February 25, 2003

Korean drumming group leads mock funeral procession, drawing on traditions

Loose Roots, the University's Korean drumming troupe, joined campus anti-war groups for the Inter-faith Public Witness for Casualties of War protest held on Sunday at the Holy Name Cathedral, at 735 North State Street.

The group was asked to lead a funeral precession with Reverend Jesse Jackson, Jr. down Michigan and Chicago Avenues from Holy Name to St. James Cathedral Plaza, six blocks away at 65 East Huron Street. Various Hyde Park seminaries were also invited to attend.

"In the past half century, Korean drumming has been an integral part of protests in Korea," said Ray Tan, a third-year in the College and member of Loose Roots.

"We feel that poongmul's unifying ability transcends Korean culture, hence our desire to use it in protests here," he said, referring to a form of Korean drumming.

Organized by United for Peace: Faithful Citizenship, the protest's message was to attach a human face to possible and definite casualties should the U.S. go to war with Iraq.

"Our goal is to broaden the peace movement so that it can neither be marginalized nor ignored," said Michael McConnell, one of the organizers of the protest.

"The Bush administration avoids at all costs talking about the casualties of war. Everything is centered on Saddam Hussein--one man--as if there were not millions of people surrounding him," he said.

"This wake and funeral procession is to awaken people to the human face and cost of war."

The protest attracted a wide range of people, including families, volunteers, members of varied religious groups, and representatives from public service organizations. The cathedral's 99 pews were not enough to seat the more than 1,500 supporters.

"We were aiming this event primarily at faith-based groups and people who do not normally come to public peace demonstrations," McConnell said.

"We want to show people how many are against this war, and we want to leave people with the idea that the war can be stopped. Many of these potential casualties are still alive. We want to bury our worst fears and raise our best hopes."

Second-year in the College Meghan Holtan, a drummer in Loose Roots, felt that the gathering was effective and that the speakers captured the attention of the audience without regard to their stances on war.

"People should be constantly reminded about what this country will get itself into if citizens allow the president to continue in a non-peaceful direction," she said.

The protest began at Holy Name with folk songs offering anti-war lyrics and sentiments of nonviolence.

The funeral precession followed a short path, culminating at St. James.

During the program, six coffins were used to symbolize those who would likely suffer from war: American and Iraqi soldier; Iraqi civilians, refugees, and immigrants; the homeless and hungry; the jobless and working poor; and children.

Smaller coffins symbolizing the death of truth and Martin Luther King's vision were also presented under a large cross.

As each coffin was displayed, speakers elaborated on the consequences of war for each group.

"When we unite for peace, we become brothers and sisters," said Yolanda Rodriguez, a Mexican Muslim immigrant representing an inner city Muslim social work group. "Emigrants from all countries should take a stance. Efforts like these increase urgency for people to be one."

Many present at the event also argued that money be spent on improving life in the United States rather than on war.

"In our neighborhoods, conditions of housing and education need to be addressed, but, instead, $1.1 billion are used per day for war," said Tanisha Williams, who works with youth at the African American Empowerment Program.

"Our children live in danger. Children should be a priority but the current administration sees otherwise."

"Millions are spent on war to settle a difference, but no money is spent on housing," added Jeffrey Newton of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. "We need places to live, not bombs. We need to do more than just survive."