Peace Times Edition 100. What One Woman Can Do: A Peacewalker Follows
29 December 2009
About the Author
Mary Liepold is the Communications Manager at Peace X Peace. To reach Dr.
Liepold, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Audri Scott Williams describes herself as a mother, a grandmother, a peacewalker, and a lover; also as a vision-keeper, a
motivator, a human rights activist, an author, and a producer. The vision she keeps has led her around the world since the
year 2000. She followed it on the Trail of Dreams Ancestral Journey, a walk from Pennsylvania to Georgia in 2000 and then
in Ghana, West Africa in 2002; to six continents between 2005 and 2009 on the Trail of Dreams World Peace Walk; and now back
to the US, where she will be completing the 13 Moon Walk 4 Peace
on 11-11-11, in Atlanta, Ga.
Audri‟s various peace pilgrimages have several
things in common. First, they promote healing within and among disparate groups. Second, they engage people of all generations
as leaders. And third, they spring from her visions and are nourished by the wisdom of surviving traditional cultures and
peace heroes of the past. She earned a Master of Liberal Arts degree in the Indigenous Mind Program at Naropa University under
Dr. Apela Colorado, and she carries a walking stick carved with the face of Harriet Tubman.
Audri says, “My time at the feet of elders from East, West and South Africa, Polynesia, and Native America has taught
me the value of paying attention to everything as a way of finding clarity of purpose. If I walk with the authority of the
modern-day shaman it is because I am letting ancient wisdom flow through me. I‟m taking on the responsibility of bridging
earth wisdom and the modern world.”
Audri is a woman of considerable intellectual and professional accomplishments. At the age of 32, she was
the only African American woman in the state of Maryland in a university position as Academic Dean. I had three sons, I was
working on a PhD, my husband and I had founded a theater company, and I was fast-tracking myself for bigger things. Then my
heart sent me a message.
I had a heart attack. The doctors didn‟t identify
the problem right away. They tend not to look at heart trouble in younger women. After 3 ½ years of trials and tests,
finally one of the doctors told me, „You are here to do something, and you‟re not doing it.‟
And I knew exactly what he meant. I had four angel grandmothers from the time I was a little girl. Those four
old ladies have been bossing me all my life. I don‟t remember ever not being aware of them, but when I was 16 I asked
them to go away so I could be like everybody else. They honored that for 30 years. I knew they‟d come back.
I was always where I needed to be, but when it was time for me to shift I was holding on to
what I had. Then one day in the car I heard a voice coming up from inside of everything. By the end of the day I had written
a letter of resignation. The decision created so much stress in my relationship that my marriage of 20 years eventually dissolved.
And the more I walked my heartfelt path, the stronger my heart became. Today, fully immersed in my calling, my heart is healthy
and I do not take any medications.
I was here to do something, and it had to do with
peace and reconciliation. It took a few years to allow the vision to come forward. 1997-98 was pivotal. It was my first opportunity
to participate in a traditional ceremony. Mamm Fatu Seck , 103 years old, came from Senegal to the outer islands of South
Carolina to do a healing for all the souls involved in the Atlantic slave trade, black, white, and Indian. The event was coordinated
by doctors from Morehouse University, who also invited the medicine people of this land. Over nine days, they performed a
ceremony never done before outside of Senegal. It was a watershed, a profound experience. I wrote and published a book about
89 days in my life following this event, The Diary of Nowtime Prophecies.
I was invited to Wales when the Peace Flames were brought together from all over the world. In 2000 I organized and led the
first Trail of Dreams Ancestral Journey, which retraced the routes of the Underground Railroad and the Trail of Tears. In
2002 the Ancestral Journey led us to Ghana. Michael, one of my three sons, stepped into the role of visionary and birthed
the first Beyond the Global Divide, an International Youth Peace Summit, in 2002 in Tiger, Georgia, where young people and
indigenous wisdom keepers came together. His co-leaders were two young women, Monica Moustalier and Starr Muranko from the
Foundation for Spiritual Democracy.
To Walk the World
As we were cleaning up after the second Youth Summit in 2005, I had a dream about walking around the world for peace. I
woke up streaming tears. I saw energy, peace, and love but I also saw it as much bigger than me. The calling was so strong
I knew I had to at least show up. I held it until the volunteers and I had packed up, then I shared it, and several said right
away they wanted to take part. The dream gave a specific date, six months away, and the specific countries. It was a very
precise dream, including the fact that the money and the network would not be in place. The seven walkers included my mom,
just turned 80 and diagnosed with Alzheimer‟s, in a wheelchair, Karen Watson, Chandelle Binns, Tony Shina, Rahfiya Carrion,
Brenda Kay and Poalo Lali Cafini. We also had 3 ½-year-old Zenobia. Mom and Zenobia were both our special trail angels.
Everyone was drawn to Zenobia. And taking my mother along was one of the smartest things I could have done. She became Mama
Natalie to communities all over the world.
My challenge was to stay focused on the
vision and not what I saw before me. I was promised, „Everything you need will be provided in your moment of need.‟
I had to focus on knowing that what I had been promised was true. There was never an If. It was, “We are going to do
our part and the universe will do the rest. It‟s going to be interesting to see how all this gets worked out!‟
The Trail of Dreams World Peace Walk took us nearly 32,000 miles, from the Martin Luther King
Center in Atlanta, Georgia, across the US to Mexico, Canada, Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, India, Pakistan, Egypt,
Greece, Holland, Spain, Morocco, the Virgin Islands, Peru, back to India and home in April of this year. Along the way we
spoke at schools, took part in interfaith dialogues, and took on community projects, like working in food banks, organizing
relief efforts in the Gulf after Katrina, getting school supplies to children in remote parts of the world, and networking
groups together to address needs that were beyond us individually.
