.
Thirteen locations
Finally, First United Methodist Church, Amityville,
"Topical A-Typical Folk Music, Poetry and Whatever Coffee-house"

"Definitely a Pacifist!" she said of herself.
1978 started using term.
"You have to be what you are.
not push against other people,
Don't use words like 'anti-imperialist.'
But do not let them repress your energy."

Stage 4 breast cancer:
"I'm supposedly in terminal stage. . .
tumor has eaten away my breast.
I've done my own breast mastectomy..
Now trick is to downgrade it to stage 3. . .
or maybe live healthfully with it. . .
Nothing is really terminal. . . . . .
I'm still able to be a full person.

I want PeaceSmiths to be a stable organization.
I fear I will not live long enough."

A singer. . .
Susan Blake's life a song for peace and justice and love!

Maxwell Corydon Wheat, Jr. (c) 2007

Susan Blake (June 18, 1953-Oct. 2, 2007)

Susan Blake in our lives, 2005-07
by Leonard & Helene (Williams) Lehrman


Susan Blake first phoned us Mar. 28, 2005, following a Janet Coleman interview on WBAI with Leonard Lehrman. She asked if she could bring flyers for New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty to our Blitzstein/Bernstein concert, including excerpts from SACCO AND VANZETTI, at the Long Beach Library Apr. 3. After clearing it with the library, we said: "Sure." She later went out to dinner with us, Long Beach composer Jay Gach and his wife Ellen (with whom Susan had gone to college) and WBAI producer Bill Propp (who turned out to be a relative of a relative of Leonard's).

That month, Susan joined the Oceanside Chorale, which Leonard conducted, 2003-05, and soloed along with Dorothy Martin in the "Ohio" duet from WONDERFUL TOWN in their June 4 concert of Bernstein & Blitzstein. The video, shot by Helene, is a precious souvenir. On Aug. 11, Susan co-starred with Helene & Leonard in excerpts from THE BOOBY TRAP or OFF OUR CHESTS, Leonard's & Sydney Ross Singer's musical revue on the link between bras and breast cancer, at the Northeast Naturist Festival in Moravia, NY.
On Aug. 28 she co-produced, with Brian O'Haire, "The Bush Vacation Ruination Celebration: Long Island Support for Cindy Sheehan Benefit Concert" at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington. Helene premiered Leonard's "Threescore Years Ago," written for the occasion.
On Nov. 1 she attended a performance of two short works of Leonard's presented by Vox Novus at Collective Unconscious in Manhattan, where she met John & Estela Eaton, whom she invited to read at PeaceSmiths. She would attend numerous performances with Leonard in the future, including those of New Music New York, Composers Concordance, and John Eaton's opera at Symphony Space. With Leonard, Helene, and other friends, she also attended Shakespeare in the Park productions of TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA (where she handed out anti-war leaflets) and MOTHER COURAGE (for which she & Leonard braved torrential rains, waiting on line for hours for tickets).
On Nov. 2 she attended Leonard's Blitzstein Piano Recital at the Bryant Library, where she was photographed among members of his family. Later that month she became a regular at family Thanksgiving dinners, and Seders in the spring.


In Jan. 2006 Susan joined the Metropolitan Philharmonic Chorus

and performed with them, under Leonard's direction, with Helene as soloist, in a program honoring Mozart, Dr. King, Lincoln, Hale Smith, and Elie Siegmeister: Jan. 15 at Long Beach Public Library,

and again on Feb. 26 (postponed from Feb. 12 due to the snowstorm that day) at Great Neck House. There is a fine recording by Jeffrey Latocke of the latter, which includes photos from the former. In between those two concerts, on Feb. 17, Susan hosted a book party at PeaceSmiths for Leonard's "Marc Blitzstein: A Bio-Bibliography" --Leonard & Helene performed their "Blitzstein Cabaret" (videotaped by Bob Goldberg).
On May 19, Susan co-produced and co-starred with Leonard, Helene & Cary Bair in THE BOOBY TRAP at PeaceSmiths, as part of "Prevention Is the Cure" Week. The night before she also participated in an on-the-air discussion with Leonard, Helene & Bill Propp over WBAI. The production was telecast on Woodbury area cable TV Oct. 12 & 19.
On June 19, Susan participated in and spoke at the annual meeting (at the Brecht Forum) of the National Committee to Re-open the Rosenberg Case, of which Leonard & Richard Corey became Co-Directors.

