Art, Activism & The Pursuit of Justice:
An Interview with Marion Bethel
By: Codey Young
Peace is Loud (PiL) is excited to welcome one of its newest speakers: the social activist, writer, filmmaker, and Bahamian attorney, Marion Bethel. Born and raised in the Bahamas during an era when Bahamian women had not yet won the right to vote, Marion’s decades-long advocacy for the rights of Bahamian women and girls spans the areas of human rights law, education, creative writing and film.
I recently reached out to Ms. Bethel to learn more about her journey to becoming an international peacebuilder.
CY: As one of Peace is Loud’s newest speakers, what is it about our work that most appealed to you?
MB: I am engaged by both the human rights-based approach of PiL and the use of art, particularly, film to communicate a message of peace. The diversity and particular brands of courage of the speakers are also very appealing.
CY: What does “peace” mean to you?
MB: The daily work of fighting for and affirming social justice in my community in all its manifestations arcs towards peace. This work includes owning and transforming the violence wrought in my own head and heart and by my own hands and, thereby, resolving to create new personal and community pathways on the road to peace.
CY: What inspired you to become a peacebuilder in your community?
MB: My community in the Bahamas and the Caribbean was shaped both by the injustices of genocide, the transatlantic slave trade, slavery and colonialism, and by the struggles of my ancestors and foreparents for freedom, human rights and social justice. My engagement in peace work is about confronting these injustices through activism and art and affirming the imagination, creativity and work of my community in social transformation. I am completely inspired by the resilience and creative imagination of my community.
CY: Who are other women peacebuilders in your own community and/or abroad that have inspired your work?
MB: The women of the Women’s Suffrage Movement of The Bahamas of the 1950s are a major source of inspiration for me. Theirs was a movement grounded in freedom, human rights and democracy. They fought against the social injustices of the legacy of slavery and colonialism and envisioned the right to vote not as an end in itself but as a portal to other human rights – economic, social and cultural inclusive of civil and political – for the entire community women, children and men.
CY: How has your art informed your activism? How has your activism informed your art?
MB: There is always a creative tension for me between art and social activism. When I am socially active, I long for the solitude of a writer’s corner and vice versa. My poetry is entirely influenced by activism.
CY: What book(s) do you consider “required required”?
The Black Jacobins – CL. R. James
CY: For aspiring human rights defenders, and those presently engaged in building more peaceful and secure societies, what words of advice can you offer?
MB: Be passionate about both activism and ideas, and about the further creation and production of new ideas based on your activism. Pace yourself. Take the time you need to refresh, re-focus and regenerate. Your continued and long term work is vitally important to the goal of peace.
To read Marion’s full bio or to book her for a speaking event, please visit her profile page.