Presented at University of Oregon's Land, Air and Water (environmental law) Conference Saturday, March 15, 1997.
In the summer of '89 I read an article in the Industrial Worker newspaper written by Judi Bari asking for wood products workers to contact her, and I did so, and thus began our friendship. Around January or February of 1990 Judi called me and asked me to participate in a panel about labor and the environment here at the University of Oregon LAW conference. Of course I said sure, but for some odd reason there was resistance from the panel organizers to having me on the panel, so Judi had to threaten to boycott the panel if they did not put me on. I still recall the outrage she expressed to me over the phone about the arrogant attitude of the panel organizers. She said they need real workers on the panel, and she stood up for me and my right to speak as an environmentalist worker. It's with sad irony that I stand up here today for Judi.
At that panel in March of 1990, Judi Bari made environmental history, or rather herstory, when she stood up and renounced the tactic of tree spiking at my angry challenge to Earth First! to renounce tree spiking if they truthfully desired to bridge the gap between workers and environmentalists. After the panel was over Judi and Oregon Earth First! activist Karen Wood would lead the Ecotopia Earth First! and the Willamette Earth First! groups in a direction that was intended to bring wood products workers into the radical environmental movement. A little more than a month after the public renunciation of tree spiking Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were car bombed.
In Judi's efforts to reach out and bridge the gap between workers and environmentalists and radicalize both, she was a true visionary. With her past experience as a labor union organizer coupled with her broad knowledge of the history and herstory of the American labor movement, Judi knew full well the environmental movement would never be a real social change movement without broad participation of the working class. The opposition, the natural resource extractive industries and their hired-gun thugs, the FBI, knew that too. That's why they tried to kill Judi Bari! The last thing the corporate tyrants of the world and their political puppets want is for us as workers and environmentalists to unite and overthrow this oppressive death culture we are living within. Judi Bari's vision of biocentrism and radical ecology was a frightening vision for the men who see nothing but dollar signs when they see a redwood tree.
Physically Judi Bari was barely five feet tall. But as a visionary, as a brilliant thinker and strategist, as a leader, a speaker, and as a caring, loving human being, Judi Bari stood head and shoulders above the macho cowboy founders of the Earth First! movement. To Dave Foreman, Chris Manes, Mike Roselle, Howie Wokie, and to Capt. Paul Watson I say none of you who opposed Judi's principled stand against tree spiking, and none of you who stood by these men and vilified, cursed, and attempted to isolate Judi were never ever worthy to stand in her shadow, nor to wipe the dust from her feet.
Judi's pattern of activism and of life was taking strong, uncompromising, principled positions on issues of importance within the social justice movements. With the environment, she tied all social justice movements together, and was demonized and vilified on both sides for her efforts. But Judi never gave a moment's thought about what the Harry Merlo's and the Paul Watson's of the world thought of her, she cared about people and the environment equally, and always did the right thing, always!
I have been asked by my friends and co-workers just who was Judi Bari, when news of her death came out. In trying to explain who Judi was I fully began to realize just how complex, brilliant, and talented she was. When you are personal friends with someone you tend to overlook these things. The Judi Bari I knew was a former union activist, leading environmental struggles to save ancient redwood forest. She was a dynamic, charismatic speaker, a musician, songwriter, and fiddle player. Judi hosted at one time two radio talk shows at community radio stations, KZYX and KMUD, both over one-and-a-half hour's drive from her home. Judi the craftsperson was a very talented carpenter, and that's how she made her living before the bombing. Judi became a very competent legal organizer in aiding her lawyer in the suit against the FBI. Most importantly Judi Bari was the mother of two beautiful daughters, Lisa, age 16 and Jessica, age 11. It was as a mother that Judi would find the strength to survive the bombing by holding the vision of her daughters before her. To me Judi Bari was a friend and mentor, and how many of you knew that Judi Bari held a black belt in Karate? I didn't know that one.
At the wake held for Judi in Willits last Sunday I asked one of Judi's longtime friends, David Katz what he thought the impact of Judi's life and work would be on future generations. He said we would have to wonder what the future impact would be without her; she could have done so much more had she lived 20, 30, or 40 more years.
As I pondered the profoundness of his words it occurred to me that his concern is our collective concern. The future impact of the world without Judi Bari depends on us. How do we carry on the legacy and the work that Judi left behind as she passed on into the next phase of the life cycle? Judi was the physical embodiment of personal empowerment, and the most courageous person I have ever known. She left us with a powerful legacy. If I could put this legacy in just a few words I'd say be principled, uncompromising, strong yet compassionate. Love without condition. Fight the "isms" that divide us such as sexism, racism, and classism. Fight the destruction of our planet, and the oppression of working people with passion, and do all this with joy, laughter and music. For me the joy, laughter, and the music that Judi Bari brought into her activism is her greatest legacy.
Judi Bari Lives!
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