On Oct. 22, she came all the way from Amityville--on public transportation--to Canarsie to hear Leonard's & Helene's Yiddish program at Temple Emanuel.
And on Nov. 12, she produced a birthday program (complete with cake) honoring the birthday of composer Joel Mandelbaum, whose "The Causes Are Waiting for You" she performed as an encore. The program was telecast the following Jan. 18 & 25.


Jan. 21 she attended "Songs of Love & War" presented by Leonard & Helene, together with tenor Gregory Mercer, at the Jericho Library, and videotaped by Bob Goldberg. Then she ran the slide projector and portrayed the interpreter in the Russian scene of Leonard's & Karen Ruoff Kramer's E.G.: A Musical Portrait of Emma Goldman, starring Helene, Mar. 9 at the Puffin Room in Manhattan, Mar. 11 at Great Neck House,

Mar. 16 at PeaceSmiths (videotaped by Bob Goldberg, telecast June 1 & 8), Mar. 25 at Long Beach Library (videotaped by Bob Goldberg), Apr. 29 at Puffin Cultural Forum in Teaneck, and May 1 at The Living Theatre in Manhattan (the best of the performances--videotaped by Bill Castleman). May 6 she reprised "The Causes Are Waiting for You" at a Queens College program honoring the centenary of the late Jewish Currents Editor Morris U. Schappes.

She also participated in a similar program at NYU May 10. (Both were videotaped by Carol Jochnowitz.)

June 13, again at NYU's Tamiment Library, she again participated in the annual meeting of the National Committee to Re-open the Rosenberg Case.

Meanwhile, THE BOOBY TRAP continued to grow, to its present size of 17 numbers. Photographed in rehearsal Apr. 14 at Cindy & Michael Rosenbaum's house in Goldens Bridge (where she died Oct 2),

Susan co-produced and performed in the work four more times:
May 19, again as part of "Prevention Is the Cure" Week at Islip United Methodist Church (videotaped by Bob Goldberg; audio excerpts broadcast on WBAI Oct. 5 after midnight); Aug. 10, again as part of the Eastern Naturist Festival in Moravia, NY, along with excerpts from the musical BAJOUR (in which she was hysterically funny) and Samuel Barber's "Sure on this shining night"--she also gave two workshops on alternative cancer treatments and support groups Aug. 11; Aug. 12, as part of NY Green Fest on the Ithaca Commons; and Aug. 25 at the Custer Institute in Southold. (The July 5 photo is from a rehearsal there.)

All these performances were videotaped. The Moravia one, videotaped by Stephen Van Eck, came out especially well. But the Ithaca one, shot by Craig Seeman, is also very valuable, as it includes Susan's best performance ever of Joel Mandelbaum's "Causes," as well as an eloquent speech she gave on the difficulties of getting the medical establishment to accept alternative treatments. Photographs taken at the beach on Fire Island included July 1 publicity shots for NY Green Fest,

and the July 21 celebration of Cary Bair's birthday. (The previous Aug. 20, Susan had organized a similar birthday suit party & cake on the beach for Leonard's birthday.)

The day after the Southold performance, Helene & Susan toured the North Fork: Helene took our final photos of Susan, by the water.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Best Wishes to Kelly Dietz and Michael Burns on the Occasion of their Wedding

Best wishes for a long and happy life together to Kelly Dietz and Michael Burns. Kelly and Mike, our hosts for Green Fest 2007, were married this past Saturday, Oct. 6, 2007, in their beautiful woods at Cayuta Sun.