We had our moments!
We arrived in New Zealand with $67, enough to rent a station wagon to get from the airport to the campground. I called a friend
who sent more―enough. We sat every morning and visualized what we needed for that day. One day it was sardines. Karen,
one of the walkers, really wanted to eat some sardines, and they showed up before supper, right on time. We had to have a
community give-away at the end for what was left over.
In 2007 we were in India for
four months in monsoon season and nobody got sick. Later that year, while we were in Greece, Karen found a lump in her breast.
We got to Holland, had it removed, and she was back on the trail. She has been cancer free for two years now. On our return
to India in 2008 to receive United Religions Initiative‟s 2008 Boaz Award, we landed in Mumbai in the middle of the
siege. Smoke was everywhere, but so was kindness and good will. Walking with extraordinary human beings―on and off the
trail―made this all possible.”
2011, the USA
Audri describes the impetus for the 2010 walk this way:
“I was sitting in a cave when
the light came into it, in a moment that seemed like eternity. That was one of the mystical, magical, Godly things that took
me to Africa and around the world. I didn‟t know the details, but I knew I was going again. This time my assignment
is the 13-Moon City Tour, starting in October 2010.
Of the cities that asked us, the Trail of Dreams World Peace Walkers,
to come and do peace work, 13 have emerged. The vision said that 13 would select themselves and we will effect a shift in
whatever issues these cities are experiencing. Beginning on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, we will go to Miami,
Florida; Macon, Georgia; New Orleans, Louisiana; Dallas and El Paso, Texas; Los Angeles and Oakland, California; Detroit,
Michigan; St. Louis, Missouri; Chicago, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; Newark, New Jersey; Harlem, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;
Washington, DC; and back to Atlanta, Georgia. The challenge now is that I am getting calls every day from more and more communities
that want to participate!
So I am facilitating the process born out of the global
walk, speaking in various places to raise revenue. I will be spending time in each place, finding partners and resources and
also praying for the city. I‟m using the lessons I‟ve learned to go forward. One thing I have learned is the importance
of ritual and tradition. We‟ll begin each stage of the journey with a shared ritual, incorporating something in each
community that is symbolic of the healing that community needs. I've also learned that people everywhere feel isolated, alone,
out of touch. We weren‟t just wearing out shoes; we were building a worldwide network of contacts. While we were in
Australia, we were able to make one phone call back to Atlanta and a class of 30 Australian middle school students experienced
much more of this city‟s past and present than they would have if we hadn‟t met and connected. The people we met
on that trip will feed back into this one, as we facilitate ways to bring people and organizations together.
is a people‟s walk. It is scheduled in alignment with the lunar calendar, which is, according to ancient tradition,
the calendar of cooperation. It also aligns with the sacred feminine, which is important to the walkers because one of their
goals is to touch the heart of America: to effect healing and transformation in the way we relate to each other and Mother
Earth. This will open the way for compassionate local leadership at a time when our country needs it most.
Seeing with New Eyes
Coming home to the US earlier this year, walking
from New York to Atlanta, we saw this country with fresh eyes. Baltimore, for example, has 14 prisons, and prisons within
prisons. As we walked through the city and people joined our walk, the stories they wanted to share were so pressing that
we found a school with an empty room, went in, and sat in circle. A young man with a master‟s in space engineering,
who had just come out of one of those prisons, heard the elders tell what the community was like 40 years ago. Then he told
the young people his story, and they told theirs. It was a spontaneous healing moment of a kind we have seen before and will
continue to see on this new journey. People kept saying, „I had no idea!‟
That‟s why this process will center on stories and visions. I want to get people visioning and dreaming with me beyond
their day to day problems. In each place we‟ll aim to make everything visible and facilitate an opening. We‟ll
bring 30 or so key community organizations together to look at the whole wheel and see what‟s at the hub. How can they
share the visions and the resources, the heartaches and the tough stuff, so they have a vital network in place when we move
on? I want to shift from a problem focus to a vision focus as a way to hope and change. I want to flip the script, to leave
a spiritual template for what each city would look like if it were whole. First we share stories and get to the fundamental
issues, what we have in common. Then we identify the core issues and decide how to address them together instead of going
after the same resources and politicians, the strategies that haven‟t worked.
I‟m hoping to find a funder who will contribute video cameras, so in each place, four young people who represent the
diversity of the community can document the local process, telling the story through their own eyes. This will begin to train
their eyes so they gain a visual connection to what‟s going on – a different kind of eyesight. We‟ll take
our time to find the right four in each place. In the final stage, when we pull it all together, they‟ll have a key
role as the documentary team. We‟ll find the grandmas in each city, the feminine icons, and make them team members too.
Linkages between the generations are missing in destroyed communities. The documentation is central because young people,
and women too, bring a different lens and a different voice to this process. It will also be a chance for community members
to see themselves on the screen as larger than they are. They can be a part of the process at the same time as they‟re
separate from it. It will be a co-creative process, giving voice to the voiceless, visibility to the invisible, allowing me
and others to accompany the people of each place and be their witnesses. At the end I want to be able to tell a good story,
a representative story that comes from the people, in such a way that the whole country can hear it.
Last time we were broke two weeks into the walk. The fact that we touched all the bases and made it home shows
that people care. Now we want to find our way through this new challenge to make an impact. It‟s never a solo flight.
Our success is always a measure of our capacity to collaborate.Our roots are strong enough now. We can accept sponsorship
without being owned. We‟ll just keep checking to be sure that spirit, and not money, is shaping the journey.