Barbara Kelly: Recalls first meeting with Frances Crowe

Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Recalls first meeting with Frances Crowe

Friends who change their name, if they must, but carry on are what you need when times are bad (“Friends committee moves on with new name,” Oct. 30).

I met the founder of the American Friends Service Committee of Western Massachusetts in July 1989. I was back from some generally happy years in Australia that had been troubled however by: 1) frequent articles in the papers about my country’s complicity in the wars in Central America; 2) Iran-Contra, which hit the world stage front and center; 3) the election of George H. W. Bush in the wake of Iran-Contra, which was more of a shock to me in Australia in 1988 than Donald Trump’s election would be decades later; 4) and finally like the gust of wind that blows the hat off someone whose umbrella has turned inside-out, the news that a labor leader fleeing persecution in Peru had not reached safety in Sweden because my country had let Interpol pull him off his plane when it refueled in Alaska.

By the time I got back to Amherst I’d had it with my country’s behavior. What exactly I was going to do about it, however, was far from clear. It was a lot to take on.

A student handing out leaflets in the center of town suggested I call Frances Crowe, assured me her number was in the phone book. And the next day I was in the AFSC’s office in Frances Crowe’s home watching her help build support for some people who had been protesting America’s behavior by withholding taxes.

Work was also being done there to further the opposition to apartheid in South Africa and to stop the funding our congress was giving El Salvador’s notorious military. In that office it seemed taking on a lot was something one just did.

Barbara Kelly