Pledge NOW to Support Ithaca Community Radio

Ithaca Community Radio needs your PLEDGES OF FUTURE FUNDING now to help support their application for an FCC license. For the first time since Ithaca Community Radio was formed, the Federal Communications Commission is accepting applications for new non-commercial FM radio licenses. The window to apply is Oct 12-19 . The FCC has a list of qualifications that applicants must meet. One of these is financial - the FCC requires that the applicant already have on hand, or have commitments of funds, to cover purchasing and setting up the station facilities and operating it for 3 months. Even though an applicant has three years to build a station from the time the FCC approves the application, which is plenty of time of raise money based on a reality, the FCC requires that the funds be in hand at the time of the application.

ICR is trying to raise 250K in pledges before October 19. These pledges can be: (1) A pledge to make an outright donation of any amount (the more the better) in the eventuality we are awarded a license; OR (2) A pledge to loan ICR some amount for the purpose of building the station. This can include the use of a credit card or equity line; OR (3) A pledge by your organization to hold a fundraiser that will raise xxx dollars; OR (4) The donation of an item worth xxx to be auctioned; OR (5) The donation of necessary pieces of broadcast/audio equipment, new or used. Make pledges by filling out the pledge form at Click on the "make a pledge" button and fill out your details.

The Booby Trap or Off Our Chests

A correction sent by Leonard Lehrman to Newsday:

"Carl MacGowan's beautiful write-up in the Oct. 5, 2007 Newsday on the late Susan Blake, whom many called The Social Conscience of Long Island, is not quite accurate in saying that the show in which she performed, THE BOOBY TRAP or OFF OUR CHESTS--a musical revue on the link between bras and breast cancer, by myself & Sydney Ross Singer, a founder of the Institute for the Study of Culturogenic Disease, "poked fun at breast cancer." The piece ironically and even sometimes wryly and amusingly points out the hypocrisies of the culture in which breast cancer flourishes and millions are made and spent by "chemical, cosmetic and drug corporations," with little or no funding available for environmental and nutritional education. That's why the piece was performed, with Susan, as part of "Prevention Is the Cure" Week May 19, 2006 at PeaceSmiths in Amityville, and May 19, 2007 at Islip Methodist Church, and will be performed again in Susan's memory May 18, 2008 at Great Neck House."

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Susan Blake, 54, Amityville singer, activist

New York Newsday, October 5, 2007
by Carl McGowan

Susan Blake, a singer and activist considered by some the heart and soul of the Long Island peace and justice community, died Tuesday after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 54.

Blake, of Amityville, died at a friend's house in the Westchester County town of Goldens Bridge, said her sister, Nancy Jane Blake, of Peekskill.

For more than 30 years, Blake fought the Shoreham nuclear power plant and protested wars from Vietnam to Iraq through the Amityville activist group PeaceSmiths. Blake organized coffeehouse concerts and discussion forums on topics such as environmental issues and affordable housing.

"Susan has been one of those people who have steadfastly kept the focus on peace and justice issues on Long Island," said Catherine Green, of Sayville, a friend of Blake's since both demonstrated against the opening of Shoreham in the 1970s and 1980s.

"She was persistent and even dogged in trying to move forward a truly compassionate and just approach to things. She was inspiring, she was funny, she could be irascible....It's such a loss for the community."

Blake worked with other activist groups to organize peace vigils and demonstrations outside of congressional offices on Long Island and in New York City, said Dennis Urlaub, of Patchogue, co-chairman of the South Country Peace Group in Bellport.

Her protests often were set to music as she sang at rallies.

"She was the kind of person who swept you along with her enthusiasm, very into music and theater and dance and always planning some kind of an event that combined all of these things into one," said Cindy Rosenbaum, of Goldens Bridge, who befriended Blake when they attended the University of Rochester. "For her, everything was connected: the politics, the art. Everything was an opportunity to further her ideals."

Blake even protested her illness, singing in a show that poked fun at breast cancer. She rejected chemotherapy and radiation, opting instead for holistic medicine treatments.

"Susan, more than anyone I have ever known, tried to live her life consistently with her values," said Green, spokeswoman for Islip Supervisor Phil Nolan.

Blake learned activism while growing up in Wantagh. Legend has it that Blake and her mother, Betty Jane Blake, who died in 2005, chained themselves to a tree to block development of a housing project.

