Longtime DC activist, Brian Anders, passed away in the early morning hours of Tuesday August 28, 2012. (Look for announcements for a speak-out/ memorial for this Thursday, prior to his memorial at Joseph’s House at 4pm). Brian was a devoted advocate on behalf of people experiencing homelessness in Washington, DC. He was one of the core members of Community for Creative Non Violence, including when it was at its most active in the 80s. CCNV was a vibrant community of anti-war and social justice activists, who succeeded, through direct action, in forcing the federal government to hand over the massive building at 2nd and D st. NW, so that CCNV could turn it into a shelter and community center for people without housing. The group also held dramatic actions at churches in the city, to get them to share space and resources with those who needed them most. Their organizing gained national momentum, and spurred passage of the McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act, an important Federal bill that provides funding to programs to meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness. CCNV coupled their work to end homelessness with anti-war actions, always making the connection between the need to end imperialist war and suffering abroad, and to redirect those resources to helping those economically marginalized at home. While lacking its former community and activist spirit, the CCNV shelter still stands today. Brian went on to advocate for justice for low-income and marginalized communities in DC for the next decades.
Prior to his work with CCNV, Brian suffered PTSD as a result of serving in the military during the Vietnam war. He worked on healing throughout his life, channeling his energy into compassionate service and fiery advocacy. He was part of veterans’ peace organizations, and told me once that he spent months in prison in Texas for taking part in an action to block a weapons shipment. Over the decades, he worked at various organizations, helping get people into housing and helping people access needed services. He believed strongly in serving others in any way he could, in living in community, and in treating all people with dignity and respect. He had a healthy dose of disgust for politicians who rest in the pockets of the wealthy, and for the nonprofit industrial complex, which he understood to be wearing away at the true spirit of community and resistance in which many service providing organizations began.
Brain closely mentored young advocates, including members of a series of local groups who conducted direct actions to end homelessness, such as housing occupations, since the early 2000s. He was a down-to-earth human being, and he touched many lives. Brian apparently wanted people to memorialize him by taking action, speaking out on, standing up for justice and compassion. I hope we can honor his memory in this way.
Two excerpts from the Journal of Brian Anders, which he started writing in July 2012.
Living in joy. What exactly does that mean?
When do we ask the question what prevents us from living in joy?
Is it the need to blame others for our mistakes? Is it the inability to learn from our mistakes or forgive ourselves for any pain we caused to them or others? Could it be something as simple as being afraid to love ourselves?
Now is the time to be grateful and accepting of gifts I’m receiving from the divine.
What is self love? What is the key to seeing oneself as worthy of being loved and giving love? How- when can we learn self acceptance? With all of our weaknesses? How do we move past self hatred and learn to live in love?
Unconditional love? Begins within not from outside of us. Not looking for some religious answer, or even a scientific explanation or believe that it takes a form of trust. Giving in to your higher self. Ending the way within.
Brian, rest in peace.
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Photo: Daniel del Pielago