Laughter, songs, tears and heartfelt appreciation marked a farewell party for Buddy Bell who will move to Pasadena, CA at the end of December. In the colorful lower level of the Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ, sitting around circular tables, people reminisced about how they first met Buddy and what his work and witness have meant to them. Buddy told us that he had left his job and a reliable income to help Voices organize a walk in the summer of 2012. He hadn’t anticipated working and living at Voices for the next five years. Brian, Sabia and Kathy agreed that living and working with Buddy has been immeasurably rewarding. Chris Inserra, who directs the choir at Wellington, assured all of us that Buddy will return April 1st to sing in Pueblo Canta, the spring concert.
After his appreciation party Buddy attended and spoke at a Chelsea Manning demonstration. Below is his speech.
“We really need him [President Obama] to pardon Chelsea Manning, and while he’s at it, to pardon a lot of other people. There are plenty of whistle-blowers as has been mentioned, plenty of people in jail for non-violent offenses, in jail for immigration offenses.
“But just to get back to Chelsea, I have worked with a group called Voices for Creative Non-Violence for five years, and among other things, they are a group that investigates about the Iraq War, and Chelsea was in Iraq, and she saw what was going on after the U.S. overthrew the Saddam Hussein government and helped the Shi’ite government come to power, which then in itself was oppressing the Sunni minority.
“Plenty of civilians were being oppressed in Iraq and some of them ended up demonstrating peacefully. And so way before ISIS was ever a concept, there were Sunnis who were seeing their situation, rising up, having peaceful encampments, and these were some of the things that Chelsea found that she was reporting back to the U.S. government on. She was telling the U.S. government intelligence about who were doing all these demonstrations and then the U.S. government turned around and gave that to their friends in the Shi’ite government of Iraq.
“It just goes to show that Chelsea is a profoundly principled person, and she needs to be given her freedom back. She needs to be respected wherever she is. She needs to be given her medications, she needs to be given all her mail, she needs to live without being under a torturous system, and she needs to get out of jail now. And President Obama doesn’t deserve anyone’s thank you if he continues to let her stay in jail.”
— Buddy Bell speaking at the Dec. 17, 2017 “Vigil for Chelsea Manning on Her 29th Birthday” in Chicago.