"I can't attest to that, but it sounds very likely," Nancy Blake said. "We were brought up to be citizens of the world and taught that you need to take some responsibility for taking care of this world."

Funeral arrangements and plans for a memorial service were incomplete yesterday.

Copyright © 2007, Newsday Inc.

Poem for Susan Blake

PeaceSmiths House

Winter evening
mugs of hot cider
guitar music glowing

"Puff the Magic Dragon lives by the sea. . ."

Hearth flames flickering
near sofa
where girl makes a cave under arm
of boy with red hair

"If I had a hammer. . ."

Young woman on frayed brown chair
cushions her man's head
on long lavender dress

Black cherry log crackles

The professor, streaming fingers
through his wife's graying black hair
looks up

"For all we know this may be only a dream. . ."

Maxwell Corydon Wheat, Jr. (c)2007

Susan June Blake, 1953-2007

b. 6/18/53, d. 10/2/07, beloved sister of Nancy Jane, daughter of the late Betty Jane and William A. Blake, "the Social Conscience of Long Island." Coordinator, PeaceSmiths, Inc. Indefatigable fighter against war, capital punishment, nuclear power; advocate for peace & social justice, environmental health & historic preservation. Tireless coffeehouse & forum organizer; presenter of countless poets, folk & concert musicians; singer/actor, oboist, naturelover. Crafter of the written and spoken word, teacher of the interconnectedness of all things. Burial: Friends, Westbury. Public celebration of Susan's life TBA. PeaceSmiths will continue with your contributions: POB 134 Massapequa NY 11758.

Friday, October 5, 2007

We Miss You, Susan

A tribute to Susan Blake by Leonard Lehrman

We miss you, Susan.
We miss your calling and saying "How did you know it was me?"
Who else would call us at 11:30, 12:30, 1:30 in the morning even!?
Occasionally we'd be asleep, but usually we weren't,
and were always happy to hear from you.
Of course you almost always had something for us to do.
But that's ok. If no one else could do it, you knew you could ask us.
You were our conscience, the Social Conscience of Long Island,
and we treasured knowing and working with you.
In the two and a half years we've known you,
since you phoned us in response to Janet Coleman's WBAI interview with me,
you became a member of our family,
at least as close to me as my own brother and sister.
Could it have been mere coincidence
your having been born on my parents' anniversary?
and my having been born on your parents' anniversary?
After Karen, my first wife, died on Christmas 2005,
it was you who helped me pack and sort the clothes she left.
You were just her size, and age - 9 days older to be exact.
Those you chose looked good on you.
The closeness we had never extended beyond hugs and occasional
meaningful hand-holding.
But who else was eager, and welcome, to attend a concert or come
skinnydipping with me? -
the joy you took in those renewing, cleansing ocean baths!
And how many wonderful things you, my dear wife Helene, and I did together -
birthdays at the beach in our birthday suits
A Blitzstein Cabaret
E.G.: A Musical Portrait of Emma Goldman
the Berrymans
Shakespeare & Mother Courage in the Park (waiting for hours for
tickets in the torrential rains)
the Puffins in Manhattan and Teaneck
the Living Theatre
tributes to Mozart, Dr. King, Elie Siegmeister, Joel Mandelbaum,
Morris Schappes, the Rosenbergs,
BAJOUR, Barber, Naturism, Cindy Sheehan, The Green Party...
and perhaps above all: Conscience.

Conscience is not a leaf in the wind to be shaken at a gust
but a deep root holding fast because it must.

That was you, Susan.

We miss you, Susan.
But we know what you'd say:
Don't mourn, organize.
And don't just organize, be peacesmiths - get involved.
Think before you do, but then do it.
No one can do everything.
But everyone can do something.
There's always so much to be done - and always will be -
for each other, for others, and for ourselves -
but not just for ourselves.

If we are not for ourselves, who will be for us?
If we are only for ourselves, what are we?
And if not now, then when?

