Public Comment

Hal Carstad Was Quite a Man

By Carol Ann Amour
Monday July 18, 2011 - 08:23:00 AM

I am new to the Berkeley area. I moved here from the Midwest in November and knew no one excepting my daughter, her husband, and their new twins. How to meet people? How to get connected? How to find meaningful experiences? 

When I moved to Tokyo in the seventies, I had time on my side. If I didn’t make connections right away, no harm. What didn’t happen this week, might happen next. When I moved to the Netherlands in the eighties, time was once again my friend. But this move, I do not have time to waste. I’m almost seventy and who knows if I’ll even be here tomorrow. 

So I was delighted when I happened upon BFUU, the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists. The Fellowship is small but growing. There are quite a few older members, but more and more families and younger people are showing up. Most importantly, I felt welcomed the minute I walked in the door. 

And, I am impressed with the amount of social justice work that goes on at BFUU. The Fellowship does not just stand at the corner of Cedar and Bonita to serve its members and friends. It is home to the Conscientious Projector Series that draws attendees from the entire Bay area. Authors and activists are frequent speakers. The Open Mic with social justice, music, and poetry is held on the second Friday of every month. There are classes in Healthy Living, Tappercize!, Tai Chi Qi Gong, and writing 

A social justice theatre troupe has formed. Core Connexions meets every Wednesday evening. The collection plate on the first Sunday of every month is shared with a cause or program that meets human need. Be it people hurting in Haiti, El Salvador, Japan, or Berkeley, BFUU not only cares, but helps. 

I told myself I wasn’t going to join anything in the first year that I lived in Berkeley. But, BFUU is too good to miss and time, as I said, is definitely not on my side. So I’ve not only joined, but jumped in with both feet and am more involved, perhaps, than any reasonable person ought to be. One of the things I’m working on right now is the Hal Carlstad Social Justice Awards Dinner. There will be amazing food catered by new friend Chris Planellas. There will be speeches, and music, and even a theatrical presentation. 

Hal had left this earth before I got a chance to meet him, but I am learning that he was an amazing man. A retired science teacher I can see that he also did not believe in letting any moss grow on him. He was ready and willing to work for Social Justice and did so until the day he died. He stood against war, he stood against nuclear power, he stood against the death penalty, he stood against the destruction of our natural world. And he was arrested over 150 times in the process. 

I have met his life partner Cynthia Johnson, though, and have been impressed with the way that she and others have continued his legacy with their hard work. I am the widow of an amazing Ojibwe social and political activist and can definitely relate to her commitment to honoring Hal’s life and their beliefs through continuing the work. 

This shindig is being held partly to honor and remember Hal, but also to see that work for social justice continues strong in Berkeley. At this dinner several social justice activists will be honored including Susan Crane who is currently in Dublin Federal Prison for her courageous witness at the Trident Nuclear Submarine Base in Washington, Karen Pickett from Earth First, anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan and Carolyn Scarr who is head of the Ecumenical Peace Institute. 

If you are interested in finding out more about this event, and, perhaps, attending on July 22nd, contact the BFUU office Tuesday through Friday at 510-841-4824. Proceeds from the fundraiser will help to refurbish Fellowship Hall so that it can continue to serve the community.