From Monday, April 30th to Friday, May 4th, the UMBC Solidarity Coalition hosted a five-day fast and "sit-out" to protest the illegal U.S. occupation of Iraq called Hungry For Peace. Several students, faculty, and staff camped out on the Commons Terrace and fasted from food for the entire week without leaving the area. Each day of the fast represented an estimated 100,000 of the total estimated 500,000 Iraqi civilians killed from the illegal U.S. occupation - over 50 times the entire undergraduate student body of UMBC!
Many others participated by wearing black arm bands, fasting for a meal or a day, making supportive chalk art, donating a meal to charity, and hanging out for the daily speeches. I was invited to speak on Wednesday, adding my name to the esteemed list, which included Tina Richards, Raed Jarrar, UMBC veteran Thomas Greg, and Tassi McKee.
This was my first extended speech on behalf of IVAW, and I considered it to be a very important test. When I came back from Iraq, I spoke for nearly two hours at the Athenaeum at CMC, but I just told stories and showed slides, and it was very low pressure. And I had spoken at concerts for IVAW, but never for more than a few minutes. To speak passionately and with the goal to inspire for 45 minutes was expected to be a challenge.
I was introduced by Jonathan Williams, who was instrumental in coordinating the entire event. He handed me the microphone, and the first two minutes went smoothly until a school administrator walked up to the amp and killed the mic. After a brief argument, I just said, “fuck it, I’ll do it without the mic.” This was definitely a challenge as I was competing with a girl who was playing guitar and singing on the other side of the terrace, who was apparently authorized to have a mic, and some student group playing music down the hall.
So I stood up on the bench and belted it out. The administrator listened intently for five minutes before killing the music down the hall and coming back. I kept my eyes focused on him for the rest of the speech. Most of my “applause lines” near the beginning fell flat, but by the end, I had to stop for applause in places that I didn’t expect it. It was a great feeling, and the feedback was tremendous.
I ended up going for exactly one hour, and most of the students there missed or went late to class to hear the end of the speech. By then I had totally lost my voice. The guys there bought me lunch, and I ate in front of them (with great embarrassment) only because they asked me to.