Sometimes some issues have to be prioritized over others.
But that doesn't mean they are to be forgotten.
And you Susan, as long as there are people
with souls on fire to do justice and struggle for peace
As long as there are people who care
or can be brought to care
about war
and capital punishment
Sacco & Vanzetti
Ethel & Julius Rosenberg,
Alger Hiss
Mumia Abu Jamal
about immigrants' rights
women's rights
human rights
about health care and alternatives
about folk and concert music
laughing and dancing - If I Can't Dance, It's Not My Revolution!
then you, Susan, you who goaded and prodded,
facilitated and coordinated,
and led by your example,
You will never be forgotten.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

We've Lost a Fighter for Peace and Justice

Terribly sad news from Leonard Lehrman. Many of us had the privilege of meeting Susan at Green Fest when she performed with Leonard and Helene Williams in "The Booby Trap." Leonard writes:

"Susan Blake died this evening, Oct. 2, after a 4-year struggle with breast cancer which had just recently spread to her liver. We've only known her since April 2005, yet during that time we've spoken and/or met with her at least several times a week every week, and sometimes every day. How often have we been astonished at the breadth and depth of her energy and the scope of her interests and activities.

"A tireless organizer for so many good causes, against injustice, against capital punishment, against war, for the appreciation of folk and concert music and poetry, for immigrants' rights, women's rights, human rights--yet she could also laugh at herself, memorably putting across Joel Mandelbaum's satirical song "The Causes Are Waiting for You!"

"And despite losing one breast to the cancer that ultimately killed her, she uninhibitedly joined us repeatedly - whenever we could drive her there - for nude sun- and ocean-bathing at Lighthouse Beach on Fire Island. I've attached a photo Helene took of her presenting a card to Cary Bair there July 21, 2007 on his birthday - in his birthday suit.

"She was a featured performer in - in fact the motor behind - the production of THE BOOBY TRAP or OFF OUR CHESTS, the musical on the connection between breast cancer and bras - which, she believed, may well have been at least a partial cause of her own breast cancer. (WBAI 99.5 FM & will broadcast some of her singing of that show Thursday evening Oct. 4 after midnight.)

"She leaves behind a loyal following of activist friends, all of whom have been prodded into consciousness more than once by her persistent urging that there is always something more that can be done to help those who need it.

"No six people could do all she did over so many years as Coordinator of PeaceSmiths in Amityville, with its monthly forum and monthly coffeehouse.

"But working together, inspired by her memory, the organization will, hopefully, continue."

Green Buildings Open House, Oct. 6

12th Annual ASES National Solar Tour is this weekend, Saturday October 6th. Join 100,000 people across 46 states to see how your neighbors are using clean energy sources and decrease energy bills -- and how you can too. Find locations on google maps:

In Tompkins County it should be a perfect sunny day to visit some of the 25 homes in the area.

Open House: 10 am-4 pm
Guided Van Tours: 12-4:30 pm
Guided Bike Tours: Details TBA

See firsthand how renewable energy and green building practices are at work in our area. Homeowners and building managers will be on site to answer questions and describe their green building features - such as passive solar design, photovoltaics, wind power, salvaged and non-toxic building materials, straw bale construction, timber framing, masonry stoves, and more.

Members of the public can do a self-guided tour between 10 am and 4 pm. Visit the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association website at AFTER SEPT. 6 for building features and directions or call 607-272-2292 AFTER SEP 7 to request a brochure with rough map. Details on routes, registration, and fees for van tours and bike tours coming soon. Watch for future announcements!

Organized by the Ithaca Green Building Alliance and Cornell Cooperative Extension in conjunction with NESEA's Green Buildings Open House and the American Solar Energy Society's National Solar Tour.

For more information, contact:

Tania Schusler
Environmental Issues Educator
Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County
615 Willow Avenue
Ithaca, NY 14853
Phone: 607-272-2292
Fax: 607-272-7088

Healthy Environment, Healthy Economy, Albany, Dec. 5-6

Join the Citizens Environmental Coalition for the second Healthy Environment, Healthy Economy, a two day symposium on building a safe and sustainable economy for New York State. December 5th and 6th 2007 at the NYS Legislative Office Building in Albany. For more information, visit or call 518-462-5527,x13. Many of us enjoyed meeting CEC staffer Linda Ochs and learning more about the CEC at the CEC's Green Fest table in the Ithaca Commons.