I stood in Oscar Grant / Frank Ogawa Plaza late Wednesday evening, in the midst of a thousand people milling about in jubilation. The people claimed victory that night after peacefully retaking the Plaza, one night after the world watched Oakland police and 17 other law enforcement agencies shoot tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at a peaceful crowd.
I returned to stand under the canopy of the city tree where a group of us had practiced meditation each day at noon. We practiced traditional meditation by sitting in silence. We also practiced by folding 1,000 paper cranes for peace.
In folding paper cranes, we saw how a small square of paper can magically transform into an expression of beauty, love, and compassion. The crane comes to life after we set an intention, pay careful attention to each fold, and at the final step, spread the crane’s wings wide for it to soar.
Just a few days before the raid, we borrowed a chair from the nearby Info Tent and hung our first three strands from the branches of our tree. With 30 hung, we had 970 to go.
On this day after the raid, I took a quiet moment to reflect on the day’s jubilation. This had been a day of decision where Occupy Oakland could have turned to violence or turned to peaceful action. On this day, peace claimed a victory.
As I reflected on the merits of the Occupy Movement’s commitment to nonviolence, on the merits of bringing the practice of meditation daily to this space – I looked up into the night sky.
The cranes were still there.
Battered, yes. A few missing, a few crumpled. But the colorful paper cranes – all 3 strands – still hung from the trees at Occupy Oakland.
How did they survive? Perhaps their color and shape helped them blend in with the leaves. Maybe consumed with clearing shredded tents and ripped signs, none of the city workers noticed them blowing quietly in the breeze.
We will never know for sure how the cranes survived. What is beautiful is that they did. What is beautiful, as my fellow meditator Funie reflected the next day, is that “it truly captures the fact that despite police aggression, the spirit of human care, compassion, and peace cannot be tear gassed, gunned down, or hosed away.”
Today, we continue to fold paper cranes. We will keep folding until we reach 1,000 paper cranes. If we reach 1,000 and we are still Occupying, we will keep folding. If we have to hang 1,000 paper cranes from every oak tree in Oakland for our world to wake up to change, we will keep folding.
We invite you to join us. We invite you to fold paper cranes – for Oakland, for Wall Street, for your city, for the world. All you need is paper – it could be origami paper or recycled paper cut into 6 x 6 squares. Here are instructions and a video to help you learn how to fold the cranes. You can fold 1 or 10 or 100 or 1000. The number doesn’t matter. The quality of paper you use doesn’t matter. Making perfect cranes doesn’t matter.
What matters is your heart. What matters is your intention to keep folding. What matters is that in the face of repression, you respond with a ferocious commitment to make peace.
If you would like to send your cranes to hang together with ours in Oakland or would like to make donations for the project, please visit our BPF paper cranes page or send to:
Senbazuru/1,000 Paper Cranes Project
c/ o Buddhist Peace Fellowship
PO Box 3470
Berkeley, CA 94703