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The Legacy of Judi Bari

Judi Bari at Headwaters Forest Rally, September 1996,  Nicholas Wilson BY DAVID BROWER

Judi Bari's life has ended much too soon. Seeing her work evolve over the years brought me continued hope and inspiration. Margaret Mead once wrote, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, it's the only thing that ever does."

Judi's small stature belied her powers of influence, a bear in the forest, confident and strong. Consistently an ardent defender of ALL remaining old-growth redwoods, Judi's mantra remains the heart of the current Headwaters debate. Headwaters is a battle we cannot afford to lose. If we let those who are intent upon felling the remaining unprotected redwood groves win, the movement will have lost a historic opportunity to disable the forces threatening our natural heritage.

The wilderness advocates, local-community activists and labor forces who embraced Judi's call to action were moved by her disdain for senseless destruction. These sometime disparate constituencies have greatly aided our efforts, without compromising our goals. We must continue to strengthen those alliances and demand an unconditional sanctuary for all the remaining old-growth redwood forest ecosystems.

Life on Earth is a precious and tenuous experience and times like these remind us of the importance of remaining committed to that which is most meaningful in our lives. Judi always projected an unwavering commitment to her values and her continued urgings to affect apathy into action. We will miss her commitment and compassion, her strength, courage and conviction. We can honor her by sharing it.

Judi Bari, 1949-1997


At 6:45 a.m. on March 2, Judi Bari "fell into the sky," as one person put it. She was at home with family and friends, at her cabin in the woods outside Willits, California.

How to start? Judi, we will miss you tremendously. The movement is left with a huge crater, a hole that cannot be filled with another person. I will miss you tremendously. I can't imagine not being able to call you up and talk strategy, argue over tactics, catch up on each others' work.

Judi is irreplaceable because of the combination of things she was and because of her utter brilliance. She was a writer, an orator of enormous talent, an organizer. With her considerable skills of legal research and analysis, she became a paralegal by doing the lion's share of the work on the lawsuit against the FBI. She was a radio commentator/DJ. She was also an in-the-trenches organizer/activist. She not only made the speeches and did the organizing, she would draw the flyer, organize the mailings, make the phone calls, clip the articles, raise the money... When I was working on the Bear Lincoln case on the Round Valley Indian Reservation, she would clip articles from the newspaper for me, since it was in her county and I didn't have access to that press. With everything she had to do, she did the cut and paste job too. She also dubbed and sent me tapes from her radio show to use on Free Radio Berkeley. She didn't feel "above" any kind of work.

Within a few hours following Judi's passing to the other world, there was a sign in the window of the Mendocino Environmental Center, "Don't mourn, organize," which was exactly Judi's message. In the weeks preceding, as she got sicker she eschewed what she called the "schmaltz," the "puppy dog eyes" people looked at her with. She turned down interviews for human interest stories about her saying, "Tell them they don't get a live interview for an obituary." (I told her that I thought that's what they mean by irrepressible.) She did interviews with those that wanted to talk about the FBI lawsuit or the Headwaters Forest campaign. She felt she had a lot of work to do, and she had to do it in a shorter period of time.

I was reminded of what she said after the bombing that nearly killed her in 1990. Within a couple of days, as she was hooked up in traction in a hospital bed, she made a cassette tape to send out to her friends and comrades organizing for Redwood Summer. After a message to her two daughters explaining why they couldn't see her in intensive care, she thanked all the Earth First!ers and movement people for the outpouring of support and then exhorted listeners to, "Remember where the real violence is being done--to the forest, not as much as to the organizers..." She said she hoped people wouldn't be deterred from going out to defend the trees by the terrorism that we all had to stand up to and ended with "Please come. As soon as I'm out of here, I'll be there with you." And indeed she was.

It's really impossible to do a short tribute in writing to Judi. There's far too much to say. This woman who stood up for the trees, stood up for women's right to choice, and stood up to the fearsome power of the FBI and their COINTELPRO nefarious deeds; this woman needs to be remembered by carrying on the work that is so important to us all.

She stood up for the workers reminding us all that it is the CEOs, not the loggers that are to blame. And she not only brought worker issues to environmental discourse, but brought environmental issues to the workers in a way they could relate to because they knew she was a true advocate. She was not infallible. She was pretty darn abrasive at times. But she made fun of her mistakes, she made fun of herself. In fact, she made fun of everybody and everything. She was one of the most irreverent people I know.

Judi was a true revolutionary. She was also a person of great humor and this stayed with her through the pain of her cancer, as it had stayed with her through incredible pain after the bombing. She was a person of great power and that power stayed with her till the end of her time on this planet.

She left a lot behind. She wrote a lot, she recorded a lot, she spoke a lot, she sang a lot, she fiddled a lot. She touched and inspired so many people. It's time for us all to pick up what she left and carry on. Fare thee well, sister warrior.

Viva Judi Bari!

The above appeared in the Earth First! Journal, Eostar 1997 issue, see  EF! Journal Back Issues

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P.O. Box 14720, Santa Rosa, CA 95402
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